‘Noli’ and ‘Fili’ missing
Presidential Proclamation No. 968, issued on Feb. 10, 2015, designated the month of April of every year as “Buwan ng Panitikang Pilipino” (National Literature Month). The chair of the National Book Development Board (NBDB), Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, in her commentary titled “All-out for Alab (‘Ay Lab’) Panitikan 2016” (Opinion, 3/19/16) enumerated the many activities scheduled to celebrate this event, NBDB being one of the government agencies collaborating to “call attention and pay homage to Philippine literature and to reach out to today’s youth.” She asks: “What would we be as a people without an awareness and appreciation of our own literature?” and enjoins us “to fall in love with literature all over again.”
Nowhere in the article of the chair of NBDB, one of whose mandates is “to promote readership,” did she mention the sad fact that under the K-to-12 Filipino curriculum for the secondary level (Grades 7 to 10), the two great novels of Jose Rizal, the “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo,” as well as the other two masterpieces of Philippine literature (“Ibong Adarna” and “Florante at Laura”), had been demoted and relegated to just Unit IV in all the textbooks used in the subject Filipino. These four great works used to be taught as a one-year course alongside Filipino Grammar (Wika) and Literature (Panitikan). And this despite the fact that the K-to-12 program is adding two more years to the former four-year high school course that the students are supposed to hurdle before graduating to college.
It is also ironic that the NBDB chair devoted a long paragraph in her article to a summary of the life of Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar, the author of “Florante at Laura.”
When will our public officials stop paying lip service to causes that really need their concrete help and support and not just nice words, empty gestures and a for-show pretense at admiration? How can we make the youth realize how really great Rizal was when his literary legacies are treated as if they were something detestable but necessary, like a tooth extraction or an appendectomy?
We must reach out to the youth of today who are drowning in the quagmire of bovine stupidity that is “AlDub.” “Noli” and “Fili,” like fossilized amber that shows animals or plants in suspended animation, remind us of what we used to be, what we have lost, and where we should be going as a people and as a nation. We must inculcate the habit of reading and the love for Philippine literature to the youth while they are in school, by way of their textbooks.
—ANTONIO CALIPJO GO, academic supervisor, Marian School of Quezon City, 199 Sauyo Road, Novaliches, QC
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