Featured Song: Sa Aking mga Kabata
It was a long-held belief that the poem Sa Aking mga Kabata (To My Fellow Children) was written by Dr. Jose P. Rizal. According to popular belief, Rizal wrote the poem in 1869 to express the importance of loving one’s native tongue. This is the poem where one finds the popular line, “Ang hindi magmahal sa kanyang salita, mahigit sa hayop at malansang isda.”
However, in his recent book Rizal: Makata, National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario clarifies that the poem was not by Rizal. Almario provides pieces of evidence to prove his point, and one of these is a letter Rizal wrote his brother Paciano in 1886. In the letter, Rizal admitted to finding it difficult to translate into Filipino the German word freiheit, or the Spanish word libertad (freedom or liberty in English), which Rizal found in the story of William Tell.
It was in Marcelo H. Del Pilar’s translation of Rizal’s article, El Amor Patrio (Ang Pag-Ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa), that Rizal saw the word “malaya” or “kalayaan” as the Tagalog equivalent of the word “libertad.”
According to Almario, since Rizal only discovered the Tagalog word kalayaan when del Pilar translated El Amor Patrio in 1882, it was unlikely that Rizal wrote Sa Aking mga Kabata, which uses the word kalayaan, in 1869.
Nonetheless, the poem delivers a very patriotic message, particularly about the use of one’s native language as a way of expressing love for one’s own country. This poem was later set to music by Pedro Gatmaitan Santos, a composer from Bulacan.
Almario, V.S. (2011). Rizal: makata. Mandaluyong City: Anvil Publishing.