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.
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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.
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The day Princess Sarah burned Miss Minchin

Esto fue ese día famoso en que la Princesa Sarah Crewe dejó atrás a la Señorita María Minchin con su excelente español. 😂

I saw this video clip making the rounds in Facebook lately: an angry Miss Minchin got burned upon discovering that Princess Sarah was a native Spanish-speaker. The rather humorous video clip is from that famous 1995 Filipino family-drama movie Sarah… Ang Munting Prinsesa (Sarah… The Little Princess) which starred Camille Prats in the titular role (she was 10 years old at the time). The movie itself was adapted from the 1985 Japanese cartoon series Princess Sarah which was then a huge hit at ABS-CBN during the 1990s. The said cartoon’s high ratings prompted the media giant to make a movie out of it through its film outfit Star Cinema.

In the video clip, Miss Minchin, portrayed by the ever-effective Jean García, got miffed when she noticed that Princess Sarah was the only student in her Spanish language class who was not taking up notes. The little princess tried to explain that she already knew the language, but to no avail. Miss Minchin started scolding her. Enter Señor Francisco, portrayed by the late Tony Carreón, a Spanish language teacher who then inquired what the commotion was all about. That was when he found out that the protagonist was half Spanish after all.

Click on the screen grab below to watch the video clip.

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This scene was a departure from the cartoon series because in the latter, the students  were learning French instead of Spanish (I should know because I was a follower of the cartoons at that time, so feel free to laugh 😂). I don’t know whose idea it was to change the language setting, but it was a good move considering that this is a Filipino film anyway. French is too foreign compared to Spanish. Besides, the late Tony Carreón himself was a native Spanish speaker. Another one of the actors in this movie, my famous friend Jaime Fábregas, is also a native Spanish speaker. I could just imagine how they gave pointers to Camille Prats on how to speak the language. Also, I do remember a former office mate of mine (Tina Jocson, another native Spanish speaker) telling me that she personally knew Camille’s grandparents (father’s side if I remember correctly). The grandparents themselves were also native Spanish speakers. So I imagine that perhaps Camille knew a smattering of the language.

You might notice how I kept using the adjective “native”. Let me continue reminding the very few readers of this blog that Spanish is a Filipino language. It is not a foreign language. Many Filipinos such as Carreón, Fábregas, and Mommy Tina grew up speaking it as their cradle language. That is why local movie scenes like this really put a smile on my face (with apologies to Thanos).

Enjoy the rest of the day! ¡Un buen día a todos!

Rizal Day trivia: “Mi Último Adiós

RIZAL DAY TRIVIA: José Rizal’s valedictory poem had no title. It was his friend and fellow propagandist Mariano Ponce who first gave it a title a year after his death. It was first called “Mi Último Pensamiento“, but it didn’t become popular. Then the following year, in 1898, Ponce’s Mi Último Pensamiento was replaced by “Mi Último Adiós“. The new title, this time ascribed by Ilocano priest Fr. Mariano Dacanay, first appeared in the patriotic newspaper “La Independencia” which was edited by Antonio Luna.

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¡Adiós, Patria adorada, región del sol querida,
Perla del mar de oriente, nuestro perdido Edén!
A darte voy alegre la triste mustia vida,
Y fuera más brillante, más fresca, más Florida,
También por ti la diera, la diera por tu bien.

En campos de batalla, luchando con delirio,
Otros te dan sus vidas sin dudas, sin pesar;
El sitio nada importa, ciprés, laurel o lirio,
Cadalso o campo abierto, combate o cruel martirio,
Lo mismo es si lo piden la patria y el hogar.

Yo muero cuando veo que el cielo se colora
Y al fin anuncia el día tras lóbrego capuz;
si grana necesitas para teñir tu aurora,
Vierte la sangre mía, derrámala en buen hora
Y dórela un reflejo de su naciente luz.

Mis sueños cuando apenas muchacho adolescente,
Mis sueños cuando joven ya lleno de vigor,
Fueron el verte un día, joya del mar de oriente,
Secos los negros ojos, alta la tersa frente,
Sin ceño, sin arrugas, sin manchas de rubor

Ensueño de mi vida, mi ardiente vivo anhelo,
¡Salud te grita el alma que pronto va a partir!
¡Salud! Ah, que es hermoso caer por darte vuelo,
Morir por darte vida, morir bajo tu cielo,
Y en tu encantada tierra la eternidad dormir.

Si sobre mi sepulcro vieres brotar un día
Entre la espesa yerba sencilla, humilde flor,
Acércala a tus labios y besa al alma mía,
Y sienta yo en mi frente bajo la tumba fría,
De tu ternura el soplo, de tu hálito el calor.

Deja a la luna verme con luz tranquila y suave,
Deja que el alba envíe su resplandor fugaz,
Deja gemir al viento con su murmullo grave,
Y si desciende y posa sobre mi cruz un ave,
Deja que el ave entone su cántico de paz.

Deja que el sol, ardiendo, las lluvias evapore
Y al cielo tornen puras, con mi clamor en pos;
Deja que un ser amigo mi fin temprano llore
Y en las serenas tardes cuando por mí alguien ore,
¡Ora también, oh Patria, por mi descanso a Dios!

Ora por todos cuantos murieron sin ventura,
Por cuantos padecieron tormentos sin igual,
Por nuestras pobres madres que gimen su amargura;
Por huérfanos y viudas, por presos en tortura
Y ora por ti que veas tu redención final.

Y cuando en noche oscura se envuelva el cementerio
Y solos sólo muertos queden velando allí,
No turbes su reposo, no turbes el misterio,
Tal vez accordes oigas de cítara o salterio,
Soy yo, querida Patria, yo que te canto a ti.

Y cuando ya mi tumba de todos olvidada
No tenga cruz ni piedra que marquen su lugar,
Deja que la are el hombre, la esparza con la azada,
Y mis cenizas, antes que vuelvan a la nada,
El polvo de tu alfombra que vayan a formar.

Entonces nada importa me pongas en olvido.
Tu atmósfera, tu espacio, tus valles cruzaré.
Vibrante y limpia nota seré para tu oído,
Aroma, luz, colores, rumor, canto, gemido,
Constante repitiendo la esencia de mi fe.

Mi patria idolatrada, dolor de mis dolores,
Querida Filipinas, oye el postrer adiós.
Ahí te dejo todo, mis padres, mis amores.
Voy donde no hay esclavos, verdugos ni opresores,
Donde la fe no mata, donde el que reina es Dios.

Adiós, padres y hermanos, trozos del alma mía,
Amigos de la infancia en el perdido hogar,
Dad gracias que descanso del fatigoso día;
Adiós, dulce extranjera, mi amiga, mi alegría,
Adiós, queridos seres, morir es descansar.

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How Spanish is spoken in Filipinas

The following video shows how Spanish is spoken as an authentic Filipino language.

The recordings on this video (edited by Neptuno Azul) were made by Spanish scholars Antonio Quilis and Celia Casado-Fresnillo as they were interviewing native Filipino Spanish speakers. Their research resulted in the book “La Lengua Española en Filipinas” which was published ten years ago in Madrid, Spain.

The Spanish spoken in Filipinas is a variant of standard Spanish, or Spanish spoken in Spain, particularly in the capital which is Madrid. Unknown to many, there are several variants of Spanish (Colombian Spanish, Argentinian Spanish, Puerto Rican Spanish, etc.) as there are many variants of Tagálog (Batangueño Tagálog, Manileño Tagálog, etc.). Ours is very similar to the variant spoken in México because from there our country was ruled by Spain (México was then known as “Nueva España” or New Spain) from 1571 to 1821. During that period, there was much Spanish and Mexican emigration to Filipinas, hence the linguistic similarities.

As can be heard from the video, Filipino native speakers of Spanish do not speak the language as fast as other Spanish speakers from other countries. Perhaps the most obvious difference between Spanish Filipino and standard Spanish is that the voiceless dental fricative or /θ/ is not distinguished from the voiceless alveolar sibilant or /s/, a characteristic that we share with our Latin American counterparts (this lack of distinction between /s/ and /θ/ is called the seseo). There are other linguistic characteristics such as the yeísmo, the non-aspiration of the /s/, the shifting of the [ɾ] and [l] at the end of syllables, etc. These distinctions are best observed in a classroom setting (effectively provided by the Instituto Cervantes de Manila).

Another good example of Filipino Spanish can be heard right here, spoken by no less than our country’s first president, Emilio Aguinaldo.

While it is true that Spanish was not spoken as a first language by many Filipinos compared to other Spanish overseas subjects, it was spoken either as a secondary or tertiary language in our country. Add to the fact that schools during those days also taught French (back then the lingua franca of the international diplomacy), Latin, and even classical Greek and Hebrew. It is thus not surprising that Filipinos during those days were multilingual. A well-educated Tagálog spoke not just his cradle language but also Spanish and other languages taught to him in school. A Visayan wrote not just in Cebuano or Hiligaynón or Aclanon but also in Spanish. A Bicolano uttered his prayers in three languages: Bícol (Bícol Naga, Rinconada, etc.), Spanish, and Latin, perhaps even more. But it cannot be denied that the prevailing language back then was Spanish, the language that wove together both national unity and identity.

The origin of the word “undás

Each time All Saints’ Day draws near, we usually hear the word “undás” to pertain to it. Many people are puzzled as to the meaning of the term. Some who are well-versed in etymology say that it was derived from the Spanish word “honrar” meaning “to honor”, and it is associated to All Saints’ Day because we honor our dearly departed dead during this event.

But how did honrar become undás?

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I Precursori Di Cristo Con Tutti I Santi Ed I Martiri Del Paradiso (The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs), tempera on poplar wood by Fra Angelico.

When you conjugate the word honrar to the first person in present tense, it becomes “honras” (you honor). Filipinos back then tend to mispronounce many Spanish words, and through time, such words have evolved: “pared” became “pader“, “jabón” became “sabón“, “cebollas” became “sibuyas“, etc. In linguistics, this phenomenon is called sound change.

In some parts of Southern Luzón such as Batangas, Tayabas (now Quezon), and Mindoro Island, undás is pronounced as “undrás” (with an “r”). As you can now see, honras and undrás sound the same (by the way, the letter “h” has no sound in Spanish).

Now let’s go back to the Spanish word honrar. It is said that the use of the term undrás to pertain to the triduum of All Hallows’ Eve (October 31), All Saints’ Day (November 1), and All Souls Day (November 2) came first before it further got corrupted to undás through time. But we could even go back further and trace its roots to the Spanish term “honras fúnebres” which means “funeral honors”. This should close any doubt that undás or undrás originated from honras.

Spanish in our history

I stumbled upon this interesting video by Paul who manages YouTube’s Langfocus regarding the brief history of the Spanish language. In just a little over eight minutes, he was able to explain its origins, how it spread out to different parts of the globe, commented on the Spanish-Castellano controversy, and even mentioned the countries that still use it as an official language.

At the 1:13 mark, however, Paul mentioned something hurtful (at least to me). “It also used to be an official language of the Philippines but it is not anymore”, he said.

 

But it’s true, anyway. Spanish was our country’s official language beginning 24 June 1571 but was unceremoniously booted out from the 1987 Constitution, the main reason being that there are only few Filipinos who speak it. While arguments about this reason continue to this day, particularly in various Facebook groups and pages concerning the Spanish language in Filipinas, it cannot be denied that the non-inclusion of the Spanish language in our present constitution is an act of gross disrespect towards our country’s history. In the words of the late Senator Blas Ople, we have “disinvited ourselves” from the Hispanic world when the framers of our present constitution removed Spanish. Just ponder over the following instances…

The proclamation of our independence was read out in Spanish. Our first constitution, the Constitución de Malolos, was written entirely in Spanish. The deliberations of our first congress, the 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 which fought against Spain and the United States were in Spanish. Our poets (Claro M. Recto, Cecilio Apóstol, Jesús Balmori, Fernando Mª Guerrero, etc.) who decried US colonization wrote their anti-imperialist verses only in Spanish. THE ORIGINAL LYRICS OF OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM WERE IN SPANISH! The name of our country, Filipinas (and this does not exclude its variations Pilipinas and Philippines), is Spanish! Even our last names and our native cuisine are in Spanish!

Millions of ancient papers documenting our country’s history that are stored in our national archives are in Spanish, still unread, still waiting to be deciphered. That is why this language is an important part of our history and culture. And even in the realm of economics, Spanish is crucial nowadays. Multinational companies pay bigger salaries to Filipinos who can speak the language compared to those who use only English. That is why Spanish should not be made an optional subject in schools. It should be mandatory.

Finally, we have our national hero, José Rizal, who wrote his final love letter to all of us using the Spanish language. Yet here we are now, taking that love letter for granted by reading it only through translations.

Fellow Filipinos, think about it.

Señor Gómez appears in Inquirer 990 Television

Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, multilingual author, historian, poet, educator, Spanish dance choreographer, and linguistic scholar, made a guest appearance yesterday in Inquirer 990 Television’s “Everyday Goodwill” hosted by María Teresa Cancio (owner of Goodwill Bookstore) and journalist Ricky Brozas where he discussed the language problem in Filipinas. He also peppered the discussion with tidbits about the real score behind our country’s history under Spain. Click on the screengrab below to watch the interview.

PEPE ALAS

Inquirer 990 Television is a free-to-air television news channel owned by Trans-Radio Broadcasting Corporation, a subsidiary of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It is the television counterpart of DZIQ 990.