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Ready to habla Español again?

Filipinos are no strangers to Spanish culture.

With more than 300 years of shared history, it's hard not to be familiar with the culture that our former colonizers left behind. There is always a bit of Spanish flavor permeating into our everyday lives: From the food that we eat, to our choice of matinee idols, and
even to the shows that we watch on primetime TV.

This familiarity extends even to our diplomatic relations. Spain considers the Philippines "the Asian country with greatest political relevance." Just last year, President Arroyo was given full honors and courtesies by Spain during her three-day visit to the country.

Alongside the many agreements that the two countries forged was Arroyo's promise to the Spanish government to promote the Spanish language in the country, a declaration which prompted some to ask if this meant a return of Spanish language teaching into the curriculum.

Not so, says Instituto Cervantes director Jose Rodriguez. Or at least, not yet.

"What the President said in Spain is that the sitting government is committed to promote the Spanish language in the country. That commitment must be now articulated into reality, and that is a very important commitment on the part of the President and the government," he explains.

In the past, it was required in college to take 12 units of Spanish. There was no escaping learning the root words of verbs, the conjugations, or the recital of poems in Spanish.

The matter of whether every Juan dela Cruz will be learning ` como estas?' with their "How do you do's?" is still very much an undecided matter according to Rodriguez, who is only sure that whatever agreements are reached between the two countries, the 17-year old Instituto Cervantes is sure to play a pivotal role.

"It's now government to government, and I do not know what the role of Instituto Cervantes is right now. We can't commit on what our role will be because it will be up to the governments to define what the policy will be, but definitely the Instituto Cervantes must have a role," says Rodriguez. "We are now training 6,500 students studying
Spanish here in Metro Manila, and from time to time we have courses for the improvement of the teaching of Spanish, updating the Spanish teachers from all over the Philippines."

Time for reacquaintance

With or without an agreement, Rodriguez stresses that learning the Spanish language is not just a matter of looking back at a shared history, or to fulfill a desire to sound like a snotty mestizo.

"I think it's time to know each other, because we are not informed properly," he says. "Whenever I am in public speaking engagements, I have to inform them that Spanish can be a tool for economic development. Spain is one of the ten largest economies in the world. Forty-five millon people speak the language in the United States of America. Even here in Instituto Cervantes, we have people from the United States looking for billingual people for call centers, or as caregivers, nurses, even lawyers."

Rodriguez also points out that despite the shared history, the Philippines is lagging behind its Asian neighbors when it comes to the importance Spanish is accorded in the school curriculum.

"The Philippines must be at the same level as their neighbors in South East Asia," he stresses. "South Korea has 13 universities which have Ph. D.'s in Spanish. In Taiwan they have 10. Here in the country, it is only the University of the Philippines that offers a doctorate in the language. It is my goal that Filipinos, through information, know the importance of the language, how it can change your life. It can be an employment-generating language."

Instituto Cervantes is certainly not lagging behind when it comes to promotion. Aside from its immensely popular Spanish film festival Pelicula, held every October, Rodriguez says that they are trying to reach as many people as they can through different activities,
workshops, events, and partnerships with institutions sharing the same goal of popularizing Spanish.

"We are forming more and more agreements with institutions that have the same vision and mission of spreading the language, and we are looking for more and more agreements. Right now we are even preparing for an agreement with the University of Nueva Vizcaya," he reveals.

Those partnerships aren't just one-sided affairs either: Rodriguez says that both partners flourish in this relationship.

" We have very committed and involved partnerships with other institutions," he says. "The Instituto will be present for the affairs of that particular college and university and help them not only in upgrading their teachers and systematizing their courses, but even in their cultural affairs and even with providing language scholarships. At the same time, we here at the Instituto get to go out and meet the people, hear their ideas, and in the process make better policies."

More recently, the Instituto Cervantes, together with the Cultural Center of the Philippines, brought to the country renowned Spanish conductor Bernardo Adam Ferrero for a concert whose proceeds will benefit the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Instituto has also partnered with the launching of Chabacano publications in Ternate, Cavite.

"Berso sa Metro"

Another partnership that may be more familiar to frequent riders of the city's trains is the Instituto Cervantes' "Berso sa Metro" campaign.

The campaign displays famous verses written in Spanish by Spanish, Latin American and Filipino poets inside the carriages of the LRT and the MRT trains.

"`Berso sa Metro' is an idea that we came up with, and is a campaign that is out there to make people think about their roots," he says. "Our two countries have an intertwined history. No matter how we want to change it, the history is there.''

Rodriguez encourages people to look into the positive side of that shared history, in the language and culture.

`'We put up Spanish poems with Filipino translations and Filipino poems with Spanish translations so people can compare. We are not telling people to study Spanish, we are just letting people think about what our two countries share. If we have information, we have the most important tool; people will know what role Spanish plays in
their lives."

The advantages that we have over other Asian countries, says Rodriguez, is also something that should not be set aside.

"The Philippines has more advantages when it comes to learning Spanish, and they should not waste the momentum that they have. If you have the language, you have the advantage. It is the language of the times and you have to flow with the times," he says.

Manila Bulletin, 25 de enero de 2008
Ronald S. Lim
Category: Articles and News | Added by: janus (2009-05-20)
Views: 517 | Rating: 0.0/0
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