In this Inquirer.net commentary (published just today), Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas writes a brief description of Tomás Pinpín. The latter was a chino cristiano who authored and printed the first book in the Philippines during the early years of the 17th century. In this regard, it is but proper that Pinpín be honored as one of the country’s earliest cultural heroes.
On March 17, Bataán will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the creation of the Diocese of Balanga by Pope Paul VI of holy memory. On the same day, the 400th anniversary of the first book authored and printed by a Filipino will be celebrated, too. That author and printer was Tomás Pinpín, from Abucay, Bataán.
Pinpin was the first Filipino author in Tagalog and Spanish. He was also the first native Filipino printer by typography. He was the first Filipino poet in Tagalog and Spanish. He was the first Filipino to write a grammar for Tagalogs to learn Spanish.
He was a Filipino. He was a Christian. He was from Bataán. Tomás Pinpín was the first Bataeño.
Pinpín was born in about 1590. He received his education from the Spanish Dominican missionaries in Abucay and it was from Fr. Francisco Blancas de San José that he received his training in printing by typography.
An esteemed Dominican historian, Fr. Fidel Villaroel, OP, wrote: “In 1610, in the modest house of the Dominican mission of the pueblo of Abucay in the partido of Bataán, the first Filipino press brought to the world two grammars, which were the first books ever printed by Filipino printers.”
That year, Fr. Francisco Blancas de San José wrote the book “Artes Y Reglas de Las Lengua Tagala” and Pinpín printed it. Pinpín’s work, written in Tagalog for them to learn Spanish, was titled “Librong Pag-aaralan Nang Mañga Tagalog Nang Uicang Castila.” It was, in turn, published by a certain Diego Talangháy in the same year.
W. Retana says “Pinpín is the most interesting figure among the Filipino typographers, the patriarch of them all.”
Pinpín’s story is a saga of faith in God and love of his countrymen. In the beautiful “Sulat” introducing his first book, he acknowledged with a deep sense of gratitude that his Christian faith was a great gift from God Almighty.
In the same breath, he admonished his countrymen to aim high and study with utmost diligence the Christian faith and the Castillan language.
The memory of Pinpin must inspire us to ever move toward excellence in everything we do and to fight the gnawing culture of mediocrity and the degrading temptation of ease and comfort.
According to Father Villaroel, “Like all pioneering enterprises, the making of printing press in the early 17th century Philippines must seem to the contemporaries almost “mission impossible.” As Retana wrote in 1610, the first typography on these islands was like “self apprenticeship, like the quasi invention of the press.”
Pinpín teaches us diligence and fortitude. His memory is an inspiration for excellence and perfection.