Fake news nipped in the bud
Seasoned journalists from the print era told me that despite best efforts, mistakes still creep into a newspaper. Typographical errors are forgotten, but errors of fact or opinion are corrected in a rejoinder that appears the next day. Slips happen, and the good thing about print is that what is read as news one day becomes fish wrapper in the wet market the next day.
The German composer Max Reger sent a critic these wonderful words: “I am in the smallest room of the house. I have your review in front of me. Soon it will be behind me.”
However, things are more complicated in the age of the internet, because once something is posted, it is there forever. A post may even take on a life of its own, independent of the person who originally created it. It cannot be withdrawn and is hard to correct.
Last Monday, Bonifacio Day, a “Liham Para Kay Oryang” reappeared on the internet, as it has done so since 2015, tugging at the sentimental heartstrings of Filipinos who swoon over Andres Bonifacio’s eloquently declared love for his wife Gregoria de Jesus. Unfortunately, the text is not by Bonifacio but by Eljay Castro Deldoc, a young multi-awarded playwright. The fictional letter/poem has not only been shared as a text by Bonifacio, it has also been rendered in other forms, including audio and video, so if left unchecked it would be shared so much more that people will think it is authentic.
When I first came across the text online, I felt bad that I couldn’t share the enthusiasm of people who made it viral, because I was wondering where it came from. It is not included in any of the known writings of Bonifacio, not even from the cache of primary sources recently made available by a Spanish archive through the National Historical Commission.
Fortunately, the true author of “Liham Para Kay Oryang” has been made known, because the text was already creeping into online Philippine history modules. I am sharing Deldoc’s FB post that should be the last word on the matter, translated from the original Filipino, it reads:
“On February 13, 2015, the League of Filipino Students-UP Diliman uploaded on their FB Page the ‘Liham Para Kay Oryang.’ This was shared widely before I saw it. Too late to make clear to readers that the letter is not authentic, it is fiction. Made-up. Imagined. Andres Bonifacio did not write it. (Hindi totoo ang liham. Fiction ito. Gawa-gawa. Kathang isip. Hindi si Andres Bonifacio ang nagsulat.)“From then on, every November 30 and February 14, this letter/poem surfaces on the internet again. Some of my friends who see it posted often leave a comment or tag me, to correct any deception it may bring to the reader. However, this is not enough to stem the tide of misinformation.
“During the recent start of online classes, a student reached out to me. The letter/poem was included in their course module that came from the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd). He sent me a message on FB because he was bothered that his professor believed that Bonifacio wrote the letter.
“Yesterday, I took time to gather images of the letter uploaded on FB. These came from different people. Some had the correct caption, correct attribution. Some, on the other hand, seemed to have no idea that the letter is fiction.
“So if you read this post, let’s help each other correct the spread of wrong information. In case ‘Liham Para Kay Oryang’ appears on your feed, tell them that the letter is fiction. Made up. A product of the imagination.
“Thanks to all who continue to appreciate the letter/poem. Thanks for your calligraphy art, digital art, baybayin art, spoken poetry video and much more. Sometimes I get startled by the new things uploaded on the internet. Long live the spirit of Bonifacio! Long live true love!”
Unlike the fake “Code of Kalantiaw” made by Jose E. Marco, or the novel “La Loba Negra” previously attributed to Jose Burgos, or the poem “Sa Aking Mga Kababata” previously attributed to Rizal, Deldoc’s “Liham Para Kay Oryang” has not yet made it into textbook history, where it will surely take on a life of its own, be taught as an integral part of our heritage, and eventually become difficult to prove false to those who believe it to be true.
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