Al igual que madera flotante

Imagen: ShutterStock

AL IGUAL QUE MADERA FLOTANTE
Pepe Alas

Me voy flotando

Al igual que madera flotante
Pudriendo en el río de mis
Somnolencias
Muriendo en un bosque alegre
De mis esperanzas
Riendo, languideciendo
Por atención
De las aves de colores
Burlándose de la manera
Que me voy flotando.

Derechos de reproducción © 2016
José Mario Alas
San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna
Todos los derechos reservados.
Originalmente publicado en ALAS FILIPINAS.

Él Sin Rostro

ÉL SIN ROSTRO
Pepe Alas

Tuve un sueño gris de la tarde:
tenía un pescado viscoso
para los feligreses.
Un desconocido sin rostro
me instruye sobre lo que debo
hacer con el pescado:
me dijo que lo rompiera por
la mitad
y lo hice.
Tomé un pan de sal tan redondo
y mordí un pedazo pequeño
antes de dárselo a un alma a
mi lado.
Todo esto lo hice con la guía
del Desconocido sin rostro
que me instruyó a despertar después
del ritual.

Derechos de reproducción © 2017
José Mario Alas
San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna
Todos los derechos reservados.

América y los Estados Unidos de América: entérense de la diferencia

Image: Funpicc.

América es el segundo continente más grande del mundo. Pero debido a su gran tamaño y sus características geográficas, este continente se divide tradicionalmente en América del Norte (Canadá, los Estados Unidos de América, y México), América Central (Belice, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, y Panamá), las Antillas (Antigua y Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Granada, Dominica, Haití, Jamaica, República Dominicana, San Cristóbal y Nieves, San Vicente y las Granadinas, y Santa Lucía, e incluye también el estado libre asociado de Puerto Rico), y América del Sur (Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, el Perú, Surinam, Trinidad y Tobago, Uruguay, y Venezuela).

Por otro lado, los Estados Unidos de América (EE.UU.) es una república federal constitucional compuesta por cincuenta estados y un distrito federal que se ubica en el centro de América del Norte.

El gentilicio para los ciudadanos de este continente, desde el océano Glacial Ártico por el norte hasta el Cabo de Hornos por el sur, se llama “americano”. Pero hoy en día, ¿por qué se limita estrictamente este gentilicio sólo para la gente de los EE.UU.? Aquí en Filipinas, cuando se menciona la palabra “americano”, los filipinos piensan de inmediato del pueblo de los EE.UU. Estoy seguro que es lo mismo caso en muchos otros países. En realidad, no se debe olvidar que América es el nombre de todo el continente — y todos los que lo habitan son americanos.

Salvo la gente de los EE.UU., todos los americanos del norte hasta al sur, a pesar de ser americanos, tienen su identidad propia, con su propia cultura única. Por ejemplo, un americano de México se llama mexicano. Un americano de Bolivia se llama boliviano. Un americano que vive en Honduras se llama hondureño. Un americano también en Cuba se llama cubano. Hasta los canadienses son americanos. Etc, etc, etc…

Pero el ciudadano de EE.UU., un país que está conformado por varios estados, unos de los cuales fueron robados de México, ¿cuál es su propia identidad además de ser americano? ¿Cómo los llamamos?

Nada.

¿Y si “estadounidense”? Es algo artificial, usado con menor frecuencia. Es preferible pero el problema es los EE.UU. ya es crisol de muchas poblaciones: asiáticos, europeos, latinos, etc. Los blancos, el estereotipo de “americano” en la mente de mucha gente, forman parte de una minoría.

Sin embargo, esta minoría tiene la audacia de apropiarse para sí mismo el gentilicio “americano”. Y estos blancos ejercen tanto poder no sólo en los EE.UU. sino en muchas partes del mundo.

¿Quiénes son estos blancos en particular?

Se llaman WASP, el acrónimo en inglés de “blanco, anglosajón, y protestante” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant). Ellos son los que detentan el poder neocolonial en el gobierno de Filipinas así como en muchos países en todo el mundo. Ellos son nuestros verdaderos enemigos.

Tenemos que poner un alto a esta simpleza “americana”.

Originalmente publicado en Alas Filipinas.

Krip Yuson’s “Dream of Knives” in Spanish

Some time last year, I translated Alfred Yuson’s well-known poem Dream of Knives into Spanish as part of my “self-medication” from literary barrenness.Image result for dream of knives krip yuson

Yuson, popularly known as Krip, is one of the most important personages in Filipino Literature in English today. He has authored several books in various genre and is also a founding member of the Philippine Literary Arts Council. Those who want to keep abreast of the latest news in the local literary scene follow his weekly column KRIPOTKIN which appears in The Philippine Star.

Dream of Knives is a usual staple in literary classes. It tells the story of a dreaming man who was excited to go home after a long journey to gift his son (that never was) with —of all things— a knife. The poem won for Yuson a Palanca Award (first prize) in 1985. It was also hailed by no less than National Artist Cirilo Bautista as one of the most beautiful poems in the English language. I thought it best to translate it into Spanish in order to give the essence of the poem a much wider readership (and, to my Hispanically inclined mind, make it more Filipino).

While Soledad Lacson-Locsín wrote that “the sparse clarity of English often robs translated Spanish of its original ambience and precision”, I thought that translating Dream of Knives to be rather undemanding not because it is not a work of prose (Lacson-Locsín was referring to prose translation when she wrote that observation) but that the poem was written in free verse. Had it followed the strict rules of versification (meter, rhyme, and all that poetic jazz), there would have been a compulsion from my part to do the same with my translation so as to at least reproduce the musicality of traditional verse (see Tarrosa Subido’s skillful English translation of Florante At Laura by Francisco Balagtás). Also, the poem’s style is rather prosaic. And since Dream of Knives is verse that is meant to be read like prose (rather similar to Nick Joaquín’s intention to have his celebrated play A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino to be read as a novel), Lacson-Locsín’s translational fears didn’t matter a bit because the dreamer’s story here was versified.

Without further fuss, here’s my Cervantine version:

 

SUEÑO DE CUCHILLOS

Anoche soñé de un cuchillo
que había comprado para mi hijo. De raro diseño,
era más barato que su verdadero valor — daga corta
con pomo lujosamente redondeado, y una funda de madera
que milagrosamente revelaba otras navajas de miniatura.

Oh qué contento estaría él a mi regreso
de este viaje, pensaba yo. Qué éxtasis
seguramente adornará su cara de principito de diez años
cuando abra por primera vez el regalo. Qué placer
tembloroso será desatado definitivamente.

Cuando desperté, no había regreso, ni viaje,
Ni regalo, ni ningún hijo a mi lado. ¿Dónde puedo buscar
este cuchillo entonces, y cuándo empiezo a sacar
felicidad de la realidad, y por qué sangro tanto
de las puntas afiladas de los sueños?

Derechos de reproducción © 2016
José Mario Alas
San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna
Todos los derechos reservados.

Darío Villanueva: ¿nueva esperanza para la Academia Filipina?

Esta semana (del 4 al 8), Darío Villanueva, el director del Real Academia Española (RAE) y presidente de la Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española (ASALE), participará en diversos actos académicos y culturales incluyendo un foro esta tarde en el Instituto de Cervantes de Manila donde hablará sobre el presente y futuro de la lengua española en el mundo.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Villanueva también realizará una visita institucional a la Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española, la institución estatal más vieja en Filipinas cuya responsabilidad es CUSTODIAR, DIFUNDIR, y ENALTECER el idioma español en el país. Estoy entusiasmado con su visita porque ya es hora de que se entere de los problemas que ha estado afrontando la Academia Filipina durante años. Y espero que se entere.

Como admirador y simpatizante de la Academia Filipina, yo creé una página de Facebook en su honor y para que sus miembros actuales que están activos en Facebook continuen los mencionados tres deberes. El motivo es para que esta institución tenga un papel MÁS ACTIVO en traer de vuelta este idioma como una lengua nacional y/u oficial de Filipinas, como solía ser. La Academia Filipina ha sido en existencia desde 1924 y tiene en su lista nombres ilustrísimos como Macario Adriático, Fernando Mª Guerrero, Claro M. Recto, Epifanio de los Santos, y Antonio Abad entre muchos otros.

Excluyéndome, esa página de Facebook estaba destinada exclusivamente a los miembros de la Academia Filipina.

El logotipo original de la Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española.

Durante sus primeros años, la Academia Filipina funcionó como una verdadera académica. Los académicos hicieron la tarea de estudiar los “filipinismos” (o palabras nativas hispanizadas) para su inclusión en el Diccionario de la Lengua Española, fundar una biblioteca para servicio propio, y designar delegados en diversas partes del país. De hecho, estos académicos filipinos del pasado eran las contrapartes (o correspondientes) de los miembros de la RAE cuyo deber es LIMPIAR, FIJAR, y DAR ESPLENDOR al idioma español. Se reunían regularmente e incluso publicaban un boletín académico, el “Boletín de la Academia Filipina”.

Lamentablemente, la Academia Filipina de hoy ya no es la Academia Filipina que yo solía conocer. La razón principal es, según una fuente confiable, un caballero español se ha convertido en un presidente honorario y parece ser el “titiritero” que dirige la actual encarnación de la Academia Filipina. Digo “actual encarnación” porque, como he comentado, la Academia Filipina de hoy, que lleva “Inc.” (o incorporado) en su nombre, ya no es la Academia Filipina de antes. Si la Academia Filipina de los años pasados funciona como una verdadera academia que custodia, difunde, y enaltece este “idioma de los ángeles” y de muchas maneras limpia, fija, y da esplendor a ello, ya existe como un mero club social que ha sido aceptando miembros que, según mi fuente, no saben español. Y peor… ¡por una cuota!

Es más, mi fuente me informa que este caballero español se convirtió en miembro de la Academia Filipina cuando plagió una tesis escrita por un tal John Lent, un escritor norteamericano (es que para ser aceptado en la Academia Filipina, uno tiene que escribir y leer una tesis académica o discurso de ingreso a los miembros mayores que decidirán si el solicitante es apto para convertirse en miembro o no). Espero fervientemente que esto sea sólo una habladuría. Sin embargo, según lo que he estado escuchando, su afiliación ilícita a la Academia Filipina ya es un saber popular entre muchos académicos filipinos.

Pero a principios de este año, recibí un mensaje privado del presidente actual de la Academia Filipina diciéndome que yo borre la página de Facebook de la Academia Filipina “por varias razones” y que no la autoriza su existencia. Es triste porque al crear de esa página hace muchos meses yo le agregué y le instalé como un administrador. Agregué también los otros miembros de la Academia Filipina que tienen cuentas en Facebook con la esperanza de que puedan continuar en línea la herencia del Boletín de la Academia Filipina (porque ya no se publica). Y durante los principios meses de su existencia, este presidente no se quejó a mí sobre la existencia de esta página. De hecho, él estaba contribuyendo a ella, incluso saludó a sus miembros la Navidad pasada.

Entonces, ¿por qué me ordenó detener esta página sólo ahora? Con certeza, algo no está bien aquí.

También me di cuenta de que este presidente actual ya se ha quitó de la página, y no sólo a sí mismo sino a los demás académicos. Y cuando rechazé a eliminar la página, me bloqueó.

Y hablando de los otros académicos, he estado observando sus actividades en línea. En sus respectivas cuentas de Facebook, por ejemplo, rara vez promueven el idioma español como lengua filipina, y siempre publican en inglés. Muchos de estos académicos son políglotos y me parece que son meramente “amantes de lenguas”. Dudo si creen que el español debe ser considerado como un idioma filipino. Pero espero que me equivoque.

En comparación, hay otros filipinos en las redes sociales que promueven el idioma español incluso si no son miembros de la Academia Filipina. Un buen ejemplo es el historiador José Mª Bonifacio Escoda, hijo del académico Ramón Escoda (1901—1967), que comparte muchas lecciones interesantes de español en su cuenta de Facebook.

Y está también mi amigo Arnaldo Arnáiz. No sabe mucho español pero sigue promoviendo su importancia para los filipinos en su bitácora With One’s Past. Lo que Escoda y Arnáiz están haciendo es el mérito de un verdadero académico filipino.

En visto de lo anterior, decidí no borrar la página de Facebook de la Academia Filipina. Desde entonces, he estado aceptando a cualquier persona, filipino o no filipino, que tenga una pasión por traer de vuelta el idioma español en Filipinas así como aquellos que lo custodiarán, difundirán, y enaltecerán. Después de todo, me parece que no todos los que están en la Academia Filipina son verdaderos académicos.

Espero fervientemente que Darío Villanueva pueda resolver esta polémica de una vez por todas.

 

US colonization according to Carmen Guerrero Nákpil

In commemoration of the Filipino-American Friendship Day which falls today, I share to you this video clip of writer Carmen Guerrero Nákpil, sister of nationalist León Mª Guerrero III and mother of intellectual beauty queen Gemma Cruz Araneta. The video was uploaded by Andrew Pearson, probably the same person who co-produced the 1989 documentary The U.S. and the Philippines: In Our Image which was based from Stanley Karnow’s book In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines. This video clip must have been culled from that documentary (I have not seen it yet).

Born in 1922, Doña Chitang lived through the remaining 24 years of US colonization. She was already a young adult during Uncle Sam’s final decade in our country and became a mother during World War II. Therefore, she knew what she was talking about in this interview. She is blunt and unapologetic towards US colonization.

“Americans were just, uh, did such a good job of selling themselves to Filipinos that, that now Filipinos think of the American period as the ‘Golden Age’ of their entire history”, she said matter-of-factly. “Nobody asked them to come in 1898. Nobody asked América to come over and, uh, take over our country”. Take note that there is no hint of anger in her voice throughout the interview. Her thoughts about US colonialism were not beholden to emotional bias as what we usually hear from anti-US activists today. Hers was simply an academic observation, a case of calling a spade a spade.

Pearson also wrote a rather unfair description for the interviewee: “There’s an apparent contradiction between her view that the Philippines would have been better off without the US, and her remark that independence was given too soon. But that’s what makes people interesting”, he wrote.

But there is no contradiction. While Doña Chitang did say that our country would have been better off without US intervention, she made it clear that the independence that was granted to us 71 years ago today was premature for the simple fact that we were let go only a year after the devastating war. Our country, particularly Manila, the seat of our country’s power, was totally devastated. And worse, the Filipinos were “subsequently exploited for economic, political, and military reasons”, thus making 4 July 1946 a sham date.

Without further adieu, here’s the interview:

Unfortunately, Pearson disabled commenting for this video of his. From sham to shame.

By the way, has the US even apologized for the countless Filipinos they have slaughtered when they invaded us in 1898, including the brutal pacification campaign that followed?

Happy Filipino-American Friendship Day? Not.

 

Of Space And Psyche

My only claim to literary f̶a̶m̶e̶ worth. And it was way, way back in college. Enjoy if you must.

FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES

OF SPACE AND PSYCHE
Pepe Alas

At the forefront
The scraggly surface collected
A small pool of quiescent glaze
Pulsating a history of
A thousand graves singeing
This placid pool reminiscent
Of Romulus mending walls
In the eyes of a storm
The Watcher.
A hyperbolic scream:
A worm interposing
Squished in the warmth
Embrace of this Deluge
In minute form
Yet with that same idiotic form
Until this drop drops
And like glass
Came crashing, shriveled, screaming
smiting and cutting
The wherewithal of things to come.
Here comes finality
Simulating this broken image
To that of tap water
And next door neighbors quarrelling
And crying engines, horns, laughs
Here comes the
Ululation of the urge
The urge and imprisonment.
Get out of here
Swim through the air
Resolute of nothing
But finality
Therefore the clarity
Still shrouded in misery
The urge to trap
The stillness of this all
Ripping it…

View original post 145 more words

Even established historians make mistakes

That Batangueño historian I alluded to in a previous blogpost used to be my FB friend. We parted ways when I criticized his favorite historian, a fellow Batangueño of his, for failing to define what a Filipino is, something that really gets into my nerves. For if one can chronicle the history of his people, how is it that he could not even define their national identiy?

I was expecting a scholarly response to elicit debate not so much as to show him that I know more than him but to obtain his perspective. Because that is how knowledge is developed: a synthesis of logical elements from both sides of the fence will emerge to form a new thesis (logicians call this the dialectical method). For all we know, his favorite historian’s difficulty in defining what a Filipino is could be the answer to our country’s problems. But to my surprise and disappointment, he went on a diatribe, prompting me to unfriend him. When he found out that I removed him from my friends’ list, he sent me an enraged private message filled with personal attacks. My golly, I thought. And to think that this guy prides himself as a scholar.

There is nothing wrong with idolizing one’s favorite person, especially if that person has a profound influence on his career. We all have our own idols. But I have observed that many historians today treat their mentors as if they’re demigods who are free from fault. However, once their demigods have been proven to be false idols, they still cling to them steadfastly. That should not be the case. The people we idolize, no matter how accomplished they are, are humans too. We praise their achievements and calumny their follies.

Not too long ago, as I was rereading Gregorio F. Zaide’s José Rizal: Life, Works, and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist, and National Hero (Centennial Edition), I spotted a glaring error. In citing an entry from Rizal’s journal during the national hero’s trip to the United States in 1888, Zaide concluded that the waterfall the hero was referring to was Pagsanján Falls when it was clear on the entry that the waterfall in question was located in Los Baños. Below is Rizal’s journal entry, translated by Encarnación Alzona from the original Spanish, which was cited —and “corrected”— by Zaide (emphasis mine):

Saturday, May 12. A good Wagner Car — we were proceeding in a fine day… and we shall soon see Niagara Falls… It is not so beautiful nor so fine as the falls at Los Baños (sic Pagsanján — Z.); but much bigger, more imposing…

As we can see here, Zaide corrected what seemed to be an error from Rizal’s part when in fact Rizal was being precise. What made Zaide conclude that the unnamed waterfall in Los Baños was Pagsanján is beyond me. Rizal clearly indicated in his diary that it was in Los Baños. He did not even mention Pagsanján at all. Being a Pagsanjeño, Zaide was probably unfamiliar that Los Baños has a waterfall that was popular during Rizal’s time. Me and my family have even visited it twice.

I am referring to the slender cascades of Dampalít.

Related image

While Rizal may have not named Dampalít in that journal entry of his, one should take into account that it was the nearest waterfall to his hometown of Calambâ. For sure, he must have had visited it a lot of times. And while he did not mention it by name during his US trip, he did mention it in his second novel, El Filibusterismo:

Así es como S.E…. ordenó la inmediata vuelta a Los Baños… Los baños en el Dampalít (Daán pa liít)… ofrecían más atractivos…

In Soledad Lacson-Locsín‘s English translation of the said novel, she offers an explanatory note:

Dampalít: A spring, which with the water coming from seven falls or talón in the locality, formed a river bed with crystal-clear water, to which many went to bathe.

Rizal had a penchant of inserting places that he had visited in his novels. In addition, it should be noted that during Rizal’s time, Pagsanján Falls was almost unknown. The most famous waterfall back then was Botocan Falls in Majayjay, and it was even cited by no less than Juan Álvarez Guerra and John Foreman, personages that Filipino historians should know very well. If Rizal had indeed been to Pagsanján Falls, there is no doubt that he would have written about the experience considering that the arduous trip towards the falls and shooting the rapids afterwards were an exhilarating experience.

This Zaide error may be a minor one, but the message I’m trying to convey is this: even established historians make mistakes.

When I discovered the long-lost foundation date of La Laguna Province in 2012, I was met with both praise and criticism. The criticism was due largely in part to my credentials: I have no formal training in historical research. Humorously, a group of local historians from Batangas —obviously the type of people who have nothing to do with La Laguna’s history— were the most vocal online. I told them that I am open to peer review. If established historians can make mistakes, so can ordinary people like me. Finally, I challenged my detractors that if they really think that the foundation date of my adoptive home province was erroneous, all they had to do was to write a formal antithesis to refute it. All in the spirit of scholarly debate. Should they succeed, then so be it. Congratulations. But so far —and it has been almost five years— none has dared to do so.

Even if a historian has all the primary sources at his disposal, or no matter how many TV appearances he has done, his findings or declarations are all deemed useless if he lacks the necessary reasoning or even field experience to justify them. And then of course there is also the issue of carelessness, as already demonstrated by this blogpost. In the end, it appears that the final arbiter of historical conclusions is logic, not primary sources alone.

English translations of Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo

I always tell friends that reading translated Filipino history could be dangerous at times because it robs the essence of what the texts truly mean. Take for example the founding of the city of Manila on 24 June 1571. Old documents and books (in Spanish and even in French) will tell us that Manila was founded not just as a city but as a capital city (that of the Capitanía General de Filipinas), effectively making our country a state despite its status as an overseas province (provincia ultramarina), but such fact is always ignored. Old texts will tell us that the real name of that intrepid chief of Mactán who defeated Fernando Magallanes (more popularly known as Ferdinand Magellan) and his crew was Pulaco, not Lapu-Lapu. A mastery of Spanish will tell us that La Loba Negra, a novel that has been attributed to Fr. José Burgos, is filled with errors and deficiencies in style, thus its impossibility to be the work of a highly educated priest with Spanish parentage (and I should add that Fr. Burgos was fair-skinned, not moreno as he is always pictured in our minds).

Even Filipino literature (most especially), a body of written works that was originally in Spanish, is not spared from translational errors. One best (or worst) example is the fictional character of Fr. Dámaso Verdolangas, one of the antagonists in José Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere. Poor Fr. Dámaso is always portrayed in media as a balding, aging, unappealing, and pot-bellied friar. But is this how he was described by Rizal in the original Spanish?

“A pesar de que sus cabellos empezaban a encanecer conservábase todavía joven y robusto. Sus duras facciones, su mirada poco tranquilizadora y hercúleas formas le daban el aspecto de un patricio romano disfrazado…”

Rizal clearly described Fr. Dámaso as young and robust, with a slight reassuring gaze, and even had herculean features. Rizal’s Fr. Dámaso was ‘macho’. Surprised?

That is why the need for Filipinos to learn Spanish because much of our country’s history and the bulk of past literature was written in it. And since they are not supposed to be considered as trifle subjects, all the more that Spanish should be brought back to our educational system. But for the meantime, while this problem that we have regarding the use of Spanish has not yet been sorted out, then the only recourse is to rely on the most faithful translations available. While there are already many translations of Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo (Charles Derbyshire, Virgilio Almario, Harold Augenbraum, etc.), I really recommend only two: those of León Mª Guerrero III and Soledad Lacson viuda de Locsín.

León María Guerrero III. Image: Poklat.

Both Guerrero and Locsín’s cradle language was Spanish. And both of them, most especially Locsín, lived at a time that hewed closer to Rizal’s era. That is why they knew exactly what Rizal was talking about, more than any other translator of Rizal’s novels. And since they were born at a time closer to the Spanish era, they had had the privilege of having lived in Rizal’s tradition, a tradition that was Hispanic, that was still authentically Filipino.

But between the two translators, Locsín’s translations are more helpful because they have explanatory notes at the end of each book that define the semantics of Rizal’s time. For example, in describing Teniente Guevara in the first chapter of Noli Me Tangere, Rizal compared his appearance to the Duke of Alba. The ordinary reader will surely scratch his head as to who this duke was. In Locsin’s note, it is revealed that this duke was in fact Fernando Álvarez de Toledo (1507—1582), a celebrated Spanish noble and general during the reigns of Charles V and Philip II. He was said to be bloodthirsty and cruel that his name was used to frighten children.

Soledad Lacson-Locsín. Image: PinoyLit.

Locsin’s translations also help us see and recognize places that are no longer around, or have drastically changed. In chapter three of El Filibusterismo, when the steamship Tabo was entering Laguna de Bay from the Pásig River, readers are treated to a breathtaking view of the surroundings:

“Before them lay the beautiful lake circled by green shores and blue mountains… to the right extended its lower shore, forming small bays with graceful curves, and there, far away, almost hazy, the hook of Sugay…”

Yes, during Rizal’s time, Laguna de Bay was still beautiful and circled by green shores that are no longer around (at least, in areas that have been urbanized). And those blue mountains? They are now dotted with houses and other unsightly structures.

But what is this “hook of Sugay” that he was talking about? Locsin’s explanatory note at the final pages of the book helps solve the mystery:

Sugay, Suñgay: Mountains seen in the background as one enters the Laguna de Bay, leaving the Pásig River.

To the uninformed, Sungay (actually, it should have a tilde above the letter n for a more precise pronunciation: Suñgay) is none other than the site of People’s Park in the Sky, one of my family’s favorite places in Tagaytay, Cavite.

Situated at the peak of Mount Suñgay, People’s Park in the Sky is located at 2,351 feet above sea level (FASL). According to early accounts (including that of Rizal’s), its peak was shaped like a carabao’s horn, hence its name. In the book Philippine Islands Sailing Directions (Bureau of Printing, 1906), Mount Suñgay was one of the visible landmarks used by early navigators when sailing to and around Manila Bay (if the mountain was visible from that distance, what more from Laguna de Bay). It was, therefore, previously much higher (recorded at 2,467 FASL). Unfortunately, former President Ferdinand Marcos had it leveled down during the late 1970s to construct a guest house that was meant for his friend Ronald Reagan (who was to become the 40th President of the United States of América) who didn’t even arrive. Perhaps the only compensation is that tourists now have a 360° view of Tagaytay’s environs and beyond. And yes, Bahía de Manila (Manila Bay) and Laguna de Bay (Lake of Bay) are in full view on a clear day.

File:Mount Sungay 2.jpg

Mount Suñgay as seen from the east near Calambâ, La Laguna. Its peak no longer displays its horn-like features due to a Marcos environmental blunder.

The study of the past is truly an engaging activity as it gives us many reasons as to why the present is like what it is today. Readers of Rizal who do not yet know Spanish should be thankful that Guerrero and Locsín sacrificed a lot of their time so that today’s readers would no longer be alienated with the many nuances of Rizal’s novels.