Magalit na ang magalit. Mayabañgan ná ang mayabañgan. Pero sa totoó láng, acó’y AUÁNG-AUÁ sa capua co filipino na hindí man lamang nacababasa ng mg̃a isinulat nilá Claro M. Recto, Manuel Bernabé, Cecilio Apóstol, Fernando María Guerrero, Jesús Balmori, Evangelina Zacarías, Manuel Rávago, Rosa Sevilla de Alvero, Adelina Gurrea, Conchita Huerta, Emeterio Barcelón, Ramón Escoda, Antonio Abad, at ibá pang mg̃a patriótico’t maguiguiting na mg̃a filipino noóng unang panahón, particular noóng mg̃a taón ng pananacop ng Estados Unidos de América. Sapagcát cung canilá lamang mababasa ang naglálagablab na mg̃a tulá’t sanaysáy ng mg̃a mánunulat na nabanguít, más lalo niláng mámahalin ang bansáng Filipinas ng higuít pá sa cung anó ang noción ng caramihan ñgayón sa pag-ibig sa lupang sinilañgan. Tahasan co ring idédeclara na más lamáng pá ang cabayanihan ng mg̃a mánunulat na itó quesa sa mg̃a propagandista noóng panahón ng castilà. Ñgunit hindí co rin masisisi ang aquing capua filipino cung hindí na nilá maintíndihan ang mg̃a acdá nilá Recto, Bernabé, Apóstol, atbp. Itó’y dahil na rin sa neocolonialismong Yankee na yumurac sa ating tunay na lenguaje simulá nang tayo’y caniláng sinalacay noóng 1898. Itó’y isáng uri ng neocolonialismo na hangáng ñgayó’y umaalipin pa rin sa atin, na cahit mayroón nang bagong bantá sa ating casarinlán (China), tilá bang lalong humíhigpit ang caniláng pagcacadena sa atin.
Hi there. I thought of sharing this century-old Filipino poem (in Spanish, of course) because it’s very timely. It’s written by none other than Claro M. Recto (1890–1960), one of the greatest Filipino nationalists who had ever lived. Millennials and many other unlettered peeps will easily recognize the name only as that busy, infamous road in Manila where one can obtain fake diplomas and other doctored documents. It should be made known that Recto was not all about that. He was a prodigy in poetry, a forceful playwright, a brilliant lawyer, a fiery senator, a just jurist, a clear-cut and consummate constitutionalist, and a champion of the so-called Identidad Filipina or Filipino Identity which is based on our Spanish past.
Surprisingly AND laughably, he was also the grandfather of incumbent Senator Ralph Recto, but let’s not go there anymore. 😂
Due to time constraints and other tasks at hand (and it’s my son Jefe’s 13th birthday today), I am not able to translate this poem in its entirety. But let me just share to you a brief backgrounder and other interesting tidbits about it. Titled Himno al Volcán de Taal, Recto composed this poem shortly after the cataclysmic Taal Volcano eruption that occurred on 30 January 1911 and took the lives of more than 1,300 people. He dedicated the poem to journalist Fidel A. Reyes (1878–1967), a fellow Batangueño (both are from Lipâ) who years earlier was entangled in a highly controversial libel case because of an editorial that he wrote for the newspaper El Renacimiento (The Renaissance) titled “Aves de Rapiña” or “Birds of Prey”. The editorial made references to a US official who allegedly took advantage of his position to exploit the country’s resources for his own personal gain.
Taal Volcano a day before it erupted on 30 January 1911 (photographed by Charles Martin for the National Geographic Magazine, volume 23, 1912).
No names were mentioned in the editorial, but Dean C. Worcester who was then the Secretary of the Interior of the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands felt alluded to. He sued Reyes as well as El Renacimiento’s editor (Teodoro M. Kalaw) and the publisher (Martín Ocampo). El Renacimiento lost the case, was heavily fined, and subsequently closed down. Nevertheless, the editorial team was considered as heroes by Filipino nationalists, including a young Recto who was then only in his teens when the celebrated libel case was ongoing.
Already an ardent nationalist at a young age as can be gleaned from many of his poems, the Aves de Rapiña editorial and libel case must have had surely made an impact on Recto’s young mind, thus the dedication of Himno al Volcán Taal to Reyes who was twelve years his senior. A connection should now be made between the poem in question and the libel case involving Reyes — Himno al Volcán Taal was not all about the 1911 eruption. Recto cunningly used the disaster to subtlely attack the whole Insular Government. He declaimed his composition two weeks after the disaster, on February 15 (or shortly after his 21st birthday), during a soiree held for the benefit of the victims of the aforementioned eruption. In his poem, Recto described Taal Volcano’s greatness by personifying it as a giant Greek statue (Colossus) and a powerful Titan from Greek mythology (Prometheus), and as a symbol of his “race”, i.e., the Filipino people, who were meek and humble but can become aggressive against the “adventurous vulture” who is the “thief of liberties”: Eres tú todo un símbolo del alma de mi Raza: | manso y humilde pero agrede y despedaza | al buitre aventurero, ladrón de libertades; Clearly, he was referring to the US colonial invaders, the birds of prey (personified by the “buitre aventurero”), who took upon themselves to conquer us in 1898 without our willing consent.
Recto also decried why Taal killed its own people during the previous month’s explosion: ¿Por qué fueron tus víctimas los hijos de tu tierra, | los mismos paladines del triunfo de mañana? But he immediately shrugged off his own question when he concluded that the explosion was a punishment for the Filipinos’ complacency (angrily calling it “suicidal apathy”) toward their US colonial masters: Castigaste del pueblo la suicida apatía, | porque no predicamos la santa rebeldía | ante el feroz empuje de la ambición humana.
But the nastiest attack against the US colonial government can be found in this poem’s penultimate stanza, which is my favorite part because of its striking imagery and very moving message. Here he belittled the light coming out from the “torch of New York” (the Statue of Liberty, another famous US symbol), saying that its weak light can never reach our shores, and that may the high column of fire coming out from Taal Volcano be our brilliant torch during our “long night” (years under colonial yoke): Sea la alta columna de fuego que vomitas | en nuestra noche larga la tea refulgente; | la antorcha neoyorquina iluminando el mundo | es tan débil y exigua que su brillo infecundo | no llega á las comarcas de esta Perla de Oriente. Although sarcastic, Recto was still benign in this poem if we are to compare it to an earlier poem of his titled “Oración al Dios Apolo” (Prayer to the God Apollo, October 1910) wherein he implored that both the volcanoes of Taal and Mayón explode (que… revienten sus cráteres el Taal y el Mayón) in order to vanquish those “voracious eagles” who came to our shores in droves (vinieron Águilas voraces en tropel, a clear allusion to the US invaders’ other famous symbol: the bald eagle).
With Recto’s persistent use of buitres and águilas to corroborate Reyes’s editorial, Dean C. Worcester could be correct with his suspicion all along: he and the government he represented were indeed birds of prey.
HIMNO AL VOLCÁN DE TAAL
–Claro M. Recto–
Para Fidel A. Reyes
Coloso encadenado, invicto Prometeo,
que enseñas hoy al mundo el inmortal trofeo
de tus hazañas trágicas de tirano sañudo:
llegue á tí, como un himno de encarnizada guerra,
como un coro de truenos, como un temblor de tierra,
este salmo que emerge de mi salterio rudo.
Son ingentes tus triunfos, son grandes tus hazañas
porque un nuno maléfico alienta en tus entrañas,
fabricante de rayos de vengadoras furias;
hechura del malayo, alma del pueblo nuestro,
legatario de todas las iras del Ancestro,
bizarro é inexorable castigador de injurias.
Hay en tu seno puestas por la Naturaleza
energías que guardan tu secular grandeza
de las profanaciones de las garras voraces.
Y así cuando te violan, tus iras se desatan,
é incendian y aniquilan, y destruyen y matan,
ante el espanto mudo de todos los rapaces.
Ante tí nada pueden los bárbaros cañones,
con que de las inermes y débiles naciones
tan descaradamente se burlan las más fuertes;
porque las fuerzas hijas de la Naturaleza
son fuerzas absolutas, cuya ruda braveza
neutraliza las balas cuando fulmina muertes.
Eres tú todo un símbolo del alma de mi Raza:
manso y humilde pero agrede y despedaza
al buitre aventurero, ladrón de libertades;
por eso te estremecen mortales convulsiones,
cuando los ambiciosos, que ingentes aluviones
de Conquista han traído roban tus heredades.
Tus cráteres lanzaron fuego de cien mil fraguas,
lavas abrasadoras, ceniza, hirvientes aguas,
en una anunciación de hecatombe suprema;
porque ha sido violado tu mágico tesoro,
aquellos encantados gemelos toros de oro,
por los Shylocks que ostentan la explotación por lema.
¡Oh! Aquella tu ira santa lección sublime encierra.
¿Por qué fueron tus víctimas los hijos de tu tierra,
los mismos paladines del triunfo de mañana?
Castigaste del pueblo la suicida apatía,
porque no predicamos la santa rebeldía
ante el feroz empuje de la ambición humana.
Ejemplo de energía, valor y patriotismo,
ha visto el pueblo nuestro en ese cataclismo
que sembró con delirio tu saña despiadada
Tú enseñaste al pasivo morador del terruño
a abrir la boca airada y enseñar rojo el puño
a los esquilmadores de nuestra tierra amada.
Maldices la Conquista, odias el coloniaje,
pides la autonomía para el propio linaje,
porque te pesa mucho el extranjero yugo.
Y así siempre que vienen nuevos dominadores,
descargas con fierza tus rayos destructores,
como un reto de muerte al extraño verdugo.
Hace ya muchos años, á raiz del arribo
de la progenie hispana á tu solar nativo,
sembraste una catástrofe muy digna de tu historia.
Y hoy repetiste tu obra de destrucción y muerte,
para decir al amo que nuestro pueblo fuerte
no requiere tutores para vivir con gloria.
Fuiste siempre rebelde, osado, diestro y bravo.
Tú prefieres el caos á vegetar esclavo.
Diríase que alientan en tu seno las almas
de los Burgos, Zamoras, Bonifacios, Rizales,
y de todos aquellos gloriosos Ancestrales
que en lides conquistaron inmarcesibles palmas.
Fuiste siempre, ¡oh Coloso!, hostil á los tiranos,
como el Mayón y el Apo, tus augustos hermanos,
Menos también, muy llenos, de vengadora saña.
Sed como aquí Samsón, heroe de Palestina.
Arrojad vuestras lavas, que antes la propia ruina
que el vergonzoso pacto con la Conquista extraña.
Brindad á Filipinas una ilustre epopeya
que no podemos darla. Igualadla á Pompeya,
inmortal en los fastos solemnes de la historia.
Más bella es Filipinas bajo ceniza y lava,
que Filipinas paria, de otra nación esclava,
y de la gran familia humana, vil escoria.
¡Hurra, egregio coloso de glorias infinitas!
Sea la alta columna de fuego que vomitas
en nuestra noche larga la tea refulgente;
la antorcha neoyorquina iluminando el mundo
es tan débil y exigua que su brillo infecundo
no llega á las comarcas de esta Perla de Oriente.
Más unión, ciudadanos, porque nos aniquilan.
¿No veis que por un lado cañones nos vigilan
y por otro las fuerzas de la Madre Natura?
Que se unan fuertemente todos nuestros esfuerzos,
que formen un sólo haz los vigores dispersos,
y alcemos nuestra enseña sobre tanta tristura……
Declamada por su autor en la velada literario-musical celebrada el 15 de febrero de 1911 en el «Opera House» á beneficio de los damnificados de Batangas.
The blogpost that I wrote about Andrés Bonifacio received too much backlash (even from a writer friend whom I thought has already freed herself from Hispanophobia). But it was to be expected because the Supremo has been highly revered for many decades as a freedom fighter who went up against “tyrannical Spain”. In the said blogpost, I also took the opportunity to include how Spain virtually created our country, that we were united under one language which is Spanish. That line also triggered another emotional comment from a well-known academic whom I also thought to know better than I do.
“No, they’re not united under one language!” he said.
Time and again, I have always contended that the Spanish language is the basis and the foundation of our Filipino National Identity. Why? Because it is the language that united our various tribal groups, forming themselves into one “Filipino nation”. To begin with, one must first understand that the term Filipino is merely a concept; there is no such thing as a Filipino race because our country, even up to modern times, is made up of several “races” or “tribes” (anthropologist Jesús Peralta would rather call them ethnolinguistic groups) such as the Tagalog, Cebuano, Bicolano, etc. Secondly, the early history of our country, much of it written in Spanish, serves as basis for my views. In our history under Spanish rule, these tribes became united under one umbrella group which we now call FILIPINO. To make a long story short, our identity was forged during the more than 300 years of Spanish rule, and not before nor after it. There were no Filipinos yet before the Spanish advent. And even if we were not colonized by the US, our identity was already in existence — created, completed. It was already intact. Buó ná ang paguiguing Filipino natin bago pa man tayo sinugod at sinacop ng Estados Unidos de América. There was nothing more to add to it.
But to make it more clear, the Filipino Identity is the product of the Filipino State that began to exist in Spanish on 24 June 1571. The Filipino State was founded together with Manila on that same date, with the government having Spanish as its official language. Since then, the tedious process of cultural amalgamation among the more than 170 tribes / ethnolinguistic groups (particularly those who accepted the King of Spain as their rightful sovereign during the Manila synod of 1599) began. Cultural dissemination (which included Christianization and the Humanities) from the West assisted in this long process.
We Filipinos are essentially Hispanic —have become Hispanic— by virtue of History and Culture. And even Faith. And the Spanish language, more particularly its literature as embodied by the works of Rizal, del Pilar, Mabini, Guerrero, Paterno, Apóstol, Balmori, Bernabé, etc., proved to be the unifying thread in this development. No wonder former Senator Recto wrote that “el español ya es cosa nuestra, propia, sangre de nuestra sangre, y carne de nuestra carne“.
At this point, I should say that realizing the importance of our national identity will give us more dignity and nobility than this so-called “Pinoy Pride” that we have been harping around since the arrival of social media in our country. Let me just add that because of the Spanish language, together with the Culture and Faith it brought with it, I now know where I stand in the midst of the ongoing onslaught of neocolonization/globalization. 😉
It is, therefore, wrong and anachronistic to say that Islam arrived in our country first. What country? As mentioned above, there was no Filipinas yet when the first Muslim scholars, traders, and imams arrived. And they were not scattered all throughout. They were only in limited places such as those very few areas in Mindanáo. Even Manila wasn’t a practicing Muslim enclave (they were to some extent converted, but those who converted them did not stay long enough, unlike the Spanish friars who remained here and died with the natives). Also, and quite obviously, Islam did not unite our disunited tribes (that was one of the greatest errors of the Arab missionaries). Because if they did, then we wouldn’t have those heritage churches and bahay na bató that we marvel at today. Besides (then as now), the Moros were into looting and pillaging towns and kidnapping non-Muslims (most especially the Visayans) for their slave trade.
The foregoing is in no way anti-Islam but simply history. They really did it. And up to now, the Abu Sayyaf is still continuing that “legacy”.
To cap this off: by not using Spanish, by not incorporating it to our daily lives, we are in effect betraying Rizal and those many other great personas from that bygone glorious past who we have either enshrined or accepted as our national heroes. Much of our country’s (true) history is written in that language. Moreover, it is one of the most widely spoken languages all over the globe and is even the second most spoken language in neocolonialist United States of América. Indeed, the Spanish language opens up not just a gateway to appreciate our oft-misunderstood past but also a path towards the opening of new trade horizons with more than a dozen Spanish-speaking countries that will surely enliven our economy.
The history of our country was documented in Spanish. Let me briefly count the ways…
The forging of our islands into one nation was done in Spanish, from the day it was founded to the day it was defended from rebels. The writers who asked for reforms from Mother Spain wrote in Spanish. The proclamation of our independence was read out in Spanish. Our first constitution (Constitución de Malolos) was written entirely in Spanish. The deliberations of our first congress (Congreso de Malolos) were in Spanish. The official decrees and correspondences of our first president (Emilio Aguinaldo) and first prime minister (Apolinario Mabini) were in Spanish. Our newspapers that fought against the US invaders were in Spanish. Our poets who decried US colonization (Claro M. Recto, Cecilio Apóstol, Jesús Balmori, Fernando Mª Guerrero, etc.) wrote their anti-imperialist verses only in Spanish. THE LYRICS OF OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM WERE ORIGINALLY IN SPANISH.
José Rizal’s final love letter to all of us was written in Spanish.
Think about it.
This is just one example why learning English is a piece of cake among native Spanish speakers. Picture this…
José Rizal grew up using Spanish. He later 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.
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 etymological 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:
“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. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
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.
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.
Our Spanish past lingers in Iloílo with subtle charm
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 Past, Hecho 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!
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.
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.
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.