Guillermo Gómez Rivera

Guillermo Gómez Rivera
Born (1936-09-12) September 12, 1936
Dingle, Iloilo, Philippines
Occupation Writer, journalist, poet, playwright, historian, linguist
Language Filipino, Spanish, English, Hiligaynon
Citizenship Filipino
Alma mater University of San Agustin, Colegio de San Juan de Letran

Guillermo Gómez Rivera (Spanish: [ɡiˈʎeɾmo ˈɣomes riˈβeɾa]; born 12 September 1936) is a Spanish Filipino multilingual author, historian, educator and linguistic scholar whose lifelong work has been devoted to the often controversial movement to preserve Spanish culture as an important element of the Filipino identity.[1][2][3]

He is the most senior academic director of the Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española of the Real Academia Española.[2] In 1975, he was awarded the Premio Zóbel, the Philippines' highest literary honor bestowed on the best works in Spanish.[4] Due to his expertise in the Spanish language as well as his knowledge of various Philippine languages, including Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Tagalog and Chabacano, he was appointed secretary of the Commission on the Filipino Language Committee of the Philippine Constitutional Convention (1971–73).[5]

As a Spanish professor at Adamson University he authored textbooks on Spanish grammar, speech and composition while working for San Miguel Corporation, a food conglomerate. He used his academic position to try to influence national debates on the question of whether or not Spanish should be retained as a compulsory subject in Philippine high schools and universities, a battle that many pro-Spanish advocates believe they had lost with the passage of the 1987 Constitution but which some Hispanists say started with the 1973 Constitution.[6]

Having done extensive research on Spanish dances, including flamenco and Sevillanas, he formed a dance school to teach students of all ages an appreciation of Spanish culture through the dance art. He traveled to Spain to improve his skills, learning from Spanish masters of these dance forms. He is considered a maestro de flamenco in the Philippines.[7]

In an hour-long broadcast devoted to Asia on September 24, 2013, Spanish Radio and Television Corp. (RTVE) described Gómez Rivera as a "writer, journalist, historian...[who] has tracked incessantly Hispanic legacy in the Philippines and has recovered part of an endangered folklore.[8] During the same broadcast, RTVE played songs from an LP of rare Filipino compositions in Spanish that Gómez Rivera recorded in 1960 and reissued in 2006 after it had been digitally remastered.

In addition to his contributions to Philippine literature[9] and history,[10] Gómez Rivera is also an accomplished linguist and polyglot. He speaks and writes fluently in his native Hiligaynon as well as in English and Tagalog. Aside from being an acclaimed master of the Spanish language in the Philippines, he is also conversant in Italian, Portuguese, Kinaray-a and Cebuano, and has made an extensive study of the Visayan and Chabacano languages.


Guillermo Gómez Rivera was born in Dingle, Iloilo on the southeast portion of Panay Island and graduated from the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City with degrees in commerce and in education. In 1967, he earned a BA from the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán. Shortly afterwards, he obtained a doctorate in Philippine Literature under the tutelage of a Jesuit academic.[2]

He has been a lifelong advocate of the Spanish language in the Philippines. Most of his written works argue in favor of the preservation of the Philippine-Hispanic identity of the country,[11] particularly the Spanish language, which was used by the founding fathers of Philippine independence in their struggle against Spain. These revolutionaries and writers included Jose Rizal.

As secretary of the National Language Committee of the Philippine Constitutional Convention (1971–1973) during the presidency of Ferdinand E. Marcos, he favored Tagalog to become the basis of the country's national language. In the same convention, he joined forces with other nationalists to preserve Spanish as one of the country's official languages. Spanish, however, was later made an optional language (together with Arabic) under the Constitution of 1987 which was promulgated under the presidency of Corazón Aquino who abolished the 1973 constitution under Marcos.[6][12]

He is a grandnephew of Guillermo Gómez Windham, a famous Filipino writer during the American colonial period. Of British descent who served as Philippine bureau of customs commissioner during the American Occupation, Gómez Windham was the first Premio Zóbel medal recipient when the award was launched in 1922. Gómez has two children: the late Marién, also an accomplished flamenco dancer, and Guillermo Gómez Ordóñez. He currently resides in Makati City. He has transformed his home into a virtual Spanish dance studio and library of Filipiniana materials.

Literature, history and culture

Although literary critics regard Gómez Rivera's writing style as combative,[13] it hews to the works in English of his friend Nick Joaquin,arguably the most accomplished Filipino writer in English. Joaquín's body of written works were subtly about the "Hispanic soul" of the Philippines brought about by three centuries of Spanish rule. Joaquín's stories in particular were sentimental, reminiscing about the Philippines' Spanish past as well as lamenting its decline. Gómez has been writing on the same theme, more thoroughly about the decadence of the country's "Hispanic soul," but his style is often combative and tends to lay blame for the near demise of the Spanish language in his country on what he calls White Anglo-Saxon Protestant "domination" of the country's educational and economic life. He identifies this strangle hold as "the cause of the moral and economic impoverishment of the Philippines, and the loss of the Spanish language." Gómez Rivera has articulated this theme in fiery essays, short stories and poems written in various Filipino languages as well as in English and Spanish.

Organizers of the Premio Zóbel, in awarding him the prize in 1975, cited "his efforts to preserve the Spanish language and culture in our country," although some literary historians mistakenly believe he won the award solely for his play "El caseron." Prior to winning the Premio Zóbel, Gómez won second place in the Premio Manuel Bernabé for an essay on the historical and nationalistic value and importance of the Spanish language.[12]

Gómez Rivera, as editor of Nueva era, a weekly and only remaining Spanish language newspaper in the Philippines,[12] has used his editorials to attack government officials whom he accuses as "vile puppets of U.S. WASP neocolonialism," claiming proofs to bolster his accusations. Through his body of literary works, he has urged Filipino readers to "rediscover" their Spanish past in order for them to gain knowledge of their true national identity.[14]

He views cultural dissemination as a tool to accomplish his advocacy, particularly through dance. His research on Philippine songs and dances, especially those of Hispanic influence, was used by the internationally acclaimed Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company[2] to choreograph some of its performances with him acting as adviser for the group.[15]

Gómez Rivera is also a recording artist who has cut an album of Filipino songs that were originally in Spanish as well as in Chabacano. He is credited for reintroducing to the modern local film industry the now forgotten film Secreto de confesión, the first locally produced film spoken and sung in Spanish (la primera película hablada y cantada en español producida en Filipinas).

His efforts to bring back the Filipino national identity based on Spanish have led some critics, such as poet-academician Edmundo Farolán and poet-novelist Gilbert Luis R. Centina III, to call him El Don Quixote Filipino.[16][17]

In May 2015, Gómez Rivera published his first novel, Quis ut Deus (Who Is Like God), the first Spanish-language novel published in the Philippines in the last 55 years.[18]


Gómez Rivera honed his dancing skills in short courses conducted by Spanish international dancers such as Los Chavales de España, Antonio Ruiz and José Greco who visited Manila in the 1970s and the 1980s. But his introduction to flamenco came much earlier at the age of four when he learned it, along with many other Spanish dances, from Rosa Jiménez. She was a flamenco dancer from Sevilla, Spain and the second wife of his maternal grandfather, José Rivera Franco.[12]

Over the years he compiled a repertoire of more than a hundred choreographed dances, mostly for the Gypsy and Andalusian schools. Flamenco has six schools, namely: Escuela Andaluza (Andalusian), Escuela Bolera, Escuela Creativa (or de Fusión), Escuela Folklórica, Escuela Gitana (Gypsy) and Escuela Popular.He has developed a five-level flamenco course called "choreographic immersion" with preliminary drills in footwork and hand and body movements, including the compás of fours and twelves. His students learn many of these dances with or without castanettes. Gómez Rivera's dance students include some of Manila's most well-known socialites such as Marissa Aboitiz, Marités Cancio-Suplico,[19] María Emma Estrada, Cecile de Joya, actress Maggie de la Riva, former Philippine Basketball Association coach Dante Silverio, Perla Primicias (daughter of former Philippine Senator Cipriano Primicias), and his own now deceased daughter Marién Gómez de Lizares.[20]


Gómez Rivera spent several years teaching Spanish grammar, Philippine history and philosophy at Adamson University. For a time, he served as the head of Adamson's Spanish department. He retired from the university in 2001, but he continues to teach flamenco in his home and in Steps Dance Studio in Makati. He occasionally offers Spanish language tutorial and has served as the official interpreter of President Benigno S. Aquino III such as when he hosted the first lady of Mexico during the early years of his presidency.

During his teaching stint, he was president of Corporación Nacional de Profesores en Español (CONAPE), an organization of Filipino educators who teach the Spanish language.[1]


Gómez Rivera's journalism career started with the magazine El maestro during the 1960s. Its goal was to aid Filipino teachers in Spanish in the practice of their profession. Aside from being the current editor of Nueva era, he also edits two other weeklies: The Listening Post and The Tagalog Chronicle. In 1997, he worked on television as a segment host of ABS-CBN's now defunct early morning program Alas Singko y Medya, presenting a five-minute Spanish lesson. Gómez Rivera released an LP back in 1960 when he was producing La voz hispanofilipina, a radio program on DZRH. It was a product of his research on a number of "lost" Filipino songs sung in Spanish during the Spanish colonial era. He reintroduced the songs through the LP entitled Nostalgia filipina, where his vocal interpretation is accompanied by a rondalla.[1] Digitally remastered with funding from the Spanish Program for Cultural Cooperation, the LP was reissued and launched at Instituto Cervantes de Manila on August 14, 2006.


Con címbalos de caña (Colección Oriente - Ed. Moreno Mejías, 2012)


  1. 1 2 3 Gallo, Andrea. "La pérdida del español para el filipino ha comportado el desarraigo de su propia cultura". Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Asociacion de Academias de la Lengua Española: Academicos". www.asale.or. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  3. Hede, Marcela. "Are Filipinos Hispanic?". Hispanic Culture Online. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  4. Picornell, Jaime. "81 Years of Premio Zobel–The Book". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  5. Gómez Rivera, Guillermo. "The Thomasites, Before and After". Philippines: Emanila Community ( Archived from the original on July 14, 2010. Retrieved August 1, 2010.
  6. 1 2 "Which Constitution Killed Spanish in the Philippines?". Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  7. Red, Isah V. " "Hiyas ng Pilipinas". MST Management Inc. (Kamahalan Publishing Corp.). Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  8. "La hora de Asia - La Filipinas de Gómez Rivera". Spanish Radio and Television Corporation. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  9. Ortuño Casanova, Rocío. "La literatura filipina en español hoy". Instituto Cervantes. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  10. Derbyshire, Charles. "". The Reign of Greed; or El Filibusterismo (Annotated). Google. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  11. Gallo, Andrea. "Entrevista a Guillermo Gómez Rivera, de la Academia Filipina". Fundéu BBVA. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  12. 1 2 3 4 Gallo, Andrea. "Entrevista a Guillermo Gómez Rivera". Tonos Digital. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  13. "Filipino literature in Spanish" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 April 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  14. Valdivia, Juan Arellano. "They don't (sic) speak Spanish in the Philippines? (translated from the original Spanish ¿En Filipinas no hablaban castellano? )". Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  15. Gómez Rivera, Guillermo. "Bayanihan beyond folklore". Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  16. Centina III, Gilbert Luis R. "Guillermo Gómez Rivera". Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  17. Farolan,, Edmundo. "Homenaje a Guillermo Gómez Rivera". Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  18. "Gomez's "quis ut deus" and the aswang". De AnDA. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  19. Rodis, Girlie. "Tess Suplico: A woman of dance & substance". Philstar Global Corp. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  20. "Professors". Fundacion Centro Flamenco. Retrieved 30 April 2015.

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