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Ambeth Ocampo on Tomás Pinpín

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Everybody’s favorite scholar and today’s foremost historian, the very friendly Ambeth Ocampo, shares with us some tidbits of a great Filipino, culture hero Tomás Pinpín, to commemmorate Día de la Hispanidad which happens tomorrow (or just a few minutes from now as of this writing).

October 12, 1492 is the day Columbus set foot on America. This was an event once commemorated as the “discovery” of America but in 1992 was celebrated and repackaged as the “encuentro de dos mundos” or the encounter of two worlds, the meeting of the Old World (Europe) and the New (the Americas). When I was in college, we had 12 units of Spanish in our curriculum and each year on Oct. 12, students celebrated the Spanish National Day or Día de la Hispanidad with song, dance, and food. After college, I looked forward to the annual reception in the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Forbes Park to meet old friends and partake of the largest paellas in Manila.

Día de la Hispanidad for me is better associated with T. Pinpín, a narrow forgotten street in downtown Manila named in honor of the 17th century engraver Tomás Pinpín. Unfortunately, not much is known about him, not even basic information, date of birth and date of death — however Pinpín’s name lives on, at least in Filipiniana bibliographies, for the wonderful books he printed, many of them rare today. He is also remembered for a bilingual Spanish-Tagalog book he wrote and printed that resulted in his being conferred the title of “Prince of Filipino Engravers” that makes me wonder who is “the King” of Filipino Engravers. His other textbook title is “Patriarch of Filipino Printing” that again makes me wonder if the printing profession was exclusively male in the past because many book companies or publishing houses today were established or run by women: Esther Vibal, Socorro Ramos, Gilda Cordero Fernando, Gloria Rodríguez, Reni Roxas, Karina Bolasco, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Maricor Baytión and many more. So if Tomás Pinpín is the “patriarch” of Filipino Printing, we have to determine the “matriarch.”

Tomás Pinpín was active in his profession from 1610, when his name first appeared in Blancas de San José’s “Arte y reglas de la lengua tagala” (the first Tagalog grammar ever published), to 1639, when he published the “Relación de la Vida y Martirio del Jesuita P. Mastrilli” (Report on the life and martyrdom of the Jesuit Fr. Mastrilli). While Pinpín’s name does not appear in books after 1639, no one is sure whether this is due to death, retirement, or the passing of his printing press to his son Simón.

Bas relief of Tomás Pinpín.

Read the rest of the article here.

Archbishop Villegas honors Tomás Pinpín

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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.

Bas relief of Tomás Pinpín.

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.

Typography student

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.”

First book

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.

Click here for the complete story.

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