That fantastic claim to a “brown heritage”—something that would creep into the pronouncements of Ferdinand Edralin Marcos in his delusion of grandeur about a New Society would continue, and today it continues to creep into our understanding of what is the ‘nation’ in the national language, the ‘nation’ in the national culture, the ‘nation’ in the national literature, and the ‘nation’ in national education.
We are not going to include here the two other social structures of the Philippine homeland, as these are utterly devoid of redemption unless we go the route of a federalized way of life minus the political warlords and kingpins and henchmen: our economic and politic life.
This means that we have to re-view and re-visit Manila as the center of everything and plan ahead with the idea of a decentralized, federalized economic and political development for all the regions and univocally declare that for four centuries we have given Manila the chance to dictate everything to us, and that today is the time for this Manila to go to the regions, because the regions have the resources Manila does not have; the regions have the diversity of peoples and their talents that Manila does not have; and that the regions have fed and nurtured and propped up Manila for so long at the expense of their own peoples.
This leads us to education, and the advocacy of two of our institutions, their advocacy a cause for celebration. With them, we who believe that we deserve something better, that a multicultural education will propel us into something more redeeming, needs to be known to all those who have not seen this view.
These institutions could have come from two opposite ends but they are not—not today—as their positions of support for a new vision for all of us are imbued with the wideness of vision no one ever had in the past.
One of these institutions is a government institution mandated to make good with the promise of the three Philippine Constitutions we have had since the Commonwealth Period under the Americans (1935, 1974, and 1987) to have a national language.
In the last three years, the Commission on the Filipino Language evolved from an institution of linguistic and cultural fossilization—and linguistic and cultural hegemony—into an institution that we can truly claim as having finally come to its senses of recognizing that you cannot develop the Filipino language without developing all the other Philippine languages.
Why it took seventy years for well-meaning scholars, top-notch academics, and cultural leaders to realize this simple truth and fact of life is beyond me. They say the nose is the most difficult part to see. And yet it is so close to the eyes.
And seeing and re-seeing we must, because this is the challenge of historical truth, the challenge of the dynamism of our collective life, the challenge of responding to the issues that matter most to us: that challenge, for instance, of an education that is emancipatory because you are giving back the educand her own voice—her own language—the tools through which she gets to mediate her own world, her own life, her own visions, her own dreams, her own sense of self and community.
Even before it became a fad, the Commission on the Filipino Language dared to re-think of its position on the languages of the peoples of the Philippines, while at the same time guarding—and guarding well—its role of making it certain that the seeds of what could be termed a true Philippine national language could be sown.
We cannot hold—and the Commission’s chair, Dr. Ricardo Nolasco, has gone on record to say this—that when two languages are mutually intelligible, one is another language, a different one. This dilemma is what afflicts Tagalog, in principle as in practice turning into ‘the national language’ by a stroke of a pen, even if there is a qualification somewhere that it serves only as the ‘basis of the national language.’
In ontological philosophy, this dilemma is solved by the rule of quiddity: a thing is what it is.
In saying that, we have yet to do a lot to evolve an honest-to-goodness national language that reflects us as peoples of the Philipppines, with our gifts and blessings of diversity and uniqueness—our offerings to the homeland.
The computational linguist Carl Rubino wrote that unless Tagalog goes though a linguistic re-structuring, the stigma that Tagalog is equal to P/Filipino remains and the isomorphism, Tagalog=P/Filipino, inutile as it is, continues to be suspect. The job of the Commission, thus, hews on these challenges.
Ask an Ilokano writer writing in ‘Filipino’ in what language he is writing when he writes in ‘Filipino’ and he will tell you he is writing, not exactly in Filipino, but in reality in Tagalog. Even with the kind of language engineering that I consciously employed and deployed in my Tagalog novel, Dangadang, with the Ilokanisms everywhere that critic Roderick Galam has observed, that novel remains a Tagalog novel.