|Día del Libro 2011|
“Among the many other things, Christianity is one of the legacies of Spain to the Philippines. Some of the largest pieces of evidence of the Spanish influence on Philippine culture are the Spanish Churches that still scatter the countryside today, and it is, truly, a wonderful legacy of Spain to the Philippines. The churches date back to mid-seventeenth century through the mid-eighteenth century. There is one to be found in almost every town square. As you may know, the Philippines is the only Christian nation in Asia. Whenever I go to my regular trips abroad, it never fails to amaze me to see more and more Filipino missionaries spreading the word of God all over the world. No wonder Filipinos are considered to be the new missionaries of the 21st century.”
That was a Spaniard reacting on the belief that we filipinized Christianity.
Born in 1950 in Ourense, Spain, he is married to Filipino artist Lourdes Coching.
He is Seňor Jose Rodriguez, the Instituto Cervantes' director, who supports the strengthening of our bilateral relations with Spain since they are excellent in all fields.
Let us further reflect on Don Pepe's views about the positive aspects of our partnership with the country that introduced us to Christ.
Vim Nadera: What do you love about the Philippines? What do you hate about it?
Jose Rodriguez: When you love someone, you take both the good and the bad. I love the Philippines.
VN: What made you fall in love with a Filipina?
JR: Beauty and brains.
VN: Are your kids more Spanish or more Filipino?
JR: They are both. They are very proud to be Filipino-Spanish.
VN: How would you describe the Rodriguez family?
JR: We are a very common family— an example of two identities partnered together.
VN: You have a Ph.D. and M.A. in business administration and a B.S. in agricultural technical engineering, how come you end up in the field of arts and culture?
JR: Even before I finished my studies, I was already involved in cultural affairs being a director of an art gallery in our university. Then, after I finished my studies, I became a journalist where I initially worked as a news correspondent and ended up becoming the Bureau Chief for Asia- Pacific of the Spanish news agency EFE.
VN: What can you say about your Doctor of Humanities honoris causa given by the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila?
JR: I acknowledge that credit bestowed upon me with great a deal of appreciation. Such recognition is a great privilege for me and I accept it with a mixture of pride and humility. Recently, I was also given a honoris causa Doctor of Humanitites by the St. Mary’s University in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. I feel very honored for this distinction in both universities.
VN: What is your most unforgettable experience as a correspondent?
JR: We usually remember events that have a huge impact on our life and career, and, unfortunately, these are mostly tragic ones like in my case covering the capsizing of the MV Doña Paz, which was considered to be one of the deadliest ferry disasters in history. Then there was also the 1989 Coup d’état as well as the tragedy in Ormoc City during the 1990 earthquake.
VN: What made you decide to put up the weekly Crónica de Manila?
JR: This was a common effort with the late Senator Raul Manglapus and a group of distinguished Hispanics in the country. It was an experience that I will never forget.
VN: How do you cope being inside the worlds of diplomacy, culture and business?
JR: By working hard, organizing properly and time-managing my tasks.
VN: Please share with us your time management secrets.
JR: To know how to delegate properly and be on top of everything.
VN: What does it take to become a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, United States of America Academy of the Spanish Language, the El Salvador Academy of the Spanish Language and the Republic of Chile Academy of the Spanish Language?
JR: Those are distinctions that are given—by invitation—to scholars. Once you are a member of an Academy of the Spanish language you may in turn be invited to become an honorary member of other 20 academies spread in the Spanish-speaking countries.
VN: You have been awarded the Encomienda de Isabel la Católica by His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain, what are your contributions in the strengthening of Spanish-Philippine relations?
JR: It is a great distinction that I treasure very much. Since I arrived in the country in the 70s, I have tried my best to strengthen the relations between our two countries and I try my best to focus my efforts in creating goodwill among our people and countries.
VN: Being a Knight Commander of the Philippine Order of the Knights of Rizal, what are your plans for the 150th anniversary of our National Hero?
JR: Last April 16, we celebrated the third edition of our Bersong EuroPinoy – a unique poetry chain of Filipino and European poems. That event featured the works of the national hero of the Philippines José Rizal in commemoration of his 150th birth anniversary. We launched his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo in their original language: Spanish.
VN: Please tell us more about your books.
JR: Philippine First Ladies Portraits (2003) is a tribute to those ladies in Philippine history that sometimes we forget that played a vital role in our country during their husband’s terms. The book focuses on the lives of the First Ladies as wives, mothers, and in one singular instance, as daughter, to the Presidents of the Republic in the midst of revolution, war, tragedies, political and economic challenges from 1898 to 1998.Crónicas (2000) is a short recollection of some personal memoirs in the Philippines since I arrived here in the 70s. Twelve Poets of Guadalupe (1972) is a book that I co-wrote with 11 wonderful friends and aspiring poets at that time. They were my companions in my university in Madrid – the same university where Secretary Alberto Romulo, Fr. Diosdado Talamayan, Mr. Ramon Pedrosa and other well-known Filipinos attended.
VN: What is the Centro Gallego de Filipinas?
JR: Galicia is an autonomous community in northwest of Spain. I am a son of Galicia and decided to put out an association of Galician people in the Philippines. There are very few of us. I would just like to mention that the “Gallego” journalist José Felipe del Pan, whose numerous contributions have dubbed him the dean of Philippine Press, is also from Galicia as well Gov. Gen. Gomez Perez Dasmariñas who initiated the construction of the stone wall in Intramuros.
VN: What is the significance of Cruceiro de Galicia to the Spanish-Filipino relations?
JR: The Cross of Saint James or the “cruceiro” was the emblem of the twelfth-century military Order of Santiago, named in reference to Spain's patron saint, Saint James the Great. This cross design is also called the Cross of the Knights of Santiago, as well as the Spanish Cross. This is the only cross in the Asia-Pacific region. It definitely is a link between Spain and the Philippines.
VN: What are the things you continued at Instituto Cervantes in Manila?
JR: I continued with the best projects of my predecessors.
VN: What are the things you contributed?
JR: I am proud to say that in the past four years, we have created awareness in the Spanish language and culture. And Instituto Cervantes in Manila can attest to the burgeoning popularity of Spanish in the country with more than 6,000 enrollments – a 100% increase in our academic language program. But beyond that, we also spearheaded the Berso sa Metro poetry reading campaign in the Light Railway Transit Authority (LRTA), as well as the training of the Filipino teachers in Spanish with the help of the Department of Education. But this is a common effort though, and I would like to emphasize that I just happen to be the captain of the ship.
VN: What are your programs beneficial to the Philippine arts and culture?
JR: At Instituto Cervantes, most of our cultural programs are free and open to the public. These are oriented to bring awareness and to advance the cultural connection between Spain and the Philippines. Through our countless artistic and cultural offerings, we are opening avenues for cross- cultural communication and allowing them to share the different points of views of people from all over the Hispanic community. We strive to be as dynamic as possible and we focus not only here in Manila but in other places in the country as well.
VN: What were your projects related to Dia Del Libro last week?
JR: For our Día del libro celebration last April 16, free entertainment was provided for a whole day of leisure and activity for the whole family. Around 4,000 book titles werel once again piled up in our center where from 10 am to 8 pm, bibliophiles and the curious can get their hands on a wide selection of books – children and young adult titles, dictionaries, novels, fiction and non-fiction titles – for as low as P20. And following the tradition in Spain, for every purchase a rose was given. In addition to the book market, Instituto Cervantes staged the grandest of celebrations, including an all-day feast of Spanish food with free wine tasting, film showings, games, poetry recital and free Spanish classes.
VN: How successful was Berso sa Metro and Bersong EuroPinoy?
JR: We are very proud to report that the response we have been receiving for our Berso sa Metro campaign was fantastic and that is reflected with the good media write-ups in print and online. The main objective was to promote the reading campaign and use both languages—Spanish and Filipino. The Bersong EuroPinoy, on the other hand, is often regarded as a “depiction of the brotherhood of languages” as it brings together renowned Filipino poets as well as different participants from various embassies of the European Union (EU). It was recently awarded the Gawad Jayme C. de Veyra by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino.
VN: What is the Spanish language curriculum all about? Why should we still study Spanish?
JR: I honestly believe that for a Filipino, learning Spanish is a good way of learning and understanding the past. The best and golden pieces of Philippine literature were written in Spanish: the works of the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, the national anthem, the first constitution, etc. Sadly, millions of documents of Philippine history are still lying dormant in the national archives. There is no better way to learn and research history than by reading the original papers and not second hand interpretations. With regard to the importance of Spanish today, suffice it to say that it is the second language of international communication spoken by 500 million people in 21 countries. Spanish means business and it is a gateway to prosperity. The projections show us that in just a few decades, the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world will be the U.S.A. It is Spanish time!
On a flight to Florida, I was preparing my notes for one of the parent education seminars I conduct as an educational psychologist. The elderly woman sitting next to me explained that she was returning to Miami after having spent two weeks visiting her six children, 18 grandchildren and ten great grandchildren in Boston. Then she inquired what I did for a living. I told her, fully expecting her to question me for free professional advice. Instead she sat back and said, "If there's anything you want to know, just ask me."
Married men live longer than single men do,
but married men are a lot more willing to die.