So, that post on Gorordo reminded me of a lecture I gave at the Ateneo (Lecture? What? /falls asleep) on Basque history in the Philippines. It was just a simple survey lecture, mainly hitting the high points of the history.

We often look at the Spanish (kastilas, conquistadors etc) as…

This is a fine post sir and certainly an eye-opener for most of us who view the Spaniards in the Philippines as a monolithic racial or ethnic group, sharing one vision and belief in administering Las Islas.

Honestly my knowledge on the Basques is limited. I do know that most of the early Jesuits were Basques e.g. Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier. And some of the later Jesuits who were promoters of Liberation Theology in Central America like Ignacio Ellacuria and Jon Sobrino, are also Basques.

I also know that the Basques are a people who prefer autonomy rather than direct administration by the Spanish government. There are however some among them who want independence. But as to how many actually support that clamor remains to be checked.

They did fight against Franco during the Civil War. Of course that hostility to Franco later resulted to the creation of ETA, which, through several changes in organization and tactics, has continued to wage its war for Basque independence in Spain, and I think even in south western France up to now.

Like you, I wonder if being Basque affected some of those in the Spanish colonial administration and clergy in the Philippines. Did their being a “subjugated” or “discriminated” people affect their relationship with the Indios? Was this the reason why some of them gave mestizos like Rizal in the Ateneo de Municipal ideas to fight for assimilation?

This is something some Basque Jesuit can really look into :)

Ah, I’m just going to focus on something less headache inducing for a bit.

You know, that’s actually one of the things I’ve often wondered; especially in definable ways there were differences in the over-arching evangelization policies in the country. There may just be a correlation there. And it was curious that the prominent figures in terms of secularlization and higher education were Basque.

By the way, your comment on the education is right on. The Ateneo (in its early incarnation) was a hot bed of incipient nationalism. And they allowed Rizal to fully express himself there. Interesting idea about the Basques and education…

In terms of modern events, yeah the ETA remains a serious issue for them, I believe. I am not so much up on the current goings-on, but from what I understand on the whole the Basques do not appreciate the ETA. This is because instead of aiding their independence advocacy, ETA undermines it. But, I know that a few years ago there actually was a resolution on the table to separate that the Basques could vote on (whether to pursue it or not). I think it was shelved or something. it’s a complex relationship that’s for sure. I got involved in a bit when we were helping out with the Urdaneta events a few years ago. It was a project initiated by Urdaneta’s home town and the Basque government, but them coming here to do projects was extremely delicate. They were constantly worried about how to interface with the Spanish embassy and even how to refer to Urdaneta! Saying he was Spanish was a no no, saying he was a Basque as well. I think we finally settled on the a “Basque from Spain” compromise.

Hopefully, there will be one of the brilliant Jesuit historians who will step up! 

I think a “Basque from Spain” can be likened to probably a ” Bangsa Moro from the Philippines” in our context being that like the Basques, most of the Bangsa Moro refuse to be called Filipinos. For them, the term Filipino only applies to those who were Christianized. This is a deep issue often glossed over by the illusion of most who are here in Manila that the Bangsa Moro consider themselves Filipino. But I would like to leave this as a thought so as not to derail our discussion on the Basques.

On ETA and the support of the Basque nation, I think the problem also lies in the split within the guerrilla movement during the late 1960s. A more militant and violent group formed a separate unit from the older ETA which had been fighting Franco since the Civil War.

The group, later known, if I am not mistaken, as the ETA Militar or Milis, would continue assassinations, bombings, expropriations and other supposedly revolutionary activities. They would also hook up with other armed guerrillas in Europe and the Middle East during that period for firearms, training and funding. Most of the Basque population are behind the older ETA and not the ETA Milis. I don’t know though if both groups have reunited by now.

There’s a good book on the ETA Milis and the other guerrilla groups in Europe during the late 60s by Claire Sterling titled The Terror Network. Interestingly, some of the early members of our MNLF trained with the ETA Milis, the Rote Armee Fraktion, Red Brigades, and the PLO so I guess it is apt then to relate a Basque with a Bangsa Moro.

Thinking of the Basques Jesuits in the Philippines during the Spanish Period also made me think of the Irish Jesuits in the Philippines during the American Period. Like the Basques, the Irish-American Jesuits belong to a proud immigrant group which was also the target of much of the discrimination in late 19th century US. Like the Basques, they were a fierce bunch, fanatics of the Faith, and very much passionate for the oppressed, the deprived, and the forgotten.

I guess when the Basque Jesuits turned over their educational institutions and commitments in the Philippines to the Irish-American Jesuits during the American colonial period, they were actually turning it over to not only brothers in the same order from another country, but actually a people who also share the passion for family, Faith, and freedom.