The Case of Ilokano as a National Language (Part 8)

To speak of Tagalog as Pilipino, and then to speak of Pilipino as Filipino, is running counter to what history has demonstrated: a history of linguistic and cultural manipulation that began in 1937 with the presidential prejudice of Manuel Luis Quezon and still prevailing today. For 70 years we people from the non-Tagalog speaking areas have to contend with this lazy and irrational and abnormal idea about our lives and minds and art and literature being measured against the standards set by English and Tagalog, and now more with Tagalog being passed off as Filipino.

There are a thousand and one lies somewhere in this long history of lies and it is high time that we unmasked these lies. We cannot wait for 70 more years to realize that soon, if we did not act now, we are going to lose the linguistic resources of our multilingual nation with the insistence of that myopic and self-serving view that Tagalog is the basis of the national language, now called Filipino. That formulation, I dare say, is even running counter to the requisites of the 1987 Philippines Constitution. Any idiot can read the provision in that Constituion to realize that we have been hoodwinked all along.

No, I will tell CJ Ancheta that my position is not only a matter of opinion, in response to his generosity of spirit of asking people to accept my opinion and listen to what I have to say. I insist that facts have been distorted and many language teachers, scholars, and government policy makers including the Surian ng Wikang Pilipino have been shortchanging us for so long.

For 70 years, we endured, we acquiesced, we did not say anything, afraid that some powerful people might get mad at us.

For 70 years, we kept mum, we kept our corner, we accepted that we are not from Manila.

For 70 years, we allowed our voices to be automatically stiffled, or if not, translated to the language of the powerful.

For 70 years, we believed in the ‘nationalist’ ruses and guises and pretensions, believing that if we spoke our mind in the language we know best, we end up not being nationalist enough.

But I read the Ilokano Katipuneros signing the Katipunan documents in their own blood in Ilokano.

What I am to do with this supreme sacrifice? Should I wait for another 70 years before speaking up?

In sum, it is high time that we rally behind this cause: to federalize the major languages of the country and as a consequence, declare, among others, that Ilokano has every right to be a national language in much the same way that Tagalog, a regional language, has every right to become the lingua franca of Southern Tagalog.

If we are not going to do it now, there is no other time we can ever do it. And if we are not going to do it, nobody will ever do it for us.

Oh well, we will end up the vanquished before we realize it is too late.

I argue for one thing: that we have to put an end to the hegemon—and this hegemon is the lie so pervasive that no one is able to think clearly anymore: the hegemon that Tagalog is isomorphically ‘the national language’ as this is the basis of Pilipino, which, by abracadabra, became the ‘Filipino.’

With so much of intellectual resources in the academe and in the country, only a handful of scholars and language teachers have been able to see the sleight of hand here—the magicians of ‘national language’ so busy in the last 70 years trying to prop up that idea that the Philippines has now ‘a national language’ and it is P/Filipino.

I say: this is a linguistic lie—and this has been going on for so long we need to exorcize our minds, call the anitos and heal ourselves from this systematic/systemic forgetting inflicted upon us by so many to whom we have entrusted our cultural and linguistic resources as a people.

We have been hoodwinked.

The interim solution to this issue is this: let us agree to a normalization of the linguistic terror and trouble we have inflicted upon our people.

The road to ‘normalization’ has to be blazed, and the blazing demands a declaration that (a) the government made a mistake in declaring Tagalog as the basis of the national language, (b) that the current P/Filipino is none but Tagalog in another guise and therefore it is not another language but a dialect of the same language, as it is the case, and (c) that other major non-Tagalog languages existing as lingua francas must be declared as national languages now.

One tactical strategy we ought to consider and soon is this revisiting of this phenomenon of Tagalogization of all things Philippine. We will all end up parroting the same, and in this systemic forgetting that we have become a party too, we will all look at the world with the single lens Tagalog provides until one day we cannot anymore find the road back into our hearts and souls and minds because we have mortgaged all these in the name of a national language that is not national but only made national by the edict of people who did not regard the meaning and substance of diversity.

There is this slow genocide happening in the Philippines and in the immigrant communities abroad, and with the commercial cooptation of the media by way of the cable channels, forgetting has become a passion. It has become the very logic of making people remember the imaginary nation but not their own dreams in their own language, not their hopes in their own language, not their passions in their own language.

This has a name—and the name is peril in Philippine paradise, a peril indeed as no other peril of another name.

This imposition of a mind over other minds is one Gulag we have made for ourselves, and the more sinister issue is that we are not saying that we are hurting, that we have been pained, that we have been bleeding, and the hurting and the paining and the bleeding are costing us our cultural and linguistic lives.

Certainly, language and culture are not rice.

Certainly, they do not count in terms of minimum wages.

But language and culture are food for the soul, for the mind that remembers, for the spirit that yearns and longs for community, for membership, for association, for a regathering.

But language and culture are the wages of being human, and as wages, they are to be there to make speak the unspeakable, say the unsayable, dream the undreamable, express the ineffable, language that which resists language so we can all speak again, say again what we want to say, dream again what we want to dream, express what we want to put into words, and verbalize that is beyond alphabets, and sounds, and words.

All these, I think, are those that matter.

Without them, we are nothing. No-thing.

So let the Ilokano language speak again for us, mediate our world, and hit right into our soul as a people.