UP looking for Revolution. Rizal looking far ahead

clip_image003MANILA: And I'm looking to entertain you on the subject of Jose Rizal before, during or after his birthday on 19 June 2014, his 153rd. If you need an original, entertaining, motivational, free speaker next month, I'm volunteering – I will speak breezily on the subject "7 things you should know about Jose Rizal that will forever change the way you look at him and the Philippines yesterday, today and tomorrow." (The list I have here is only 5, and it's not meant to be spoken, only to be read.) 1 hour or so, with Q&A. Contact frankahilario@gmail.com. How can I do that? I'm a certified teacher. I have been writing in the last 57 years, and I have been studying Jose Rizal in the last 17. I have translated in English 2 of his poems (the boy poem and the valedictory), and I have written a book on him (details below).

Anyway, have you noticed? The UP Oblation is always looking UP. Jose Rizal is always looking Far Ahead (statue in Calamba City, while under construction, May 2011). The Pessimist and the Optimist. The difference is gross! One sees the donut, the other sees the hole. With one, we see nothing; with the other, we see everything.

I see both. UP is looking for Revolution. I am looking for Revolution. Revolution of the Heart. Redemption, a change of heart. So was Jose Rizal.

Some of you may be looking UP for Noynoy Aquino to go DOWN and somebody else to go UP.
You have to wait.
Some of you may be looking UP for Francis Pangilinan to become the new Messiah.
You have to think.
Some of you may be looking UP for Jejomar Binay to become the new Messiah.
You have to think twice.
Some of you may be looking UP for Noynoy Aquino to still be the Messiah.
You have to think again and again.
Some of you may be looking UP for a woman as the next Messiah.
In that case, TV star Kris Aquino is a winner!

I'm still looking UP for the national hero Jose Rizal to still be the Messiah of the Redemption.

Now, are we talking about the same Jose Rizal. Do you know the real Jose Rizal?


So you think you know Jose Rizal. So, which of these is his correct full name?

(1) Jose Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda
(2) Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda
(3) Jose Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonzo Realonda
(4) Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonzo Realonda

Name sources: (1) GF Zaide (Jose Rizal: Life, Works And Writings 2003: 4). (2) Asuncion Lopez-Rizal Bantug (Indio Bravo: The Story Of Jose Rizal 1997: 15). (3) Austin Craig (Lineage, Life And Labors Of Jose Rizal, Philippine Patriot 2004 Chapter IV as published by Project Gutenberg in the Internet, free to read and download. http://www.gutenberg.org/). (4) Rodel E Rodis ("Rizal the OFW" in Global Nation 8 November 2005 InQ7.net)


#1, #2, #3, or #4?

None of the above!

The spellings differ, Protasio, Protacio, Alonso, Alonzo. They all miss the point that Jose Rizal's father was Francisco Mercado first before he became Francisco Rizal. So, this is correct: Francisco Mercado Rizal. His Mother was Teodora Alonzo Realonda. So, the correct full name of the National Hero is:

Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal y Alonzo Realonda. (No matter how you spell Protasio or Alonso.)

A minor point, you say? Nothing is minor. Excellence is in the details.

You think you know Jose Rizal anyway. Listen!


In December 2005, I published my own limited-edition Jose Rizal book of 187 pages – indios bravos! with the subtitle Jose Rizal as Messiah of the Redemption – centering on his valedictory poem, one without a title, and to which everyone else gives the title "Ultimo Adios" with or without "Mi" in the beginning. And we have accepted either title without protest or question.

The distinguished ladies and gentlemen, including American Charles Derbyshire and our own Nick Joaquin who were before me as translators of this untitled poem forgot that literary tradition dictates that when a poem is without a title, you assign the first line as the handle. That's how all William Shakespeare's sonnets are handled; these ones I memorized in high school yet, almost 50 years ago: "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes" and "Full many a glorious morning have I seen" and "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" Those who first gave it the title "Ultimo Adios" were clueless about literature, including Rizal's friend Mariano Ponce who titled it 'Mi Ultimo Adios." Title uninteresting, dull, does not reflect the spirit with which it was written.

So, instead, I give it the intelligent title "Adios, Patria Adorada" from the first 3 words of the poem. In my English, you will find that it summarizes the whole message of this historical piece of poetry: "Adios, Beloved Country." I call it The ABC Translation. (You didn't know that adios is an English word? Do you know why I insist on that word? It has God in it; Rizal's poem has God in it, glorified. You can read my English translation here: "Translating a hero," The Creattitudes Encyclopedia, blogspot.com.)

About the content of Rizal's valedictory poem, I have written a book, indios bravos! with the subtitle "Jose Rizal as Messiah of the Redemption" (2005, 187 pages, 8.5x11, limited edition). In this book, I reveal many secrets hidden in that poem. I also declare that the most beloved of the translations, that of Charles Derbyshire, is a bad translation. Let me give you an example; here is the original 4th stanza:

"Tambien por ti la diera, la diera por tu bien."

Charles Derbyshire's translation: "Still would I give it thee, nor count the cost."
Frank A Hilario's translation: "Would for you give I still, still I give for your good."

Derbyshire misleads while I follow the almost literal but beautiful inversion of the sequence of the words in the two phrases in Rizal's original line.

Not only is Derbyshire's popular translation coarse and unfaithful; it also mistranslates "por tu bien" as "count the cost" when the poet is not talking about cost but instead about good!

Now you see, there are many things you don't know about Rizal. Be careful about popular!


What about his boy poem "Sa Aking Mga Kabata" – what is the real message? Do you really understand it? Is it a patriotic poem? Is it a nationalistic poem? Does it really say what the nationalists say it says? Let's study the original and my English translation:

Sa Aking Mga Kabata
Original by Jose P Rizal

Kapagka ang baya’y sadyang umiibig
Sa kanyang salitang kaloob ng langit,
Sanlang kalayaan nasa ring masapit
Katulad ng ibong nasa himpapawid.

To Kids Of My Own Time
Translated by Frank A Hilario

If the people naturally love
Its tongue that is a gift from Heaven,
Pawned freedom too it will seek to gain
As the bird that flies the sky above.

Pagka’t ang salita’y isang kahatulan
Sa bayan, sa nayo’t mga kaharian,
At ang isang tao’y katulad, kabagay
Ng alin mang likha noong kalayaan.

Since language is an estimation
Of kingdom, town and community,
And man is like, a match to any
Creature who has been of freedom born.

Ang hindi magmahal sa sariling wika
Mahigit sa hayop at malansang isda;
Kaya ang marapat pagyamaning kusa
Na tulad sa inang tunay na nagpala.

His native tongue who does not treasure
Is worse than a beast or smelly fish;
’Tis right that on our own we nourish
Like a mother who bestows favor.

Ang wikang Tagalog tulad din sa Latin
Sa Ingles, Kastila at salitang anghel,
Sapagka’t ang Poong maalam tumingin
Ang siyang naggawad, nagbigay sa atin.

Tagalog language is like Latin,
English, Spanish, and angelic tongue,
Because God who has the wisdom
Is He who gave, to us did assign.

Ang salita nati’y tulad din sa iba
Na may alfabeto at sariling letra,
Na kaya nawala’y dinatnan ng sigwa
Ang lunday sa lawa noong dakong una.

Our own language, like any other,
Had alphabet and letters, its own,
Now vanished since by waves overthrown
Like bancas in the lake long before.

Let me point out first that I improved on Rizal in this poem – his original is a sleep-inducing /a/a/a/a/ while mine is a more challenging and lively /a/b/b/a/. Of course, there is the difference in age: He was a boy of 8 when he wrote his poem, while I was already a big boy of 65 when I translated that boy's poem. The young boy is monotonous; the old man is melodious.

And while I labored on my translation, that's when I saw what all the biographers and admirers and translators of Jose Rizal before me didn't see, and which you are about to see.

You see, the most famous and most often quoted lines in the whole poem are the first 2 lines in the 3rd stanza: "Ang hindi magmahal sa sariling wika / Mahigit sa hayop at malansang isda." (His native tongue who does not treasure / Is worse than a beast or smelly fish.)

Since this is a poem, we have to take it literally, but more so literarily.

Literally. What's the literal meaning? The nationalists take "sariling wika" as meaning "its tongue" (1st stanza) or "native tongue" (3rd stanza) or "Tagalog language" (4th stanza) or "own language" (5th & last stanza) – that's very consistent; anyone of those in quotes is correct.

Literarily. What's the literary meaning? That's where the problem lies!

Read the whole poem again and stop at the last stanza. What does it tell you?

Our own language, like any other,
Had alphabet and letters, its own,
Now vanished since by waves overthrown
Like bancas in the lake long before.

That language is now vanished, gone, kaput, finished, the end. Now, if you equate language with Tagalog, because that was the native tongue of Jose Rizal, as he was from the town of Calamba in Southern Luzon, if you are right, the boy Rizal was lamenting that Tagalog was dead.

Of course not! Here he was writing in Tagalog. Read the poem again and you will see that the explanation is that when he writes sariling wika he really means freedom, or independence. Actually, he planted the word "freedom" early in the poem. Pepe was a naughty, brilliant boy poet. Note the language: "dinatnan ng sigwa" ("by waves overthrown") – these words refer to the overthrow of Philippine sovereignty by the Spanish conquerors, our loss of freedom. They did not overthrow Tagalog – in fact, the Spaniards wanted the Tagalogs to keep their tongue tied; they didn't want us Filipinos to learn their language and therefore their culture.

Read the poem again. Jose Rizal was not a nationalist; he was an internationalist.


If you insist that Jose Rizal was for Tagalog as the national language, why did he not write in Tagalog his revolutionary works Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo?

More: Why did he study German and correspond fully with Ferdinand Blumentritt? Did you know that Rizal's BFF was FB, who was a Roman Catholic through and through? I'm a Roman Catholic and I believe I know why. The Catholics will give you admiration for your talents and forgive you your sins! Didn't Christ say? "Love your enemies!"

And more: Why did he write in Spanish in La Solidaridad, the newspaper of the Propagandists? Why did those Propagandists write in Spanish? Are you telling me they did not love their country, and that they were ashamed of it? (At first they were, as Rizal wrote in one of his letters, but they overcame their inferiority complex when they saw the American Indian braves, proud of who they were even if they were being exhibited as uncivilized. Los Indios Bravos!)

Jose Rizal was writing to his target audience, which is always correct. With the Noli and Fili, he was writing to the Spanish of noble heritage or character, including the insulars and peninsulars.

And no, he was not for Andres Bonifacio's Revolution – he was for Jose Rizal's Redemption of the Filipino Race. Here is the 9th stanza of his valedictory poem "Adios, Beloved Country" (my translation):

Pray for all of those who perish without gladness,
For all those who suffer torments without equal;
For our hapless mothers who wail in bitterness,
For orphans and widows, for captives in distress,
And pray for you to see your redemption final.


He was Tagalog but he aimed his Spanish to the propagandists, to the reformers in Spain and in the Philippines. Tagalog to the women of Malolos. German to his friend. The communication lesson I have relearned reading and thinking about Jose Rizal is that I have to talk to my readers in their language, or in the language they should use for their best interests. And so, relearning the use of language from Jose Rizal, even as I am an Ilocano and adept at Tagalog, I write in English for 4 reasons:

English is the language of science. There is no science in in my Ilocano or your Tagalog; you can go on and concoct equivalent terms and call it Filipino, but why spend billions for growing a language that is local? The English language already is global – it's also free!

English is a beautiful language. If you want to compare Tagalog with English, place an original English translation of the Noli (like that by Maria Soledad Lacson-Locsin, which I say is the best English version) side by side with a Tagalog version (like that of Virgilio Almario, which Ambeth Ocampo says is "the best contemporary Filipino translation," inquirer.net) – if you are a Filipino, you will be disappointed at what you will find out. Impressive, even haunting, but daunting, deep Tagalog translations, they don't catch the nuance and the humor (satire) of the author, which are crucial in understanding the whole book.

English is the language of the world. I want to know what the world knows, and I want the world to know what we know in the Philippines, and what we are fighting for and why, and how.

English is our competitive advantage. We are very good at it, the Ilocanos, Tagalogs, Cebuanos, Ilonggos, Pangasinenses, Igorots whoever in the Philippines and anywhere in the world, so I'm calling on the nationalists, including those in my alma mater UP:

Stand UP for the Filipino! Open your arms, eyes, minds – and pockets. To English.
Why be blind and deny the Filipinos the best tool they can use to compete? With English.
Why not encourage the Filipinos to show the world their best? In English!

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