Nuestros amigos, los Españoles


THE past participle of a regular Spanish verb is formed by changing the ending “er” or “ir” to “ido,” and the ending “ar” to “ado.” So what’s the past participle of “tarantar?”

A naughty Spanish professor once asked this question to one of his college students and the latter dutifully applied the rule of changing “ar” to “ado.” The student should have been correct except for the fact that there’s no such Spanish infinitive as “tarantar.”

I remember this anecdote because June is dubbed the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Month courtesy of a law authored in the Senate by a culture vulture, Edgardo J. Angara. (EJA said his love for culture was strengthened by the influence of his wife Gloria Manalang Angara, whom he calls “the original GMA.” In fact, his resort in Nasugbu, Batangas, is named “GMA Farm.”)

A few years back, the visit of a replica of the Spanish galleon that plied the Manila-Acapulco route highlighted the celebration of this Philippines-Spain Friendship Month. An enduring highlight, however, is the reenactment of the “Siege of Baler” where the last remaining Spanish soldiers surrendered to Filipino Katipuneros after months of siege. Hopefully, Angara’s law will reawaken Filipinos’ interest in the positive influence of the Spanish regime in the country–and a key to this is the intensified teaching of the Spanish language.

During my college years, we were required to take up 12 units of Espanol. Sadly, most of us didn’t take this subject seriously although our professors at the Universidad de Santo Tomas, the soft-spoken Socorro Llanderal and the spritely Primi Cervania, were excellent educators. Once, a student was asked to use the past tense (third person singular number) of “tener,” (tuvo) in a sentence. My classmate groped for an answer. He couldn’t even pronounce “tuvo” correctly.

“El tubo,” he said, then his voice trailed.

“El tubo,” he said again.

Then, he continued: “El tubo, tu tubero, yo gripo.”

I don’t know what grade he got.

Another time, Miss Primi Cervania asked a male student to give five items, feminine gender, that could be found in an office.

“La pluma,” he answered triumphantly with a wide grin.

There was a long pause before he gave his second answer: “la maquinilla.”

A longer pause followed. And then, as if enlivened by sudden inspiration, he added in quick succession: “lamok, langaw, langgam.”
Some mouth the frequently quoted question and answer using Chabacano, a pidgin Spanish language:

“Donde esta el sandok?”

“Esta en el dingding nakasuksok.”

As for me, I took Español more seriously. In fact, I became a member and officer of the “Los Amantes del Español” where we were encouraged to converse in Espanol during our regular meetings. Alas, after college, there was no way I could practice my knowledge of Español. I give it a college try when I talk with my US-born niece Noemi Danao-Schroeder who had spent years of volunteer work in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

She, however, goes back to English whenever she finds she could hardly understand my Español. [She said I speak "Catalan Espanol” while she speaks "paisano Español.”]

There were a number of legislators past and present who speak Espanol fluently. Alberto Romulo and Victor Ortega took their Doctor of Laws degree at the prestigious Universidad Central de Madrid. (Vic finished the course “Sobresaliente” or “Summa cum laude.” The parents of Jose Rubin Zubiri were Basques from Spain so it was no wonder that he could speak Spanish. Most of the lawmakers from Negros, including the late Mike Romero, were Spanish speakers.

And how about Edgardo J. Angara? When I went to his condo-office in Makati, I noted several discs on Spanish language tutorials on top of his desk. I learned that he was also having a private tutor on the language.

Could he already speak Espanol fluently? His Girl Friday refused to answer and merely smiled. Ah, but that was about two years back and perhaps, he has already made some progress.

Progress is definitely being made by a former colleague at the Senate media, Nimfa Ravelo, who has enrolled in a Spanish language course at the Instituto Cervantes. Once I become less busy with my work in the farm, I intend to follow suit so I could hone up on my Spanish.

There’s no shame in trying to learn a foreign language despite cries of super-nationalist. As more and more Filipinos go abroad, they’ll come to realize that Espanol is one of the more commonly used languages in the world. It’s definitely easier to learn than French or Japanese or Mandarin. What’s more, it could make us appreciate the better things left behind by Spain. Just like we appreciate things Japanese?


Please follow our commenting guidelines.


  1. Jules Guerrero on

    Señor Danao,
    the mistake that we FILIPINOS are making with this is call Spanish a foreign language.
    Spanish is a FILIPINO language from birth and it should be treated as such. FILIPINAS was founded by Spanish speaking (from birth) FILIPINOS, who also spoke other languages at home, but the glue for a united FILIPINAS was the Spanish language. Teaching Spanish as a foreign language will not give FILIPINOS a cutting edge in the world, it would be like learning any other language. However, if you learn it from birth in school, not as as subject but as the teaching language, then you can say you’re a Spanish speaking FILIPINO

  2. Self teachng Spanish could be the best way of learning this language after taking levels one and two at the Instituto Cervantes. There are four skills to learn a language: 1. ability to read it. 2. ability to undestand it. 3. ability to write in it. and lastly, 4. ability to speak it.
    Spanish can be indirectly taught in our native language PUBLIC primary SCHOOL classes IF the FILIPINO alphabet letters are READ in Spanish and vernacular words are syllabicated orally in Spanish (as done before with the pre-war CATÓN). That would increase the subtle transition from our native languages to Spanish, and to English. But then, that is what the DEP ED should start doing, as it junks the primitive abakada.

  3. Roberto Roberto on

    In addition to Spanish classes in school, the media needs to be used further as vehicles to share Spanish & Hispanic culture in the Philippines. Filipinos’ interest in learning how to speak & understand Spanish would be awakened when they see how much our culture is so much much more similar to Hispanic than any other culture. It’s unfortunate that Filipinos always have to explain that our languages are full of Spanish words, but yet most are now using English words instead & most cannot recognize that the words they’re speaking have Spanish roots. Sadly, most don’t know the meaning of their first or last name in Spanish. We need TV & radio shows in Spanish (not sub-titled or captioned) to elevate Filipinos’ interests in Spanish.

  4. It’s a pity that Spanish is gone from Philippine educational curriculum except in specialized studies. Spanish in researching archival Hispanic records. It’s no wonder that there are more foreign researchers in our National Archives than Pinoys. Hohum.

  5. Delfin Facundo Jr on

    Hi Efren, I start my grandson who is 91/2 years old with the regular verbs ar er and ir and ask him to conjugate a given verb in the first, second and third person singular.
    He is doing good and enjoying it. I tell him knowing Spanish (which was my favorite at UE in the late 60’s) puts him ahead of others, many ways in the future. I memorized the entire Ultimo Adios and find basic knowledge of Spanish useful especially here in California. We share the same thougth about las lengua Espanola.
    Delfin facundo Jr. Tustin, California

  6. vagoneto rieles on

    Teaching the Spanish language through mandatory school curricula might not be the way to go. To most students, that would be like force-feeding a goose to ensure good ‘goose liver pate. A second language could be taught , (and acquired), more effectively in an informal and non-coercive atmosphere with a Spanish-speaking host or discussion leader. Call these regular sessions ‘Spanish Learning Clubs’, or just ‘Cursillos del Idioma Hispano’, if you will. Where school-based instructions are considered, (again), make this an optional subject.. available to those interested to learn; and again, taught only by a Spanish-speaking teacher.
    Let’s face it. The ‘Spanish’ taught in schools before.. as a required subject.. were ‘inutil’ at best. Students had to take it for ‘credits’; not for love of the language. Leave Spanish to those who really want to acquire it; otherwise it would be just a waste of time and money.