Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino

The Supreme Court did not excise so-called “Filipino” (a.k.a. Tagalog) from the curriculum. No court has any business doing that. Courts do not resolve curricular issues. What it did though was decide that the petition to interdict the implementation of the K to 12 curriculum — involving a college curriculum that no longer prescribed Filipino — lacked legal warrant. The petition to enjoin having been dismissed, the result, of course, is that the CHED-ordained curriculum that does not require Filipino stands.

My brilliant friend Antonio Contreras asks why we even prescribed a “national language” in the fundamental law, and he is right in raising the question. It was wrong, I maintain, to prescribe a “national language” in our Constitution. A nation does not need one national language to survive and to flourish as a nation. If anything at all, it is the imposition of the ill-contrived that spawns violence and triggers divisiveness. Since it was Manila that formulated policy, Manila chose the language with which it was most familiar, decreeing it to be the language of a people who have always had different languages.

In many ways, this anomalous and truly unjust situation has its roots in the mistake of calling Ibanag, Pangasinan, Waray, Cebuano, etc. “dialects”, implying of course that they are variants of one language. Any decent source on languages will show that Ibanag, as most other Philippine languages, belongs to the Austronesian family of languages. It has its own rules of syntax; it has its own semantic complications and it has pragmatics all its own. Our policy-makers ignored all this. Gave Tagalog the habiliments of, first Pilipino, and later Filipino and canonized it as the language of an entire nation.

It worked — in the sense that the media deluged the towns, cities and barangays with Tagalog programs. The national government did its share in this assault on indigenous languages: It decreed that Tagalog would be the medium of instruction in the rather ridiculous belief that once Tagalog was known by all, it would make students understand lessons more easily and teaching, more effective. But Tagalog had to be learned in non-tagalog regions, while the facility with which our pupils and students spoke, read, wrote and discussed in English steadily and cumulatively declined. Just as the rest of the world was rushing to learn English, we were running in the opposite direction — foreswearing it, in the name of some moronic version of nationalism that equates being a nation with speaking one language.

Are we better of for all this hoopla over Tagalog? Res ipsa loquitur. Our world standing, academically, remains mediocre, and a growing number of graduates cannot find jobs because the English they speak and write is labored and laborious — and that, most certainly, is not good enough for regional and global business. So much literature is in English — so much information in the sciences and in various other disciplines. What were the proponents of this mad proposition even thinking: That this formidable intellectual corpus would be translated into Tagalog and, in consequence, better understood by Ilocano, Ibanag, Cebuano, Waray, Chabacano, Tausug students?

So, Tagalog is no longer required in college. Good. Then let us get on with the task of undoing an ambivalent language policy in higher education that has really proved to be our undoing! Let us, like ASEAN, make the firm decision that we shall do business — teach, read, study, write and discuss in English. It need not be the King’s English. The datu’s will do, provided that it is English that is grammatically sound for grammar is not, after all, some nicety with which one can dispense. It is the guarantee of intelligibility.

With educational policy finally regaining its sensible bearings, the other, equally original, equally indigenous, equally worthy Philippine languages can thrive and flourish. There is no reason that they should perish. There is no reason that this cultural invasion of Tagalog into every barangay and purok should define our future national life. We are a country of a myriad islands and we are a nation of distinct ethnicities and languages as distinct. That fact will not divide us. Stupidity will!

November 2018, Manila Times