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Webster defines what a Filipino is

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The Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (New York: Portland House, 1989), of which I have a copy, correctly defines what a Filipino is:

Fil·i·pi·no (fil’əˈpē’nō), n., pl. -nos, adj. —n. 1. a native of the Philippines, esp. a member of a Christianized native tribe. —adj. 2. Philippine. [< Sp. derived from (las Islas) Filipinas Philippine (islands)]

Take note of  the phrase “a member of a Christianized native tribe”. This is historically precise because it was the Spanish friars who, upon baptizing the indigenous, automatically Hispanized them. We say automatically because the once pagan indigenous were assimilated into the societies (reducciones which later became pueblos, parroquias, etc.) that were created by the friars for them. In other words, those who were baptized or Christianized were welcomed into a new society which provided them the benefits of cultural dissemination, in a way “civilizing” them because  new concepts and tools from the West were by far and comparatively more advanced vis-à-vis the latter’s cultural way of life.

From these baptized ethnolinguistic groups or tribes evolved the Filipino.

In this regard, it is scientifically, culturally, and historically imprecise to say that the Ifugáos, the Mañguianes, the Aetas, the T’bolis, even the Moros, and all the other unbaptized ethnolinguistic groups to be called Filipinos for the mere reason that they did not assimilate themselves into the societies that could have shaped and molded them into the Filipino cosmos that was the world of José Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Padre José Burgos, Luis Rodríguez Varela, and the rest.

This Webster definition is the reason why, in a previous blogpost (Filipino, in a jiffy), I named only three attributes which defined what a Filipino is:

1) Hispanic culture, with Malayo-Polynesian elements as a substrate.
2) The Spanish language.
3) Christianity (Roman Catholic Religion).

The indigenous who never got the chance to be baptized into the Christian faith were not Hispanized, thus failing to be Filipinized in the process. Of course, we can still say that the rest —particularly our indigenous brothers— are Filipinos. But only by virtue of citizenship (most notably, jus soli).

Filipinization: a process

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Whenever I pass by the tianguê-filled streets of Baclaran or Divisoria, I am reminded of those that are in South America. Fruit vendors found in almost all parts of the country —even in posh Macati City— are no different at all from their Latino counterparts with regards to the manner of selling, the bodily movements in conducting trade.

The similarities are striking.

Whenever I visit my dad’s hometown of Unisan, I am astounded by the población’s network of roads: they horizontally and vertically crisscross each other. And at the heart of the small town itself is the old church. Indeed, the architecture of Unisan’s población is a perfect trademark of the Spanish friar-engineer’s ingenuity. And almost all old towns all over the archipelago follow this “square-shape” pattern.

Fiestas, the wheel, town cemeteries, plowing, spoon and fork, social graces, the guisado, rondalla, potato, papaya, camote, La Virgen María, paper and book culture, la mesa, la silla, painting, old street names and our family surnames, Holy Week and Simbang gabí, the bahay na bató, the calendar that we use, the name of our country, our nationality, etc. All these items, techniques, and concepts that were once foreign to us are now considered endemic. Without these, it is unthinkable for a Filipino to even exist. But these things that are crucial for our everyday existence are taken for granted like the the clouds in the sky.

There are two simple ways to determine what a Filipino is: by his name and by what he eats. Like most Filipinos, I have a Spanish name (José Mario Alas), but my diet is Asian (I eat rice). These determinants make me a unique product of a Western-Eastern symbiosis. This blending is what makes me a Filipino. I recognize both sides, but what surfaces the most is my Hispanic side for it completes my Filipino national identity. But Fr. José S. Arcilla, S.J., couldn’t have said it better:

Even if we peel off our Asian traits, we will remain “Filipino”. Remove our Hispanized ways and local idioms and we could no longer be recognized as Filipino.

"España y Filipinas" por el pintor famoso, Juan Luna.

The heritage bequeathed to us by Spain is not only ubiquitous: they are part of our lives. They are, in fact, our very lives. Our hispanic traits are what make us true Filipinos. This claim does not intend to glorify Spain, neither should it be misunderstood as a “longing to become a Spaniard,” which is very ridiculous to say the least (frankly speaking, I care less about today’s Zapatonto-led Spain). This is merely an acknowledgment of facts regarding our true Filipino Identity which is based on our Hispanic heritage. Also, to acknowledge our Hispanic past doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to negate everything that came before it. That can never be undone in the first place. This is just a matter of calling a spade a spade.

Indeed, if we strip away everything Asian from our identity, the Hispanic attributes will still remain. And these attributes are the same ones that the whole world can see in each and every Hispanic country scattered around the globe. But if we take away everything Hispanic in us to give way to purist nationalist dictates, then we will cease to become Filipino. We will disintegrate back to what we were before the conquistadores came: disunited; separated into a myriad of tribal kingdoms; perpetually aggressive towards one another.

In other words, if we remove our Hispanic traits, it will not harm the Hispanic world one bit. What will remain is the “Malay” or “Austronesian” in us that never made us Filipinos in the first place. The pre-Filipino Malay/Austronesian is composed of many tribes (Tagalog, Ilocano, Tausug, Ilongo, Pampangueño, etc.) that were never one, never united as a compact nation. The scattered Malay/Austronesian tribes in this archipelago which we now call our own before the Spaniards came never aspired into uniting with one another to become a much bigger nation because each tribe already thought of itself as a nation. To a pre-Filipino Bicolano’s mind, why should they unite with the pre-Filipino Cebuanos just to become another nation?

This they never thought of. And it took a foreign power for us to realize this Filipinization that we treasure to this very day.

This is the importance of reassessing our nation’s history. I always claim that ours is perhaps the most unique in the world because it is so mangled, so distorted. We continuously badmouth the nation (Spain) who virtually created us, complaining all the time that they “raped and destroyed our culture” even though we use cuchara and tenedor during meals while eating adobo or any guisado-based dishes, look at the calendario everyday, check out the time with our relój, say para to the jeepney driver, celebrate the Holiday Seasons, plan to visit Spanish Vigan to see the fantastic houses there, etc. But why continue this baseless, foolish, and counterproductive hatred? The Spaniards are no longer here. And we continuously deny the strong fact that without Spain, the concept of what a Filipino truly is as we know it today would have never existed. And by attacking our Spanish past, we are only harming ourselves, not Spain.

Rather than focus on personages, dates, and places, Philippine History teachers should focus more on the process of Filipinization. The word “history” comes from the greek verb historeo which means to “learn by inquiry”. So that is what teachers of Philippine History should do: inculcate into the minds of their students to inquire about the past, their past. History should not be about memorization of dates, places, events, names, etc. History is not a memorization contest. Although it is understandbale that, as much as possible, we should just leave historical facts to speak for themselves, it could not be feasible if our educators themselves continue to condition the minds of our young students into hating a past that should not be hated at all. In our particular situation, we all must learn how to reassess and inquire about the process of Filipinization. Why? Because of this so-called crisis of national identity which many scholars today erroneously claim we have.

As I have argued before, our national identity never left us. It has been with us all this time. A systematic false teaching of Philippine History just made us think that we do not have one.

“Ang hindí marunong lumiñgón sa pinangaliñgan ay hindí macacaratíng sa paróroonan”, says an old Tagalog proverb. But how can we move forward, how will we be able to determine where we are going if we do not know where we have come from? We always look into a mythical pre-Hispanic past, yearn for it, but that era of our lives was never us. It was only the catalyst to Hispanization which was really Filipinization. And this process gave birth to who and what we are today. The “pre-Hispanic Filipino” was never us. We have to calmly accept that fact, the way we have to accept natural disasters as part of our reality.

Más mabuti siguro tayo ñgayón cung hindí tayo sinacop ng mğa Kastilà. This is a very defeatist observation that has been prevailing for about a century already, for it has no basis most especially if we are to review our country’s economic history. Why aspire of “reverting” to a pre-Filipino past that never was?

The Philippines is such an ungrateful nation. We deserve to be poor. Thus, for all the unfounded badmouthing that we have thrown against her, we owe mother Spain an apology, and not the other way around.

It is time that we Filipinos should go back to our roots. Our real roots. That way, we will be able to steer the course of our national destiny.

A Gibberish Language Month

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MULA BALER HANGGANG BUONG PILIPINAS

MULA BALER HANGGANG BUONG PILIPINAS

August is the Philippines’ Buwan ng Wika (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, it might even be impossible for our generation to witness our country to finally obtain an undisputed national language.

The controversial 1987 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 school days as insulares). In a nationalistic sense, and as politically defined, the term Filipino means the native inhabitants of the Republic of the Philippines. Thus, this vague statement that Filipino is the national language is just that — simply vague. And the authors of this confusing constitutional passage chose Tagalog as the basis of our national language. Anyway, from Aparri to Joló, it’s unthinkable nowadays to encounter someone who doesn’t know how to speak or understand it. Mass media, which utilizes Tagalog exclusively, is the main disseminator of the language. Thus, is it safe to assume that the constitution is right after all, that we should all concede to Tagalog as the nation’s lingua franca?

But that’s beside the point of all this.

A la tagale

The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) recently declared that this month’s theme is Mula Baler Hanggang Buong Pilipinas, implying that Tagalog is indeed the national language, with Baler being the birthplace of the Father of the National Language, Manuel L. Quezon (who ironically thought, wrote, and spoke more in Spanish).

But just a few years ago, the KWF celebrated this theme — 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 confusion into the minds of Filipinos, especially the studentry. Are they now telling us that all Philippine languages are considered and accepted as the national language in lieu of Tagalog? If they were just speaking metaphorically, then the simple, impoverished, and half-starved Pinoy pitifully missed their point. Fortunately, the Filipino studentry do not seem to care about the Komisyon’s confusing theme; they’re more concerned over Lady Gaga, The Pussycat Dolls, Korean soaps, personalized shirts, fruit-flavored condoms, and the like.

But at the rate this language crisis is going, I think I’d rather have the Filipino youth’s eyes be ensconced in Scarlett Johansson’s cleavage and Hugh Jackman’s six-pack.

Pinoy tower of babel

The Philippines is an archipelagic Babylon, a maelström of tongues. This issue over our country’s national language has been an ageless 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 (ever since the advent of our neocolonized patrimony, Spanish has been maligned and taught to us by a neocolonial education as nothing but a foreign atrocity) united the more than a hundred tongues (and united the more than a thousand islands, as well as hundreds of tribal kingdoms) in the Philippines which resulted in the country’s short-lived independence in 1898 (sorrowfully, since the American invasion, we were never able to look back to that glorious and legendary self-governance with impartiality and kindness). 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 seems to be futile).

During the Commonwealth wherein Manuel L. Quezon was then president, the creation of a national language was naturally inevitable. On 31 December 1937, Tagalog was chosen as the country’s national language (this became the basis as to why the current constitution still uses Tagalog for our 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 (from a vague Arab influence) called alíbata (some say that it should be called baybayin). 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 part and parcel 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.

The Santos Debacle

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 the great Filipino lexicon and writer, Lope K. Santos. He was the 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. It virtually murdered the Filipino alphabet, killing many Filipino words in the process.

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 Rebirth) published an editorial entitled Aves de Rapiña (Birds of Prey). It was a “blind item” meant for then Secretary of the Interior Dean C. Worcester, but the American diplomat immediately felt that he was the one being alluded to by the attacks mentioned in the editorial, e.g., 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, it wasn’t impossible that Santos may have been under duress from a Worcester payback…

The composition of the Balarila must have began during those years. Most probably, during the younger years 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. Therefore, plotting out the destruction of our language must have begun several years before the Commonwealth.

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 violent 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, 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.

A Dubious Poem

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 him: 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 had ever wanted to go against the ghost of Rizal. Unlike now (what with iconoclast historians such as Ambeth Ocampo and Pío Andrade, Jr. challenging already established historical knowledge), he was almost considered a god. Everything he said in his writings can transform doubtful things into golden truth. 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 very 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 curious 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

No Meralco, no problemo.

No Meralco, no problemo.

Boys and girls, if you still remember your school days, this poem was allegedly written by Rizal 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 it is known that his Spanish is superb compared to his Tagalog, he wasn’t that confident with the Castilian language during his younger years (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 engaged in Tagalog literature. 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 Rizal wrote personal letters to his family members and friends, he wrote mostly 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 CRITICAL ANALYSIS ON COMPARING VARIOUS 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 Rizal as though he’s some omniscient heavenly deity that was sent back to earth as punishment for whatever shit he did up there.

So there you have it, a brief overview of the lies tucked in neatly by those who handle the language situation in the Philippines. They have masterfully erected Tagalog as the national language. Afterwards, the butchering began. We no longer have the correct and polite and respectable Tagalog. We now have an abomination of the language, a freak of linguistics called Taglish (or Engalog). And according to some friends of mine who speak other native Filipino languages, theirs too are slowly being eaten up by this unholy mixture of English, which is an unphonetic language, to that of their native languages. All Filipino languages are phonetic. Mix these two up (phonetic+unphonetic), then what do you get?

I won’t bother answer that. Let some cheap starlet dish out her language on national TV then you’ll get the picture. In the meantime, the US is basking in economic security since they have captured a permanent market in the Philippines due to the fact that almost all Pinoys have embraced English, whether or not they could understand it wholly.

So from Baler to other Philippine dominions, the wikang pambansâ is Taglish.

Filipinas, when will you ever wake up?

*****

NOTE: I originally published the foregoing blogpost here (that was three years ago today!). I just did some minor editing to help this blogpost keep up with the times. And today’s Manuel L. Quezon’s natal day, as well.

Happy language month!… is such a greeting even necessary?

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