On the heels of Spain winning again the European World Cup, which followed through its 2010 World Cup victory, Queen Sofia may be said to have scored a goal during her visit of the Philippines.
The four-day visit consolidated gains in Spanish-Philippine relations, deepening cultural, economic and development ties while advancing Madrid’s campaign for the reintroduction of Spanish-language instruction in Philippine basic education.
The Queen pressed for the reintegration of Spanish in the Philippine curriculum during her toast at the state dinner July 3 hosted at Malacañang by President Aquino.
“I wish to emphasize the support we gave to the educational sector and particularly the efforts of the Department of Education for successfully making into reality the reintroduction of Spanish language in the public educational system,” the Queen said.
“Since the time of the galleon of Manila, the Spanish language arrived in the Philippines as a promising tool for work and development for the Filipino people,” the Queen noted.
She said the Spanish language not only highlights the two countries’ rich cultural heritage, but also “opens up opportunities to secure the well-being of future generations of Filipinos in a globalized world.”
The Queen’s statements were pitch-perfect. In a globalized world, global languages are important, such as Spanish, spoken by half a billion people.
Spanish has increasingly become the language of commerce and business in the world. Even the global business outsourcing industry needs Spanish speakers, which may lure Filipinos to reacquire and relearn Spanish and reaffirm their ties with madre España.
(It should be noted that in the Malolos Constitution, the first republican charter in Asia and Africa, the founders of the Philippine republic made Spanish the national language.)
Sen. Edgardo Angara, chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, said reintroducing the Spanish language in schools will not only strengthen bilateral relations with Spain but also help prepare students for a possible career in tourism, business process outsourcing and other related sectors.
Angara said Spanish language courses should be integrated in arts, livelihood and sports subjects at the 11th and 12th grades under the K+12 program.
“If you speak Spanish, you can speak to almost one-third of the world,” Angara said.
Angara added that the trend of investment and tourism of Latin America “is toward Asia.” We ought to catch that wave because now we have a natural destination,” he said.
The Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID), or the Spanish Agency for International Development and Cooperation, and the Instituto Cervantes, the Spanish cultural agnecy, have been sponsoring the training of teachers of the Spanish language in public schools, starting with the first batch of 100 teachers who had completed an intensive training last year.
Spanish development aid
The campaign to have Spanish reintroduced in the Philippines is complemented by Spanish development aid. The Philippines is the second biggest recipient of Spanish aid in the world.
The visit highlighted Spain’s development assistance to her former colony as Queen Sofia visited various Spanish-funded development projects in Albay in Southeastern Luzon and Zamboanga City in Mindanao.
Zamboanga is the heart of Chavacano, the pidgin language 60 percent of which is Spanish.
Claretian missionary Fr. Angel Calvo, who heads the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance Inc., said Spain has been helping Zabida for 13 years now and has so far poured about 5 million euros for its education, livelihood and shelter projects.
But side by side with the development accent of her visit, Queen Sofia never failed to make references to the rich Sanish cultural heritage of the Philippines. This was underscored by her visits to the Escuela Taller and the University of Santo Tomas.
Escuela Taller is the vocational workshop school in cultural heritage practices funded by Aecid and managed by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Intramuros Administration. Its campus is in the space where once stood the Recoleto Church in Intramuros.
Opened in 2009, it has benefited a large number of youngsters from the slums of Baseco and also Intramuros. Certificates in wood carving, masonry, painting, finishing and various other trades are recognized by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, improving the employability of economically disadvantaged youth.
During their training period and practice, the young students apply their knowledge in the rehabilitation of prominent buildings and historical sites.
Some of the projects implemented include the restoration of perimeter wall around Intramuros and the repair of the Malate Church; and the rehabilitation of the old Department of Social Welfare and Development office in Manila and of the Almacen Real in Fort Santiago, among others.
Her visit of the University of Santo Tomas last Friday reaffirmed the Dominican university’s royal lineage: UST was declared by the Spanish monarchy a royal university in the 18th century.
At the the oldest university in Asia, Queen Sofia visited the UST Museum of Arts and Sciences, the oldest museum in the Philippines; and the historic UST Library and Archives. She also met with the Dominican fathers, some of whom were Spaniards, and the Círculo Hispano-Tomasino.
Throngs of students and teachers waited at the Benavides Park in front of the UST Main Building to catch a glimpse of the Queen.
The park is named after the third archbishop of Manila, the Dominican Miguel de Benavides, who founded UST in 1611. (Benavides was a native of Palencia, Spain, where a monument now stands in his memory.)
Her Majesty was greeted by UST Rector Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, Vice Rector Richard Ang and Secretary General Winston Cabading.
A wreath-laying ceremony took place afterwards before the statue of Miguel de Benavides.
A red carpet was rolled in the grand staircase in the Main Building that houses the Museum of Arts and Sciences, where a marker was unveiled to commemorate the Queen’s first visit of the campus.
Queen Sofia also toured the Heritage Section of the UST Library (now named Miguel de Benavides Library). She was guided by the UST prefect of libraries, Fr. Angel Aparicio, a Spanish Dominican who trained at the Ecole Biblique et Archeologique in Jerusalem.
She also toured the newly renovated UST Archives, where the scholastic grades of José Rizal and the founders of the Philippine nation, all of them UST alumni, are kept. .
Regalado Trota-José, UST archivist and historian and a commissioner of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, said Queen Sofia was delighted upon seeing the university’s wide library collection, which included Nicolaus Copernicaus’ “De Revolutionibus Orbium Celstiom” (On the Evolution of the Celestial Spheres), and incunabulae, or books printed before 1500.
“We were only able to present six books that serve as gems of the archives section,” said José. “She (Queen Sofia) was very much interested with what she saw, especially our baybayin book, which is somehow similar to the Indian Sanskrit.”
José said the UST Archives holds the biggest number of documents written in baybayin, the ancient Philippine syllabary, some of them written during the Spanish era.
He explained that the fact that documents were written in baybayin well into the Spanish period—plus the fact that the Spanish Catholic missionaries learned the local languages and wrote vocabularios (dictionaries)—should show that Spain preserved the Philippines’ pre-Hispanic culture.
José said that UST also showed the Queen historic documents such as the Foundation Act of 1611 and the royal order in 1624 of King Philip IV authorizing UST to grant degrees in theology, philosophy and the arts.
The Queen was also shown the royal order in 1785 of King Charles III, granting UST the title “Royal.”
Father Cabading said the Queen’s visit was testament to the historical and cultural ties between Spain and UST.
“[The purpose of the visit is] to renew ties with the University, understanding that the University has been part of the patronage of the Spanish crown,” the Dominican priest said.
The visit was Queen Sofia’s fifth to the Philippines. Her first visit was in 1962 when she and King Juan Carlos I were on a honeymoon.
She returned to Manila in 1995 and was a guest of the Philippine centennial celebration in February 1998. She also visited the Philippines in 2000 and 2003.