GOD LOVES LAING, TOO: 100 YEARS OF BIBLE MINISTRY TO THE BICOLANOS
What is there for Bicolanos around the world to celebrate this year apart from their ever-appetizing laing?
A century ago this year, the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) published and launched the first ever Bible in the Bicol language. Entitled An Santa Biblia na may laman kan magña mahal na libros kan Daan asin Bagong Tipan, this translation was the fourth complete Bible in Filipino language that was made publicly accessible by the Bible Society, affording Bicolanos the opportunity not just to read it but to read the Scriptures in their own heart language!
Printed in Yokohama, Japan by the Fukuin Printing Company, this Bible was the combined translation efforts of Don Juan Salazar and Don Julian Herras, aided by British and American missionaries. Salazar finished the translation of the New Testament and Psalms in 1909 and was subsequently published in 1911. This combined edition carried the title An bagong tipan ò Testamento nin cagurangnan tang Jesu-Cristo na nalalagdaan can magña evangelio asin magña gawe nin magña apostoles. Meanwhile, except for Psalms, Herras completed the translation of the rest of the Old Testament in 1912; combined with Salazar’s NT and Psalms, it is now known as the 1914 edition.
But Bible translation activities in the Bicol language (and in other Philippine languages for that matter) happened much earlier than 1914! In fact, the earliest Bicol translation of a complete biblical book was the Gospel of Luke, translated by Don Cayetano Lucban, a nationalist lawyer who was banished to the Spanish penal fortress of Ceuta, Africa in 1896 for his profound opposition to Spanish excesses. Upon his release in early 1898, he was contracted by BFBS to translate the Gospel of Luke into Bicol, which he completed with such speed that it became part of the shipment of Scriptures that unstoppably landed the Philippine shores on September 6, 1898 after the Battle of Manila. This “triumphal entry” has forever changed the course of Philippine church history—Bible reading and ownership has since become part of Filipino spirituality.
The 1914 edition was not to be the last though. Since language is dynamic, revisions are inevitable, hence, we see this edition being published subsequently in its revised forms (thus, the 1927 and 1962 revised editions). But perhaps equally noteworthy is the Bible society’s undertaking of the interconfessional translation of the Bible in Bicol, a translation project that was initiated in the 60’s and was eventually launched in June 27, 1992. This interconfessional Bible is now known as the Marahay na Bareta Biblia sa Satuyang Panahon published by the Philippine Bible Society (PBS). This is the only translation in Bicol which can be used by Evangelicals and Roman Catholics alike.
This year, the PBS, in partnership with the churches and the Bicolano people, will celebrate this milestone—indeed 100 years is a rare feat and we should give thanks to God for this favor! In unison with the Bicolano people, we will proclaim the power of God’s Word. And as we are celebrating this milestone, we are also honoring the men and women who unselfishly contributed to the faithful transmission of God’s Word in our country under various circumstances, so that people will experience a meaningful encounter with God through His Word.