Batas Mauricio .
WHO is Pedro Bucaneg? This was the question that hit my mind while I was looking for something to write about for this column on March 16, 2019. It was prompted by Twitter posts showing various Philippine national artists holding copies of the book written by another national artist, Mr. Virgilio Almario, and which book was launched in UP Diliman also on March 16.
The book by National Artist Almario was entitled “Bakit Kailangan Natin si Pedro Bucaneg?” (or Why do we need Pedro Bucaneg?) And so that started me thinking about the question that greeted you at the start of this column today: Who is Pedro Bucaneg? Why would a giant in Philippine literature in the likes of Virgilio Almario write a book featuring the question “Why do we need Pedro Bucaneg?”
I haven’t obtained a copy of that book yet, so I cannot give you Almario’s answer. But I tried to do some looking into the Internet and I discovered that Bucaneg was a great poet in the Ilocano language (the language of people in the northern part of the Philippines) notwithstanding his blindness from birth. He authored one of only two great folk epic stories in the Philippines which got printed during the Spanish era in the country, the “Life Story of Lam-Ang.”
Why do we need Pedro Bucaneg? As I see it, Bucaneg played an extremely important role in the whole history of the Philippines, and not only in the history of Philippine literature and art. The life and literary creations of Bucaneg showed the high caliber status of Philippine culture and arts, most especially in relation to poems, songs, and written and oral stories, even before any foreign colonizer like the Spaniards ever set foot in the country.
Bucaneg’s life story proves the richness and quality of Filipino culture, even before the Philippines got occupied by the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese. Bucaneg’s life was an eloquent and resounding affirmation of the innate intelligence of Filipino natives; that Filipinos became civilized and refined, not because of the influence of foreign masters, but by the talent and intellect that had been with them from the very first time they first set foot in these islands.
The long and short of all these should be this: Bucaneg is an attestation that we, native Filipinos (even if we were not given this appellation yet), are already a civilized nation right at the moment when foreign invaders came with their malevolent designs to conquer us. Since we were undoubtedly civilized already at that time, it wouldn’t really be fair and truthful to say we were “discovered” only when foreigners came to our shores.
Now, if we will look closely at the Bucaneg story “Life of Lam-ang,” we will also not fail to understand that the Filipino race was, in reality, already possessed with a heart filled with love for our parents, and with vibrant courage and overflowing wisdom that enabled us to prevail even over stronger and more wily enemies, from the beginnings of our civilization.
The life story of Lam-ang, as Bucaneg created it, will also teach us that Filipinos, even before the Bible was officially introduced to them by their Spanish colonizers, already were vested with stories, fiction or otherwise, which paralleled stories from the Bible–such as the story about Moses who, in his very tender age, was put in a cradle by his own parents and allowed to float on a river until the Egyptian princess took him in as her own son.
From all these, it would be clear that present-day Filipinos need Bucaneg and his literary masterpieces (which he merely dictated to his scribes) so they can come to the realization of their true worth and nature as empowered citizens from the very beginning of our race; that Filipinos truly form a great race, whose greatness foreign invaders destroyed for their own selfish interests.