Buwan ng Wika started from President Manuel Quezon’s vision in 1935 to have a common language that would unite all Filipinos. Thus, the Tagalog-based “Filipino” language was born. Ironically, it instead launched a language war whose effects can still be felt today (while selling our books in Iloilo a few years ago, we were asked by an irate buyer, in Hiligaynon: “Why are you talking in Tagalog?”). When President Corazon Aquino mandated the use of Filipino as the official medium of communication, the Provincial Board of Cebu urged an ordinance banning “Tagalog” in schools throughout the province. It also threatened to sue the Department of Education for this imposition.
The theme for Buwan ng Wika 2021 is “Filipino at mga Katutubong Wika sa Dekolonisasyon ng Pag-iisip ng mga Pilipino.” The theme seems to emphasize — appropriately so, on the 500th anniversary of Spanish colonization of the islands — the importance of translating works in Filipino and the other vernacular languages to one another, and not necessarily to English or other foreign languages. We find this theme progressive, and exciting, and feel that it captures the potential and power of translating women’s works in the Philippines.
Here’s a short list of Filipino women’s works translated by women, that pave the way for more Filipino women’s works, hopefully from the indigenous communities and Mindanao, to be translated and published:
“In the Name of the Mother: 100 Years of Philippine Feminist Poetry, 1889-1989” / “Sa Ngalan ng Ina: Sandaang Taon ng Tulang Feminista sa Pilipinas, 1889-1989” (University of the Philippines Press, 1997) by Lilia Quindoza Santiago
These massive collections are at the top of the canon of Philippine literature, in our book; Quindoza-Santiago presents a historical study and a comprehensive array of Filipino women’s poetry in two volumes and three languages (Tagalog, Iloko, and English). It includes four poems by the 19th-century Iloko poet Leona Florentino, whose works were initially translated to Spanish by her son, Isabelo de los Reyes.
“Juanita Cruz: A Novel” (translated by Ofelia Ledesma Jalandoni, University of the Philippines, 2006) and other works of Magdalena Jalandoni
Magdalena Jalandoni was one of the most prolific writers in the Philippines, having written (according to Dolores Feria) 70 volumes of corridos, poems, translations, and novels. Her 24 completed novels, written in Hiligaynon, were originally serialized in publications like Iwag, Kabuhi sa Banwa, or Ilang-Ilang. Rosario Cruz Lucero provides a lengthy discussion of the importance of Jalandoni’s writings vis-a-vis translation work in the Philippines in her book, “Ang Bayan sa Labas ng Maynila” (The Nation Beyond Manila) (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2007).
“Ang Inahan ni Mila” / “Mila’s Mother” (translated by Hope Sabanpan-Yu, National Commission on Culture and the Arts, 2008) and other works by Lina Espina-Moore
Hope Sabanpan-Yu has translated at least three of Espina-Moore’s novelas cebuana (a novel published as a serial in local Cebuano magazines, often dealing with the universal themes of family, romantic love, life, morals, struggle, and the arts) “to counter the hegemonic dominance of American popular literature and build on existing Cebuano literature.”
“Ano Ngayon, Ricky?” / “What Now, Ricky?” (translated by Soledad S. Reyes, Anvil Publishing, 2013) and other works by Rosario de Guzman-Lingat
Active in the 1960s to the 1970s, Rosario de Guzman-Lingat wrote novels and short stories for popular magazines, scripts for television dramas, essays, and poetry. Reyes, herself a prodigious scholar and critic, has translated at least two other novels by Liwayway magazine’s “star writer.”
“Dekada ‘70” / “The ‘70s” (translated by Clarisse B. de Jesus, Dekada Publishing, 2018) by Lualhati Bautista
Lualhati Bautista’s hugely successful novel has also already been adapted into a musical and film. That it is now available in English, mostly for the descendants of Filipinos who flew to the United States and abroad during the 1970s to escape Martial Law, is a great way to challenge one of the most popular quotes to ever come from the book: “It’s a man’s world!”
“Isa ka Pungpong nga Rosas” / “Isang Pumpon ng Rosas” (Translated by Genevieve Asenjo, Balay Sugidanon, 2013) by Alice Tan Gonzales
A Hiligaynon tale or sugilanon. Asenjo provides additional research and context in her paper, “Ang Kasarian at Rehiyon sa mga Sugilanon ni Alice Tan Gonzales.”
“Latay sa Laman” by Melinda L. Babaran
The former migrant worker’s award-winning essay on her perilous relationship with her father has been translated as “Scourge on the Flesh” by Faye Cura in “Pa-Liwanag” (2020) and as “Welts” by Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz in “Tingle: Anthology of Pinay Lesbian Writing” (2021).
“Kalí: Voice of Cordillera Women” by the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research, Inc.
A literary journal or anthology of songs, poems, and stories that the CWEARC releases every few years in Baguio City. The journal documents Cordillera songs in Kankanaey and other indigenous languages as well as their translations in English.
We also mention important works in Filipino that have been translated to English such as Lualhati Milan Abreu’s memoir, “Agaw-Dilim/Agaw-Liwanag” (UP Press, 2010), translated by Bonifacio P. Ilagan as “Dusking/Dawning” in 2018; and Luna Sicat-Cleto’s novel “Makinilyang Altar” (UP Press, 2002), translated by Marne Kilates as “Typewriter Altar” in 2016.
Works by foreign feminists have likewise been translated to Filipino such as Eve Ensler’s play “The Vagina Monologues” (by Glecy Atienza, Joi Barrios, and Luna Sicat-Cleto for New Voice Company) and Liv Strömquist’s comic “Fruit of Knowledge: The Vulva vs. the Patriarchy” (translated by Beverly Wico Siy as “Puki-Usap” for Pride Press, 2018). Southern Voices Printing Press is set to publish a translation in Filipino of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.” Meanwhile, Nikki Luna and Julienne Dadivas’ picture book, “I Love My Body” (Power in Her Story, 2019) was published in French by Bayard Jeunesse for World Children’s Day in 2020.
We might as well also mention local collections of poetry that appear in three languages, where there is always some degree of translation taking place: Maningning Miclat’s “Voice from the Underworld” (Anvil Publishing, 2000; English, Filipino, Chinese) and Marra PL Lanot’s “Witch’s Dance at Iba Pang Tula sa Filipino at Español” (Anvil Publishing, 2000). Floraime Oliveros Pantaleta’s chapbook entitled “desconocimiento / ilang mga hindi pagkilala,” “a collection of figurative forms in different blends” of Chavacano, Filipino, English, and Cebuano, is a contemporary piece that follows this tradition as it breaks away from it.
According to LitHub, Women in Translation Month began in 2014 on the initiative of American book blogger Meytal Radzinski who pointed out that “the relative dearth of translated literature by women in English-language markets is a problem rooted in the biases of both (predominantly male) translators and publishers.” In the Philippines, the translation of women’s works is picking up, thanks to the efforts of mainstream publishers to bring local works out there and foreign works here. The National Book Development Board has recently launched a program supporting the translation of local works. Women-run small presses such as Gantala Press also actively contribute to the growing body of Filipino women’s writings in translation, publishing books such as Aida F. Santos’ collected poems in English and Filipino (2019); “My Mother is More Than a Comfort Woman” (2021; English, Filipino, Japanese); and “Let the River Flow Free: Women Defenders of the Cordillera” (forthcoming; English, Filipino, German).
As we have realized working on “Pa-Liwanag,” “There is no lack of women translators in the Philippines. Any woman writer can and does translate her own works from the vernacular to English or other Philippine languages.” What book industry workers should focus on is seeking women’s writings to translate and publish.
Additional references: The Long Stag Party by Dolores Feria, “The Controversy About the National Language: Some Observations” by Joseph Baumgartner, BookTrek blog, Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings website.
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