El Fili

Topics: Tagalog language, Philippines, Filipino language Pages: 23 (7803 words) Published: February 28, 2013
Sa Aking mga Kabata

(translation by Paul Morrow) When the people of a nation truly have love for the gift of their language that heaven bestowed, so too will they long to gain their pawned liberty just as birds need to fly in the heavens above For language is a quality weighed in judgement of all nations, villages and kingdoms alike, and each citizen in this way is deserving, like all creatures that are born of this liberty. Whoever does not love the language of his birth is lower than a beast and a foul smelling fish. Therefore we must preserve and treasure it gladly Like our mothers who truly blessed and nurtured us.   The Tagalog language is the same as Latin, English, Spanish and the language of the angels because it was the Lord, himself, in his wisdom and in his care, who bestowed this gift upon us. This language of ours is like many others, it once had an alphabet and its own letters that vanished as though a tempest had set upon a boat on a lake in a time now long gone. Cover photo: The poem as it appeared in its earliest documented form in 1906. From Kun Sino ang Kumathâ ng̃ “Florante” by Hermenegildo Cruz, pp. 187-188. The spelling here is relatively modern compared to Tagalog conventions of the 1860s, which followed Spanish spelling rules and therefore did not use letters such as K and W. (Photo: Maureen Justiniano, enhancement: John Paul Sumbillo)


Sa Aking Mga Kabata
To My Fellow Youth
Part 1: Did Jose Rizal really write Sa Aking Mga Kabata?
Something fishy
A lapse of memory?
The origin of kalayaan
“Laya” as an old name
1 2 4 5 6 7 9

Part 2: Could Jose Rizal have written Sa Aking Mga Kabata?
10 Young Rizal’s Tagalog
A young linguist?
A young revolutionary?
Part 3: Who really wrote Sa Aking Mga Kabata?
Rizal’s manuscript
Where did the poem come from?
Another origin story
Who really wrote Sa Aking Mga Kabata?
10 12 13 16 16 18 19 20

Part 4: Why was Sa Aking Mga Kabata attributed to Rizal?
21 Was it a hoax or a mistake?
Why pin it on Rizal?
Rizal a hot commodity
Why pin it on young Pepe?
Sources & Notes

21 22 24 24 27

Something Fishy About Rizal Poem • Part 1 • Paul Morrow

The Pilipino Express
July 16 - 31, 2011 Vol. 7 No. 14

Something fishy about Rizal poem
Part 1: Did Jose Rizal really write Sa Aking Mga Kabata?
Every year in August, students in the Philippines celebrate Buwan ng Wika (Language Month) and, after 75 years of the national language, educators still find it necessary to invoke the finger-wagging admonition against neglecting one’s own language: Ang hindi magmahal sa sariling wika ay higit sa hayop at malansang isda [One who does not love his own language is worse than a beast and a stinking fish]. Calling someone a stinking fish might sound a bit childish, but it could be forgiven since it was supposedly a child who wrote this now-famous accusation. The line is a slightly mangled quote from the poem Sa Aking Mga Kabata [To My Fellow Youth], which, as any Filipino schoolteacher will tell you, was written by the national hero, Jose Rizal, when he was only eight years old. Even though generations of children have heard this poem hailed as an example of Rizal’s natural genius, a few academics such as Virgilio Almario, Ambeth Ocampo, Nilo Ocampo and others have expressed doubts that young Pepe really wrote the poem. We’ll hear what they had to say later.


Something Fishy About Rizal Poem • Part 1 • Paul Morrow

Something fishy
I first read this poem many years ago when I was learning the Filipino language. The idea that it might be a hoax never entered my mind, though I doubted that Rizal was so young when he composed it. I thought some zealous biographer might have concocted that part of the story, like George Washington’s cherry tree incident. Many years later, in 2007, I wanted to use the famous “malansang isda” line in an article, 1 but I couldn’t find the official version of the poem....
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