OPINION: Revaluating Regionalism, Revaluing Our Languages

This is written with so much hope—a hope that multicultural and linguistic justice education will soon see the light of day in the form of an enabling law in the 2008 Multicultural and Literacy Education Act of the Republic of the Philippines, or House Bill 3719.

Hope is summoned here, as this piece narrates as well of the disappointments of many advocates for cultural pluralism in the Philippines, their disappointments from people who are in the struggle to fight for our right as a nation-state, a struggle that taps into what we have been fighting for centuries and centuries and yet there seems to be no let-up in this struggle for justice and fairness and cultural democracy what with the latest challenges on the HB 3719 initiative. That initiative puts together the work of many enlightened and visionary cultural and political workers of the Philippines—an initiative that attempts to give a framework for an honest-to-goodness literacy education for all peoples of the Philippines.

The framework calls for a multicultural education philosophy that requires the reintroduction of the mother languages of educands into the classroom, prior to the expansion of their world through their knowledge of second or third languages such as Tagalog (or Filipino) and English.

That initiative, seen in the 2008 Multicultural Education and Literacy Act, is a bold admission of a very simple fact of human understanding of the world and life, of cognition, and of knowledge—a simple but an emancipatory principle of education: that each educand learns better and more productively if what he is supposed to learn learns it in his own language, and thus, in accord with the tools of his own culture.

Translated: we productively and effectively come to know the unknown by starting off from the known—from the knowledge you know because it is mediated by the language you know to the knowledge that you have yet to know, and still mediated by the language you know precisely because it is your language.

Why nostalgic writers and activists and educators who cannot come to terms with the demands of liberatory education—or cannot understand our own mothers who taught us their stories in their own language and their stories are forever stored in our living memory—baffles me. While nostalgia may offer some soothing to the tired nerves, it does not lead us to the road to liberation when in that nostalgia, we dream of a nation-state with a center, and that center is the absolute, and that center holds everything true, good, and beautiful.

This reflection hopes to offer a way out as well, as it tries to face squarely with the vicious causes of these twin disappointments—a way out followed by two institutions that have shown us the courageous way to get out of this cultural and linguistic and educational quagmire: the Commission on the Filipino Language and the Linguistic Society of the Philippines.

While it is written with a hopeful note, it also unravels the poverty and the evils of the despotic philosophy of a supremacist claim to any language, whether national or official or auxiliary, as in the case of the Philippines, and whether that language is called forth in the name of the nation, in the homeland or in the diaspora, or in the name of nationalism, especially when that nationalism vending only the statist kind and does not, in any way, look into multicultural nationalism as a more productive philosophy of national development in a country that is linguistically and culturally diverse such as the Philippines.

The hope is that those who are well-entrenched in the cultural life of our peoples of the Philippines shall have the courage to own up our diversity and find ways to articulate that diversity in the everyday life of our peoples in the homeland, and in the everyday life of those in exilic communities that are, because they have become cultural and linguistic zombies courtesy of the statist notions of national language and national culture that they get from ‘unthinking’ popular cultural forms such as The Filipino Channel, have become advocates of unilingualism in the Philippines.

The disappointments are coming from two events.

First, the continuing and calculated—even calculating—failure of those in the struggle in the name of our people to see that one-language-one-nation policy does not work as this self-serving policy has not resulted in the dreamed-of, even fantasized, ‘unity’ of all the peoples of the Philippines, a unity they defined as one speaking, not in glossalalia, but unison, with only one kind and form of speech coming from the lips of every person from Aparri to Zamboanga—and now also, as the argument goes, in exile, or in all exilic communities of the peoples of the Philippines.

(To be continued)

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