Wednesday, March 29, 2017

*427. ZOILO S. HILARIO: Pampanga’s Polyglot Poet

ZOILO'S ZEAL. The Kapampangan who wore many hats--as  poet, zarzuelista, diputado, Court of the First Instance judge, newspaperman--performed every role he assumed so excellently, that today, he is acclaimed as among the best in both Kapampangan and Spanish writing.Photo: CKS Collection.

The life of Zoilo J. Hilario (b. 27 June 1892/d. 13 Jan. 1963) is so multi-faceted that no no one title could be appended to his name. After all, Hilario was not just acclaimed as one of Pampanga’s most loved poets, but he was also a playwright, a parliamentarian, a newspaper man, a jurist, a researcher, a civic leader and an orator.

The talented poet was also adept in three languages, and was able to write “in poetic fluidity and grace” in both Spanish and Kapampangan languages. Moreover, the multi-lingual Hilario was also capable of writing in English; as  juez de primera instancia, he penned his decisions in that language.

Born in San Fernando to parents Tiburcio and Adriana Sanggalang, Hilario learned his cartilla from the school of Modesto Joaquin in Bacolor.  As a youngster, Hilario always had a way with words. Listening to adults’ conversations, he would versify their ordinary chats in fun. At 12, he wrote his first love poem to a neighbor’s daughter. Unfortunately, the girl’s mother discovered the letter and showed it to Hilario’s mother. Rather than be angry, Dña. Adriana was impressed with her son’s poetic skills, and became his number one fan.

From Liceo de Manila, he enrolled for his law course at Escuela de Derecho, graduated in 1911 and passed the bar thereafter. His studies over, he devoted more time to writing poetry. In 1917, he entered a contest sponsored  by the Casino Español of Iloilo and won, with his poem "Alma Espanola".  Hilario also became an esteemed member of Jardin de Epicuro, an elite literary society founded by Fernando Ma. Guerrero.

His Spanish writings were all published in book forms --Adelfas, Patria y Redencion, Ilustres Varones and Himnos y Arengas. But even as he wrote in Spanish, Hilario also became well-known for his outstanding vernacular poetry in Pampango. In 1918, he topped a poetry competition in Bacolor for his work, “Ing Babai”. Among the members of the jury was the great poet and playwright, Juan Crisostomo Soto. He became a poet laureate in 1920. Hilario was also involved as an editor of the bi-lingual newspaper, “E Mangabiran/ El Imparcial”, and later headed “El Paladin”, another local paper.

In 1931, Hilario forayed into politics and was elected as a congressman. Pres. Manuel L. Quezon named him as one of the first members of the National Language Institute to represent Kapampangan speakers in 1938. As a judge, Hilario was first assigned in Ilocos Sur in 1947, and rose to become a judge of the Court of the First Instance in 1954, based in Tarlac.

After his retirement, he devoted his time to his writings, and his collection of works were compiled in several books: "Bayung Aldo” (New Day) and  “Bayung Sunis” (New Rhythm). The prodigious Hilario also wrote the following plays—“Mumunang Sinta” (First Love), “Sampagang E Malalanat “(Unfading Flower), "Bandila ning Pilipinas" (Flag of the Philippines), “Juan de la Cruz, Anak ning Katipunan”, “Ing Mapamatubu” (The Loan Shark) and “Reyna Ning Malaya” (Queen of Malaya).

He continued his involvement with the government: as a legal adviser to former president  Emilio Aguinaldo and as member of the Philippine Historical Commission, until his death in 1963. He left behind his widow, Trinidad Vasquez of Negros Occidental, and two daughters, Rafaelita and Evangelina. His bust and a historical marker were unveiled on 27 June 1892—his 90th birthday-- in his hometown San Fernando, as a tribute to his sterling contributions to the province that he dearly loved, and who loved him back. 

SOURCES:
Hilario, Zoilo. Himnos y Arengas: Colecciones de Poesias. Nueva Era Press Inc., Manila. 1968
Hilario, Evangelina Lacson. Kapampangan Writing: A Selected Compendium and Critique, 1984.

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