Monday, June 12, 2006

Philippine Independence Day

I am probably a day late, but here in the Seattle area we still have about 6 hours left of June 12th. So Happy Philippine independence day!

Jed Pensar of SOLFED (Save Our Languages through FEDeralism) sent the Philippine national anthem translated into Hiligaynon, Cebuano, Kinaray-a, Manobo, and Butuanon. I have included the latter three versions on my webpage at

So while here in America there's controversy concerning the singing of the Star Spangled Banner in Spanish (which is ironic, since I learned the English lyrics, composed during American rule in the 1930's, of the Philippine national anthem FIRST, and didn't know the original was in Spanish until 10 years ago!) there's some controversy in the Philippines as well.

According to Chapter II, Section 36 of Republic Act 8491, the national anthem must "be sung in the national language." Chapter VII, Section 48 further outlines consequences in not complying with the provisions with this act; this includes.

This has prompted the passing of a resolution back in November of 2002 by the city council in Iligan, Lanao del Norte. It banned the mandatory singing of the anthem in Cebuano. My opinion at the time, as well as a copy of the article are archived here.

My opinion still stands that this RA 8491 needs to amended. It's stupid, really. This is considering the fact that the original anthem was written in Spanish and also the fact that the Philippines is ethnolinguistically diverse. Manuel Quezon III gave a passing mention about this in his blog.

I also found an article titled 3 versions of the unsung national anthem in Bicol. In response, a reader, Francisco San Miguel of Morong, Rizal, warned about violating the law.

In other news, I graduate in four days. So I'm rather pressed for time (amazing how I squeezed this in!). I did get accepted to the University of Washington's linguistics program, however I am going to put that on hold to work for one more year. It's a risky move, since it entails me reapplying (which could potentially mean being rejected), but I think I'll get in again.

I'll have a lot of freetime during the summer. I plan on writing about that Reid festschrift I mentioned earlier as well as Dr. Carl Rubino's new book on learning Tausug (which UPS should be delivering to me this Friday!).


blogagog said...

Grats on graduating! Yay America! Yay you too.

Anonymous said...

August is the Philippines' Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa (National Language Month, formerly known as the week-long Linggo ng Wika), but which among the more than 170 languages should we really consider as our mother tongue? What is really our wikang pambansâ?

These questions have been wading like a lost fish within the convoluted sea of thoughts of concerned linguists and scholars for almost a century now. But regardless of legal pronouncements and declarations, the matter over our national language hasn't been officially resolved yet. And with the series of unfortunate events that have been pounding us like ferocious typhoons all these years, I don't even think that I'd be able to witness our country finally obtain an undisputed national language within my lifetime.

The questionable 1987 Cory Constitution unclearly states that "the national language of the Philippines is Filipino." However, in a historical sense, the term Filipino pertains not to a language but to a group of Spaniards who were born in the Philippines at the height of Spanish rule (they were introduced to us in our elementary days as peninsulares). In a nationalistic sense, the term Filipino is now defined as the native inhabitants of the Republic of the Philippines. Thus, this ludicrous statement that Filipino is the national language is just that -- simply ludicrous. The authors of this insane constitutional passage chose Tagalog as the basis of our national language. Anyway, from Aparrí to Joló, it's unthinkable nowadays to encounter someone who doesn't know how to speak or understand it. So perhaps today, it's safe to assume that we should all concede to Tagalog as the nation's lingua franca. But that's beside the point of all this...

The Komisyon sa Wikang Pambansa (National Language Commission) recently declared that this month's theme is Ang Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa ay Buwan ng mga Wika sa Pilipinas -- the language month is the month of all Philippine languages. With this theme, it seems that the Komisyon is putting more gasoline into the fire. Fortunately, the Filipino studentry do not seem to care about the Komisyon's stupid theme; they're more concerned over Paris Hilton, The Pussycat Dolls, Korean soaps, Tribal shirts, fruit-flavored condoms, and the like. At the rate this language crisis is going, I'd rather have the Filipino youth's eyes be ensconced in Keanna Reeve's cleavage and Christian Vázquez's six-pack.

The Philippines is an archipelagic Babylon, a maelström of tongues. This issue over our country's national language has been a controversy that has not been given much limelight in national issues and public fora. Anyway, the Philippines has so much laundry to do, so why should it bother with a "harmless" little critter in the form of a pesky language turmoil?

For one: language is a national and social phenomenon. It's more important than one's daily Kapamilya or Kapuso schedule.

A long time ago, a mighty language from the West (which has been taught to us as a foreign atrocity since the advent of our neocolonized patrimony) united the more than a hundred tongues (and united the more than a thousand islands and tribal kingdoms) in the Philippines which resulted in the country's short-lived independence in 1898 (since the American invasion, we were never able to look back to that glorious and legendary self-governance). But this 1898 event served as the impetus for a very few well-intentioned politicians of the Commonwealth of the Philippines to continuously disturb the US colonizers for our country's complete freedom (which up to now has been futile).

During the Commonwealth wherein Manuel L. Quezon was then president, the creation of a national language was naturally inevitable. On 30 December 1937, Tagalog was chosen as the country's national language (this became a poor basis as to why the current constitution still uses Tagalog as the national language), eventually earning Quezon the title Ama ng Wikang Pambansa (Father of the National Language).

This is when the controversy actually began. And it worsened when, in 1959, Tagalog was renamed Pilipino. But it reverted back to Tagalog under the 1973 Constitution.

It's not only the terminology that's in question here but the orthography of the language as well. It is well known that Tagalog, including all the rest of the native languages, used an ancient alphabet called alíbata. The Spaniards romanized its characters during the islands' Hispanization, creating in the process the so-called 32-letter abecedario (one of the longest Latin alphabets in the world). It was this abecedario that Philippine Shakespeare Francisco Balagtás used to create his opus Florante at Laura. Other Filipino writers (especially the propagandistas) and literate indios used this alphabet, as well.

During the US occupation, the Americans were able to murder, bit by bit, almost all traces of our Spanish heritage. One of the victims was the abecedario, already a part of the Filipino soul for more than three decades. The change of alphabet took ominous form when, in 1937, the Commonwealth created the National Language Institute which made a study and survey on which national language should be used. Tagalog won amidst the chagrin of other natives who spoke other languages. But US desecration of our country's language never stopped there.

On 18 June 1938, the Commonwealth's National Assembly created the Institute of National Language (not to be confused with the National Language Institute). This new language body was tasked to prepare a dictionary and grammar. Thus was born the erroneous, faulty, and clumsy Balarila ng Wikang Pambansa authored by none other than a great Filipino lexicon, Lope K. Santos. He was a J.R.R. Tolkien of his time in terms of inventing words. But Santos' work was of no great help in the development of a national language. It only made things worse.

And I suspect that he knew that.

Santos was a journalist who was entangled in the celebrated libel case of the newspaper he was working with during the early 1900s. On 30 October 1908, his newspaper El Renacimiento (The Renaissance) published an editorial entitled Aves de Rapiña (Birds of Prey). Then Secretary of the Interior Dean C. Worcester felt that he was alluded to by the attacks mentioned in the editorial, that he was economically exploiting certain parts of the Philippines (particularly Benguet and Mindanáo). He filed a lawsuit against the newspaper's owner and men, which included Santos. The trial lasted for several years. Worcester won the case.

During the course of the trial, Santos may have been under duress from Worcester. The composition of the Balarila must have began during those years. Most probably, as early as the earlier part of the 1900s, the US government in the Philippines, under the auspices of Worcester, have been plotting all along on how to destroy the foundation of our language: the abecedario. It should be noted that even during the final years of Spanish rule, Worcester was already in the Philippines. So I won't be surprised if, in a future historical discovery, he was acting as a spy for the US.

Now, many scholars say that the decision to choose Tagalog over other languages in the country is that the said language is the language of the nation's capital, Manila. Furthermore, alongside Spanish, it was the language of the 1896 Revolution and the (evil) Katipunan. And again, the center of action during the Revolution was in Tagalog Manila. Another reason is that Tagalog has a vast treasure trove of literary works. Tagalog has published more books compared to other native languages. But for all we know, another factor could be president Quezon's Tagalog origin.

But if we are to look closely into this matter (the way a voyeuristic couch potato stealthily peers at TV vixen Kris Aquino's "bountiful harvests"), then one would find out that something fishy is going on.

It's not easy to convince the Filipinos to accept Tagalog as the national language since we have several languages to consider. So the plotters have found a very reliable weapon in the persona of National Hero José Rizal.

Pepe Rizal was already a legend, an icon even before the Commonwealth. And what better way to convince the Filipinos to accept Tagalog as the mother tongue by using a poem that was allegedly authored by Pepe: the dubious Sa Aking Mga Kabata (To My Fellow Youth).

Take into account this passage from the said poem (with an English translation).

Ang hindi magmahal sa kanyang salita
Mahigit sa hayop at malansang isda,
Kaya ang marapat pagyamaning kusa
Na tulad sa inang tunay na nagpala.

One who doesn't love his native tongue,
Is worse than putrid fish and beast;
And like a truly precious thing
It therefore deserves to be cherished.

Nobody at that time would have ever wanted to go against the ghost of Rizal. Unlike now, he was almost considered a god. Everything he said in his writings can transform things into gold. So, why not follow his advice? Since he "postulated" that you're but a stinkin' blowfish if you don't love your language, which is the language he "used" in writing Sa Aking Mga Kabata, why not believe in "his wisdom"?

But this is all hogwash. Our "educators" are proud to say that Pepe Rizal wrote this poem at a very young age of eight.

I say they're high on crack.

JOSÉ RIZAL NEVER WROTE SA AKING MGA KABATA!!! It's a brazen lie! Even popular historian Ambeth Ocampo himself doesn't believe that this was written by Rizal.

To prove my point, let us again take a closer look, this time by examining two specific lines from this doubtful verse:

THE Tagalog language's akin to Latin,
To English, Spanish, angelical tongue

The Tagalog original goes this way:

Ang wikang Tagalog tulad din sa Latin
Sa Ingles, Kastila at salitang anghel

Boys and girls, if you still remember your school days, this poem was allegedly written by Pepe when he was only eight years old. However, at that age, he wasn't studying Latin yet (his Latin lessons began in 1872 at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila; he was then 11) Although his Spanish is more masterful compared to his Tagalog, he wasn't that confident with castellano yet (remember the "un poco, señor" incident he had with maestro Justiniano Cruz during his early studies in Biñán, Laguna?) since he was just a freakin' kid. And most of all, English was almost unknown in the country (or at least in Calambâ where he grew up), at that time. When he was eight years old, Rizal never knew the difference between the English language from the Spanish word puta. He never wrote in Tagalog. He did attempt to write a novel in Tagalog during his later years (Makamisa), but he wasn't even able to finish it due to his poor mastery of the language. When Pepe writes personal letters to his family members and friends, he wrote in Spanish, not Tagalog. His diary was written in the language of Miguel de Cervantes. And most of all, AN EIGHT YEAR OLD DOESN'T HAVE THE INTELLECTUAL CAPACITY YET TO MAKE A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF DIFFERENT LANGUAGES.

In addition, the Rizal home was a Spanish-speaking home. The Rizal kids are today's equivalent of English-speaking Filipino children. During young Pepe Rizal's naughty fits, he was scolded not in Tagalog but in Spanish.

Yes, he may have been a prodigy. But please, let us not treat Pepe Rizal as though he's some omniscient heavenly deity that was sent back to earth as punishment for whatever shit he did up there.

But who could have written such an outrageous falsehood? Some scholars point out that it was Pascual H. Poblete who wrote the poem. Poblete was a prolific writer in Tagalog and Spanish. He was also a translator. Also, Poblete published a book about Rizal entitled Buhay at Mga Ginawâ ni Dr. José Rizal in the early 1900s. However, I still have to find out concrete evidence about this.

But for now, the real author of the poem in question doesn't matter anyway. What's important is that we should realize Pepe didn't write this. Besides, one will notice that Sa Aking Mga Kabata is somewhat pale and stern and a bit pedantic compared to young Pepe's other poems which are lyrical, flamboyant, and rich in imagery. Definitely, Sa Aking Mga Kabata is not written in the style of the national hero.

Anonymous said...

sa wakas malapit na tao sa katotohanan

Anonymous said...

wala bang tulang tagalog?