Our national language-A A +A
By Ver Pacete
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
IN his trips in the provinces, Pres. Manuel Luis Quezon realized a need for a national language. “I have never realized the value of the national language until I became president of the Philippines. I am a representative of the Filipino race. But when I travel in the province and talk to my countrymen, I still need somebody to interpret for me. Have you heard of anything more shameful than that?”
For reason of geography and history, our people have more than a hundred native tongues aside from Spanish, English, Chinese and Arabic. The native languages belong to the Malayo-Polynesian family but differ in many ways other than vocabulary. The Spaniards made an attempt to politically unite our people but our country remained divided linguistically.
The fatuous Spaniards did not pursue a one-language policy so they could better dominate our ancestors. The business-minded Americans applied the reverse approach with a massive education system with English as the medium of instructions. The Americans wanted to show off that English is a superior language and it could link our country to the world. The masses never accepted English.
The 1935 Constitution provided for the development and adoption of a common national language. It paved the way for the creation of a National Language Institute. The 1939 census identified the 8 major languages: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Bicol, Kapampangan, and Pangasinan.
In 1940 Commonwealth Act No. 570 was passed and it provided that the Filipino language would be an official language effective July 4, 1946. The national language was designated “Pilipino” by Education Secretary Jose E. Romero. The language issue remains controversial to the present. The Tagalog-based ‘Pilipino’ is being questioned by the Cebuanos who believe that they have outnumbered the Tagalogs.
“What’s your name?” this can be spoken in several native tongues. Ano ang pangalan mo? (Tagalog). Anya tinagan mo? (Ilocano). Ano an pangaran mo? (Bicol). Kinsay imong ngalan? (Cebuano). Ano ang ngalan mo? (Hiligaynon). Hino ang ngaran mo? (Waray). Uno ingngan mo? (Tausog). Nanong lagyo mo? (Kapangpangan).
Later, the confusion gave birth to Filipino bilinguals. A teacher in Social Studies was allowed to use bilingualism. I was a victim of that. There were two schools of thought: You can mix English and Pilipino in your sentence; or you can speak in English for five minutes and then have Pilipino for the next five minutes. It created confusion in the classroom. Some teachers were fluent in English but not in Pilipino or vice-versa.
To remember Quezon, August is not only “Buwan ng Wika” but also “Buwan ng Lahing Pilipino.” Schools have competitions in oration, declamation, storytelling, binalaybay, balagtasan, kundiman, folk dance and essay writing.
We also pay tribute to our literary personalities in English and Pilipino, and also to the men and women who developed literary styles in mother tongues. My wife corrected me that DepEd now has named the national language as “Filipino.” So, we have to say, “Filipino speaks Filipino.”
The ferment created by a circle of English, national language and regional writers contributed to the achievements of the different literatures in the Philippines. We remember Pres. M. L. Quezon as “Ama ng Wikang Pambansa.” But just the same, he spoke pretty well in Spanish or English.
My favorite literary figure in Philippine literature is Jose Garcia Villa. He is a poet, fictionist, critic and National Artist for Literature. His Man Songs (1929) triggered his expulsion from the University of the Philippines for using allegedly obscene metaphors. I love metaphors. I want writers to have nerves of steel, at least . . . not just obscenity.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 07, 2012.