Firth McEachern - Diversity Shock, Part 34
- Many of the ideas surrounding the national language debate of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 stemmed from the opinions of a few intellectuals like Dr. Ernesto Constantino, Dr. Consuelo J. Paz, Prof. Jesus Fer. Ramos, Dr. Bonifacio Sibayan, Dr. Andrew Gonzalez, and Ponciano Pineda, to name a few.
These respected individuals transmitted their opinions through letters and meetings with the Committee on Human Resources, which was responsible for the formulation of the Language provision of the country's most recent Constitution. Unfortunately, we have witnessed in previous articles that some of these expert opinions were flawed. For example, the idea that Filipino is a distinct language from Tagalog, and is a mixture of many Philippine languages, is misleading to say the least. If that's the case, why can you slip a quotation from Jose Rizal or Manuel Quezon into a `Filipino' textbook without people thinking much of it? Apart from perhaps a few spelling differences, the quote would be easily understood by a person versed in `Filipino,' reflecting Tagalog and Filipino's very close relationship.
Jose Rizal lived before the national language was established, developed, and supposedly enriched from other Philippine languages, but I'm sure he would have no problem in watching ABS-CBN today, or sitting in a `Filipino' subject classroom. Fortunately for him (and unfortunately for those who wished the national language to be more pluralistic), very few words from other Philippine languages have been incorporated into Filipino, so his Tagalog fluency would be rather adequate in understanding a `Filipino' teacher.
But that's beside the point. The point of this article is to ask, if the assertions of these language experts were not entirely true, why were they making them?
Well, one particularly influential group of these experts came from the University of the Philippines. In the "Note on the Filipino Language" submitted to the '86 Con-Com, Dr. Constantino, a linguistics professor from said university, explained that the UP changed the name of their Pilipino department to Filipino in 1973. As one of the first institutions to champion the use of the term Filipino instead of Pilipino, it makes sense that the UP advocated for the naming of the national language to be Filipino rather than Pilipino. But 1973 was exactly the year the '73 Constitution came out, which indicated that Filipino, as an assorted language not yet in existence, was to be developed in the future! So the UP departmental name change was largely a symbolic gesture rather than an action prompted by a real evolution of the language.
De jure, UP's paradigm for the development of Filipino was in line with the ambitions of the 1973 Constitution. In good faith, it perceived a "universalist" development of Filipino, accepting influences from any language. But the idea was that this would happen naturally; it would not be designed and systematically injected with external elements. So basically the UP aimed to teach and cultivate whatever form the national lingua franca took. And what form was this? Left to its own devices, the national language's development has been overwhelmed by the cultural and economic power of Manila, and its omnipresent media. That's why `Filipino' today, as I've given examples of in the past 5 articles, resembles very much the Tagalog language (specifically, the variety spoken around NCR) 10, 25, and even 50 years ago.
Admitting Filipino was still pretty much the same as Tagalog by 1986 would require one to recognize the speciousness of the premise that the language would incorporate other Philippine languages by itself. Therefore, it would seem a matter of pride and vindication for the UP, who advocated for the natural approach, to insist that Filipino now existed, and that had been successfully evolved and enriched according to the constitutional mandate of 1973. It's not surprising therefore that 3 out of the 4 experts who signed the letter entitled "Proposals to the Con-Com: Provisions for the National Language"---which asserted that Filipino as a lingua franca did exist, that it differed from Tagalog, that it represented the speech varieties of all ethnic groups, and that it should be declared the national language---were professors of the University of the Philippines.
While the opinions of other Resource Persons (RPs) were a little more realistic, the influence of the UP school of thought was strong. About half of the dozen or so RPs invited to give their recommendations on the national language to the Committee on Human Resources were connected to UP, and the key elements of the Constitution's language provisions, when completed, closely reflected the proposals put forward by this group. Today, I think the UP is gradually becoming more embracing of all languages, but we our still feeling the effects of the staunchly pro-Filipino attitudes of the 1980s, which essentially excluded all other Philippine languages from taking substantial roles in education and government due in part to a misplaced confidence in Filipino's future diversification.
Firth McEachern - Diversity Shock, Part 34
- --- In DILA@yahoogroups.com, Firth wrote:
> I would only tolerate the premise of a national language---regardless of its nature or how it came to be---were it accompanied with balanced and sincere language planning that ensured the continuing, complementary flourishing of other native languages.Since the development and propagation of such a Frankenstein language has not met success throughout human history, Filipino would certainly remain a pipe dream orchestrated by Tagalog supremacists for the benefit of our naive countrymen. Firth is to be roundly commended for his honest research and impartial treatment of language politics in our country, this ought to come out as a printed volume.
I found the portion on the 1986 ConCom particularly impressive in its detail. The proponents got into a number of confrontations with me and I had always considered Villacorta to be in cahoots with Salazar et al. Everything was planned beforehand and in the end they had completely outwitted and fooled Davide. An added bonus for them was that the Aquino constitution would turn out to be intrinsically unamendable.