"Bilin ng Ating Magulang"



At the Catholic grade school in the Philippines where I taught Filipino Grammar and Literature decades ago, the textbook series we used at all levels was "Bilin ng Ating Magulang" by Virginia Palma-Bonifacio, a grandmother, in the 1960s.


For those who do not speak or understand the Filipino language, that title can be loosely translated as "Admonitions Our Parents Leave with Us."


As in other languages, words can have different meanings and nuances. In the context of this book title, bilin can be translated as admonitions, instructions, counsel, or reminders parents give to and leave with their children to guide them in life. Bilin may also refer to the last words a dying person leaves with his/her loved ones to implement or follow when he or she is gone. This is called Huling Bilin or Huling Habilin, something like a Last Testament.


Mrs. Palma-Bonifacio's book is out of print. As I remember, the book includes parental bilin such as respect for elders (pag-galang sa mga matanda), love for parents (pagmamahal sa magulang), gratitude for favors received from others (pagtanaw ng utang na loob), the value of hard work (pagtitiyaga), behaving properly -- also called good manners and right conduct -- (magandang asal), helping others (pagtulong sa kapuwa), love of country (pag-ibig sa bayan), love of family (pagmamahal sa pamilya), love for God (pag-ibig sa Diyos), and many more.


For anyone reading the book, one can see what Filipino culture values most. And it is something to be proud of. When Filipinos who leave their country to seek better opportunities abroad, they bring with them the best of their culture, and most pass on these values and practices to their children, hoping that they will be passed on to the next generations. For example, the use of the deferential po and opo, Ate and Kuya, and getting an elder's hand on one's forehead to ask for a blessing (pagmamano) reveal unmistakably that one is Filipino or of Filipino descent.


When the Israelites left ancient Egypt after 430 years of slavery, Moses commanded them to commemorate their Passover when they reached the Promised Land. It can be considered a "bilin." The Passover ritual is one of remembering and making present an important event in their history. It includes the youngest child asking his grandfather: "Why is tonight different from other nights?" And Grandpa would recount the sacred event as described in the Torah. The Passover or Seder celebration each year marks their identity as a people of God.


It was at the Jewish Passover that Our Lord Jesus Christ gathered His 12 disciples and transformed it into the Passover of the New Covenant. Here He instituted the Sacrament of His Body and Blood and gave them His "bilin": "Do this in memory of Me." That "bilin" of our Blessed Lord is being carried out every time Mass is celebrated at all hours of the day in all parts of the world. It is the singular "bilin" of the Lord that most manifests His infinite love for us.


Our Blessed Lord gave a lot of other "bilin" to His disciples (also meant for us) before He went back to the Father. They include another most important one: "Love one another as I have loved you."


Mrs. Palma-Bonifacio's book -- "Bilin ng Ating Magulang," contains admonitions, counsel, reminders, advice addressed to our grade-schoolers at the Ateneo and all Filipino children as they grow into adulthood. It is like a Parental Testament. These values are worth giving importance to.


God's Book -- the Old and New Testaments, is given to all. It contains His "bilin" meant to inspire, instruct, admonish and guide us while we are living on this earth. They are worth complying with as they were given to us by God Himself and will get us to His heavenly home. #