Wednesday, November 28, 2007
In last week's briefing by the Strategic Studies Group, I was given a copy of the National Security Review, a publication of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), for the month of August. I was lucky to be sandwiched by Comm. Mariano Sontillanosa (ret.), AFP vice president for research and special studies of this publication, and Dr. Cesar Pobre who wrote a very interesting article, "The Quest for National Identity: An Imperative to Building the National Community."
Dr. Pobre told me that he was also a historian and thus we do have common interests, plus the fact that he is a neighbor of my first cousin, Gen. Rufino Ibay Jr., a retired police director. Dr. Pobre asked me to make objective comments about his piece. However, since it is quite long, I will only make one comment on this piece. So allow me to reprint excerpts of his article.
Dr. Pobre wrote: "A nation strongly built is a nation secure. To be strong, it must have unity. In addition, to have unity, it must have, among others, a national identity. Hence the quest for national identity is an imperative to building a strong national community."
I fully agree with his observation; after all, there should be something that ought to unify all Filipinos for as long as everyone is given equal opportunity, as a nation ought to give its citizenry.
However, in his chapter about the lack of unifying symbols, Dr. Pobre said, "One such symbol is a common language… we need to have one, which we can speak and write, and by which we can connect 'our inner selves to the realities of community life." This is where I differ from Dr. Pobre's thoughts.
There are many in this country who still insist on having a single national language policy, which groups like the Save our Languages through Federalism (Solfed) or those who belong to that Internet group dubbed Defenders of Indigenous Languages throughout the Archipelago (DILA) strongly believe is detrimental to the many cultures that have survived in the Philippine archipelago long before the name Philippines was even invented.
In fact, when this issue surfaced during the SSG conference, Atty. Manuel Faelnar of DILA clearly pointed out that having a common language that is forced upon non-Tagalog-speaking Filipinos have only disunited this country.
The reason is very simple. As the old saying goes, we had 400 hundred years in the convent and 50 years of Hollywood until we finally got Philippine Independence. An ethnic group composed of Tagalog nationalists is now forcing its own language to those of us who do not speak that language. This is why we look at Imperial Manila as another colonizer!
In his column (I'm sorry, I only have a printed copy that has no date or what newspaper it was published), "Fastfood for Thought" written by the late Vicente Albano Pacis entitled "Conceived in Sin, Reared in Ignorance," he wrote about the national language: "After Linggo ng Wika, the truth must be told that the so-called National Language was conceived in unmitigated sin, reared in total ignorance, and maintained in style through constant constitutional dodging."
Mr. Pacis added: "According to official records and documents, the language provision approved by the Constitutional Convention of 1934-1935 was as follows: 'The National Assembly shall take steps towards the development and adoption of a common national language based on existing native languages. (Concon record, Vol. IX, pp.470-471). When the Constitution was printed, this provision was tampered with to read, 'Based on one of the existing native languages.'
Somebody had inserted 'one of the' between the words 'on' and 'existing.' The simplicity of the insertion of only three short words, one of only two letters and two of only three letters each, might have been additional temptation to the crime's perpetrator. This was the unmitigated 'Original Sin.' But who was the original sinner? Abangan!"
This article proves that someone monkeyed around with the 1935 Constitution and today those who continue to espouse a national language based on the Tagalog language has to look into this article and tell us honestly if the tampering of the 1935 Constitution was done in good faith. I have written volumes that having a common language is no guarantee for having a national unity. God knows that the American Civil War killed five million Americans who spoke the same language. So, too, with the Spaniards.
National unity will come with the recognition of the other major spoken languages of this country. It's high time we accept the reality that Filipino is nothing but Tagalog in disguise. Call it what it really is… Tagalog, then allow Cebuano, Ilonggo, Waray, Kapampangan, Bicolano and Ilocano as the national languages of this country and we shall see national unity.
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For e-mail responses to this article, write to email@example.com. Bobit Avila's columns can also be accessed through www.philstar.com. He also hosts a weekly talkshow, "Straight from the Sky," shown every Monday, 8 p.m., only in Metro Cebu on Channel 15 of SkyCable.