There are merits to persisting in illusion but those merits lie in the fact that those illusions are beneficial to the people in question. There is a concept connected to the idea of the nation-state that simply put is “one nation, one language” it believes in the proliferation and formalization of a single language. Now before we see the merits of such an idea we must first understand that language is not merely language. Language is culture, language is thought. More and more studies into how language affects cognition show that indeed it affects cognition in a big way. From color perception to the handling of abstract thoughts and even affecting physical phenomena in the body. Language is not merely a means of conversation but is also deeply ingrained with the culture of peoples. With that brief overview we now see why it is deemed important to subject a nation to a single language. Doing so, as some would argue, would provide a means of communication, provide a common culture, and provide a common identity. Indeed a single language is necessary for a proper nation to be built. . . However, there is something quite nefarious about this concept and especially with the way it is being implemented in our country. You see erecting a “national” language does not merely provide but rather it enforces. To provide something entails that an individual has a choice in the matter which is clearly not the case in our country. With the choosing of Tagalog as the national language we also built entire structures to not only protect it but to enforce it upon the various peoples of the isles. The drafters and protectors of this move envisioned that it would serve to unite the Philippine nation.
From that day on, the Manila dialect of the Tagalog language was formalized and given the title “Filipino” making it congruent with our national identity as Filipinos. It became a major mode of instruction alongside English. Textbooks, classes, tv programs and many other things were written in Filipino. We were taught again and again and again. We were conditioned to take it into our very identities that Filipino was our national tongue, that to betray it was equal to betraying the nation. To use Filipino was patriotism, to use a foreign tongue was colonialism and to use the mother tongue was regionalism.
It’s been decades since this became our national reality but a peculiar thing happens when you take a trip around to the various provinces of this republic. Once you leave the capital and its neighboring cities you’ll find that in most of them, there is this indirect rejection of the Tagalog imposition. It may be totally unintended but in each province you’ll find a stronghold of the various mother tongues. Yes it is not to be denied that speaking Filipino here would allow you to converse with the populace but that only happens between you, the cultural foreigner, and the local. Almost all of the interactions between the locals will be in their respective mother tongue. We’ve chosen a national language and yet Filipino is as foreign to the Bisaya as English is.
It is not everywhere that this rejection is unintended for in this republic of ours there are places, entire peoples who have chosen to speak exclusively in the mother tongue or in a foreign one but as little as possible in Filipino. So then I ask, has Filipino attained even a portion of the huge expectations placed before it? It has allowed communication amongst all the isles, a feat it shares with English and Espanol. Has it galvanized Filipino sentiment and fostered nationalism? I would say that it has not done so something that will be made clear by examining the huge cost of the Tagalog imposition.
What have we lost for, in my opinion, so little gain? Firstly we have lost an opportunity at enriching other languages other than the capital’s. We have denied the other native languages any state recognition and formalization of the other native tongues and also having done so, denied the enrichment of these cultures. Secondly, we have created a divide between the native Manila Tagalog and all the other Native Tongues, the other Tagalog dialects, notwithstanding. It shows in how the Manila born view the “Promdi”. An example of which is how the term “Bisaya” is even used as a derogatory fashion by its young. It shows in that in popular culture only Filipino is a language and all other tongues are dialects. It seems that this move to unify has served more to fragment us. Thirdly this imposition has further crippled many Filipinos from forming a national identity. If we continue to spout that to speak Filipino is part of that national identity then how Filipino am I who merely was forced to learn it? Lastly and most heinous of all, this imposition has cost us and will continue to cost us, the deaths of native languages.
Not all native languages are widely spoken, that is why for our purposes native languages will refer to those languages which have provincial strongholds of speakers. While ethnic languages on the other hand are those spoken in singular tribes, whose speakers number in the hundreds or even less. It is these ethnic languages that are in danger of extinction. The imposition of the Filipino language has amongst these peoples of a few done irreparable damage. With the older generations steeped in the mother tongue and merely 2 generations removed, failing to see any usefulness in such a mother, reject it totally and embrace the Filipino of the schools.
How then should we judge the effectiveness of this national language, a force of unification, or a chain of cultural oppression?
To merely speak of the latter is to shake the hornet’s nest that are the ultranationalists, “ISANG BAYAN, ISANG WIKA” they cry out. “SEPARATISTS, REGIONALISTS, DOGS OF THE COLONIZER” they do us decry. They repeat these mantras as if defending our mother tongue was tantamount to treason. An attack on Fillipo was an attack on the Filipino nation disregarding how Filipino was an attack on the Filipino people. How is it that in these times of globalization that the concept of multiculturalism, of unity in plurality still attacked as a foreigner on Lapu-lapu’s shores. Is not the foundation of democracy, of the republic, that of the plurality of ideas? Why are we to seek homogeneity when those ideas are culture and language?
We live at the edge of cultural disaster. With the various native languages who have had not had universities formalize them facing the plank. The vast stores of their vocabulary in the minds of the few. The opportunity for depth, for art, for expression in these tongues, fading into forgetfulness.
If the nation is our mother (inang bayan), then why is our mother tongue not Filipino?
What is then the call of the multiculturist? English as a national language? NO. It is the total uprooting of the concept of a national language. We may accept Tagalog as an official language, better if the other major native languages are also given this right, but no more. The elementary years will be taught in the mother tongues, in Secondary schooling they will study a languages subject with all foreign and native tongues given equal standing. The structures built to defend the national language will now defend the national languages, coordinating in the keeping of the multicultural culture.
Our dream is the national identity of the Banig, a beautiful mat weaved out of many colors, supporting and enhancing one another. We are a Republic of Peoples’ not a People’s Republic.