Mula Aparri Hanggang Jolo

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.


17 responses to “Mula Aparri Hanggang Jolo

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  • John Earle

    Some very interesting thoughts here!

    At what point do the language and culture of occupiers, invaders or colonisers become part of the culture of the country? After first arriving in 1521, Spaniards started to establish themselves in the Philippines in 1565 and gave up control in 1898. Does the occupation of 333 years make the language and culture of Spain part of the Philippine heritage? For most of that time, Spain’s control extended to part of the territory but does that make it a native culture? 333 years is long enough for Spanish culture to have had a major influence on the 7,000+ islands but the pre-existing culture was not eradicated. The same cannot be said for the influence of American culture on the people of the Philippine islands.

    American culture seems to be all pervasive in the country at the moment but aspects of native cultures are held onto with some pride in some areas. However, Spanish culture is not seen in this light and it is difficult to find much evidence beyond some old houses that Spain was ever a presence. It is very striking how many native languages are spoken as first languages by so many people. It is almost as if the Spanish presence of three centuries has been forgotten.

    However, the absence of the Spanish language per se need not be seen as negative since so many Spanish words have been absorbed into everyday speech, even in the native languages, and that reflects the experience of so many other countries. The language which I have had most contact with – Hilygaynon – has many Spanish derived words and that language is not spoken in the capital. In my country (England) we have not been occupied or invaded for almost 1,000 years yet the language of the Norman conquerors (Norman French) from 1066 can still be seen in modern English.

    I am not sure that the absence of everyday speakers of Spanish is to be lamented. Rather more, it should be identified as part of the cultural heritage of the country and celebrated. For me, the biggest surprise in my visits to the Philippines has been to discover how few public resources are devoted to supporting, maintaining and celebrating the country’s heritage. Coming from a country that does value its heritage, I was amazed to discover how some quite large cities have museums in private hands with very small amounts of money put into them from public funds. It seems to me to be a good example of how the people of the Philippines, after more than half a century of independence, still don’t identify with their country as strongly as they should. Self and Family seem to come first so it seems hardly surprising that concerns about cultural heritage don’t gget much of a look in.

    • De AnDA

      @John – Good to hear from you again. I’m glad that you’ve been able to visit Iloilo. A province very close to my heart.

      I’m of the opinion that the neglect of Spanish must be “lamented”. Its not entirely lost. You yourself could attest to this fact having visited provinces here. We could cite a few examples for “what point do the language and culture of occupiers, invaders or colonisers become part of the culture of the country”. Lets look at your country’s former colonies. The US is a land of immigrants from Europe who had who had their own culture and may have even used their mother language before adapting English. Even the native Indians ended up using the language of the “colonizers” and “occupiers” – and they’re a nation with their own traditions and languages. Americas literature and most of its history is written in English. Losing it would be a failure to carry on a unifying tool, a powerful medium for fostering identity, development, tradition and education. The same could be said for other British colonies who today are working doubly hard to improve the status and education of English (i.e., Singapore). If you’re to review the use of Spanish in the country you would find that it was the language of the revolution. Our constitution, anthem and the most important literature was written in Spanish. In short, the founders of the republic and those who played important roles in our history were not only Spanish speakers, they passionately used it to get their message across. The failure to propagate Spanish can largely be attributed to the religious orders and the administrators of education but the Filipinos, who learned Spanish and found themselves fluent in it, fought to spread it. We must remember that one of the causes of those who wanted independence is the prevention Spanish education. Unfortunately, history was not on the side of Spanish and those who wants to spread it – at the turn of the century the Americans came and destroyed the first Filipino republic – but many Filipino leaders continued on the fight for Spanish to be recognized and taught. Some of the most patriotic Filipinos of the 19th century never gave up on Spanish.

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