7/29/08


Msgr. Manuel P. Del Rosario: The Second Baaoeño Bishop
From P.B.Robosa's "Baao Vignettes"

At forty years old, Msgr. Del Rosario became the youngest consecrated Filipino Bishop of his time and the local newspapers dubbed him “The altar boy who became bishop”. Again the Baaoeños had cause to be proud because in the Bicol region, only three places have the distinction of producing among it flock two bishops of the Catholic Church, a rare honor that speaks well of the strong religiosity of the townspeople.
Manuel P, Del Rosario was born on July 1. 1915 at Salvacion, Baao, Camarines Sur, the youngest of five children of Jose Del Rosario and Modesta Platon. He was studios and intelligent that he finished his elementary and intermediate at Baao Elementary school in only five years instead of the normal seven years. At the young age of twelve he was in enrolled by his father at the Provincial Normal School in Naga purportedly so he would become a teacher, but being the youngest and the smallest of the students, he couldn’t stand the manual aspect of the extra curricular activity of cutting grass, so in the middle of the year he got sick. After two months or so of absence, the Principal of the school was still willing to take him in so he could finish the First year, but by this time, the boy preferred to be a full time altar boy. Baao’s then Parish Priest, Fr. Florencio “Padre Inciong” Gonzalez, was able to convince his father to enroll the boy instead in the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary the following year of 1928, from which the boy eventually graduated from in 1932.
From 1932 to 1936, the Bishop of Caceres, Msgr. Francisco Reyes, sent him to study and finish his college education at the University of Sto. Tomas, from where he received his Licentiate in Philosophy. He continued to the UST Central Seminary from 1936 to 1939 to receive with honors his Licentiate in Sacred Theology, and on March 25, 1939 was ordained Priest in Naga City under the hands of Msgr. Pedro P. Santos, then the Bishop of Caceres after the death of Bishop Reyes.
The young priest was immediately assigned as assistant Diocesan Economo, then for a few months, coadjutor of the Naga cathedral then later as Diocesan Economo and coadjutor of the Parish of Iriga. During the War years, he served in important functions in the Diocese of Caceres as Economo, Censor, Rector of the Peñafrancia Shrine and Diocesan Secretary.
In 1949, he became Diocesan Consultor, Vicar forane of Catanduanes and Parish Priest of Virac. The following year, he was appointed Vicar Forane and Parish priest of Gubat, Sorsogon and remained in this post until 1955. On July 25, 1955, he was appointed coadjutor Bishop with the right of succession to the Bishopric of Calbayog, Samar and at that time he was the youngest Filipino priest ever to be consecrated bishop. In the same year, he became Apostolic Administrator of Calbayog and remained there until 1958 when he became Bishop of Calbayog. In 1961, he was appointed as the First Bishop of historic Malolos and took possession of the same on March 4, 1962. On December 15, 1977, because of a stroke, he retired as Bishop.
Among his achievements that can be seen today is the present form of the Peñafrancia shrine which he caused to repair when it was dilapidated after the Japanese occupation. His improvements on the Cathedrals of Virac and Calbayog along with its Bishop’s Residence and on Gubat’s church. He caused the construction of the Carmelite convent and the Immaculate Conception Seminary both in Guiguinto, Bulacan, He also created new parishes in both Samar and Bulacan Very few people know that Msgr. Del Rosario was one of the few prominent Filipino Clergymen of his time that was being eyed to become Cardinal. Today we could only surmise, if Bishop Del Rosario became Cardinal, if not for the untimely stroke. Baao could have the singular distinction of producing not only the First Filipino Bishop but also the First Filipino Cardinal. But history, if not busy repeating itself, sometimes plays tricks. It played a trick involving both Bishop Barlin and Bishop Del Rosario. If Bishop Barlin fought Aglipay that was spawned by the Philippine revolution that had its first seat of Government in Malolos, 65 years later, his “kabanwaan” would take the Episcopal seat of Malolos. I do not know if our poet Laureate Luis Dato noticed this connection but during this time he wrote a poem about Malolos. Strange indeed sometimes---this, History.

7/5/08





The Minasbad: Utility and Artistry in a Bicolano Blade.
From P.B. Robosa's "Baao Vignettes"
Our thanks to kindred spirits from Iriga and elsewhere who graciously linked this site with theirs. This piece could be of interest to them.


In my study of native decorative design, one object stands out as a permanent but unheralded example of Bicolano craftsmanship and artistry, the ubiquitous Bikol farm implement, the minasbad. This tool that was once surely a weapon in the days of old, is our local version of the Chinese broadsword and has its most beautiful expression in the Rinconada area. Here, a number of craftsmen from Iriga still make the highly decorated wooden sheath and the distinctive hilt of an animal figurehead made of elegant Carabao horn. Some are still sold ornamented with the traditional trimmings of a cloth or abaca sash and cow hair tassel. Seeing these masterpieces made using the traditional Malay forge and a minimum of handmade tools is an education in ancient blacksmithing, metallurgy, engraving, and carving. The handle-figurehead alone can be made into a variety of possibilities from animal heads, parts and other shapes. When I had one made, the elderly craftsman told me that I could have the pick of ten different species of animals on the hilt but I choose the traditional hound’s head for my minasbad. I did not stop there though and started collecting a few other examples until the increasing cost and my wife’s strange stares stopped me.

As a boy, I heard many stories about the minasbad and admired examples of them made by my Uncle Leopoldo "Papa Dodoy" Bagaporo de los Santos who was an expert in bolo craft. I heard the story that he learned blacksmithing in Iriga while growing to manhood there during WWII. He used unique but tried and tested techniques on every stage of the work in coming out with a bolo that was always an individual work of art. Aside from producing bolos in all its forms, he occasionally experimented with other materials and I have seen bolo parts made of aluminum, bronze and stainless steel and all of them engraved with distinctive decorations. It’s a pity that today only a few examples of his work exists in the collection of family and friends, and again, displaying this obscure skill and craftmanship would be outdated today in the age of cellphones and globalization.




There are still a handful of us though who marvel at the weapons and fighting skills of the ancient Bikolano and no weapon elicit more discussion among us than the minasbad. My knowledge of minasbad lore include how the blade measurements is taken to fit the length of the arm of the bearer, that it must balance on your finger when held in the middle and that the test of its sharpness and the skill of the bearer is proven when the blade can decapitate a Carabao in one stroke. It is told that the Cimarones carried it with pride like a badge when dealing with the lowlanders and how the lowlanders would use their own minasbad to hand articles to the Cimarones, a precaution against a sudden slash that could chop off an arm. I knew that the hair ornament was meant to wipe off blood from the blade after an engagement and that the pointed ears of the hound on the handle was meant to pummel and the teeth-like serrations on the base of the blade was to saw away in close quarter combat.




I also fell in love with the minasbad’s undulating shape, the back of the blade having curves like that of a woman’s in a sinewy “S” ending at the tip shaped like the end of the spoon. It is this part of the weapon that reveal its utilitarian side, this unusual tip is perfect in the harvest of Abaca, the blade lacked a pointed end that would otherwise damage the pith of the Abaca plant.

The minasbad’s use as a farm implement is also versatile. You could clear a path with it, cut small branches, cultivate, crop bamboo or even cut down a small tree. It is fortunate for the minasbad that though it would have been essential to the ancient Bicolano warrior in war is today in peace, still an indispensable tool of the farmer, thus saving this artifact from oblivion. So important could have been this object to its owner that enough time was also spent in the care and ornamentation of not only the handle but the blade and the sheath. The most distinctive part of the minasbad or any other bolo manufactured in Rinconada is the Carabao-horn handle. This type of carved handle is totally non-existent elsewhere in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, in the Bicol region, I believe it is found only in Rinconada.




The grip is reinforced by ribs around the handle that also served as ornamentation and the pummel is formed by the head of an animal usually that of a dog or a hound with its fangs opened in a contorted grin. In what is supposed to be the forehead, the end of the tang is locked in bronze forming a little crown parallel to the points of what would be pointed ears. The appearance reinforces our connection to the Malay archipelago as it appears very similar to their garuda sculpture. The other design elements on it show both local and foreign influences, the scale-like and triangular siko-siko patterns are certainly indigenous but the curved and counter-curved lines on the surface of the sheath and on the brass fasteners are definitely a Spanish flourish. The Spanish baroque element is more pronounced however on the blade that the pattern even ends in a floral design. This somewhat strange design element for a weapon is common to other cultures like the Japanese who add flower patterns to their swords. The “S’ curve of the blade is similar to that of Chinese broadsword as well as the sheath construction, suggesting that the original design could be Chinese. This wouldn’t be impossible because iron working in Bicol during pre-Hispanic times was the best developed in the Philippines.

But time has undoubtedly added embellishments to the minasbad. You can see some of them today furnished with a brass hand guard similar to a cavalry saber or more commonly the hand guard of a Japanese Samurai sword. Time has also taken toll on the crafting of the minasbad as many examples now appear mass produced and of sloppy manufacture. You can still acquire well-made ones but at serious cost suitable to a discerning collector, and admirers are but a few and the survival of this inherently Bicol artifact and its fine nuances are at risk








The story of this Bicol blade dates back to Philippine pre-history. The noted Philippine historian William Henry Scott mentions in one of his books that the pre-Hispanic Bicol language contained the most numerous and highly specialized words pertaining to warfare signifying that our ancestors were probably occupied if not skilled in the activity. The first Spaniards in the region noted the gallant bearing of the Bicolanos as they were the ones possessing the best and most complete armor and weapons. Undeniably, the centuries of Moro threat could have had a hand in the development of the Bicolano martial spirit and weapons technology. During the height of the problem, when the Bicolanos asked for succor from Manila, the impoverished government simply instructed the Bicolanos to manufacture bladed weapons as a measure against the Moros, perhaps the minasbad was manufactured in large numbers and was looked upon as the match for the Moro kris and it was during this time that it acquired its pre-eminence as a weapon and its storied repute.