A Filipino Anglophile

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

An Anglophile is a person who is not English and yet is a great admirer of the English language, history and culture. I consider myself a Filipino nationalist whose first love is my country but I also consider myself a Filipino Anglophile. This is the reason why I watched every minute of the ceremony and all the rituals regarding the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Even when I missed a few of the ceremonies, I made sure I was able to watch replays so that I could see everything in full.

This column then is a confession of why I became a Filipino Anglophile. Even during my high school and college days before my first trip to London and England, I was already passionate about the English culture and language. Please note that there is a distinct difference between the English and the American language.

The first attraction I had were the stories of knighthood and chivalry predominant in English literature. Aside from the tales of King Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table, there were other books like Ivanhoe and Lorna Doone that attracted me even in my high school days. I do not know of any similar stories from other countries.  Perhaps if I had read French literature, maybe there would have been similarities.

This fascination with England was cemented when I started traveling and visited London and Edinburgh on those personal visits. As far as I am concerned, the National Museum and the War Museum in London are the best museums in the world, even if you include the Louvre in the list.

Some of my more memorable moments of my museum visits were walking through the interior of a pyramid. In the War Museum, there was also a walk-through room showing a replica of the Normandy landing with sound effects. Then there was a much bigger room showing a history of all the uniforms of warriors in English history. That is why I was able to appreciate the military parades showing soldiers wearing uniforms of famous English regimens like the Coldstream Guards.

Another famous landmark for me was Charing Cross Street which had the most number of specialized topics bookstores which I never saw anywhere else.

Some bookstores for example specialized in the Middle Ages, the Middle East, art history and political economy. At the end of the street was my favorite bookstore called Foyle’s. It was housed in a building several stories high.  Although the books were divided by categories, there was no order in the way they were displayed. It was easily the most disorderly and messiest bookstore I have ever seen in the world. But the most amazing features of the bookstores were the sales clerks who were knowledgeable experts about the field of study where they were assigned to work.

For example, in the large section labelled the Military area, one can discuss the military geniuses and books on military strategies and specific battles and wars with the staff. They could even recommend specific books if you told them the strategist or the war you wanted to read about.

Then there is the West End, the center of English theater in the world. There are others who will vouch for Broadway as the theater capital of the world; I always thought it could not be considered authentic unless the plays were shown in the London West End.

The greatness of a country’s culture can also be reflected in the books written about a country’s culture and history.  History is my favorite subject and I have literally read dozens, if not hundreds, of history books since my student days. There is still one book that I believe is unmatched when it comes to relating the history of a country and its culture. This is “The Birth of Britain: A History of the English-Speaking Peoples.” When I first read the book, I could not believe that it was written by Winston S. Churchill, the prime minister of the United Kingdom who led his nation during the dark days of the Second World War.

He started writing the book six years before the start of the Second World War. He had to stop during the war and resumed writing the book after the end of the war. It was first published in 1956 by Dodd, Mead & Company.

This is a book I would highly recommend not only to Anglophiles but also to those interested in English history and culture. When The New York Times reviewed the book, it called it, “A memorable history illumined by flashes of genius, character and style of our common race.”

The book is actually a history of the start of England as a nation. It is divided into three books: Book One, The Island Race. It covers the period before the Romans came to conquer England. It ended with the Romans leaving England and finally the rise of the first English king, Alfred the Great who united the different warring kingdoms of England.

Book Two is The Making of the Nations which begins with the Norman invasion of William the Conqueror; the English Common Law, Magna Carta and the start of the Parliament and ends with the Black Death, the plague that killed millions of people in Europe.

Book Three is the end of the Feudal Age which begins with the reign of King Richard II, the social revolt, the empire of Henry V, Joan of Arc and ends with the reign of King Richard III. It includes the fascinating War of the Roses between the House of York and the House of Lancaster for dominance in England.

Despite the fact that England is not the superpower that it used to be, no one can dispute the fact that the English language is the dominant language in the world and that English culture, more than any other culture, has shaped western civilization.

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