Remembering Isabelo delos Reyes (July 7, 1864 – Otober 10, 1938): the great Ilokano – scholar, journalist, labor leader, and revolutionary

Remembering Isabelo delos Reyes (July 7, 1864 – Otober 10, 1938): the great Ilokano – scholar, journalist, labor leader, and revolutionary

(Northern Dispatch (nordis) Weekly on June 2007.)


Redeem the interest in the works and life of a revolutionary, a great Ilocano, a patriot and a homegrown intellectual who started envisioning the Filipino nation was how the lecturer seemed to tell students and faculty of the University of the Philippines here who remembered the great Ilocano and patriot Isabelo delos Reyes during the inaugural lecture that launched the centennial lecture series as part of the university’s 99th Anniversary Week that gloomy Wednesday afternoon last week.

Invited to lead the recollection on the patriot’s life and works was Prof. Resil Mojares, himself a distinguished writer and recorder of Philippine culture and study.

Mojares, who flew in from Cebu City, said there is some sort of a rediscovery at present as he said efforts are being done on the national level to retrieve whatever is left of the archives Isabelo delos Reyes started some 120 years ago. Original manuscripts and published materials at the national Museum are now being re-encoded, and translated for public consumption.

Professor Resil Mojares. Photo by Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS

Mojares described delos Reyes, among others, as an Ilocano writer and journalist, homegrown intellectual, the father of Filipino folklore, and historian who aspired to write Philippine History independent of his contemporary historians Jose Rizal and Pedro Paterno.

“He is a man of many projects,” Mojares said of delos Reyes. He started many things, not necessarily excelling in all, he described his works, which barely caught the attention of his colleagues.

As a historian, he first wrote the history of the Visayas, Mojares, a Visayan, stressed.

“In 1885, he referred to himself as the brother of the forest dwellers, referring to the Aetas, Igorots, and Tingguians,” Mojares told his young audience. He envisioned a nation in his aspiration to collect works, knowledge and evidence of folklore. Mojares noted that his works were then not fully appreciated, much less recognized.

As a journalist, Delos Reyes knew his audience and had a sense of his public, according to Mojares, as evidenced by his multi-lingual writings and journalistic outputs. Delos Reyes wrote mainly in Spanish, but saw to it that he had his work translated in Philippine languages Iloco, Cebuano, Tagalog. He even translated classic works in Iloco for his local readers to appreciate. He wrote comedia then the popular form of literature.

Delos Reyes founded the first vernacular newspaper, the El Iloco, in 1889.

As a prisoner in 1897, he took pains interviewing Katipuneros among the prisoners and wrote the history of Andres Bonifacio’s Katipunan at the Bilibid prisons and later sent to a prison in Barcelona, Spain where he came in contact with European political activists

He returned in 1901 and together with Pascual Poblete, another nationalist, put up a pro-labor newspaper El Grito del Pueblo and later became the first president of the first national labor union in the country, the Union Obrero Democratica (UOD).

Mojares did not fail to mention the contribution of the Ilocano revolutionary in the founding of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), or the Aglipayan church in 1902, which recognized him much later as the great Aglipayan bishop, who wrote sermons a great deal that criticized then Spanish friars and the Spanish rule.

“He was also a politician,” Mojares quipped. Delos Reyes was councilor of Manila when he returned from Spain. Later, he was elected senator from Ilocos in 1922, when senators were voted by their respective districts.

Dr. Eleanor Imson, who was among the audience in Mojares’es talk, has been translating the works of Isabelo delos Reyes. “It is hard re-encoding the Spanish text,” she told Nordis, especially that words have evolved through time and that there were a considerable number of typographical errors in the original text.

Imson, a UP-Baguio faculty, started working on Delos Reyes’es works as a UP professor and finished the first volume in 1984. She stopped for a while when she left the university and later resumed in 2004.

“Technology advance makes the work harder because I had to re-encode what I have done before, when I used to work on Wordstar and Wordperfect, she said in jest, nevertheless, she said the work is worth it.

According to Imson, it takes one who is learned in Spanish to be able to do a Delos Reyes. She said the translation work will help rekindle the people’s interest in the works of the great Ilocano writer, journalist, historian, labor leader, politician, and revolutionary. #


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