Wednesday, August 5, 2009

*155. ZOILO GALANG, Kapampangan Encylopedist

ZOILO GALANG. Filipino encyclopedist and the 1st English-language Filipino novelist.

When I was a student, it was my most ardent desire to own an encyclopedia set. In our school library, I would spend hours poring over the pages of an encyclopedia, delighting in the wealth of facts, photos, charts and colorful illustrations that accompanied each entry as I did my special assignment. But sadly, I could never bring a volume home. I remember also the feeling of envy whenever I visited the homes of my cousins who owned volumes of “The Book of Knowledge”, kept in glass-covered cabinet case. Though I could borrow them—one book a a time—I knew I could never own a similar set, given our financial situation at that time.

Then, to my great surprise, in my second year high school, I received from my parents, a brand new 12-volume Collier’s Encyclopedia set, beautifully bound in black and red, and lettered in gold. What a thrill it was to hold a book in my hands, the latest 1969 edition to be exact, crammed with so much information from A-Z, and sure to satisfy the bookworm in me with endless hours of reading pleasure. My father bought the Colliers’ on installment, paying 50 pesos monthly for a year, a hefty sum that certainly jumbled the family budget. I recognized this big sacrifice by promising to take care of my Colliers’, wrapping them in plastic and storing them in a newly-built open cabinet in my room where they would remain at all times, when not in use.

While the British have their “Encyclopedia Brittanica” and the Americans have their “Encyclopedia Americana”, the Philippines, too, has its own encyclopedia thanks to a Kapampangan who single-handedly produced the 10-volume set first published in 1934.

Zoilo Galang was born in Bacolor on 27 June 1895 and his young life was spent in that bucolic town, famed for its writers and artists. He went to school at the Bacolor Elementary School and then went to Manila to study at the Escuela de Derecho, the country’s eminent law school where he graduated in 1919. A self-starter, he learned typing and stenography in English and Spanish all by himself. Attracted to the English language, he took special courses at the University of the Philippines in 1925, then went to Columbia University for further studies in Literature.

He was soon writing books of fiction, biography and philosophy, and his output was prodigious. His early poems saw print on the Kapampangan paper, “E Mangabiran". He authored “A Child of Sorrow”, the first English novel written by a Filipino. This was later made into a movie in 1930. Other notable works include "Nadia", "For Dreams Must Die", "Springtime", "Leaders of the Philippines", "Glimpses of the World", "Life and Success", "Master of Destiny", "Unisophy" and "Barrio Life".

But his greatest opus undoubtedly is the Encyclopedia of the Philippines, which began as a 10 volume set when first printed. Galang himself, edited and wrote entries for the book set which covered Philippine literature, biography, commerce and industry, art, education, religion, government, science, history and builders of the new Philippines. The Encyclopedia of the Philippines came with a general information and index.

A second edition, destroyed by fire, was published in 1948. So positive was the response to Galang’s work that the encyclopedia project was expanded to 20 volumes in a later 1949 printing. There has been no new printing since 1958.

The age of internet has definitely made information search easier than looking up an encyclopedia’s bibliography. An engine search like google and a click are all it takes. Then there’s the Wikipedia, with information content contributed by readers. Online, one can not only add, update and correct information but also post a variety of visual references. At the rapid rate information is changing, printed encyclopedias may just become obsolete in the future. But whatever, I will always treasure my old encyclopedia books, still complete and intact after all these 40 odd years, a valued part of my education, in a time when books were held dear by the hand and not read on screens.

No comments: