A Great New More-Than-History Book You’ll Really Want To Read


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How Hawaii’s Last Princess Found Karma At The Bottom Of Cavite Habour

The Barque Kaiulani by John Stobart

Maritime history nerds will know the name Kaiulani , an historically important vessel which met a sad end on the bottom of Cavite harbour in the 1960s. Not only is she part of maritime history, but the diplomatic history of the Philippines and the United States, too, involving a gift to the United States by the government of the Philippines which might have led to international friction between the two countries.

Kaiulani was the last steel-hulled square-rigged clipper built in the United States, launched in 1899. It was the only one of 17,000 such ships to be built in the country, known to have survived, or would have been had it ended its days. as intended, on Maine Street Avenue Dock in Washington DC. She symbolises the close of the age of sail for American merchant shipping and plans were made to make her the cornerstone of the American bicentennial in 1976.

The best-laid plans oft go astray, and so it was with Kaiulani.

Continue reading “How Hawaii’s Last Princess Found Karma At The Bottom Of Cavite Habour”

It Isn’t Revisionism, It’s a Lie

A recent bill in the Philippine legislature to make 11 September a day to commemorate the supposed glories of the country’s disgraced former President, Ferdinand Marcos is getting a lot of push-back from historians. Over the past couple of years, we have seen more and more historians stepping up to the plate to challenge the Marcos ‘revisionism’ of the nation’s history under his disastrous reign, an example being the Philippine National Historical Society conference in October 2019, now the popular historian, Ambeth Ocampo has thrown down the gauntlet in his regular column in the Inquirer.newspaper.

Ambeth R. Ocampo

“Lies are not historical revisionism” says his headline in a forceful attack on the Marcos attempts to create a false reality.

Says Ocampo: “I wish people will call a spade a spade, and stop describing the whitewash of the Marcos dictatorship and the martial law years as “historical revisionism.” Historical revision means correcting what is wrong, erroneous, or false. The pro-Marcos narrative continually foisted on us, especially in social media, is nothing but barefaced lies and half-truths. This is not historical revisionism.”

Read his column here.

It is notable that not a single Philippine historian has published a peer-reviewed paper in a reputable journal or book extolling the alleged brilliance or visions or successes of the Marcos regime despite the undoubted financial rewards of doing so.

Many academic historians are well aware of the false histories and half-truths being peddled to disguise the failures of Marcos in order to promote the family’s political interests. Most, however, are happy to debate, often forcefully, among their peers but avoid public platforms. It will be up to those who engage the public, in the media, and on social platforms, to take up the cudgels for a fact-based history and expose the lies and half-truths now contaminating the public space.

It is time to fight back against falsehood.

Cubi’s Pointed Mystery

Place name origins present a deep pool of myth and urban legend and imagination often overtakes reality. There may be cultural significance in the frequent claim that some name is the result of a misunderstanding.

An example is a claim that the name of Limasawa emerged because the Spanish asked how many wives the local rajah had and was told “Lima y asawa“, which the Spanish assumed was the name of the place. If you want to have a shot at explaining why that notion doesn’t make sense, leave a comment below.

Cubi Point in Subic Bay has been provided with similar explanations for its name, which I came across while working as a volunteer for the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, SBMA in the mid-1990s. Those familiar with it will know the story of Radford’s Folly, more properly Radford Field and designated US Naval Air Station, built during the Korean War.

The story of how NAS Radford Field came to be built deserves a future post all to itself but for now, it involved the removal of an entire village, along with their carabao in great tar buckets floated across the bay to become New Banikayin in Olongapo, the flattening of a mountain almost to sea level and the creation of an airstrip modelled upon an aircraft carrier. It was a remarkable construction project.

For now, let’s look at the name, Cubi.

Popular legend has two explanations. One is that ut derived from Construction Unit Battalion 1, which is said to have built the airstrip; the second suggests that it comes from the notation “Can U build it?” on a piece of military documentation. Let’s take a look at those legends.

Certainly, it was built by the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion,  MCB, but it was built by MCB 3 and MCB 5, not MCB 1, and there is no “Construction Battalion Unit 1”. So that explanation does not work.

As for “Can U build it?”, we haven’t found such a notation but even if it did exist, it still could not explain the name Cubi Point because that name long predated any American presence in the area.

When the Americans claimed the Philippines, the famous Father  José María Algué, SJ, of the Manila Observatory was in the process of producing an atlas of the Philippines. This was published by the USGS in 1900, long predating NAS Cubi Point. If you click on the above picture you’ll see a larger version of the map, which shows that the promontory was already called Cuby Point.

To seal the deal, Camilo de Arana,’s Derrotero del Archipiélago Filipino of 1879  has an entry for Punto Cuby  at the entrance to the port of Olongapo.

In other words, the name has nothing to do with the Americans at all.

So, where did the name come from?  As it happenes we have a likely answer to that:

Cubi, cuby or kubi in Tagalog, is a tree found in mixed dipterocarp forests like that of Subic Bay, scientifically known as Artocarpus nitidus Trécul, which grows about 15 metres high and bears an edible, if not particularly tasty fruit.

Such a tree would be a useful aid to navigation “Go starboard when you see the point where the Kubi trees grow.”

So, Cubi Point was named after a tree, but maybe you have other explanations>










Deuterium – The Hoax That Will Not Die – Part Five

1989 report on the Escosa fraud. Click for larger picture.

Few news outlets in the Philippines have a science correspondent, none of those who do have one have given tasked their science correspondent to write about the claims. Hence most press references simply rehash Escosa’s press release. This includes opinion columnists, the result being little push-back on the fraud.

This desert of scientific illiteracy in print, broadcast, and online media does have a couple of oases of actual journalism. Filipino writer Alan C Robles debunked the scam in the South China Morning Post  in an article called Science Fiction ,while the Manila Times took apart an article in Business week in 2013 asking Did Businessweek fall for a 30-year-old hoax?
By 2017, however, Manila Times had forgotten that deuterium deposits are a fraud and published: “Scientists and experts believe the region is rich in gas and deuterium deposits”No expert nor scientist believes in deuterium deposits.
By then the scammers had moved their fictional shiny object of desire from the bottom of the Philippine Trench to the far shallower waters of Benham Rise/Philippine Rise, well within the capacity of existing technology to exploit, so no more excuses.

Continue reading “Deuterium – The Hoax That Will Not Die – Part Five”

Deuterium – The Hoax That Will Not Die – Part One

After a short hiatus, a 40-year old fraud has recently resurfaced. It claims, without evidence that it is supported by the Philippines current president, Rodrigo Duterte, and, with pseudoscientific ‘evidence’, that of Ferdinand Marcos Junior, known as Bong Bong. It is a fabulous tale of riches that will propel the Philippines into superpower status when deposits of an isotope of hydrogen, called deuterium, is mined from ‘pools’ at the bottom of the Philippine Trench.The scam is so old, getting on for half a decade, that is can certainly be regarded as a part of Philippines history.It is a tale of pseudoscience, greed, and gullibility supported by blatant fabrication that has lasted since the 1980s and continues today.

Continue reading “Deuterium – The Hoax That Will Not Die – Part One”

The Mystery of Jabidah and a Secret Trial

Oplan Merdeka  was the failed attempt by the disgraced President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines to conduct a terrorist campaign on the state of Sabah in the 1960s. It was a project that would have pitched the Philippines not just against Malaysia, but also Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. It was a foolhardy effort and Malaysia and its allies had seen off an attempted Communist takeover in the Malayan Emergency and an invasion by Indonesia during the Konfrontazi.

The scheme was shattered by the massacre of Muslims on Corregidor who were recruited to terrorise Sabah, known as the Jabidah Massacre. While revisionists like the notorious Roberto D. Tiglao of the pro-Marcos Manila Times claim the whole thing to be a hoax, the evidence for it is solid.

There were brief flash reports on radio broadcasts but the story was suppressed early enough to keep it out of print media. The incident became common knowledge. The suppressed story broke through when Senator Ninoy Aquino, former journalist, gave a privilege speech in the Senate.

After the embarrassing incident on Corregidor, there was a secret court martial of those involved, blood-money was paid to the families of those who were executed, and the prosecutor in that case is still alive.

The video below has technical issues, for which I apologise, but it demolishes the claim that the massacre never happened.

Continue reading “The Mystery of Jabidah and a Secret Trial”

Queen Vic, The Indian Drug Lord, And The Most Expensive Dress In The World

Buried somewhere, possibly in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum or the Royal collection, among thousands of undisplayed items, are three dresses made of the finest Piña lace, made from a type of pineapple. They were among the most expensive dresses ever made, certainly the most expensive without precious metals or gemstones. They are part of some of the surprising links between Queen Victoria, British Royalty, and Manila.

Way back in 1842, Queen Victoria knighted the leading Indian merchant in Bombay, by the name of Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy. He was a Parsee, a member of the Indian business elite, who made his fortune in cotton trading and selling opium to China. and clearly rich. Very rich.

At that time India was a British colony, Victoria was its Empress and the now-Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy wanted to impress his empress with a fine gift. It was still the talk of Manila several months later when a Captain Arthur Cunynghame arrived in the Pearl of the Orient.

Continue reading “Queen Vic, The Indian Drug Lord, And The Most Expensive Dress In The World”

An Unsung Hero: The Last Spaniard To Surrender In Manila

Poster for the 1945 remake of Los Ultimos De Filipinnas.

This poster is from the 1945 Spanish movie Los Ultimos de Filipinas, remade in 2016. about the last Spanish hold-out in the Philippines in Baler, now in Quezon Province. A company of Spanish soldiers was held under siege in the town church from July 1898 to June 1899. They did not know it, but it was the final stand of the once great Spanish Empire. But today I’ll tell to of unsung Spanish hero who was Spain’s last man to resist American control in Manila.

Chances are, you’ve never heard of him. Nobody remembers the last Spaniard to surrender in Manila, who made his stand in the aduana, the Customs House, and his story did not appear in official reports until 1901.

I think he deserves his day of glory so let’s give it to him. 

Quick recap: Commodore Dewey sank the Spanish Fleet 0in the Battle of Canacao Bay on 1 May 1898. Manila was under siege by Philippine Republican forces on the land side and the US Asiatic Fleet blockaded the city from seaward. I’m not going into the ins and outs of what happened over the next six weeks but by the end of it, the Spaniards had agreed to surrender to Dewey so long as they could have a battle first, for the sake of honor.

Continue reading “An Unsung Hero: The Last Spaniard To Surrender In Manila”