The Filipino is more Spanish than he thinks
                   Article # 1: The Inner 'kastilaloy'

                           By Rina Jimenez-David

"MORE Spanish than we think," seems to be a statement that many people agree with. Watching the Spanish revue "Bravo Zarzuela!" I was struck by how many of the movements and dances (and even costumes!) depicted were eerily echoed in many "Filipino" dances, especially those depicting festivities among lowland rural Filipinos.

I could just imagine homesick friars and peninsulares teaching dances or staging rituals from their childhoods to Indio children and friends for performing, say, at an upcoming fiesta or to greet a visiting dignitary. These dances would become so popular that the performers would be asked to stage them again and again, and in the process "indigenizing" the movements, music, images and costumes.

And the same process most probably took place when it came to food, architecture, religion and language.

Ric Ramos, a consultant with the Spanish Embassy, says he remembers Alejandro Roces once remarking that Filipinos may not realize how much of our culture is rooted in Spain "because it has become so much a part of us already that we don't notice it."

He adds: "When I attended my Spanish class late last year our Filipina teacher told us that roughly 8,000 words in Tagalog are of Spanish origin. Likewise, Instituto Cervantes estimates that about 25 percent of Tagalog words came from Spanish. (The percentage) must be higher in the Visayas where words like cambio, barato (cheap) and others are commonly used."

Perhaps rekindling our common past and heritage with Spain would serve us better as a people, says Rick, instead of continuing our obsession with "the junk we are constantly getting from the good ol' US of A!"

BUT here is one Pinay who got in touch with her "inner kastilaloy" precisely in the evil kingdom of pop culture, the United States.

Marcie Santos-Taylor, in a column for a New Jersey-based Filipino paper, writes that when she first arrived in the United States, she felt unsure about what box to check in forms asking for her "ethnic group."

"The obvious group or racial category for Filipinos to identify with is of course, 'Asian,' for after all, the Philippines is located in South East Asia," she wrote. "Then why do I feel so uncomfortable in my Asian skin? Especially when standing in line with my fellow 'Asian-Americans'. Maybe it's because I don't look Oriental. Maybe it's my Hispanic name. And then it hit me. There I was standing in line at the bus station when I was asked for the nth time for directions in Spanish! My dark hair, brown skin and the 'Santos' part of my name stuck to my bag tag cried out 'paisano!' Fortunately for the person asking directions, I attended a school in Manila that taught Spanish as a major subject for 12 years. The answer to my un-Asian feeling lay in the fact that while Filipinos share geography with Asians, we share more with our 'Latino' brothers in name, food, culture, religion and history. Just think about how more at home you feel watching Telemundo than Kung Fu."

Since her epiphany, says Marcie, she has tried to reconnect to her Spanish roots and now savors the many things she shares in common with friends who trace their origins to Latin America, Mexico and other outposts of the old Spanish empire.

"Like it or not, Hispanic culture flows through our veins and our lives -- in our languages (and not just Chavacano), our food (just think menudo), our beliefs (just think of the Church). It's hard to erase 375 years of Spanish rule. Perhaps now is the time to embrace that part of our past, forget the scars dealt by our Spanish colonizers."


             Article # 2: More Spanish than we think 

                          by Rina Jimenez-David

THE DAY is long past when TV and movie villains almost always spoke with a strong Castilian accent.

But though the days of Spanish villainy in Pinoy popular culture are clearly over, it still comes as a surprise to many that in Spain the Philippines and Filipinos are looked upon with fondness. The first time I met Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Tomas Rodriguez-Pantoja, he told us that when he paid a courtesy call on King Juan Carlos, the King bade him to make a special effort to get President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to make a state visit to Spain. "The Philippines holds a very special place in our hearts," the ambassador said. "In our eyes, you are the last bastion of Spanish influence in Asia."

A year into his stay here, though, Ambassador Pantoja confessed that he "rather overestimated" the remaining Spanish influence on local culture. For one thing, he came here expecting more people to be speaking--or at least able to understand--Spanish!

That may be the reason Ambassador Pantoja worked to bring "Bravo Zarzuela!" to the CCP stage last week. A revue of Spanish dances, songs and scenes from rural life, it was directed by no less than the ambassador himself. But while a showcase of Spanish culture, "Bravo Zarzuela!" was also, in the ambassador's words, "a fusion of our two cultures." For also showcased in the program was Filipino talent.

INDEED, "Bravo Zarzuela!" was a true collaborative endeavor. The PPO was under the baton of Spanish conductor Jose Antonio Torres while the dancers worked with choreographer Alberto Portillo. Joining the Spanish lead singers soprano Luisa Torres, tenor Jose Antonio Moreno and baritone Jorge Florenza were coloratura soprano Rachelle Gerodias and bass baritone Ronaldo Abarquez, as well as the Philippine Normal University Chorale. Spanish solo dancers Maria Jose Martin Ramirez, Eva Maria Coelho, Alfonso Gonzalez Rodriguez and Avelino Cazallo Gonzalez, led the young troupe of dancers from the Philippine Ballet Theater, the Fundacion Centro Flamenco and other dance companies and studios.

Most of the audience, I would guess, had come expecting flamencos and matador moves. But as we would soon discover, there is more to Spanish dance and music than these clichés of the tourist scene.

Another discovery: Filipino dance owes much more to Spain than we think. A dance making use of seashells was strongly reminiscent of the "maglalatik." And at the fiesta scene, what else would we see but the floral arches that are a mainstay of the fiesta scenes of the lowlands?

"Bravo Zarzuela!" then, while ostensibly a showcase of Spanish dance and song, is really also about Philippine culture and its antecedents. And if only for illustrating how strong are the enduring ties between our two countries, then "Bravo Zarzuela!" was well worth the effort of mounting it and watching it.


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