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Opinion

The Little Prince in Philippine history

HISTORY MATTERS - Todd Sales Lucero - The Freeman

On Saturday, I caught "Prinsipe Bahaghari", the Filipino adaptation of the beloved French classic “The Little Prince” in Manila. Bahaghari premiered in November 2023, written by playwright Vladimeir Gonzales and directed by Aina Ramolete. As it was received positively by both audience and critics, Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas restaged this month.

I’ve been a Little Prince fan since I was 12 when an aunt gave me the book for Christmas. Her scribbled message encouraged me to "always see with my heart" which I did not understand then, not until I finished reading the book. I read it and fell in love with it. In my twenties, I rediscovered the book among several personal items that were destroyed by flood in our house. It has always been with me wherever I went. When I left Davao to study in Cebu, it was one of three books that went with me (the other two being “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach and “Animal Farm” by George Orwell). I bought a replacement copy almost similar to the one I had. I still have it today, 20 years hence.

In 2023, I tried my luck at translating “The Little Prince” to Cebuano. I soon discovered that someone had beaten me to a Cebuano version, but as I had poured my heart and mind into my translation I decided to take it to the next level and translate it to Baybayin, our pre-Hispanic system of writing. As I was doing Cebuano, I used Bisaya Hervas, the Baybayin style in the Visayas. In the Philippines, I was soon to discover that “The Little Prince” has already had quite a long history.

“The Little Prince” aficionados say they fell in love with the book when they were kids. Now, some 30 to 40 years later, not only have they continued to cherish the book, they’ve become collectors of everything Little Prince: from translations in various languages (there’s even Klingon and Morse Code!) in several editions, to merchandise and memorabilia. Most say they love the book for its simplicity, but also for its deeper meaning and imparted wisdom. Those introduced to the world of the prince see the book for what it really is; a story of friendship, love, and of seeing the good in everyone and everything.

“The Little Prince” was written by a French pilot named Antoine de Saint-Exupery, originally in French, and was posthumously published in 1943 after Exupery’s disappearance and presumed death. It has since been translated to various languages and is considered the second most translated book in history after the Bible, with over 7,015 distinct editions in 570 different languages and dialects. It’s no surprise that Filipinos, too, have embraced it and have translated the book to many languages. The first was Dr. Lilia Antonio’s “Ang Munting Prinsipe” in 1969/2020. Another Tagalog translation by Desiderio Ching was published by the Philippine Claretian in 1991/1998. An English version was published by G. Miranda and Sons in the 1990s. A Bikolano version, “An Sadit na Prinsipe”, was released in 2011/2016 by Wilmer Joseph Tria. In 2018, two Chavacano editions came out: Jerome Herrera’s “El Diutay Principe” and Robin Atilano De Los Reyes’s “El Principe Niño” that same year. A children’s edition of Antonio’s translation came out in 2020. In 2022, Stephen Matti’s Hiligaynon “Ang Gamay nga Prinsipe” and Cles Rambaud & Faye Flores-Melegrito’s Ilocano “Ti Bassit A Prinsipe” were released. In 2023, Maria Clara Larobis’ Cebuano “Ang Gamay nga Prinsipe” came out. A Waray translation by Jerry Gracio and called “An Ditoy nga Prinsipe” is coming out this year. I add my Cebuano/Baybayin version which I self-published in 2023. A few days ago, my Filipino Polyglot edition of the book was released through Amazon. This polyglot version translates the book into 18 Filipino languages and writing systems.

There have been many translations of the book over the years, and many more continue to be released yearly. Add to these the adaptations of the book as comic books, plays, movies, and many more. I don't remember “The Little Prince” being a required reading during my elementary years, though some say they had it in school in sixth grade. I believe it should be a required reading for young Filipinos, as it definitely can teach children life lessons that they can apply for the rest of their lives. Who knows? Aside from being more literate, we would probably have more loving and compassionate citizens.

Special thanks to Ten Soliman, a long-time Filipino “The Little Prince” aficionado, for the help in this article.

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