Because I’ve been with Facebook for more than a decade, I always look forward to its “Memories” functionality every day because it enables me to see all of my previous posts, posts in which I’ve been tagged in, anniversaries, and other insane and melodramatic moments that I’ve committed online on a daily basis. Facebook has somehow become a virtual storehouse of memories, memories that have been digitalized. In the future, it might even become a serious archival mine for historians.
Just this morning, my Facebook notification alerted me to all the posts that I’ve done and have been shared to me throughout the years on April 18. One of them captured my attention, a photo that I have almost forgotten: a vintage Coca-Cola poster written in the Spanish language. This poster can be found inside Ilustrado Restaurant located within the Walled City of Intramuros.
I have seen this poster many times but never did I even stop to read it with full attention nor interest, nor did it enter my mind to even take a photo of it (the above photo was shared to me on Facebook exactly a decade ago by a Spaniard who was a reader of my defunct Spanish-language blog Alas Filipinas). The last time I saw it was last month, but it was already covered with some hideous platform or wooden plank of some kind and I don’t know why the restaurant’s management allowed that eyesore (I hope it’s no longer there).
As I reviewed the text, I noticed something odd: the word “fontificante“. I have never encountered that word before. So I consulted the ever-reliable Diccionario de la Lengua Española (21st edition) published by the prestigious Real Academia Española (gifted to me a few years ago by José María Fons, cultural affairs coordinator of the Instituto Cervantes de Manila). True enough, no such word exists. But the verb fortificar does: it has two definitions:
- Dar vigor y fuerza material o moralmente (To give vigor and physical or moral strength).
- Hacer fuerte con obras de defensa un pueblo o un sitio cualquiera , para que pueda resistir a los ataque del enemigo (To make a town or any place strong with defense works so that it can resist enemy attacks).
It turns out that the fontificante on the poster is actually a typographical error. It should have been written as fortificante, a deverbal adjective (adjetivo deverbal) form of fortificar. Now the text on the poster makes more sense:
No hay bebida tan deliciosa y fortificante como el Coca-Cola. Pruébelo y verá como quita la jaqueca y apaga la sed.
I added the missing diacritical marks. Right below is my translation:
There is no drink as delicious and fortifying as Coca-Cola. Try it and you will see how it removes your headache and quenches your thirst.
I haven’t tried drinking Coke during a headache, so I’ll keep that in mind when that happens. Anyway, what makes this poster doubly interesting is that it was used as promotional material for the Filipino consumer. The address below it is the giveaway: Misericordia 12, Manila. There must have been a soda fountain there during that time. Today, this long but narrow street in Santa Cruz district is now known as Tomás Mapúa Street (named after the first licensed Filipino architect and founder of the Mapúa Institute of Technology). Interestingly, too, is the three-digit phone number that was in use during those days.
Even though the advertising material is in Spanish, it can be gleaned that it used to circulate during the US colonization of Filipinas because it was they, the US WASP invaders, who introduced the product to the archipelago in 1912 during the term of Governor-General William Cameron Forbes. During the entry of this famed soft drink, Filipinas was already under the shackles of the Bald Eagle for the past 14 years. Compulsory teaching of the English language had already been existing for more than a decade. But it appears that after all those years of strict English-language instruction, Spanish still had to be used by the colonizer to communicate with the general populace. They didn’t even use Tagálog! This poster, of course, is just one of many supporting evidence of the prevalence of the Spanish language in our country during the US colonial period. Throughout much of the period, several newspapers in Spanish were published, movies in Spanish were shown, and poetry books featuring celebrated bards (poetry reading was still in vogue during that time) were selling good.
To say that much of our countrymen never learned Spanish is one of our history’s greatest lies. In fact, one of the greatest ironies of our history happened during the US colonial era — it was during that time when the language of Rizal became widespread.