OPINION: Revaluating Regionalism, Revaluing Our Languages – Or Why We Need to Advance Linguistic Dem

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

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

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

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

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

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.