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March 5, 2013

Antonio M. Abad's El Campeon - An Unpublished Novel

El campeón”, an unpublished novel of Filipino writer Antonio M. Abad, is set to make its debut in the Ateneo de Manila University at 4:30pm. This novel will be the third instalment in the collection Clásicos Hispanofilipinos, an initiative by Instituto Cervantes to preserve the works of Filipino authors written in Spanish.

The publication of this book was made possible through the collaboration of Instituto Cervantes, the Embassy of Spain, UnionBank, Ateneo de Manila University and Colegio de San Luis, A.C. (Mexico).

Antonio M. Abad (1894-1970) is a poet, playwright, essayist and novelist born in Cebu and is frequently referred to as “the greatest Hispanic Filipino novelist after Rizal”. In 1927, he published his first novel “El último romantico” and two years after, he won the Premio Zobel, said to be the most prestigious award in the field of Filipino literature for the novel “La oveja de Nathan”.

Before this project was conceived, “El campeón”, although a recipient of the Commonwealth Literature Prize in 1940, had remained unpublished. It is set to be the third title in the collection Clásicos Hispanofilipinos, a project initiated in 2009 by Instituto Cervantes de Manila, the cultural arm of the Spanish Embassy, to revive an area of Philippine literature often neglected and shrouded in mystery —works by Filipino authors written in Spanish. Clásicos Hispanofilipinos has since produced two titles, “Cuentos de Juana”, a collection of stories about the Philippine archipelago told by Aledina Gurrea and “Los pájaros de fuego”, a novel by Jesús Balmori written about the Japanese invasion of Manila in the 1940s.

Unbeknownst to many, majority of what can be considered classical Filipino literature created in the early 20th century was written in Spanish. During the onset of American colonization in the Philippines, many perceived the introduction of English as a medium of communication to be the end of Spanish as the lingua franca in the archipelago. However, what happened was quite the contrary. If anything, it even strengthened the status of Spanish as the language of intellectuals like Teodoro M. Kalaw and Claro M. Recto who wrote for independence from the U.S.A.

Unfortunate as it is, this tradition of writing, referred to as Hispano-Filipino literature, has slowly disappeared not only from the bookshelves but also from the consciousness of many—high school and university students, literary scholars and even advocates of the preservation of cultural heritage. Clásicos Hispanofilipinos is a push towards reviving these works and creating for them a space wherein they can be rediscovered and reintroduced in the field of literary academe not only in the country but also in the entire Spanish-speaking world.

The novel “El campeón” is told from the point-of-view of the rooster Banogon who, after suffering a crippling injury in a cockfight, had been destined for the chopping board. However, because of his fame as a cockfighting champion, he is instead brought to a farm where he was to guard the mother hens from preying hawks. There, he befriends the caretaker, with whom he shares the tales of his reign as a national champion and the story of his first great love, Baikiki, whom he eventually meets again in the den where he was destined to spend his remaining days as a cripple. To fully appreciate the genius that Abad had created, it must be noted that “El campeón” was written during a time when the American colonial government had been pushing for the eradication of cockfighting in the Philippines. The novel was Abad’s reflection on the polemic that was resonating in the streets of Manila then. In reply, Abad wrote about the art inherent in this sport that many Filipinos, up to this very day, take delight in.

This edition of “EL CAMPEÓN” has been annotated by Mexican scholar Salvador García (Colegio de San Luis, San Luis de Potosí, Mexico) and Spanish professor Luisa Young. García has just recently visited the country as a guest lecturer in the Ateneo where he taught Spanish under the Modern Languages department. Luisa Young, a full-time Spanish lecturer at the Ateneo, is the incoming Chairperson of the department starting April of 2013. According to Dr. Ma. Luz Vilches, Dean of the School of Humanities of the Ateneo, “El campeón’s publication is a significant contribution to the preservation and appreciation of Filipino cultural heritage and the School of Humanities takes joyful pride in helping uncover such a gem. Antonio Abad's novel has now been made widely available to the reading public by the Ateneo de Manila University Press.”

Aside from Instituto Cervantes, the Spanish Embassy and the universities of the Ateneo de Manila and Colegio de San Luis, A.C. (Mexico), the list of partners is joined by UnionBank. When asked why UnionBank decided to support the advocacy of Clásicos Hispanofilipinos, Chairman & CEO Justo A. Ortiz’ answer emphasizes the importance of keeping in touch with one’s heritage and history. According to him, “if our memories are only up to yesterday, we are but strangers to ourselves. I am convinced that the vitality of any society is rooted in a positive tension between tradition and modernity”.

“El campeón” will be available at the Ateneo University Press as well as in other selected bookstores as well as at Instituto Cervantes.

The book will be presented at the basement of the Manuel V. Pangilinan Center for Student Leadersip (MVP) of Ateneo de Manila University. Attendance of the launch of “EL CAMPEÓN” is by reservation only. More information on “EL CAMPEÓN” and the collection “CLÁSICOS HISPANOFILIPINOS” can be obtained on the official site http://manila.cervantes.es or by calling the Cultural Affairs Department of Instituto Cervantes at (63 2) 526-1482 loc. 115.

Contact Details:
For more details, please call (63 2) 526-1482 loc. 115.
Schedule/Venue
Ateneo University
Ateneo de Manila University

Katipunan Ave., Loyola Heights
Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines


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