The Virtues of Diversity, Part 3




Aurelio Solver Agcaoili



Third of a Series


(An excerpt of a talk delivered at the 2012 Knights of Rizal Regional Conference in Honolulu)




Of course, our American history teaches us that somewhere along the way, between 1776 and today, we have substantially failed to pursue this motto to its end.


The inequities—and there are a lot of them—continues to haunt us in the United States of America.


But the haunting is a result of not fulfilling and pursuing an ideal, or not having one.


There is an ideal—and the ideal has remained as the force that drives the US into a continuing reassessment of itself vis-à-vis its goal to achieve diversity and pluralism.   


In the Philippines, with the inauguration of the Marcosian idea of a New Society, as if that society being flaunted was really new, with more promise than pursuit, with more rhetoric than result, the statist notion of a ‘national language’ came about, a notion carried over from a Commonwealth conception of an idealized ‘national language’.


If we read the complete proceedings of the 1934-1935 Constitutional Assembly, we see clearly the machinations of leaders, the conspiracy of those in power in order to bring about not a state marked by diversity and plurality but a state marked by hegemony.


This hegemony is plain and simple the handiwork of a cabal of impostors purporting to act in the name of a people in order to unite them.


We might as well call the puppetry of the grievous kind, with one hand swearing allegiance to everything American and English, and the other declaring Tagalog as the basis of a national language, even if the spirit of the 1935 Constitution had another thing in mind.


And the formula for that unity is not the delivery of the public goods and services, but the delivery of a false panacea of all the social ills of a country.


That panacea was simple—and meant for those with the simple mind: if we had but one and only one language, we would develop, we would go the route of progress, and we would be united.


That panacea is the concoction of a ‘national language’ from a brew of formulas that are both passé, unproductive, and ahistorically grounded.


Include here that that panacea is at best culturally callous and insensitive, as it overlooked the fact that the Philippines is a country of many nations, many peoples, many languages, and many cultures.


So here we go.


The 1935 Constitution gave birth to Tagalog as a national language.


The Marcos Constitution of 1974 gave birth to Pilipino.


And the Cory Aquino 1987 Constitution gave birth to Filipino.


We have here three layers of Constitutional deception that is codified, making us believe that indeed, the way to progress is in the speaking of single language, making us believe that Rizal was right in telling us that we need to love our own native language otherwise, otherwise…


We have constitutional guarantees that inaugurated monolingualism, monoculturalism, and homogenization.


We have constitutional guarantees that paved the way to Tagalogization under the guise of one nation, one state, and one country.


Of course, we are misquoting Rizal.


Of course, we are interpreting his intentions and his meaning out of context.


Rizal, we must remember, was speaking in Spanish.


His thought was from Spanish.


His conception of the world was from Spanish.


He was telling this thing to himself, even as he was giving the same admonition to what he called his “kababata” or his peers. Or so we think, if we continue to believe in the lie that he wrote those lines in that poem wrongly attributed to him.


But we must remember that he was Tagalog.


He should have spoken in Tagalog.


He should have thought from Tagalog.


But he did not—or most of the time, he did not.


Part of the proof is that when he began writing his third novel, the Makamisa, he could only start it, with a handful of pages, with a handful of chapters, but was practically left unfinished.


Part of the reason was that he realized he was incompetent in deploying his very own Tagalog language.


If his poem’s admonition is a premonition to what he would become, that failure in finishing Makamisa is a proof that indeed, we need to love our native language, the language in which we are born into.


(To be continued.)/ FAO, May 2013



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