SHOOTING STRAIGHT By Valeriano Avila
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
A week ago today, the session at the Cebu City Council started as usual by singing the National Anthem in the Cebuano language or "Nasudnong Awit or Yutang Tabunon" despite the fact that there is a national law that penalizes anyone singing the national anthem in their own native tongues except in Filipino, which as we all know is a not-so-cleverly- disguised Tagalog. But after the National Anthem and the prayer in Cebuano, Presiding Officer Vice-Mayor Michael Rama suggested continuing the session using the Cebuano language in order to clarify all matters.
Thus it was a sort of unique, albeit historic day last week because Cebu City Councilors were speaking their own native tongue in their official session. That the City Council of Cebu defied that law against singing the National Anthem in another tongue other than Tagalog proves our point that that law has become inutile, especially when faced with our Constitutional realities where one of the most basic freedoms our people enjoy is the Freedom of Speech, which means the freedom to speak our native language.
How many times have we said it here before that we Filipinos are very good in making great laws, but we're the worst in implementing such laws? Year 2008 has been declared the International Year of Languages, which was proclaimed by the 61st General Plenary Assembly of the United Nations in their effort to promote "Unity in Diversity and Global Understanding. " This year, the UN is pursuing multilingualism as a means of promoting, protecting and preserving diversity of languages and cultures globally. I have been advocating our right to speak and be educated in our Cebuano language from the first day I became a columnist. Now something like this finally happens, almost like a dream come true!
The Philippines is also a signatory of this UN declaration, hence for a nation of more than a hundred spoken languages, we should be the first to understand the realities that we are a nation of diverse cultures and languages and that one of the most basic of human rights is the Right to Free Speech! Yet our educational policy is killing other Filipino languages.
We Cebuanos have long been proud of our cultural heritage and language; after all, the first people in this archipelago that the Europeans knew were Cebuanos. Oh yes, the Spaniards didn't forget Cebu, as this is where the leader of the Armada de Moluccas Ferdinand Magellan met his death in the hands of Chieftain Lapu-Lapu.
We are also known as the First Christians in this part of Asia. While we embraced Christianity, I would like to believe it was due to the Sto. NiÒo, the statue of the Holy Child Jesus that is so richly decorated and dressed up. Back then, Rajah Humabon and his Queen Juana had their Anitos small wooden idols, hence when Magellan presented them with the Sto. NiÒo, they immediately embraced it.
Back on our advocacy on language. I won't forget that 22 years ago when President Corazon "Tita" Cory Aquino issued a directive ordering all government offices that official communication in her administration was through the use of the Filipino language. The Province of Cebu then under Gov. Emilio "Lito" OsmeÒa defied that Presidential Directive and filed a case in court to stop that Presidential directive and won.
I remembered Gov. OsmeÒa asking the question, "What is really the Filipino Language, when the reality is, it is 99.9% taken from the Tagalog language?" Since that time, despite a law ordering the singing of the Philippine National Anthem in Filipino, the City of Cebu, the Cebu Provincial Board starts its sessions with the singing of the National Anthem in Cebuano. This includes the Rotary Club of Cebu (Mother). Let's hope that in today's session in the City Council, they would continue holding it in Cebuano, today and in the next sessions to come! Mabuhi ang Sugbuanon!