In the past few weeks we've taken a look at the history of the national language up until 1950, and how by then it was still essentially synonymous with Tagalog. Today, some people will tell you that the national language, Filipino, is now different from Tagalog.
It's a romantic idea to think that the national language is a rich, representative mix of all Philippine languages, uniting the nation. So let's take a look at events since 1950, and see if this notion stands up to scrutiny.
In 1950, the National LanguageEnglish Vocabulary had its fourth printing, courtesy of the Institute of National Language. Like the 3 versions before it, it contained almost no words from other Philippine languages besides Tagalog.
In 1959, 19 years after Tagalog became a subject in the fourth year of all Philippine high schools and 13 years after it became a subject in all grade levels, the education secretary Jose E. Romero issued Department Order No. 7. This Order officially designated the national language as Pilipino. Before this order, the classes teaching Tagalog were called "national language" classes, even though, as I explained in the last column, the language being taught in these classes bore very little difference from Tagalog.
The name change to Pilipino, however, was not accompanied by steps to reincarnate the language such as the release of a new grammar or vocabulary book incorporating elements from other languages. While altering its name may have intended to portray a national character and dissociate it from Tagalog, it was only an aesthetic change. The national language, now called Pilipino, continued to be taught in the same way as before. In fact, this de facto Tagalog instruction was extended from being just a subject to a medium of instruction from grades 1-4!
In the 1973 Marcos Constitution, the official language retained the name "Pilipino." But since members of the Constitutional Assembly correctly pointed out that Pilipino was basically Tagalog, the development of a national language was seen as unfulfilled. They therefore tasked the Batasang Pambansa to "take steps toward the development of a common national language to be known as Filipino" (Article XV, Sect. 3).
Do you think a new national language was successfully developed, one that was different enough from Pilipino/Tagalog to warrant a new name? Did the "universalist" Filipino ever arrive? Well if you read the 1987 Constitution you would be forgiven in thinking that Filipino---a new language supposed to be synthesized by language experts and naturally enriched---was realized. After all, the 1987 Constitution refers to Filipino in the present tense, as if it already exists: "The national language of the Philippines is Filipino," it bluntly states (Article XIV, Sect. 14).
What was the language meant by "Filipino" in the 1987 Constitution? If you read the records of the Commission's debates on language, you will find that Wilfrido V. Villacorta (the Chairman of the Committee on Human Resources, which drafted the language provision) and one Commissioner Ponciano Bennagen are the main defenders of the idea that Filipino was already a language in 1986. And their main basis was a letter submitted to the Commission by Dr. Ernesto Constantino, a Professor of Linguistics from the University of the Philippines, who claimed:
"The term Filipino refers to the Philippine national lingua franca, i.e. the language used all over the country as a medium of communication
. Filipino is different from Pilipino which in accordance with the 1935 Constitution is based on only one language, Tagalog. Filipino, on the other hand, is based on the language usage, similarities, and peculiarities of the different Philippine ethnic groups."
Before getting deeper into what else Dr. Constantino said in his letter and what it's consequences were, let's analyze his claim. Despite the fact that the 1973 Constitution obligated Congress to wean the country off Tagalog/Pilipino and develop a pluralistic language called Filipino instead, there was not a single act passed to create a National Language Commission between 1973 and 1986, by either the Interim Batasang Pambansa of 1978 or the elected Batasang Pambansa of 1984. In other words, Congress failed to create any mechanisms for the development of Filipino.
What justification did Dr. Constantino have, therefore, to state that Filipino existed, and that it was different from Pilipino/Tagalog? If Congress didn't take any steps to evolve Pilipino/Tagalog into something new, and never even released an official name change from Pilipino to Filipino, what so-called "Filipino" was Dr. Constantino talking about? It's an important question, because ultimately Villacorta, Bennagen, and most of the rest of the Constitutional Commission believed him, and went ahead to declare it as the national language. Wouldn't you love to find out that Dr. Ernesto's letter was largely inaccurate?
Firth McEachern - Diversity Shock, Part 27