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Art of War for Pinoys

The first Filipino translation of a world-renowned classic The Art of War has been released.

Sining ng Pakikidigma (孫子兵法 The Art of War) (2023) offers the ancient treatise on winning conflicts in Chinese, English, and Filipino.

The Chinese original has been translated into more than 200 languages since it was first written 2,500 years ago by military general, strategist, and philosopher Sun Tzu. It continues to be relevant as the go-to handbook for winning strategies in confrontation and conflict, real everyday challenges for individuals and nations alike.

There are anecdotes of the book being required reading for corporate executives, or its principles applied to warfare by the victor. It is required reading by students at the Philippine Military Academy.

Indeed, its appendix includes examples of events applying the strategies.

For those who have read the treatise, some have observed that the Russian-Ukraine conflict would not be so protracted if one or both leaders had read the book. As Sun Tzu said: “A protracted war that is advantageous to any state is unheard of.”

Translation work on Sining ng Pakikidigma is a product of love and labor, begun decades ago, and involved nearly a dozen people – ages 24 to 76 – who worked from different time zones.

Cousins Fernando Ang Sr. and Chua Bun Pin had written an English translation that was serialized in a Manila newspaper in 1982.

Today, four decades later, Ang refashioned the manuscript into the present trilingual version – Filipino, English, and Chinese – to reach a broader audience. Now retired, Ang wrote the present manuscript by hand.

A team of editors collaborated to choose the best Filipino equivalent for concepts expressed in the original.

One of them, Teresita Ang See, says, “For the very first strategy, many used the word ‘politics’ but we chose ‘governance’ to be more accurate.”

Likewise, a decision was made to use kubli or tago to mean “carefully hidden,” not “secret,” as used in various English translations.

“We worked so hard on it, reconciling the many interpretations to see to it that the translation hewed to the correct nuance of Sun Tzu’s strategy,” says Ang See.

She points to the treatise as a guide not just to military strategy but offering essential life lessons. One example she highlights is the admonition: “Choose your battles. The best battle is won without resorting to fighting.”

Wise words indeed for a world beset with political hotspots, flares of unrest, and global tensions, when nations fear the loss of peace as friction escalates between world powers.

Sining ng Pakikidigma/The Art of War/孫子兵法, published by Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran, Inc. and Kaisa Heritage Foundation, Inc., is available at Bahay Tsinoy Shopee and at Kaisa office. Regular price is P350.

For more information, email [email protected] or text/Viber 0927-760-9638.

See also, “From The Art of War to Sining ng Pakikidigma: The Making of the First Known Tagalog Translation of Sun Tzu’s Classic,” Esquire, 05/22/2023.