On Nava’s Translation of Muzones’s Margosatubig by John E. Barrios

Translation works from Hiligaynon to English with regards novel is practically unheard of. If I am not mistaken, the Ilonggo community could only boast of one translation done by Dr. Lucila Hosillos—that of Magdalena Jalandoni’s novel, Juanita Cruz, that has a national circulation. Jalandoni’s another novel, Babayi sa Tindahan, was translated into English by Ed Defensor in 1980s but was only circulated locally. Also in local circulation, is a novel written by Conrado Norada that was translated into English a few years back. So, this translation from Hiligaynon into English by Cecilia Locsin-Nava of Ramon Muzones’ ground-breaking novel, Margosatubig, will not only encourage other writers and scholars to do similar task, but will foster a tradition in the translation of Hiligaynon novels by Western Visayan writers.

Locsin-Nava had successfully incorporated the linguistic and cultural dimensions of the source language into the target language. By refraining from using English idioms for example, the translator was able to appropriate the syntax of the Hiligaynon language into the English language. Perhaps, her conscious attempt at literal translation made her work much closer to what academician’s call one of the many ‘englishes’. This was short of saying that her translation is timely thus, enabling it to address the need for a critical view on the current literary translation practice in English.

Literal and cultural translations open up a ‘dialogue’ between Hiligaynon and English. By not allowing Hiligaynon to be dominated by English, her translation is able to produce an appropriate linguistic reality observable in the Ilonggo’s use of the English language. For evaluating a translation, the most common and most popular criteria would be to produce a ‘soft translation,’ that is, to make the translation sound like it was originally written in the target language. But this was exactly what her translation did not want to do. Her translation wanted to foreground what was Hiligaynon in its text, thus, the literal and cultural approach.

As an Ilonggo reader, I can say that—from my act of reading her translation—I was able to call the English that was used as ‘our own english’. Reading the English translation was like reading the Hiligaynon language with the English signs. As Dr. Nava admitted in her Translator’s Notes, “[j]ust how closely I adhered to the text is shown by the fact that I retained, as far as I was able, Muzones’s sentence structure down to his stylistic innovations that went against the rules of grammar.”

Furthermore, Locsin-Nava’s translation of Muzones’s novel into English is considered of utmost significance for it will introduce Ilonggo literature in the national literary scene. Considering that Muzones had been nominated as National Artist for Literature several times, an English translation of his famous novel will give him a fair chance against other Filipino writers. This, I think, is what Locsin-Nava’s translation of Muzones’s Margosatubig hopes to

John Barrios is a cultural worker, professor, writer in Akeanon and Filipino, and PhD student of Filipino-Panitikan ng Pilipinas at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

During the book launch on August 17, 2012,4:30 p.m. at the Ateneo Library of Women Writing (ALIWW), Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City. L-R: Maricor Bayton (Director, Ateneo Press), Glenn Sevilla Mas, Jonathan Chua, Genevieve Asenjo, and the scholar-translator Dr. Ma. Cecilia Locsin-Nava.

Photo by Ariel Manuel.

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