Dr. Buenaventura S. Medina, Jr.
Introduction to Dr. B.S. Medina
From The B.S. Medina Reader
Edited by Alice Gregorio-Nicolas
DLSU Press, 1996
I first met Dr. Buenaventura S. Medina Jr. in his Literary History of the Philippines class at De La Salle University. It was an ordinary class for me. Working as an assistant at the then Public Relations Office of La Salle, I wondered why I had to study the dates of each literary piece and the historical significance of each period. Anyway, I attended the class just so I could finish masteral studies.
My next encounters with Medina were at book launchings and lectures, in canteens, and along the corridors of La Salle. Being too small for this literary giant, the most I could do was greet him “good morning” or “good afternoon.”
Years later, I started studying Medina’s works for my Literary Criticism class under Dr. Isagani Cruz. Dr Cruz suggested that I do a criticism of Medina’s novel Alaga using feminist and psychoanalytic approach. The same paper served as part of my entry to the 1994 Cutural center of the Philippines Writing Contest. It was entitled “Si BS Medina Jr. bilang nobelista, mananaysay, tagasalin, iskolar at editor: Isang pagbasang feminista,” and turned out to be the first serious study ever done on Medina’s works. My knowledge, therefore, of Medina’s works is extensive as I had to read almost all his works.
This book is a collection of the most representative works of Medina as a novelist, essayist, translator, scholar and editor.
Medina wrote novels and novelettes for Liwayway, Aliwan and Pilipino magazines. His two novels Moog and Alaga were published in book form in 1991 and 1993, respectively. Moog won the grand prize in the 1994 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards.
The thematic style of Medina in his novels focuses on the family, specifically the father, as both novels center on a father providing strength to the family. As mortals, the fathers in the novels commit mistakes while the wives and children remain devoted followers.
What makes Medina’s novels unique is his conservative way of bringing back the significance of the old Filipino family tradition. The modern writers can never depict such themes as accurately as Medina.
Most of the earlier works of Medina are essays, too numerous that he himself failed to clip or note them down. His essays deal mostly on people’s values and personal relationships. Two of Medina’s noted collections are Gantimpala and Pintig.
Gantimpala is a compilation of Medina’s award winning works from 1953 to 1968. An essay from this compilation, “Pagsilang: Pag-iisa,” is included in this volume.
Pintig, on the other hand, is a collection of 80 essays discussing, among other things, people as individuals who constantly question their existence and role on earth. The essays, actually hi Pilipino magazine columns, are grouped into three: 12 essays on “self,” 36 essays on “life” and 32 essays on various topics. In one essay, Medina claims that a newly-born child is not at all alone in darkness. He writes:
…Madarama mo, masasalat mo, di man matanaw-
marahil may karamay ka. Ikaw’y sisilang. Sapagkat alam
mo – nadarama mo, masasalat mo, di man matatanaw –
ang iyong kaisa, kawaksi, karamay.
In “Alaala at pagpapakahulugan: Ilang tala tungkol sa paglikha ng kwento” Medina admits that his stories are products of his own experiences, memories and perception. He writes to give life its due respect. Thus, as a writer it has become his life-long commitment to continue writing in whatever form he chooses.
In the same essay, Medina admits his father’s influence on his writing. He writes:
Iniisip ko na magaling lamang ako gumunita at
Magbigay ng sariling pakahulugan ng mga alaalang
yaon – sa mga karanasang yaon. Matabil akong
magsalaysay – pasalita, pasulat. Marahil mana ako sa
aking ama. Sa pagsusulat. Sa pagtatagni-tagni ng mga
alaalang pili, pagbibigay-kahulugan sa mga
pira-pirasong alaalang yaon.
It is clear that Medina draws his writing from the memory of his father. And the son-father relationship is too strong, too powerful that the young Medina unconsciously makes his father a living figure in his writings. The essays of young Medina could therefore be rooted in the essays of the senior Medina. The writings of Medina Junior is, after all, a continuation of the writings of Medina Senior.
One area of Mesdina’s writing career which, to date, is being neglected by him and which his readers are not giving much attention to, is his work as translator. Medina was very active in translation in the mid-50s. he translated around ten books, mostly short Story collections. Some of his noted works which appeared in This Week were translations from Filipino to English of “Bernardo Carpio,” “Siete Infantes de Lara,” and “Doce Pares de Francia.”
For Medina, translation is an encounter between the sensibilities of the writer and the translator. Both have separate sensibilities and consciousness which can be merged to form a unique and distinct work of art. He explains in one of his essays: “The writer and the translator should wield the same pen; ideally, this union must be absolute – in terms of quality and nature of interpreting reality. At least, while no two kinds are alike, they must share that desire to create a credible, valid story.”
Reading Medina’s translations will reveal that he is not using a single theory in translation. He merges different schools to create a “Medina Theory in Translation.” When Medina is translating, he tries to answer the following questions: will the translation meet my personal criteria and standards, will the author be satisfied upon seeing the translation, and will the readers understand the new work the way they will understand the original?
Medina firmly believes that a translation is not the same as the original; it is a new piece that should be called a work solely written by the translator. This is, of course, a personal view that should be respected. Medina’s grasp of language, especially in Filipino, is one reason why his translations may be considered art in themselves. His being a writer – his sensibility, creativity and ability to choose words – blends well with his skill in translating.
It is said that not all writers are good translators and not all translators can become good writers. In Medina’s case, the two skills work hand in hand.
A writer who is the same time a scholar develops a kind of discipline in writing. A writer-scholar learns to commit him-self with his readers. There is direction and reason in everything he writes. His concern for the development of his readers and his nation is clear and he tries to constantly meet this goal. Medina, a writer and a scholar, writes in the same frame of mind.
Two of Medina’s books, The primal passion: Tagalog literature in the nineteenth century and Confrontations: Past and present in Philippine literature, are results of his serious scholarly efforts.
The primal passion is a study on Francisco Baltazar, Jose Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar, Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto as writers of their respective generations. Confrontations: Past and present in Philippine literature, on the other hand, presents writers of different periods whose works dealt mostly with social and political issues. These writers are Gaspar Aquino de Belen, Huseng Sisiw, Francisco Balagtas, Lopez Jaena, Jose Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar, Andres Bonifacio, Jose Garcia Villa, Genoveva Edroza, Francisco Arcellana, NVM Gonzales, Bienvenido Santos, and Nick Joaquin.
Medina served as link to the missing work of Balagtas when he found the typewritten copy of Orosman at Zafira in Press published the book with an introduction written by Medina.
Another notable scholarly work of Medina is his study on Francisco Balagtas. Among his essays on Balagtas are “Balagtas: The passion defined,” and “The conscious, unconscious: Balagtas and four Tagalog women poets after 1986.”
Medina also studied Balagtas and his works in the essays “The kudyapi and the crickets: Folf idiom as poetry,” “Agony as ethos,” and “Pagbabago: The conscious commitment.”
Medina was editor of Pilipino, a weekly publication of the Philippine Free Press, Inc., from 1960 to 1970. At the same time, he also wrote articles for the magazine. His stint with the magazine was one of the most fruitful parts of his career because it was during this period that he wrote voluminous essays, poems, short stories and novels.
In 1970, the City of Manila awarded him the “Gawad na Patnubay ng Kalinangan” in recognition of his achievements as a journalist and creative writer.
In 1970, the City of Manila was exposed to the socio-political issues of the ‘60s. The articles in Pilipino, during Medina’s term as editor, reflected the innermost feelings of the writers and the common tao in general. Because of this, Medina recently published a book Saksi: Piling maiikling katha buhat sa Pilipino, 1965-1970. The text on the book’s inside cover tells us why Saksi was created:
Bilang editor ng babasahing yaon na humarap at
tumugon sa hinihingi ng isang maalimpuyong
panahon, nakapaglaan si Medina ng mapanuring
pagkandili sa mga malikhaing isip. Kaya mga kamay
din ng editor na iyan ang nagbigay-hugis sa Saksi.
Medina also edited Orosman at Zafira ni Balagtas and 25 Pinakamabuting maikling
kathang Pilipino ng 1943, to which he write critical introductions.
The Person and the writer
Medina is a very serious writer who gives his readers so much to think about. Medina is also a very serious person, and many misunderstand him. He is to many snobbish, straightforward, and insensitive. But the man, in all his seriousness, is a jolly person who,laughs and cracks jokes. He is a caring, candid, and sensitive person. Medina, in person and in print, need not be seen; real Medina must be felt. Feeling Medina is feeling the person and the writer within him.