Talaytayan MLE, Cultural Justice, and the Cause of the Philippine Nation


Talaytayan MLE, Cultural Justice, and the Cause of the Philippine Nation

 Aurelio Solver Agcaoili, PhD


On May 23, a new movement aimed to pursue the ends of Mother Language Education was born. This is Talaytayan MLE.


The movement makes use of two crucial concepts that have been left out in the framing of the philosophy of Philippine education: “talaytayan” or bridging and the return to mother language as crucial to the equipping of educatees with the fundamental life skills related to the world opened up by the competent and self-respecting use of one’s own language to combat illiteracy.


Of the many who are involved in the Talaytayan MLE, several individuals and cultural workers have lent their name to push for its founding.


In the initial meeting, there were six people who took part—with four of these having been involved in the MLE cause for some time: Dr. Ricardo Nolasco, former acting chair of the Commission on the Filipino Language; Prof. Ched Arzadon of the University of the Philippines College of Education; Prof. Arnold Molina Azurin, one of the foremost scholars on the Philippines and on the Amianan cultures; and this author. 


The basic idea in the Talaytayan MLE is the need to address the social inequities in Philippine education—inequities that are traceable to the privileging and entitlement of only two languages in the Philippines: Tagalog and English, with the other Philippines languages effectively ‘minoritized’ and totally marginalized.


The ‘minoritization’ of even the major languages is a result of the skewed cultural and educational policies of the Philippine government, with the brainwashing of educatees to make them believe that (a) their knowledge of Tagalog and English alone are sufficient to make them get by in life; and (b) their knowledge of their own non-English and non-Tagalog language and culture is not necessary in the formation of a national language and culture.


In the end, we have thus cultivated a certain consciousness among the young that provided a script for their automatic denigration of their languages and cultures.


With English and Tagalog having been accorded the status of being ‘prestigious’ languages and the other languages are practically useless, even the cultural workers who should—ought—to know better are doing exactly the opposite of what they are doing: they denigrate their own language and culture.


On the first list of cultural workers are teachers and writers and mass media professionals.


Many teachers have a hand in this continuing cultural inequity, what with their active role in the production and reproduction of consciousness that puts a premium on the issue of nation and nationalism on the basis of the centrist conception of nation and the parallel centrist conception of what constitutes Philippine nationalism.


Simply put, many teachers are the very authors of this ignorance and this incompetence to provide a critique to this vicious circle of cultural inequity, what with their hollow mental disposition about the virtues of cultural pluralism and diversity.


Many creative writers and mass media professionals are, involuntarily in cahoots with the system that reproduces the consciousness that has transformed us into believing that it is impossible to imagine a nation with many languages and cultures, that it is impossible to pursue the ends of nationalism that is based on diversity and cultural pluralism except via a monolithic understanding of a national language and an equally monolithic understanding of national culture.


Many creative writers and mass media professionals produce cultural texts in the two languages of national privilege and national entitlement.


The poverty of this form of nationalism—the reduction of the expression of Philippine nationalism into a dubious ‘national’ language—has never been exposed in the past, not until this ‘multilingual turn’, not until this ‘multilingualism and multiculturalism turn’ that formally began with the initiatives of various non-Tagalog language groups and the re-conceptualization by the Commission on the Filipino Language during the term of the office of then acting chair Nolasco of the role multilingualism and Philippine education.


The recognition of the role of Philippines languages in the pursuit of a just and fair nation and the recognition of the variety of Philippine culture and the role of the various cultures in socio-cultural and economic development has made this multilingual turn possible.


Some sectors of the Philippine government have realized that we can no longer pretend that the continuing decline in the achievement test of educatees is a result of non-language factors.


One simple truth in education is so simple we do not need useless college degrees to understand: that we understand the unknown via the known, that the movement of human knowledge is always from the familiar to the unfamiliar in that hopeful note that the unfamiliar, in the end, becomes familiar.


Translated in linguistic terms—with language the most effective universal medium for understanding—the known are those mediated by our first language, also known as our mother language.


The unknown, on the other hand, are those opened up by other domains of knowledge within the first or mother language and those forms of knowledge opened up by our access to another language.


Tagalog, with all its other names, is not the first or mother language of many peoples of the Philippines, this we must honestly accept.


The intent of Talaytayan MLE is to provide a support organization for all advocates of MLE, for all advocates of cultural equity, and for all advocates of an emancipatory form of education in the Philippines.


In the end, Talaytayan MLE is for cultural justice.    

Published in "Kallautang," FAO, June 2009


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