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Looking Back

Emilio Jacinto on love

/ 05:07 AM February 13, 2019

Valentine’s Day is upon us again. Today, love is oversimplified into roses, chocolates and romantic, candlelit, overpriced dinners, as well as an unusually long wait for a short-time room in the many motels in the city. Love can be as sweet as the commercial, prepackaged sentiments from a Valentine’s Day card, hiding the difficult daily commitment to nurture it.

My previous Valentine columns covered love in history: Rizal and his many women, Andres Bonifacio and Gregoria de Jesus, Gregorio del Pilar and his many flirtations, Ninoy and Cory, Ferdinand and Imelda (plus Dovie Beams), even Juan Luna whose obsessive love led him to murder his wife Paz. There is more from the baul where all these came from, but this year’s column is inspired by Emilio Jacinto.

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Browsing through scrap silver at an antique shop last year, I spotted a quill that resembled the one Rizal received as a prize in 1879 for his poem “A la juventud filipina” (To the Philippine youth), presently displayed in the Rizal Library, Ateneo de Manila University. I didn’t tell the dealer what I thought it to be and asked for the price. He took the quill, weighed it and priced it based on the spot price of silver that day. I haggled a bit, of course, paid and left.

After cleaning the soot off the silver, bringing back its old sheen, the text on the ribbon screamed: “Emilio Jacinto y Dizon” and “Concurso de Poesia.” Jacinto won a prize for poetry when he was a high school student at San Juan de Letran. Now I have to find that poem and add it to the slim canon of his works.

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It is unfortunate that we know little about Emilio Jacinto (1875-1899), because he plays second fiddle to Andres Bonifacio in the Katipunan. Fortunately, Rolando Gripaldo of De La Salle University has published much on Jacinto’s writings, his insightful analysis revealing Jacinto’s philosophy of revolution. Following the move to improve the teaching of Philippine history using primary sources, I hope more people will read Jacinto in the original Tagalog.

Jacinto’s writings have come down to us from transcriptions made by the eminent historian Epifanio de los Santos, who, together with his son Jose P. Santos, preserved a collection of the most important primary sources on the Katipunan. Their collection was dispersed, and the papers of Bonifacio came to light in the late 1980s, allowing scholars to validate received texts with the original manuscripts.

Jacinto’s writings remained in private collections until they were lured out of hiding by the auctions. While examining the “ephemera” for the coming Leon Gallery auction, I was struck by Jacinto’s short essay, “Pag-ibig,” that is but one of eight sections in his work “Liwanag at Dilim” (Light and Darkness). Translated from the original Tagalog by Gregorio Nieva in 1913, it reads:

“Of all human sentiments, none is more sublime than love — love for the fellowman. Without it, the people would disappear from the earth and the communities, the associations, and life itself would resemble the dry leaves of the tree swept away by the wind. For its sake, the greatest deeds are performed and one’s own life and well-being sacrificed. But rascality and fraud reap their harvest under the guise of love, hiding their ferocious selfishness behind an infinitesimal quantity of charity.

“The compassion for our fellow beings who are the victims of misfortune, which impels us to share with them what little is ours; the solicitude and even boldness which we show in the defense of the rights of the oppressed, and true charity for our fellowmen, from what source do they spring but from love?

“But love for the fellow creature does not always prevail in people: Sometimes they are assailed by selfishness and depravation, and when this is the case, the fishers in troubled waters profit by the occasion and sow discord, mutual rancor, and fratricidal strife because such internal divisions are necessary for their criminal egoism. When the others have thus been morally and materially broken and exhausted, the wicked find ample and sufficient gain for themselves.”

On Valentine’s Day, it is best to go beyond the romantic and read Jacinto, who talks of a greater love — that of love for country.

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Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu.

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TAGS: ambeth ocampo, Emilio Jacinto, Looking Back, love, Valentine's Day
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