By Rev. Edgar Battad Ebojo, Ph.D.
Philippine Bible Society/United Bible Societies
November 22, 2017
PAMPANGA. One of the gateways to the North! Richly blest with proud history, dynamic diversity, and fascinating natural para-structures. One of the essential rice granaries of Luzon, helping provide staple food to many Filipino families. Home to many heroes and heroines who gallantly contributed in shaping the storied past and the promising future of this country.
But Pampanga is also famous for the many excellent dishes it offers to those whose food cravings need to be satisfied. None will come first than the well-known Kapampangan Sisig, sizzlingly made of pork and chicken liver, mixed perfectly and served with chopped onion, chili pepper, and sliced calamansi! Then we must mention the ever sumptuous Tocino, whether chicken or pork, both in its sweet or sourly taste, majestically marinated to suit one’s palate!
Of course, some Pampanga dishes offer exotic challenges, too! And here we must mention first Camaru, fried or adobo! But perhaps nothing beats the special charm that the Kapampangan Balu-balo (also known as Buro) offers. Balu-balo is fermented rice with fresh live shrimp suahe, sautéed in garlic and loads of tomatoes. It is best served with fresh mustard leaves (mustasa), grilled talong (eggplant) and grilled or fried Hito. Bon appetit!
Hito and shrimps (and other aquatic entities), of course, are natural wealth provided by water sources or rivers systems, for which Pampanga is widely known of. In fact, the second largest river on the island of Luzon is the Pampanga River (known to the Spaniards as Rio Grande de Pampanga). It is equally widely known that those who founded Pampanga even before the Spanish conquest of 1571 peacefully settled along riverbanks of the province for abundant supply of natural resources. It is for this reason that pampangs became historically important in the official naming of the province, because the pampangs were important to its people for many reasons than one… and GOD LOVES RIVERBANKS, TOO!
PAMPANG AS A RESOURCE OF LIFE
For instance, the pampang is a source and resource of life. The aquatic supplies it offers pervades the abundance of resources found teeming in the streams of flowing waters. It furthermore helps irrigate and quench the thirst of the earth to produce bountiful harvest in due time, that feeds and satisfies the hungry stomach.
Pampangs are silent witnesses to how God reminds us daily that He is the supreme supplier of all our daily needs and provisions. But more than physical food requirements, God is also the ever-loving supplier of all the essentials we need to worship Him and to live intimately according to His Word. This truth we can witness through the transmission history of the Bible in Pampango.
After the Spanish defeat in August 1898 in the infamous Battle of Manila Bay, which opened wider opportunities for Bible distribution in the Philippines, the American Bible Society Management reported in January 1899, “the People who speak (Pampango) do not number more than 200,000; but they are a leading section of the population of the Philippines, and should, for this reason, be among the first to have a version of the New Testament Scriptures”.
This field report became a significant policy for the Bible Society in the Philippines. Thus, in 1901 the Gospel of Luke was published by the American Bible Society. With the title Ing Santo Evangelio ning Guinu tang Jesu Cristo dikil kang San Lucas, this first-ever translation of a portion of the Sacred Scriptures into the Pampango language was undertaken by the tandem of Don Leon Gamboa and Professor Maximo Kabigting, of the Liceo de Manila. That same year, the Gospel of Mark was also published by ABS, again as a product of the Gamboa-Kabigting tandem.
In 1902, both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of John were also published by ABS. This were translations undertaken by Prof Kabigting. Two years later, the Book of Acts was published, this time by a new translator—the young and energetic Methodist preacher, Reverendo Juan Macaspac, who was educated and trained in the Bible at the first Protestant seminary in the Philippines, and who would later become one of the prominent leaders of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the province.
By Divine Providence, Rev. Macaspac would also later complete the translation of the rest of the New Testament books, so that by 1908, the people of Pampanga would have already been able to read the whole New Testament in their own heart language. It bore the title Ing Bayung Tipan ning Kekatang Guinung Talapangabus a i Jesu-Cristo.
The warm reception of the new translation prompted the ABS to form subsequently a team who was tasked to complete the translation of the Old Testament and revise the NT as necessary. Working on the earlier drafts of Don Gamboa, Professor Kabigting, and Don Macaspac, the team was composed of Reverendo Juan Macaspac (himself as the main translator), and Reverendo Arcadio de Ocera (another prominent Methodist preacher and acted as the main reviewer). They were assisted by Rev. Carlos Everett Conant and Rev. Edwin Houley.
In 1917, after years of painstaking work and technological challenges, the translation team’s labours would come into fruition. It might have taken them almost a decade to complete this gargantuan task, but its historic publication signified that the translation history of the whole Scripture into Pampango had reached its zenith, courtesy of the dedication and commitment of its translation team, the support of the local churches, and the prayers of the faithful so that the Word that gives life could be meaningfully read in the language that Pampango people best understood.
It is this version of the Pampango Bible that we celebrate today, for one hundred years ago this first ever translation of the Bible, following the Protestant canon, had offered a beacon of light for those who needed direction and a continuing source of life for those who needed joyful satisfaction from God. And for this we say, PURIAN TA YA ING GINU!
But language is not static; it changes in the passing of time and might need constant review and revision for many valid reasons. For instance, in 1924, to integrate latest biblical scholarship as reflected in the American Standard Version (ASV), the ABS published a slightly revised edition of the 1917 edition. The revision team included: Rev. Eusebio Manuel, Rev. Alberto Songco, and Rev. Ricardo del Rosario, and were assisted by Rev. Herbert Riley and Ms. Aneta Finley. Entitled Ing Biblia, it was this revised edition that continued to serve the Pampango churches through the 1960’s.
In 1952, the eminent linguist, Dr. Eugene Nida, visited the Philippines and conducted language and translation assessment. Together with other Philippine languages, Dr. Nida recommended the revision of the 1924 Ing Biblia, marking a new horizon for this Bible translation.
For this revision project, the Philippine Bible Society leadership engaged the services of Rev. Dr. Fidel Galang for the New Testament and Rev. Jeremias Calagui for the Old Testament, with the support of the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the United Churches of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). This duo was assisted by a review committee composed of Rev. Eusebio Manuel, Rev. Exequiel Lazaro, Rev. Pedro Sison, Rev. Alejandro Perez, and Rev. Victorio Mendoza, Sr. Dr. Henry Waterman and Rev. Lumen Roble acted as translation consultants for the project.
This team was constituted in April 1958 and worked until March 1966, and had published several NT books separately. This would have been the latest edition of the Pampango Ing Biblia… but God had other plans; better plans to show the depth and breadth of resources that a pampang offers, for a pampang is also a special meeting point for various forms of life, where homogeneity despite diversity is beautifully witnessed and experienced.
PAMPANG AS A RENDEZVOUS OF DIVERSITY:
CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANTS UNITE FOR THE WORD OF GOD
It would be a mis-appreciation of facts if one sees the translation history of the Pampango Bible purely as a Protestant interest. On the contrary, it has been reported that as early as 1947, Rev. Fr. Quirino Canilao had already made translation drafts of the Gospels and of the Epistles which were mimeographed every week for the use of his parishioners in Mexico, Pampanga.
This year we also celebrate the golden anniversary of the Philippine Bible Society’s solid partnership with the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines. Through the years, this partnership has been a firm, resolute, joyful, compassionate, visionary, and concerned partnership. But how did it begin in the first place? How come Evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic Christians can now sit alongside each other without being suspected as an adversary? The answer lies in The Book that unites us all—the Bible!
As an aftermath of the Vatican Council II, local Roman Catholic Christian leaders were seeking ways of getting the Scriptures into the hands of their faithful. Hence, on February 14, 1967, the Rev. Msgr. Mario Balatazar, O.P., was tasked by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to approach the Philippine Bible Society to secure permission to use its existing translations of the Bible in the major vernaculars for their liturgical requirements.
Sensing that this is a critical moment in the history of Philippine Christianity, and that all must go in accordance to the will and purposes of God, the PBS leadership counter-proposed a cooperative venture to produce Bible translations that could be used by both Protestant and Catholic Christians, reflected in the contemporary language. The climax of this dialogue came in November 21, 1967, when the Board of Directors and the Management Team of PBS met with the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines and the Rev. Fr. Walter Abbott, S.J., who then served as the Assistant to His Eminence Cardinal Bea of Rome, to finalise the plans for the beginning of interconfessional efforts for Bible translations in the Philippines.
Ultimately, various translation teams were constituted, representing the eight major languages in the Philippines. Through the initial coordination efforts of Dr. Daniel Arichea, Jr. and Dr. Noel Osborn, the Pampango Popular Version translation team was formed in the early 1970’s. At one point or another, the following served or helped in the translation of the Bible into Pampango using the dynamic equivalent theory: Rev. Nathanael Canlas, Rev. Fr. Gregorio Canlas, Dr. Vicente Catacutan, and Mr. Venancio Samson. Aside from Dr. Arichea and Dr. Osborn, Dr. Anicia del Corro, a full-blooded Kapampangan from San Fernando, eventually served also as Translation Consultant for the team. The translation team commenced with the New Testament.
The task looked impossible at first, but the grace of God and the workings of the Holy Spirit enabled all the translators to rise above their differences and took the higher honorable path of humility, commitment, and loyalty to their calling of putting God’s Word into the people’s heart language. In 1981, the New Testament was published, entitled Ing Bayung Tipan: Mayap a Balita para Keka. This interconfessional translation was given imprimatur by the late Most Rev. Emilio Cinense, D.D., the then Bishop of San Fernando. In 1985, the New Testament with Psalms was published, with the imprimatur of Archbishop Oscar Cruz.
In November 1982, the translation of the Old Testament commenced, and was completed in the early 90’s and subsequently published in 1994 with the title Ing Mayap a Balita Biblia, and with the imprimatur of Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, D.D. Compared with other language translations, the Pampango Popular Versions was the last to be launched by the PBS. But it is nonetheless very significant in many ways, for it signified the solidarity of the Pampango people for the sake of advancing the cause of God’s Word. Never again shall be our prejudices overtake us in expressing our faith to God and in following His Word. For the Word of God is a beacon light at the Pampangs of our lives, providing direction for the future.
PAMPANG AS A SIGNPOST FOR THE FUTURE
The translators of the Pampango Bible stood at the pampang of life. They saw the continuing need of the people of Pampanga for the Word of God; they felt the move of the Holy Spirit to be one in spirit and in resolve; and they acted on what God wanted them to do, so that the Word of God would be freely heard, lovingly read, and intimately lived out by the people of the Pampang. Today we honour these men and women, their exploits for God, their desires for their people, and their undying love for God and His people! May their lives be a challenge to us all to love God and His word more than ever!
PURIAN TA YA ING GINU!
(Praise the Lord!)
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