By Aurelio Solver Agcaoili  

Below is the point-by-point response to the opinion piece of  Michael David San Juan, ‘Debunking the PH language myths,’ Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17 August 2014. San Juan is associate professor of De La Salle University. 

The issues, eight of them, are listed in open and close single quotation marks. I have looked at this issues he raises as facts, not myths, and hence the introductory phrase, 'Fact Number'. 

Fact Number 1: 'Filipino is not an imposition of  “imperial Manila.” The multilingual composition of the Surian ng Wikang Pambansa, or the Institute of the National Language (INL), established in the 1930s to recommend a Philippine language as the basis for the national language, proves that this is nonfactual.’   

The truth is, this San Juan guy does not know his facts:

First, it is not Filipino, but Tagalog, that was imposed in 1937. 

Second, the list of names that constituted the INL does not prove the point that Tagalog was not imposed. All these members were sold to the 19th century idea of nation state as espoused by Quezon, a nation state patterned after the late 19th century nation formation efforts of some countries of the West, notably Germany, Spain, France, England, and in some other ways later, Italy. Quezon, in the Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of 1934-1935, has precisely expressed this idea. 

Third, San Juan needs to read the Proceedings of the 1934-1935 Constitutional Convention, and understand the spirit of the debate and the active protestations of the delegates, and understand too, the abracadabra that happened in the insertion of the phrase one of the existing languages of the Philippines as "the basis" of the national language. He cannot come up with the composition of the INL as a proof in much the same way that he cannot prove that the current composition of the Commission of the Filipino Language is sympathetic to the cause of multiplicy, diversity, and pluralism. 

Fourth, he slants the issue. 'Filipino' today, is an imposition of the hegemonic center, his Manila and Bulacan (the latter where he is from?) and the facts of the case are clear.

In 1935, the ground for the imposition of Tagalog was drafter, and in 1937, that ground was realized through an executive order, and then eventually a law. Anyone who tries to understand honestly what happened between 1935 and 1937, when that law ‘imposing’ Tagalog was enacted, would honestly admit that Tagalog was imposed. The evidences are very clear, and to lamely use the composition of INL as the proof of Tagalog not having been imposed is must be honest to admit that there is no validity in this statement. A fallacy is committed here. One swallow, we must remind San Juan, does not make a summer. 

Fifth, the national artist, Rolando Tinio (from Nueva Ecija) admits this abracadabra which this San Juan denies to death.

He is not intellectually honest, this San Juan. He must read Tinio’s Language Matters: Where English Fails and there read the direct admission of Tinio of this abracadabra.

Sixth, he needs to understand the account--the hidden motives--why Quezon wanted the national language so much, with his idea of 'national language' culled from Spain, France, Germany, England, and later on, Italy. He must read, this San Juan guy. It looks like he does not fully understand where the bigger issues of the fascistic nature of his national language comes from.

Seventh, he needs to understand that Quezon, when he went to the Ilocos, when he gave as speech at Letran College, when he went to the Visayas, has talked about a national language which is his own Tagalog. He was so incensed why he needed an interpreter to 'talk' to his own people. Ah, he could have used English, right? Parale is a good way for San Juan to start reading. Did he read Parale at all? Or, Andrew Gonzalez' Language and Nationalism

Of course, Tagalog was imposed.

When a country has more than a hundred languages, and a single language is instituted as a national language and give that language an army and a navy, and give it all the resources of that country to have develop at the expense of the country’s other languages, that is a clear case of imposition especially so when such was dictated upon as a language to be taught in all Philippine schools.

In the past, this was called Tagalog; now, with the ruses approved by San Juan, it is called ‘Filipino’.

The triumphalist revisionism of San Juan must called as such: triumphalist revisionism.

Fact Number 2: 'Filipino is only Tagalog.'

It is true that 'Filipino is only Tagalog.' 

Any linguist worth his salt--let us ask foreign linguists so their loyalties are not questioned--and they will tell you of this kind of crap San Juan is reproducing. The University of California Los Angeles calls its courses, Tagalog. Other universities abroad are calling this language being passed off as Filipino as Tagalog. Let us be intellectually honest here.  

San Juan, in that opinion piece--read: this is his 'opinion'--is saying that it is true that the vocabulary of Filipino is still Tagalog and that there is a need to enrich that vocabulary to make the Tagalog language Filipino.

He cites, of course, Almario's dictionary of 'synonyms'—a synonym comes from within a language, but not outside that language, unless nativized--and his argument fails in this area big time.

He cites the position of Leoncio Deriada on the 'assimilation' of more non-Tagalog words into the Tagalog language to make it more Filipino.

Both Almario's and Deriada's positions are wrong theoretically and practically.

One cannot make a new language by a sleight-of-hand technique and tactic, which San Juan wants us to do dishonestly.

He talks of  'vocabularies'.

An enriched vocabulary of a language is an enriched language, and not a new one.

To distinguish one language from another, there is one primary rule: mutual intelligibility.

If San Juan is really a language teacher, advocate, and scholar as he claims in his being an 'associate professor', he should know these rudimentary things.

There is more honesty in Rolando Tinio than in him.

Oh, by the way, his exhibiting of the Ilokano term, 'dawa,' is wrong. Dawa is the edible seed in Almario's dictionary? Come on, San Juan! Ask Ilokanos around and they would tell that you are telling them half-truths!

Fact Number 3: 'Filipino is detrimental to other Philippine languages.'

Of course, let this be said:

First,  that with the imposition of San Juan's illusory 'Filipino'--why can't he be honest and say that this is really Tagalog?--so many non-Tagalog peoples all over the country have learned only the language of Tagalog and the literature of the Tagalog peoples spread all over the Southern Tagalog regions, and with Metro Manila as its axis.

To test this, let San Juan ask an Ilokano child if that child knows how to write in his Ilokano language, converse intellectually in that language, and understand the world around him in that language.

Let him ask as well a non-Tagalog child if that child meaningfully knows anything about his own literature and let him discuss that in his own language.

Because San Juan has never done this--he is deploying his own logic of convenience and comfort to valorize his Tagalog under the guise of 'Filipino' of his own 1987 Constitution (ah, he should read the proceedings of that Constitution too!), he only comes up with motherhood statements about 'national language' and 'learning' and 'national standards in achievement tests'.

Who cares about achievement tests in his dubious Filipino?

Everyone cares about achievement test in English, but the Department of Education (Deped) should not do that not in the early grades. Which means that this is a problem of Deped, and not the problem of non-Tagalog peoples fighting for their right to their languages and asking that they learn in their own language. 

Second, that the imposition of Tagalog masquerading as Filipino has only resulted to the illiteracy of our non-Tagalog students. The evidence he presented is not in favor of his position, but is, in truth and in fact, in favor of the need to educate our peoples in their own respective mother languages.

Third, that the best way to educate the citizens of a country is through their own language. San Juan, being a teacher, has conveniently forgotten the rule that we can never know the world more intimately and more meaningfully through a strange language. It is is always the L1 that makes sense as the mediating instrument in that epistemic act of mediating the ontological. San Juan's failure to know this is not the problem of the non-Tagalog peoples; it is his big time failure as an academic.

Fourth,  that the Philippines is a signatory to so many international covenants on language, culture, and education rights. I am not going to enumerate all these here. The fact is that San Juan misses the point in not recognizing that because of this imposition of Filipino, we have not been honest to our peoples, we have not respected our international obligations, and that we have inaugurated a big time lie now passed off as truth courtesy of people like him. He needs to read up on our international commitments as well.

The inauguration of our non-Tagalog peoples of their sense of who they are, their continuing illiteracy of their own linguistic and cultural resources in the name of the name of San Juan's beloved 'national language', and the homogenization of all peoples of the Philippines is the best gift of San Juan and all people like him to a country that is plural and multiple and diverse.

This gift is a bomb. Linguicide continues with him. 

Fact Number 4: 'It is more practical to use English than Filipino as the lingua franca.'

Of course, this is absolutely true.

The fact that this San Juan guy is writing his piece in English for the Inquirer is one heck of a proof that invalidates his claim about need for English in our collective life.

The word 'practice'--if this has not been vulgarized by him--hermeneutically demands a sense of the theoros. More so if we deal with practice that is pertinent, and pertinent because it is true.

Theoros, in that mythology among the Greeks, gives an account of the gods looking down on the affairs of mortals, and from their perch, meditate, contemplate, and reflect about what gives, in the heavens as in the day-to-day life of peoples under their care. 

These are the same gods who have allowed Hermes to invent human language, that Hermes guy who is both a commerce-man (a business tycoon now) and a liar.

A research by a Filipino linguist teaching in Malaysia has proven that there is no economic benefit of knowing Tagalog in Malaysia. I would say, by extension, not only in Malaysia but abroad in that general scheme of things. 

Now, unless the country stops sending OFWs abroad--and where else to send them but in Gaza, Syria, Libya, Middle Eastern countries, and elsewhere?--with USD 2.3B remittances as of the latest report from the government--then San Juan can continue with his delusion of grandeur that his schizophrenic Tagalog/Pilipino/Filipino makes sense as the lingua franca.

His 1987 Constitution--the one he loves to quote to prove his point in a pointless way--has talked about the need for citizens of the country to have access to that Constitution through their own language. I am not aware of a translation of that Constitution in Ilokano. I am not sure of the other languages. This means that this Constitution itself is not true to what it wants done.    

One of the Recto daughters complained about the making of Tagalog as the national language and I rephrase her: ‘What can I learn from Tagalog?’

Now, ask the same thing to all the language-deprived non-Tagalog peoples, peoples who are all deprived of their sense of language, their sense of self, and their sense of identity.

Bless us all, but I have yet to see a version of that 1987 Constitution in Ilokano. Now, talk about language access, and San Juan fails big time.

Fact Number 5: 'Using Filipino as a medium of instruction will negatively affect students’ facility with the English language'

There is a principle in education about learning, and it is about the movement from what is known to the unknown.

What is known is best known through the mediation of the language by which the learner gets to know the world.

From the lens of that world, the learner gets to move on to the unfamiliar, to the world that is yet-to-be known.

The problem in the Philippines is this: students are taught in two strange languages:

(1) in  Tagalog/P/Filipino and

(2) in English.

It means simply that the Deped is not doing things right, and it is a government agency that has done the most atrocious service to our people.

No other country in the world does this, especially when we deal with countries that have come to their senses on their obligation to fully educate their own citizens to become good citizens.

Good citizenship--and good because it is productive--is not a laughing matter; it is mediated by a citizen’s understanding of his role in the polis, and that mediation happens not in a strange language, but in his own language. 

The position, thus, of San Juan, merely parrots the same pedagogic mistake--and a big one at that--of the Deped, an agency called by an activist and critic, Mike Pangilinan, as DeafHead.

When a country teaches most of its students in two strange languages, no amount of teaching will ever become meaningful, and the achievement results will always be below par.

Now, what San Juan should suggest is for that basic education principle to be followed: move from L1 (the mother language of most of our students all over the country) to L2.

L2 here means English, that language that will give them jobs abroad, presuming that San Juan's Tagalized country will not stop sending about 3000 OFWs abroad each day.

Fact Number 6: 'Filipino subjects from elementary to high school are sufficient'.

Many activists in Philippine education no longer believe in this statement.

What these activists, of which I am a part, hold on to is the continuing education of our people in their own respective languages from basic education to university.

There are reasons why we hold on to this:

First,  learning is made more meaningful in mediated by the very instrument through which we look at the world. That instrument is the L1, the mother language of students. We have, at the very least, 185 native languages, and 11 foreign languages per the Ethnologue of 2005.

Second, there is no reason to educate our plural communities with the schizophrenic Tagalog/P/Filipino of San Juan. Such an education has reduced our non-Tagalog peoples to cultural and linguistic illiteracy. The facts of the case are from the field, and San Juan needs only to go around and check how linguistically and culturally illiterate our non-Tagalog peoples have become. Among Ilokano teachers, only a handful know the rudiments of their own language and their own literature. Ask our writers-cum-educators-cum-academics like Joel Manuel, Teofilo Damoco, Ruby Banez and they will tell you what is there in the field.

Third, if San Juan insists on the teaching of Filipino, it should be taught as a second language alongside other second languages of the Philippines, and foreign languages. Fair is fair.

In short, San Juan has no claim here.

Fact Number 7: "Countries that use foreign language/s as medium of instruction in college are more developed than countries that use their national language/s; our people’s English language skills bring huge foreign investments, hence English must be prioritized over Filipino."

This is the fact, one that San Juan, in his naivete, refuses to accept: that English brings in huge foreign investment.

All told, capital is money, and time is money too [Groys 2009], and with the world going gung-ho on capital, as is the case of his own Tagalog/P/Filipino playing footsie with the media capitalists of the Philippines at the expense of multiplicity, diversity, and pluralism, San Juan the academic does not fully understand that investments-with-a-moral-conscience is what we are in need of in a dire way. We need these investments so that we will no longer be exporting our people, some of them coming back dead. The data is four coffins per day.

We do not have this in his own beloved country; much of the money per all those DAP shenanigans, are in the hands of those elite who speak his brand of national language.

Now, he must open his mind to these facts:

First, that foreigners are setting up shop and attending school in the Philippines because of our English-language ability;

Second, that the Philippines is still the best business English country, and thus, this factor has led to foreign investments; and

Third, that employment of many peoples of the Philippines, the rate now at more than 10 percent, is by way of our peoples’ professional abilities alongside our ability to speak English.

These realities are beyond San Juan's comprehension. He should try becoming an OFW and see for himself why we need English as an international language so we can sell our souls and bodies and honor and dignity and self-respect abroad to the highest bidder.

Fact Number 8: 'Filipino is not yet intellectualized; it cannot be utilized as a medium of instruction in college.'

I am not sure where is San Juan getting these ideas about the charge that his 'Filipino' is not intellectualized.

There are two ways of looking at the whole thing re the issue of intellectualization:

1    First, the content of a particular language with respect to how it can provide an explicans to an explicandum re the self, others, and the world.

From a cultural perspective, every language has that capacity.

Now since we have 'yet to evolve' Filipino as a language, it does not have yet hat intellectualized character.

If he is referring to Tagalog, we grant that Tagalog and all our other--and othered--Philippine languages have that capacity to explain the self, others, and the world to us.

2    Second, the ability of that language to provide an explicans to all the domains of
professional knowledge from A to Z.

San Juan should show us a textbook in Human Physiology and Thermodynamics and we believe him.

Books, researches, and other things he says on the shelf (or shelves) of libraries--and presumably his own library--are a proof of the 'intellectual' content of his illusory language.

He must remember that these exhibits he is telling us in a triumphalist way following the ways of the Sadducees and the Pharisees have been produced and paid for by the taxes, sweat, labor, dignity, and self-respect of all peoples of the Philippines, his Tagalog people and non-Tagalog peoples alike.

The question is this: How is it that in a country like the Philippines, a country professing democracy, fairness, and justice--how is it that it has been able to produce only one and only one body of knowledge, that of his own Tagalog?

Fair is fair everywhere.

If you want our peoples to be integrated into the international community, as in our commitment to an ASEAN Integration 2015, we must prepare our peoples to be

First, professionally competent, and

Second, proficient in an international language.

The logic of this prescription is clear.

In the end, San Juan has no argument, and the Inquirer, bless it, wasted a page to feature his opinion piece.

17 August 2014/WPH


Chris (a.k.a. "Fernando") said...

Wow, you nailed it, Ariel/Aurelio! Thank God for having you in our midst, enlightening us about paying attention to our native/mother language, but, at the same time, paying attention to others, too. Dimmakkel (wenno bimsog?)pay ti ulok a nangipauneg kadagitoy indasarmo a potahem, kontra kadagiti potahe nga impalladaw ni San Juan diay Inquirer? Keep it up, kabsat! Ket saanka a mauma wenno mabannog a lumaban kadagiti rinuker iti kagimongan dita nakaiyanakantayo. Btw, nabasak 'tay "Panata..." a blogmo tattay. Ket maipalagip kaniak ti maysa a kapanunotak: I left my country because she didn't care for me. But I did not abandon my country. Filipinas abandoned me. Imbulosnak nga agtawtawataw...Nagkas-ang a panunoten ti kasasaad ti adu a padatayo a nagluas, nagkalkallautang, nagrigrigat...mailiw kadagiti napanawan. Ania ti sasaaden ti nakayanakantayo no awan dagiti OFWs? Apay nga adu latta ti umadayo iti nakaipasngayanda a lugar? Sapay ta agtuloy a maisuro ti Ilokano a pagsasao kadagiti pada nga Ilokano ken kadagiti mayat a makaammo-makasursuro. Maysa pay, maipaganetget a maisuro a nalaing ti Ingles kadagiti agad-adal, no agtultuloy ti exudos dagiti tao nga umadayo wenno saan. Kasta pay, kabsat, ket ti Dios a Namarsua ti kanayon a mangtarabay kadakayo ken ti pamiliayo.

Ariel said...

Kabsatko a Christ: dagitoy a nasantuan a balikas ti mangparparegta kadatao, apo. Sapay koma ta ti Namarsua kadagiti amin a lengguahe ti kankanayon a mangiturong kadagiti umno gapu ta nainkalintegan a danatayo, kabsatko aya. No ay-ayatennatayo ti Filipinas, ania koma a gapu a panawantayo tapno agbalin a bayanggudaw?