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.
La imagen puede contener: texto
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.

Ultranationalism: what does it really mean?

It has been observed that the term ultranationalism has become a pejorative description for nationalists who display an extreme fervor to or advocacy of the interests of their country. Those who claim to be “citizens of the world” are the ones who are quick to calumny nationalists, often accusing them of being this so-called ultranationalism.

But what, really, does ultranationalism connote? Legendary nationalist Claro M. Recto had this to say:

It is evident that our brand of nationalism is different from that of our accusers. We have no desire and we have never attempted to deny the national self-interest of other peoples in their own countries. We merely want to defend our own, in our own territory. We are nationalists but we can live in harmony with other nationalists, because all nationalisms can work out a plan for coexistence which will not detract from the sovereignty of any one nation. Those who are bent on carrying their nationalisms beyond their national frontiers in order to overrun other nationalisms have ceased to be true nationalists and have become ultra-nationalists, which is another word for imperialists. Ultra is a Latin word which means beyond in space, as in the terms plus ultra and non plus ultra. An ultra-nationalist, therefore, is one who wants to be first not only in his own country, but also in other countries to which he is a foreigner; that is, an imperialist.

We would rather take the meaning of ultranationalism from a master of words and an expert in etymology (many critics in literature regard him as our Filipino version of Miguel de Cervantes) than from those with shallow understanding of the true import of nationalism. Nevertheless, we have to admit that there really are nationalists who do show an extreme kind of nationalism to the point that they have disregarded or neglected the interests of other countries. But such people are a minority and do not really represent the lofty ideals of nationalism. The kind of nationalism they adhere to can be classified as bigoted or chauvinistic. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters the most is placing ultranationalism in its proper etimological perspective, that ultranationalism is imperialism after all. Period.

And speaking of bigotry or chauvinism, there are actually no “ultranationalists” (to borrow from anti-nationalists’ twisted definition of the term) in Filipinas. What we have are regionalists who claim that their province or region or town/city or ethnicity is better than the rest. Take this photo, for instance:


Photo taken at the border of Tagaytay, Cavite and Nasugbú, Batangas last 13 September 2011.

“Welcome to the Province of the Brave”, says this welcome arch, signifying that travelers are about to enter the Province of Batangas. Aside from the “warm welcome”, what does the message really want to imply? That Batangas is the only province of the brave? And what does that say of the other provinces? You see, there are many ways to promote provincial or regional pride without overdoing it or putting others down. Regionalism is not only anti-nationalist but anti-Filipino as well. We have to remember (and treasure) that the concept of the Filipino is what united our once divided and warring ethnolinguistic groups.

Other than the parochial message, this arch is a total waste of tax payer’s money. As if the arch behind it is not enough (they could’ve just added the name Batangas with that of Nasugbú).

Originally published in FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES.

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.

Image result for premio zobel ople

“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.

Image result for blas ople windows panorama

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!

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.