Sa Aking Mga Kabata By Jose P. Rizal

Sa Aking Mga Kabata” (English: To my Fellow Youth) is a poem about the love of one’s native language written in Tagalog. It is widely attributed to the Filipino national hero José Rizal, who supposedly wrote it in 1869 at the age of eight.[1]

However, there is no evidence to support authorship by Rizal and several historians now believe it to be a hoax.[2]The actual author of the poem is suspected to have been the poets Gabriel Beato Francisco or Herminigildo Cruz.[3]

Prominence

The poem was widely taught in Philippine schools to point out Rizal’s precociousness and early development of his nationalistic ideals.[1]

A passage of the poem often paraphrased as Ang hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika, masahol pa sa hayop at malansang isda (English: ‘He who does not love his own mother tongue, is worse than a beast and rotten fish’) is widely quoted to promote the use of Tagalog among Filipinos. It is used most frequently (often in an accusatory manner) during the Buwan ng Wika (‘Language Month’), a commemoration of the establishment of the Filipino language as the national language of the Philippines.[4][5]

Publication history and authorship

No manuscript for Sa Aking Mga Kabata written in Rizal’s handwriting exists.[6] The poem was first published in 1906, a decade after his death, in a book authored by the poet Herminigildo Cruz. Cruz claimed that he received the poem from another poet, Gabriel Beato Francisco, who in turn received it in 1884 from an alleged close friend of Rizal, Saturnino Raselis. José Rizal, however, has never mentioned anyone by the name of Saturnino Raselis.[2][7] The poem may have actually been written by Cruz or Francisco.[2][3]

Pascual H. Poblete published a different account in his introduction to the 1909 translation Noli Me Tangere; Novelang Wicang Castila Na Tinagalog Ni Pascual H. Poblete (note old Tagalog spelling), he claims that the poem was well-known to Filipino poets during Rizal’s childhood.[8] This account was later repeated in Austin Coates’ 1968 biography of Rizal, Rizal: Philippine Nationalist and Martyr, who further added that Juan Luna had a role in preserving the poem. This is not substantiated by any known evidence.[3]

The earliest known poems of Rizal in the National Historical Institute’s collection, Poesías Por José Rizal, also date six years after the alleged writing date ofSa Aking Mga Kabata. His own account of the earliest awakening of his nationalistic views, identifies it as the year 1872 – the year of the executions of the priests Mariano Gómez, José Apolonio Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora.[9] The poem is never mentioned by Rizal himself in all his voluminous writings, despite its apparent significance in terms of his future ideals.[3]

Authenticity

Historian Ambeth Ocampo, National Artist of the Philippines and writer Virgilio S. Almario and others have debunked Rizal’s traditional authorship of the poem based on the following:[2]

The poem uses the Tagalog word kalayaan (liberty/freedom). However, Rizal first encountered the word at least by 1882, when he was 25 years old – 17 years after he supposedly wrote the poem. Rizal first came across kalayaan, or as it was spelled, kalayahan, through a Tagalog translation by Marcelo H. Del Pilarof Rizal’s own essay El Amor Patrio.[2][10]

The fluency and sophistication of the Tagalog used in the poem also do not match Rizal’s grasp of the language. Although Rizal’s native tongue was Tagalog, his early education was all in Spanish. In the oft-quoted anecdote of the moth and the flame from Rizal’s memoir, the children’s book he and his mother were reading was entitled El Amigos de los Niños, and it was in Spanish.[11] He would later lament his difficulties in expressing himself in Tagalog. In 1886, Rizal was in Leipzig working on a Tagalog translation of Friedrich Schiller’s William Tell, which he sent home to his brother Paciano. In the accompanying letter, Rizal speaks of his difficulty finding an appropriate Tagalog equivalent of Freheit (freedom), settling on kalayahan. Rizal cited Del Pilar’s translation of his own essay as his source for kalayahan.[2][10] Rizal also attempted to write a novel in Tagalog, only to give up and start again in Spanish.[2][3]

The 8-year old Rizal’s apparent familiarity with Latin and English is also questionable.[2][3] In his memoir as a student in Manila, a year after the poem’s supposed writing date, he admitted only having ‘a little’ knowledge of Latin from lessons by a friend of his father.[12] Rizal also did not study English until 1880, more than ten years after the poem was allegedly written. English was not a prominent language in the Philippines in 1869 and its presence in the poem is believed to betray later authorship during the American Commonwealth of the Philippines.[3]

The poem also uses the letter K, while in Rizal’s childhood Tagalog was spelled with the Spanish letter C instead of the Tagalog K. The shift in Tagalog and later Filipino orthography from C to K was proposed by Rizal himself as an adult, and later made official by the Philippine government.[2]

The poem

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Original text(as first published) Approximate English translation
(not rhyming)

Sa Aking Mga Kabata

Kapagka ang baya’y sadyáng umiibig
Sa kanyáng salitáng kaloob ng langit,
Sanglang kalayaan nasa ring masapit
Katulad ng ibong nasa himpapawid.

Pagka’t ang salita’y isang kahatulan
Sa bayan, sa nayo’t mga kaharián,
At ang isáng tao’y katulad, kabagay
Ng alin mang likha noong kalayaán.

Ang hindi magmahal sa kanyang salitâ
Mahigit sa hayop at malansáng isdâ,
Kayâ ang marapat pagyamaning kusà
Na tulad sa ináng tunay na nagpalà.

Ang wikang Tagalog tulad din sa Latin
Sa Inglés, Kastilà at salitang anghel,
Sapagka’t ang Poong maalam tumingín
Ang siyang naggawad, nagbigay sa atin.

Ang salita nati’y huwad din sa iba
Na may alfabeto at sariling letra,
Na kaya nawalá’y dinatnan ng sigwâ
Ang lunday sa lawà noóng dakong una.

To my Fellow Youth

If a nation’s people certainly love
Their gift of language bestowed by heaven,
So too will they regain their pawned freedom
As the bird that flies in the sky.

For language is a measure of worth
Of nations, towns, and kingdoms,
And each person alike, deserves
That of any creation born free.

One who does not treasure his own language
is worse than a beast and putrid fish,
Thus it should be nurtured gladly
As our mothers nurtured us.

The language Tagalog is like Latin,
Like English, Spanish, and the language of angels
For it was the Lord, in his wisdom
Who bestowed it, who gave it to us.

This language is like that of others,
With their own alphabet and their own characters,
But vanished as if a sudden storm had come upon
A boat in a lake in an age long past.