The Lies of the 1934-1935 Constitutional Convention – I

THE SUMMER of 2007 in the Philippines was a date with history.

Like a detective, I did some exercise in disjunctive syllogism, the one that I taught in many convent schools, catholic colleges and seminaries, and in graduate school. Now I can announce: I did some sleuthing regarding the proceedings of the 1934-35 Constitutional Convention.

I pored over the records kept at the Lyceum Library, the National Library, the Supreme Court Library, and the Laurel Foundation Library.

I urged librarians to help me, giving them some clues to the problem I wanted to solve, pouring out my heart to that feeling that has something to do with how scholars did not do us justice by not telling us exactly what happened between the deliberations about the ‘common national language provision’ of  the 1935 Constitution by going back to the original documents of the proceedings. Even Andrew Gonzalez, with his Language and Nationalism, did not seem to have gone to the original records, judging from his discussion of the matter.

So what we have got is secondary information, some commentaries of commentaries of scholars commenting on the works of others. For instance, in his treatise on the ‘evolution’ of the Philippines national language, he simply reports, as follows: “The clamor for a national language as a symbol of solidarity and unity received official recognition during the 1934-1935 Constitutional Convention. The committee on official language presented a proposal which went through three drafts, in essence mandating the search for a common national language based on the existing Philippine languages. The committee on style, under Quezon’s prodding, made a substantial alteration by stipulating that the common national language be based on one language rather than on many.” (Language and Nationalism, 1980: 24)

Here we see that Gonzalez never bothered to look into the proceedings. The references listed at the end of his book did not mention anything about the Convention’s proceedings; he relied, as is the case of his discussion, heavily on Aruego’s 1936 account of the 1935 Constitution (The Framing of the Philippine Constitution, 1936).

I have grown weary of the language struggle so what I did was to revisit the records.

I first went to the National Archives and the National Library, two of the record-keepers of our memory as a people. Then I went to the Lyceum Library, to the Supreme Court, and lastly to the Laurel Foundation.

More than ten years ago, I had the good fortune of poring into the records kept in these government agencies when I was trying to understand the idea of the Philippine Revolution, or more appropriately, Philippine revolutions, from the point of view of the small man, the one who does not have the authority, the one whose desire was to love the homeland as a gentleman would love his woman. In short, I was interested with what scholars call today as ‘a history without authorities,’ if by ‘authorities’ we mean the big names, the big actors, those who played center stage roles in the drama we call the Philippine revolution/s. I had by this time grown suspicious of the self-conceit of  heroes and their paid hacks. I had by this time begun to refuse to accept that idea that ‘the revolution’ was declared and finished by the Tagalog Republic .

By this time as well, I had read accounts of Ilokano katipuneros committing themselves to the cause of the revolution, in Ilokano, and with their own blood! Some of the surnames I could easily recognize including my own, surnames that were never mentioned in that ‘national because nationalized’, and then eventually made ‘natural’ because already ‘naturalized’, as is the case of Tagalog as P/Filipino, accounts, in a dogmatic form, of Zaide, Agoncillo, Guerrero, and Constantino.

You look into the history books fed to the minds of the young from the grades upwards and then in the university history courses, you have the same story, a grand and master narrative of some sorts, with the predictable names and the predictable incidents, minus the mulct and the dirt and the betrayal in the social drama that became a myth for the central and mainstream view of what Philippine history is all about. Never mind that in this grand and master narrative, the rest of the peoples of the Philippines, who had since the incursion of the invaders, been staging revolts, however unsuccessful these were from the point of view of the Tagalogistic notion of ‘revolutionary success.’

This is the same tragic story we see in the story of the making of Tagalog as a national language and its being rammed into our throat until today by the monolingual Filipinos who know only Tagalog and who are reading the complexities and vast possibilities of the Philippines experience, and experience that necessarily tells us, to borrow Arnold Azurin’s existentialist and phenomenological phrase, that we are morally obliged to pursue our ‘being and becoming’.

Here is what I found: That there was conspiracy, connivance, and collusion in the declaration of Tagalog as the basis of the national language.

    (To be continued)