Translation in the
Philippines started as part of a religious undertaking. The Spanish
missionaries used translation as a tool to spread Christianity among the
natives, thus fulfilling a utilitarian role: to conquer mind and body. The
Spanish missionaries, aware that a foreign language would meet resistance as
medium in teaching a new religion, studied the native languages instead and
undertook the first translations from Spanish into Tagalog and other
The first printed book
in the Philippines, the Doctrina Christiana, which came out in 1593, is a
translation of prayers and Christian doctrines with which the Spanish friars
spread the new religion. Other books that came out after Doctrina were
translations or adaptations of Biblical stories, or explications of
In 1627, the first
dictionary, Vocabulario de la lengua tagala by Fray Pedro de San
Buenaventura came out. It is an important tool for the Spanish missionaries
to learn Tagalog.
Other books of translation
worth mentioning are the following:
Meditaciones cun manga
mahal na pagninilay na sadia sa sanctong pag-Exercisios, by Fray Pedro de
Herrera, a translation into Tagalog of the spiritual exercises of San
Ignacio de Loyola from the Spanish of Fray Francisco de Salazar.
pagtatagobilin sa calolova nang tauong naghihingalo (1703), by Gaspar
Aquino de Belen, a Batangueno who worked in the printing press of the
Jesuits. The book is a translation of Recomendacion del alma (1613) by
Tomas de Villacastin.
Aral na tunay na totoong
pagaacay sa tauo, nang manga cabanalang gaua nang manga maloualting santos
na si Barlaan ni Josaphat (1712) by Fray Antonio de Borja based on the
text of San Juan Damaceno.
It should be noted
that the source language was not always Spanish. There were also what is
called relay translation, where Spanish was an intervening language of a
text that was originally written in other languages. The translation
language (or target language) was not only Tagalog, either. Since Manila was
the seat of the colonial government, most of the publications were of
Tagalog texts; however, there were also translations in Ilokano, Kapampangan,
Cebuano and others.
translations were therefore directly related to religion. Toward the end of
the 18th century, translation took a new direction. This time, the texts
were not purely religious, though still containing religious ideas. From
Europe came the narrative poetry and the metrical romance which became
popularly known as awit and korido. The theatrical presentations komedya and
moro-moro became very popular. They were believed to be either translation
or adaptations of comedia de capa y espada. The translators were "Indios" in
the employ of Spanish friars, and in the translation, they would add their
own interpretations, thus giving indigenous touch to the translated texts.
There were also
translations from Tagalog and other native languages into Spanish. Fray
Pedro Chirino retold in Spanish two legends in Panay. Fray Ignacio Francisco
Alzina summarized in Spanish two narrative poems in Boholano.
Our national hero,
Jose Rizal, translated into Tagalog Schillerís Wilhelm Tell from the
Toward the end of the
19th century, translation had a new use, no longer to conquer, but to
inspire the spirit of nationalism and thus to liberate. Ang mga Karampatan
ng Tawo (1891-92) is a translation of Declaration of the Rights of Man and
of the Citizen which summarized the spirit of the French Revolution. Jose
Rizalís "Amor Patrio" was translated into Tagalog as "Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang
Lupa." Rizalís "Mi Ultimo Adios" was translated by Andres Bonifacio as "Huling
With the coming of the
Americans and the introduction of English as medium of instruction, the
direction of translation is now from English into Tagalog/Filipino and other
Philippine languages. The translation texts are no longer religious in
nature, but now have a wider range. Translation is now a tool for liberating
the masses from ignorance. Through translations, those who do not fully
understand English may still benefit from the wisdom of the west through the
translation into Filipino and other Philippine languages of informative
materials on science and technology. In the field of education, translation
is a necessary tool in the production of textbooks and reference materials
in the language understandable to the greater number of the people.
English is also used
as intervening language in the translation into Filipino of various
materials from French, German, Japanese, and other languages.
The government agency
that has pioneered in translation is Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (formerly
Surian ng Wikang Pambansa later renamed Linangan ng mga Wika sa Pilipinas).
Now, the National Commission on Culture and the Arts is also mandated to
undertake translation work through one of its national committees, the
Committee on Language and Translation. NCCA sponsored a project in 1991
which surveyed individuals and institutions undertaking translation, and
came out with a bibliographic listing of translated works.
Nowadays, there are
many individuals and institutions undertaking translation, aside from the
KWF and the NCCA. There are religious organizations which translate the
Bible into the Philippine languages; there are individuals who translate
literary works and non-literary texts. There are two existing professional
organizations of translators, Pambansang Samahan sa Pagsasalingwika and
Pambansang Unyon ng mga Tagasalin. What is needed now is a concerted effort
to come up with a national translation program that will define priorities
and professionalize translation.