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MLE: An Interview with Atty. Manuel Faelnar

In response to questions raised by DILA President Josie Henson, Atty. Manuel Faelnar of LUDABI and other language activist organizations granted us this interview.

Why is there a need for national Filipino language?

There is no need for a national language to achieve national unity. Many countries find no need for a national language but they have many or at least two official languages. Among these are South Africa, Switzerland, Belgium, United Kingdom. Let me share with you the views of the then Representative from Tarlac and now Defense Secretary Gilbert C. Teodoro, Jr. on this issue:

"As far as I know the necessity of a national language, as well as a national ideology, was brought about by pre globalization thinking that a nation-state be built based on the cultural homogeneity of its inhabitants. This homogeneity was thought to be the unifying force which was a necessary element of building up a strong state. I think this premise has been proven to be unworkable in the Philippines.

"I believe that the Philippines is a multinational, multiracial, multilingual, and multicultural State. In other words, we are a state composed of different types of people, we are not and cannot be made to be the same. A forced linguistic and cultural integration will only breed resentment and frustration because then the majority who can conform would then proceed to categorize the minority who are unable to conform as backward, laggard, or worse, as secessionists. My point here is that instead of subjugating the different components of our society through enforced homogeneity, we should encourage and strengthen this diversity and EDUCATE our citizens about these differences so that an atmosphere of respect and tolerance is developed." (May 2007 column of Valeriano Avila, Philippine Star.)

Should Tagalog be the official language of the Philippines?

No. Tagalog may be the official language of the Tagalog region but not of the non-Tagalong regions. Tagalog is not the Mother tongue in the non-Tagalog regions. The views of the Hon. Gilbert C. Teodoro, Jr., also apply here.

What is the difference between Filipino and the other languages of the Philippines?

Let us clarify one thing. The 1987 Constitution has not anointed Tagalog as Filipino. Section 6, first paragraph of Art. XIV of the 1987 Constitution says "The national language of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine languages and other languages." Filipino is an artificial language that has no native speakers. It is like Kathafrevousa, the defunct official language of modern Greece.

What is the background of the declaration of Tagalog as the official language?

Dr. Aurelio A. Agcaoiloi's research, a part of which is quoted below, answers this question:

Here is what I found: That there was conspiracy, connivance, and collusion in the declaration of Tagalog as the basis of the national language. As I write this, it is Thanksgiving in this land of our exile, and I have a lot to thank for-- such as this discovery of the triple cancer—the tripod of a C that continues to gnaw at our mind as a people, depriving us of that collective memory that should have been history's gift to us who try to keep on remembering.

But no, there are criminals of the Constitution, as the esteemed Vicente Albano Pacis declared for at least three times in his commentary on the national language situation, on the state of English language teaching in the country, and the ramming into our throat of the Tagalog language that, like the chameleon, continues to change color depending on the political, epistemic, and cultural ecology of the homeland.

First, the Gonzalez account of someone's account that there were three drafts that led to the 'framing' of the national language provision of the 1935 Constitution is lacking in perspective. The technical development of all the provisions of that constitution went through four 'drafts', with the fourth draft considered as the final draft and which was approved by the delegates of the convention, to wit, the title of that Fourth Draft as appended in the 1965 Proceedings of the 1934-1935 Constitutional Convention put together by Jose P. Laurel and published by Lyceum: "Appendix K-4: Final Draft of the Constitution of the Philippines, as approved by the Constitutional Convention on February 8, 1935."

Second, here is what is found in the Laurel Proceedings, which is not found in the version published by the House of Representatives: a first, second, third, and fourth draft of the Constitution.

Third, I must take note here that there are two accounts of the convention, one kept at the Supreme Court Library, and another that is put together by Laurel and is kept at the Laurel Foundation Library. The Supreme Court version, published by the House of Representatives between 1965 and 1966, does not contain the other drafts of the Constitution but only the final fourth draft and the proceedings beginning 1934 and ending in 1935.

Fourth, in terms of 'completeness' of the records therefore, the Laurel Proceedings contains a wealth of materials that reveals to us the kind of manipulation that happened during the convention. (I will continue to expose these manipulations by presenting documentary evidences and conjectures.)

It is not therefore true to say that the crowning of Tagalog as the glorified language of the land came as a logical choice of the people as represented by their delegates. This myth has to be unraveled for what it is: a myth that contains all the contradictions to our claims to linguistic justice and cultural democracy. In some of the accounts of Pacis, first at the Daily Express and then at the Inquirer, he recalled that right after the work of the convention was completed, many people who were in the know had been clamoring for the publication of the proceedings. This was an honorable way to check of the veracity of the proceedings and of the provisions of the 1935 Constitution. That request was never granted.

The publication of the 1934-35 ConCon Proceedings happened only 30 years after when many of the delegates were long gone, senile, or had lapses in memory and judgment. Think of the kind of reaction and counter-reaction if these lies and manipulation were exposed as soon as the 1935 Constitution was approved. The dishonesty of those involved was something.

The continuing linguistic injustice committed against the peoples of the Philippines at this time is an addendum to that dishonesty that became the basis for Tagalog as P/Filipino, that schizophrenic language of the center of power, commerce, education, and now media. Think of academics schooled in this monolingual mindset, as is the case of many of the Tagalog teachers in the United States, many of them ignorant Ilokanos passing themselves off as Tagalog, or academics who cannot afford to have some intellectual breadth and depth—and resonance. One even had the temerity to say that we need to drumbeat Tagalog, a.k.a. P/Filipino as a 'global language' to, among others, avoid 'regionalism.' In cases like this, we need to pray to the anitos and ask for patience so that these linguistic idiots will come to their senses.

Fifth, let these drafts from the Laurel Proceedings tell you of the ruses that happened.

First draft: Article XIII, Sec. 2: "A national language being necessary to strengthen the solidarity of the Nation, the National Assembly shall take steps looking to the development and adoption of a language common to all the people on the basis of the existing native languages."

Second draft: Article XIII, Sec. 2.a: "The National Assembly shall take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on the existing native languages, and until otherwise provided by law, English and Spanish be the official languages."

Third draft: Nothing on Article XIII. Other parts of the draft of the Constitution had provisions. We must note here that the second draft was to be 'polished' for style—but not for substance! —by the Committee on Style chaired by Claro M. Recto. We note here that in the third draft, only those provision that have revisions for stylistic reasons were to be reviewed so that these provisions could be incorporated as part of the final, fourth draft. In the case of the provision on the national language, that was not mentioned, there was nothing, and thus, logically, the second draft is deemed that which was to move to the final, fourth draft.

But, here is what we have got:

Fourth draft: Article XIII, Sec. 3: "The National Assembly shall take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages. Until otherwise provided by law, English and Spanish shall continue as official languages."

Now, we see a hand—or some hands.

What's the future of Filipino as both the national language and as a living language? What about the other languages of the Philippines?

Filipino as both the national language and as a living language will have the fate of Katharevousa, the national language of Greece for over 150 years until it was junked by the government of Konstantin Karamanlis on April 30, 1976.

What are the drawbacks to using Tagalog as the official language of the Philippines?

The drawback is the Jacobinist underpinnings of having one official language for the Philippines. The concept of a single national language comes from Jacobinism during the time of the French Revolution. This concept has remained one of the pillars of French political life and this has some features such as attempts to control language (an enduring project of the French Revolution) which persist today. The French Revolution adopted a policy on language that was very different from the kind of policy on language that other democratic nations see as appropriate. In the French revolution indigenous languages other than French were disenfranchised and to use them was called counterrevolutionary activities, according to Harold Schiffman in 'Dirigisme and Jacobinisme', a section in his paper "French Language Policy: Centrism, Orwellian Dirigisme, or Economic Determinism?" (Department of South Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 11/20/2000).

This Jacobinist thinking dominated the modern nation-builders of the 19th and 20th centuries. This was also the thinking of Quezon and others. Forcing a language on others can break a country apart. Bangladesh was born when it split from Pakistan because of language. The 20-year civil war in Sri Lanka started because of language. Spain and Belgium nearly broke apart because of language.

What are the advantages of using Tagalog as an official language to non-Tagalog speakers? What about its disadvantages?

There is no advantage in using Tagalog in areas of non-Tagalog speakers. Tagalog is a foreign language to these speakers.and is unwelcome.

For non-Tagalog speakers in Central Luzon, what is your stand regarding Tagalog as the official language?

I cannot comment directly on this as I am not from Central Luzon so let me borrow this segment from what one of our DILA officers has previously noted:

Central Luzon is a Tagalog majority area (around 54 percent Tagalog, I believe, with Kapampangans comprising nearly a third). That's why I am in favor of separating the Kapampangan-speaking area to constitute a separate federal state or region, so that it does not drown in a Tagalog-majority entity. Here's one non-Kapampangan supporting this proposal:

"In a federal setup, each essentially independent state must, in principle, support itself. In addition to sharing in the expenditures of the national government for national defense, common security, monetary management and debt servicing, foreign relations, and so forth, each individual state must raise enough revenues to pay for its required expenditures. This implies that each state must be financially viable. But, of the proposed eleven (or so) federal states, no more than a few - like the Cebuano state or the Pampangueno-Tarlaqueno state - would actually be able to stand on their own financially." Azurin, Rene. On Decentralizing Government, p.5. Paper presented at the Dialogues on Federalism. Center for Local and Regional Governance, National College of Public Administration and Governance, University of the Philippines. Diliman, Quezon City, 3 August 2007.

But there are other language groups in Central Luzon which may not have the economic power to stand on their own. They, too, should be given recognition, even if Tagalog is the majority language of Central Luzon.

Recently, there have been developments with DepEd re: using dialects to teach schoolchildren (grade school). What are the advantages of using a dialect to teach children, rather than Tagalog?

The way their question as worded is highly condescending and reveals that the one who made the question is not aware of modern linguistic principles and has not read Article XIV, Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution. According to linguistics experts, if two ways of speaking are not mutually intelligible, like Ilocano and Tagalog, they are separate languages. If they are mutually intelligible like the Tagalog of Bulacan and the Tagalog of Batangas, they are dialects (of Tagalog). Further, Art. XIV of the 1987 Constitution expressly recognizes the regional languages as languages.

Also Filipino shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine languages and other languages. Children who do not speak Tagalog as their Mother tongue will be disadvantaged. As Tagalog is an alien language, it will slow down the development of children's cognitive skills and learning in general. The Lubuagan experiment has shown that when the Mother tongue is used as the language of teaching and learning, children develop cognitive skills faster and learn the subject being taught much better.

Should other languages be encouraged, and if so, how do we manage this? What are organizations pushing for?

Again, in reply, let me quote from the letter of the Hon. Gilbert C. Teodoro, Jr. to Valeriano Avila:

"I believe that the message in your article is that we must redefine our concept of what the Philippines is and what being a "Filipino" means.If being a Filipino means being subsumed under a cultural or linguistic regime which one feels is alien to what he really is then the natural instinct would be to reject being Filipino. I would therefore propose that the Philippines be thought of as a legal and political concept: as a STATE composed of many cultures, perhaps nations; rather than as a NATION. Collorarily being Filipino should be thought of as being united with others of different cultural persuasions for political, economic, and other similar common purposes.

"The adoption of this mindset will go a long way toward building up a strong and globally competitive state. We will lose our hang-ups over strengthening our proficiency in English, we will genuinely accept the idea of the autonomy of component political units such as regions and provinces, and because each unit will be busy with it's own development giving less time to squabbling with the central super body: we MAY have peace."

What is the importance of language to identity and culture?

"Without our language, we have no culture, we have no identity, we are nothing." Ornolfor Thorsson, adviser to President of Iceland.

"When you lose a language you lose a culture, intellectual wealth, a work of art." Kenneth Hale, who taught linguistics at MIT.

Is the diversity of languages or dialects divisive? Why? Why not?

Diversity of languages and cultures is not divisive per se. It is when these languages are marginalized or suppressed by official policy and/or neglect that they become divisive.Switzerland, India and South Africa have a diversity of official languages. Spain and Belgium could remain as united modern countries only by recognizing the other languages and making them official. Again, to quote the Hon. Gilbert C. Teodoro, Jr.:

"I believe that the message in your article is that we must redefine our concept of what the Philippines is and what being a "Filipino" means. If being a Filipino means being subsumed under a cultural or linguistic regime which one feels is alien to what he really is then the natural instinct would be to reject being Filipino...."

What is the truth in the statement that “Language is the DNA of a culture"?

Ornolfor Thorsson says above that without your language, you have no culture.

Do you agree with the other schools of thought/point of view that Tagalog, as the major language of the Philippines, may be responsible for killing off other minor languages?

In the first place, Tagalog is not a majority language. It is a minority language spoken by only about 30% of Filipinos as a Mother Tongue. But government use of Tagalog in education and its promotion by media is killing the other languages.
According to Dr. Jose V. Abueva, a former President of the University of the Philippines, "Until about 1970 there were more Filipinos who spoke Sugboanon or Cebuano-Visayan and its various dialects, than those of Tagalog. Since then more and more Filipinos have learned to understand and speak Tagalog because of the teaching and use of Tagalog or Filipino in our schools and their daily use by radio, cinema and television." (Kapunongang Bisaya, "Dalit Bisaya - a Celebration of Cebuano Culture", Dec. 1-3, 2006, University of San Carlos, Cebu City).

How do we save these dying languages?

Mother-tongue based Multilingual education (MLE) will be a good start.

How is it possible to allow a national language to thrive without killing off other minor languages?

As the Hon. Gilbert C. Teodoro has said, this whole thing has to be reexamined.
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In the News Elsewhere

Related Readings

On Education
There are to be almost 20 million schoolchildren enrolled in 2002-2003. Under the Basic Education Curriculum of Secretary Roco, their instruction will begin to focus only on the five subjects of Filipino, English, Mathematics, Science and Makabayan.

DiversityThe UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity was adopted unanimously at the 31st UNESCO General Conference. It aims to have a significant impact on humanising globalization and making it more culturally sensitive.

The Subdialect Filipino
What is"Filipino?" There is much difference of opinion on this matter. According to one school of thought, Filipino is not only different from Tagalog, but that it (Filipino) still does not exist, but on the contrary, it still has to be developed.

Ethnic Cleansing in the Philippines
The United Nations Convention on Genocide drafted in December 1948 mainly defines the physical means by which governments or rogue militia weed out ethnic or cultural communities. With bullets or bladed weapons, separation of younglings from their elders, we've heard it all before from the news and read it in the history books.

List of Philippine Languages
Republic of the Philippines. 86,241,697. National or official languages: Filipino, English. Literacy rate: 88% to 89%. Also includes Basque, French (698), Hindi (2,415), Indonesian (2,580), Japanese (2,899), Korean, Sindhi (20,000), Standard German (961), Vietnamese, Arabic. Information mainly from L. A. Reid 1971; SIL 1954–2003. Blind population: 1,144,500. Deaf population: 100,000 to 4,232,519 (1998). Deaf institutions: 17. The number of languages listed for Philippines is 175. Of those, 171 are living languages and 4 are extinct.

To Free Us from the Clutches of the Tagalog-Filipino National Language
By a sly, clever wording in the Philippine constitution that "Filipino is the national language," the Tagalista framers avoided an unyielding opposition to Tagalog while anointing it a national sounding name, "Filipino".


Book coverWe organized DILA in 2001 to defend the language rights of all our ethno-linguistic groups. It is said that of the 7,000 languages spoken around the world today, more than half are expected to be lost in this century alone. They might disappear from causes like wars and disasters but what concerns us is when the reason is that another tongue is forcibly imposed by government. When that happens, disuse of the native tongue follows and the ultimate result is extinction. Since the introduction of a national language in our country in 1935, our 169 non-national languages have declined and deteriorated. All these and more are lucidly presented in the following posts and articles lifted from our group page on the internet ( A note from our founder comes after this introduction.
DILA is committed to legal and peaceful means in achieving our aims, and welcome those who share our noble cause to protect our peoples and languages from extinction. May the Lord bless His languages. (From the FOREWORD of the book Josefina D. Henson, DILA Foundation, Inc. President)


A Country of Our Own
"The best writing on the Philippines I've read in a very long time."—Dr. Michael Ashkenazi, Regents College, London

"Meticulously researched, coherently crafted, passsionately argued."—Carmen Miraflor, Stanford University, California

"Immensely stimulating."—Bro. Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, former Sec. of Education, RP

"Like Alexandr Solshenitsyn, David C. Martinez, writing with the grace of a poet, the acumen of a scholar, and the heart of a patriot, offers the reader two rewards—the unembroidered truth and the priceless gift of hope."—Joseph E. Fallon, author, "Deconstructing America"

"Certain to change crippling misconceptions of 'nation' and 'identity.' Destined to radically, justly, and permanently alter the political landscape of the Philippines."—Nilo Sarmiento, formerly of the Society of Jesus

"Courageously irreverent, scrupulously annotated, and richly rewarding. A must-read for all who wish to comprehend the 'Philippine phenomenon'."—Tim Harvey, Co-Founder, DILA [Defenders of the Indigenous Languages of the Archipelago]

This volume and Filipino Is NOT Our Language can be purchased at Filipinas Heritage Library and Ayala Museum at the commercial district in Makati City, Philippines for P300.00 and P100.00 respectively.

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