Instituto Cervantes-Manila, the Embassy of Spain, UnionBank, Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), and Colegio de San Luis, A.C. (Mexico) present the debut of El Campeón, a novel by Filipino writer Antonio M. Abad, on March 5, 2013, 4:30 pm at the Basement of the Manuel V. Pangilinan Center for Student Leadership, ADMU.
The novel El Campeón is told from the point-of-view of the rooster Banogon who, after suffering a crippling injury in a cockfight, has been destined for the chopping board. However, because of his fame as a cockfighting champion, he is instead brought to a farm where he is to guard the mother hens from preying hawks. There, he befriends the caretaker, with whom he shares the tales of his reign as a national champion and the story of his first great love, Baikiki, whom he eventually meets again in the den where he is destined to spend his remaining days as a cripple.
To fully appreciate the genius of Abad, it must be noted that El Campeón was written during a time when the American colonial government had been pushing for the eradication of cockfighting in the Philippines. The novel was a reflection on the polemic that was resonating in the halls and in streets of Manila then. In reply, the author wrote about the art inherent in this sport that many Filipinos, up to this very day, take delight in.
Antonio M. Abad (1894-1970) was a poet, playwright, essayist and novelist born in Barili (Cebu) and is frequently referred to as “the greatest Hispanic Filipino novelist after Rizal”. In 1927, he published his first novel El Último Romantic. Two years after, he won the Premio Zobel said to be the most prestigious award in the field of Filipino literature for the novel, La Oveja de Nathan. He is the father of poet Gemino Abad and grandfather of fictionist Cyan Abad-Jugo.
Although a recipient of the Commonwealth Literature Prize in 1940, El Campeón remained unpublished until now. It is the third title in the collection Clásicos Hispano Filipinos, a project initiated in 2009 by Instituto Cervantes to revive works written in Spanish by Filipino authors. This edition of El Campeón has been annotated by Mexican scholar Salvador García (Colegio de San Luis, San Luis de Potosí, Mexico) who taught Spanish this year at Ateneo de Manila’s Modern Languages Department, and Luisa Young, a Spanish instructor in the same department.