Jose Rizal Bashers Lack The K

MANILA: The poem in question is "Sa Aking Mga Kabata" written in 1869 when Jose Rizal was 8 years old. Some people say, "Jose Rizal did not write that genius of a poem!" (Image is my shot from the Calamba shrine.) In response, I give you at once the original and my translation of it; if you are a genius yourself, you will find out that the Rizal bashers are no geniuses – they are all wrong!

Sa Aking Mga Kabata
Original by Jose P Rizal

To Kids Of My Own Time
Translation by Frank A Hilario
Kapagka ang baya’y sadyang umiibig
sa kanyang salitang kaloob ng langit,
sanlang kalayaan nasa ring masapit
katulad ng ibong nasa himpapawid.

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.

The 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.

How can Filipinos be so wrong about Jose Rizal, the most documented of the national heroes of the Philippines? (I'm not supposing it's because they haven't read enough of him or his works.) Too much bias, not enough study.

1st, no genius: Some say Rizal did not have the genius to compare languages at that age. They are wrong.

2nd, no K: Others say Rizal could not have written that poem because kalayaan was not spelled with a k until a great many years after 1869. They too are wrong.

3rd, a contradiction: Still others say Rizal could have not have written that poem because it would contradict his stand in this very early poem that "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.) He did not love Tagalog as much as he loved Spanish or German. They are equally wrong.

Mr Ernesto Thaddeus M Somerano says (12 July 2009, "And what better way to convince the Filipinos to accept Tagalog as the mother tongue by using a poem" that the national hero Jose Rizal wrought? No, Mr Somerano – they used the persuasive powers of the Tagalog President, Manuel Luis Quezon, to ram Tagalog down the throat of Filipinos as the basis for the national language. Do not blame Jose Rizal for the inadequacies of that language. (By the way, as a language, our Ilocano is richer than your Tagalog.)

Mr Somerano argues that at age 8, Jose Rizal was not yet studying Latin, or English or Spanish, or Tagalog; and "an eight-year old doesn't have the intellectual capacity yet to make comparative analysis of different languages." Mr Somerano, you are misinterpreting the poem, or putting words into the mouth of the poet. Kabata is not a comparative analysis of languages that the poet was incapable of doing. "Tagalog language is like Latin, / English, Spanish, and angelic tongue /" is explained in the last stanza: "Our own language, like any other, / had alphabet and letters, its own..." You call that "comparative analysis of languages?

Mr Somerano says, "Besides, one will notice that (Kabata) is somewhat pale and stern and a bit pedantic compared to young Pepe's other poems which are lyrical, flamboyant, and rich in imagery. Definitely, (Kabata) is not written in the style of the national hero." Mr Somerano, perhaps you don't know that writers mature, become deeper and change styles over the years? I'm 76, and I still write both from information and inspiration. For instance, I suddenly had this insight last Saturday, 15 August 2015, when I saw a Facebook post on the National Book Store's 2nd Philippine Literary Festival that will happen 28 to 30 August 2015 at Raffles Makati and featuring international bestselling authors Matthew Quick and Meg Wolitzer. (I wrote this essay last September yet, hence the earlier dates above.) I was jealous, and, to get even, it set me to thinking of a counter-feasting:

SCIENCE AS LITERATURE. A Festival of the Philippines, 2016. Science as literature (SALt), in print or online, in websites and social media. SALt comprises any or all of the following: anecdotes, animation, cartoons/comic strips, documentaries, games, jokes, movies, news/views, parables, plays, poems & photographs, puzzles, riddles, science non-fiction, short stories, and YouTube videos.

When you're a creative writer, Mr Somerano, sky is the limit – your imagination is the sky!

You don't think the boy Jose was capable of a lofty thought such as kalayaan? When you don't have freedom, to wish freedom is not a lofty thought – it's a given. Unless you don't care.

No name-calling, Mr Somerano.

You claim, Mr Somerano:

Nobody at that time would have ever wanted to go against the ghost of Rizal. Unlike now, he (is) almost considered a god. Everything he (has) said in his writings can transform things into gold. So, why not follow his advice? Since he "postulated" that you're but a stinkin' blowfish if you don't love your language, which is the language he "used" in writing Sa Aking Mga Kabata, why not believe in "his wisdom"?

Ah, Mr Somerano, you're working on another wrong assumption, which is the assumption of many of those who write about Rizal, except yours truly:

That the essence of Kabata is that of "love of language" – That is very wrong! And very superficial.

Except Frank A Hilario, all the historians, translators and explainers of Kabata misconstrue the poem as extolling love of language when in fact it was about extolling love of freedom! (I wrote about this 5 years earlier; see my essay, "My hero, Jose. Rizal without Ambeth Ocampo," 19 June 2010, Love of language is the obvious meaning but it was meant to disguise the true meaning of the word. The true meaning of "language" in that poem is found in the last stanza:

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.

Knock this into your muddled brains, you sleepyheads! If the poet meant by language Tagalog, then the last stanza is meaningless. But if "language" is a metaphor for "freedom," then the boy Rizal was 2 centuries writing ahead of his time.

A little boy of 8 has outwitted all the intelligent historians and scholars of the last 200 years! Including Teodoro Agoncillo, Virgilio Almario, Onofre D Corpuz, Leon Ma Guerrero, Salvador P Lopez, Ambeth Ocampo, Nilo Ocampo, Floro Quibuyen, and Ernesto Thaddeus M Solmerano. Especially Mr Solmerano, who is very insistent: "Jose Rizal never wrote 'Sa Aking Mga Kabata'!!!" (

The boy Jose Rizal was smarter than you think.

"Kabata." "Kalayaan." People make much of the fact that the letter K was not in use yet in 1869, when the boy composed Kabata; therefore, the boy didn't write it. A very simplistic reasoning. Remember, the poem was not published in 1869 but in 1906, 37 years after it was written, which of course used the new Tagalog spelling.

Somebody claims that the lovers of Tagalog knew that Rizal's "posthumous endorsement of Tagalog would have been very influential when discussions about creating a national language were just beginning."

The trouble with all those historians who doubt that the boy Rizal wrote Kabata is that they misinterpret the poem!

First, they mistake it as a poem on love of language – Tagalog.

This is silly and superficial. Which means that the poet succeeded in hiding his real intention in writing that poem. The reason for this is that the poet was naturally misleading his readers. 1st stanza: "if the people natural love its tongue..." 2nd stanza: "Since language is as estimation..." 3rd stanza: "His native tongue who does not treasure..." 4th stanza: "Tagalog language is like Latin..." 5th stanza: "Our own language, like any other..."

Yes, the poem is obviously all about the Tagalog language. But if you read the whole of the 5th stanza, it will tell you that since the alphabet and letters of this language vanished long ago, "language" does not literally mean language when Tagalog was still being used and in fact it was the one the young poet was using.

Yes, the poem is really about "kalayaan" (freedom) – the Filipinos were not free; they had pawned their freedom. The young poet did not want that message to be obvious; he was not after all an angry young artist.

So, if the Rizal bashers say that the young boy did not know anything except superficial about languages, they were right!

Second, the boy poet had a maternal tutor.

Even if the little boy of 8 did not know about the concept of freedom, the word or the historical fact, Rizal bashers forget that he had his mother as his tutor, and Doña Teodora was a learned lady.

Third, the style of Kabata is unique, deceptive.

No Rizal basher has noticed that the poem is full of words that refer to language: tongue, language, native tongue, Tagalog, language, English, Spanish, angelic tongue, language, alphabet and letters – 12 out of 132 words – all meant to waylay the unsuspecting reader. But the real message is not about language but about freedom, which is mentioned in passing in the 1st stanza. Language is mentioned again in the 5th stanza – but you the adult and scholarly reader have to read between the lines to know exactly what the unsophisticated, young poet is saying!

He is now saying that this language has vanished long before. He cannot be referring to Tagalog because it is the very language he is using. In the last stanza, the boy poet cannot but be referring to our lost freedom. Now, therefore, that poem was a hidden call to arms in the matter of the national language (freedom).

At 8 years of age, Jose Rizal was not innocent anymore.

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