TOMAS PINPIN FROM ABUCAY
A Christian Filipino, The First Bataeño
Archbishop SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
(Former Bishop of Balanga 2004-2009)
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Many Filipinos remember Bataan for the gallantry and valor of the Filipino American soldiers during the Second World War. The tragic Death March which followed the surrender of Bataan on April 9, 1942 is taught in history classes and continues to elicit both a deep sense of admiration and horror.
But Bataan is not just a war memorial peninsula. In war, Bataan was indeed a symbol of valor and gallantry; but in peace, Bataan is a tender cradle of heroes and saints. The first Filipino Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Don Cayetano Arellano, was born in Orion, Bataan. San Miguel de Aozaraza, a Spanish Dominican missionary who ministered in Bataan, was one of the companions of San Lorenzo Ruiz when he died for the Catholic faith in Nagasaki.
On March 17, 2010, Bataan will celebrate the thirty fifth anniversary of the creation of the Diocese of Balanga by Pope Paul VI of holy memory. On the same day, the four hundredth anniversary of the first book authored and printed by a Filipino will be celebrated too. That author and printer was Tomas Pinpin from Abucay, Bataan.
Tomas Pinpin is the first Filipino author in Tagalog and Spanish. He is also the first native Filipino printer by typography. He is the first Filipino poet in Tagalog and Spanish. He is the first Filipino to write a grammar for Tagalogs to learn Spanish. He was a Filipino. He was a Christian. He was from Bataan. Tomas Pinpin is the first Bataeno.
He was born in Abucay, Bataan about the year 1590. He received his education from the Spanish Dominican missionaries in Abucay Bataan and it was surely from Father Francisco Blancas de San Jose that he received his training in printing by typography.
Esteemed Dominican historian Father Fidel Villaroel, OP wrote: "In 1610, in the modest house of the Dominican mission of the pueblo of Abucay in the partido of Bataan, the first Filipino press brought to the world two grammars, which were the first books ever printed by Filipino printers."
That year, Father Francisco Blancas de San Jose wrote the book "Artes Y Reglas de Las Lengua Tagala" and Tomas Pinpin printed it. Tomas Pinpin’s work, written in Tagalog for them to learn Spanish was entitled " Librong Pag-aaralan Nang Manga Tagalog Nang Uicang Castilla" was in turn published by a certain Diego Talanghay in the same year.
W. Retana says "Tomas Pinpin is the most interesting figure among the Filipino typographers, the patriarch of them all".
Tomas Pinpin’s story is a saga of faith in God and love of his countrymen. In the beautiful "Sulat" introducing his first book, he acknowledged with a deep sense of gratitude that his Christian faith was a great gift from God Almighty. In the same breath, he admonished his countrymen to aim high and study with utmost diligence the Christian faith and the Castillan language.
The memory of Tomas Pinpin must inspire us to ever move towards excellence in everything we do and to fight the gnawing culture of mediocrity and the degrading temptation of ease and comfort. According to Father Villaroel, "Like all pioneering enterprises, the making of printing press in the early seventeenth century Philipines must seem to the contemporaries almost "mission impossible". As Retana wrote in 1610, the first typography in these Islands was like "self apprenticeship, like the quasi invention of the press". Tomas Pinpin teaches us diligence and fortitude. His memory is an inspiration for excellence and perfection.
The portrait of Tomas Pinpin cannot be painted without the portrait of Father Francisco Blancas de San Jose beside him or behind him. The Dominican friar was his mentor not only in the science of printing but in the realm of morals and ethics. Printing, being a human activity, must always be done according to accepted ethical standards and moral norms. Mass media without ethics is a scourge not a blessing for the nation. In invoking freedom of expression, media practitioners must also insure that they adhere to ethical norms. For every gift, there is responsibility. For every right, there is a corresponding duty. Press freedom is not absolute.
The last book printed carrying his name was dated 1639 narrating the martyrdom of Father Marcelo Francisco de Matrilli in Nagasaki which happened in 1637. Since 1640, Tomas Pinpin has entered into perpetual silence as a printer but his heroism and diligence is ours to remember and emulate. The story of his fidelity to the Church and loyalty to his countrymen must be written not in ink anymore but through the lives we live.
Tomas Pinpin from Abucay, the first Bataeño!
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City March 7, 2010
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Former Bishop of Balanga