2018 National Artists

The Order of the National Artists of the Philippines is the highest national recognition given to Filipino individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of fine arts in the country, namely: Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Arts, Literature, Film, Broadcast Arts, and Architecture and Allied Arts. The order is jointly administered by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (by virtue of President Ferdinand Marcos’s Proclamation № 1001 of 2 April 1972) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). The award is given irregularly and is conferred by the President of Filipinas upon recommendation by both institutions.

Through the decades since the first National Artist medal was awarded to critically acclaimed painter Fernando Amorsolo in 1972, many of the biggest names in Filipino arts and literature have graced the ranks of the Order of the National Artists such as writer Nick Joaquín (1976), musician Levi Celerio (1997), and film director Eddie Romero (2003). Selecting a national artist is based on a broad criteria, and the selection process for nominees is strict. Works of art of those who are nominated should not only conform to set standards of aesthetics; they should have also distinguished themselves among their peers by having pioneered a mode of creative expression or style, and they should have made an impact on succeeding generations of artists, among other criteria. In fact, back in 2009, controversy erupted when some of the nominees were blocked by several incumbent National Artists (including the indefatigable F. Sionil José), members of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines, and various academicians who claimed that their nomination was politicized by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when she favored them due to friendship over artistic quality. The issue even reached the Supreme Court (in the end, the court of last resort voted to boot out those nominated by Arroyo).

Early today, filmmaker Sari Dalena broke the news on her Facebook account that a new batch of National Artists has been declared. Interestingly, one of those who figured in the 2009 controversy, architect Francisco Mañosa, made it to the list. Here they are in alphabetical order:

1) Larry Alcalá (Visual Arts, posthumous)
2) Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio (Theater)
3) Ryan Cayabyab (Music)
4) Francisco Mañosa (Architecture)
5) Resil Mojares (Literature)
6) Ramón Muzones (Literature)
7) Kidlat Tahimik (Film)

PEPE ALAS

Top left to bottom right: Larry Alcalá, Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio, Ryan Cayabyab, Francisco Mañosa, Resil Mojares, Ramón Muzones, and Kidlat Tahimik.

Official conferment will be held tomorrow at the CCP. Congratulations to the winners!

 

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A La Patria (Emilio Jacinto)

Tengo problemas con el Katipunan, la sociedad secreta fundada por francmasones en 1892 para liberar Filipinas del gobierno colonial español. La historia general nos enseña que los Katipuneros eran patriotas, héroes que nos liberaron de la tiranía española. Pero he terminado con esa mentira. No estoy diciendo que, aunque francmasones, los Katipuneros eran malvados. Yo sé que muchos de ellos vivieron por un ideal — todos los revolucionarios/rebeldes lo hacen. Pero así lo hace la sociedad contra la que se rebelan. No es de extrañar que José Rizal nunca aprobara la rebelión de Katipunan: comprendió cuál ideal debía permanecer en pie.

Sin embargo, aunque no soy un seguidor de la rebelión tagala, soy un seguidor de la literatura, sobre todo de la literatura bien escrita. Arte por el bien del arte, como ellos dicen. Así que os presento un poema escrito por Emilio Jacinto (1875—1899), uno de los miembros más jóvenes y oficiales de más alto rango del Katipunan. Este poema titulado A La Patria fue dedicado a su patria chica, Filipinas. Se debe notar que durante el tiempo de Jacinto, el concepto de la patria significaba dos cosas: la patria grande y la patria chica. La patria grande inmediatamente se refiere a la Madre España. Por otro lado, la patria chica denota la localidad de uno: en el caso de Jacinto y sus compatriotas filipinos, es Filipinas. Pero en A La Patria que fue escrito el 8 de octubre de 1897 (de hecho, es su aniversario el día de hoy) bajo los cocoteros de Santa Cruz, La Laguna donde vivió como rebelde-refugiado, ya había declarado que su patria grande era Filipinas, “sin el yugo español”.

A los que han leído el Mi Último Adiós de Rizal, se puede notar fácilmente cuán similar es el poema de Jacinto con el del héroe nacional. El de Rizal fue escrito seis meses antes de que Jacinto escribiera el suyo. Ambos poemas están dedicados a Filipinas. Y están escritos en el estilo Alejandrino (verso de catorce sílabas métricas compuesto de dos hemistiquios de siete sílabas con acento en la tercera y decimotercera sílaba). Bueno, sin más preámbulos, os presento A La Patria por Emilio Jacinto.

Talambuhay ni Emilio Jacinto

Emilio Jacinto, el “Cerebro del Katipunan” (imagen: Bayaning Filipino).

A LA PATRIA
Emilio Jacinto

¡Salve, oh patria, que adoro, amor de mis amores,
que Natura de tantos tesoros prodigó;
vergel do son más suaves y gentiles las flores,
donde el alba se asoma con más bellos colores,
donde el poeta contempla delicias que soñó!

¡Salve, oh reina de encantos, Filipinas querida,
resplandeciente Venus, tierra amada y sin par:
región de luz, colores, poesía, fragancias, vida,
región de ricos frutos y de armonías, mecida
por la brisa y los dulces murmullos de la mar!

Preciosísima y blanca perla del mar de Oriente,
edén esplendoroso de refulgente sol:
yo te saludo ansioso, y adoración ardiente
te rinde el alma mía, que es su deseo vehemente
verte sin amarguras, sin el yugo español.

En medio de tus galas, gimes entre cadenas;
la libertad lo es todo y estás sin libertad;
para aliviar, oh patria, tu padecer, tus penas,
gustoso diera toda la sangre de mis venas,
durmiera como duermen tantos la eternidad.

El justo inalienable derecho que te asiste
palabra vana es sólo, sarcasmo, burla cruel;
la justicia es quimera para tu suerte triste;
esclava, y sin embargo ser reina mereciste;
goces das al verdugo que en cambio te dá hiel.

¿Y de qué sirve ¡ay, patria! triste, desventurada,
que sea límpido y puro tu cielo de zafir,
que tu luna se ostente con luz más argentada,
de que sirve, si en tanto lloras esclavizada,
si cuatro siglos hace que llevas de sufrir?

¿De que sirve que cubran tus campos tantas flores,
que en tus selvas se oiga al pájaro trinar,
si el aire que trasporta sus cantos, sus olores,
en alas también lleva quejidos y clamores
que el alma sobrecogen y al hombre hacen pensar?

¿De qué sirve que, perla de virginal pureza,
luzcas en tu blancura la riqueza oriental,
si toda tu hermosura, si toda tu belleza,
en mortíferos hierros de sin igual dureza
engastan los tiranos, gozándose en tu mal?

¿De qué sirve que asombre tu exuberante suelo,
produciendo sabrosos frutos y frutos mil,
si al fin cuanto cobija tu esplendoroso cielo
el hispano declara que es suyo y sin recelo
su derecho proclama con insolencia vil?

Mas el silencio acaba y la senil paciencia,
que la hora ya ha sonada de combatir por ti.
Para aplastar sin miedo, de frente, sin clemencia,
la sierpe que envenena tu mísera existencia,
arrastrando la muerte, nos tienes, patria, aquí.

La madre idolatrada, la esposa que adoramos,
el hijo que es pedazo de nuestro corazón,
por defender tu causa todo lo abandonamos:
esperanzas y amores, la dicha que anhelamos,
todos nuestros ensueños, toda nuestra ilusión.

Surgen de todas partes los héroes por encanto,
en sacro amor ardiendo, radiantes de virtud;
hasta morir no cejan, y espiran. Entre tanto
que fervientes pronuncian, patria, tu nombre santo;
su último aliento exhalan deseándote salud.

Y así, cual las estrellas del cielo numerosas,
por tí se sacrifican mil vidas sin dolor:
y al oir de los combates las cargas horrorosas
rogando porque vuelvan tus huestes victoriosas
oran niños, mujeres y ancianos con fervor.

Con saña que horroriza, indecibles torturas,–
porque tanto te amaron y desearon tu bien,–
cuantos mártires sufren; más en sus almas puras
te bendicen en medio de angustias y amarguras
y, si les dan la muerte, bendicente también.

No importa que sucumban a cientos, a millones,
tus hijos en lucha tremenda y desigual
y su preciosa sangre se vierta y forme mares:
no importa, si defienden a tí y a sus hogares,
si por luchar perecen, su destino fatal.

No importa que suframos destierros y prisiones,
tormentos infernales con salvaje furor;
ante el altar sagrado que en nuestras corazones
juntos te hemos alzado, sin mancha de pasiones,
juramentos te hicieron el alma y el honor.

Si al terminar la lucha con laureles de gloria
nuestra obra y sacrificios corona el triunfo al fin,
las edades futuras harán de tí memoria;
y reina de esplendores, sin manchas ya ni escoria,
te admirarán los pueblos del mundo en el confín.

Ya en tu cielo brillando el claro y nuevo día,
respirando venturas, amor y libertad,
de los que caído hubieren en la noche sombría
no te olvides, que aun bajo la humilde tumba fría
se sentirán felices por tu felicidad.

Pero si la victoria favorece al hispano
y adversa te es la suerte en la actual ocasión,
no importa: seguiremos llamándonos “hermano”,
que habrá libertadores mientras haya tirano,
la fé vivirá mientras palpite el corazón.

Y la labor penosa en la calma aparente
que al huracán precede y volverá a bramar,
con la tarea siguiendo más firme, más prudente,
provocará otra lucha aun más tenaz y ardiente
hasta que consigamos tus lágrimas secar.

¡Oh patria idolatrada, cuanto más afligida
y angustiada te vemos te amamos más y más:
no pierdas la esperanza; de la profunda herida
siempre brotará sangre, mientras tengamos vida,
nunca te olvidaremos: ¡jamás, jamás, jamás!

El castellano, único idioma nacional

El abogado Tirso de Irureta Goyena vivió en una época cuando el idioma español era el idioma filipino predominante pero fue poco a poco de ser “devorado” por el idioma de los invasores estadounidenses: el inglés. Alarmado por el ataque, escribió varios artículos para defender el estado de la lengua española en Filipinas.

En este blogpost publico uno de sus artículos titulado “El Castellano, Único Idioma Nacional“. Este artículo fue seleccionado de su libro POR EL IDIOMA Y LA CULTURA HISPANOS. Es una colección de ensayos suyos que fue publicada en 1917.

En “El Castellano, Único Idioma Nacional”, Irureta Goyena argumenta por qué el español debe ser el único idioma nacional de Filipinas.

El Señor Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena (con su chófer japónes). Foto cortesía del fotógrafo Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, nieto del Sr. Goyena.

EL CASTELLANO, ÚNICO IDIOMA NACIONAL
Tirso de Irureta Goyena

Algunos opinan, al parecer, por la dualidad de idiomas en nuestro país, sosteniendo que ambos á dos, el castellano y el inglés, pueden constituir á la vez los idiomas nacionales de Filipinas. El idioma castellano es el idioma de un pasado de tres siglos, el idioma de las tres primeras centurias de civilización europea en el país, el idioma de epopeya y de los patriotas de la época revolucionaria. El inglés es el idioma del presente, de la nueva nación dominadora fuerte y jovén, y es la lengua, al mismo tiempo, más difundida en el Extremo Oriente, con cuyos países sostendrá Filipinas en lo futuro sus más íntimas relaciones comerciales y políticas. Ambos deben, por consiguiente, conservarse; ambos deben ser, en fin, los idiomas nacionales de la futura república filipina.

Somos los primeros en sostener que no laboramos contra el idioma inglés. Somos partidarios, consiguientemente, de la convivencia amistosa en el país de ambos idiomas. Sostenemos que el inglés no solo debe conservarse, sino que su conocimiento debe seguir siendo objeto de difusión. Pero entendemos que el castellano, ha sido, es y deberá ser el único idioma nacional de Filipinas.

Es indudable que si los filipinos pudieran poseer ambos idiomas á la perfección, sería esto lo más ventajoso para sus intereses. Pero el poseer, dominándolos, dos idiomas á la vez, y dos idiomas de léxico tan rico y tan variado como el inglés y el castellano, es cosa imposible para un pueblo en general, para una colectividad compleja y numerosa, como es toda una sociedad nacional, como es en este caso el país filipino. El poseer á la perfección dos idiomas á la vez es privilegio reservado á ciertos y determinados indivíduos dotados de especiales aptitudes filológicas. Y si extremamos las cosas, notaremos que aún aquellas personas que pasan por conocedoras de dos idiomas diferentes, dominan más uno que otro, y que, salvo rarísimas excepciones de inteligencias muy privilegiadas, no obstante poseer dos idiomas, piensan y sienten en uno de ellos exclusivamente, realizando una traducción mental de sus ideas y pensamientos de un idioma á otro.

Y ese idioma en que piensen y sienten las personas poseedoras de dos idiomas distintos, será su verdadero idioma propio, y no aquel en que exprese sus ideas y sentimientos después de haberlos traducido en su interior del idioma que brotó espontáneamente de su corazón ó de su inteligencia. Y ese idioma en que se pinesa ó se siente, cuando se refiere á todo un pueblo, ó á una gran parte del mismo, es su verdadero idioma nacional. Y es indudable que infinidad de filipinos piensan y sienten en castellano, y piensan y sienten de tal manera en este idioma, que mejor expresan en él los estados diversos de su alma que en cualquiera de los idiomas nativos.

La mejor demostración de este aserto la tenemos en nuestro insigne Rizal. En medio de las penalidades y sufrimientos de una cárcel, teniendo de cara á la muerte y bajo la tremenda exaltación patriótica de sus últimos momentos gloriosos, cogió la pluma para entonar un canto de despedida á su patria, es decir, á su madre, á nuestra madre común, su adorada Filipinas, y aquel sublime corazón habló en emocionantes é inspiradísimas estrofas castellanas.

Pero se dirá: ¿no tiene Suiza tres idiomas nacionales? ¿no tienen dos Bélgica, el Canadá y la Confederación sud-africana? ¿Por qué no ha de poder tenerlos Filipinas? Y nosotros contestaremos diciendo que esto es no tener en cuenta en absoluto la forma y las circunstancias bajo las cuales Suiza, Bélgica, el Canadá y la Unión del África del Sur tienen varios idiomas nacionales.

En primer lugar, no existen en ninguno de esos países varios idiomas nacionales, sino que los que existen son varios idiomas oficiales, idiomas á los cuales se les ha dado carácter oficial, por ser los idiomas de nacionalidades distintasexistentes dentro del mismo Estado. En la república de Suiza hay una mayoría de cantones alemanes, esto es, cantones de raza alemana, de costumbres alemanas y de idioma alemán, varios cantones franceses, ó sea, cantones de raza, costumbres é idioma francés; y un cantón de raza, costumbres é idioma italianos. No es, por consiguiente, que en Suiza todos los suizos hablen indistintamente los tres idiomas. Sino que hay suizos que poseen el alemán como único idioma nacional y lo utilizan exclusivamente, otros el francés, y otros el italiano. Claro está que esa proximidad y convivencia hace que muchos suizos alemanes hablen el francés, y muchos franceses alemanes el alemán. Pero lo hablan como uno cualquiera de nosotros hablaría el ruso ó el japonés, esto es, no como un idioma nacional, no como un idioma propio, sino como un idioma extraño adquirido por el estudio y por la práctica continuos.

Lo mismo ocurre en el Canadá. En el Canadá hay un Departamento ó Estado, el de Quebec, cuyos habitantes son, en su mayoría, descendientes de los antiguos colonos franceses, y que hablan consiguientemente el francés como idioma nacional. Y en los restantes Estados del Dominio, puede decirse que su mayoría están constituidos por colonos de raza inglesa, y que tienen, por lo tanto, al inglés por idioma propio. Más, como no podía evitarse que de hecho algunos colonos franceses fuesen á establecerse á Estados de raza inglesa, ni que colonos ingleses fuesen á vivir al Estado de Quebec, por no inferir agravio á ninguno de los dos, se han declarado á ambos idiomas, el francés y el inglés, idiomas oficiales. Pero no puede decirse que ambos á dos, y para todos los canadienses, sean el inglés y el francés los idiomas nacionales.

En Filipinas no ocurre esto. Hay una minoría de filipinos, descendientes e individuos de raza española que tienen al castellano naturalmente como idioma propio y casi por decir único. Hay algunas localidades donde filipinos indígenas, de pura raza nativa, como Cavite, San Roque, Caridad, Zamboanga, y aún muchos de los que en Manila y en otras capitales importantes viven, que no poseen asimismo otro idioma que el castellano más ó menos adulterado. Fuera de estos focos, que si son una excepción, lo son á favor del castellano, tenemos una gran masa de origen homogéneo, el malayo, y no dos ó tres nacionalidades distintas como ocurre en Suiza, Bélgica, Austria ó el Canadá.

No hay que pensar, por consiguiente, que la gran masa de filipinos tenga dos idiomas nacionales, porque no tienen todos ellos más que una tradición, unas costumbres y son de una misma raza. No existen aquí para los efectos del idioma dos nacionalidades distintas, una situada, por ejemplo, en Luzón y otra en Bisayas; y los mestizos americanos son una minoría microscópica, en muchos de cuyos descendientes, se ve el curioso fenómeno de adoptar el castellano ó alguno de los idiomas nativos, dejando por completo el idioma inglés.

Si todo esto es absolutamente cierto, no cabe duda que podrá haber filipinos que hablen los dos idiomas, el inglés y el castellano, pero en uno de ellos solamente pensarán y sentirán, y ese será su verdadero idioma nacional. Y en verdad, quizás existan excepciones individuales, pero de los dos idiomas, aquel en el cual piensan y sienten los filipinos es el idioma castellano. En él pronuncian sus discursos los políticos; en él impresionan y agitan los oradores á las masas populares y proletarias; en él brindan y se expansionan las sociedades de recreo; en él cantan los poetas; en él luchan los periodistas, y en él hablan y escriben los hombres de ciencia del país. Y si el caudal científico y literario de Filipinas, no es, cierta y afortunadamente de hoy, sino que data de ayer, es innegable que la mayor parte de las obras científicas y literarias, y la prensa filipina, son obra de unos pocos de la generación de ayer, y de unos muchos de la generación de hoy, de la generación nueva, que expontáneamente sigue pensando y sintiendo en castellano, que es y deberá ser, por consiguiente, no el único idioma, en absoluto, pero sí el único lenguaje nacional de todos los filipinos.

Este blogpost fue publicado originalmente en ALAS FILIPINAS.

Sagisag Kultura TV: Nick Joaquín

The whole world probably knows how much of a big fan I am of Nick Joaquín, National Artist for Literature. His name and works are mentioned in many of my blogposts (including in those blogs that I’ve already shut down). So let’s up the ante a li’l bit more till this world gets so sick of my Joaquinesque fanboying that it would spit me out to another realm in this vast multiverse — hopefully in a realm where “Summer filled the yard with sunflowers / and the hillsides with tiny bitter blackberries”, where everyone happily greets each other “Dahling!”, where Connie Escobar wields a Billiken toward the sky so as to bare her double-naveled midriff, where Maita Gatdula no longer “disdains as shabby and shady / all doings of babyhood”, where Leonardo and Lydia are safe from the bloodcurdling shadows of that fearful house on Zapote Street, where all of us can love the color of green forever, a place where the General did not forsake the Camino Real, where the Walled City and its seven great churches all stand in festive pomp and golden pageantry (still smelling of oranges and roasted almonds), where Paula and Cándida and their father and all their friends carry on with their tertulias, where Doña Jerónima’s laughter can be heard in all caves, where Maytime memories and festive Octobers in Manila are one and the same, where water is San Miguel Beer and all trees bear rosary beads, where kilometric sentences are not an issue…

…and where the La Naval is eternally queen.

If you are not yet familiar with the greatest Filipino writer in the English language (whose first language was Spanish, if I may add), I hope that this highly informative and very laudable documentary produced by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts under its Sagisag Kultura TV project will serve as an introduction of sorts to the quintessential Filipino that was Nick Joaquín. And I pray that on your next visit to a bookstore, you’d bring home a book or two bearing his name. Doing so will make you love your country and its wondrous past even more…

Let me arise and follow that river
back to its source: I would bathe my bones
among the chaste rivulets that quiver
out of the clean primeval stones.

—Nick Joaquín—

 

History is not just about heroes

I noticed that many popular historians today, including various Facebook groups and pages tackling Filipino History, focus mainly on personalities (José Rizal, Andrés Bonifacio, Gregorio del Pilar, etc.), if not events (Cavite Mutiny, 1896 Tagálog Rebellion, the first at-large national election of 1935, etc.). But history is not limited to people and explosive occurrences. We should also consider the coming of tools as history, as media that changed people’s outlook towards everything else. The bahay na bató, the calendar, book printing, the introduction of new crops, and even the cuchara and tenedor have all contributed to the evolution of what is now the Filipino. May these historians up their game so that their fans would not become mere hero worshipers.

Related image

So what in the world am I talking about? Just go to your nearest bookstore and grab a copy of Nick Joaquín’s iconic Culture and History and find out for yourselves. After a thorough reading of this book, I assure you 100% that you will LOL at many of today’s Filipino historians.

An open letter to F. Sionil José, National Artist for Arrogance

Sometime last month, I saw this letter going the rounds in Facebook.

La imagen puede contener: texto

To make a long story short, the above letter is from National Artist F. Sionil José, and he’s asking Ramón del Rosario, chairman of the National Museum of the Philippines, to remove the paintings of RENOWNED ARTISTS E. Aguilar Cruz and Andrés Cristóbal Cruz that were being displayed there. His reason? He’s erudite enough to differentiate true art from inability.

Apparently, the letter was leaked online without his knowledge. So a few days later, after his pompous erudition captured the ire of several netizens, Frankie Boy explained himself on his Facebook account.

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When I first read Frankie Boy’s letter to Mr. del Rosario, it made my blood boil. You know, I’ve purchased some of his books. I find his Rosales novels entertaining (but forgettable). His take on social justice is praiseworthy. But as an individual, I never had a fondness for him. Because, in spite of his close friendship to fellow National Artist Nick Joaquín (a renowned Hispanista and a true humble spirit), Frankie Boy is a certified hispanófobo, and his views on Filipino History are vehemently contradictory to how I view it based on documentation and cultural evidence (judging from his writings, his are obviously based on textbook material, stuff he learned only from school). I even find it hard to forgive him for lambasting the late chemist-historian Pío Andrade at a historical forum held in Instituto Cervantes de Manila ten years ago. This humiliating scene was witnessed by my friend Arnaldo Arnáiz who told me that old man Frankie Boy angrily walked out from the room when he couldn’t take anymore all the historical truth coming out of Andrade’s mouth regarding the Calamba agrarian dispute in which the Rizal family was a party.

I was hurt and embarrassed for those artists (the two Cruzes) whose works I am not even familiar with. I could relate to being belittled, so I guess maybe that’s where all this anger is coming from. At first I tried to ignore Frankie Boy’s pompous letter, but I couldn’t. It just didn’t feel good seeing a writer his stature and my, how physically big he is, even for his age belittling accomplished writers and painters who are no longer around to defend themselves from his arrogance and yet I do nothing about it. I won’t be able to sleep well, I thought. Other than that, the last words that he wrote on his Facebook post (“the time has not yet come for me to be silent”) prompted me all the more to give him a piece of my mind. So immediately after reading his unapologetic post on his wall, off I went to my wall and posted an open letter to him (see below, with minor edits).

AN OPEN LETTER TO F Sionil José (NATIONAL ARTIST FOR PERFECTION)

Good day! I hope this post of mine finds you well and good.

First of all, a confession: I’m one of those who shared that “Straight-From-Mount-Olympus” letter of yours (on Twitter; you’re not famous there). Anyway, enough of that. I’m just here to comment on your humble defense of your soon-to-be-legendary letter to the National Museum of the Philippines. So to borrow your own words: “straightforward ito“…

Your best chum, the late, great Nick Joaquín, by far a much BETTER National Artist for Literature than anyone around, living or dead (and I’m 100% sure you won’t contest that), published one of his last books which was about E. Aguilar Cruz titled “ABÉ: A FRANK SKETCH OF E. AGUILAR CRUZ”. Between the two of us, you should know better that Nick would have never wasted his precious time on a subject if it was as paltry as… what’s that poor fellah’s name again? Ben Singkil? If Abé was good enough for a giant like Nick, then he’s good enough for everybody. And even before Nick, our country’s foremost historian today already published a book about Abé’s paintings many years before he became famous enough to correct that glaring syphilitic error that you committed in one of your novels (we all know who that historian is).

Simple lang ang sinasabi co. I won’t go about parading Abé’s achievements. People from the literary and art circles are already mighty aware of them, anyway. Including yourself (you just won’t admit it, c’mon). I’m not a fan of his in the first place. But hey, I’ve been hearing quite a LOT about this “non-entity” since I was a lunchbox-toting kid… a non-entity as a writer, you say?! Yet he was cited in José Garcia Villa‘s annual selections — and Villa is our country’s FIRST National Artist for Literature! Abé also graced the literary pages of the Graphic Magazine quite a number of times and even became the editor of the Sunday Times Magazine. But hey, if you insist of his being a non-entity, then he could probably well be our country’s very first non-existent permanent representative to the UNESCO. So let’s just consider that NHI historical marker in his hometown as a big joke, shall we? Anyway, as I have said at the beginning of this paragraph, I won’t go about parading Abé’s achievements. So, moving forward…

…do we even have to discuss that other Cruz you crucified? Well, I might agree with you that Andrés Cristóbal Cruz was a non-entity as a painter. He was known more for his award-winning writings than for his paintings (by the way, not once did he solicit foreign publishers to have his works translated into other languages just so that he’d be tagged as the most translated Filipino author). However, he was mentored by Abé. Therefore, the National Museum is only emphasizing the latter’s influence on the former. The fact that Andrés’s painting is on exhibit there is to give weight, legitimacy, and RESPECT to Abé’s artistic influence over an award-winning writer who tried his luck in the visual arts.

But what can we non-existing mediocrats do? You have spoken from your laureled throne: “Both have not produced any significant body of work, either paintings or books, of great artistry.” May I just ask where have you been all these years? Did Thanos travel back in time and snap his fingers on top of your regal beret, that’s why you didn’t notice these things going on? Who in blue blazes is Thanos? you might ask. Don’t bother; he’s just another non-entity who could never rival your fictional characters.

Now going back to that letter of yours. Some netizens have commented that we should all be cautious with whatever words we throw at you you since you’re already in the twilight of your mind-boggling existence. “He’s in his 90s. Let him be. Humor him” says one netizen. “Gonna give him a pass, sa katandaan na siguro din says another. But you yourself have said that the time has not yet come for you to be silent. Well, if that’s the case, since you are so willing to talk, then you should be willing to listen. So listen to this…

As far as MANY people are concerned, you are a fantastic novelist (I still love your Rosales novels although a huge chunk of them is as boring as Harold Clavite‘s online existence), a piercing essayist, and a sterling social justice activist (funny that I mentioned the word “justice” on this post). But as a national artist? You, sir, are a non-entity.

Your opinion may be “learned”, but it is still an opinion. And you’re imposing it on all of us. Sorry, Frankie me boyo. I’m still not convinced.

Love lots,

Another non-entity.

PS: If you wish to block me afterwards, forget it. I’m a non-entity troll. So how could you possibly even care about me?

Am I being disrespectful towards F. Sionil José? Well, I’ve been calling him “Frankie Boy” throughout this whole blogpost, so go figure. Let’s not even talk about seniority nor age here. He had this coming a long time ago. He may be a giant in Filipino Literature, but in real life, he’s just a cantankerous old-timer, the type you really want to beat up but couldn’t because of his age. Besides, he said that the time for him to shut up has not yet come. Now that’s a terrifying prospect that I just couldn’t ignore. And more importantly, respect begets respect. Out of all National Artists whose lives and works I’ve read in various books, newspapers, magazines, and websites, he is the only one whom I noticed to be so full of himself (I’m trying to suppress myself from writing plus-size jokes). Don’t get me wrong. I wish him no ill, really. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write about my resentment of him.

Having said that, I should reveal this now: the ONLY reason why F. Sionil José is the most translated among Filipino writers (something he loves to brag about) is because he has solicited foreign translators to have his works translated. As a publisher himself, he has the clout to do so. Siyá ang lumalapit sa canilá. It wasn’t the other way around. His books were not translated because of the quality of their forgettable stories. So being the most translated writer in Filipinas does not equate to being the best. All you need are PR skills.

If he denies what I have just revealed here, then he should throw away the virtue of HONESTY from his writings.

Before I end this online rant, you must be wondering: what prompted Frankie Boy to belittle Abé and Andrés just like that? I have no idea. My suspicion: maybe he had some ugly misunderstanding with the two Cruzes in the past. Or he’s just jealous of them. But let us not dig into that anymore. Whatever squabble he may have had with the two Cruzes (and may they rest in peace), it’s none of our business. What we should marvel at, however, is this cute photo of Frankie Boy attending the opening of an art exhibit three years ago in which the paintings of those two Cruzes he had looked down upon last month were included. Now that’s neurotically classy of him, don’t you think! 😂

Ople on the Spanish language

Having been founded in 1922, the Premio Zóbel is considered as the country’s oldest literary award open to all Filipino writers in the Spanish language. Among those who had won the prestigious prize were poet Manuel Bernabé (1924), diplomat León Mª Guerrero III (1963), and renaissance man Guillermo Gómez Rivera (1975). But in the late 1960s to the early 1970s, it was put to a halt because the number of participants dwindled. In 1974, the Zóbel de Ayala clan changed the rules of the contest so that anyone in Filipinas who promoted the preservation of the Spanish language could become an awardee. Nineteen years later, in 1993, Senator Blas Ople, a non-Spanish speaker, became a consequence of that 1974 decision.

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“80 Años del Premio Zóbel”, a compendium of Premio Zóbel’s history, was published in 2000. The book’s author, Lourdes Castrillo Brillantes, was herself an awardee in 1998.

This is not to say that the choosing of the then neophyte senator was nothing short of a scandalous matter among Filipino writers in the Spanish language. He received the award “por sus relevantes méritos en pro de la cultura hispano-filipina” (for his relevant merits in favor of the Spanish language). One such merit was the following essay that he wrote in his column “Windows” which used to appear in Panorama magazine (a supplement of Manila Bulletin’s Sunday issue). The essay was published on 30 August 1992, a year before he was awarded a Premio Zóbel medal.

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Blas Ople (1927–2003).

Our Spanish past lingers in Iloílo with subtle charm
Blas Ople

Having sat down from the rigors of an obligatory speech on current issues, I thought I would sip my coffee in peace, mentally braced for an evening of pleasant boredom.

This was Iloílo City, and the Lions clubs from all over Panay and some from Negros Occidental had filled the vast hall of the Hotel del Río by the river, for the 42nd anniversary of the Iloílo City Host Lions Club. Then magically, the grace and charm of our Spanish past rose before our eyes.

Dancers in full Spanish costumes, platoon-size formations, materialized on the floor. They called on a vast repertory, not just one, two, or three, but many numbers, turning an otherwise banal dinner into a bewitching hour redolent of history. It was only in Iloílo, I thought, that simple housewives, many of them now grandmothers, could be formed into flamenco dancers of such charm, on demand (I was told later they rehearsed for a month for this show).

I gathered that Iloílo and nearby Bacólod are just about the last places where sizable remnants of an elderly Spanish-speaking generation may be found, though this, too, is slowly fading away. But the rhythms of Spain will probably long outlive the Castilian speech in these parts, judging from the authentic passion of those movements we watched that night.

Compared with these, the rigodón de honor danced by the elite in Tagálog cities and towns has to be judged a pale initiation.

Few Filipinos are of course shedding a tear on the waning of our Spanish past, except as this has been subsumed in native speech and customs. The memories of those early centuries still rankle.

This is the revenge of Rizal and del Pilar, whose works have molded, through generations, our impressions of the era of Spain in the Philippines. But when recently, all the countries of the Iberian world met in México, as though eager to repossess their common heritage from their Spanish past, I felt a certain pain to realize that the Philippines alone was not present, for the reason that we have disinvited ourselves.

I should reveal this now. In the Constitutional Commission of 1986, I fought until the end to have Spanish retained in the new Constitution as an official language, together with Filipino and English. I wanted at least an explicit recognition of Spanish as such a language until the wealth of historical material in our archives, most of this in Spanish, can be fully translated into English or Filipino.

But the real reason was that I wanted to preserve our last formal links with the Iberian world, which includes most of the countries in Latin Américas with a population of about 400 million. I remember Claro M. Recto’s sentimental journey to Spain, which was aborted by a heart attack in Rome. If we lost that final strand of solidarity with the Spanish-speaking world, we, too, would never get to Spain.

It was as though both sides had agreed on a policy of mutual forgetfulness.

The “radicals” in the Con-Com strongly advised me not to press the provision on Spanish, because this would have the effect of reopening other controversial issues in the draft charter. It could delay the framing of the Constitution beyond an acceptable deadline.

My worst fears have been realized. We have expelled ourselves from the Iberian community of nations. The rift is final, and will never be healed.

But I felt the charms of our Spanish past will linger longest in places like Iloílo, and during that enchanted evening, I was glad for the opportunity to savor them. We may have left the Iberian world of our free choice, but the hold of Spain will never really cease in the Filipino heart.

To those who are unfamiliar with the issue, it was former President Corazón Aquino’s Constitutional Commission of 1986 (the one mentioned by Senator Ople in his column) that decided the fate of the Spanish language in Filipinas. It should be remembered that Spanish had been our country’s official language beginning 24 June 1571. It may had been unceremoniously booted out from the 1973 Constitution by pro-Tagálog politicians during the 1971 Philippine Constitutional Convention under Ferdinand Marcos’s presidency, but the former strongman, realizing its worth, issued Presidential Decree No. 155 two months after the 1973 Constitution was ratified. Believe it or not, this forgotten Marcos decree recognized Spanish (alongside the English language) as one of Filipinas’s official languages. It thus absolves his 1973 Constitution of any culpability when one wishes to point an accusing finger at the “killer” of the Spanish language in our country.

All index fingers will of course lead to the present constitution, the progenitor of the Constitutional Commission of 1986. No wonder Ople was devastated: he was its member, he fought for the Spanish language’s preservation in the present constitution, yet he was blocked by those radicals from doing so (they were probably those whom Hispanistas and non-Tagálogs today derisively call as “Tagalistas“). That is why, out of disillusionment (or anger?), he wrote that painful statement that we Filipinos have expelled ourselves from the Spanish-speaking community of nations.

But that was 1992. It’s 2018 now, and attitudes toward the Spanish language and our country’s past under Spain for that matter have drastically changed. The enlightened Filipino youth of today will surely disagree with the late Senator’s statement that the rift done by the present constitution’s non-inclusion of Spanish was final, and that it will never be healed. Already, we have several groups in social media, particularly in Facebook, that advocate the return of the Spanish language to Filipino mainstream society such as the SPANISH language should be back in the PHILIPPINES!Oficialización del Español en Filipinas (this one has more than eleven thousand members!), and Defensores de la Lengua Española en Filipinas. Outside of Facebook are blogs that extol the virtues and blessings of our country’s Spanish past: we can cite With One’s PastHecho Ayer, and the Hispanic Indio just to name a few. Then there is Jemuel Pilápil who organized the Sociedad Hispano-Filipina together with other Hispanists to safeguard and promote the language, thus inspiring me to label him as the new Isagani (watch out for his group’s website to be launched very soon!). The presence of Instituto Cervantes de Manila with its monthly cultural events is a great boost in the efforts to “reintroduce” the Spanish language and culture to our country. Not too long ago, renowned Spanish-speaking Filipinos launched a documentary citing the importance of the Spanish language as part of our national identity and heritage. Even our country’s premiere historian today, Ambeth Ocampo, already revealed himself as far removed from the usual anti-Spain mold of historians by producing very impartial write-ups about our country’s Hispanic past. Says Ocampo in one of his writings:

The concept of Filipino began not with pre-Hispanic indios but with Spain. Individuals known as Filipinos cannot be traced beyond 1521 when Magellan sailed into the Philippine archipelago. Filipino was mainly a geographic term to begin with, and the notion of Filipinas, a place, a nation, cannot be pushed beyond the first Spanish settlement established by Miguel López de Legazpi in 1565.

I could go on and on, but the point is clear: the rift done by Tita Cory’s flawed constitution is not final. Ople’s fight for the Spanish language’s rightful place in the Filipino cosmos didn’t go for naught. We are healing!