“The first sentence was “This tome will endeavor to scrutinize, in quasi-inclusive breadth, the epistemology of ophthalmologically contrived appraisals of ocular systems and the subsequent and requisite exertions imperative for expugnation of injurious states,” and as Violet read it out loud to her sister, both children felt the dread that comes when you begin a very boring and difficult book.” - A Miserable Mill, Lemony Snicket
See that? That bold part is exactly what reading Istilo Ko felt like.
Look, I get it, poetry is what gets lost in translation, after all. It’s hard to translate an original work into another language without losing some of its soul in the process. Professor Ocampo had to translate Rizal’s works in such a way that he is able to portray Jose Rizal as an eloquent, educated man and at the same time, make it easy to read.
He succeeded in the first goal, and failed miserably in the second.
Let me explain: Tagalog is to Filipino as Ye Olde English is to modern-day English.
Most of us who can speak Filipino can understand Tagalog as well. It doesn’t come easy, at least for me, because Filipino is what we use in our everyday life. Tagalog is the language you will hear during orations and speech competitions.
Tagalog was the language that Professor Ocampo used in translating Rizal’s works and letters in Istilo Ko.
How I wish he just stuck with it to the end.
The language used in Istilo Ko would fluctuate from informal Filipino, using words such as “okey!” and other such borrowed English words, to formal Tagalog. It was irritating to have to rewire my brain to understand Tagalog and then backpedal to my normal Filipino a paragraph later.
To add to the confusion, several Spanish words were left untranslated, without any footnotes to explain what they meant. Professor Ocampo simply assumed that the reader knew that these phrases meant.
Because in addition to having to spiral between Tagalog and Filipino, interpret whatever the hell Rizal was trying to say I had to be able to speak Spanish as well.
I’ve read Ambeth Ocampo’s translation of Makamisa, Rizal’s third, unfinished novel that parodied Filipino culture and I found it a lot preferable to this. The translation was breezy, easy to read and it was able to get its point across without having to resort to flowery language. I would’ve been a lot happier when reading Istilo Ko if the translation was a bit like Ambeth Ocampo’s work. Works are translated so that they can become more accessible to people, but Professor Ocampo made reading Rizal’s works a lot harder than it should have been.