Unknown to many, Article XIV, Section 6 of the Philippine Constitution states: “The national language of the Philippines is Filipino” – it does not refer to “Tagalog.” The constitution uses “Filipino” as inclusive of Hiligaynon, Ilocano, Cebuano, Chavacano, etc. – the language of every Filipino, not only “Tagalog.”
However, the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino purist will insist the definition of national language is derived from a 1937 executive order signed by then-President Manuel Quezon: “Proclaiming the national language of the Philippines based on the Tagalog language.”
Allow me to borrow from the framework of Fr. Danny Pilario’s “Doing Theology from the margins,” which is geared towards the evangelization of the poor. From its context, we do not evangelize the poor, the poor evangelizes us first and calls our attention to the conversion. In the same vein, regional language was taught in our upbringing, drawing attention to its utilization and exploration. Today, other major languages are slowly seen as “lowly” because of Tagalog’s “preferred language” status.
With Filipino teachers insinuating the “superiority” of Tagalog, it subjugates the entire nation. While there is no “superior language,” only equal language, what they are trying to imbue is Tagalog as a “preferred language;” the curricula aims to have students master the language of Manila and its literature. Perhaps it’s Tagalog that separated Filipinos from their literature and, later, their mother tongue.
Our nation does not need to centralize around one language to show strength, it should cultivate mother tongue language, which would catapult regional identity. The said imposition of Tagalog creates discontent, which triggers divisiveness. Purist educators believe in this “Manila mentality;” with most speakers from Mega Manila schools, they formulate a police to suit their preferences and choose the language which they are more familiar, leading them to declare the “language of the people.”
I find it awkward to hear a regional speaker twist their tongue to speak Tagalog, despite an absence of literature and lexicography, or the relationship with language. I cringe every time a Filipino teacher imitates Manila diction when lecturing; in fact, Tagalog speakers look down on regional speakers as if they were chimpanzees dancing in a circus.
Philippine education must cultivate culture and language, not curricula that submits to the hegemonic influence of Tagalog. I propose placing more emphasis on one’s own language, such as Hiligaynon, which has its own syntax, semantic complications, and pragmatics of its own. It should focus more on the unexplored parts of speech in the Mother Tongue-Based of Multilingual Education curriculum taught in Grades 1 through 3.
Each region has its own rich literature, why not introduce it in college as a means for students to connect to their roots? Empowering culture means looking at its documentation.
Filipino is a part of curriculum beginning in primary school, why not provide the intellectualization of regional language in college? Policymakers have ignored all of this and canonized Tagalog as the language of an entire nation.
If this practice is adopted, there would be no bullying of provincial accents. This institutionalized policy would breed respect because it emphasizes culture helps us understand each other and unites a diverse country of Filipinos, corresponding to the call made in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s ““Fusion of Horizons.”
I hope government sees this as the country transitions into federalism. We will genuine embrace federalism by utilizing regional language in the era of globalization and ASEAN integration.
Each Filipino must further strengthen their regional language, literature, and culture as their contribution to the project of global and regional sociocultural integration. In this case, regional language will not be on the margins but a language that is respected and enriched.
One day, future generations will master their language (a priority of the nation) and erode discrimination from Manila. If we continue idolizing one language, we curve our tongues in response to dying local literature – what Renato Constantino means by “veneration without understanding.”/WDJ