Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 44      Dec. 10 - 16, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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Making It Hit Closer to Home

Kasaysayan ang Magpapawalang-sala sa Akin

Filipino translation of Fidel Castro’s History will Absolve Me by Carl C. Ala

Published by AMISTAD

63 pages

2006 carries a double significance for AMISTAD. Aside from marking the 80th birthday of Cuban president Fidel Castro, it is also the 60th year of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Cuba. AMISTAD chose to celebrate what its president George Aseniero calls “milestones” by publishing Kasaysayan ang Magpapawalang-sala sa Akin, a Filipino translation of Cuban President Fidel Castro's famous five-hour speech History will Absolve Me by Carl C. Ala.


2006 carries a double significance for AMISTAD, a solidarity organization aiming to forge and promote friendship, unity, understanding, and solid relations between the Filipino and Cuban peoples. Aside from marking the 80th birthday of Cuban President Fidel Castro, it is also the 60th year of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Cuba.

AMISTAD chose to celebrate what its president George Aseniero calls “milestones” by publishing Kasaysayan ang Magpapawalang-sala sa Akin, a Filipino translation of Castro's famous five-hour speech History will Absolve Me by Carl C. Ala.

Delivered in 1953, History will Absolve Me was Castro’s piece in his own defense as he stood on trial for the botched siege on Moncada Barracks.

Ala's achievement in translating Castro’s speech lies in his being able to give it a tinge of greater familiarity within the Philippine context.

The attack on Moncada Barracks was intended as the culmination of the uprising by the Castro-led revolutionary forces against the U.S.-sponsored dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, which had wrested power through a coup backed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) the previous year.

The uprising that is the subject of Castro’s speech aimed at seizing Moncada Barracks without bloodshed. The revolutionary forces had no plans of shooting it out with the soldiers at the barracks. What they intended was to seize the arms and ammunition through a surprise attack and peacefully convince the soldiers to abandon the dictatorship.

After seizing power, the revolutionaries would have enacted five revolutionary laws that would declare the legitimacy of Cuba’s 1940 Constitution and effect industrialization, land distribution, and reforms in foreign relations, education, housing, and labor and industrial relations. These were the same objectives that the Castro-led revolutionary forces went on to attain after finally succeeding in toppling the Batista dictatorship in 1959.

The 1953 siege on Moncada Barracks was botched because the revolutionaries were vastly outnumbered and were traversing unfamiliar territory. Castro and his companions were arrested and many were tortured and summarily executed. Those who survived, like Castro himself, faced rebellion charges.

In his speech Castro, a lawyer who had opted to defend himself in court, questions the legitimacy and even legality of the Batista regime:

Saang bansa ba nakatira ang Kagalang-galang na (Tagausig)? Sinong nagsabi sa kanya na nais naming mag-aklas laban sa konstitusyunal na kapangyarihan ng Estado? Dalawang bagay ang malinaw. Una sa lahat, ang diktadura na umaapivsa bansa ay hindi isang konstitusyunal na kapangyarihan, ito ay hindi konstitusyunal. Ito ay itinatag laban sa Konstitusyon, kshit na may Konstitusyon at lumalabag sa Konstitusyon ng lehitimong Republika. Ang lehitimong Konstitusyon ay direktang nakaugat sa soberanya ng mamamayan. Patutunayan ko ang puntong ito (nang) buo mamaya, kahit may mga panlolokong gawin ang mga duwag at traydor upang bigyang-matwid ang di makatarungan. Pangalawa, ang tinutukoy ng artikulo ay hinggil sa kapangyarihan na pangmaramihan at hindi pang-isahan. Dahil isinasaalang-alang nito ang kalagayan na ang Republika ay pinamumunuan ng lehislatibong kapangyarihan, ehekutibong kapangyarihan, at hudisyal na kapangyarihan na nagbabalanse at (nagkokontrabalanse). Na (inagaw) at pinag-isa ang lehislatibo at ehekutibong kapangyarihan ng bansa, na siyang nagwasak sa buong sistemang pinagbabatayan ng artikulo sa Kodigo na ating sinusuri, na siyang dapat nitong pangalagaan. Ni hindi ko na babanggitin ang kasarinlan ng hudisyal na kapangyarihan matapos ang Marso 10 dahil ayokong magbiro ... kahit anong paghatak, pagpapaikli o pagkumpuni sa Artikulo 148, hindi ito aangkop sa mga pangyayari noong Hulyo 26. Iwan muna natin ito hanggang lumitaw ang oportunidad na maaari itong gamitin laban sa mga talagang nagsulong ng pag-aalsa laban sa konstitusyunal na kapangyarihan ng Estado.

(In what country is the Honorable Prosecutor living? Who has told him that we have sought to bring about an uprising against the Constitutional Powers of the State? Two things are self-evident. First of all, the dictatorship that oppresses the nation is not a constitutional power, but an unconstitutional one: it was established against the Constitution, over the head of the Constitution, violating the legitimate Constitution of the Republic. The legitimate Constitution is that which emanates directly from a sovereign people. I shall demonstrate this point fully later on, notwithstanding all the subterfuges contrived by cowards and traitors to justify the unjustifiable. Secondly, the article refers to Powers, in the plural, as in the case of a republic governed by a Legislative Power, an Executive Power, and a Judicial Power which balance and counterbalance one another. We have fomented a rebellion against one single power, an illegal one, which has usurped and merged into a single whole both the Legislative and Executive Powers of the nation, and so has destroyed the entire system that was specifically safeguarded by the Code now under our analysis. As to the independence of the Judiciary after the 10th of March, I shall not allude to that for I am in no mood for joking ... No matter how Article 148 may be stretched, shrunk or amended, not a single comma applies to the events of July 26th. Let us leave this statute alone and await the opportunity to apply it to those who really did foment an uprising against the Constitutional Powers of the State. Later I shall come back to the Code to refresh the Honorable Prosecutor's memory about certain circumstances he has unfortunately overlooked.)

Translated into Filipino, this paragraph in large part bears similarities with what is happening in the Philippines today. There is something particularly in the reference to an “unconstitutional” dictatorship "that oppresses the people" that sounds extremely familiar. The paragraph could very well have been lifted from a testimony by any of the opposition leaders – whether Left or traditional – who were cracked down upon in the wake of the foiled Feb. 24 attempt at withdrawal of support by soldiers led by Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim.

Castro goes on to elaborate on the siege itself: How it was done, why it was done in the manner that it was, and what the revolutionaries sought to accomplish had they succeeded. This is all summed up in the following paragraph:

Kaya ng (Cuba na)  pangalagaan ang populasyong tatlong beses ang laki kaysa sa ngayon. Walang dahilan para sa kahirapang nararanasan ng kasalukuyang naninirahan dito. Ang mga palengke ay dapat na umaapaw sa mga produkto, ang nga eskaparate ay dapat na puno, ang lahat ay dapat na may trabaho. Ito ay hindi pangarap lang. Ang di kapanipaniwala ay may mga taong natutulog (nang) gutom, samantalang may masasakang lupa, ang mga bata ay namamatay dahil sa kakulangan sa medikal na pagkalinga; ang di kapanipaniwala ay 30% ng mga magbubukid ay di man lamang kayang isulat ang kanilang pangalan at 99% sa kanila ay walang alam sa kasaysayan ng Cuba. Ang di kapanipaniwala ay kalakhan ng mga pamilya ng mga magbubukid ay nabubuhay sa mas masahol na kalagayan kaysa sa mga Indian na natagpuan ni Columbus sa pinakamagandang lupa na nakita ng tao.

(Cuba could easily provide for a population three times as great as it has now, so there is no excuse for the abject poverty of a single one of its present inhabitants. The markets should be overflowing with produce, pantries should be full, all hands should be working. This is not an inconceivable thought. What is inconceivable is that anyone should go to bed hungry while there is a single inch of unproductive land; that children should die for lack of medical attention; what is inconceivable is that 30% of our farm people cannot write their names and that 99% of them know nothing of Cuba's history. What is inconceivable is that the majority of our rural people are now living in worse circumstances than the Indians Columbus discovered in the fairest land that human eyes had ever seen.)

Again, an eloquent passage that, when translated into Filipino, could have been an indictment – if not condemnation – of the Philippines’ own wretched conditions, were it not for the direct references to Cuba and to statistics particular to the Cuban experience.

Ala’s shortcomings in the way this book was done lie chiefly in his having fallen prey to the grammatical errors most commonly committed by non-native speakers of Tagalog, on which Filipino is largely based -- as can be found, for example, in his frequent interchanging of "nang" and "ng." There are also some parts where his translation gets too literal, as in his having translated “edible oil” as "nakakaing langis" – a phrase that is absent from the Filipino lexicon – when he could have easily used "mantika." There are a few hyphens where there should be none, as in "Taga-usig" which should be written as "'Tagausig."

These shortcomings, which could easily be corrected for the next printing, are however small compared to his success in translating the most important parts. By and large Ala’s main achievement in this translation is in making a 1953 Cuban speech hit closer to home for today's Filipino readers.

Ala is an alumnus of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Manila, where he was an active member of the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates (NNARA) Youth. He is now the public information officer of the Kilisang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). Bulatlat



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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