Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Philippine Connection and El Escorial, Spain



El Escorial is a monastery, a royal palace, a museum, a beautiful library and a maze but what strikes me is its underground pantheon, a series of hauntingly sedate chambers consisting of twenty-six marble sepulchers which house the remains of the kings and queens regnant of the Hapsburg and Bourbon dynasties. Situated at the foot of Mount Abantos in Sierra Guadarrama, the site is almost desolate and wind-swept, with patches of forests all around the green hilly terrain.

I took the bus from the Moncloa station in Madrid because the bus drops you right in front of the complex. Train would have you ride another bus otherwise. The surrounding area is the Valley of the Fallen. The name alone fires up your imagination, right?

The official name is the Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de Escorial that came into being during the reign of 16th century's King Philip II after whom the name of the Philippines was derived. Spanish explorer Ruy L√≥pez de Villalobos used the name Las Islas Filipinas ( Philippine Islands) in honor of the then Prince of Spain during his expedition to the Philippines, originally referring to the islands of Leyte, and Samar. Even in the lesser crannies of Spain, there is a Kevin Bacon degree of separation. 

These days, Spain seems like an unfriendly nation towards its former colony. And these days, there's not even a sense of brotherhood between the two nations. But then what is new? Spain ruled the Asian country for 333 years - count that! - and looked down on its locals as "indios". If Solomon Northup was "12 Years a Slave", what is that beside a harsh 333 years of condescension and near-slavery conditions

But "fight, conquer and destroy" isn't exclusive to Spain's demeanor towards nations that it historically sought to own, like the Philippines. Remember what it did to the "pyramids" that used to proudly rise in Lima, Peru? They're almost totally decimated but for a few.

El Escorial is 45 kilometers north of the capital Madrid.

This is the Eye in the Sky