The use of Spanish words and terms in the vernacular is almost nil at this point with the new generation. Their parents didn’t grow up in households with older relatives from the generation where Español was the lingua franca of society. The mestizos are also disappearing from society. The third generation who managed to squander their family fortunes emigrated to the US, Australia and Madre España. There are no more watering holes where you can find them hanging out, playing poker, drinking or just shooting the breeze with friends like the bar of Casa Armas when Jesus Armas was still alive. Thus there are no more Pinoys who refer to the refrigerator as nevera, the newspaper as periodico, the toothbrush as cepillo, the dining room as the comedor and so on and so forth.
The art of cussing in Spanish is also gone. Puñeta lives on. But that’s about it. No more hijo de la gran puta, joder, jodido and jodida. The Spanish spoken in the Philippines is actually a pidgin form. I first noticed this watching Narcos on Netflix. Our sentence construction and idiomatic expressions are not the same as those in South America. More than likely this is the result of Spain sending over mostly Basques to populate their Asian colonial outpost. The architectural influence is also on the verge of becoming extinct with the demolition of ancestral houses in the capital and the regions. This is such a shame because this is part and parcel of the country’s character.
But it’s not only the language and architecture that is vanishing. The values of urbanidad y civilidad are no longer practiced except for de alta sociedad. Even the cuisine has been bastardized. El Comedor is long gone. Armas is barely surviving because of the pandemic. Alba’s is still open but it is not the same since the death of Don Anastacio Alba who you could see in the kitchen at his main branch at Jupiter in Makati during the 90s. Dulcinea lives on as the fastfood version of the cuisine and pastries. It’s only there that you can have a proper Español breakfast of arroz con chorizo y torta.
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Columnist Jose Mari BFU Tirol points out just how ingrained Español is in our society. In his Inquirer piece “Español beyond codes, cuisine, and curse words”, he cites the Revised Penal Code of 1930 and our Civil Code of 1950 which are replete with Spanish jargon still used by legal professionals.
Now why are there Spanish words in our abovementioned laws, both of which are written in English? The answer is simple: The first one is a copy of the old Código Penal of Spain, which the latter revised more than 20 years ago; the second is based on the old Philippine Civil Code, which was an English translation of the Código Civil de España.
But like the Spanish words that have become indigenized, Philippine law and jurisprudence have, for the most part, treated Spanish words as technical terms which may have connotations that differ from their actual meanings. I submit that we should go beyond this, and strive to relearn the Spanish language for academic, practical, and sentimental reasons. After all, even the Philippine Constitution states that Spanish (as well as Arabic) shall be promoted, albeit on a voluntary and optional basis.
Recovering our proficiency in Spanish will provide us with invaluable insights into and appreciation of the literal language, and the nuances and contexts, of major Philippine laws, as well as the legal principles upon which our civil law system is based.
The new generation doesn’t value the old. Manila should’ve been preserved just as the Malaysians did with their colonial capital, Penang. Unfortunately, our leaders have no appreciation for heritage. Manila has been overrun by greedy parian real estate developers and informal settlers. Perhaps the message in Peque Gallaga’s magnum opus, Oro Plata Mata is true. No one was the same after the war. It became all about money and power. This mindset continues to this day and is reflected in the state of society. But I am left with the memories of what once was but will never be again. I have no regrets about being old because I have no intention of being youthful in the present.
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