Never mind that these peoples, while they are also peoples of the Philippines, are also Ilonggos, Sebuanos, Bikolanos, or Ilokanos—peoples with their own nation before that Philippines nation was ever invented or dreamed of.
The inutile argument—as is the case of many language groups in the United States of America that recognize only ‘national’ languages as legitimate members of their groups even if these groups summon the energies of exilic communities in this country by their come-on about languages as ‘heritage’ and ‘least commonly taught’—about speaking in one and only one language is counter-productive to contemporary nation building, with our multiple, diverse, and potentially powerful experiences becoming a firm foundation for that kind of a nation, nation-state, or polis. The errors of history, indeed, are not the monopoly of one country. Afraid to dispel our ignorance because of the comfort and convenience it gives us, we go the route to oppression and injustice and despotism in the name of a glorious nation, nation-state, country, or polis.
I have spoken with some people in the nationalist movement of the Philippines—people who advocate whole-scale reforms for and in the name of all peoples of the country—and from their lips spring ideas about language and culture that follow the same route to the ‘Mandarinization’ of all Chinese peoples, the ‘Niponggoization’ of all peoples of Japan, the ‘Bahasa Malaysiaization’ of all peoples of Malaysia, the ‘Bahasa Indonesiaization of all peoples of Indonesia, and the Englicization of all peoples of New Zealand and Australia and all other territories of the English-speaking peoples, as is the case of all French-speaking peoples declaring ‘liberte’ and ‘fraternite’ and ‘egalite’, among other abstractions, to themselves and to the peoples they colonized.
Some uninformed language planners, speaking from a Third World, even a Philippine perspective, call this the road to decolonization, and thus nationalization, and thus, the speaking not in tongues but in the language of the center of power, which center, by the way, is deemed the source of all that is good for the nation.
I call this route a glamorized vision of oneness, unable to see that Babel has its own virtues even if it has its own vices, but the virtues are more because they speak more of the diversity of peoples, the diversity of their experiences, the diversity of their dreams, and the diversity of their gifts and potentials to draw up a blueprint for a homeland of justice and fairness. And linguistic and cultural democracy.
Second, the position and disposition of blindness adopted by those who are supposed to be in the know about the requisites of a liberating form of education, culture, arts, and literature—a liberating because critical and committed consciousness—for and in the name of all ‘peoples’ of the Philippines.
Here, I am refusing to call the people of the Philippines with no ‘s’.
I am particularly cognizant of the fact that the Philippines, as a political product of history and collective action, is an artificial ‘name’ that we seized from the colonizer in an effort to make a name for ourselves, but that name, unfortunately, was initially the name of the enemy until we have come to appropriate it as our own.
The enemy’s name becoming ours is something curious, and that is what is not too clear to people who are writing about out pains as ‘a people’ but the big trouble with their writings is this ‘a people’ is a sterile collective, good for its nominalist and centrist historical worth, but does not capture the diversity that is us as ‘peoples’ of the Philippines.
Not a long time ago, an individual from originally from the Philippines but not now working as a paralegal writing legal briefs for some lawyers in New York reminded me of the ungrammatical sense of the phrase ‘peoples of the Philippines’.
I wrote back: the grammar of our life as a nation-state is in the acknowledgement—unconditionally an active and proactive recognition—that we are not simply a ‘nation’ understood in its 19th century European sense, but we are a nation among nations:
the Ilokanos had their nation before we ever had the Filipino nation, the Bisayan peoples had theirs, and the list goes on and on.
This failure in literature, in all other forms of consciousness-production related forms of our life such as education, the media, religion, and the arts are all guilty of permitting themselves to be used as instruments of this continuing linguistic injustice and cultural tyranny befalling us as peoples of the Philippines, Tagalog and non-Tagalog alike.