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Ms. González’s “petty” remark

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Last Sunday, me and my wife Yeyette visited Señor Gómez in Rockwell Center (Ciudad de Macati) where he teaches flamenco. Aside from consoling him for the demise of his daughter, Yeyette was also planning of resuming her flamenco lessons.

At the building where the Great Old Man of Filipinismo teaches, I chanced upon a copy of The Philippine Star’s Modern Living section and saw the name of one of Literatura Filipina‘s most reverred figures: Mª Soledad Lacson vda. de Locsín (who happens to be an auntie of Señor Gómez). It was written by Star columnist Bárbara González, a granddaughter of María Rizal, one of the national hero’s sisters.

Below is the article which appeared last Sunday:

Locsín’s ‘Noli Me Tangere
SECOND WIND By Bárbara C. González (The Philippine Star)

I have just finished reading José Rizal’s novel, Noli Me Tangere, translated by Soledad Lacson-Locsín, the late, great mother of one of my late, great friends, Raul Locsín, once publisher of the newspaper Business World. Doña Soledad was a dignified, well-educated lady who grew up speaking beautiful Spanish and therefore translated the novel masterfully. On the first page of her Notes or the book’s glossary, it reads: The title, Noli Me Tangere, is Latin for “Touch Me Not,” and comes from the Gospel of St. John, XX: 17, where Jesus says to Mary Magdalene: “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father…” The author relates this to a social cancer “of a breed so malignant that the least contact exacerbates it and stirs in it the sharpest of pains” in his dedication: “To My Motherland (A mi patria). On March 5, 1887, Rizal wrote to the painter Resurrección Hidalgo: “The book (Noli) has matters which no one among ourselves has spoken of until now — so delicate that they cannot be touched by anybody…”

I have had this book for many years but never read it. It was not very easy to read, not because of the content but because of the book’s size and weight, being thick and hardbound, difficult to read in bed where I do most of my reading. I know I have read parts of the Noli before, in English, when I was much younger, but no translation is as good as this one. I know I also read a few chapters in Pilipino — even acted them out for my eldest daughter so she would understand and pass her school year — but nothing was as beautiful or comprehensible as this translation. It is also obvious to me that Doña Soledad Locsín respected the writer and sought to translate exactly what it is he wanted to say.

Rizal wrote each chapter as a piece of a large puzzle, randomly handed to the reader so that in the end we would see not quite the whole picture. In the end we know what happened to everyone, from Capitán Tiago to Padre Dámaso, Doña Victorina to Linares, who became María Clara’s jilted fiancé. We even know that María Clara became a somewhat crazy nun. But we do not know what happened to Crisóstomo Ibarra, except that he was lying at the bottom of a banca that floated away, while the pursuing Spanish police called the Guardia Civil shot at Elias as he jumped out of the banca that he had shared with Ibarra to distract the guards.

If you are over 60, I recommend you read this translation of Noli Me Tangere. You will see fully what life was like when we were under the friars. How petty they were! You will question: what happened to our country? You will see how little has changed or that whatever has changed is very superficial. Filipinos stepped into the shoes of their colonizers and now act exactly the same way as the friars. And you will want to weep like Rizal did. He was executed at Bagumbayan, now the Luneta, in 1896, 115 years ago. Ninoy Aquino was shot at the airport in 1986, just a scrambling of the very same numbers. That was 25 years ago. Two executions. Two heroes. Each one followed by its own brand of uprising and still nothing much has changed.

Last Friday, Aug. 5, I was at the Little Theater watching the musical of Noli Me Tangere, tickets compliments of the National Historical Commission, who gave them to Rizal descendants. I would give the Noli production an “A” for effort. The libretto, if you could understand the words — because the orchestrated minus one was too loud so you couldn’t understand what they were singing — was written by National Artist Bien Lumbera, who was there. The performance, I thought, was too level. I am not sure I can explain it well. Usually you can draw a stage performance in waves, there are high, medium and low points, which shadow the plot. In this case it was like a straight line. Many of the descendants fell asleep. A few developed crushes on Gian Magdangal, who made a very good-looking Crisóstomo Ibarra.

Ryan Cayabyab composed the music but there was no real standout piece. I thought that Sisa’s song, as she was singing it, was the best but I could not even attempt to hum it afterwards, meaning the melody was not compelling enough to stick in the audience’s mind. I was just glad that I was still reading the Noli when I watched the show because, I guess, I understood it more. While the cast and crew deserve congratulations for their work — an A for effort, as I said — it still needs a lot of polishing to make the audience truly understand the Noli. I think that is the point of a stage performance — to enlighten an audience. You perform to make the audience understand the story. That night nobody understood what was going on except that Crisóstomo Ibarra and María Clara were in love and had to say goodbye because Padre Salvi was in love with her. But that was not all of the Noli.

I finished the book last night before going to sleep. I shut the book, put it on the floor beside my bed, and said aloud to no one in particular, “That was beautiful.” It really and truly was.

* * *

Send your comments to 0917-815-5570.

After reading her article, the only words that struck me was her elementary anti-friar remark: “How petty they were!” Since she left her cellphone number out in the open for comments, that is what I did. Below I print our brief SMS exchanges:

ME: RE: Locsín’s Noli Me Tangere’. Please don’t rely solely on Rizal regarding the friars of his time. By saying “how petty they were”, you tend to generalize.
ME: Remember: when Rizal wrote his novels, he was a Freemason. He had his biases and committed a lot of doctrinal errors.
ME: Thank you for your time. PEPE ALAS (https://filipinoscribbles.wordpress.com)
GONZÁLEZ: Thank you.
GONZÁLEZ: You moust (sic) be a priest or a pastor. Don’t read my columns. We will always disagree.
ME: Neither. I’m just an ordinary kid. I’m not a follower of your column. It just so happened that I saw you used Soledad’s name who happens to be one of my
ME: favorite writers. There were bad friars, then as now. But as a journalist, be careful not to generalize. Reassess Philippine History. Thanks.

I tried to be diplomatic with my comment. But what did I get? A “taray” reply a la Maricel Soriano.

Anyway.

Please, ma’am, get your historical facts straight. If you can’t, then please don’t comment on Philippine History anymore. Stay true to the title of the section in which your column belongs: MODERN LIVING.

And speaking of straightening up historical facts — Ninoy was assassinated in 1983, not 1986.

Spanish for English

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Thanks to midfielding1 (a YouTube user who uploaded the video), we can now listen to President Manuel L. Quezon giving a speech in Spanish! See video below (at 3:02):

President Manuel Quezon learned English in only 18 days (and not three months as I wrote in the comments box of that video in YouTube, my mistake; three months was actually the time it took for another great Spanish-speaking Filipino, Claro M. Recto, to learn and MASTER the English language). Quezon’s primary languages were both Spanish and Tagalog. But like most Filipinos of his time, he was more articulate in Spanish.

Yes, I said MOST Filipinos. Because you see, it is not taught in our classrooms that when the US invaded (not saved) the Philippines in 1899, they killed around 1,250,000 Filipinos — that is about 1/6 of the population during that time! And they murdered more Filipinos in such a short span of time compared to those who perished in more than three centuries of Spanish rule! And worse, more Spanish-speaking Filipinos also perished in the last world war. Those who survived either migrated to Spain or to the US. And the few remaining are now regarded as a very small and almost forgotten minority.

Today, there are more or less 3,000 Filipinos who use Spanish as their primary language, i.e., they think in Spanish (the 1990 census declared that there were 2,660 Spanish-speaking Filipinos).

In my family, there are only two of us who use Spanish: me and my dad’s sister, María Rubia E. Alas. Before us, the last member of the family who spoke in Spanish was Tía Rubia’s maternal uncle, Windalino Évora y Bonilla of Unisan, Quezon province. Uncle Carding was also fluent in French (another cognate of Spanish); he died in 1997, the last Spanish-speaker of Unisan town. Sadly, the rest of the family seem not to care about the language anymore. But I am trying to conserve it by teaching it to my children: my nine-year-old daughter Krystal is already conversational; my five-year-old son Momay can speak and understand the language moderately; my second son, Jefe, who is already two, can comprehend the language (I can already give out orders to him in Spanish); And I plan to make Juanito, who is barely a year old, a pure Spanish-speaker. Actually, my children’s primary language is Spanish. But since their playmates and our neighbors and my wife’s relatives all speak in Tagalog, I’m having a hard time maintaining the language up in their psyche.

Going back to President Quezon, one main reason why he learned English that fast is because of his Spanish. Although English is a West Germanic language, it is also a cognate of Spanish. Countless words in Spanish resemble those in English. Take the following words for example:

Biblia / bible
botón / button
mantener / to maintain
mártir / martyr
política / politics
responsable / responsible
sufrir / to suffer
teléfono / telephone
televisión / television
tolerar / to tolerate

Many proper names in Spanish also have their English counterparts:

Jesucristo / Jesus Christ
Clara / Clare
Juan / John
José / Joseph
María / Mary

That is the reason why the first generation of Filipinos under the American Occupation were much better speakers and writers in the English language compared to our generation. National Artist for Literature Nicomedes “Nick” Joaquín (1917-2004) is regarded as the greatest Filipino writer in English. But his primary language was Spanish. The quintessential poet in English and another National Artist for Literature, José García Villa (1908-1997, son of Simeón Villa, a physician of President Emilio Aguinaldo and a close associate of General Antonio Luna), also had Spanish as his first language. The Philippine Star’s Máximo Solivén (1929-2006) also spoke in flawless Spanish. And who could ever forget playwright and thespian Wilfrido Mª Guerrero (1917-1995) whose “Wanted: A Chaperon”, among other plays, is now considered a classic? Guerrero is a descendant of Lorenzo Guerrero (1835-1904), another native hispanoparlante. He first wrote in Spanish before shifting to English. And many of his plays were even staged in the US!

The abovementioned great men of Philippine letters had previous notions of Spanish, a daughter of the Latin language, therefore a basis by itself of English. That is why the English of the early 20th-century Filipinos were much superb compared to ours.

And that is why teaching Spanish in Philippine schools is crucial to the government’s efforts to make Filipinos fluent in English. The 24 units of Spanish should be brought back to colleges and universities. Imagine… Spanish has been with us for more than three hundred years. English for just a hundred or so. But why put so much importance to the latter? Isn’t it that Spanish is a global language, too? English was never ours in the first place. But Spanish is something that is already ours…

“Spanish is a national, Filipino tradition, for not only has it seeds in our history but roots that saturate the very core of our national soul and being, for it is the “open sesame” to the enchanted cavern that keeps like enduring treasures the highest thoughts and the deepest feelings of our race since the dawn of civilization.” –Claro M. Recto–

What are you lookin' at?

Special thanks to Inu Yasha (a reader of FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES) for sharing the MLQ video to us! =)

Joey de León’s Evil Poem

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The Buwan ng Wika is about to end. Cayá meron acóng pahabol na may quinalaman sa wicang Tagalog.

I’d just like to share to you this horrible piece of –excuse my French– crap which noontime TV host Joey de León wrote supposedly in honor of the late president Corazón “Tita Cory” Aquino, as the title of his poem seemed to suggest. However, it’s just another one of his malicious attacks against his controversial noontime TV rival Willie Revillamé. The controversial host of the popular noontime program Wowowee! is currently on a sabbatical due to some misunderstanding over his wrong choice of words when he requested ABS-CBN’s Traffic department to remove video snippets of Tita Cory’s cortege (from La Salle Green Hills in Mandaluyong City to historic Catedral de Manila in Intramuros) while his show was ongoing. This happened last August 3rd:

Please be cautioned, by the way, that this blogpost is not about the Willie-Tita Cory controversy (the whole country already knows about it, anyway), nor is this in defence to Revillamé’s reasoning. This is actually about de León’s hypocrisy, not to mention his lack of literary merit. His poem below (originally published in The Philippine Star on August 9th) seemed to be at first an elegy to the late icon of democracy. But after going through the first few lines, one will notice that he has vile motives.

The poem is without doubt witty. But wit alone doesn’t make one a poet.

Without further ado, here is de León’s hypocritical poem.

The funeral cortege of former Pres. Cory Aquino: My tears came naturally

Joey de León: jealousy won't get you nowhere.

Joey de León: jealousy won't get you nowhere.

Wala na sa piling ng mga Pilipino,
Tinig ng awiting Mga Kababayan Ko,
At lumisan na rin noong isang Sabado,
Inang nagpalipad sa awiting Bayan Ko.
Ako’y sumasaludo, paalam Pangulo,
May isa ‘kong lihim, kay tagal itinago,
Sa lahat nang inabot kong mga namuno,
Tanging ikaw lang sa luha ko’y nagpatulo.

Marami ang nalungkot sa iyong pagyao,
Magalang ang lahat at puno ng respeto,
Nagpasalamat pa nga Kapamilya sa ‘yo,
Dahil kanilang himpilan naibalik mo.

Subalit ano itong nabalitaan ko?
Nangyari noong Lunes, a-tres ng Agosto,
Habang inililipat ang mga labi mo,
Ika’y parang nabastos sa isang TV show.

At ang napakasaklap at masakit dito,
Ang nambastos pa’y kapamilya ng anak mo,
Napanood ito ng tao at publiko,
Kakaunti na nga, ngunit lahat nahilo.
Sabi ng TV host na mainit ang ulo
Pagkakita sa video na kanyang kasalo,
“Sandali, meron akong ano… sa’ting ano…
Hindi naman sa ano,” nagkaanu-ano!
Ayon sa Internet, meron pa s’yang nasambit,
“Sana pakitanggal muna ‘yan sa’ting traffic…”
At ‘di maaalis sa iyong pag-iisip,
Ang parada ng patay ang pinaliligpit!
At dagdag pa daw ng naghahari-harian,
“I don’t think na dapat n’yong ipakita iyan…”
Nasaan naman ang paggalang, o nasaan?
Mga sinasabi natin minsa’y pag-ingatan.

At ‘di pa nangimi nang sumunod na araw,
Pinilit pa ring ginawa n’ya ay tama raw,
Mga nakarinig ‘di na nakagalaw
At ayon sa iba sila na la’y napa-wow!

“… Pero ako, totoo ‘ko eh … “, sabi kuno,
Totoo nga at totoo ring walang modo,
Pwede namang sabihin itong pa-sikreto,
Kaya’t wala na rin mga paliwanag mo.

“Kung ganyan, pakita na lang ‘yan!”, ang hamon pa,
Para bang ang prusisyon nila-”lang – lang” lang ba,
Ang pangasiwaan ay pinapili pa n’ya,
Sumunod ang himpilan, nung August 5 wala s’ya.

May mga komentong pwede nang pang-harapan,
“On camera” baga sa TV ang tawag d’yan
At kung sensitibo man ang gustong bitawan,
Pagpasok ng commercial, hintayin mo na lang.

Matutong magbaba muna ng mikropono
At saka idikta lahat ng iyong gusto,
Lagi kang mataas lahat daw takot sa ‘yo,
Ratings lang ang mababa — totoo ba ito?

The breaking news breaks your heart — at ‘yan ang bawi mo,
Nang mahalata mong sumablay ang pasok mo,
Pero sigurado ika’y maa-abswelto,
‘Di ba ikaw rin ang may-ari ng network n’yo?
Nung Hueves nag-apologize sa diario naman,
O, akala ko ba wala kang kasalanan,
Tapos ng angalan, sunod paliwanagan —
COMPLAIN before you EXPLAIN ka na naman!
O ito kaya ay isa na namang “glitch” lang,
Tulad ng “two-zero” ‘di na natin nalaman,
O ito ay maliwanag na kabobohan?
Sa tingin ng marami, mahirap lusutan.

Ang sabi ng iba — istupidong mayabang,
At giit ng iba — istupidong mayaman,
Mayaman man o mayabang ang tiyak diyan,
Napakayaman n’ya sa kaistupiduhan.

Buti pa ang apat na honor guards ni Cory —
Sina Malab, Laguindan, Rodriguez, Cadiente,
Walong oras tumayo sa ulan at viaje,
Ang lahat ay tiniis at walang sinabi.

Samantalang ikaw na may bubong sa ulo,
Komportable ka lang sa malamig na studio,
Nang kapirasong libing sa TV sumalo,
Angal at inis ang sumambulat sa iyo.

Maaari din namang pabayaan na s’ya,
Subalit ang nangyari’y mabigat talaga,
Namayapang pangulo’y huling paalam na,
‘Di mo pa pinagbigyan … hoy, nag-iisa ka!

At nais ko lang sabihin at ipagyabang
Sa mahigit na s’yam na libong tanghalian,
Sa limang pangulong sa Bulaga’y dumaan,
Kahit isa wala kaming nilapastangan.

As you can see, the poem above is way off the mark. The funeral cortege of former Pres. Cory Aquino: My tears came naturally? That title is deceiving. It has nothing to do with the President’s passing at all.

Joey should also receive the same amount of criticism and online bashing that the beleaguered Wowowee! host is having right now. Using the late President’s name for his unexplainable hatred of Willie is uncalled for and even disrespectful. Hindí lang si Willie ang binábastos niyá dito cundí patí na rin ang dating presidente. Dapat alám na niyá itó lalo na nga’t may edad na siyá para suriin cung anó ang tamà at hindî.

And we thought that Joey has already patched things up with Willie (they had a fall out two years ago). What a shame for a 62-year-old accomplished comedian. Tsk.

To Mr. de León:

I admit that I do watch Revillamé’s Wowowee! from time to time and even prefer it over your three-decade-old Eat Bulaga!. But don’t worry, Mr. de León. Although I prefer his show over yours, we both have something in common: we both don’t like Willie; I for his arrogance and his occasional unsavory behavior, and you for I-do-not-know-what (¿waláng gamót sa inguít?). What you wrote is not an elegy; it’s a perfect display of your hypocrisy.

But I can proudly say to myself and to anyone else that, although I am not a perfect person too, I do not have the letters H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E within the fibers of my being.

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