Reading my friend’s recent article about Manuel Bernabe’s “Al Sagrado Corazon de Jesus” made me reflect on our neglected literary tradition in Spanish. The Cory constitution had shut the door on Spanish as a Filipino language. The removal of Spanish as a compulsory subject was the final blow to a language that has been maligned throughout our history.
What would men like Bernabe think about what just happened to their beloved Spanish? Instead of honoring it by promoting it, our leaders paved the way for its uprooting in our society.
A few years ago I took up Spanish in Instituto Cervantes. My objective was to learn enough Spanish so I could read literature and accounts about our country written in that language. During this time, I developed an interest in our forgotten Spanish literature.
Although I’m far from being an expert I could say that knowing Spanish has brought me closer to our ancestors world. The one that’s closest to us. There’s nothing more liberating than knowing the language they spoke, the music they listened to and being able to read the language they wrote in.
When our leaders decided to turn their backs on what has been historically a Filpino language. We had been separated, without us knowing, from the cultural, spiritual, and intellectual experiences of our ancestors – somehow we must find a way to bring Spanish back.
“Al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús” became a song and was translated to English and Tagalog. The tagalog version was what I heard a few years back. A friend, GGR, actually recorded the song for one of his album. Last week I saw a youtube clip of a group called Koro Bulakan and I had goosebumps listening to their wonderful version. “No Mas Amor Que El Tuyo” according to the Bishops Conference of the Philippines is their official theme song. A recent recording by the Jesuit Music Ministry included the song in its original and Tagalog versions. The song is as popular today as it was half a century ago.
GGR told me that Bernabe once wrote that Filipinos are “waves separated” only to be “rejoined again”. His generation are the most hopeful of all Filipinos, they had a vision for who we would become. For them Filipinos have yet to fulfill their promise and potential as a people. GGR first met Bernabe in the 1950’s. I’m not sure if he met the man again. Bernabe died in 1990 in La Huerta. Here’s his recollection of the Bernabe who religiously attended Sunday mass at St. Andrew’s:
“I used to lived there (Parañaque)... I’m talking of 1954, my mother goes to church there, in San Andres… and my mother would talk to Bernabe (A year earlier he was awarded with the prestigious Orden de Isabela la Catolica and he was extremely popular among Spanish speakers) Of course, I was not inclined then so Bernabe was just another guy that speaks Spanish… Reciting his poem makes me want to cry… his poem should be sang by all because of that phrase (aparri hasta jolo) alone…Al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús is a mix of religiousness and nationalism… the poet Barcelon (Emeterio Barcelon y Barcelo-Soriano) once said that this poem is Bernabe’s passport to heaven!”
Hurtado de Corcuera who with his regular army and volunteers defeated Chief Kudarat (a battle immortalized by the “Moro-Moro”) used “Appari hasta Jolo” as his battle cry. “Mula Appari hanggang Jolo” are words that embodied the desire to unify the islands. We could argue against the spaniards real interest but if they lacked that common goal of pacifying Mindanao that island would not be with us today. Just imagine what Mindanao would be like if Christian settlements were not established. If the Spaniards and the volunteers stayed out of Mindanao, the country’s geography would have been very different from what we see today.