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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Eliodoro Ballesteros


A few poets in Chabacano left for posterity their footprints. One of them is the talented writer Eliodoro Ballesteros. The sonnetist of the old town of San Roque, located between Cavite Puerto and Caridad, saw the light of day born on 18 February 1892. His family resided at Padre José P. Burgos Street.

Our investigative effort has unearthed solely two published works in Chabacano. The first of Ballesteros’ poems has eight stanzas and is titled Piesta (Fiesta).[1]This poem had gained worldwide renown when it saw print in a book published in Madrid in 1965. The lengthy work is an invitation for everyone to attend the famed fiestas in honor of the Virgen de la Soledad. Both Caviteño and non-Caviteño  folk take pride in the fact that the canonically crowned Marian image has been venerated at her shrine right in the heart of the echanting city for over three hundred years now.

Ballesteros’ fine verses depict the festive ambiance during the first two weekends of November. The well-known fiestas of Cavite City continue to draw numberless devotees and pilgrims  from nearby towns and provinces. According to Soledad Borromeo-Buehler, the annual fiestas are the most fitting occasion for Caviteños to flaunt their Latin lust for life—as manifested by the musical dianas at dawn, legendary religious processions, the colorful caracol, exquisite delicacies and drinking sprees and fireworks.

Ballesteros’ second poem El Chavacano Caviteño saw print in the souvenir program of the oath-taking rites of Círculo Chabacano Caviteño officers and members of 1968-1969.  The Caviteño board had first recited it himself at the Montano Auditorium in Cavite City during the inauguration of the Círculo on 26 September 1964. The verses depict the linguistic ancestry and characteristics of the local Caviteño variant. Ballesteros urged fellow Caviteños to be proud of their “holy, grandious heritage.” He hoped that every native son of Cavite City would always and everywhere speak Chabacano, offspring of the long-lasting marriage of “the Tagalog and Spanish languages” which was taught to him by his dear parents.  Speaking the local tongue is not that bad, it does not signify the repudiation of Tagalog, English or Spanish. Knowing Chabacano is continuing the tradition of countless generations of authentic and “legitimate” residents of Cavite City, or as Ballesteros calls them “caviteños di cara y corazón.”

Ballesteros likewise authored exquisite Spanish religious poetry. His cousin José Ballesteros composed solely Spanish verses published in magazines and newspapers of the American period, besides translating several English and Tagalog songs into Spanish.

Three beautiful sonnets to Our Lady of Porta Vaga flowed from Eliodoro’s inspired pen: namely, A la Santísima Virgen de la Soledad (To the Most Holy Virgin of Solitude), Homenaje (Homage) y Ante tu trono (Before Your Throne). The three religious odes reveal the poet’s deep personal devotion to Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga, like a faithful interpreter of the people’s centuries-old profound Marian piety.

Eliodoro Ballesteros passed away on 21 June 1973. He was 81. Existing Cavite City Hall records indicate the cause of his death as toxemia that was brought about by intestinal obstruction.

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