Books, Translations

Ang Munting Prinsipe – Kabanata 21

(This is a Filipino translation of Chapter 21 of the novel The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery. Translated by Rafael Cañete)

Noon niya nakilala ang lobo.

“ Magandang umaga,” sabi ng lobo.

“Magandang umaga,” ang magalang na tugon ng munting prinsipe, kahit nang lumingon siya’y wala siyang nakitang kahit sino.

“Nandito ako,” sabi ng boses. “Sa ilalim ng puno ng mansanas.”

“Sino ka?” tanong ng munting prinsipe. “ Napakaganda mo,” dagdag niya.

“ Isa akong lobo,” sagot ng lobo.

“ Halika, maglaro tayo,” yaya ng munting prinsipe. “Ang lungkot-lungkot ko.”

“Hindi ako pwedeng makipaglaro sa iyo,” sabi ng lobo. “ Walang nag-aalaga sa akin.”

“ Ay, pasensya na,” sabi ng munting prinsipe.

Nag-isip siya, saka nagtanong:

“ Anong ibig sabihin ng ‘alaga’?”

“Hindi ka tagarito,” sabi ng lobo. “Ano bang hinahanap mo?”

“Naghahanap ako ng mga tao,” sagot ng munting prinsipe. “Anong ibig sabihin ng ‘alaga’?

“Ang mga tao,” sabi ng lobo, “ may may baril sila, at nangangaso. Nakakatakot. Nag-aalaga rin sila ng mga manok. Iyon lang ang ginagawa nila. Naghahanap ka ba ng mga manok?”

“Hindi,” sabi ng munting prinsipe. “Kaibigan ang hanap ko. Anong ibig sabihin ng ‘alaga’?”

“Isang bagay na palaging nakakalimutan,” sabi ng lobo. “ Ang ibig sabihin, ‘bumuo ng ugnayan’.”

“ ‘Bumuo ng ugnayan’?”

“ Ganoon nga,” sabi ng lobo. “ Para sa akin, kabilang ka lang sa sandaang libong bata sa mundo. Hindi kita kailangan. At ikaw, hindi mo rin ako kailangan. Para sa iyo, kabilang lang ako sa sandaang libong lobo sa mundo.  Ngunit kung aalagaan mo ako, kakailanganin natin ang isa’t isa. Para sa akin, iisa ka lang sa buong mundo. Para sa iyo, iisa lang ako sa mundo.”

“Naiintindihan ko na,” sabi ng munting prinsipe. “ May isang bulaklak – sa palagay ko’y inalagaan niya ako.”

“Pwede,” sabi ng lobo. “Maraming makikita dito sa mundo.”

“Pero hindi ito sa mundo!” sabi ng munting prinsipe.

Mukhang lito ang lobo, may gusto siyang malaman.

“Sa ibang planeta?”

“Oo.”

“May mga mangangaso ba sa planetang iyan?”

“Wala.”

“ Aba, maganda diyan! May mga manok?”

“Wala.”

“Talaga ngang walang perpekto sa daigdig,” sabi ng lobo.

Binalikan niya ang kanyang sinasabi.

“Iisa lang ang nangyayari sa buhay ko,” sabi niya. “ Nanghuhuli ako ng mga manok. Hinuhuli naman ako ng mga tao. Kaya medyo nababagot na rin ako.  Ngunit kung aalagaan mo ako, muling sisikat ang araw sa buhay ko. Isang kakaibang kaluskos ng mga paa ang maririnig ko, kakaiba sa lahat sa ng narinig ko na. Sa ibang kaluskos, madali akong magtatago sa ilalim ng lupa. Sa kaluskos ng iyong mga paa, sabik akong lalabas ng aking hukay, parang nakarinig ng musika. At tingnan mo: nakikita mo ba ang bukirin ng trigo sa malayo? Hindi ako kumakain ng tinapay. Walang halaga sa akin ang trigo. Walang saysay sa akin ang bukirin ng trigo. Napakalungkot. Ngunit kulay ginto ang iyong buhok. Napakasaya noon pag inalagaan mo na ako! Lagi kitang maalala  sa mga kulay-gintong butil ng trigong iyon.  Lagi akong makikinig sa ihip ng hangin sa bukirin.”

Pinagmasdan ng lobo ang munting prinsipe.

“Pakiusap, alagaan mo ako!” sabi niya.

“Gusto ko sana, gustong-gusto ko,” sagot ng munting prinsipe. “Ngunit kulang ang aking panahon. Kailangan ko pang maghanap ng kaibigan, at intidihin ang maraming mga bagay.”

“Iyong mga inaalagaan mo ang tanging mga bagay na maiintidihan mo,” sabi ng lobo. “ Wala nang panahon ang mga tao para intindihin ang kahit ano. Lahat ng bagay ay nabibili na sa mga tindahan. Ngunit hindi ka makabibili ng kaibigan sa kahit anong tindahan,  kaya wala nang kabigan ang mga tao. Kung gusto mo ng kaibigan, alagaan mo ako.”

“Anong dapat kong gawin para alagaan ka?” tanong ng munting prinsipe.

“ Mahabang pasensya,” sagot ng lobo. “Sa simula, kailangan mong umupo nang malayo sa akin – ganyan nga – sa damuhan. Titingnan kita sa gilid ng aking mga mata, at hindi ka magsasalita. Madalas na hindi nagkakaintindihan dahil sa mga salita. Ngunit araw-araw, unti-unti kang lalapit sa akin.”

Nang sumunod na araw, bumalik ang prinsipe.

“Mas maganda kung babalik ka sa parehong oras,” sabi ng lobo. “ Halimbawa, kung babalik ka nang ika-apat nang hapon, ikatlo pa lang ay magsasaya na ako. Mananabik ako habang palapit ang oras. Pag ika-apat na, mag-aalala na ako’t di mapalagay. Ipakikita ko sa iyo kung gaano ako kasaya.  Pero kung kahit anong oras ka lang darating, hindi makapaghahanda ang puso kong tanggapin ka. Kailangan mong sundin ang mga kagawian.”

“Anong ‘kagawian’?” tanong ng munting prinsipe.

“Isa pang bagay na laging nakakalimutan,” sabi ng lobo. “ Ginagawa nilang kakaiba ang isang araw sa lahat, ang isang oras sa ibang mga oras. Halimbawa, may kagawian ang mga mangangaso. Tuwing Huwebes, nakikipagsayaw sila sa mga dalagang taga-baryo.  Kaya espesyal na araw sa akin ang Huwebes! Pwede akong maglakad hanggang sa mga taniman ng ubas. Pero kung ang sayawan ay gaganapin nang kahit anong oras lang, walang kakaiba sa mga araw, at mawawalan ako ng bakasyon.

Kaya inalagaan ng munting prinsipe ang lobo. At nang malapit na ang araw ng kanyang pag-alis –

“ Ay,” sabi ng lobo, “ iiyak ako.”

“Kasalanan mo,” sabi ng munting prinsipe. “Hindi ko naman gustong saktan ka, pero gusto mong alagaan kita.”

“Oo nga,” sabi ng lobo.

“Tapos ngayon, iiyak ka!”sabi ng munting prinsipe.

“Ganoon nga,’ sabi ng lobo.

“Kung ganoon, wala itong nagawang mabuti sa iyo!”

“Mayroon,” sabi ng lobo. “At dahil iyon sa kulay ng bukirin ng trigo.”  Dagdag niya:

“Balikan mo ang mga rosas. Malalaman mong ang rosas mo’y nag-iisa lang sa mundo. Tapos, bumalik ka rito at ibibigay ko sa iyo ang isang lihim bilang regalo.”

Umalis ang munting prinsipe upang balikan ang mga rosas.

“Wala sa inyong tulad ng aking rosas,” sabi niya. “Lahat kayo’y walang halaga. Walang nag-aalaga sa inyo, at wala rin kayong inaalagaan. Tulad ninyo ang aking lobo nang una kaming magkita. Kabilang lang siya sa sandaang libong lobo sa mundo. Ngunit kaibigan ko na siya ngayon, kaya’t nag-iisa lang siya sa mundo.”

At naiinis ang mga rosas.

“Lahat kayo’y magaganda, ngunit wala kayong saysay,” sabi niya. “ Walang gustong mamatay para sa inyo. Siguradong aakalain ng kahit sinong dumadaan na ang aking rosas ay tulad ninyo. Ngunit mas mahalaga siya kaysa sa lahat  ng sandaang rosas tulad ninyo.  Dahil siya  lang ang diniligan ko. Dahil siya lang ang tinakpan ko ng salamin.  Dahil siya lang ang nilagyan ko ng screen.  Dahil sa kanya,  pinatay ko ang mga uod (maliban sa dalawa o tatlong hinayaan naming maging mga paru-paro.) Dahil pinakikinggan ko siya pag nagrereklamo siya, pag nagmamayabang, at kahit walang siyang sinasabi. Dahil siya ang aking rosas.”

At binalikan niya ang lobo.

“Paalam na,” sabi niya.

“Paalam,” sabi ng lobo. “Narito ang aking lihim, isang simpleng lihim: Ang puso lang ang nakakakita nang tama. Hindi nakikita ng mga mata ang pinakamamahalagang bagay.

“ Hindi nakikita ng mga mata ang pinakamahahalagang bagay,” ulit ng munting prinsipe, upang matandaan niya.

“Dahil sa oras na ibinuhos mo sa  iyong rosas kaya siya mahalaga.”

“Dahil sa oras na ibinuhos  ko sa aking rosas – ” ang sabi ng munting prinsipe, upang matandaan niya.

“Nakalimutan na ito ng mga tao,” sabi ng lobo. “ Ngunit huwag mong kalilimutan ito. Habang buhay mo nang tungkulin ang sinomang inalagaan mo. Tungkulin mong alagaan ang iyong rosas.”

“Tungkulin kong alagaan ang aking rosas,” ulit ng munting prinsipe, upang kanyang matandaan.

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Books, Translations

Sputnik Sweetheart – Kabanata 15

(This is a Filipino translation of a part of Chapter 15 of the novel Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami. Translated by Rafael Cañete)

Nai-park na niya ang kanyang pulang Toyota Celica sa parking lot ng supermarket. Tinawag ko siya at nag-usap kami nang malayo sa kanyang anak. Sinabi ko sa kanyang mauna nang umuwi. Kailangan kong kausapin ang iyong anak, sabi ko; ihahatid ko na lang siya sa bahay mamaya. Tumango siya. May sasabihin sana siya ngunit hindi na niya itinuloy, pumasok na lang sa kanyang kotse, kinuha ang kanyang salamin sa sa kanyang wallet, at binuksan ang makina.

Nang makaalis na siya, dinala ko si Carrot sa isang maliit na coffee shop na malapit lang. Masaya ang ambience sa loob. Nagkapagrelax  ako dahil may air con. Umorder ako ng iced tea para sa akin; ice cream naman para sa bata. Tinggal ko  ang pinakamataas na butones ng aking polo. Tinanggal ko  rin ang aking kurbata at inilagay sa bulsa ng aking jacket. Naglulunoy pa rin sa katahimikan si Carrot. Walang nagbago sa kanyang mukha at mga mata mula nang umalis kami sa opisina ng guwardya. Patlang ang kanyang mukha, at tingin ko’y matatagalan siyang ganyan. Nakatingin siya sa sahig, iniiwas ang mukha sa aking tingin, nakapatong nang maayos sa kanyang kandungan ang mga kamay. Ininom ko ang aking iced tea, ngunit hindi ginalaw ni Carrot ang ice cream. Unti-unti natunaw ang ice cream sa plato nito, ngunit hindi pa rin ito pinansin ni Carrot. Magkaharap kami,  parang mag-asawang hindi nagkikibuan. Sa tuwing lalapit ang waitress sa aming mesa, mukha siyang kinakabahan.

“Bigla na lang nangyari,” ang sabi ko, sa wakas. Hindi para basagin ang katahimikan. Basta na lang  nagdatingan ang mga salita.

Unti-unting itinaas ni Carrot ang mukha upang tingnan ako. Hindi nagsalita. Pumikit ako, nagbuntong-hininga, at ilang sandali ring nanahimik.

“Wala pa akong pinagsasabihan nito,” sabi ko. “ Noong tag-araw, pumunta ako sa Greece. Alam mo naman kung saan ang Greece, di ba? May pinanood tayong video sa social studies, natatandaan mo  pa ba? Sa Timog Europa, sa tabi ng Mediterranean. Maraming isla at tanim na olives dito. Pinakamaunlad ang kanilang sibilisasyon noong 500 B.C. Sa Athens isinilang ang demokrasya; tagaroon din si Socrates na uminom ng lason at namatay. Doon ako pumunta. Napakagandang lugar. Pero hindi ako pumunta doon para mamasyal. Nawala doon ang kaibigan ko kaya nagpunta ako upang tumulong sa paghanap sa kanya. Ngunit hindi namin siya nakita. Tahimik na nawala ang kaibigan ko, parang usok.”

Bahagyang binuksan ni Carrot ang kanyang bibig. Nakatingin siya sa akin. Matigas pa rin at walang buhay ang kanyang mukha, ngunit nakasulyap na ako ng liwanag doon. Alam kong naabot ko na siya.

“Gusto ko ang kaibigang ito. Gustong-gusto. Siya ang pinakimportanteng tao sa buong mundo para sa akin. Kaya nag-eroplano ako patungong Greece para tumulong na hanapin siya. Ngunit wala ring nangyari. Kahit anong bakas niya ay  wala kaming nakita. Mula noon, wala na akong kaibigan. Kahit isa.”

Mas kinakausap ko ang sarili ko kaysa si Carrot, nag-iisip nang malakas.

“Alam mo ba kung ano’ng gusto kong gawin ngayon? Umakyat sa tuktok ng isang mataas na lugar, ang mga pyramid, halimbawa. Ang pinakamataas na lugar na maabot ko. Tumayo sa tuktok para makita kung ano na ang mga nawala sa mundo. Ewan ko… Hindi ko naman siguro talagang gustong makita ang gano’n. Siguro, wala na talaga akong gustong makitang kahit ano.”

Lumapit ang waitress, binuhat ang plato na may tunaw na ice cream ni Carrot,  at iniwan ang bill.

Bata pa lang ako, madalas ko nang maramdaman na nag-iisa lang ako. Kasama ko naman sa bahay ang aking mga magulang at ate, ngunit hindi ko sila kasundo. Hindi ko kayang makipag-usap sa kahit kanino sa kanila. Kaya palagi kong iniisip na ampon lang nila ako. O kaya’y nakuha lang nila ako sa isang bahay ampunan. Ngayon ko lang naiisip na kakatwa ang mga mga pinag-iisip ko. Ang mga mga magulang ko ay hindi kabilang sa uri ng taong mag-aampon ng kawawang ulila.  Ngunit hindi ko pa rin magawang isiping kadugo ko ang mga taong ito. Mas madali pang isiping hindi ko sila kilala.”

“ Madalas akong mag-imagine ng isang malayong bayan.  Sa isang bahay doon nakatira ang tunay kong pamilya. Maliit at simpleng bahay lang, ngunit masaya. Ang lahat ng nakatira doon ay naiintidihan ang isa’t-isa; nasasabi nila sa isa’t isa ang kanilang mga nararamdaman. Tuwing gabi, maririnig mo si Nanay na abalang-abala sa kusina, naghahanda ng hapunan. Mabango at masarap ang amoy ng paligid. Doon ako nakatira. Palaging kong iniisip ang lugar na ito, at bahagi ako nito.

“ Sa tunay na buhay, may alagang aso ang pamilya ko, at siya lamang ang tanging nakakasundo ko. Simpleng aso, ngunit matalino; pag may itinuro ka sa kanya, hindi niya nakakalimutan. Palagi ko siyang ipinapasyal sa labas. Madalas din kaming pumunta sa parke. Uupo ako sa isang bangko at kukuwentuhan siya ng kung ano-ano. Nagkakaintindihan kami. Iyon ang pinakamasasayang sandali sa aking kabataan. Nang grade five ako, nabundol ang aming aso ng truck  malapit sa aming bahay at namatay. Hindi na ako pinayagan pa ng mga magulang kong bumili ng bagong aso.  Ang ingay at ang dumi ng mga aso, sabi nila sa akin, malaking abala.

“Nang mamatay ang aking aso, lagi na lang akong nasa loob ng aking kuwarto, nagbabasa.  Ang mundo sa loob ng mga aklat ay parang mas totoo kaysa sa kahit ano. May mga bagay akong nakikita na noon ko lang nakita sa buong buhay ko. Matalik kong kaibigan ang mga aklat at musika. May dalawa akong kaibigan sa paaralan, ngunit wala akong nakilalang kahit sinong mapagsasabihan ng laman ng puso ko.  Sandali lang kung mag-usap kami ng mga kaibigan ko; naglalaro lang kami ng soccer.  Kapag may problema ako, wala akong napagsasabihan. Pinag-iisipan at nilulutas ko ito nang mag-isa. Hindi sa mag-isa lang talaga ako. Ganoon lang talaga ang buhay. Sa bandang huli, walang ibang maasahan ang mga tao kundi ang kanilang mga sarili.

“Ngunit nang pumasok ako sa kolehiyo, may nakilala akong kaibigan. Siya iyong kinukwento ko. Nagbago ang takbo ng isip ko. Napagtanto kong ang pag-iisip nang mag-isa ang nagtatali sa akin sa iisang pananaw. Noon ko naramdaman ang lungkot ng pag-iisa.

“Ang pag-iisa, parang ganito ang nararamdaman mo kapag nakatayo sa  bukana ng ilog, pinanonood ang pagdaloy ng tubig palabas sa dagat. Nagawa mo na ba iyon? Tumayo sa bukana ng ilog at panoorin ang pagdaloy ng tubig palabas sa dagat?

Hindi sumagot si Carrot.

“Ako, oo,” sabi ko.

Nanlalaki ang mga matang tumingin sa akin si Carrot.

“Hindi ko alam kung bakit malungkot ang panooring humalo ang tubig ilog sa tubig dagat. Pero malungkot talaga. Subukan mo minsan.”

Kinuha ko ang aking jacket, pati ang bill, at dahan-dahang tumayo sa kinauupuan ko. Inilagay ko ang isang kamay ko sa balikat ni Carrot. Tumayo na rin siya. Binayaran ko ang bill saka kami umalis ng coffee shop.

Inabot kami ng tatlumpung minuto sa paglalakad patungo sa kanyang bahay.  Sabay kaming naglakad, ngunit hindi nag-uusap.

May isang maliit na ilog malapit sa kanyang bahay.  May sementadong tulay sa ibabaw nito. Pagkaliit-liit, mas mukha pang drainage canal na pinalawak kaysa ilog. Ginamit siguro itong irigasyon nang may mga bukirin pa sa lugar na ito. Ngunit malabo na ngayon ang tubig, at may maamoy pang detergent. May mga tumubo nang damo sa lupa sa ilalim ng ilog. Sa gitna ng ilog, may isang itinapon nang komiks na nakabukas.  Huminto sa gitna ng tulay si Carrot at dinungaw ang ilog mula sa itaas. Matagal kaming nakatayo roon. Ayaw  pa niya sigurong umuwi ng bahay, at naiintidihan ko siya.

Dumukot si Carrot sa bulsa ng kanyang pantalon, naglabas ng isang susi, at iniabot  iyon sa akin. Isang ordinaryong susi, may nakakabit na pulang tag. May nakasulat na STORAGE 3 sa tag. Iyon ang susi ng storage room na hinahanap kanina ng gwardyang si Nakamura. Maaring sandaling naiwan si Carrot sa silid, natagpuan niya ang susi sa drawer, at itinago ito sa kanyang bulsa. Isang malaking misteryo ang utak ni Carrot, mas malaki pa sa inaakala ko. Kakaibang bata.

Inabot ko ang susi. Sa aking palad nadama ko ang bigat ng lahat ng mga tao humawak dito.  Ang susi ay masama, madumi, walang utak. Saglit akong naguluhan sa aking nadarama, kaya nailaglag ko sa tubig ang susi. Lumikha iyon ng isang maliit na pagsabog sa ibabaw ng tubig.  Mababaw lang ang ilog, ngunit  malabo ang tubig, kaya madaling nawala sa aming paningin ang susi. Magkatabi kami ni Carrot na pinagmasdan ang tubig ng ilang sandali. Parang sumaya ako, gumaan ang aking pakiramdam.

“Huli na para isauli pa iyon,” sabi ko, sa sarili ko kaysa kay Carrot. “ Sigurado akong may duplicate sila noon.  Aba, iyon yata ang pinakamamahal nilang storage room.”

Inabot ko kay Carrot ang aking kamay, at maingat niya rin itong inabot. Nadama ko ang kanyang mga mapapayat at maliliit na daliri. Nadama ko na ang ganito – saan kaya? – matagal na panahon na ang nakalilipas. Hawak kamay naming tinungo ang kanyang bahay.

Inabot ko ang susi. Sa aking palad nadama ko ang bigat ng lahat ng mga tao humawak dito.  Ang susi ay masama, madumi, walang utak. Saglit akong naguluhan sa aking nadarama, kaya nailaglag ko sa tubig ang susi. Lumikha iyon ng isang maliit na pagsabog sa ibabaw ng tubig.  Mababaw lang ang ilog, ngunit  malabo ang tubig, kaya madaling nawala sa aming paningin ang susi. Magkatabi kami ni Carrot na pinagmasdan ang tubig ng ilang sandali. Parang sumaya ako, gumaan ang aking pakiramdam.

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Books, Translations

Sputnik Sweetheart – Kabanata 1

(This is a Filipino translation of a part of Chapter 1 of  the novel Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami. Translated by Rafael Cañete.)

“Parang kamalig ang utak ko, punong-puno ng mga bagay na gusto kong sulatin,” sabi ni Sumire. “ Mga larawan, mga eksena, mga salita – lahat sila, kumikislap sa isip ko, buhay na buhay! Magsulat ka, sigaw sila. Isang bagong kwento ang naghihintay na maipanganak, nararamdaman ko. Dadalhin ako nito sa isang bagong lugar. Kaso, pag nakaupo na ako sa desk ko para magsulat, parang may kung anong mahalaga ang kulang. Walang nabubuo – walang kahit anong nabubuong kristal, puro bato lang. At hindi ako nadadala sa ibang lugar.”

Nakasimangot na pinulot ni Sumire ang kanyang ika-dalawang-daan-at-limampung  bato, saka itinapon ito sa lawa.

“Baka may kulang sa akin. Iyong kailangan para maging isang nobelista.”

Sinundan iyon ng malalim na katahimikan. Parang hinihingi niya ang aking palaging nakahandang opinyon.

Pagkatapos ng ilang saglit, nagsalita ako. “ Noong unang panahon sa Tsina, may mga lungsod na napalilibutan ng matataas na pader na may malalaki at matatayog na tarangkahan. Hindi lang sila pasukan at labasan ng mga tao; may mas mahalaga silang gamit. Naniniwala ang mga tao noon  na ang kaluluwa ng lungsod ay nasa tarangkahan nito. O dapat naroon ang kaluluwang ito. Parang sa Europa noong gitnang panahon: naniniwala ang mga tao na ang katedral at plaza ang puso ng lungsod. Kaya hanggang ngayon, marami pa ring nakatayong naggagandang tarangkahan sa Tsina. Alam mo ba kung paano itinayo ng mga Tsino ang mga tarangkahang ito?

“Hindi ko alam,” sagot ni Sumire.

“ Nagdadala sila ng mga kariton sa mga matatandang larang upang manguha ng mga  namumuting butong nabaon doon, o kaya’y pakalat-kalat. Matandang bansa na ang Tsina – maraming matatandang larang – kaya hindi na nila kailangan pang lumayo. Sa lagusan ng lungsod, nagtatayo sila ng tarangkahan at isinasamang sementuhin dito ang mga buto.  Umaasa silang sa ganitong paraan, patuloy na mababantayan ng mga namatay  nang mandirigma ang kanilang bayan. Hindi lang ‘yan. Pag buo na ang tarangkahan, nagdadala ang mga tao ng ilang mga aso, ginigilitan ang mga leeg, at ibinabasbas ang dugo sa tarangkahan. Kapag naihalo na ang sariwang dugo sa tuyong  buto  saka lang magigising ang kaluluwa ng mga patay. Parang ganoon.”

Tahimik na naghintay si Sumireng magpatuloy ako.

“Parang ganoon din ang pagsusulat ng nobela. Nangunguha ka ng mga buto, tapos gagawa ka ng tarangkahan.  Pero gaano man kaganda ang tarangkahan, hindi pa rin iyon sapat para ang nobela’y  mabuhay, huminga. Ang isang kwento ay hindi produkto ng mundong ito. Ang buhay na kwento ay nangangailangan ng isang mahiwagang binyag upang maiugnay ang mundong ito sa mundo sa kabila.

“Ang ibig mong sabihin, kailangan kong maghanap ng aso?”

Tumango ako.

“At sariwang dugo?”

Kinagat ni Sumire ang kanyang labi at nag-isip. Isa pang kawawang bato ang itinapon niya sa lawa. “Ayoko talagang pumatay ng hayop hangga’t maari.”

“Metaphor lang  ‘yon,” sabi ko. “Hindi mo kailangang pumatay ng kahit ano.”

“Parang ganoon din ang pagsusulat ng nobela. Nangunguha ka ng mga buto, tapos gagawa ka ng tarangkahan.  Pero gaano man kaganda ang tarangkahan, hindi pa rin iyon sapat para ang nobela’y  mabuhay, huminga. Ang isang kwento ay hindi produkto ng mundong ito. Ang buhay na kwento ay nangangailangan ng isang mahiwagang binyag upang maiugnay ang mundong ito sa mundo sa kabila.

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Personal Experiences

Teacher, Teacher

(Because it is often the most important things that are forgotten, this post doesn’t contain any photograph.)

When my friend said it was a boy, the first thing that came to mind was: “I hope he’s not a brat.”

Jen had just told me that she was passing to me her tutoring job, after coming up with the painful decision to relinquish some of her commitments to free up some time for rest. Tutoring a ten-year old Korean boy was one of those commitments.

What exactly her illness was I didn’t know, because she didn’t talk about it in clear-cut terms. All I knew about it was that it had something to do with her blood, and that the doctor had gone so far as advising her to skip school that year until she is well enough. Of course, she couldn’t do that – or she didn’t want to do that. She had placed her studies on top of the totem pole of her priorities, and nothing could knock it down from up there, not even some unseen glitch in her bloodstream.

So instead of leaving school, she just eked out as much free time as she could from her hectic day-to-day schedule.  Besides working as a student assistant at the Department of Political Science – cold-calling, faxing, and taking orders from professors – Jen had also been spending her afternoons in the company of a fourth grader, teaching his Korean tongue to speak English for a few weeks now. Jen also knew that I badly needed money – I always did. So the tutoring job became the first commitment Jen had to give up; but not necessarily abandoning it, for she put it in my hands. [This was in 2007]

His name was Jun. Through Jen’s way of telling me her tutor stories, I could say that she had been taken up by him. Jen described Jun as this affectionate child who could make her swoon by blurting out Tagalog words. Then again, Jen had always loved children.

As my way of preparing myself, I would rewind those stories in my head, plodding through them, peeking under the pristine white robe for the tail that would betray the little devil. Didn’t Jen also tell me that Jun would often pull pranks on Peachy ? Jen had described Peachy as the antithesis to the rambunctious Jun, the bespectacled, reed-thin, elder sister who preferred to read her fifth-grade English lessons in silence.

Soon, Jen brought me with her – my job interview. The family lived in the third floor of a condominium somewhere in Kalayaan Avenue in Diliman, which was about ten minutes away from the University of the Philippines where Jen and I went to.  Jun and Peachy lived there with their mother and uncle. A house help comes every afternoon to cook and wash clothes.

Miss Jane Jeong, Jun and Peachy’s mother who looked so young to mother two kids, told me that she preferred a college student as her children’s tutor because college students know “deep words.” She probably wanted Jun and Peachy to be writers. The siblings went to Kostka School, a private school near the Ateneo and Miriam College in Katipunan.

Miss Jane Jeong, Jun and Peachy’s mother who looked so young to mother two kids, told me that she preferred a college student as her children’s tutor because college students know “deep words.”

The kids stood up to what I imagined them to be, at least on the first time I met them. I thought Jun was a bit small for a ten-year-old; he looked like a small nine-year old. But what he lacked in height, he compensated with his voice. When he spoke, his voice still high-pitched like a violin, it sounded as if four other Juns were in the room. Things seemed to pop in his mind every second, and he felt the need to let the whole world know those things.

Even on the first meeting, Jun immediately warmed to me. He would show me everything he owned – playing cards, plastic sword, books.  Even my clothes caught his rabid attention. I was wearing a faux layered shirt then, the kind that looked like I was wearing a shirt over another but was actually a striped shirt attached with another separate collar, sleeve and tail on it.

“Is this real?” he asked, fingering my shirt, as if looking where the first shirt ended and the second shirt begun. He went to the closet, picked a shirt, and showed it to me. A brown shirt with a second collar and sleeve and tail attached, a smaller version of the shirt I was wearing. “The same!” he said, grinning.

I found myself looking back through the years, to the time when I was a ten-year-old myself.  I was not as outgoing as this kid. I was speechless and almost shook with nerves around strangers — as if they were about to do me some harm. And here was another ten-year old, sharing fashion ideas with someone he just met this afternoon, who was eight years older than he was, and someone who belonged to a different culture at that.

As Jun flew all over the bedroom, putting a great show for his teachers, Peachy wordlessly sat on the parquet floor. If not for the Asian obsession with respect for elders and superiors, the girl would have left the room long before. I knew because I was more like her when I was eleven. The contrast in Jun’s and Peachy’s personalities was even magnified by colors of their skins. Jun’s complexion was a glowing bronze, probably the effect of the Philippines’ tropical climate. Peachy, on the other hand, had remained pale, giving her an otherworldly aura.

If not for the Asian obsession with respect for elders and superiors, the girl would have left the room long before.

From time to time, there would be tensioned exchanges between the siblings, both speaking in Korean. Ah, there’s the brat! But didn’t my elder sister and I also often fight when we were their ages?

That afternoon, I also got the name I would answer to during my days as the tutor. “Teacher, Teacher,” Jun called me, as he shook my arm, trying to get my attention – as if my first name was not Rafael but Teacher, and my last name was not Cañete, but Teacher. So Teacher Teacher I became.

Right after my last class at the UP ended at four in the afternoon, I would rush right away to the Jeong’s place. That was my first job, so I might as well impress my first boss by being punctual.

I arrived there early, often with Jun and Peachy still at school. Sometimes, it was Miss Jane herself who kept me company as we waited for the children. In other times, it was her twentysomething younger brother, who always tried to make me drink beer – I knew now from whom could Jun have taken after his congeniality.

But often, it was Ate Mely, or Amelia, the middle-aged house help. It was easy for me to tell her about my problems both at school and at home. Maybe because we were the only Filipinos in that place; and, despite the hospitality that the Jeongs showed me, no one can ever replace the feeling of warmth and security from another Filipino.

My duties as a tutor can be summarized as such: help Jun with his homework and teach him English words afterwards. Miss Jane soon enrolled Peachy in a tutorial agency a few days after I started, leaving Jun as my sole ward. But whenever I would give Jun English words to spell and Peachy was around, I made it a point to call her over to join us.

“Spell ‘cockroach’,” I said, and then explained that this is some kind of insect, a house pest.

After a moment of small eyes becoming wide with silent attention, brother and sister discussed something in Korean, between giggles, and then wrote the word in their papers.

Of course, Peachy often beat Jun in this activity, leaving Jun pouting with disappointment. It was also during such moments when I would see Peachy smile bigger than her usual pursed-lip smiles.

Like that of  other Koreans staying in the Philippines to learn English, the names ‘Jun’ and ‘Peachy’ are not their real names, but names adopted to suit the local culture. So Jun was actually Hyung Gun, and Peachy was See.

“What does that mean, ‘Hyung Gun’?”  I asked Jun.

“‘Dragon’,” Jun replied, smiling.

One of the things that Jen had told me about Jun long before was the easy way he learned Filipino. Often, Jun would surprise me by saying something like: “T’cher, T’cher, ang aga mo, a! (Teacher, Teacher, you’re early!)”  “ T’cher, T’cher, kain tayo (Teacher, teacher, let’s eat).” “Ayoko (I don’t want to).” “Mamaya na sabi, e! (I said, later!) ” The boy had learned fast the local language within his barely two-year stay in the country. Jun was also articulate in English and had none of the wobbling Korean accent that his mother and his uncle had.  I couldn’t tell if Peachy had learned the same way, for the girl wouldn’t talk unless you talk to her first.

One of the things that Jen had told me about Jun long before was the easy way he learned Filipino.

A proof that he had learned Filipino well, I once heard him during a quarrel with Peachy called to his sister, “Gago! (Bastard!)”

But the word that came out of Jun’s mouth that horrified me most was “motherfucker”. I practically stopped in the middle of what I was doing when I heard Jun say it to Peachy.

“Where did you learn that?” I demanded.

“Kasi siya e…,” said Jun, still fiercely eyeing his sister.

“Jun, that’s a bad word. Say sorry to your sister,” I said.

Jun remained seated, his mouth in a pout. Here was the brat I was waiting for all along.

“I don’t want to hear anything like that from you again,” I said.

Trying to win my affection back, Jun heaped on me bags of the chocolate candy NIPS, the kind that was so small they looked like multi-colored rice grains.

I myself learned some Korean words from Jun. Hello is annyeong haseyo. Yes is ie, no is anni.  Jun also taught me how to count from one to ten in Korean. And other more words, some of them controversial.

“T’cher, T’cher, di ba ‘pakla’ is ‘gay’ (Teacher, Teacher, ‘pakla’ means ‘gay’, doesn’t it)?” Jun once asked.

I was surprised. “Uh, yes. ‘Bakla’, not ‘pakla’,” I said, in a hushed tone of voice, as if I was committing something illegal.

Then I asked: “Jun, what is ‘gay’ in Korean?”

He told me a word which I couldn’t make out at first. Instead of having him repeat it, and run the risk of his elders in the next room hearing us and raising suspicions on what things the tutor was teaching the ten-year-old ward, I asked him to just  write it down.

Dongseongaeja.

 

Once, Jun came home from school tired and sleepy, his eyelids fluttering in his effort to stay awake.  What should I do? Should I let him sleep now?  What would I do then while he slept? Leave early?

Miss Jane walked in the siblings’ bedroom and saw Jun’s head falling forward. Much to my surprise, Miss Jane hit Jun’s head, then scolded the child in Korean — in front of me.

Miss Jane walked in the siblings’ bedroom and saw Jun’s head falling forward. Much to my surprise, Miss Jane hit Jun’s head, then scolded the child in Korean — in front of me.

When Miss Jane left the room, Jun, who was more conscious now, told me to give him English words, as if nothing happened.

I was lost for words. Do I tell him, ‘I’m sorry’, ‘It’s okay’?  I couldn’t understand why Miss Jane had to do that. Jun probably did a lot of things at school that day, only to arrive at home for more lessons from his tutor. So was it his fault that he felt like sleeping then? I felt I was partly guilty of what had happened to Jun, like an accomplice to some crime.

“T’cher, T’cher, no study today,” Jun announced as soon as I arrived one afternoon. He was the only one in the house, like many other afternoons before. Ate Mely wouldn’t come until about an hour later.

“Why?” I asked.

“Today is a special day,” he replied.

“Your birthday?”

“No.”

“What is special, then?”

“Nothing. We’ll just play.”

“Okay. What game?”

“Soccer.”

Soccer? In this room? Has this child gone crazy?

He showed me an ugly ball of crumpled newspaper taped together by packing tape, which he said would be the soccer ball. The mattress leaning against the wall would then be our goalpost.

I told him we couldn’t do it because we might hit the fluorescent light bulb overhead and smash it into pieces. Besides, his mother might come home anytime and see us and scold him like the other time.

“We will close the door,” he pleaded.

No, Jun. She would hear us kicking and jumping and laughing, then she would open the door and see us.

Seeing that I was adamant in my refusal to play soccer, he then suggested that we play chess instead. This time I agreed. Well, we had done nothing but study in the past few days so it wouldn’t hurt if I gave this day to him to play games, as long as it wasn’t soccer.

As we arranged the chess pieces, Jun told me that it was his father who taught him to play chess. His father, I learned from him, had remained in South Korea.

After a few moves, Jun was surprised to see that I have cornered his king. He begged for another round.   I got one of his high-ranking pieces, probably a bishop. He reasoned that he hadn’t seen the bishop threatened; if he had, he would have moved it away to secure it. He begged me to return the bishop to him, which I did. I won the round. He asked for another round. Still, I won.

“Ang galing mo pala, a,” he said.

He might have seen that he didn’t stand a chance against me in chess, so he once again brought up the soccer idea.

I had probably assured myself by that time that Miss Jane would not walk in on us and see her son wasting the money she was spending for his English lessons with a college-student tutor by playing games instead of studying, so I gave in to Jun’s idea.

In a few moments, the room was transformed into a soccer field, and Jun into a soccer pro player, kicking and dodging the crumpled newspaper ball. And I, into a bumbling new recruit to the other team the Korean Beckham was determined to feed with his dust. I was already panting and sweating profusely, but Jun still kicked and dodged, and even performed some tricks with the deformed mass of newspaper. The tremendous energy of the boy.

As I sat panting on the floor, Jun told me that he wants to be a soccer player when he grows up, like David Beckham.

“Have you watched any of Beckham’s game?” I asked .

“No,” he said.

“Then why do want to be like him?” There has to be a basis for liking someone, especially someone whom you want to pattern your life with.

“I just know him,” he said. “I saw him in CNN.”

It struck me then that children now are shaped by the global culture as much as by their own indigenous culture. Jun was a living example of this. Born in  South Korea, now spending a couple of years in the Philippines; could speak English and Filipino; and  dreaming of becoming a soccer player, after a British soccer player whom he just saw in an international news channel, but whose games he had yet to watch. When I was ten years old myself, I wanted to be a writer and nothing else. I was intoxicated then by the dust covering the pages of  a  college literature textbook that contained some short stories by Nick Joaquin, who was very likely  an old man already by that time,  and not as a attractive and as cool as Jun’s own idol.

“But your mom wants you to be a writer; that’s why she wants you to learn lots of English words,” I said.

Jun frowned, as if I had just fed him a bitter vegetable. Jun was right in not wanting to be a writer. I myself should have had wished to be a soccer player or a pop star instead when I was his age. At least, a soccer player or a pop star is paid much higher than a writer; and they have adoring fans that come by the hundreds.

It struck me then that children now are shaped by the global culture as much as by their own indigenous culture. Jun was a living example of this

Besides being a soccer player in a fantasy league, I also served as a model for Jun’s drawings.

I also loved to draw when I was Jun’s age, until Technical Drafting in high school ruined the joy of drawing. While I mostly drew from imagination, or copied pictures from books, Jun preferred drawing using actual objects as models – in my case, a live human being. He would position my hands this way and that, looking for the right angle that he liked to capture on paper.

Looking at his drawings at the back of his notebooks (I also used to fill the back of my notebooks with random drawings), I could just smile in admiration. The drawings were unmistakably done by a ten-year-old, but the painstakingly drawn details – the spikes on a soccer player’s shoes, the stray strands of hair falling off a classmate’s face, the emblem on a warrior’s head gear – revealed a talented ten-year-old.

Almost all of Jun’s drawings were men in action: a soccer player in a flying kick, a warrior wielding his sword, his body in an attacking stance, and even a wrestler flexing his arms – all of which I myself would have found difficult to do as a child.

My tutorial sessions often lasted for two hours every afternoon, and I would went home at six o’clock in the evening. I lived in Marilao, Bulacan, which is an hour and a half away from Quezon City, so I arrived at home between seven-thirty to eight o’clock at night. Then I still had to work on a paper due next day, or study for an exam. Those were really stressful days. Having a nag for a mother also didn’t help much. So I always looked forward to my sessions with Jun, those two hours when I was a ten-year-old again.

So I always looked forward to my sessions with Jun, those two hours when I was a ten-year-old again.

That time, I was also hooked into children’s literature. While high school and college students would bound up to the Filipiniana section at a National Bookstore store because it carried Bob Ong’s books, I would go right away to the children’s literature section to check if Adarna House had come up with any new children’s book. I know, it seems weird for a young man who had just turned eighteen, but I had my reasons.

I had just discovered then that fiction for children can tackle a variety of themes and use literary techniques that can make it stand at par even with the best of general literature. The illustrations that come with the stories also add a visual dimension to the often mental experience of reading.

Some afternoons, I would bring Jun storybooks, which he received with delight. One of those storybooks was Sandosenang Sapatos by Luis Gatmaitan, the story of a girl born without feet to a family whose father, ironically, is a shoemaker.

It was originally written in Filipino, but the book came with an English translation. Jun and I took turns reading the English text. When we finally came to the part when the baby comes out with only stumps for her feet — the mother contracts German measles during her pregnancy – Jun swung his head to look at me, his eyes wide, disturbed. He even covered his mouth with disbelief.

Later in the story, the girl’s elder sister – the narrator of the story – discovers several boxes of girl’s shoes stashed away in the store room. That is years after their father died, and the feet-less girl is a teenager now. Jun shifted in his seat, excited to say something but couldn’t, because we were not done reading yet. It is soon revealed that those shoes were made by the shoemaker father, which he chose to just keep away – for what would his feetless daughter do with them? An earlier part recounts that every year, as the handicapped daughter’s birthday draws near, she often has dreams where she sees herself wearing shoes and has feet.

I read the last paragraph of the text, that goes like, the father’s love served as a bridge into the girl’s dream so he could give to her the shoes that he especially made for her. I read it with much drama, reading it slowly and pausing after particular words.

Jun was silent when we were done reading. When I asked him how he found the story, he told me, “It’s scary.”

I almost burst out laughing at his answer. It was supposed to be a melodrama, Jun, not a horror story. He then explained by what he meant by saying scary. He said the family must have been shocked to see that one of their daughters was born without feet.

Come to think of it, it must be really “scary” to have a family member with such handicap: you eternally worry how she could make it on her own later in life, especially in a society like the Philippines’ that still harbors prejudice against persons with disabilities, instead of providing them with adequate social services. By saying it is scary, Jun stripped the sentimental layers off the story to reveal the tragedy underneath.

Before I brought the storybook that afternoon, I was worried that my Korean ward might not be able to appreciate these stories which are deeply grounded in Philippine culture. Jun’s subsequent reaction proved that I underestimated him. After all, physical harm – in the case of the story, an irreversible physical harm – is a basic human fear that cuts across cultures.

The next story we read was titled Bruhahaha, Bruhihihi. Just by the title itself, you can tell right away how different it is to the previous story. Actually, each stands on the opposite ends of the pole. In Bruhahaha, a five-year old girl tells about a neighbor, an elderly woman who had “witch-like’’ qualities, foremost among them her laughter – thus, the title.

Early on, Jun enjoyed the story. A recurring part of the story is the old woman’s laughter spelled out, which Jun looked forward to.   As soon as the laughter part neared, he would start fidgeting and practically snatch the book from my hands. With much gusto and even theatrics, Jun would read aloud old woman Mrs Magalit’s peculiar laughter:

Bruhahahahaha!

Bruhehehehehe!

Bruhihihihihi!

Reading the storybook was not all laughter, though. A part of the story tells how the old woman tripped on her way, sending her dentures flying in the air, only to be laughed at by onlookers. The only person who helps the old woman is, of course, the young girl narrator. Jun abruptly turned silent at this part, affected by the sudden turn of events in what started out as a light, “laughter-filled” story. He gazed at the colored spread that showed the old woman picking up her broken dentures from the ground, as the girl grips her arm to raise her to her feet.  From Jun’s reaction, I could say then that the message of the story was well-conveyed. If only the story’s author Corazon Remigio could have seen that moment.

The occasions when Jun and I bridged our cultural differences were not always literary. They were also sometimes as mundane as cracking jokes.

I once suggested to Jun that we tell each other jokes, a suggestion which Jun received with much enthusiasm. He offered to go first. I can’t remember exactly the entire story because Jun used some Korean terms and had trouble articulating some ideas as he told me this. It somewhat went like this:

A robber breaks into a condominium, collecting one particular object as he made his way through what I remember as five floors.  On the fifth floor, he hears a voice singing a popular Korean jingle. Done with his robbing spree, he returns to the ground floor, where the security guard spots him. The guard, suspecting that the person was a thief, accosts him and asks him a series of questions.  The panic-driven robber finds himself lost for anything intelligent to say to save himself, so he instead says the name of the things he collected for every question the guard sends his way. For the guard’s last question, the robber sings the Korean jingle he heard on the fifth floor.  The guard frees the robber. Don’t ask me how.

I had as much difficulty making out the whole story as Jun had a hard time telling it.  I did laugh; I actually howled – but I guess it was more of watching Jun’s face turning red as he tried to keep himself from laughing as he told me the story.

Here’s my own joke:

Ten lizards are crawling along a ceiling. One of them performs acrobatics – a backflip. How many lizards are left sticking on the wall then?

“Nine?” Jun asked, crinkling his nose.

“No,” I replied.

“Eight?” he tried again.

“No.”

He gave me a couple more numbers, both of which I answered No.

“What’s the answer?” Jun finally asked.

“Zero. Because when one of the lizards did a backflip, the other nine clapped,” I replied.

Jun giggled. Those giggles became big laughs, and soon the child was rolling on the bed.

Jun kept a calendar on his study table, along with a Webster’s Dictionary for elementary kids, a container for pencils, and textbooks he used back in South Korea. Whenever he would slacken during our lessons, I would notice him holding the calendar and looking at it. He later told me that in a few weeks’ time, sometime in December, he and the family were going back to their home country.  Either only for the Christmas break, or for good, I did not know exactly.

“Jun, what do you miss about Korea?” I asked.

As a reply, he told me this:

After classes, he would take a shortcut somewhere at the back of the school he had gone to in South Korea. He even drew a map to show me how the shortcut connected the school to his home.  He preferred taking that shortcut not so much of it being the shortest way as because of the trees that line the road there. During winter, he would kick the trunk of a snow-covered tree, then stand under the foliage of the tree and feel the snowflakes land on his cheeks.

“Teacher, what do you call the snow with this?” Jun asked, his fingers drawing what I took for as arcs on the air.

“Snowflakes,” I said.

“Do you know how long a snowflake falls from the sky?”

“I don’t know.”

“Three minutes.”

It was November then, and I had been Jun’s tutor for a month. I had not asked him when his birthday is, and I would never have the chance. A few days into December, I received a text message from Miss Jane informing me that the family is leaving for South Korea in a week. She also thanked me for my services as a tutor. The message was polite and formal. The day I received it, I went home right after my classes in the afternoon. I did the same thing the next day. The snowflake has completed its journey.

Standard
Books

When historians become hero-worshippers

Jose Rizal: Life, Works and Writings of a Genius,Writer, Scientist and National Hero. All-Nations Publishing, 1999. Gregorio Zaide and Sonia Zaide

The nation celebrates this year the sesquicentennial or the 150th birth anniversary of National Hero Jose Rizal who was born on June 19, 1861.  In ways relevant to them, different groups have observed the occasion. Universities have held conferences. Television networks have produced documentaries and public service ads. Local governments have staged festivities, most of them on June, the hero’s birth month.

Except for a visit to the Fort Santiago on the eve of Independence Day, my own “celebration” has been held within the confines of the library. Like a true-blue bookworm that I am, I’ve been reading books on Rizal, ranging from biographies to the official statement of the Catholic Church in the Philippines on Rizal’s retraction. It has been more like contemplation than celebration.

I started with the college textbook Jose Rizal: Life, Works, and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist, and National Hero, (All-Nations Publishing Co., Inc., 1999) written by father and daughter Gregorio Zaide and Sonia Zaide. This is the probably the most widely used college textbook on Rizal’s life. I myself used this as my main reference for my Rizal’s Life and Works class last year, as many of my classmates did.  The book includes the full text of Rizal’s most popular poems, synopses of his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, Rizal’s essays The Indolence of the Filipinos, The Philippine a Century Hence, and Letter to the Women of Malolos.

This biography succeeds in what a Rizal biography in the Philippines today should do: to impress the reader with Rizal’s illustrious life. But the other thing about this book that has caught my attention is the authors’ tone. The book is replete with lavish descriptions of the periods of emotional highs and lows in Rizal’s 35 years, as well as indictments of his enemies, as if the Zaides were personal witnesses to these moments and acquaintances to these historical personages. All these, and their bleeding-heart commentaries on special topics like Rizal’s genius and his retraction, scream fanaticism.

Rizal’s genius

On page 18, the Zaides ask why, of all the children born that night, only Jose Rizal “rose to fame and greatness”. The secret of Rizal’s genius, the Zaides argue, lies in “favourable influences”, which can be grouped into three: hereditary influences, environmental influences, and aid of Divine Providence.

For the hereditary influences, this is what the Zaides has to say: “According to biological science, there are inherent qualities which a person inherits from his ancestors and parents. From his Malayan ancestors, Rizal, evidently inherited his love for freedom, his innate desire to travel, and his indomitable courage. From his Chinese ancestors, he derived his serious nature, frugality, patience and love for children. From his Spanish ancestors, he got his elegance of bearing, sensitivity to insult, and gallantry to ladies. From his father he inherited a profound sense of self-respect, the love for work, and the habit of independent thinking. And from his mother, he inherited his religious nature, the spirit of self-sacrifice, and the passion for arts and literature” (Zaide and Zaide, 1999).

The environmental influence includes: the natural environment of Rizal’s birth town Calamba in Laguna that stimulated his artistry; the religiosity of the Mercado family “fortified his religious nature;” family members who are achievers themselves, such as his India-educated Uncle Alberto, who encouraged the love for the arts, the athletic Uncle Manuel, inspired him to take up physical exercise to strengthen his body, and the book-loving Uncle Gregorio, who instilled in him the value of reading” (Zaide and Zaide, 1999).

The injustices inflicted upon his family and other Filipinos by the Spanish colonial government, such as the imprisonment of his mother and the execution of Gomburza awakened the political dissident in him (Zaide and Zaide, 1999).

These two major types of influences would have been futile without the aid of divine providence, the Zaides claim. In the Zaides’ words:  “Rizal was providentially destined to be the pride and glory of his nation. God had endowed him with the versatile gifts of a genius, the vibrant spirit of a nationalist, and the valiant heart to sacrifice for a noble cause” (Zaide and Zaide, 1999).

Of the three, what I find particularly unsettling is the authors’ description of hereditary influences. Heredity, from the point of view of biology, is limited on physical features, such as skin color, hair color, shape of body parts, body size; certain diseases, among others. It does not include moral character and social interaction skills, which are the purview of psychology.

Also, a positive character trait is not limited on a particular ethnic group, which the Zaides seem to have forgotten when they assigned specific ideals to each of the three ethnic groups. Take for instance, the love for freedom, which the Zaides say Rizal got from his Malay ancestors.  The need for freedom, or the need to protect oneself from harm, cuts across cultures. Any people, when their freedom is threatened, will someday rebel against their oppressors. In a speech he delivered before the Filipino community in Madrid in honor of Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo who had won in the National Exposition of Fine Arts, Rizal said, “ … Genius knows no country, genius sprouts everywhere, genius is like light, air, the patrimony of everybody, cosmopolitan like space, like life, like God.” This can apply to moral character as well.

Any people, when their freedom is threatened, will someday rebel against their oppressors

The hereditary influences which Rizal purportedly got from his father and mother deserves scrutiny themselves. That he should get the values of self-respect, independent thinking and love for work from his father Francisco, while religiosity and self-sacrifice from his mother Teodora reflects gender roles during the Spanish era. Gender is socially determined, not biologically as what the Zaides claim these so-called hereditary influences are.

Citing the aid of divine providence is another cause of concern. A history book should make claims of fact that must be supported by reliable historical documents. When historians claim that the Spanish colonial government unjustly ruled the Philippines, there are hundreds of documents to prove that, from laws issued by the Spanish themselves to newspaper articles, from personal letters to literary works. These documents the historians of the future can examine to verify past historians’ claims. What documents then can anyone use to prove the aid of divine providence as the most important influence on Rizal’s genius?

So, what have been boggling the minds of psychologists for a century the Zaides have solved in one-and-a-half textbook pages.

The problem is, the Zaides ventured into a field in which they are no authorities, resulting in a simplistic and moralistic analysis of a complex and academic topic.

The problem is, the Zaides ventured into a field in which they are no authorities, resulting in a simplistic and moralistic analysis of a complex and academic topic.

Rizal’s retraction

The issue of Rizal’s retraction has divided concerned people into retractionists and anti-retractionists.  Retractionists, led by the Catholic Church in the Philippines, claim that Rizal retracted or withdrew his anti-church views the night before his execution in Bagumbayan.  The retraction statement purportedly signed by Jose Rizal and the burial certificate should support this claim. Anti-retractionists, led by Filipino Masons, repute this idea, saying that these documents are forged.

The root of this debate is Father Vicente Balaguer’s sworn statement in Madrid in 1907, which details how he came to convince Rizal to retract his ant-church ideas in the hero’s cell on the eve of his execution. Father Balaguer was the sole witness to this event. And he has long since died.

“This debate on between two hostile groups of Rizalist is futile and irrelevant,” say the Zaides (1999) on page 266. “Futile in the sense that no amount of evidence can convince the Masonic Rizalists that Rizal retracted and the Catholic Rizalists that Rizal did not retract… It is likewise irrelevant because it does not matter at all to the greatness of Rizal. Whether he retracted or not, the fact remains that he was the greatest Filipino hero. This also applies to the other controversy as to whether Rizal married Josephine Bracken before his execution or not.” (Zaide and Zaide, 1999)

So, what should historians do now? Drop the issue? After all, Jose Rizal has been the National Hero of the Philippines, so why bother?

The Zaides’ pronouncement on the issue is disturbing in many respects.  First, it trivializes the work of historians. Historians do not plod through ancient documents, risk contracting allergy from book dust, and travel around the world in search of the right document or person to create heroes. At the very least, historians’ diligent scrutiny of facts is meant to make sense of the past, so people can learn from it, and with those lessons gleaned, chart their future.

Also, saying that Jose Rizal is the greatest Filipino hero belittles the efforts of other revolutionaries. Rizal did not single-handedly brought freedom to the Filipino people. Freedom is a project which started with Lapu-Lapu in the 16th century, continued with the various revolts through the centuries, revolts big and small, successful and failed, all over the archipelago. It continues today with the Filipinos who fight for their rights in the face of oppression. So, no hero is greater or less great than the other. Each hero is great in his or her own right.

So, no hero is greater or less great than the other. Each hero is great in his or her own right.

The debate between retractionists and anti-retractionists is simply an offshoot of the larger inquiry into this aspect of Rizal’s life. As long as inquiry continues, debates will always be present. Silence on this issue would mean the inquiry has stopped, which should not happen at all.

I am not sure what practical purpose would settling the Rizal retraction issue serve. Perhaps Rizal himself can provide some clues. During his stay in London from 1888-1889, Rizal annotated Antonio Morga’s account of his travels in the Philippines which had been published in Mexico in 1609.  Had Rizal not spent ten months in the British Museum poring over accounts of Spanish explorers in the Philippines during the 16th century,  Filipinos then would have been ignorant of the civilization that existed in the Philippine islands long before the colonizers came. This work by Rizal debunked the idea propagated by the Spanish to justify their colonization: that Filipinos belong to an inferior race, one step above animals, until the Spanish civilized them.

It is very hard not to fall in love with Jose Rizal. In a time when Filipinos were made to believe that they are inferior and deserves to be ruled over by a more intelligent, foreign power, there was Rizal, standing at par with the best thinkers of the world.

But this admiration should not go unchecked and cloud judgment. Academics, more than anyone else, should keep this in mind, because they are supposedly guardians of knowledge, ensuring knowledge flows among people in its true and complete form.

Heroes fall in and out of people’s favor, celebrated then forgotten. After all, they are merely creations of these people. What should endure is the critical view of history.

Work Cited

Zaide, Gregorio, and Sonia Zaide. (1999). Jose Rizal: Life, Works, and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist, and National Hero. Quezon City: All-Nations Publishing Co., Inc.

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