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Looking Back

Dia da la Hispanidad

/ 10:04 PM October 11, 2011

Oct. 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 Dia 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.

Dia de la Hispanidad for me is better associated with T. Pinpin, a narrow forgotten street in downtown Manila named in honor of the 17th century engraver Tomas Pinpin. Unfortunately, not much is known about him, not even basic information, date of birth and date of death—however Pinpin’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 Rodriguez,  Reni Roxas, Karina Bolasco, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Maricor Baytion  and many more. So if Tomas Pinpin is the “patriarch” of Filipino Printing, we have to determine the “matriarch.”

Tomas Pinpin was active in his profession from 1610, when his name first appeared in Blancas de San Jose’s “Arte y reglas de la lengua  tagala (the first Tagalog grammar ever published) to 1639, when he  published the “Relacion de la Vida y Martirio del Jusuita P. Mastrilli ” (Report on the life and martyrdom of the Jesuit Fr. Mastrilli). While Pinpin’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 Simon.

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Pinpin was known to Spaniards at the time as a ladino, meaning he was  an indio or a native who could read and write in both Spanish and  Tagalog. Ladinos were very useful in the early days of the Spanish  colonization as they served as bridges that connected peoples and  cultures separated by language. In 1610 Pinpin wrote and published “Librong Pagaaralan nang manga Tagalog nang uicang Castila” (A book in  which Tagalogs may study the Castilian [Spanish] language). According  to National Artist and literary historian Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera in  his dissertation “Tagalog Poetry 1570-1898: Tradition and Influences on its development,” Pinpin’s work contained five chapters of language  lessons that develop from simple vocabulary to complete sentences. As  was the custom at the time, all language study was done by rote  memory. A guide for confession by Blancas de San Jose and even a  glossary of Tagalog root words are to be found in Pinpin’s book, making  it a primary source for any study of Tagalog, as it was spoken in the  early 17th century.

What makes Pinpin’s work more than a grammar book are the inclusion of  six songs (auit) in Tagalog and Spanish meant to be be sung by  students to facilitate memory and learning. While the tune is now lost  to history the text has remained:

“Anong dico toua. Como no he de holgarme, con hapot omaga, la mañana y  tarde; dili napahamac, que no salio en balde; tong gaua co, aqueste mi  lance; madla ang naalaman, y a mil cosas saben; nitong aquing alagad,  los mis escolares; sucat magcatoua, justo es alegrarse; ang manga ama  nila, sus padres y madres; at ang di camuc-ha, pues son de otro talle;  na di ngani balio, no brutos salvages.”

Rather hard to understand for those who speak 21st century Filipino,  and we are grateful for Lumbera’s English translation as follows: “How happy I am, morning and afternoon, when this my work is not done  in vain, and my pupils learn a thousand things; and their fathers and  mothers ought to rejoice, for they are not like them, no savage brutes.”

Like most early Filipino writings, this auit ends on a religious note  and Pinpin prays, “O Ama con Dios, o gran dios mi Padre; tolongan aco,  quered ayudarme, amponin aco, sedme favorable; nang mayari ito, porque  esto se acabe; at icao ang purihin; y a vos os alaben.” (O great God  my father help me. Be gracious to me so that this will be completed  and you may be praised.) Pinpin and other ladinos of his time acted as bridges between two  languages in the encounter between two cultures. By printing grammars  and dictionaries compiled by Spanish missionaries, they preserved  pre-colonial culture, thus becoming links between our times and theirs.

It is significant that a monument to Pinpin was erected in Binondo on  Plaza (Miguel de) Cervantes (author of Don Quijote) in 1910. This  monument was later moved across Binondo church in Plaza Calderon  de la Barca (author of “La vida es sueño”), also known as Plaza San  Lorenzo Ruiz. So many historical and literary connections here now  lost in the traffic and grime of 21st century Manila.

Comments are welcome in my Facebook Fan Page.

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