Want to ace English? Then learn Spanish

I found this textual meme in the Facebook group Oficialización del Español en Filipinas (Officialization of the Spanish Language in Filipinas). It compares the various inflections of the English verb do to that of its Spanish counterpart hacer. As you can see, the verb forms in English are not as numerously expressive compared to their Spanish versions.
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This is just one example why learning English is a piece of cake among native Spanish speakers. Picture this…
José Rizal, a native Spanish speaker, taught himself English. And he aced it.
Manuel L. Quezon, a native Spanish speaker, learned English in only about three weeks. He learned it on a steamship while traveling to the United States for the first time.
Claro M. Recto, a native Spanish speaker, mastered English in only three months.
The first Filipino short-story in the English language was written by a native Spanish speaker, Paz Márquez de Benítez of Lucena, Tayabas (where I was also born). That story, “Dead Stars”, was composed during the early years of US occupation. And when you read her story, its masterful language will make you stop and think how today’s Filipino fiction in English pales in comparison to hers. And to think that we’ve been learning English for more than a century while the English of Benítez’s era was still quite young.
José García Villa, our first National Artist in Literature who is also considered as one of the finest (if not indeed the finest) our country has ever produced when it comes to poetry, was another native Spanish speaker. He was highly acclaimed by critics not just here but also those in the United States.
And of course, there’s the one and only Nick Joaquín, the greatest Filipino writer in the English language, hands down. And, you guessed it, he was also a native Spanish speaker. A fact not known to many.
Why is this so? Because Spanish and English are both cognates. They have so many words that are similar or even identical. In layman’s terms, Spanish and English are “cousins”.
It is no wonder why our grandparents and great grandparents who received good education during the US occupation of our country spoke and wrote better English than us. And that is also why most of our literary greats in the English language (Joaquín, Villa, N.V.M. González, Trinidad Tarrosa, Paz M. Latorena, etc.) usually come from that epoch when Spanish was still the language.
Had we allowed the teaching of the Spanish language to continue in our curriculum, and had our government supported its usage, we would all be writing and speaking English much better than our North Américan invaders.
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Hoy en la Historia de Filipinas: el nacimiento de Sergio Osmeña

HOY EN LA HISTORIA DE FILIPINAS: 9 de septiembre de 1878 — Sergio Osmeña, el cuarto presidente de Filipinas, nació en la Ciudad de Cebú de Juana Osmeña y Suico, una miembro del rico clan Osmeña (de herencia china cristiana) que tiene grandes intereses comerciales en dicha ciudad. Según los informes, Juana tenía solo 14 años en el momento del nacimiento de Osmeña. Debido a esto, la identidad del padre de Osmeña, de apellido “Sanson”, había sido un secreto familiar muy bien guardado hasta ahora. Juana nunca se casó con su padre.

En su juventud, Osmeña era el editor de “El Nuevo Día”, un periódico en idioma español que fue publicado y distribuido en la Ciudad de Cebú (duró por tres). Más tarde, estudió derecho en la Universidad de Santos Tomás, donde ocupó el segundo lugar en la oposición para abogado.

El 10 de abril de 1901, se casó con Estefanía Veloso y Chiong. La pareja tuvo diez hijos: Nicasio, Vicenta, Edilderto, Milagros, Emilio, María Paloma, Jesús, Teodoro, José, y Sergio Jr. Y debido a su hijo menor con Estefanía, desde entonces se le conoce popularmente en inglés como “Sergio Osmeña Sr.”

Luego, a la temprana edad de 25 años, fue nombrado por el Gobernador General William Howard Taft como gobernador interino de Cebú cuando el Gobernador Juan Clímaco fue enviado como miembro de la Junta de Comisionados de la Exposición Universal de San Luis (Louisiana Purchase Exposition). Al regreso de Clímaco, Osmeña fue nombrado fiscal provincial.

Mientras era gobernador, Osmeña se postuló para las elecciones a la primera Asamblea Nacional (Philippine Assembly) de 1907 y fue elegido como el primer Presidente de ese órgano. Osmeña tenía 29 años y ya era el funcionario filipino de más alto rango. Él y otro político provincial, Manuel L. Quezon de la Provincia de Tayabas, establecieron el Partido Nacionalista (ahora conocido como Nacionalista Party) como un obstáculo para el Partido Federalista de Trinidad Pardo de Tavera.

En 1920, dos años después de la muerte de Estefanía, Osmeña se casó con Esperanza Limjap. La pareja tuvo tres hijos más, a saber, Ramón, Rosalina, y Victor.

Osmeña dirigió varias misiones a los Estados Unidos de América para hacer campaña por la independencia de Filipinas. Se convirtió en un instrumento para obtener el estado de la Mancomunidad Filipina (Commonwealth of the Philippines) en 1935.

Un amigo cercano de Quezon, Osmeña apoyó al segundo como el presidente del Commonwealth, sirviendo como vicepresidente. Los dos fueron reelegidos para otro mandato en 1941.

Cuando los japoneses invadieron Filipinas, el gobierno se vio obligado a exiliarse a los EE. UU. Fue allí donde Quezon murió de tuberculosis el 1 de agosto de 1944. Osmeña acompañó al general Douglas MacArthur durante el desembarco de las fuerzas estadounidenses en Leyte el 20 de octubre de 1944 para recuperar el país de los japoneses. Después, en 27 de febrero del año siguiente, MacArthur entregó las riendas del gobierno civil a Osmeña como sucesor de Quezon.

El país, particularmente la capital, quedó devastado cuando Osmeña se hizo cargo. Peor aún, los EE. UU. estaba a punto de dar a Filipinas su larga aspiración de independencia en un momento inoportuno. Según el fallecido historiador Pío Andrade Jr. (en su libro controvertido “The Fooling of América: The Untold Story of Carlos P. Rómulo“), a MacArthur le disgustaba Osmeña y favorecía a Manuel Roxas de Cápiz para que fuera el próximo presidente. Durante la temporada de campaña para las elecciones presidenciales de 1946, Roxas, con la ayuda de MacArthur, estaba ocupado haciendo campaña mientras que Osmeña estaba ocupado rehabilitando al país de los daños de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Roxas ganó esa elección.

Osmeña murió el 19 de octubre de 1961 a la edad de 83 años. Fue enterrado en el Cementerio del Norte en la Ciudad de Macati.

From “Nuestra Patria” to “Bayan Ko”

DID YOU KNOW? The popular protest song “Bayan Ko” (My Native Land) was originally written in Spanish. Titled “Nuestra Patria“, the lyrics were written by Gen. José Alejandrino (the former propagandista from Pampanga who later in his life fought against the US WASP invaders) with music by Constancio de Guzmán. It was written as a protest song (specifically for a modern rendition of a satirical Spanish-era zarzuela) against the US WASP invaders who grabbed the country from the Spanish Empire and, later on, from the República de Malolos. It was translated to Tagálog by poet José Corazón de Jesús and has since become a popular political protest song.

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The Tagálog version gained further popularity during Martial Law. It has since been considered by many as the country’s second national anthem. Last year, the original version in Spanish (piano performance) was made available in YouTube by fonsucu (Fonso Velázquez).

 

From excited foreword to grateful afterthought

A couple of years back, I excitedly announced in my now defunct Spanish blog that I was chosen to write for a coffee table book about the history of La Laguna Province. After almost two years of sleepless nights writing and doing field research, incurring trouble at the office because of several absences and tardiness, and capped by a press release on my accidental discovery of the province’s foundation date as well as defending it from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines’ “board of academic censors”, nothing came out of the said project. The publisher and I had a falling out while the provincial governor who was supposed to fund the project was  unceremoniously booted out from politics. That book was supposed to be my big break to become a well-known writer-historian. But it seems that bad luck is an unwanted twin of mine. Whenever my dreams are within arm’s reach, they start slipping right from my hands and crash down to the floor like fine chandelier.

When publication was nearing, I had my mentor, Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, write the book’s foreword. I couldn’t think of nor imagine anyone else to write one for me. He is, after all, the epitome of an authentic Renaissance Man: a journalist, historian, poet, playwright, fictionist, linguist, folklorist, cartoonist, recording artist, and Spanish language teacher as well as instructor of Spanish dances (considered as the only “maestro de flamenco” of Filipinas). Few people may know this, but he is also a polyglot: aside from his mastery of Spanish, Hiligaynón, Quinaráy-a, English, and Tagálog, he also has a working knowledge of Chabacano Zamboangueño, Cavitén (Chabacano Caviteño), French, Hokkien, Cebuano, and Portuguese. In spite of his personal problems and health issues, he still manages to continue the difficult fight for the recognition of our true national identity. A great man like Don Guimò only comes once every one hundred years. That is why I call him as the GREATEST FILIPINO alive today.

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Unfortunately, my coffee table book will no longer see the light of day. So I thought of just publishing here Don Guimo’s foreword for that book. I am not a decorated writer nor historian, but his words for me are worth all the medals of the world.

     Having known José Mario “Pepe” Alas since his college student days at Adamson University, we never expected him to be capable of writing a history book with such serene impartiality and with the taught discipline of a seasoned historian. And more so the complex history of La Laguna, a province that means so much to the development of this country. We always thought that only a Nick Joaquín would be able to do that considering the uniqueness and the vastness of the latter’s accumulated knowledge and profound understanding of Philippine history, the Spanish language, the Filipino national identity, and the Filipino culture that encompasses all these intellectual disciplines.

     But Pepe has somehow been able to acquire the necessary conocimientos which is more than knowledge, to grasp and reproduce what is Filipino. He did take for granted, as is the case of many Filipino college students, his Spanish language subjects at Adamson University, but after he graduated and was faced with the challenges of survival, he accepted the casual job of a typist and was given the assignment to type a whole book in Spanish on the history of the Primera República de Filipinas, a thick compilation of documents, with their respective comments, by Spanish language academician, novelist, historian, and professor, Antonio M. Abad from Barili, Cebú.

     Although we know that this is not the only book in Spanish that he was forced to read, because he had to type it, Pepe must have had read some other books in Spanish on what is Filipino aside from those available in English. To our surprise, Pepe could speak to us in Spanish about Philippine History after going through this old Abad book and the other books, works, and literary pieces in this language that were found in our library.

    As an old teacher of the Spanish language, we know that the student, to acquire this language, needs to master four basic skills: the skill to read it, the skill to understand it, the skill to write in it, and, later, the final skill to speak it. And Pepe Alas from Parañaque City had sufficiently mastered the four enumerated skills. To top it all, he also mastered to a high degree the literary, historical, and cultural content of Spanish in the Philippines which, as a culmination, has formed his firm conviction as a Filipino, free from the current maladies of a colonial mentality vis-à-vis the present colonial master lording it over our country.  In short, Pepe is no longer a stranger in his own country which is expectedly miseducated, therefore ignorant of its true culture and true history. Pepe has freed himself from these maladies and anomalies of the mind and soul, and, because of this newfound freedom of his mind and his soul, he now loves his country in a much deeper way than most other Filipinos of his generation ever did or do.

     As he advanced in the field of employment, he settled in San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna, with his wife and children and immediately identified himself as a native born lagunense interested in the history and prosperity of his adoptive province. From there, he realized that he had a new world to know and write about which is La Laguna. His research on the history of his adoptive province led him to discover the real founding date of La Laguna. He went through all the old and pertinent Spanish documents with great ease and discovered that La Laguna started as a Spanish encomienda under conquistador Martín de Goití in the sixteenth century.

     What is funny, if not something to be highly indignant about, is that the government office that supposedly works on the history of this country flatly denied and rejected this discovery because of an old U.S. WASP induced prejudice against the Spanish encomienda. Some employees in that government office on history had this prejudice against the encomienda because of the falsities taught to them in their history classes by an Americanized history teacher that never learned to see through the 1900 American sectarian propaganda against what is Spanish and Filipino in these islands. These de-Filipinized elements wrongly labeled an encomienda as a system of slavery and oppression when it is in the encomienda that our native Indio forefathers learned not only the predominant religion of Filipinos today but also learned a more advanced system of agriculture, a sophisticated cuisine, basic arts and trade, and all that a people needed to later form a pueblo and a municipio as we know them today.

     But the La Laguna Provincial Board, being open minded, quickly saw that this Alas discovery was logical and, therefore, correct. It eventually approved and recognized the date of the founding of La Laguna as a Spanish encomienda to be also the beginning of the legal entity that is this province today. An Inquirer article called Pepe an achiever who, as a young historian, discovered what others blindly ignored for so long. Kudos to the provincial governor and the La Laguna Provincial Board!

     Reading Pepe’s general history of La Laguna is a pleasure. The language is easy and all that is historical data are neatly interwoven to give an accurate picture of how La Laguna developed and how its people progressed through the years in spite of the vicissitudes that would disturb such advances. Credit is given to whosoever deserves it. As an historian, Pepe will never say, like Teodoro A. Agoncillo says on his “History of the Filipino People”, that it is “difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is”.  Pepe gives us the sensation that he exactly knows what is Filipino and that it is neither difficult nor impossible to define what it is. Because of his mastery of Spanish, Pepe Alas agrees with Teodoro M. Kálaw’s definition of what is Filipino, a definition that is, evidently, not “politically correct” nowadays, but which is accurate anyway you put it. Wrote Kálaw, and we quote him in his own language to avoid any mistranslation:

“Cuando se discute la capacidad de una raza para la autosuficiencia, todos los elementos y factores que intervinieron en su cultura, todas las generaciones anteriores, se someten a prueba. Y entrelazadas en esa exégesis está la obra de España y la obra de Filipinas indígena, dos civilizaciones que han venido uniéndose en una misma civilización que llamamos filipina sobre este suelo por casi cuatro siglos para luego constituir una vibrante nacionalidad, la que dio espíritu a la revolución y a la primera República de Filipinas.”

     La Laguna is, indeed, one of the oldest provinces of the Philippines because many of its original families have branched out to other places in this country. As a mere example and modesty aside—, this writer’s family, on both the paternal and maternal sides, traces its roots to La Laguna. Gómez comes from a 17th-century Spanish alférez from Pagsanján, Francisco Gómez, who married a Tagala named María Dimaculañgan, while Rivera traces its roots to nearby Pila. Upon a recent visit to the parish church of Pagsanján, this writer saw, from a list of donors, individuals that carried both surnames: Gómez and Rivera. There is always that inclination to come to Pagsanján and upon viewing the old and majestic arch at the beginning of what was Pagsanján’s Calle Real, a sensation of having been there becomes overpowering.  And then, there is the now almost abandoned Gómez mansion near the river while it is also at the rear of the old Church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, the advocation of the Virgin Mary that merited the Pontifical titles of “Emperatriz de las Américas, Reina de México, y Patrona de Filipinas”. Aside from the famous Pagsanján Falls, the arch, the old bahay na bató houses, and the parish church are also tourist attractions.

     The attraction of La Laguna in general is great, and tourism is not a new phenomenon for Pagsanján. There is this bilingual sing-song of long ago that attests to what we say:

Muy bienvenidos
Sean ustedes
A nuestro pueblo
De Pagsanján.
Aquí tenemos
La maravilla
De veinte saltos
En un bancal.
Sobresaltante
Pero seguro
Es el paseo
En un raudal;
Porque las bancas
Son de arbol duro
Y los banqueros
De mucha sal.

–o–

Maganda nawâ
Ang ‘yong pagdayo
Dito sa amin
Sa Pagsanján;
Magarang arco,
Magandang bahay
Gawá sa tabla
At sa bató.
Ñgunit ang tunay
Na pañghalina
Ng bayan natin
Ay ang talón
Casama’ng daloy
Ng mananañgcang
Sanáy sa tulin
At sa tinô.

     La Laguna, as a center of Filipino culture, as expressed in song, dance, ritual, poetry, cuisine, and hospitality, is bound to advance. More so with the new crop of leaders it presently has to steer this vision onward.

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The day Princess Sarah burned Miss Minchin

Esto fue ese día famoso en que la Princesa Sarah Crewe dejó atrás a la Señorita María Minchin con su excelente español. 😂

I saw this video clip making the rounds in Facebook lately: an angry Miss Minchin got burned upon discovering that Princess Sarah was a native Spanish-speaker. The rather humorous video clip is from that famous 1995 Filipino family-drama movie Sarah… Ang Munting Prinsesa (Sarah… The Little Princess) which starred Camille Prats in the titular role (she was 10 years old at the time). The movie itself was adapted from the 1985 Japanese cartoon series Princess Sarah which was then a huge hit at ABS-CBN during the 1990s. The said cartoon’s high ratings prompted the media giant to make a movie out of it through its film outfit Star Cinema.

In the video clip, Miss Minchin, portrayed by the ever-effective Jean García, got miffed when she noticed that Princess Sarah was the only student in her Spanish language class who was not taking up notes. The little princess tried to explain that she already knew the language, but to no avail. Miss Minchin started scolding her. Enter Señor Francisco, portrayed by the late Tony Carreón, a Spanish language teacher who then inquired what the commotion was all about. That was when he found out that the protagonist was half Spanish after all.

Click on the screen grab below to watch the video clip.

La imagen puede contener: 2 personas, personas de pie, de traje e interior

This scene was a departure from the cartoon series because in the latter, the students  were learning French instead of Spanish (I should know because I was a follower of the cartoons at that time, so feel free to laugh 😂). I don’t know whose idea it was to change the language setting, but it was a good move considering that this is a Filipino film anyway. French is too foreign compared to Spanish. Besides, the late Tony Carreón himself was a native Spanish speaker. Another one of the actors in this movie, my famous friend Jaime Fábregas, is also a native Spanish speaker. I could just imagine how they gave pointers to Camille Prats on how to speak the language. Also, I do remember a former office mate of mine (Tina Jocson, another native Spanish speaker) telling me that she personally knew Camille’s grandparents (father’s side if I remember correctly). The grandparents themselves were also native Spanish speakers. So I imagine that perhaps Camille knew a smattering of the language.

You might notice how I kept using the adjective “native”. Let me continue reminding the very few readers of this blog that Spanish is a Filipino language. It is not a foreign language. Many Filipinos such as Carreón, Fábregas, and Mommy Tina grew up speaking it as their cradle language. That is why local movie scenes like this really put a smile on my face (with apologies to Thanos).

Enjoy the rest of the day! ¡Un buen día a todos!

Una lengua robada: el español en Filipinas

¿Se le puede arrebatar un idioma a un pueblo? Desgraciadamente, la respuesta es sí. Mire y averigue…

 

Realización y montaje: Antonio Rodríguez Navarro
Guión: Guillermo Gómez Rivera

Debunking historical hatred

I came across this ugly Facebook discussion last year.

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The clueless but hateful FB user in this screenshot besmirched our country’s Spanish past, a wondrous period in our country’s history that I have sworn to defend since I was a teenager. So here is my response to his accusations (which, in fact, is what millions of Filipinos also have in their equally clueless minds):

1) “polo y servicios” —> This actually benefited the natives more than the Spanish authorities. Aside from churches, the purpose was for public works such as roads and bridges that were meant for the natives themselves. Many of these are even still being used today. Unknown fact: those who were recruited to render polo y servicios were given a daily wage.
2) “land-grabbing” —> The Spaniards were the ones who brought here the concept of land titles in the first place. Pre-Filipino natives didn’t really own land. Most, if not all, didn’t have a permanent settlement. They moved from place to place, from forest to forest, especially when the land didn’t wield much for them anymore.
3) “demonization of local languages” —> On the contrary, the friars studied the local languages and even wrote grammar books to preserve them. There were even prayer books in the native languages.
4) “creating classes between them and us (peninsulares, insulares, indios)” —> These were for taxation purposes. Such classification still exists today: those who have higher salaries are taxed the most compared to those who earn lesser, such as the ordinary rank and file. Essentially, nothing really different then as now.
5) “guardia civil” —> They were the PNP of those days, a peace-keeping force against “tulisanes” (bandits) and other lawbreakers. Note: members of the guardias civiles were indios, not Spaniards.

Lastly, don’t treat José Rizal’s novels as if they’re history books. They aren’t. They’re fiction, written by a very young Freemason who was a huge fan of French satire.

Suggestion: if you really want to argue about Filipino History, learn Spanish and read original Spanish texts. Don’t rely on textbook history. 🙂