Language Struggle, 3

(Note: This is part of an exchange I had with Prof.Ched Arzadon, one of the proponents of Mother Language Education. I removed the unrelated part of her e-mail to account the context of my response. The struggle for language rights in the Philippines has gained currency, again and again, because of the continuing oppression of the linguistic rights of the non-Tagalog peoples of the Philippine homeland.)

, aloha:

Let me be very frank as well with my response to you since we are in the MLE advocacy now.

There are two sides, at the very least,to the debate on whether we have to have a 
national language or not. My answer to this issue is yes and no.

Yes, if we are philosophically ready to revisit the question of nation, nationalism, and 
cultural nationalism.

There is a problem: if national language--and the notion of 'nation' in that national language is a statist notion of nationalism, then we are done in: there is no recourse but for other languages and cultures to declare a fight a now. Here is the score: for the last 73 years of oppressive marginalization since the institution of the oppressive provision of the 1935 Constitution, what has ever been done to preserve and sustain and allow the 'othered' Philippine languages to thrive? 


The thing is this: that we paid our taxes to develop Tagalog and Tagalog alone so that after 73 years of being developed, it now is a force to reckon with in terms of linguistic oppression. You go to the field and you will see the rampant cultural denigration of our languages. No one would like to be caught speaking in 
Ilokano anymore because even at the Laoag International Airport--as in the Ilokano classrooms--Ilokano is not legal, it is not legitimate, it is not moral. This is how bad the field data is. 
You tell that this is not the fault of Tagalog. Yes, it is not: it is a problem rooted in the Tagalogistic language and culture policies of this government. 

Now, tell me: if our language were accorded the same respect, as a matter of vision and insight, would we be at this stage of self-hatred?

The other side of the debate is: do we need a 'national language' based on a statist notion of nation? No, we do not need one. 

Perhaps, the question needs recasting: Do we need 
official languages

Yes, and the official languages should be the lingua francae of the country. Let justice be served. There is a big difference between 'nationalizing' a language and 'officializing' it. Why get stuck up with that Quezonian fetish for a national language? It does not make sense when many nation-states of the world, despite or because of, globalization, have looked to 
cultural pluralism as a mark of modernity, civilization, and multicultural competency. 

What about English? 

You talk about demarginalization and its powerful liberatory promise for all our peoples? 

English is not going to be our national language but one of the official languages. We need a language for international communication and Tagalog is not going to be one of them, as a matter of fact. 

I used to believe in Filipino and its promises; in fact, I was the founding president of an advocacy group of teachers and cultural workers called KAGURO SA FILIPINO, Kapisanan ng mga Guro sa Filipino. But the way the Tagalogistic mindset has railroaded our 
linguistic rights by way of the continuing creeping in of Tagalogism made me realize that this 'Filipino' is not the way to go to offer our people linguistic and cultural redemption.                                                                         

I am not for ethnocentrism. This means that I do not believe in the sacredness of Ilokano and Ilokano alone; there is no such thing. Corollary to that belief is the recognition that Tagalogization/Tagalogism (being passed off as 'Filipinization') is pathologic of the same social malady we all do want to happen. We abhor Gulag, Dachau, and the gas chambers so the Ayran race will be purified. 

This Tagalogization/Tagalogism is one such rite and ritual. God forbid, we will be monolingual in the days ahead. Many countries that have awakened to the reality of diversity and pluralism are beginning to create spaces for other languages to survive and thrive. The United States has been talking of 'English only' educational directions but this is not going to happen, with its commitment to plurality as a way of life. Many countries, if you ask, are doing the same thing while we in the homeland are quickly turning everyone into Tagalog.  

Ched, the field data cannot lie; we only need to be sensitive to what it tells us. 

One last note on your preference to Tagalog, the colonizer language, to English. 

My answer is quite simple that people do not see in this simplicity is the blatant, brutal truth we refuse to admit: that every act of 'colonization' is an act that immorally violent and brutal: the truth of that colonization if forced upon a people and then a cottage industry of promotion and marketing is created, and repeated over and over again until those who listen to that promotional and marketing tactic becomes so numb he can no longer distinguish fact from fiction, and then, and then, like the Goebbels tactic getting the results, we believe--we believe. In this day and age, we are not going to even think about admitting any form of colonization. 

Ask me again, and I will respond to you in frankness what I think about issues deeply affecting us. On the question of the English language, here is my repartee: it links us, as it has done so, with the world. In economic terms, however bad our English is, it became responsible for the billion dollar remittances that makes this country afloat. And Tagalog? What did it give except the 'wakasan' mentality of the Tagalog komiks. And those pulp now, those romance novels that make our lower middle class peoples--people like me--who need to believe in the fantastic possibilities of romance and love and feudal values. Or add here: the capitalist values or unbridled capitalism, the hero with his solo flight to seeking the fulfillment of his individualistic dreams.  

About what would we use to communicate to and with each other? 

That question begs. Because to communicate to and with each other we need, first, to be motivated to enter in a communication with and to each other. Motivation, while mediated by language, is a mindset, a mentality. Even before we were a nation-state with all its faults and weaknesses and artifice, we have always communicated to and with each other. Did we lack interpreters and translators? Did we lack people who were motivated to speak to and with us via interpreters and translators? Why this Quezonian indolence, one that says, in arrogance, that a president like had to be resorting to Ilokano interpreters to speak to the Ilokanos? Why not? Why settle for a disrespect for the language of a people when in the first instance you said you are in for a respect for the language of a people? When we have decided as a nation to go multilingual, let us go multilingual and for real, and not multilingual in one sense while not multilingual in other senses. This idea of not being able to communicate to and with each other lack merit because this is not backed up by what happens on the ground. Here is the useless equation that speaking a national language equals being nationalist/nationalistic while speaking a 'regional' language is betrayal, is being a traitor to the national cause. Herein lies the context: that regionalism is the stumbling block to the economic and other related developments of the Philippines, and thus, regionalism should be wiped out, erased from the vocabulary of the 'othered' peoples of the Republic. I say: there is nothing more murderous that this statement. 

Best now in the name of all the languages of the homeland, in the name of the anito of our cultures,


11/18/08, Ched Arzadon 

From: Ched Arzadon

Subject: RE: Translation of Manifesto into Ilokano and Tagalog
Date: Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 5:55 PM

Since I find you a kindred spirit (for your passion for MLE) and being a fellow 
Ilocano and a respected expert in languages, let me share to you my initial reactions about MLE and hope to hear your feedback.

My area is Education (particularly development oriented type like nonformal and informal education) and so I was drawn to MLE because of its demarginalizing possibility. Having jumped into this advocacy exposed me for the first time to the language politics among linguistics people. I never knew that such conflicts and divisions existed. 

Yes, I see the point why Tagalog should not take the privileged position. But what would we use to communicate to each other at this time? Why English? For me I'd rather use one of the languages of the colonized (Tagalog) than the language of the colonizer. I also see that each linguistic group has the responsibility to develop their own language. Maybe I have never understood fully well the insidious nature of the Tagalog linguists that was alluded to by people in DILA. For me, I see myself as a Filipino and I value all languages in the land.

Although Ilocano is my mother tongue, I see that Ilocano is co-equal with other Filipino languages. I also do not see why a God-given gift like our language would divide us. I do not intend to sound offensive or self-righteous. I am just perplexed about the whole thing.   

Agyamanak manen apo kaniayo gapu iti kinaingetyo nga agbaligi iti advocacytayo.


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