In recent years, YouTube has become a wonderful site to search for vintage videos about our country’s storied past. There you will find hitherto rare documentaries about Manila’s still existing Hispanic character during the US colonization period, its heartbreaking destruction during World War II, and even presidential speeches in the Spanish language such as the one delivered by Elpidio Quirino sometime during the late 1940s. For this blogpost, we share a speech of yet another president, in fact our country’s first president: Emilio Aguinaldo. And it’s also delivered in Spanish.
Just a few years ago, a very early video of his was uploaded on YouTube and made the rounds of various local Facebook groups and pages which were advocating for the return of the Spanish language in Filipinas. In that rare 1931 footage (actually an excerpt from the documentary “Around the World in 80 Minutes with Douglas Fairbanks”), silent film star Douglas Fairbanks visited Aguinaldo in his home in Cavite el Viejo (now Kawit), Cavite and had the former president deliver a short message in Spanish. Although grainy with an almost inaudible audio, that video clip was shared many times not only on Facebook but on various social media, and was even featured in popular website FilipiKnow.
Early last month, a YouTube user who goes by the name Lasotube uploaded another precious video of El Presidente who, at first viewing, appeared to be delivering a speech to an audience. It turns out that he was in fact recording his speech which topic seems to be about “moving figures” that “emits voices”. Aguinaldo was probably describing the television (TV). Without further ado, here’s the recording of that speech with an accompanying transcription below it…
Me pide usted dos palabras. Diré algunas ideas mías sobre los inventos.
El aparato que usted manipula es maravilloso porque reproduce la figura movible al mismo tiempo que emita el sonido de la voz. Cuando con el tiempo se perfeccione este invento, el mundo quedará sorprendido ante los cuadros vivientes y parlantes que ellos exhibirá sobre el tiempo.
La ciencia ha acrecentado del paso acelerado de los adelantos modernos. Por medio de la ciencia, conservamos la salud e inclusive devolvemos la juventud a los que la han perdido. La ciencia también ha impulsado los inventos que se dirigen a la destrucción del hombre por el hombre. Estas dos tendencias contrarias todavía nos dicen que la cantidad de la animalidad en nosotros es muy grande.
¿Cuándo podía la ciencia perfeccionar aparatos que reformen y regeneren a los hombres? ¿Cuándo podrá nuestra humanidad decir que va camino de perfección moral de la fraternidad de todos los hombres, de todos los pueblos, de todas las razas, y de todos los credos?
Cuando llegue ese día, habremos despejado las fronteras, destruido todos los aparatos bélicos, y sólo admiraremos un invento, un aparato, el más maravilloso, y el que haya traído paz y concordia entre todos los hombres del universo entero.
The invention that El Presidente was referring to in this taping could surely only be a television. Below is my free translation:
You ask me two words, but I will share some ideas of mine about inventions.
The equipment that you operate is wonderful because it reproduces moving figures at the same time that it emits voices. When this invention is perfected over time, the world will be taken aback by the moving and talking pictures which these equipments will exhibit.
Science has increased the accelerated pace of modern advances. Through science, we are able to conserve our health and could even retain youth to those who have aged. But science has also promoted inventions that are aimed at the destruction of man by fellowman. These two contrary tendencies still tell us that the amount of brutality within us is very great.
When could science perfect devices that can reform and improve men? When will our humanity be able to say that it is already on the path of moral perfection with regards the fraternity of all men, of all peoples, of all races, and of all creeds?
When that day arrives, we will have erased all borders, destroyed all warlike devices. And we will only admire an invention, an apparatus, the most wonderful, one that has brought peace and harmony among all men throughout the world.
TV technology was invented in 1927, or two years before Aguinaldo’s speech was recorded (according to Lasotube, it was on 11 February 1929, recorded much earlier than the 1931 Fairbanks documentary). However, it should be noted that TV was introduced to Filipinas only during the 1950s. Maybe Aguinaldo was referring to the very same apparatus which recorded this speech of his — the video recorder?
While the speech was very brief, it was recorded in two takes. And before the second take was about to begin, President Aguinaldo uttered his introduction in a rather halting but sure English, to the point of even sounding British!
There must have been other takes of this speech that are not yet uploaded. Lasotube didn’t divulge enough details of what exactly Aguinaldo’s speech was all about, or what the purpose was. Neither did he reveal where he got this precious footage. But the video is still made more interesting since one could grasp background details of the president’s surroundings: a few seconds into it, one could hear people whispering in Spanish (probably the crew who were to record the president’s speech), roosters could be heard crowing, and birds chirping all throughout the recording. This reveals how rustic Cavite el Viejo was during the late 1920s as compared to today. And towards the end of his speech, the mild tolling of the bells of nearby Santa María Magdalena Church could be heard interspersing with the president’s sonorous Spanish, punctuating the fact that his speech was about to end.
In this speech, the former president also waxed philosophic. As he extolled science for this new invention that he was marveling at, at the same time he expressed his reservation more because of man’s brutality. He also longed for the day when all warlike devices are finally destroyed. This, coming from a man who once rebelled against Spain!
This is just one of those videos proving that Emilio Aguinaldo was no stranger to the Spanish language, as how he is usually depicted in schools and textbooks. Yes, it was a speech that was read, but it doesn’t take rocket science to determine that he was comfortable in speaking it.