Hungary honors Philippine hero with translation of his final opus

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HUNGARIAN envoy to the Philippines and certified poet József Bencze tells of the reaction of the embassy staff in Prague after reading them his translation of José Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios” (“My Last Farewell”).

In Photo: Ambassador Bencze and National Historical Commission Executive Director Ludovico D. Badoy unveil the Hungarian translation of “Mi Ultimo Adios.”

“After I spent some two days translating [the] poem, I read it before my compatriots in the embassy. Tears were streaming down their faces as I finished,” he said at the unveiling of the historical marker for the Hungarian rendition of the Philippine hero’s final oeuvre at the Rizal Shrine in Intramuros, Manila.

“Rizal is a fantastic man,” he said, groping for the right adjective to describe the Great Malayan. “I have only one sentence to describe him—He is a polyhistor: A fantastic writer, poet, doctor, scientist, artist…really, really [a] polyhistor.”

This author referenced the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, which defined the term as: “A person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning.” Wiktionary had it: “A universal scientist [generally in use to describe such a person when the term ‘philosophy’ meant the entire summation of all scientific knowledge; generally from the ancient Greeks into the eighteenth century].”

Ambassador Bencze’s translation of Rizal’s opus, written shortly before he was shot at Bagumbayan, would be the 36th, following the penultimate version in Czech by former Czech Republic Ambassador to the Philippines Jaroslav Ludva. He read it at the session of their Senát (Senate), according to Wikipedia.

The ambassador and National Artist F. Sionil Jose

The diplomat from Hungary marvels at the similarity between Rizal and their Hungarian hero Sándor Petőfi. He said the latter also died young fighting during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, which was one of the many European upheavals closely linked with others in the Habsburg regions that grew into a war for independence from the Austrian Empire, then ruled by the Habsburg dynasty.

“Petőfi died in 1849; he was 29. Rizal was martyred at 34. Both died fighting to free their [respective countries],” Bencze compared.

Like Rizal, who had produced prodigious amounts of verses and letters, “Petőfi had more than 800 poems.”

A liberal revolutionary, Petőfi is also considered Hungary’s national poet and was one of the key figures of the Hungarian Revolution. He is the author of the “Nemzeti dal” (“National Song”), which is said to have inspired the revolution in the Kingdom of Hungary that grew into a war for independence from the Austrian Empire.

“I’d like to give this translation for the Filipino people, to honor José Rizal and the respect accorded by Filipinos on Rizal Day this 30th of December,” Bencze declared during the 121st anniversary of the hero’s martyrdom.

Bencze (seated, center), surrounded by relatives of Rizal, guests and friends who attended the unveiling of the historical marker

Interviewed at the sidelines of the event, the Hungarian envoy said he has written three books, one in Macedonian as he was once posted as ambassador to its capital, Skopje. He said three more books of his poems are to be printed soon.

Admiration for Rizal

BENCZE came to the Philippines in September of 2016 and noted that several schools and streets, including a museum, were named after Rizal. He read more about the life of the Filipino hero and when he noted the similarity to Petőfi, he decided to drop by at the Rizal Shrine in Fort Santiago. Walking around and absorbing the surrounding atmosphere, he immediately felt the urge to translate Rizal’s last written piece.

The Hungarian translation is now on permanent display at the Shrine, alongside other translations in Spanish, English, Chinese, Japanese and other languages. There is a Braille translation for the visually impaired.

“We inscribe this Hungarian translation in a historical marker with the hope that the next generation of our two peoples, Hungarians and Filipinos, who would read this would find a deeper appreciation of our shared values and common aspirations toward liberty, equality and love for our fellowmen.”

The Hungarian said much of Rizal’s nationalist awakening was partly ignited by the Enlightenment, the effects of which he saw and marveled at in his travels in Europe.

National Artist Francisco (F.) Sionil Jose said of Bencze: “It is very rare that we have a poet in the diplomatic corps who comes here also as an ambassador.”

Jose, who was with other luminaries in the unveiling ceremony including Rizal descendant and beauty queen Gemma Cruz Araneta, thanked Bencze for his translation: “In honoring our national hero, you honor us also; you honor all Filipinos. In the true spirit of Rizal, to my countrymen and friends from Hungary: Salud!”

On Rizal, Jose, stated: “No country in the world has produced someone like him. He was a novelist, poet, sculptor, musician, a medical doctor, a scholar and anthropologist. He was in touch with the most learned men of Europe at that time.”

“Rizal epitomized the best of us and I hope that his very life he will continue to inspire, not just my generation but [also the future citizens] of Filipinos,” the novelist and short story author added. He added that prior to the Filipinos’ hegira to foreign lands, Rizal was ahead of his time. “When we say that his statue is everywhere, let us just think of him as the noblest patriot ever. When he was killed by the Spaniards at the age of 35, no country in the world has produced someone like him.”

New consulates, agreements

BENCZE volunteered that after his visits to several provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao, Hungary has decided to open three honorary consulates in the country. They would be located in key cities around the country, including Clark in Pampanga.

“We can open the one in Cebu in the first half of [2018]; on the second half, we will open Davao,” he revealed, adding that although trade between his country and the Philippines has not amounted to much, it will soon increase by 100 percent.

“Last year we signed an economic cooperation agreement and a memorandum of agreement [signed] on education and culture,” adding that the Hungarian government has decided to give 35 scholarships for Filipino students “who can study and take up a master’s degree every year. And it is totally free.”

He said, so far, they have sent invitations to some 40,000 students across the country, “but we will choose only 35.”

The unassuming Bencze has a doctorate in law, which is probably a measure of Hungary and Europe’s commitment to learning.

His  résumé outlines he was  National Police Headquarters high commissioner, a lieutenant general at the National Headquarters of the Customs and Finance, guard director general for Enforcement, became a major general in 2001 and a brigadier general between 1995 and 1997.

‘Utolsó Búcsúm’/‘My Last Farewell’

Búcsúzom szeretett Hazám Nap simogatta tája,

Farewell, my adored Land, region of the sun caressed,

Keleti tengerek gyöngyháza, elveszett édenünk álma.

Pearl of the Orient Sea, our Eden lost,

Örömmel áldozom érted elnyomott, szomorú létem,

With gladness I give you my life, sad and repressed;

Ha szebb és jobb lenne nékem, csodában kellene élnem,

And were it more brilliant, more fresh and at its best,

Akkor is odadnám’ vérem, jólétedért cserében.

I would still give it to you for your welfare at most.

 

Csaták mezőin a harc hevében, ha nem is kéred,

On the fields of battle, in the fury of fight,

Mások is adják bátran életüket érted.

Others give you their lives without pain or hesitancy,

Bárhol legyen a hely, ciprusfa, babér, fehér liliom,

The place does not matter: cypress, laurel, lily white;

Nyílt csatatér, vesztőhely, mártírság helye, viszályszirom,

Scaffold, open field, conflict or martyrdom’s site,

Ország és haza ha kéri, a hely mindegy hol áldozom.

It is the same if asked by the home and country.

 

Halálomban tisztán látom az ég színének minden árnyát,

I die as I see tints on the sky b’gin to show

A nap híreinek sötét éj után érkező szárnyát.

And at last announce the day, after a gloomy night;

A reggeli fényt ha kell színezni,

If you need a hue to dye your matutinal glow,

Véremmel öntsd, terítsd hadd lássák

Pour my blood and at the right moment spread it so,

A felkelő Nap sugarainak csillámlását.

And gild it with a reflection of your nascent light

 

Serdült kamaszként álmaimban régen,

My dreams, when scarcely a lad adolescent,

Majd ifjú korom dús hevében

My dreams when already a youth, full of vigor to attain,

Rólad álmodtam Keleti tenger éke,

Were to see you, Gem of the Sea of the Orient,

Mint könnytelen szemed, s fénylő homlokod büszkesége,

Your dark eyes dry, smooth brow held to a high plane,

Ránc, folt és szégyenpír nélkülisége.

Without frown, without wrinkles and of shame without stain.

 

Életem célja, szenvedélyes vágyam,

My life’s fancy, my ardent, passionate desire,

Hogy dicsőségedet lássam, távozó lelkemmel kiáltsam,

Hail! Cries out the soul to you, that will soon part from thee;

Légy dicső! Mily édes elveszíteni a teljességet,

Hail! How sweet ‚tis to fall that fullness you may acquire;

Meghalni érted, eged alatt érni véget,

To die to give you life, ‚neath your skies to expire,

Titokzatos földedben pihenve várni a mindörökkéséget.

And in thy mystic land to sleep through eternity!

 

Ha síromon egykor virág sarjad,

If over my tomb some day, you would see blow,

Alázatos virág a sűrű gaz között,

A simple humble flow’r amidst thick grasses,

Emeld ajkadhoz, csókold lelkemet a sírhalom fölött.

Bring it up to your lips and kiss my soul so,

Homlokomon érezzem ott lent a mélyben

And under the cold tomb, I may feel on my brow,

Leheleted melegét egy szellő gyengédségében.

Warmth of your breath, a whiff of thy tenderness.

 

Hadd lásson a Hold puha, kedves fénye,

Let the moon with soft, gentle light me descry,

Hadd küldje a hajnal sugarait félve,

Let the dawn send forth its fleeting, brilliant light,

Hadd szóljon síromban a szél zenéje.

In murmurs grave allow the wind to sigh,

S ha megpihen egy madár keresztemre szállva,

And should a bird descend on my cross and alight,

Zengje békességről dalát a madárka.

Let the bird intone a song of peace o’er my site.

 

Szárítsa forró Nap az esőcseppeket,

Let the burning sun the raindrops vaporize

Fohászom szálljon velük az égbe ha lehet.

And with my clamor behind return pure to the sky;

Lesz tán’ barát, ki könnyezik elmúlásom felett,

Let a friend shed tears over my early demise;

Ki csendes délutánon imádkozik értem.

And on quiet afternoons when one prays for me on high,

Ó Hazám mondj imát! Istenemhez tértem.

Pray too, oh, my Motherland, that in God may rest I.

 

Mondj imát az ártatlan holtakért,

Pray thee for all the hapless who have died,

Imádkozz a meghalt ártatlanokért,

For all those who unequalled torments have undergone;

A kínok kínjával megkínzottakért,

For our poor mothers who in bitterness have cried;

Özvegyekért, rabokért, felsíró árvákért,

For orphans, widows and captives to tortures were shied,

Imádkozz, hogy jöjjön, a végső megváltásért!

And pray too that you may see your own redemption.

 

Ha majd sötét éjszaka jön a temetőre,

And when the dark night wraps the cemet’ry

S már csak a sok halott lesz a temető őre,

        And only the dead to vigil there are left alone,

Ne zavard a nyugalmat, ne zavard a magányt,

Don’t disturb their repose, disturb not the mystery:

De halld a hárfa, a citera mélyen zúgó hangját,

If thou hear the sounds of cithern or psaltery,

Én vagyok kedves hazám, én küldök hozsánát.

It is I, dear Country, who, a song t’you intone.

 

Mikor síromra már nem emlékszik senki,

And when my grave by all is no more remembered,

Sem kereszt, sem kő emlékemet nem jelzi,

     With neither cross nor stone to mark its place,

Hagyd, hogy szántsa be ember a helyét.

Let it be plowed by man, with spade let it be scattered

Hamvaim ha előkerülnek, hadd szórják szerteszét.

And my ashes ere to nothingness are restored,

Hadd hulljanak a porba bepirosítani sírom relytekét.

Let them turn to dust to cover thy earthly space.

 

Akkor már nem számít, ha végleg elfelejtesz,

Then it doesn’t matter that you should forget me:

Mert sorsot, és eget előlem el nem rejtesz.

Your atmosphere, your skies, your vales I’ll sweep;

Élénk, és tiszta üzenetem jelét úgy küldöm majd feléd,

Vibrant and clear note to your ears I shall be:

Mint aroma, fény, messze halló ének, nyögés, vagy nevetés.

Aroma, light, hues, murmur, song, moanings deep,

Ezekkel ismétlem újra hitem szeretetét.

Constantly repeating the essence of the faith I keep.

 

Imádott országom, őrlődő filippín Hazám!

        My idolized Country, for whom I most gravely pine,

Halld végső búcsúmat a köszönet szaván.

Dear Philippines, to my last goodbye, oh, harken

Mindent reád hagyok, szülőt és szerelmet.

There I leave all: my parents, loves of mine,

Ahová én megyek, zsarnok, hóhér, de szolga sem teremnek,

        I’ll go where there are no slaves, tyrants or hangmen

Ahol nem öl a hit, de szolgál az isteni rendnek.

Where faith does not kill and where God alone does reign.

 

Búcsúzom családom, szülők, és testvérek,

Farewell, parents, brothers, beloved by me,

Szomorú otthonom, gyermekkori évek.

Friends of my childhood, in the home distressed;

Köszönöm barátim’, most pihenni térek.

Give thanks that now I rest from the wearisome day;

Búcsúzom tőled is, utam mutatója, te édes idegen.

Farewell, sweet stranger, my friend, who brightened my way;

Búcsúzom mindentől amit csak szerettem, a halál megpihen.

Farewell to all I love; to die is to rest.

 

Fordította (Translation): Dr. Bencze József

Image Credits: Jimbo Albano, Alysa Salen, Recto Mercene



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