Aurelio Solver Agcaoili
THE VIRTUES OF DIVERSITY AND CULTURAL PLURALISM
Second of a Series
(An excerpt of a talk delivered at the 2012 Knights of Rizal Regional Conference in Honolulu)
The story of the Philippine State draws its narrative energy from so many sources.
One of these sources is the quest for statehood of at least four European kingdoms such as England, France, Germany, and Spain.
It is a classic story of kings, queens, and monarchs lording it over the public lives of people.
It is a classic story of people coming together and putting an end to the excesses of these rulers claiming ‘authority from God’ even getting mandate from the god of their own making.
Once the people realized that this kind of a life could not go on forever, the people revolted, called for a new of life, and eventually put an end to the fairy tales of queens and princesses.
This is the 19th century that gave rise to the state, away from the kingdom.
This is the same 19th century that we were drawing our initial idea of what a state is all about.
Rizal, in his education in Europe, got the last glimpse of the medieval world that produced these excesses.
But Rizal also came to see the beginnings of a new political reality—the beginning of the state.
In light of this reality, we now come to understand that the state, as the political instrument of public governance, as a political apparatus, is a new invention.
As a new invention, it must answer the questions of people, questions that are old, and questions that are new.
With the coming of the Americans, we inaugurate another energy from which we draw the conception of a Philippine state.
It is the energy of American independence, declaring a separation from Mother England, the energy of the fourth of July.
It is energy from a revolution, from the loss of lives and limbs in order to reclaim liberty for an oppressed people.
That is the classic American story that would go to the Philippines, exported by well-meaning conquerors that were once oppressed by English masters an ocean away.
The exportation of that idea of a democracy gave rise to the Philippine state.
We see here therefore that long road to the Philippine state, from the visions of a free Philippines at the Malolos Congress of 1898 to the Commonwealth of 1936, with Quezon giving what could be regarded as the State of the Nation report to the United States.
It could have been good, with the Philippine Independence finally happening in 1946.
But we need to ask for more.
The seal of the United States contains a phrase, not codified, but stands as one of the fundamental principles of a federated country: “E pluribus unum.”
The phrase is simple: “Out of the many, one.”
There is also a motto by one of the cultural advocates of diversity in the United States, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages that says about “many languages, one voice.”
For those who knew what President Ferdinand Marcos wanted done with his experiment about a New Society for all, we have his “one country, one thought, one language”—of what purports to be his Utopia for a new Philippines: “isang bansa, isang wika, isang diwa” (“one nation, one language, one thought”).
Somewhere in time, when Ricardo Nolasco was chair of the Commission on the Filipino Language, he pursued what he called “maraming wika, isang bansa”—or many languages, one country.
And here comes Jose Rizal, with his declaration, each time misused by rabid nationalists and equally rabid and narrow-minded leftists: “And taong di magmahal sa sariling wika ay higit pa sa hayop at malansang isda.” (“Those who do not love their own language are likened to a rotten fish.”)
That declaration, coming from purportedly from his poem written when he young, “Sa Aking mga Kababata” (“To My Peers”), translates freely as “The person who does not love his own language is worse than an animal, or a rotten fish.”
There are two problems here: one, a misuse of this phrase when it refers to Tagalog/Pilipino/Filipino as the national language, and two, an attribution of the same poem to Rizal as the author when internal and external evidences point another as a possible author and cannot be Rizal. In either way, we are using a wrong evidence to prop up an idea that justifies the turning into the Philippines as a single-language speaking country.
If we look at these examples, the uncodified motto of the US clearly establishes a precedent for the American conception of diversity and pluralism.
Clearly, we see: we are many, and sure we are, but we are one too.