Malansang Isda by Rosalinda N. Olsen
”Ang hindi nagmamahal sa sariling wika ay masahol pa sa malansang isda” is one of the most often quoted of Rizal’s writings. Why, then, did he write his two novels, Noli me tangere and El Filibusterismo in Spanish? In his dedication of theNoli me Tangere, Rizal wrote, “I will strive to reproduce thy condition faithfully, without discriminations.” Surely, the national hero of the Philippines was not somebody who said one thing and did the opposite. Both novels portrayed the social and political conditions of the time through characters that represented a cross section of Philippine society—the natives who were called the Indios, the Peninsuslares or the Spanish who were born in Spain, and the Filipino or the Spanish who were born in the Philippine Islands—immortalized in the characters of Crisostomo Ibarra and his beloved Maria Clara, Elizas, Padre Damaso, Doña Victorina, and the sinister Padre Salvi. These characters represented the ideal and the despicable, the funny and the tragic, the truly comic and the merely ridiculous. There was enough in the novel to satisfy the Filipinos’ appetite for a good laugh and a love story--the more sentimental, the better—serving as a thin layer to hide the bitter satire. It can be said that Rizal’s two novels awoke the slumbering political passion of his countrymen so successfully that it quickened the birth of the Philippine Revolution. If this were Rizal’s aim, which most decidedly was not, he would have written the novels in Tagalog. Not only would this have been understandable to most people in Luzon, it would have hidden the revolutionary intent from the Spanish. As it was, the novels had to be distributed in secret among the Indios because the Spanish authorities banned those books. Which leads to the question of whom his target audience was in, order to answer the first question of why he wrote the Noli me tangere and theEl Filibusterismo in the language of the Spanish colonizers. So much has been written about Rizal’s extreme reluctance for revolution as the solution to the social cancer that was destroying his country, in contrast to his passionate advocacy of education and political reform. Evidently, the Spanish colonizers were Rizal’s primary target audience, hence, he wrote in their language. The Indio could have been a secondary target audience, perhaps in the hope that the ilustrados would fight for the socio-political reforms that were clearly indicated in the novels. There was no need to reproduce the social conditions of the time to the Indio who knew it only too well and constantly suffered from it. Rizal wrote the novels in Spanish because that was the appropriate language for his intent. Language is basically a tool, a means to express ideas and to communicate these, but before being a tool, language is first a reflection of one’s objective reality. Language is a symbol that represents the material objects in one’s environment. If an object does not exist in one’s material universe, one would have no word for it. For example, a person in search of gold in a certain area might show the natives a gold piece and ask what the natives call that metal and where he could find it. If there is no word for gold among the natives, it either means there is no gold in the area or the natives have not seen or heard of that metal before. When Rizal wrote the famous lines “Ang hindi nagmamahal sa sariling wika ay masahol pa sa malansang isda”, he was not referring to language merely as a communication tool but as an expression of one’s identity, of one’s individual and social consciousness. In the novels, Doña Victorina represents the type of Filipino who rejects her identity as Indio and who would do everything to deny it in every form, particularly in mannerism and language. More than a hundred years have passed since Rizal wrote his two novels but the social and eco-political structures remain basically the same. ...
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