DID you hear the band play "Atin Ku Pung Singsing" as Noynoy Aquino led Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to her private car at the Luneta last June 30?
I remember thinking, maybe the band intended it as a farewell to the outgoing Kapampangan President as well as a welcome to the incoming President, who is also Kapampangan. (Imagine two Kapampangan Presidents in a row!)
I was really impressed when President Arroyo-this wisp of a lady who was no taller than a girl during First Communion-marched right into the sea of yellow in front of the Quirino Grandstand, head held high as the crowd heckled and booed.
You got to hand it to her: She outsmarted, outmaneuvered, and outlived them all. She knocked down every giant in the political arena. She defanged FVR, demystified Cory Aquino, jailed Erap. She survived scandals, calamities, controversies and coup attempts which any other head of state would never have.
And despite being the most unpopular president ever, she still managed a graceful exit (well, at least until the charges are filed).
After the Luneta send-off, Gloria drove to Pampanga where her province mates welcomed her with open arms and a streamer that said "You are the greatest President the Philippines has ever had!"
Oops, did I hear tongues clucking?
I was in Baguio at the time. A non-Kapampangan friend told me, "Kayong mga Kapampangan talaga! Inyo na si Gloria nyo, huwag nyo nang ibalik sa amin!"
Ouch. But of course the streamer's declaration was far from true (it was, in fact, a lie), but that was probably just our cabalens' way of consoling or cajoling a gloomy Gloria who had just transitioned from Chief Executive to ordinary citizen.
Besides, we Kapampangans are really quite into the habit of exercising our bragging rights at the drop of a hat.
And every time we make a boast, we can expect non-Kapampangans to raise an objection. We're always claiming, they say, to be the first, the most, the best and the greatest.
I'm tempted to say, "But aren't we?" but that's precisely the kind of Kapampangan conceit that puts us in trouble.
Actually, it's not conceit -- it's pride. Actually, it's not pride --it's siege mentality.
Kapampangans feel under attack all the time, imagining themselves surrounded by things that threaten their very existence.
For example, when you look at Pampanga on the map, you really wonder how this small province could have evolved its own unique language and culture, and how it manages to hang in there. Scholars call us a "linguistic island" because we stay afloat in a sea of Tagalogs, Ilocanos, Zambals and Pangasinenses.
Our proximity to Tagalog-speaking Manila is another problem because this mega-city eclipses, overwhelms and absorbs everything that comes near it. Pretty soon we will all stop speaking Kapampangan and we will have no more reason to call ourselves Kapampangan.
That's a quite stressful prospect. And so to reassure ourselves, we make a lot of noise about being the first, the most, the best, and the greatest, which the others should not mind because it's just our way of saying, We have accomplished so much as a people so we should not disappear from the face of this planet!
This siege mentality that's making us toot our own horns today is probably the same siege mentality that motivated our Kapampangan ancestors to overachieve and become the country's first priests, nuns, Jesuits, woman authors, doctors, etc. and write the country's longest literary work, first vernacular zarzuela, English novel, etc.
And because we excelled more than the others, we became the colonizers' favored Indios-which of course gave us a reason to brag and the others a reason to hate us.
The Spanish missionary Fray Diego Bergaño, who wrote a Kapampangan grammar in 1729 and a Kapampangan dictionary in 1732 (both translated into English and published by the Center for Kapampangan Studies), observed that Kapampangans considered themselves already a nation, not just a tribe, and were quite proud of it, too, even in those days.
He said Kapampangans often told each other, "Misangdaya ca ta" and "Cadaya da ca," which literally mean "We share the same blood," but what they also meant, Bergaño said, was "We are of one nation" and "You are my countryman."
"You are proud," he added, "pablasang daya cang Capampangan." Bergaño himself translated the last part as "because you belong to the Pampango nation."
Imagine us already thinking of sharing the same bloodline and belonging to one nation, long before the rest of the country developed the concept of nationhood. We were patriotic to the Kapampangan Nation long before we became patriotic to the Filipino Nation.
It was this same patriotism that drove the "brave youth from Macabebe" (a.k.a. Tarik Soliman or Bambalito) way back in 1571 to fight Martin de Goiti in the Battle of Bangkusay, against the advice of the Tagalog chieftains in Manila (who welcomed the conquistadores).
Tarik Soliman, "the bravest chieftain on the island," rejected negotiation overtures and he did it with characteristic Kapampangan braggadocio: he told the Spaniards he would never befriend them even if lightning cut his body in half and even if all his women deserted him. And then, brandishing his sword he jumped out of the window (instead of walking through the door), went to his ship and sailed away, amid hurrahs.
Well, he died, unfortunately, but history recorded his heroism and martyrdom. It's there in Fray Gaspar de San Agustin's Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas, in Joaquin Martinez de Zuñiga's Historia de las Islas Filipinas, in Miguel Lopez de Legazpi's letter to the Viceroy of Mexico dated August 11, 1572, and in a codex found in the collection of Don Antonio Graiño dated 1590-1593, first published in the journal Erudicion Ibero-Ultramarina 13:IV (Enero, 1933).
But despite these evidences, historians in Manila keep ignoring our claim, because then they have to rewrite history. We have no choice but to bang our own drums.
So you see, we do boast a lot, but we always boast for a reason.