COMMENTARY: Our Redemptive Response to the Timeless Temptations of Tagalogism and to the Tyranny of

We pray we are not going to fall into the same trap of Tagalogism and Tagalogization again, not when we were made to believe—tempted and fooled—by the powers-that-were.

Tagalogism is an attitude—a mindset that has trapped us into a belief of a Philippine nation-state as revolving around a center and only this center is important.

As a mental disposition, Tagalogism is not about the Tagalog people, and many of them have nothing to do with, as many of them have been deprived of their own language and culture when, with a stroke of a pen, Tagalog as a language suddenly became something else.

The counter-discourse to Tagalogism is about how we revisit the definitions of ourselves, and how we express those definitions in light of our basic need for emancipatory knowledge of who we are as a Philippine nation made up of many nations, where we are, and where we are going.

Tagalogization, on the other hand, is that long juridical, linguistic, political, economic, and cultural process that has made it certain that this trap, this temptation relative to the entitlement, privileging, and valorization of Tagalog, is going to continue to have its stranglehold over all of us, Tagalog and non-Tagalog peoples alike.

The enlightened Tagalog people are not the problem here; those who continue to have that triumphal attitude with the lording of Tagalog over all other Philippine languages are the problems.

For even among the non-Tagalog people, there lies among them poets and writers and academics and scholars and linguists who do not know that the entitlement of one language over another may lead to an exclusion that could be irredeemably damaging to the excluded languages and cultures.

The enemy is in every individual of the Philippines, in the homeland as well as in the diaspora.

And this individual is lurking—or hiding behind some abstractions we call ‘nationalism’ and ‘education’ and ‘literacy’, abstractions that, when devoid of the proper context, are there only to make superiority pronouncements and thus legitimize the exclusionary tactics of the center.

The beginnings of our linguistic and cultural Gethsemane can be traced to that Constitutional Convention that began in 1934 and ended in February 1935. That Con-Con could have taught us peoples of the Philippines and other peoples of the world the virtues of cultural pluralism and respect for language rights, this last one veritably an expression of unconditional respect for basic human rights.

But the 1935 Constitution that came out of that convention of the supposedly most capable and most astute political leaders of the land co-opted with the powers-that-were was an occasion of falling from grace, a grace that could be given only to us by respecting our cultural diversity and by pursuing language pluralism as a way of life of a nation made up of many nations such as the Philippines.

The proceedings of the Con-Con bear witness to this fall that we are trying to rise from today, an act of courage on the part of all peripheralized ethnolinguistic communities of the Philippines, with the House Bill 3719 that hopes to remake the template of an oppressive educational system in the Philippines that makes everyone in basic education—and even in tertiary education—as cultural and linguistic zombies and robots of the Tagalog and English languages.

These ethnolinguistic communities have been peripheralized because we have come to believe that our salvation as a people is the glamorizing of a single speech, and the allowing of ourselves to be continually hoodwinked by the Marcosian dictum of ‘isang bansa, isang diwa’—one language, one nation—a dictum that worked like an incantation to the dictator and his speech  writers, including some academics from the University of the Philippines serving as his think-tank and book writers and who passed on to him the French model of that abominable phrase, clearly not an original formula for state-crafting and nation-building.

The failure of many of us to understand the spirit of cultural pluralism as the spirit that could have shaped our collective life is the same failure that we continue to commit until today, seventy-three years after.

And those people who are in the know—the very people who could help us free ourselves from the enchantment of Tagalogism and Tagalogization are sometimes the very people that tell us that we have no business fighting for our linguistic and cultural rights and that our only business is to speak the language of the center, act in that language, and dream in that language.

(To be continued)