I. Introduction Criticisms of the national language policy of the Philippines began during the drafting of the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines and still opposition continues to this day. What makes the arguments from the opposition interesting is that they question the assumptions of the policy makers, leaders and the general population regarding issues of Filipino nationalism and identity. The question of language and nationalism in the Philippines we find out is more than a cultural one, but as the early criticisms and the ongoing criticisms would show, actually is a political one as well. The most wellformed arguments against the national language come from two sides. The first we may label as the non-essentialist/utilitarian side which says that the correspondence between language and national identity is an exaggeration, that the essence of a person can be expressed in whatsoever language he or she uses. The second is from the regionalistic perspective, a much-maligned point of view among nationalist narratives. There is a continuing sense of marginalization that is felt by the various ethnolinguistic groups across the Philippines due to the perception of the elevation of one language among the numerous ones in the archipelago to the status of a national language. Though to a certain extent still essentialist, in that the advocates of the regionalistic point of view stress the importance of their ethnolinguistic identities, the feelings of marginalization still lingers and provides a major inspiration for serious criticisms of the national language policy which was and is still being seen as an imposition. To open new avenues regarding the issue, therefore, more than to rehash the old arguments, a new political consciousness must be realized. This is manifested by calls for changes in the prevailing Manila-centric political structure of the country, towards a more egalitarian orientation in the form of a federal decentralized government. II. Language and Filipino Essence The issue of the national language is basically an issue of the search for a Filipino essence, something that is uniquely Filipino that cannot be found somewhere else. Quezon was the main political advocate of this, calling for the need for a national language in order for the Filipino people to have a common tongue so that there would be greater unity. The nationalistic aspect of this policy, as has been religiously noted by its proponents, is that it is a local language, one of the vernaculars in the country. That this should be so is of utmost necessity because foreign languages, especially the language of the colonizers, Spanish and then English, cannot express the sentiment, the subtlety of emotions and feelings of the Filipinos. The 'spirit' of the Filipino people then, cannot be expressed in a borrowed language. In linguistic terms, this concept is known as linguistic determinism. Linguistic determinism is the idea that language determines consciousness, that language is the middle-man, shall we say, between the individual's brain and the outside world. Language functions as a sort of screen that helps makes sense of the world. Since language determines consciousness, and there are numerous languages in the world, there are also numerous consciousness, numerous ways of thinking. Structures of languages determine the structures of thought. The more modern form of this idea originated sometime in the late eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century in Europe, most particularly in Germany as expressed by Wilhelm von Humboldt, a statesman, educator and linguist who is widely considered today as a most influential figure in the history of the field of linguistics. Wilhelm von Humboldt was influenced by several thinkers who preceded him as well as by his contemporaries, and in Germany during his time, the ascendant theme was that of Romanticism which in the field of politics, called for the conception of a nation as composed of a unique essence. That there was a strong linking between language and nationalism in Germany during this time can be partially 1

explained by the renewed interest in the culture of the rural people, for example, by the collection of the Grimm brothers of the various folklore in Germany. 1 From von Humboldt, there is a direct line towards the early twentieth century in the writings of the Americans Edward Sapir and his student Benjamin Whorf. Their idea was known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and is basically the same ideas as Humboldt's, though with a more anthropological bent, giving as support their various researches in the languages of the Native Americans. The connection with Europe here is relevant because of the argument used by the proponents of the national language that Rizal himself saw the need for a national language for the Filipinos. Parale in the 1960s for example, interpreted the statement uttered by the character Simoun in the novel El Filibusterismo of Rizal:
Spanish will never be the general language of the country, the people will never talk it, because the conceptions of their brains and the feelings of their hearts cannot be expressed in that language - each people has its own tongue, as it has its own way of thinking! What are you going to do with Castilian, the few of you who will speak it? Kill off your own originality, subordinate your thoughts to other brains, and instead of freeing yourselves, make yourselves slaves indeed!2

as proof that Rizal wanted the Filipinos to express themselves in their own language. Parale then adds that the imposition of the English language upon the Filipinos has been a disastrous event. That Rizal was aware of the European conception of the linking between language and nation can be seen in this statement by Simoun, though to say that it is Rizal that is advocating this idea himself would be uncertain since it is the character that is speaking and not Rizal himself. Given that Rizal was most eloquent in the Spanish language, as many of the Propagandistas in Europe were at the time, there would be a deep sense of irony here. And this is what is pointed out by Panlasigui, one of the more outspoken critic of the national language policy of the Philippines during the 1960s, when he interprets another passage from Rizal, this time in the Noli me Tangere, saying that contrary to the interpretation of the national language advocates, subscribing to this idea would be to agree with the statement of Padre Damaso who admonished those who would teach the Castilian language in the Philippines. Padre Damaso's contention is that the Filipinos do not have the intellectual capacity for the Castilian language and that it would be best for them to leave the language alone. Related to the concept of linguistic determinism among the national language advocates is the idea of colonial mentality. This concept basically states that not only are there economic and political forms of subjugation, there are cultural ones as well. Some even say that this type of subjugation is more insidious because even after the colonizers have left, their influence still lingers in the form of cultural remnants, such as for example, the use of a foreign language. 3 Colonial mentality is the defilement of that which is inherent in the Filipino soul. Thus, colonial mentality is a great affront to a true Filipino's sense of being. The 1960s can be considered as the most colorful period so far in the debates regarding the national language. Besides the opposition from those who advocated English, such as Ferrer, Panlasigui, Yabes and others, there was the opposition to the national language in terms of its proper character. There was the eruption of the so-called 'fusionist' versus 'non-fusionist' conception of the
1 Roger Langham Brown, Wilhelm von Humboldt's Conception of Linguistic Relativity (The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton & Co., 1967), 76. 2 Isidoro Panlasigui, The Language Problems of the Philippines (Quezon City: Delco Publishers, 1962), 14. 3 Apolinar Parale, Facts and Issues on the Pilipino Language (Manila: Royal Publishing House, 1969), 91.


national language popularized by Atty. Geruncio Lacuesta who railed against the supposed triumph of the 'fusionist' school in the Institute of National Language. This was an old debate regarding the issue of using Tagalog as a 'base' against which the supposed additions from the other languages of the country will be made. Otto Scheerer, in the first two decades of the twentieth century, who was the founder of the department of linguistics of the University of the Philippines, cautioned against the approach of adding and refining a language through artificial means, calling instead for the outright adoption of one of the native languages as a national language. However, by the final stage of the drafting of the national language provision in the 1935 Constitution, this clearly was not followed. Related to the anti-fusionist idea of Lacuesta is the anti-purism movement which advocated the provision in the 1935 Constitution which argued for the addition process. There were accusations towards members of the Institute of National Language that they were Tagalistas, not advocates of the national language, because they insisted on using 'salumpuwit' instead of 'silya' or 'upuan.' As can be easily seen, the Tagalista is nothing more than a straw man, a caricature to be easily lambasted and criticized, its popularity stemming mainly from the absurdity that sticking strictly to a particular line of grammatical construction would create. Besides these issues, there was the emerging linking of Filipino nationalism and the Filipino language as well through its use by the student activists and radical leaders during this time against the imperialistic designs of the United States as manifested in the various economic and other policies of the government. Various nationalistic literary works in the national language appeared. The claim therefore by the national language advocates of the unity that is engendered by the use of a national language seems to have been vindicated here. However, it is important to point out that not only were there nationalists who expressed themselves in the English language, contrary to the concept of linguistic determinism, but that these events were largely confined to the greater Metro Manila area, with the participation of those from the Visayas and Mindanao regions for example, remaining marginal at best. The accusation of being Manila-centric can be made here as well. Caught up in the spirit of the times, the activists used the language they were most comfortable with, disregarding the legislations and other a priori justifications, focusing mostly on the utilitarian aspect of their language use. The setting being Manila, and the target audience being those from the middle to lower classes, they used the language which is most suitable for their goals, thus Filipino or the Manila lingua franca. To say that they engaged themselves in the debates regarding the connection between language and identity would be a non-issue since they were obviously caught up in things that are much bigger. Besides this, nationalists during that time, for example, Renato Constantino, wrote their attacks against the American imperialist policy using the English language, even at the same time disparaging the colonial situation which gave rise to such events: 'For a smattering of English,' Constantino said, 'we yielded our souls.' The situation is quite ironic then if we accept the words unconditionally, and quite pessimistic, for how then can we liberate ourselves. III. The Utilitarian and Internationalist Perspectives Running counter to the determinist/essentialist position which has been the dominant ideology in the national language debates, is an argument which states that there is no relation between language and nationalism and, as expressed by Maximo Kalaw, that "the ownership of a language is determined solely by its use."4 This we might label as the utilitarian or non-essentialist perspective. This, of course, was not a popular point of view, with those advocating it easily vulnerable to accusations of being
4 Andrew B. Gonzales, Language and Nationalism The Philippine Experience Thus Far (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1980), 43.


victims of colonial mentality, of lacking in nationalism or patriotism, of disloyalty to the historical past of the Filipinos. Nonetheless there it existed, and we find this in the thoughts of Isidoro Panlasigui, an educator at the University of the Philippines, more than forty years ago in his book 'The Language Problems of the Philippines.' This remains a most interesting perspective with regards to the national language issue because it glances a wary eye over the events that transpired in the drafting and subsequent adoption of the national language provision in the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines. Among others, he argues that Filipino is none other than Tagalog, that the process in the adoption of the national language was unfair and undemocratic, and that the legislation resulted in the marginalization of the other ethnolinguistic groups of the country. The main thrust of his argument however, is that of internationalism which is much easier accomplished through the use of the English language. The idea that the use of the English language by Filipinos is not a sign of colonial mentality begins with a counter to the idea of linguistic determinism. Whereas linguistic determinism posits that language determines consciousness, the position held by Panlasigui aligns more with the current ideas on linguistics, specifically the work of linguists like Noam Chomsky which states that there are underlying structures of communication in the human mind which does not solely depend on that of language. Following strictly the idea of linguistic determinism, as discussed earlier, language between different ethnolinguistic groups around the world would then be an impossibility. Since this is not the case, given the various non-linguistic means by which human beings can communicate (facial expressions, gestures), a more appropriate description of language therefore would be merely that of a 'label' attached to things that are perceived and thought. Ideas can be expressed in whatever language and whether the expression is accurate or detailed enough depends on the 'language power.'5 The utilitarian aspect of the argument focuses on the importance of the language in question, in fostering unity and cohesion. This is claimed by both the pro-national language camp as well as by Panlasigui. Panlasigui says that English is the best medium by which to accomplish this particular goal. If the importance of a language is to be determined by its ability to connect people, then the English language is the best that the Filipinos can use, with it being the language of international business and industry. Panlasigui uses the analogy of the careton versus the high-speed automobile, the former he claims, being Tagalog and the latter English. Would it not be foolish, he asked, for the Filipinos to choose the careton over the automobile simply because of some romantic connection with the careton? Going deeper with the thoughts of Panlasigui on the issue, we encounter an analysis of the nature of nationalism itself. The very first page of his monograph is a quote by Renan: "It is not community of race, it is not community of languages, that constitutes a nation: It is the consciousness of having done great things together in the past and the intention to repeat them in the future." We see here that Panlasigui intends to focus on the actions, more than the intentions and plans, that made the idea of nationalism so appealing in the first place. The problem then seemed to be that of the appropriation by the lawmakers and political leaders of the idea of nationalism, so that it got linked to that of a particular language - Tagalog. This is a grave error, argues Panlasigui, because, as he expounds, using a quote from H.G. Wells which states of the problematic nature of the idea of nation, that the history of the world showed and shows of the mingling and inter-mixing of various peoples and cultures, so that to say that this particular element, be it language, religion or others is a cause for nationalism, would be an oversimplification and is ultimately untrue or lacking. Among the more interesting things that Panlasigui expounded in this work is that of the concept of 'national infantilism.'
5 Isidoro Panlasigui, The Language Problems of the Philippines (Quezon City: Delco Publishers, 1962), 49.


This national infantilism, he says, is a psychological disorder whose manifestation includes a romantic notion of an alleged glorious Filipino past, of a desire to relive this past by doing things like wearing the Barong Tagalog, or of the UP ROTC wearing the Katipunan costume during parades and exercises. This interpretation of nationalism as a psychological aberration finds itself being used once more in recent times. Helen Lopez, for example, warns us that "a people insecure in its cultural affinities lash out in anger. Defensiveness can only undermine our effort to discover the possible bases for recovering social coherence and solidarity. Serene and secure in our cultural moorings, we can afford to be hospitable to 'cultural others' in determining our own."6 Panlasigui's message is simple: for the Filipinos to participate more in the world community and to move forward in material and cultural progress, both much easier accomplished through the use of the English language than that of Tagalog. With regards to the issue of colonial mentality, Panlasigui argues that the conception that the Filipinos are helpless victims to it, that colonial mentality is a onesided affair is simply mistaken. History, he says, has shown that conquered peoples sometimes were able to impose their culture to that of the more powerful oppressor or conqueror, such as what happened between the Greeks and Romans. The interactions between conqueror and conquered is not a one-way street. Echoing the ideas of Panlasigui on the conception of the English language not as a tool of colonial oppression forty years later, Helen Lopez writes that we should be more accomodating and accepting of the influence of American literary culture. 7 Of great relevance to the debate is the issue of Filipino literature in English. By this we can see the idea of Panlasigui of Filipino contribution to world culture. The works for example of Jose Garcia Villa, Carlos Bulosan and more recently, of Jessica Hagedorn, all written in English, are acknowledged worldwide, particularly in the United States. This fact therefore is a counter to the idea expressed by Jorge Bocobo, an advocate of the national language who asked: " what language will the enduring Filipino Literature be written? Will it be English? No because it is improbable that English will ever be the daily language of the Filipino home..."8 To accept Panlasigui's pronouncements wholeheartedly would be a mistake however given the complexity of the international situation, especially on the economic question. To imagine that the Filipinos, the whole masses of Filipinos, not just those privileged enough can contribute to the world culture, we would have to assume as well of their economic power to be able to do this. As it were, it appears more and more that regarding the issue of economic determination which is an important part in the whole package of nationalism, the Filipinos are at a distinct disadvantage. As early as the late 1930s in the United States, Carlos Bulosan was already writing in English, of the experiences, the shared oppression suffered not only by migrant Filipinos of the lower classes, but also of other displaced peoples as well. What Bulosan basically described was the condition of the early Overseas Filipino Workers, many of whom were never able to come back home. To consider Bocobo's idea, shall the works of Bulosan and similar ex-patriate Filipino authors be considered outside the scope of a 'national' literature? What is needed it seems is a more flexible idea of the concept of what constitutes a nation. For if we go even deeper in history, we find that the exile or semi-exiled Filipinos, those who moved between the political centers and margins of power in the colonial setting, influenced greatly the birth of the Filipino nation.
6 Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo and Priscelina Patajo-Legasto eds., Philippine Postcolonial Studies Essays on Language and Literature (Diliman, Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press, 2004), 115. 7 ibid. 8 Isidoro Panlasigui, The Language Problems of the Philippines (Quezon City: Delco Publishers, 1962), 23.


There is much weight on the contention of the national language advocates regarding the use within the Philippines of the English language. English has traditionally been the language of the government bureaucrats and administrators which served to put a distance between them and those whom they govern or administer. This gave enough room for abuses to occur, of the perpetuation of an arrangement of unearned privilege. Language therefore is linked to political power. However, it is by the very means of the use of this language by a progressive segment of the population that this situation can be countered, thus using the enemy's weapon, as it were, against himself. To say that only this specific language deserves the title of a national language would be to put a limit on the definition of nationalism, and in the context of the Philippines, this definition sadly excluded those exiled and semiexiled authors and writers, as well as those from the various ethnolinguistic groups. IV. Criticism from the Regions The concept of regionalism is something of an evil that is constantly portrayed in nationalist narratives of the Philippines. This is seen as an anachronism, a regression towards a more 'tribal' mindset that has kept the Filipinos apart, as if there has always been something uniquely Filipino even during the ancient times that has only submerged itself, only waiting for that proper moment when it would surface and see the light of day. The situation however, is that after the family, the next great source of identity among the people is the shared experience of speaking the same language. And this feeling mostly remains submerged unless ruffled for example by a careless remark or personal observation by some tactless figure usually from the geographic political center. Regionalism therefore must not be taken lightly, and a history of the Philippines which focuses first on the local histories of the various regions would be a most ideal situation. Throughout the whole period since the start of the language debates, that is from the 1930s up to the present time, a feeling of marginalization among the other ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines has been felt and expressed, more often, quite emotionally. The polemics would involve the throwing of words, the more infamous of course is the term 'Tagalog imperialism.' This concept of Tagalog imperialism though somewhat only mentioned in academic settings, attains a reality among those who experience it, which seems to be sadly lacking among those who do not understand the feeling of being marginalized linguistically. The regionalistic perspective, similar to the national language perspective, subscribes to the idea of linguistic determinism, to a certain extent. The language one speaks, whether it is Cebuano, Ilonggo, Waray, Hiligaynon and others, becomes one's identity. And a denigration of the language becomes a denigration of the people who speak it. Someone who grew up in the Visayas and the non-Muslim and indigenous people parts of Mindanao, is quite aware of the subtlety and meaning of the word 'Bisaya.' The word does not only signify those who speak the Cebuano language on the island of Cebu, but means as well those who speak the other Visayan languages. There is a feeling of camaraderie among the ethnolinguistic groups who shelter under the umbrella term 'Bisaya,' even though most cannot understand each other without the use of either Filipino or English. There are also cases when a language with a greater area coverage becomes the mediating language between two ethnolinguistic groups who happen to live within the area of coverage of that particular language - a regional lingua franca. The shared experience of having to learn in school a language that is not a 'language of the home,' as Bocobo would say, resulted in the realization that being Filipino means having to learn this particular language. This is besides the content of the history that is taught in the primary and high school levels which shall we say, jumps, directly towards the national level - that is, towards events in the Manila and surrounding area, thus 6

reinforcing the ideas of marginalization. Though the national language is encountered now much more easily through the mass media, especially the television, it still cannot be considered the language of the home since when the child or the individual goes out in the village or in town the local language is what is used. The knowledge of the national language which is identified not as Pilipino or Filipino, but simply as 'Tagalog,' unless the individual goes out into areas which necessitate the use of the language, remains at the academic level at best. And since most of the lower classes of population remain in the villages or towns where they were brought up, the situation of not learning the national language remains. The international economic reality however which gave rise to the fact of Overseas Filipino Workers can be seen as a factor aiding not just the spreading of the knowledge of the national language, but of English as well. The identity of this language, Filipino or Pilipino has also been the subject of a quite colorful and interesting sub-debate in the national language debate. From Tagalog to Pilipino to Filipino, there has always been a sense of artifice and arbitrariness in the act of renaming the national language, as if saying that the idea of nation can just as easily be changed legislatively. This is a non-issue among the majority of the population, however, since Filipino is called simply 'Tagalog.' After more than several decades of debates and misunderstanding, it seems that the argument is finally closed, with the head of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino himself stating that due to the criteria of mutual intelligibility adhred to by linguists, it seems that the identification of Filipino as Tagalog by non-Tagalog speakers has been correct all along.9 One major point of contention by the ethnolinguistic groups is the alleged undemocratic method by which the adoption of the national language came into place. At the time of the 1930s, in terms of population, there were more Cebuano and Visayan language speakers than Tagalog speakers, spread out in a farther geographic setting across the archipelago. The Manila Lingua Franca's distinct advantage however, is that it is the language that is spoken in the geopolitical center of the country. Advocates of the national language counter that the committee which sat on the national language issue was composed itself of Visayans, so that criticisms of being biased towards Tagalog would be completely unjustified. Not helping to the cause of the national language proponents however, are pronouncements by its advocates, such as Parale who said in justification of the decision of the National Language Institute almost three decades later that "nothing could be more urgent tran [sic] the preservation of the nation's unity at all costs,' which hints at something approaching that of the position of fascism, which is the sacrifice of everything, even basic human and civil rights under the will of the state or nation. 10 Small wonder then that the debate continued as it did in the sixties. In more recent times, particularly in the mid-90s, a new line was treaded in the issue with the growing importance given to the preservation of the mother tongues. An example of the events of this period included a symposium in Cebu which discussed the idea of a 'national literature' which resulted in the publication of a book composed of several articles regarding said issue in 1995 entitled 'Many Voices: Towards a National Literature.' The discussion of literature naturally proceeds from the debate on language in the Philippines, for what are the use of words if not for the creation of literature. What is interesting in the articles written is of the numerous perspectives which somehow united to give a common criticism of the idea of a 'canon,' of recognizing any particular one method or way as the only
9 Ricardo Ma. Nolasco, "Filipino and Tagalog not so simple," (accessed February 2011). 10 Apolinar Parale, Facts and Issues on the Pilipino Language (Manila: Royal Publishing House, 1969), 96.


proper one that should be valued for a national literature. What emerges from the write-ups is a feeling, at least among those writers in the vernacular or local languages, that there is a need for diversity, and that the government should help maintain this diversity. Telling of this is the review of the current status of Bikol literature by Maria Lilia F. Realubit. She says that it is as if the Bicolanos have acceded to the dominant ideology which made them apathetic to the cause of their own cultural self-consciousness. Looking back to a 'golden age,' she says that the flowering of Bicolano literature occurred during the 1920s and 30s, when there were numerous plays, poems, short stories and even novels that were produced. Though there have been support somewhat from the government regarding the other languages, she laments that this is not enough with regards to Bicolano language and literature. The role of literature and language is important, she relates because it is the way by which the generation can relay their moral fiber and identity to the next one, and she specifically blames the national language planning policy as a cause for this problem of marginalization.11 Of a similar vein are the sentiments of Victor N. Sugbo with regards to Waray literature. Sugbo relates that by the 50s there was a start of dominance of English over Waray in local publications. From the thirties until the seventies there was a demand for Waray poetry and literature particularly in the production of plays during town fiestas. This continued until the seventies when the popularity of cinema increased displacing the need for Waray literature. He says that since the thirties and onwards, Waray literature suffered an "interregnum of silence." Like Realubit, he laments this decline and states that the entrance of Tagalog scripts in radio plays and also of television programs further worsened the conditions of Waray literature. Sugbo writes that "The old playwrights have long been dead, and only a few have filled the void the former had left"12 The national language perspective on the other hand, is seen through the contribution of Efren Abueg. Abueg wrote that writing in the Filipino language ("that language that developed in Metro Manila with Tagalog as its base and with addition from other languages") would be more financially viable to the writer. It is worthy to quote him at length here:
Ayon sa konstitusyon ng 1987, natuklasan ng mga linggwista na ang sinasalita sa Kamaynilaan [pp.132-133] (Metro Manila) ay hindi na Tagalog kundi isa nang lingua franca. At ang lingua francang ito na tinatawag nang Filipino ay sinasalita hindi na ng mga Tagalog lamang kundi ng mga Ilokano, Cebuano, Ilonggo, Bicolano, Waray at iba't ibang Muslim at marami pang etnikong grupong naninirahan sa lumalawak na kalunsuran.

Abueg then continues to say that in places in the Philippines where non-Tagalogs converge, the necessity for communication compels them to use another 'variety' of the Filipino language because "hindi naman sila nagkakaintindihan doon." Abueg assumes that other ethnolinguistic peoples would want to write in Filipino/Tagalog, asking "hindi ba't gusto rin dito sumulat ng isang Ilokano, ng isang Cebuano, ng isang Ilonggo, ng isang Muslim?" He thus concludes that Filipino is not only for the Tagalogs but for all ethnic groups in the country. What is interesting here, more than the content itself, is the tone of the writing. Compared to the gloomy pronouncements of marginalization by those from the other ethnolinguistic groups, there is an
11 Elmer A. Ordoñez, ed., Many Voices: Towards a National Literature (Philippine Writers Academy: MOED Press, 1995), 139. 12 ibid., 152.


exultation by Abueg that whoever writes in Filipino would be read all over the country. Abueg says, "magiging bestseller siya." However, this strays from the point of the non-Tagalog advocates entirely, which is that of the preservation of their linguistic uniqueness, which is felt to be marginalized by the Manila-centric literary establishment of the country. "Siya'y pagkakalooban ng mga premyo't karangalang pambansa at hindi pangrehiyon lamang.". The world 'lamang' here must be emphasized as there is clearly a hierarchy involved, with the regional languages at the lower level and with the national language, Filipino, at the higher level. Somehow it is felt there is a misunderstanding involved here. Clearly what the other ethnolinguistic groups want, at least those who are aware enough of the issues and the history of their respective language group, is for self-consciousness. This is basically a nationalism, with its own merits and possible criticisms. There is a call from those below towards those in the center and above, for at the very least, a recognition of the situation which has lead to the present state of demise. Next is for measures to counter this felt demise in order to preserve their already sorry states. There are efforts from the cultural arm of the government regarding this, but there are still the lingering points of view which believes in the need for a single common national language. If it is simply for the purpose of communication, not towards the creation of an identity that is to be shared by all, then what is needed is not a national language, but merely that of a national lingua franca. A lingua franca does not have the connotation of being a source of identity, merely that of a tool to be used in communication, as opposed to a mother tongue, which one speaks in one's childhood. Given that the case is that there is still the recognition of a national language, as mandated by law, critics from the regions have increasingly become more vocal and there is a shift occurring from focusing on issues of culture and literature towards the interrelation between language and politics. V. Continuing Resistance The resistance among the various ethnolinguistic groups continues to the present time. In 2007 there was the issue of the movie 'Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo' an entry in the 33rd Metro Manila Festival directed and the script written by Jose Javier Reyes, a prominent and prolific filmmaker in the country. The movie starred Judy Ann Santos, Gloria Romero, among other well-known Tagalog actors. The particular scene which drew the ire of the Visayans is of the grandmother complaining why their nanny who is Visayan, is speaking to the child of the main character, in Visayan. "Bakit nyo pinapalaking Bisaya ang apo ko?," she asks. Judy Ann talks to the nanny and says “Speak to the kid in Tagalog, para Pinoy”13 Senator Aquilino Pimentel, a prominent Senator who is Cebuano called for the director to apologize to the Visayan people saying that the remarks were offensive not just to Visayans but to the other non-Visayan Filipino citizens as well since it gave the wrong idea to the audience that those who speak Tagalog are the only ones worthy to be called Filipino. Pimentel also took issue with the MTRCB, the censor body of the government on films and other related media, as to why they were not able to spot the derogatory remarks in the preliminary screening. The director meanwhile simply replied that the Senator should just mind his own business and maybe watch the movie of his fellow Senators who were once actors. In the newspapers and periodicals which carried the story, there was no mention of any apology given. The character of the Bisaya nanny is a familiar trope in Philippine popular cinema, similar to that of the bumbling probinsyano/a. This trope is employed to provide comedy, albeit of the low-brow
13 Cebu Daily News, "Solon slams ethnic slur in Juday movie" article_id=20071228-109180 (accessed February 2011).


variety every now and then. The humor comes from the nanny's struggle with expressing herself through the Manila lingua franca and the English language. This has been an object of scorn among the Visayans, as it portrays the Visayans and other ethnolinguistic groups as inferior to speakers of the Manila lingua franca. The situation of the nanny, of the probinsyana then, is a portrayal of the wider situation of ethnolinguistic relations in the Philippines. The cause of the regions has found a new place of expression in cyberspace. And in the blogs and comments from the Visayans, we find a most interesting perspective regarding this issue. Ranging from short, fiery comments to full-blown analyses of the problem of marginalization, this shows that debate and interest in the issue is well and alive. One of the more well-formed among these groups is the organization 'Save Our Languages through Federalism' (SOLFED) which was started by an Ilonggo Visayan doctor who studied in the University of the Philippines, Diliman during the 1980s. He says in his organization's site14 that what motivated him in the creation of this organization was the perceived limited Tagalog nationalism which is prevalent in the University during his time. This limited Tagalog nationalism he says equates being a good Filipino with being a good Tagalog, that it has a great dislike of the English language, and that it thrives through a centralized or unitarian form of political organization. Instead of the 'Unity through Uniformity' advocated by this Tagalog nationalism, what Dr. Dacudao promotes is a 'Unity through Diversity.' This is achieved through pushing for a federal form of government which allocates the resources of the regions into their local needs first rather than going straight through the center in Manila. The program of his organization calls for a recognition of the identity of the various ethnolinguistic groups, of their freedom to promote and develop their own culture. Based in Butuan City, one of the more important things this organization did was of the compilation of a Butuanon dictionary and grammar to be used in teaching the dying Butuanon language in elementary schools in the city. VI. Conclusion The national language issue in the Philippines was and is not a simple affair. Starting from its inception in the 1930s during the Quezon administration up to the present time, it has been plagued with various criticisms mostly from within. The desire to create one identity by the central government through the creation of a national language has met with a strong and continuous resistance both from various ethnolinguistic groups and those who come in defense of the English language, so that the goal of unity instead was replaced with the reality of further disunity. The linking between a particular language and nationalism in a country composed of various ethnolinguistic groups each with strong emotional ties to its own language resulted in a confusing Babel. There was the conflict between the essentialists and the utilitarians, of the counter to the idea that there is a link between language and nationalism. There was as well the continuing resistance of those from the various ethnolinguistic groups, particularly the Visayans. The calls for linguistic unity and respect which at first was a cultural event turned into a political one, with the continuing marginalization felt by the non-Tagalogs, as only being solved through a reform in the ways of government from the unitarian centralized state to that of a multi-linguistic federation of regions and autonomous areas. There is a sense of an emerging consciousness that would give rise to a new conception of what it means to be a Filipino.

14 (accessed February 2011).


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