Among the many translators of Jose Rizal’s works, one writer stands out — Nick Joaquin. Born Nicomedes Marquez Joaquin, Nick was a Filipino journalist, writer and historian who wrote several novels and short stories in the English language.
He was born on May 4, 1917 in Paco, Manila from a soldier father and a mother who taught English and Spanish. His father was Leocadio Joaquin, who served as a colonel under General Emilio Aguinaldo during the 1896 Revolution. Her mother was Salome. The Joaquin couple had a total of 10 children.
Nick’s mother was a great influence in molding him into someone who loved literature and a fine novelist since Salome often read poems and stories in front of him when he was still young. His father eventually became a lawyer after the revolution.
Nick Joaquin was also a voracious reader and did a lot of reading in his father’s library and also at the National Library of the Philippines. Being a wide reader made Nick interested in writing, as well. At the young age of 17, Nick worked as a proofreader and his first piece was published in the Tribune which was a pre-World War ll newspaper. An early achievement of Nick was his winning of a nationwide essay competition sponsored by the Dominican Order which happened before he was awarded an honorary Associate in Arts by the University of Santo Tomas. He was also granted a scholarship in a Dominican monastery in Hong Kong. He also served as a proofreader in the Philippine Free Press after his studies in St. Albert’s Convent in Hong Kong.
Nick Joaquin had a deep aspiration of Jose Rizal, our national hero, and even paid tribute to Rizal in the form of books such as The Complete Poems and Plays of Jose Rizal, The Storyteller’s New Medium – Rizal in Saga, and A Question of Heroes: Essays in Criticism on Ten Key Figures of Philippine History. He was also known as Nick Joaquin, translator of Jose Rizal’s work after translating Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios in English form as “Land That I love, Farewell!”.
The highlight of Nick Joaquin’s career is being awarded the title of National Artist of the Philippines for Literature. In 1957, he represented the Philippines in the International PEN congress in Tokyo before being appointed as a member of the Motion Pictures commission under two presidents. Nick Joaquin was also a staunch supporter of intellectual freedom in our country after pushing for the release of imprisoned writer Jose Lacaba. He died of cardiac arrest in April 29, 2004 in San Juan. Before his death, the movie Tatarin based on Joaquin’s short story The Summer Solstice was shown. The 2001 movie was directed by Tikoy Aguiluz who had consulations with Nick Joaquin while making the film.
Photo courtesy of Fringe Magazine