Language Struggle, 7

(Note: This is part of the continuing exchange among advocates of our linguistic and cultural freedom.)


Dear Ched,

I see that you have been able to quickly come to terms with the sentiment of some language advocates about why they could not picture why MLE is one tentative panacea we can imagine to fire up our struggle for equity and cultural justice and linguistic democracy. 

The literary allusion to the Trojan horse, with Troy and its soldiers at the back of our heads as this protracted language and culture war rages on, is representative of the history of our disenfranchisement, with the concept of 'our' here clearly non-Tagalog peoples and places of the homeland accidentally we call the Philippines. 

In recognizing this historical fact, we cannot say--by force of a sweeping argument--that this sentiment of cautious non-alignment, even non-involvement and non-engagement is moral and valid, legitimate and historically-grounded. 

It is, Ched. And it is real. The politics or its lack of our disenfranchisement has become everyday, even if we refuse to recognize its pervasiveness. 

More than 70 years of marginalization and disenfranchisement is equal to three generations of deprivation: three generations that can be accounted back to my parents and passed on to my children. 

I stand in between as a middling witness to these falsities that have been passed on as truths to my parents, to me, and now, to my children. 

And I am terribly, terribly sad for all our sad peoples and for our sad republic. 

Those of us from the ranks of MLE advocates, by the way, are from the ranks of the middle-aged people who, probably early, had that inchoate unease in our early years of reading "Pepe and Pilar" in Tagalog and English and all other fantastic stories that valorized our feudal sense of things, including this feudal view of language in its early form, with Tagalog as the symbolic 'father' of our abilities and social capacities to communicate to and with each other as a nation-state.

We must see that this feudalism in Tagalogism--not simply the imposition of a language that is incidentally Tagalog but the whole illogicality of that pedagogic and pedantic political exercise by a Tagalog president and his relentless reincarnations even in the country's premier Colleges of Education eventually graduate into fascism, when Tagalog gained ascendancy as 'the' language of the nation--is a symptom to a problem. 

And with Tagalog and Tagalogism being accorded an army and a navy, Philippine linguistic fascism has another name, and it is fetishistically sporting it so: Tagalogism and Tagalogization in the form of the 'nationalistic' fantasies of creative writers, cultural critics, and even national artists who do not represent our sense of 'nationalism' that can account the pluralism that is us, the diversity that is our social resource, and the difference that is our virtue and redemption.

Now, with MLE eliding into something other than its being MLE, with inequity theoretically framing it under the guise of a statist nationalism that is largely viewed from the obnoxious conception of nation-state from the center, you--we cannot--trust an alternative like this one that is not grounded on this long history of inequity and this equally long history of struggle of our marginalized peoples. 

In one of our GUMIL Conferences in the 90's, I was responsible for putting up a conference where Ilokano scholars participated and shared with writers what they thought of the systemic marginalization in the writing of our Philippine literature, with canons that are dubiously pro-Tagalog, except for the story of Lam-ang and other tokens just so they can remind us, these critics and canon writers that they are 'including'. 

But we must remind ourselves that this token inclusion is a neocolonial master's way of saying, here is your carrot and candy, now do not speak up against us because, indeed, we have included your Lam-ang and you have not right to say we forgot.  

The lesson here is the assurance that this decades and decades of systemic and systemic inequity will be addressed squarely by MLE, and sadly, even if you did not care to admit it, one tactic to do that is clearly political. We call this the redeeming power of inclusion so we can do away, once and for all, this exclusion that has marked what we are as peoples of the homeland.

If MLE failed to do that, then rightly so, we have a Trojan horse. 

Let us not forget that we have not been forewarned of the evils of Tagalogism and Tagalogization under the guise of the nation and the state--under the guise of nationalism. What we have been promised is the redemptive power of speaking a common language that has caused not unification but a chasm that has divided us more and more.  

We must remember--and remember with clarity, that the intention to build a nation was what justified the imagination of a 'national' language, however dubious that was, because, among other things, it was grounded on a fossilized view of the nation-state that was largely based on Quezon's idea of the 'polis' as the of the hypervaluated examples of the dancing four sisters of 'egalite, fraternite, liberte' who are at the same time the purveyors of colony and empire--these dancing four sisters being held as exemplars of what we can do to ourselves in terms of state-crafting and nation-building: Germany, Spain, England, and France. 

Remember that we were building up a nation in making 'Tagalog as the basis of the national language' and we paid the salaries of people, who under the guise of that purpose, became the very people who oppressed and continue to oppress us by denying us of our linguistic rights and cultural freedom. 

Remember that we were building a state in making 'Tagalog as the basis of the national language' and we paid for all the Tagalog grammar books (remember Lope K. Santos' 'Tagalog balarila' and its illusions about a universal balarila of our salvation, that dubious grammar of our freedom?) and Tagalog dictionaries (schizophrenic as they are since many of them could not even figure out if they are indeed Tagalog or Pilipino or Filipino, except of course, that dictionary that passed itself off, in the sense of a eureka, that here at last is a 'Filipino' dictionary because some words from Hanunuo Mangyan and other languages have been included, and that 'pinakbet' has entered into its lexicon) and the salaries of teachers of Tagalog in our classrooms. 

Oh, how we venerated Tagalog at the altar of this skewed notion of nation and this equally skewed notion of state!

Here is what we can do: we need to clarify that intentions alone do not make our act ethical.

Intentions are never the final arbiter of what is moral and justifiable because they account the basic freedoms we are fighting for. The ethical adage remains: Bonum ex integra causa malum ex cucumque defectu.

We can keep on announcing our good intentions--as all the Tagalogistic fascists are saying and claiming in the name of the country they cannot even spell in accord with the demands of cultural pluralism because of historical ignorance and because of their ignorance of the notion cultural diversity as the source of our national conversation and ergo, national communication, with that Tagalog logic that says that since Tagalog has no 'F', then, as it is always the case, the spelling of the homeland should be 'Pilipinas' and not 'Filipinas'--but good intentions alone would not advance our cause of human freedom if these intentions did not find their context in the larger view of what we want to achieve with and for our people. 
I offer a philosophical questioning that I hope will guide the praxis that we ought to draw up, as this praxis gains ascendancy with the vigor of its truth, first and foremost, and with the energy of its ideology, only secondarily. Or it could be that we forge in our struggle the melding of the two to account our renewed orthopraxis:  

1. We need to establish clearly what this MLE is all about in terms of some basic distinctions we have to do: (a) the role of MLE in redeeming ourselves from all these inequities that have been our lot since 1935, and thus, this act would elevate our pedagogial purposes from plain pedagogial pedantry (which to me, is an inutile imagination as we have to put back politics in our MLE classrooms) and (b) the role of Mother Language in Education (MLIE), which is not the same, conceptually, as plain and simple Mother Language Education (MLE). 

2. We need to eventually trod upon sacred ground when we will work out tactic. We do this by being mindful of some other related concepts, particularly issues related to the community where we find our MLE classrooms. These issues are first language, lingua franca, and second language.

With this MLE initiative, we are going to fiercely guard the ground we have claimed for ourselves. 

It will not be easy guarding it, as many of the enemies are also us--they are, in fact, coming also from our ranks. 

Of course, there are the plain enemies whose intent is to make all of us 'Tagalog-speaking' nationals in the country that is in truth and in fact, linguistically and culturally plural.

One of the points they will raise against us is this: how are we going to communicate to each other as a nation-state, as a people, without Tagalog (well, tell me, let us not kid each other now: ask the respectable linguists and they will tell you that darn truth about P/Filipino, because in reality, we have been held hostage by this equation: Tagalog=P/Filipino)?

Our response should be this: communication is motivation, and the best motivation is equity, justice, fairness, democracy, and respect for human rights. 

And our languages are our fundamental human rights.

And the opportunity to be educated in our languages is one educational motivation--and educational resource--we can put in place. 

Frankly:  I do not understand why every one is so worried about the extinction of the tarsus when no one is crying foul about the extinction of our languages. A report from the Ethnologue says that we have lost four of our languages already. Which language is coming in next?

Now, we have to be continually cautious of Trojan horses. 

We are not playing victim here--but if we do, can we ever blame the victim for what happened to her or him? 

Let the ember of this struggle continue to fire all of us. 

Aurelio Agcaoili
Marhay na banggi sa indo gabos! 

Benjie, I am not representing Commission on Higher Education or any of its interest. Ched is short for my full name- Maria Mercedes. My family's roots are from La Union, Ilocos, Nueva Ecija, and Pangasinan. I also lived in Benguet, Manila, Laguna, and Bicol. 

Now I understand the wariness of some of you about the MLE initiatives and why you are calling it a trojan horse. I see your point that it is indeed possible that certain interest groups would piggyback on our efforts to promote their own agenda. This warns be to be more careful 
so that such will not happen or else MLE which is supposed to demarginalize pupils will end up reinforcing another marginalizing force. This is why we need your help because you have the eye to discern the tactics of such groups. As I said, our only intent as educators is that all children would be educated in their mother tongue so that they would develop critical minds to discern and address injustice in their midst. Btw, to situate MLE in the larger discourse of education reform, please read the transcript of the UP Centennial Lecture on Education Reform which is linked to our MLE blog 
http://www.motherto ngue-based. blogspot. com/

Thank you, Apo Maestro Agcaoili, for the Nakem's support for the MLE alliance and for being among the first to sign our online petition. I see that that the alliance would be participated by groups coming from language/culture, education and other development- oriented groups. I 
hope, too, that such alliance would be felt even among virtual communities. 

Sa indo gabos, Dios mabalos sa indong pagtabang.

Ched Arzadon 

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