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?