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Which constitution killed the Spanish language in the Philippines? A clarification

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Many Hispanists blame the late president Cory Aquino for removing the Spanish language as an official Filipino language. But many individuals interested in this subject might start to wonder: why blame Tita Cory for the removal of the Spanish language when it seemed to be no longer official as far back as 1973 under Ferdinand Marcos?

This blogpost attempts to clarify the whole issue once and for all. It also provides some background of the Spanish language vis-à-vis the evolution of the Philippine Constitution.

The Spanish language during the days of empire

Since 24 June 1571 (the founding date of the Philippines), Spanish has been the official language of government and court offices. There was no written constitution back then since the Philippines was an overseas territory under the Spanish crown. But the Leyes de Indias (Laws of the Indies) oversaw the social, political, and economic life of Filipinos. Also, many educational institutions such as the Ateneo Municipal de Manila and the Universidad de Santo Tomás taught its students using Spanish as a medium of instruction. And all church documents were written in that same language. All this for obvious reasons.

It may be true that the Spanish language was not the mother tongue of the majority of natives who lived during the Spanish times. But that does not mean that it was not spoken on a national level.

When Tagalog rebels revolted against Spain and proclaimed the independence of the country on 12 June 1898, it should be noted that they still chose Spanish as the official language of the First Philippine Republic (1899-1901) under President Emilio Aguinaldo. And this was made official when the Constitución Política de Malolos (Malolos Constitution) was promulgated on 22 January 1899.

Filipino Army officers outside Iglesia de Barasoaín, Malolos, Bulacán (01/23/1899).

Article 93 of the said constitution states:

El empleo de las lenguas usadas en Filipinas es potestativo. No puede regularse sino por la ley, y solamente para los actos de la autoridad pública y los asuntos judiciales. Para estos actos se usará por ahora la lengua castellana.

(Translation: The use of languages spoken in the Philippines shall be optional. Their use cannot be regulated except by virtue of law, and solely for acts of public authority and in the courts. For these acts the Spanish language may be used in the meantime.

When the US took over, the republic was naturally dissolved, and there was no mention again of the ill-fated Malolos Constitution. As such, the Philippines went under the jurisdiction of the Federal government of the United States. Subsequently, the English language was enforced in the country.

But the Philippine Independence Act (more commonly known as the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934) prepared the Philippines for self-government after a period of ten years. And it authorized the drafting of a new constitution for the Philippines as an independent country. This constitution came to be known as the 1935 Commonwealth Constitution.

Commonwealth

It was not a smooth road for the framers of the 1935 Constitution, particularly on deciding which official language should prevail. Heated debates ensued among the 1934 Philippine Constitutional Convention delegates who were involved in the language issue. Some were for Spanish. Some were for the native languages. Yet some were even for English!

Among the native Filipino languages, Tagalog was the most controversially discussed and debated idiom. But that’s another story.

In the end, the following compromise amendment presented by 24-year-old delegate Wenceslao Vinzons was approved:

National Assembly shall take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on all existing native dialects.

Until otherwise provided by law, English and Spanish shall be the official languages.

However, the abovementioned amendment was written in a slightly different way in the constitution’s final draft. That version appeared in the book The Framing of the Constitution of the Philippines (1934-1935) authored by delegate Miguel Cuaderno (published in 1937 by the Philippine Education Company, Inc., Manila). It says:

The National Assembly shall take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages. Until otherwise provided by law, English and Spanish shall continue as official languages.

If we may swerve for a moment. Note that the contention was still focused on which native language should be prioritized (although English and Spanish still dominated the constitution). Notice also that the Vinzons amendment contained the phrase “based on all existing native dialects”. But in the draft which appears in Cuaderno’s book, it was replaced by “based on one of the existing native languages”. This goes to show that a language problem was already beginning to surface (but again, it’s for another story).

Sadly, the more preferrable Cuaderno version was further revised by the constitutional convention’s committee on style. And that revision was approved and consequently included in the constitution (ratified on 14 May 1935) as Section 3 of Article XIV (General Provisions):

The Congress shall take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages. Until otherwise provided by law, English and Spanish shall continue as official languages.

Section 10 of the same article further states that:

This Constitution shall be officially promulgated in English and Spanish, but in case of conflict the English text shall prevail.

Two years later, on 31 December 1937, Tagalog was chosen as the country’s national language. This, however, did not affect the Spanish language’s status as one of the country’s official languages. But the number of Spanish-speakers (many of whom were murdered during the Philippine-American War) began to decline. The statistics grew worse during World War II, particularly during the Liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese.

Japan preferred Tagalog

It is interesting to note that during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines (1942-1945), the Spanish as well as the English languages both lost their status as co-official languages when the Japanese invaders established on 14 October 1943 what is now known as the Second Philippine Republic. It, of course, had an accompanying constitution. Article IX (General Provisions), Section 2 of the 1943 Constitution states:

The government shall take steps toward the development and propagation of Tagalog as the national language.

Oddly, the Japanese opted for Tagalog instead of their own language to be included in the constitution. But this twist of linguistic fate was short-lived: the US reclaimed the Philippines two years after that Japanese-sponsored constitution was ratified.

This bloody reclamation was almost like a death-blow to the number of Spanish-speaking Filipinos. It also totally wiped out the Chavacano-speaking community of Ermita, Manila (Ermiteños).

The years that followed the war were years of poverty and misery. The number of Spanish-speaking Filipinos dwindled miserably as well. The few who survived migrated either to Spain, the US, or Australia and beyond. Those who opted to stay behind stayed because they could not just abandon nor sell their properties and businesses (this also explains why almost a majority of Spanish-speaking Filipinos remaining today are from the landed gentry and the elite).

Martial Law

Fast forward to 1970. The 1935 Constitution continued all the way to the Marcos years. On Marcos’ fifth year in the presidency, a constitutional convention was called to change the then existing law of the land. Special elections for the constitutional convention delegates were held on 10 November 1970.

The actual convention lasted around two years. Renowned linguist and scholar Señor Guillermo Gómez was chosen as the Language Committee Secretary of the 1971 Philippine Constitutional Convention. Under his helm, the same heated debates on language that happened in 1934 happened again. Once more, the Tagalog-language issue was raised. This resulted in Article XV (General Provisions), Section 3, sub-sections 1:

(1)This Constitution shall be officially promulgated in English and in Pilipino, and translated into each dialect spoken by over fifty thousand people, and into Spanish and Arabic. In case of conflict, the English text shall prevail.

In the foregoing section, the term language was erroneously called dialect. Tagalog was masked under the name Pilipino. And worse, the Spanish language was removed.

To further complicate the status of Spanish, sub-sections (2) and (3) of the same section further states:

(2) The National Assembly shall take steps towards the development and formal adoption of a common national language to be known as Filipino.

(3) Until otherwise provided by law, English and Pilipino shall be the official languages.

Knowing fully well that the number of native Filipino Spanish-speakers have dwindled throughout the decades, Señor Gómez, an ardent hispanista, thought it wisely to fight for Tagalog to become the country’s national/official language. As a polyglot and linguist, he knew fully well that the key to bring the Spanish language back to the mainstream was by propagating Tagalog, particularly the alphabet (including correct orthography) that represents it: the 32-letter Abecedario, the same alphabet used by Tagalogs and other Christianized natives during the Spanish and early American periods. According to him, all Filipino languages (i.e., the languages of Christianized lowlanders) are Chavacanos, but in varying degrees. Excluding the Chavacano languages of Ciudad de Cavite, Ternate, and Zamboanga, Tagalog is closest to Spanish, even closer to Hiligaynón, one of his native languages. And that is one major reason why Tagalog today is “Pilipinized” (again, another long story).

The 1973 Philippine Constitution was ratified on 17th of January, four months after the declaration of Martial Law.

Señor Gómez, however, had no power over the “renaming” of Tagalog as Pilipino, nor was he able to reinstate Spanish as a co-official language in the said constitution.

1973 Constitution absolved

Fast forward once more, this time to 25 February 1986, when Marcos was ousted due to popular outcry. His nemesis’ widow, Tita Cory, took over. During the transition period, a military-assisted constitution called the Freedom Constitution temporarily replaced the 1973 Constitution. The Freedom Constitution had no provisions at all about an official language due to its transitory nature. However, its successor, the 1987 Constitution —the one which we still use today—, states the following in Sections 7 and 8 of Article XIV (Language):

Section 7. For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English.

The regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein.

Spanish and Arabic shall be promoted on a voluntary and optional basis.

Section 8. This Constitution shall be promulgated in Filipino and English and shall be translated into major regional languages, Arabic, and Spanish.

The Spanish language made a comeback in the 1987 Constitution (proclaimed on 11 February 1987), but not as an official language. The clauses specified above gave credence to the fact that the drafters of the 1987 Constitution no longer gave Spanish the same importance that it had before. Héctor S. de León, in his widely used Textbook on the Philippine Constitution (Rex Book Store), summed it up this way:

The use of the Spanish language as an official language is no longer justified in view of the lessening influence of the language in the Philippines. It is not used by most Filipinos, English and Pilipino being preferred by them…

…Spanish and Arabic are languages of world importance spoken by many Filipinos. However, since they are not official languages, the government is not bound to promote their use They shall be promoted on a voluntary and optional basis.

Now, let us go back to the original question: why point an accusing finger at Tita Cory for the removal of the Spanish language when it is now apparent that its officiality became null and void since the 1973 Marcos Constitution?

Not exactly.

Many Filipinos do not know that on 15 March 1973, two months after the 1973 Constitution was ratified, Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 155 recognizing Spanish (alongside the English language) as one of the Philippines’ official languages! Below is the full text:

PRESIDENTIAL DECREE No. 155 March 15, 1973

RECOGNIZING THE SPANISH LANGUAGE AS AN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE IN THE PHILIPPINES FOR CERTAIN PURPOSES

WHEREAS, Section 3 of Article XIV of the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines provided that “until otherwise provided by law, English and Spanish shall continue as official languages;”

WHEREAS, Section 3(3) of Article XV of the new Constitution provides that “until otherwise provided by law, English and Pilipino shall be the official languages;

WHEREAS, a sizeable part of documents in government files are written in the Spanish language and have not been officially translated into either English or Pilipino language;

WHEREAS, it is advisable to maintain the legal admissibility of important documents in government files which are written in the Spanish language pending their translation into either English or Pilipino language; and

WHEREAS, Spanish language is a part of our priceless national heritage, which we share with the great Hispanic community of nations.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers in me vested by the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief of all the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and pursuant to Proclamation No. 1081 dated September 21, 1972, and General Order No. 1 dated September 22, 1972, do hereby order and decree that the Spanish language shall continue to be recognized as an official language in the Philippines while important documents in government files are in the Spanish language and not translated into either English or Pilipino language.

This Decree shall form part of the law of the land and shall take effect immediately.

Done in the City of Manila, this 15th day of March, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and seventy-three.

The presidential decree can speak for itself. No more explanation is needed as to why the 1973 Constitution should be absolved from “deleting” the Spanish language from our patrimony.

Please be advised that this blogpost is not meant to accuse nor to lay blame on anyone regarding the disappearance of the Spanish language from our country’s written statutes. This is simply meant to avoid any misunderstanding that might occur in future researches regarding the said topic. Marcos’ presidential decree is not widely known today, and it is high time that this should be explained online on the light of an apparent resurgence of interest in reviving the Spanish language. Several Business Process Outsourcing companies, regarded today as a “sunshine industry”, are in dire need of Spanish-speakers. President Noynoy Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal de Arroyo worked with former Secretary of Education Jesli Lapus, the Spanish Embassy in Manila, and the Instituto Cervantes de Manila to bring back the teaching of Spanish in Philippine schools.

And thanks to the internet, the clamor for the return of the Spanish language has found a new medium. Various online forums are now discussing the importance of Spanish in our history, culture, and identity as a nation. Several websites and blogs promoting the Spanish language in the Philippines are starting to appear. Even Facebook does not want to be left behind.

Indeed, now is the time to treat our past in a more positive light and a keener eye, and to grasp the real score —the unbreakable link— between the Spanish language and the Filipino national identity.

Will current President Noynoy Aquino, whose grandparents on either side of the family spoke Spanish, do the correct thing and reciprocate Marcos’ intelligent move in saving our hispanic heritage?

*******

This now-forgotten Marcos decree (presidential decree no. 155) was taken from Chan Robles Virtual Law Library.

Biography of Nick Joaquín (1917-2004)

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http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Biography/BiographyJoaquinNic.htm

Nicomedes "Nick" Joaquín

This is the best biography of Nick that I’ve encountered so far…

The 1996 Ramón Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts

BIOGRAPHY of Nick Joaquín
Resil B. Mojares

He was the greatest Filipino writer of his generation. Over six decades and a half, he produced a body of work unmatched in richness and range by any of his contemporaries. Living a life wholly devoted to the craft of conjuring a world through words, he was the writer’s writer. In the passion with which he embraced his country’s manifold being, he was his people’s writer as well.

Nick Joaquín was born in the old district of Pacò in Manila, Philippines, on September 15, 1917, the feast day of Saint Nicomedes, a protomartyr of Rome, after whom he took his baptismal name. He was born to a home deeply Catholic, educated, and prosperous. His father, Leocadio Joaquín, was a person of some prominence. Leocadio was a procurador (attorney) in the Court of First Instance of Laguna, where he met and married his first wife, at the time of the Philippine Revolution. He shortly joined the insurrection, had the rank of colonel, and was wounded in action. When the hostilities ceased and the country came under American rule, he built a successful practice in law. Around 1906, after the death of his first wife, he married Salomé Márquez, Nick’s mother. A friend of General Emilio Aguinaldo, Leocadio was a popular lawyer in Manila and the Southern Tagalog provinces. He was unsuccessful however when he made a bid for a seat in the Philippine Assembly representing Laguna.

Nick Joaquín’s mother was a pretty, well-read woman of her time who had studied in a teacher-training institute during the Spanish period. Though still in her teens when the United States took possession of the Philippines, she was among the first to be trained by the Americans in English, a language she taught in a Manila public school before she left teaching after her marriage.

Leocadio and Salomé built a genteel, privileged home where Spanish was spoken, the family went to church regularly, had outings in the family’s huge European car (one of the first Renaults in the city), and the children were tutored in Spanish and piano. Salomé (“who sings beautiful melodies and writes with an exquisite hand,” recalls a family member) encouraged in her children an interest in the arts. There were ten children in the family, eight boys and two girls, with Nick as the fifth child. The Joaquín home on Herrán Street in Pacò was a large section of a two-story residential-commercial building —the first such building in Pacò— that Leocadio had built and from which the family drew a handsome income from rentals. In this home the young Nick had “an extremely happy childhood.”

Leocadio Joaquín, however, lost the family fortune in an investment in a pioneering oil exploration project somewhere in the Visayas in the late 1920s. The family had to move out of Herrán to a rented house in Pásay. Leocadio’s death not long after, when Nick was only around twelve years old, was a turning point in the life of the family.

Reticent about his private life, Nick Joaquín revealed little about his father. In the manner of fathers of his time, Leocadio must have been a presence both distant and dominant. He was already an accomplished man when Nick was born. One has a glimpse of him in the character of the proud Doctor Chávez in Joaquín’s short story “After the Picnic,” the father who lives by a strict patriarchal code and yet is all at once remote, vulnerable, and sympathetic. In an early poem, Joaquín vaguely alluded to what in his father was somehow beyond reach (“the patriot life and the failed politician buried with the first wife”). Yet he mourned the void his father’s death left: “One froze at the graveside in December’s cold, / childhood stashed with the bier. Oh, afterwards / was no time to be young, until one was old.”

The young Joaquín dropped out of school. He had attended Pacò Elementary School and had three years of secondary education in Mapa High School but was too intellectually restless to be confined in a classroom. Among other changes, he was unable to pursue the religious vocation that his strictly Catholic family had envisioned to be his future. Joaquín himself confessed that he always had the vocation for the religious life and would have entered a seminary if it were not for his father’s death.

After he left school, Joaquín worked as a mozo (boy apprentice) in a bakery in Pásay and then as a printer’s devil in the composing department of the Tribune, of the TVT (Tribune-Vanguardia-Taliba) publishing company, which had its offices on F. Torres Street in Manila’s Santa Cruz district. This got him started on what would be a lifelong association with the world of print.

Through this time he pursued a passion for reading. Sarah K. Joaquín, Nick’s sister-in-law, recounts that in his teens Nick had a “rabid and insane love for books.” He would hold a book with one hand and read while polishing with a coconut husk the floor with his feet. He would walk down a street, on an errand to buy the family’s meal, with a dinner pail in one hand and an open book in the other.

Both his parents had encouraged his interest in books. When he was around ten, his father got him a borrower’s card at the National Library (then in the basement of the Legislative Building in Luneta) and there he discovered Bambi and Heidi and the novels of Stevenson, Dumas, and Dickens (David Copperfield was his great favorite). He explored his father’s library and the bookstores of Carriedo in downtown Manila. He was voracious, reading practically everything that caught his fancy, from the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Vachel Lindsay to the stories of Anton Chekhov, to the novels of Dostoyevsky, D. H. Lawrence, and Willa Cather. He read American magazines (Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Magazine) and discovered the fiction of Booth Tarkington, Somerset Maugham, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway.

Joaquín’s choice of early readings was not exceptional. Joaquín and other writers of his generation who were schooled in the American era discovered Dostoyevsky and Hemingway before they did such Tagalog writers as Lope K. Santos and Rosauro Almario. Yet, it can be said that Joaquín never really lost his sense of where he was. He read Manila’s English-language newspapers and magazines for what Filipinos themselves were writing. (He had read the José Rizal novels in the Charles Derbyshire translation before he was thirteen, Joaquín said.) He always had a strong sense of place, a virtue that was to become a hallmark of his body of work. “When I started writing in the late 1930s,” he would recall many years later, “I was aware enough of my milieu to know that it was missing from our writing in English. The Manila I had been born into and had grown up in had yet to appear in our English fiction, although that fiction was mostly written in Manila and about Manila.”

His first short story dealt with the vaudeville of Manila, “The Sorrows of Vaudeville,” and was published in Sunday Tribune Magazine in 1937. (The editors changed its title to “Behind Tinsel and Grease.”) Earlier, in 1934, he published his first poem in English, a piece about Don Quixote. The story is told that when this poem appeared in the Tribune, Serafín Lanot, the Tribune’s poetry editor, liked the poem very much and went to congratulate the poet when he came to collect his fee, but the shy and elusive Joaquín ran away.

Very early, Joaquín was set on crafting his own voice. Writing in 1985 on his early years as a writer, he said that it appeared to him in the 1930s that both an American language and an American education had distanced Filipino writers in English from their immediate surroundings. “These young writers could only see what the American language saw.” It was “modern” to snub anything that wore the name of tradition and, for the boys and girls who trooped to the American-instituted schools, Philippine history began with Commodore Dewey and the Battle of Manila Bay. “The result was a fiction so strictly contemporary that both the authors and their characters seemed to be, as I put it once, ‘without grandfathers.’” He recalled: “I realize now that what impelled me to start writing was a desire to bring in the perspective, to bring in the grandfathers, to manifest roots.”

This was Nick Joaquín recalling in 1985 what it was like in the 1930s. Back then, the young Joaquín was just beginning to find his way into a literary life. He was gaining notice as a promising writer, publishing between 1934 and 1941 a few stories and over a dozen poems in the Herald Mid-Week Magazine and the Sunday Tribune Magazine. The literary scene was vibrant in the Commonwealth years, as writers and critics debated the role and direction of Philippine writing and formed feuding groups such as the Philippine Writers League and the Veronicans. Joaquín stood at the periphery of this scene. He probably had little time to be too reflective. He was already trying to fend for himself while quite young. He was also growing into a world that was marching toward the cataclysm of a world war.

The period of the Japanese occupation was a difficult time for the Joaquíns who, at this time, had moved from Pásay to a house on Arlegui Street in the historic San Miguel district of Manila, where Malacañang Palace is located. Like other residents in the enemy-occupied city, Joaquín scavenged for work to help support the family. The Japanese had closed down the Tribune and other publications at the onset of the occupation. Joaquín worked as a port stevedore, factory watchman, rig driver, road worker, and buy-and-sell salesman. Seeing corpses on the street, working for a wage in rice, demeaned by fear and poverty, Joaquín detested the war. He later said in an interview that the experience of the war so drained both his body and spirit that when it was over, he was filled with the desire to leave the country and go somewhere far. He dreamed of pursuing a religious vocation by going to a monastery in Spain or somewhere in Europe, “somewhere where you could clean up.”

Through the war years, he continued writing when and where he could. He finished “The Woman Who Felt Like Lazarus,” a story about an aging vaudeville star, and the essay “La Naval de Manila.” Both appeared in the wartime English-language journal Philippine Review in 1943. A monthly published by the Manila Sinbun-sya and edited by Vicente Albano Pacis and Francisco Icasiano, the Review also published Joaquín’s story “It Was Later Than We Thought” (1943) and his translation of Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios (1944). Readers were beginning to take notice. He cultivated a persona inaccessible and mysterious. When he was asked to fill up a biographical form for the Review, he simply wrote down: “25 years old, salesman.”

“La Naval de Manila” tells of a Manila religious celebration built on the tradition that the Blessed Virgin had miraculously intervened in the Spanish victory over a Dutch invasion fleet in 1646. Already it sets forth a major theme Joaquín would develop in the years ahead: that the Filipino nation was formed in the matrix of Spanish colonialism and that it was important for Filipinos to appreciate their Spanish past. He wrote: “The content of our national destiny is ours to create, but the basic form, the temper, the physiognomy, Spain created for us.” The article triggered an angry response in a subsequent issue of the Review from Federico Mañgahas, then a leading intellectual, who testily inquired why the Review was “building up” this young writer who would have readers believe that precolonial Philippine society was just a primeval “drift of totem-and-taboo tribes” and that Catholic saints can be the country’s unifying national symbols. Joaquín declined to reply but he had raised an issue that would continue to be debated after the war.

After the Americans liberated Manila in February–April 1945, Joaquín worked as a stage manager for his sister-in-law’s acting troupe and dreamed of getting away. In the meantime, he continued writing and publishing. He obviously did not sleepwalk through the years of the war but was writing out stories in his head. In heady years right after the war, he published in rapid succession such stories as “Summer Solstice,” “May Day Eve,” and “Guardia de Honor.” These stories have become Nick Joaquín’s signature stories and classics in Philippine writing in English.

The opportunity to leave the country came in 1947 when he was accepted as a novice at Saint Albert’s College, a Dominican monastery in Hong Kong. The story is told that the Dominicans in Manila were so impressed by his “La Naval de Manila” that they offered him a scholarship to Saint Albert’s and had the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomás award him an honorary Associate in Arts certificate so he would qualify. His stay at Saint Albert’s schooled him in Latin and the classics. He enjoyed the pleasant diversions of the scenic port city and the occasional company of his brother Porfirio (Ping) who was in Hong Kong on a stint as a jazz musician. It seemed, however, that he was too restless for life in a monastery. He stayed less than two years and returned to Manila.

Back in the Philippines in 1950, he joined the country’s leading magazine, Philippines Free Press, working as a proofreader, copywriter, and then member of the staff. At this time, Free Press was so widely circulated across the country and so dominant a medium for political reportage and creative writing, it was called “the Bible of the Filipinos.” Practically all middle-class homes in the country had a copy of the magazine.

Joaquín’s Free Press years established him as a leading public figure in Philippine letters. In its pages appeared the stories and essays that made him known to a wide national audience. The publication of Prose and Poems (1952), a collection of short stories, poems, a novella, and a play, cemented his reputation as an original voice in Philippine literature. He mined a lode of local experience that no one had quite dealt with in the way he did. He summoned ancient rites and legends, evoked a Filipino Christianity at once mystical and profane, and dramatized generational conflicts in a modern society that had not quite come to terms with its past. His was a vision that ranged through a large expanse of history in an English so full-bodied and a style sensuous and sure.

In 1955, his first play, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino: An Elegy in Three Scenes, was premiered on stage at the Aurora Gardens in Intramuros, Manila, by the Barangay Theater Guild. He had written the play sometime around 1950 upon the urgings of Sarah Joaquín, who was active in Manila’s theater circles. Though it had been published in Weekly Women’s Magazine and Prose and Poems in 1952 and had been aired on radio, the play was not staged until 1955. It proved to be an immense success. It was made into an English-language movie by the highly respected Filipino filmmaker Lamberto V. Avellana in 1965, translated into Tagalog, adapted in other forms, and staged hundreds of times. No Filipino play in English has been as popular.

Using the flashback device of a narrator who recalls the sad fate of a prewar family as he stands in the ruins of postwar Manila, the play sets itself not only in the divide of war but that of past and present in Philippine society. Tracing the disintegration of an old and proud family in the transition from past to present, Nick Joaquín explored what had been abiding themes in his writing across the years.

He did not see the premiere of the play since, in 1955, Joaquín left the country on a Rockefeller Foundation creative writing fellowship. The prestigious award took him to Spain, the United States, and (with a Eugene F. Saxton Fellowship from the publishers of Harper’s Magazine) Mexico. In this sojourn, which lasted more than two years, he worked on his first novel, The Woman Who Had Two Navels (1961), a short and early version of which had appeared in Prose and Poems. The Woman Who Had Two Navels is a many-layered and less-than-perfect novel that teases out universal antinomies of truth and falsehood, illusion and reality, past and present, and locates them in the context of the Filipino search for identity. Though Joaquín had been criticized for a romantic “nostalgia for the past,” this novel and his other works, including Portrait, showed that he looked at the past always with the consciousness of the need for engaging the present world in its own terms.

Joaquín enjoyed his travels. He traveled all over Spain, lived in Madrid and Mallorca, visited France, stayed a year in Manhattan, went on an American cross-country trip on a Greyhound bus, crossed the border to Laredo, and had fun exploring Mexico. Spain and Mexico fascinated him (“my kind of country,” he says). He would, in the years that followed, take trips to Cuba, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Australia. Yet he was clearly in his element in his homeland and in Manila, the city that has been his imagination’s favorite haunt.

From the time he rejoined Free Press in 1957 until he left it in 1970 (during which time he rose to be the magazine’s literary editor and associate editor), Joaquin was as prominent in his persona as Quijano de Manila (a pseudonym he adopted for his journalistic writings when he joined the Free Press in 1950) as he was the creative artist Nick Joaquín. He churned out an average of fifty feature articles a year during this period. He wrote with eloquence and verve on the most democratic range of subjects, from the arts and popular culture to history and current politics. He was a widely read chronicler of the times, original and provocative in his insights and energetic and compassionate in his embrace of local realities.

One of his contemporaries remarked: “Nick Joaquín the journalist has brought to the craft the sensibility and style of the literary artist, the perceptions of an astute student of the Filipino psyche, and the integrity and idealism of the man of conscience, and the result has been a class of journalism that is dramatic, insightful, memorable, and eminently readable.”

He raised journalistic reportage to an art form. In his crime stories—for example, “The House on Zapote Street” (1961) and “The Boy Who Wanted to Become Society’” (1961)—he deployed his narrative skills in producing gripping psychological thrillers rich in scene, incident, and character. More important, he turned what would otherwise be ordinary crime reports (e.g., a crime of passion in an unremarkable Makati suburban home or the poor boy who gets caught up in a teenage gang war) into priceless vignettes of Philippine social history.

As Free Press literary editor, he virtually presided over the country’s literary scene. Free Press was the standard in Philippine writing in English because of its wide circulation and Joaquín’s editorship. Its weekly publication of short stories and poems was avidly followed. Joaquin was generous in encouraging young writers and exerted an influence on writers not only in English but in the Philippine languages. In a Filipino generation that had seen outstanding fictionists (N. V. M. González, F. Sionil José, and others), he was fondly spoken of as primus inter pares.

Since he joined the Free Press, he had been a full-time writer. The only other “job” he took was an appointment to the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures, from 1961 to 1972, under both presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Ferdinand Marcos. He took the post because, in large part, he loved the movies and practically did no cutting or banning of films, believing in the intelligence and good sense of moviegoers. He described this stint: “I was non-censoring.”

Philippine society was going through a period of deepening social crisis. The high hopes engendered during the popular rule of Ramón Magsaysay began to dissipate after Magsaysay’s death in 1957, as corruption, factional politics, and economic crisis buffeted the administrations of presidents Carlos García, Diosdado Macapagal, and Ferdinand Marcos. The Vietnam War politicized the Filipino intelligentsia, the economy floundered, a new Communist Party was established in 1969, and a new wave of militant nationalism swept through such institutions as universities and the media.

In the highly charged days leading up to the declaration of martial law on September 21, 1972, Joaquin maintained his independence as an autonomous voice in Philippine media. He wrote articles that were current, stayed close to the events, and were deeply fired by liberal sentiments. In a time polarized by ideological conflict, he continued to speak in his own voice and not in those of others. This independence had always been a signal virtue of his writing career.

In the 1930s, when he started writing, he was already a writer apart. At a time when the United States was viewed as “the very measure of all goodness,” and “history” and “civilization” in the Philippines seemed to have begun with the advent of America, Joaquin invoked a deeper past. At a time when to be contemporary was to be “secular,” Joaquín evoked the country’s Christian tradition. At a time when “proletarian literature” was the “correct” line for young writers to follow, Joaquín was the skeptic who felt it was one more instance of local literary hierarchs’ “parroting the Americans, among whom ‘proletarian’ was then the latest buzzword.” He wrote: “I can see now that my start as a writer was a swimming against the current, a going against the grain.”

He had always been a writer engaged but apart. Part of the explanation resided in his character. Engaged in a public profession, with a very public name, he was a very private person. His reclusive character was formed early. In a rare, affectionate piece his sister-in-law Sarah Joaquín wrote about him in Philippine Review in 1943, she spoke of the young Nick as a modest and unassuming young man who was ill at ease with public praise and shied away from being interviewed or photographed (“he hadn’t had any taken for fifteen years”). Even then he lived his days according to certain well-loved rites. He loved going out on long walks (“a tall, thin fellow, a little slouched, walking in Intramuros, almost always hurriedly”), simply dressed, shoes worn out from a great deal of walking (which helped him cogitate), observing the street life of the city, making the rounds of churches. “He is the most religious fellow I know,” Sarah wrote. “Except when his work interferes, he receives Holy Communion everyday.” He was generous with friends and devoted to the family with whom, even in his teens, he shared what little money he earned.

A person of habit, he scribbled about himself many decades ago:

I have no hobbies, no degrees; belong to no party, club, or association;
and I like long walks; any kind of guinataan; Dickens and Booth Tarking-
ton; the old Garbo pictures; anything with Fred Astaire… the
Opus Dei

according to the Dominican rite… Jimmy Durante and Cole Porter tunes…
the Marx brothers; the
Brothers Karamazov; Carmen Miranda; Paul’s
Epistles and Mark’s; Piedmont cigarettes… my mother’s cooking…
playing tres-siete; praying the Rosary and the Officium Parvum… I don’t
like fish, sports, and having to dress up.

Though he cut the image of one gregarious with his loud, booming voice; his love for San Miguel beer (a product that turned him into an icon for Filipino beer drinkers); and his joy in belting out Cole Porter and Frank Sinatra songs in intimate gatherings in his favorite Manila cafés, he stuck close to the company of a few friends and hated making formal appearances in public. He grudgingly gave interviews and revealed such scant detail about his personal life that there are many gaps and contradictions in his published biographies. He was not above making mischief on unwitting interviewers by inventing stories about himself. He refused to give the exact date of his birth (May 4 and September 15 in 1917 have been cited) because, he said, he hated having people come around to celebrate his birthday.

He had zealously carved out private space in his home where he wrote reams in longhand or on a typewriter. Though he gave strangers the impression of someone careless and even dissolute, Joaquín was a very disciplined writer. He woke up early to read the newspapers, took breakfast, and, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, retired to his library on the second floor of his house where no one was allowed to disturb him. In his clean and spare study, with books on shelves lining the walls and, in the center, a chair and a table with a manual typewriter, Nick did his work. From 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., he took a siesta and, often, his second bath of the day, and then from around 4:00 p.m. onward, he was out of the house to go to the editorial office or explore his favorite haunts in Manila.

The turbulent days of political activism, as the 1960s came to a close, did not leave this very private person unaffected. In 1970, he joined a labor union organized by the workers of Free Press and agreed to be its president. This was the first union to be organized in the sixty-two-year-old publishing company that was widely regarded as a beacon of libertarian ideas. Organized at a time when Manila was seething with civil unrest, the appearance of the union sparked a bitter fight in the company. When management cracked down on the union, Joaquín resigned. With Free Press editor-writers Gregorio C. Brillantes and José F. Lacaba, artist Danilo Dalena, and close to thirty personnel of the administrative and printing departments, Joaquín launched the weekly Asia-Philippines Leader in 1971 and served as its editor-in-chief. In the pages of the magazine he wrote a regular column, “This Week’s Jottings,” where he continued his trenchant commentaries on the Philippine scene.

Martial law closed down Philippine media, including Free Press and Asia-Philippines Leader. The Marcos government subsequently allowed the publication of a few favored periodicals controlled by the Marcoses and their cronies. Joaquín refused to contribute. Among many intellectuals, silence became a form of protest. Joaquín’s irrepressible pen, however, could not be stilled. “I was never silent during martial law,” Joaquín declared in an interview in 1980. “I’ve never been silent.” He continued to write, worked independently, and contributed to both the underground and aboveground alternative press, the small newspapers and news sheets that came to be referred to as the “mosquito press” during the martial-law period.

Ironically, there was probably no other time when there was as much publishing of Joaquín writings as in the 1970s. These publications showcased his boundless creativity and versatility. In 1977, the National Book Store started issuing popular compilations of his Free Press human-interest features and crime stories (Reportage on Lovers, Reportage on Crime) as well as articles on local icons of popular culture (Nora Aunor and Other Profiles, Ronnie Poe and Other Silhouettes, Amalia Fuentes and Other Etchings, Doveglion and Other Cameos, Gloria Díaz and Other Delineations, Joseph Estrada and Other Sketches). Such was his readership that, between 1979 and 1983, more collections of his journalistic articles were issued: Reportage on the Marcoses, Reportage on Politics, Language of the Street and Other Essays, and Manila: Sin City and Other Chronicles. A selection of his speeches and articles appeared in Discourses of the Devil’s Advocate and Other Controversies (1983). It is not disingenuous to say that such burst of publishing may have been fueled by a certain nostalgia for the colorful, rough-and-tumble years before martial law imposed an order of repression and dull conformism.

Mr. & Ms. Publishing published Nick Joaquín’s Almanac for Manileños (1979), a coffee-table book that turns the form of the old almanac into “a weather chart, a sanctoral, a zodiac guide, and a mini-encyclopedia on the world of the Manileño.” Almanac is a romp for a writer whose knowledge of the country’s capital city —from churches to brothels, politicians and criminals, fashions high and low, past and present— has not been matched by anyone. In 1978–1979, the same publisher also commissioned Joaquin’s children’s stories and modernized fairy tales and put them out as independent titles as well as in an anthology, Pop Stories for Groovy Kids. Some of these stories also appeared in a volume entitled Joaquinesquerie: Myth á la Mod (1983). He had been asked to write just one story in the beginning, but he so enjoyed doing it that more followed (“it’s like eating peanuts”). That this writer of metaphysical thrillers also had a deft hand writing for young readers is shown in his essays on Manila for young Manileños, Manila, My Manila (1990), and his retelling of the biography of José Rizal, Rizal in Saga: A Life for Student Fans (1996).

He translated Spanish works into English, something he had done intermittently for years. His most important in this field was The Complete Poems and Plays of José Rizal (1976). Nick also returned to theater. He adapted the stories “Three Generations” and “Summer Solstice” as the plays Fathers and Sons (1977) and Tatarín (1978), respectively. In 1976, he wrote The Beatas, the story of a seventeenth-century Filipino beguinage, a religious community of lay women, repressed by a male-dominated, colonial order. The subversive message of the play, in the particular context of martial rule, lent itself to a staging in Tagalog translation in the highly political campus of the University of the Philippines in 1978. These plays later appeared in the volume, Tropical Baroque: Four Manileño Theatricals, published in Manila in 1979 and in Australia in 1982.

In 1972, the University of Queensland Press in Australia published a new edition of his fiction under the title, Tropical Gothic. An important feature of this edition was the inclusion of three novellas that originally appeared in Free Press, “Cándido’s Apocalypse,” “Doña Jerónima,” and “The Order of Melkizedek.” These novellas are powerful, historically resonant narratives that probably best represent the inventiveness and depth of Joaquín as fictionist. They are among the most outstanding pieces of Philippine fiction that have been written.

He went back to writing poetry, something he had not done since 1965. El Camino Real and Other Rimes appeared in 1983 and Collected Verse, the author’s choice of thirty-three poems, was published in 1987. Ranging from light verse to long narrative pieces, these poems —robust, confident, expansive, elegant— are markers in the development of Philippine poetry. They demonstrate, says the poet-critic Gémino H. Abad, a level of achievement in which the Filipino is no longer writing in English but has indeed “wrought from English, having as it were colonized that language.”

That the Filipino writer wrote in English was a virtue that seemed self-evident when Joaquin started his career in the 1930s. English was the language of government, the schools, and the leading publications. It was, for young Filipinos, the language of modernity and the future. In the late 1960s, however, the use of the English language in such fields as education, literature, and publishing came under serious question as a Marxist-inspired nationalism sought to establish a radical, popular basis for the national culture. Those who wrote in English either switched languages or felt called upon to defend their use of a foreign tongue. Arguing out of his favorite thesis that the Filipino is enriched by his creative appropriation of new technologies, Joaquin extolled the fresh values of temper and sensibility that English had brought into the national literature. As for his own writings, Joaquin’s response to the issue was more blunt: “Whether it is in Tagalog or English, because I am Filipino, every single line I write is in Filipino.” In a more jocular vein, he had written about how the local milieu was irrevocably present in his works: “I tell my readers that the best compliment they can pay me is to say that they smell adobo and lechón when they read me. I was smelling adobo and lechon when I wrote me.”

In 1976, Nick Joaquín was named National Artist of the Philippines in the field of literature, the highest recognition given by the state for an artist in the country. Conferred in Manila on March 27, 1976, the award praised his works as “beacons in the racial landscape” and the author for his “rare excellence and significant contribution to literature.”

Joaquín had reservations about accepting an award conceived by the Marcos government as part of First Lady Imelda Marcos’s high-profile program of arts promotion in the country, but he decided to accept it on the advice of family and friends. He also felt the award would give him leverage to ask Malacañang Palace to release from prison José F. Lacaba, a close friend of his and one of the country’s best writers, who was imprisoned for his involvement in the anti-Marcos resistance. Lacaba was released in 1976.

Joaquín kept his distance from power, studiously resisting invitations to attend state functions in Malacañang Palace. At a ceremony on Mount Makiling, Laguna, attended by Mrs. Marcos, who had built on the fabled mountain site a National Arts Center, Joaquín delivered a speech in which he provocatively spoke of freedom and the artist. He was never again invited to address formal cultural occasions for the rest of the Marcos regime. He was too unpredictable to suit the pious pretensions of the martial-law government.

The fact that government had conferred on him the honor of National Artist did not prevent him from criticizing government. In 1982, he put himself at the forefront of a public demonstration to protest government’s closure of the oppositionist newspaper We Forum and the arrest and detention of its publisher and editors. The newspaper had just published a series of articles exposing Ferdinand Marcos’s fake war medals.

The street appearance was not characteristic of the man. It was in the field of writing that he engaged power. Joaquin was the provocateur who delighted in debunking what was politically and intellectually fashionable. One such “fashion” was the interest in the “ethnic” and “indigenous” during the Marcos era. A legitimate expression of post-Vietnam Filipino nationalism, the return to the “native” was appropriated by state nationalism during the martial-law period. In the attempt to clothe with legitimacy Marcos’s “experiment” in Philippine-style democracy (and authoritarianism) and blunt both the insurgent opposition to his rule and Western criticism of human-rights violations, the Marcos government appealed to “nationalism” based on an indigenous and Asian heritage. In the intellectual field, this found expression in many intersecting ways: the glorification of barangay democracy; the promotion of Tagalog as the national language and the downgrading of English writing; the “Filipinization” of scholarly disciplines; the romancing of the 1971 discovery of the allegedly Stone-Age Tasadays; and the state-sponsored Tadhanà project started in 1975, in which a group of Filipino historians wrote a “new history” of the Philippines under the name of Ferdinand Marcos.

Addressing this trend, Nick Joaquín wrote articles attacking nativism and the glorification of the indigenous and the ethnic. Describing the Filipino as a “work in progress” whose national identity is the dynamic product of the various cultural influences in his history (in particular, he stresses, the Spanish-Christian experience), he debunked the idea of a “pure” native culture and lamented the denigration of Western influence. A vigorous polemicist, he taunted the “new” nationalists with statements such as “Asia, before 1521, was conspicuous by its absence in Philippine culture” or “Those who want Philippine culture to be what it was 400 years ago are afflicted with the Dorian Gray illusion: the illusion that innocence can be frozen or that a personality can be kept from showing the effects on it of time, space, nature, society, the outside world.”

The terrain had changed but Joaquín was fighting a battle he had started to wage as early as the 1930s. Then he was reacting to an intellectual establishment that, infatuated with America, wanted to wean itself from the past much too quickly. Now he was responding to leaders and intellectuals who, desiring to break away from the West, were invoking a golden past he felt was not there. In the years of the Japanese occupation, he was writing against the grain when he wrote the seminal essay “La Naval de Manila.” Then he was responding (whether deliberately or not) to the trend, encouraged by the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” for Filipinos to return to their “Asian” and “Malayan” roots. Now, in the 1970s, he was interrogating the scapegoating of the West and the romancing of “Asianness.”

Polemical rather than academic, he simplified the terms of the debate, drew dividing lines much too sharply, and couched arguments in hyperbolic terms. He was impatient with the either/or rhetoric of indigenists and nationalists. “Why isn’t it enough to be just Filipino?” Quoting James Joyce, he declared of his own work: “This country and this people shaped me; I shall express myself as I am.” He was, as always, the writer apart but passionately engaged.

In A Question of Heroes: Essays in Criticism on Ten Key Figures of Philippine History (1977) and Culture and History: Occasional Notes on the Process of Philippine Becoming (1988), he showed himself an insightful historian and vigorous cultural critic. Addressing a general public rather than specialists, he said that it was his aim to “open up fresh viewpoints on the national process” by asking “those pesky questions which, though they seem so obvious, have somehow never been asked about our history and culture.”

In Question of Heroes, a series of articles on Filipino heroes that first appeared in the Free Press in the 1960s, he demystified the heroes associated with the birth of the nation in the late nineteenth century. He humanized them, thickened their lives with sharp and telling detail, and situated them in the living context of their times. The result was not just a critical reevaluation of historical figures but a coherent picture of a nation in formation. Culture and History offered a more varied fare of fifteen essays that developed Joaquin’s ideas on what he called “the process of Filipino becoming.” Underlying these ideas was an evolutionary and optimistic confidence in the Filipino capacity to invent himself out of the constraints and opportunities of his historical experience. Attacking the syndrome of shame over the colonial past and guilt over being “neither East nor West,” Joaquín celebrated hybridity. Attacking nativism and other forms of exclusionism, he said (quoting Oswald Spengler), “Historic is that which is, or has been, effective,” and he gloried in what the Filipino has and will become.

There are conceptual gaps in Joaquín’s view of Philippine history. He tended to be too dismissive of precolonial culture (even as it figured in his own fiction), overstressed the transformative role of technology, and was perhaps too apologetic of the Spanish and Christian influence in Philippine culture. There was no denying, however, the intelligent passion with which he embraced his people’s culture and history. Few in his time played as effective a role in the public discourse on the national culture.

The shaking loose of the structure of the martial-law regime after the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983, and the eventual collapse of the regime in the “People Power Revolution” of 1986, saw Nick Joaquín right in the public stream as the country’s premier chronicler of current history. A book that he started writing before martial law was declared in 1972, The Aquinos of Tarlac: An Essay on History as Three Generations, appeared in 1983. His chronicle of the People Power Revolution, The Quartet of the Tiger Moon, was published in 1986.

Twenty-two years after The Woman Who Had Two Navels, Joaquín came out with his second novel, Cave and Shadows (1983). He jokingly remarked at its appearance: “Now, I’ll be known as the man who has two novels.” Fervid and dense, Cave and Shadows was Joaquín’s “objective correlative” to the Crisis of ’72. Set in Manila in the steamy month of August 1972, just before the declaration of martial law, the novel weaves a plot around the discovery of a woman’s naked body in a cave in the suburbs of Manila. The search for answers to the mystery of the woman’s death becomes a metaphysical thriller in which past and present collide and reality is unhinged as a social order breaks down in division and revolution.

A deep fount of creative energy, Joaquín was a much sought-after biographer. From 1979 to 2000, he authored more than a dozen book-length biographies of prominent Filipinos, from artists and educators to business people and politicians. These include the biographies of diplomat Carlos Rómulo, senators Manuel Manahan and Salvador Laurel, technocrat Rafaél Salas, businessmen Jaime Ongpín and D. M. Guevara, artist Leonor Orosa Goquingco, educator Nicanor Reyes, civic leader Estefania Aldaba-Lim, and Jaime Cardinal Sin. He also wrote local and institutional histories—such as San Miguel de Manila: Memoirs of a Regal Parish (1990) and Hers, This Grove: The Story of Philippine Women’s University (1996)—and authored or edited diverse other volumes.

He was criticized for “writing too much,” producing commissioned biographies of uneven quality, and forsaking creative writing for journalism. While his Aquinos of Tarlac was a masterful interweaving of the life of a family and that of a nation, May Langit Din Ang Mahirap (1998), his biography of former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, seemed like a hurried, paste-up job. While his talent could be quite profligate, there was no mistaking the genuineness of his appetite for local life and drive to convert this to memorable form.

Nick Joaquín’s stature in his country is demonstrated by the numerous prizes he received for his literary and journalistic writings. His contributions to Philippine culture were acknowledged by the City of Manila with an Araw ng Maynila Award (1963), a Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award (1964), and a Diwa ng Lahi Award (1979). The national government conferred on him its highest cultural honors, the Republic Cultural Heritage Award (1961) and the title of National Artist of the Philippines (1976).

In 1996, he received the Ramón Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts, the highest honor for a writer in Asia. The citation honored him for “exploring the mysteries of the Filipino body and soul in sixty inspired years as a writer.” Accepting the award on August 31, 1996, Joaquin did not look back on past achievements but relished the moment, saying that indeed the good wine has been reserved for last and “the best is yet to be.” This from a man who was about to turn eighty when he received the award.

In his 1996 Ramón Magsaysay Award lecture, Joaquín addressed what, he said, had troubled his critics as his “Jekyll/Hyde” personality as journalist and litterateur. He had never been the hothouse artist, he declared, and had always felt there was no subject not worthy of his attention. The practice of journalism nourished his populist sympathies. “Journalism trained me never, never to feel superior to whatever I was reporting, and always, always to respect an assignment, whether it was a basketball game, or a political campaign, or a fashion show, or a murder case, or a movie-star interview.” Journalism exercised his powers of storytelling. “Good reportage is telling it as it is but at the same time telling it new, telling it surprising, telling it significant.”

Though he largely played his life and career “by ear,” Joaquín relished how he had moved in the right directions. On the one hand, he could trace himself back to the times when Plato and Cervantes or the Arabian Nights and the Letters of Saint Paul were all “literature” and there were no fine distinctions as to which mode of writing was belle and not belle enough. On the other hand, he had foreshadowed current trends that had broken down the generic boundaries of fiction and nonfiction or “journalism” and “literature.”

With the mischievous glee of one who enjoyed what he was doing, he said that such Joaquín reportage as “House on Zapote Street” and “The Boy Who Wanted to Become ‘Society’” antedated the American “New Journalism” that writers such as Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, and Gore Vidal made famous. Moreover, the fiction that he wrote—from “May Day Eve” and “The Mass of St. Sylvester” to “Doña Jerónima” and “Cándido’s Apocalypse”—bodied forth “magic realism” long before the Latin American novelists made it fashionable.

While Nick Joaquín wrote in English, was published abroad, and had some of his works translated into foreign languages, he did not quite receive the high attention he deserved outside the Philippines. This was something probably of no great moment to Joaquín himself. He was firmly rooted in place and in active dialogue with his Filipino audience. This speaking to and about his people had always framed his writing life. Though he spoke from a specific location—writing in English out of Manila (he had not lived for any significant amount of time outside the capital)—his voice carried far among Filipinos.

In the Philippines, Nick Joaquín was a keeper of tradition and a maker of memory. He grew up in what he called an “Age of Innocence” in Philippine history, an era when Filipinos, seduced by the promise of America and modernity, distanced themselves from their Spanish colonial past and slipped into a kind of amnesia. He saw—having grown up in a home where his father told stories about the revolution and his mother encouraged a love for Spanish poetry—that it was his calling “to bring in the perspective, to bring in the grandfathers, to manifest roots.” In his writings, he traced a landscape haunted by the past—pagan rites in the shadows of the Christian church, legends of a woman in the cave, strange prophets roaming the countryside, grandfathers who seem like ghosts who have strayed into the present. He conjured a society stranded in the present and not quite whole because it had not come to terms with its past.

The problem of identity was central in Joaquín’s works. In an impressive body of literary, historical, and journalistic writings, Joaquín was a significant participant in the public discourse on “Filipino identity.” What marked the positions he took was his refusal of easy orthodoxies. An outsider to government, the political parties, and the universities, he kept his space to be an independent thinker on the issues confronting the nation. From the 1930s to until his death, he was consistent in his role as the critic of what passed for the politically “correct” of the day. In this manner, he opened up spaces for the Filipino to imagine himself in novel ways and act on this basis.

Nick Joaquín lived through eight decades of Philippine history and witnessed the slow, uneven, and often violent transformation of the nation—the American idyll of the prewar years, the violence and degradation of an enemy occupation, the Communist insurgency and the hard choices it confronted the Filipino with, the dark years of martial rule, the waxing and waning of hopes for a better nation. It is history that tempts many with despair. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Nick Joaquín, the writer, was that his was always the voice of a deep, inclusive, and compassionate optimism in the Filipino.

He had always—as Joaquín himself would say, quoting one of his favorite literary lines—raged, raged against the dying of the light. This was true not only of what he had written but how he had lived his life. When many of his contemporaries had long faded into the background, Joaquín continued to speak of his craft with the verve of a young writer. Well into his eighties, with close to sixty book titles to his name, he was working on more. He also continued to practice journalism. He wrote the regular columns “Small Beer” and “Jottings” for the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Sunday Inquirer Magazine from 1988 to 1990; served as editor of Philippine Graphic magazine and publisher of its sister publication, Mirror Weekly, in 1990; and continued to contribute to various publications until his final days. When asked once if he ever intended to retire, Joaquín was said to have responded, with typical mischief, “I’m not retiring and I’m not resigned.”

NICK Joaquín lived in the city and country of his affections and continued to write until his death in April 2004 at the age of eighty-six.

*******

Culled from the Ramón Magsaysay Award Foundation website.

Philippine national anthems (yes, with an “s”)

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Ladies and gents, below are the versions of the Philippine national anthem in various Philippine languages:

FILIPINAS
Julián Felipe
Castellano

Tierra adorada
Hija del sol de Oriente,
Su fuego ardiente,
En ti latiendo está.

¡Tierra de amores!
Del heroismo cuna,
Los invasores
No te hollarán jamás.

En tu azul cielo, en tus auras,
En tus montes y en tu mar
Esplende y late el poema
De tu amada libertad.

Tu pabellón, que en las lides
La victoria iluminó,
No verá nunca apagados
Sus estrellas ni su sol.

Tierra de dichas, del sol y de amores,
En tu regazo dulce es vivir.
Es una gloria para tus hijos,
Cuando te ofenden, por ti morir.

PHILIPPINE HYMN
Camilo Osías and Mary A. Lane
English

Land of the morning,
Child of the sun returning,
With fervour burning
Thee do our souls adore.

Land dear and holy,
Cradle of noble heroes
Ne’er shall invaders,
Trample thy scared shore.

Even within the skies
And through thy clouds
And o’er thy hills and sea.
Do we behold the radiance,
Feel the throb of glorious liberty.

Thy banner, dear to all our hearts
Its sun and stars alight,
O never shall its shining field
Be dimmed by tyrant’s might!

Beautiful land of love,
O land of light,
In thine embrace ’tis rapture to lie
But it is glory ever,
When thou art wronged,
For us, thy sons, to suffer and die.

LUPANG HINIRANG
Felipe Padilla de León
Tagalog

Bayang maguiliw,
Perlas ng Silañganan
Alab ng pusò,
Sa Dibdíb mó’y buháy.

Lupang Hinirang,
Duyan ca ng maguiting,
Sa manlulupig,
Di ca pasísiil.

Sa dagat at bundóc,
Sa simoy at sa lañguit mong bugháo,
May dilag ang tulâ,
At awit sa paglayang minámahal.

Ang quisláp ng watawat mó’y
Tagumpáy na nagníningning,
Ang bituín at arao niyá,
Cailán pa má’y di magdídilim,

Lupa ng arao ng luwalhati’t pagsintá,
Buhay ay lañguit sa piling mó,
Aming ligaya na pag may mang-áapi,
Ang mamatáy ng dahil sa’yó.

NASUDNÓNG AWIT
Jess Vestil
Cebuano

Yutang tabunon
Mutya nga masilakon
Putling bahandi
Amo cang guimahal

Mithing guisimba
Yuta s’mga bayani
Sa manglulupig
Among panalipdan

Ang mga bungtod mo ug lapyahan
Ang lañguit mong bugháo
Nagahulad sa awit, lamdag sa
Caliwat tang gawas

Silaw sa adlaw ug bitoon
Sa nasudnong bandilà
Nagatimaan nga buhíon ta
Hugpóng nga di maluba

Yutang maanyag, duyan ca sa pagmahal
Landong sa lañguit ang dughaan mo;
Pacatam-isom sa anác mong nagtucao
Con mamatáy man sa ngalan mó.

BANWÁNG GUINHALARAN
Eric D. Gotera
Hiligaynón

Banwang masinadyahon,
Perlas sang nasidlañgan,
Init sang tigpusuon,
Gacabuhi sa imo nga dughan.

Banwang Guinhalaran,
Payag ca sang maisog,
Sa mga manugpigos,
Wala guid nagapadaog.

Sa dagat cag buquid,
Sa usbong cag sa dagway nga gabanaag,
May idlac cag tiboc ang dilambong,
cag amba sang cahilwayan.

Ang idlac sang ayahay mo,
Isa ca matam-is nga cadalag-an,
Ang bituon cag ang adlaw,
Nangin masanag sa catubtuban.

Dutang nasambit sang adlao kag paghigugma,
Sa sabak mo matam-is ang mabuhi,
Ginapaquipagbato namon, nga kung may manungpanacop,
Ang mapatay nahanuñgod sa imo.

RONA CANG MAWILI
Bicolano

Dagang namo-motan
Aqui Ca nin sirañgan
Tingrao niyang malaad
Nasa si-mong daghan.

Rona cang mawili
Naguimatan bayani
An mansalacay
Dai ca babatayan.

Sa si-mong langit, buquid
Hayop cadagatan siring man
Nagcucutab nagbabanaag
An si-mong catalingcasan.

Simong bandera na nagquiquintab
Sa hocbo naglayaw
Dai nañgad mapapara
An simong bitoon Aldao.

Dagang nawilihan, maogma, maliwanag,
Sa limpoy mo hamis mabuhay
Minamarhay mi cun ika pagbasangan
An buhay mi si-mo idusay.

OH, FILIPINAS DALIN MIN CAGAL-GALANG
Pangasinán

Oh, Filipinas,
Dalin min cagal-galang
Musia na dayat,
Ed dapit letacan

Simpey gayagan,
Panag-ugaguepan day
Totoon lapag,
Ed dapit-seslecan.

Saray anac mo agda
Cawananen ya ibagat ed sica’y
Dilin bilay da no
Nacauculay galang tan ca-inaoan

Diad palandey, lawac, taquel,
Dayat o no dia ed lawang
Sugbaen day patey ya andi
Dua-rua no sikay pan-señguegan.

Diad silong na laylay mo mancaca-saquey
Tan diad sika man-lingcor tan mangi-agel
Bangta dia’d acualan mo aneng-neng day silew
Diad acualan mo muet akuen day patey.

PATRIA DE AMORES
Chabacano de Zamboanga

Tierra adorada,
Hija del sol de oriente,
Fervor del corazon,
viví na tuyo pecho.

Patria de Amores,
Cuna del heroísmo,
Nunca hay rendí tú
al mana invasor.

Na tuyo mar y mana monte,
y aire, y azul cielo,
Tiene esplende el poema y canción
del amado libertad.

Victoria árde el chispa
de tuyo bandera.
Nunca mirá apagáo
Su mana estrella y su sol

Tierra de gloria, del sol y amores,
vida dulce na tuyo abrazáda,
Un honor se para con nosotros,
Cuando tiene opresor, morí por tú.

Hmmm… Call me biased. I don’t really care. But NOTHING BEATS THE ORIGINAL.

The Thomasites, before and after

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THE THOMASITES, BEFORE AND AFTER
Guillermo Gómez Rivera

They were called thus not due to St. Thomas of Aquinas but because they came in a cattle cargo vessel called the “S/S Thomas”.

And they came to teach English as part of the “policy of attraction” after the 1898 República de Filipinas was blown up to smithereens by a superior invading military force.

It was obvious that the main content of the so-called policy of attraction was to compulsorily impose English as the only medium of instruction. Benevolent assimilation was to be advanced by “education in English”. If no working knowledge of English was acquired by the native Filipinos, education was unilaterally deemed not to have taken place among them. Without English, a Filipino is deemed illiterate even if he can correctly write and speak in Tagalog or any of his major native languages.

Indeed, before the benevolent Thomasites did come, native children had for their English teachers the McKinley soldiers that claimed to educate “them Injuns with the crank and the kragg”. This claim dovetailed the Mckinleyan motto “to Christianize, to educate, and to uplift” the Filipino.

But were the Filipinos of the 1900s who were already drinking real potable water; who knew what cheap electricity and silk was; who called friends by note, postcard, phone and telegram, and who grandly celebrated Christmas and Lent, really asking the Thomasites to “educate” them in the English language?

An American linguist of the time, Mary I. Bresnahan, answered that question in the following manner:

“In any case, it continues to be speculative if the Filipino’s purported desire to learn English was genuine or not. Documents tell us about Filipinos trembling with fear inside their huts built on stilts as they expected the intrusion of the cruel Americans reputed to be blood thirsty giants bent on killing even the most trusting among them. Unsure about the real motives of the invaders, the Filipinos did what they thought would please the Americans the most. And that was to learn their language, — English.” (see “The Americanization of the Philippines, The Imposition of English during the 1898-1901 Period” by Alfonso L García Martínez, Law College of Puerto Rico, Vol. 43, pages 237 to 270, May 1982).

To change this general perception, the so-called Thomasites came and were accepted.

Even a secondary Spanish school like Colegio de San Juan de Letrán wrote a textbook to teach the English language as early as 1902. This was a help to the beleaguered Thomasites. The book was entitled Mañga Onang Turô sa Uicang Inglés written by Tagalog Professor P. Ulpiano Herrero and Spanish Dominican P. Francisco García. (Imprenta UST, Manila, 1902). In this book of 482 pages English language lessons were effectively explained in both the Tagalog and Spanish languages.

But the pro-English language efforts of the Thomasites appeared nil. Too much was expected of them by the American authorities themselves.

By 1916, their hard work was criticized in a report prepared by Henry Ford to President Woodrow Wilson. Wrote Mr. Ford:

“There is, however, another aspect in this case which should be considered. This aspect became evident to me as I traveled through the islands, using ordinary transportation and mixing with all classes of people under all conditions. Although, as based on the school statistics, it is said that more Filipinos speak English than any other language, no one can be in agreement with this declaration if they base their assessment on what they hear on the testimony of their hearing… Spanish is everywhere the language of business and social intercourse… in order for anyone to obtain prompt service from anyone, Spanish turns out to be more useful than English… and outside of Manila it is almost indispensable. The Americans who travel around all the islands customarily use it.” (The Ford Report of 1916. Chapter 3. The Use of English, pp. 365-366.)

What had appeared to be a big deception was the earlier report of Director of Instruction David P. Barrows which said:

“It is to be noted that with the increased study and use of English, there has been an increased study of Spanish. I think it is a fact that many more people in these islands have a knowledge of Spanish now than they did when the American Occupation occurred” (The 1908 School Report, p. 96).”

“Spanish continues to be the most prominent and important language spoken in political, journalistic and commercial circles. English has, therefore, active rivals as the language of trade and instruction. It is equally probable that the adult population has lost interest in learning English. I believe it is a fact that many more people now know the Spanish language than when the Americans sailed for these islands and their occupation took place… The customary prerequisite for dispatchers is for them to know English and Spanish. Through the great upsurge in numbers and circulation of newspapers and publications, there is much more reading matter in Spanish than before… (Op. Sit. p.9)

But the Thomasites plodded onward. Upon their shoulders was thrown what was thought of as the great task to make Filipinos speak English. This thought was, however, not shared by Filipino educators born out of the Katipunan and the Primera República’s Universidad Literaria like Dr. Leon María Guerrero and Don Enrique Mendiola, co-founders of the Liceo de Manila, Librada Avelino, founder of the Centro Escolar de Señoritas, Mariano Jocson, founder of the Colegio de Manila, Las Maestras Avanceña and Don Manuel Locsín, founders of the Instituto de Molo, Iloilo, Doña Florentina Tan Villanueva, foundress of the Escuela de Cebú, and Gran Maestra Rosa Sevilla de Alvero founder of the Instituto de Mujeres.

These native educators were for the use of Spanish and Tagalog, with Visayan and Ilocano, as media of national education. They viewed English as “a language of economic conquest”. (See: The Life of Librada Avelino, Bilingual edition in Spanish and English, by Francisco Varona and Pedro de la Llana, Vera & Sons, Publishing Co., 1935, Manila, p.241).

The Thomasites were not only hampered in their task by native resistance, albeit passive. They were also made to know, outright, that English would never become the language of the Filipino masses because it is not written as it is spoken in the same manner that the native languages are done. The century-old Tagalog phrase “mahirap ispiliñgin” (difficult to spell) attests to this reality. Mr. Henry Ford himself refers to this fact when he wrote in his mentioned report the following:

“The use of Spanish as an official language has been extended to January 1, 1920. Its general use seems to be spreading. Natives acquiring it learn it as a living speech. Everywhere they hear it spoken by leading people of the community and their ears are trained to its pronunciation. On the other hand, they (the natives) are practically without phonic standards in acquiring English and the result is that they learn it as a book language rather than as a living speech. “(P.368, Historical Bulletin. Ford Report on the Philippine Situation).

The italicized part is true up to the present time. More so when many children, out of economic hardship brought about by a balooning foreign debt and the increased price of gasoline, electricity and potable water, can not attend primary and secondary schooling. That must be why English is fast becoming a minority language in these islands today. The government and the private schools do not have enough money to pay teachers a truly living wage. And the English speaking elite, as well as the politicians, find themselves forced to campaign in Tagalog, or Filipino, for votes. In other words, the Filipino language ecology has started to self-destruct with the de-emphasis of Spanish, the link between English and Tagalog, Bisayà and Ilocano.

But the Thomasites could not then go on with their task to teach English. The Philippines was not a Tabula Rasa with regard to language. There already was an existing Philippine language ecology with Spanish as its nucleus. The aim to therefore replace Spanish with English as the first step to also replace Tagalog (the actual basis of Filipino or Pilipino) along with Ilocano, Cebuano, and Hiligaynón, could not take off with success. And this was the case because the imposition of English was actually going against an existing language ecology that would later get back at even the English language, as it is now starting to happen.

But the early legislative Commissions that ruled the Islands were there to really impose English no matter the cost. And to do so, some draconian measures were inevitably, albeit tyrannically, implemented to help the Thomasites go about their linguistic task. The same Ford Report gives us a glimpse of these measures that came in the form of hard laws.

“Act No. 190 of the Commission (then the legislature) provided that English must become the official language of all courts and their records after January 1, 1906… Act No. 1427 extended the time to January 1, 1911… Act No. 1946 again extended the time to January 1, 1913.” (Op. cit. p. 368).

In short, it was the American WASP regime that started the idea about a language, whether English, Spanish or Tagalog, that must be taught by force of law in order to sink it in upon the psyche of the Filipino. This precedent glaringly belies the much later argument that “the compulsory teaching of Spanish by legislation would not succeed because of its obligatory nature”.

But before January 1, 1913 came, Executive Order No. 44, issued on August 8, 1912, had to allow Spanish to continue as an official language out of sheer necessity. In view of this situation Henry Ford, sounding almost exasperated, concluded that:

“The practical impossibility of substituting Spanish for English in court proceedings and in municipal government was such that even if English was imposed as the Official Language on January 1, 1913, Spanish would still continue in use.” (Op. Cit. p. 369)

Another law was enacted by the Filipino dominated National Assembly on February 11, 1913 further extending the use of Spanish up to 1920. Of this law, Henry Ford reported:

“There is no present prospect that Spanish can be superseded any more readily in 1920 than heretofore. And from all appearances, its place as an official language is securely established.” (Op. Cit. pp. 368-369).

By 1925 a so-called “Monroe Commission” came to the islands to assess the educational system started in English by the Thomasites. With regard the advance of English, this commission concluded:

“Upon leaving school, more than 99% of Filipinos will not speak English in their homes. Possibly, only 10% to 15% of the next generation will be able to use this language in their occupations. In fact, it will only be the government employees, and the professionals, who might make use of English.”

Upon the publication of this result, Modesto Reyes, a Filipino writer in Spanish, publisher and editor of the Rizalist newspaper-magazine ISAGANI, commented that “with the same funding and efforts spent, with the same system and other modern means of instruction now employed in the obligatory instruction of English, if Spanish were instead taught to Filipinos, the proportion of modernly educated Filipinos would have been greater than the number produced with English as the medium of education. Now, because of this failure with English, we have no other just and natural alternative but to adopt Tagalog as the national and the official language.”

And Modesto Reyes bravely added: “In our humble opinion, the Philippines already had a national and official language in Spanish when it formed part of Spain. And we adopted Spanish as our own language because we were in fact Spanish citizens. But came the Americans and without first turning us into American citizens, they just went on forcing us to adopt their language through an educational system paid for by our own tax money.” ISAGANI, P.24, Year 1, No. 5, June 1925.)

The shelling and bombing of Manila in World War Two, as provoked by the landing of the American liberation forces, killed many Filipinos. Among them was a big number of Spanish speakers and writers. And the entry of the liberating American forces suddenly made English a necessary tool of communication for grateful Filipinos who came to adore the G.I. Joe with his chocolates and his pampams.

But right after the grant of the July 4, 1946 independence from the U.S.A. the Soto, Magalona, and Cuenco laws were unanimously approved by a still largely Spanish-speaking legislature. Spanish was made a regular subject of the collegiate curricula. Because the older Spanish-speaking generations of Filipinos were still alive, this language continued, in the words of Henry Ford, “as a living language”.

It is because of this that the old U.S, WASP view of Spanish as a threat to English in the Philippines was resurrected. A black propaganda about Spanish being “a dead and irrelevant language” was launched. Parents and students were brainwashed to believe that having Spanish as a 12 unit course was an economic burden. (It was previously with 24 units because the other 12 were for the study of Filipino writings in this language).

With the 1987 Cory Constitution in place, the supposed Spanish threat to the advance of English was at last eliminated from both the official and the educational spheres. Article XIV, Section 7, Paragraph 7 of the Cory 1987 constitution provides that “Spanish and Arabic shall be taught on an optional and voluntary basis”. But while CHED refuses to organize a 12-unit foreign language course for the college curricula, neither Spanish nor Arabic, nor any other foreign language can become a regular subject in the tertiary curricula of this country. But the President of the Republic can remedy the deliberate violation of this constitutional provision by executively ordering CHED and DECS to organize unit accredited foreign language courses.

But will she?

After one hundred years since the Thomasites landed all that was achieved is the replacement of Spanish as the country’s official language. Aside from this we have the almost secret policy to force into phonetic Tagalog the unphonetic base of English, as pointed out by Henry Ford. This is now being done by ramming the entire English alphabet into Tagalog and into almost all the other major native languages by a DECS circular without any clear objection from the Commission on Filipino.

What could be tragic and funny is that this deliberate alphabetical cross-breeding is resulting into a pidgin called Taglish that may just further deteriorate the common use of English as it definitely and officially damages what used to be standard Tagalog or Filipino.

But the Filipino is said to be profitably entering the global village, albeit as a derided DH and as an entertainer, with English, or Taglish. This slave-like situation of Filipino migrant workers demeans all the previous efforts of the Thomasites. Filipinos today are being “educated” with compulsory English by the tyranny of the Jones law of 1916, the country’s foreign debt and the present Philippine Constitution, just to end up as virtual slaves and prostitutes in other countries that neither have English as their language.

Is this why the teaching of another international languages like Spanish is deliberately being withheld by the U.S. WASP dominated Philippine government of today?.

Is this why a foreign language course, with credits in units in the college curricula, can not be included by the now controversial Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) so that either Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic may be placed within the reach of today’s Filipino student?

Is language tyranny a part of the legacy of the Thomasites?

(originally published in eManila.com)

José Miguel García’s take on “A party-list group for the Spanish language”

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Below is fellow propagandist José Miguel García’s views on the creation of a party-list group to advocate the full return of the Spanish language to our country.

The Spanish language is the most noble of all Filipino tongues!

OUR SITUATION
José Miguel García

POLITICAL

Our political situation is basically American directed. Many organizations have been established to influence the development of our nation. Among them was the Statehood Movement to move to make the Philippines a state of the United States. As many Filipinos are really worshipping dependents of the Americans, these, I believe are many. Maybe the Americans themselves do not want this. To the organizers of this, all I can say is: ¡Sin Vergüenza! There are the leftists who have been fighting to establish a political power base. But because of their conflict of interest with the Americans, they have remained marginalized because of the American covert and overt maneuvers. There are the Partido Nacionalista and Partido Liberal. These are the giant political parties who, because of the pro-American characteristics of the personalities and their actions throughout history, they have remained dominant, strong, and have outlasted all other political parties.

CULTURAL

Our national culture is basically worshipping dependency on the Americans. When I was a student, I remember my classmates regarding our Spanish language class as the most useless class. Some even despised it. It is true for many of us Filipinos. Most of us cannot see its relevance to any of our pursuit of economic, social, intellectual, technological, military, or developmental aspirations at the personal or at the community level. America is the only point of reference for ethical values, for cultural excellence, sound economic doctrines, sound military doctrines, superior technology, superior race, and all excellence in development. You can observe them in schools, among our youth, television, our radio programs, the songs played in radio, advertisements, and in the attitude of Filipino soldiers among us.

The questions to most of us filipinos that come to mind when confronted with the daily decisions as we struggle for the survival of life of our personal, family, career or business, on whether to use Spanish or not is: what for when there is already english which is hard enough for us to learn; what for do we need two languages to learn when one which is English, will already do; what for when English is the language of the economically, technologically, intellectually, and biologically superior race; why should we use the language of our oppressors? How will this help my business compared to English? How will this help me in my career?
And the prevailing answers to all these questions are: there is English already for those in the higher economic strata among us; and there is already the Tagalog plus our own local languages and dialects for the majority who are of the lower economic strata among us.

DEPTH OF REALIZATION

Who among us who are interested in the Iberian language are really convinced that we need to recover it because it is a vital instrument to recover our inherited national identity and developmental code? And who among us having realized this also realize that this is vital for our path to recovery from a pathological denationalized dependent individuals with an autosocial defense system, towards a wholesome nationalized self-sustaining and independent cohesive social unit? Who among us who are interested in the Spanish language realize that our loss of our inherited national development which includes our national identity is at the underlying cause of our national corruption because of the absence of love of nation and in its vacuum is filled with struggling individuals out to fill our materialistic hunger which is dependent on foreigners controlling our country?

How then can we even expect the Spanish language, a vital organ it may be, to survive in a body already spread with a developmental Heredity Injuring Virus already at the advanced stage manifested by the American Imperialism Defilipinization Syndrome?

PERCEPTION

Let us follow the path of good soldiers or physicians. In a maze of conflicts, they see a clear pattern of the situation enough to conceptualize the problem thru which solutions are revealed.

APPROACH

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

The aforementioned remark is attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French writer and aviator (29 June 1900—31 July 1944). He was a successful commercial pilot before World War II, joining the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) on the outbreak of war, flying reconnaissance missions until the armistice with Germany. He joined the resistance movement, Free French Forces organized by General Charles de Gaulle against the German invaders. He disappeared on a reconnaissance flight over the Mediterranean in July 1944.

I mentioned the background of the author of that remark because I want to emphasize that his literary works which were notable were products of his experiences as a successful pilot. This makes that remark full of factual basis and therefore very credible.
Indeed, if you want to build a recovery vessel —political party for the Spanish language, which could take our nation to wherever we envision it to take us (towards economic liberation, towards high productivity, towards cultural excellence, and towards Hispanic shores)— do not convince the people to recruit, to organize and to go through the process. Instead, make the people yearn for the experience of a nation rich in glory — something that they could see and touch, and that it is no longer dependent on another people who control us, since this is already something they inherited, and it is their own and can come home to. Then you have build an inspired people. An inspired people will no longer be them as differentiated from you. From then on, they will no longer be identified as they. From then on, they will identify themselves as, we. It is because what has been sparking the passion in you is already the same in them. They have become you and you have become them. Then this time there is only we and us.

OPERATIONALIZATION OF THE EXUPÉRY CONCEPT

There would not be anymore a need to tell the people among us what process to take to build an organization to recover the Spanish language. We the people who have been inspired would not only not anymore need to be told what the procedures are, we ourselves would decide to build that organization. We would decide not only to build that organization but we would decide to build the best organization. The Spanish language this time would not be a decree written in a document, a requirement to pass school requirements or an artifact well preserved in a cultural institution. It would be alive within our developmental national hereditary code.

FACTUAL BASIS FOR THIS CONCEPT

That is the reason why I am preparing a report which evolved from my earlier report on “Developmental Basis…” It will serve as a basis for the recovering of our inherited nation. It is supposed to capture that golden era of our nation during the conception of our filipino, our birth, during our infancy and our struggle to continue to live inspite the onslaught by the american invaders and chinese who they also helped to invade. It was the time when we: the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, many of those who came from the Iberian peninsula, the Castillans, Euskaldunak, and the Catalans, the Iberian natives of the land of mestizos, and the natives of this archipelago all united to become hijos del país and to be called Filipinos; formed a nation not in paper but in offering self, in the service of the nation; were clean and our surroundings were clean; conducted ourselves in an excellent manner; when our aspirations were towards giving life for the nation instead of material pursuits; inspite of social injustices like land grabbing and political power monopoly committed by many among the rich and the unethical social practices committed by the poor against fellow Filipinos which were both plain selfishness and taking advantage of fellowmen, can be corrected thru the balancing process of our maturation as a developing provided that we are a sovereign nation. It would be a strong basis to prove that this is a vision organic to us filipinos because it has happened and it happened at a time when the infection transmitted by the foreign invaders were not yet deep and wide.

This is necessary as there has to be a basis for whatever process we might pursue thereafter be it a political organization or a pilot project. As to a pilot project, there has to be a conceptual framework as a guide to a more concrete but smaller social unit for simpler management. This can serve as a showcase for our concepts and will be a tangible proof that our concept works. Let us learn lessons from how the French people, and the Israeli people developed to become among the most powerful and respected nations in the world today.

FRENCH NATIONALISM MOVEMENT

France utilized their glorious military history and the French language thru education and media to unite the French into a single nation. This process took centuries of development. This resulted to the present pride of the French of their nation and their being among the top superior nations of the world.

ISRAELI IDEOLOGICAL MOVEMENT AND THE RECLAMATION OF THEIR STATE

The present Israeli nation which was recovered in the 1940s have been in exile around the world for 2000 years. For at least hundreds of years, a developmental concept was pursued and disseminated among the dispersed jews all over the world. This concept with a program, Zionist Movement, was just the preservation of the Isreali identity and eventually the regeneration of their inherited nation for the purpose of reestablishing that homeland they so longed for thousands of years. How that longing was sustained was the product of their identity which remained preserved for 2000 years. Your giving importance to our national identity is indeed valuable for the preservation of our original nation. Language which is Hebrew for the Jews was an important organ that facilitated the dissemination and the sustaining for generations this Israeli Ideology and unity. For further information about this nationalist movement of Israel, you can read http://www.zionismontheweb.org/zionism_history.htm

PILOT PROJECT

As mentioned earlier, a pilot project is one option we can consider to apply our concepts and programs to a willing host community. An example is the town of Taal, Batangas. Taal because it is a town which belongs to a province with one of if not the most nationalistic people of the country today. It is also a town which has a big percentage of it’s structures, demography preserved from foreign corruption. In this town a developmental program can be proposed to the people thru it’s mayor which would enable the people there recover their inherited character which was during the time our nation was born thru the intercourse of the Iberian and the natives of the place and not yet corrupted by the foreign invaders. The economy would be agriculture and tourism based as well as the organic potential of that community. We can involve organic agriculture organizations in the area. There is one authoritative and professional organization I know personally existing in nearby Malvar, Batangas. We can involve the Instituto Cervantes to conduct support for reintroduction of the Spanish language to the masses, architectural research of the town development during the Spanish times. They may have some documents or maps available. Something similar to this has already happened in Ilocos. It was something like a heritage preservation program. Their economy improved substantially. This proposed Taal development project can even be deeper in scope. This all depends on the willingness of the host people of the town. Other alternatives could be the towns of Guimbal and Concepción in Iloílo.

POLITICAL ORGANIZATION

This is a long process starting with the preparation of this report of factual basis of this organic concept and program, to the getting the right persons to work with this proposed project. We can work this in tandem with a political and auditing organization to conduct studies, search for funding and monitoring of the progress of the program.

If this succeeds, it can easily be replicated to other areas of the country. Bcause by then, we the people of this nation will ourselves be the ones who would yearn for that vast and endless sea of national excellence where we would have realized that this has been really our own home all this time.

12/09/09

Without Spanish, the Filipino will be disfigured

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WITHOUT SPANISH, THE FILIPINO WILL BE DISFIGURED
Guillermo Gómez Rivera

That is what many of our thinkers and heroes and nationalist writers have affirmed. One of them is Claro M. Recto. He was the one who said that “without Spanish, the Filipino will be disfigured”. He even added that without Spanish, the Filipino will be led to lose all his rights and will be led unto sophisticated forms of slavery, oppression, and poverty.

Senator Mariano Jesús Cuenco said that “only an anti-Filipino will work to eliminate the teaching of Spanish to the students in High School and College…” He added: “A Filipino, be he poor or rich, and more so if he is an educator, who works for the abolition of the teaching of Spanish, is a bad Filipino…”

The two statements coming from two great Filipinos complement one another because what they say is true.

Even former National Language Institute Director, José Villa Pañganiban, wrote that “the teaching of English, Spanish, and the native tongue in our schools contribute to compleat the Filipino identity and personality…”

It is then an established fact that those who are against Spanish are either bad or ignorant Filipinos. Or both.

A Minister of the Marcos regime declared, over TV and what was later called the controlled press, that Spanish is “useless because I find no use for it in my daily life…”

Irked by this official declaration, a young Hispanista asked him: “Are your first and last names not Spanish?”

“Yes,” answered the Minister.

“Don’t you use your Spanish hame and surname everyday? And when you want your bus to stop, don’t you say para?”

The Minister could not answer. He was proven wrong. Spanish is being used by Filipinos everyday, either partially or entirely because it is part of the national patrimony.

Spanish forms a good part of every major native language or dialect in the Philippines. The study of any of our native languages would not be possible without a previous knowledge of Spanish. This explains why Tagalog, called “Pilipino”, has not really advanced as a tool of education and science because the so-called “puristas” have been trying to undress it of its Spanish basis. The use of Lope K. Santos’ “Balarilà”, noted for its mispelling of Spanish words in Tagalog and the invention of new words to replace those of Spanish origin, is the principal cause of the stagnation of Tagalog as the basis of the national language project. Instead of spreading fast a national language, the “puristas” wasted time and money to first overhaul Tagalog of its Spanish influence.

We point this out to show that whenever Filipinos, involved in what could be a good project, turn instead to eliminate Spanish influence, the project they have fails. ¡Mga buisit!

In effect, there is an old Filipino tradition that teaches younger Filipinos not to despise Spanish, because to do so is to court bad luck, buisit. It is related to a prophesy (hulà). The Filipino should love the Spanish language because it is his language. He should study it with interest and not be ashamed to speak it always together with his other tongues. Filipino history, identity, culture, and literature are in Spanish.

Aside from having Spanish as part of his heritage, the Filipino youth should also know that Spanish is also an international language. It is the second language of the USA. It is the principal language of 1/3 of North America, the whole of Central America and the Caribbean countries, and the whole of South America (except most parts of Brazil), not to mention many countries of Europe and Africa. For trade, labor emigration, diplomacy, and the development of the professions, Spanish is important.

Aside from studying Spanish in classes, students will do better if they, by themselves, also make efforts to study Spanish outside of schools. To help them, they should encourage the inclusion of Spanish in publications and TV shows.

*******

This short motivational essay for students was taken from the textbook La Flor de Manila y Lecciones (Español Estructural) which was published in the late 1970s. I just made some very minor edits.

Which organizations should convene to create a political party for the Spanish language?

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I hope that the humble blogpost I wrote yesterday will not be belittled nor ignored by those who are supposed to back it up. I am not forcing them to support my idea — I am actually begging them to do so.

Please do your country a favor by bringing back the Spanish language as a co-official language of this country, vis-à-vis Tagalog and English.

I have no personal political ambitions. And even if I have the political machinery and mindset to become a statesman, I will still not opt to do so. It’s simply not in my system. I’m content of just sitting on the sidelines to observe and comment. To echo what former PNP Director-General (and now Senator) Ping Lacson said many years ago during a TV interview, “I hate politics. And to put it more bluntly, I hate politicians”.

So why am I doing this? Why do I zealously put forward the idea of having a political party to achieve this nationalistic dream of restoring the Spanish language to where it rightfully belongs? Because like what I said yesterday, the political arena is currently our only chance of achieving this dream. I may not have been able to register for the upcoming 2010 Philippine National Elections, but that doesn’t mean that I have totally lost my faith in our country’s political system. That’s why I’d like to give our democratic functions one more chance. Not by exercising my right to suffrage but by creating a “minor” or small political party (or party list) with the noble aim of recognizing the Spanish language’s true worth and deserving status in this country.

I strongly believe that putting forward the idea of making Spanish a co-official language together with Tagalog and English has a very big chance. In the first place, Spanish has long been an official language of this country until it was callously stripped of its status in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Most legal documents and statutes that we now have in the three branches of our government (namely the the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments) were originally written in Spanish before it was decided to translate them into English (and sometimes in other native languages). I don’t even have to mention the Spanish language’s impact towards our multifarious cultures and languages (not excluding behavior and even spiritually) since it has already been discussed and debated before.

The Spanish language SIMPLY needs to be brought back to the Filipino cosmos. Not for the language’s sake, but for OUR SAKE. It shouldn’t have been taken away in the first place.

I would like to call on all major institutions in the Philippines (and perhaps those in Spain as well), which has a strong connection to the Spanish language and culture, to sit down and convene about the language’s future in our country. Will the Spanish language just remain a thing of the past, something that should just be treated as an interesting scholarly topic for future dissertations? Should it be considered merely as a stepping stone by BPO professionals to augment their salaries? Should the language be treated only as a school subject? What should be the treatment Filipinos of today should give to the language of their forefathers and heroes who had helped shaped this nation? Shall we content ourselves of merely treating the Spanish language as nothing but a cultural gem that is kept in a see-through vault for everybody to see and admire?

To the best of my knowledge, the organizations which have the answers to the foregoing questions are the following:

Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española
Commission on Higher Education
Cruzada Internacional por la Reivindicación del Español en Filipinas
Department of Education of the Philippines
Heritage Conservation Society
Instituto Cervantes de Manila
National Historical Institute
Spanish Embassy in Metro Manila
Spanish Program for Cultural Cooperation
The Government of the Philippines
The Government of Spain (and concerned representatives of other Spanish-speaking nations)

And of course, the list should include the foremost online group in the country today which advocates the return, dissemination, and conservation of the Spanish language in the Philippines: the Círculo Hispanofilipino, of which I am a member since 2001. It was founded by –of all nationalities– a German!

It will also help if the powerful Zóbel de Ayala family revives the country’s oldest literary award-giving body, the prestigious and legendary Premio Zóbel which has been on a sabbatical since the year I joined the Círculo Hispanofilipino. Bringing back the Zóbel Award will not only spark the fiery zeal and interest to promote Spanish in the country’s sociopolitical landscape — it will also inspire writers who do not write in Spanish to explore a whole new linguistic world. It might even inspire the few remaining hispanoparlantes filipinos to bring out the literary genius in them (whatever happened to Marra Lánot?).

I may have missed some groups. But I believe that the abovementioned list should lead the advancement of the Spanish language in the country. A dialogue or convention should be brought forth. May this meeting be made a national event.

With the symbiosis of the groups mentioned above, this political party which will struggle for the advancement of the Spanish language in the 2013 Philippine General Election will not just be an ordinary party-list group.

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Today is the feast day of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

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