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A party-list group for the Spanish language

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¿Qué amor no ha vuelto…? –Manuel Bernabé–

Let us not mince our words nor our time anymore. The Spanish language can never become a part of the modern national landscape if it is not advocated upon by a party-list group in the House of Representatives.

It is of course a far-fetched idea to create a major political bloc with the sole objective of bringing back a language that is no longer widely used in the country today. So let us just focus on the idea of having a party-list proportional representation to revive the language in question.

But then again, if the Spanish language is no longer widely used in the Philippines –without even having a compact community speaking it– why should we even waste our time to forward the language into the political mainstream and social consciousness of the modern Filipino world?

For one: Spanish is something that is already ours. It is us. It is part of our national patrimony. It defines our national identity. We can never be a complete and a compleat Filipino without the Spanish language.

The Spanish language is replete with all the attributes which delineate the very core of our being Filipinos. It is a fact that we use countless Spanish words every single day in our speech. It is a fact that our body language speaks the same way as how our Latino counterparts do. It is a fact that our country is the only country named after a Spanish royalty. It is a fact that our surnames and towns and provinces and cuisine are in Spanish. It is a fact that our national hero relayed his thoughts in Spanish. It is a fact that most of our heroes or bayani discoursed and wrote in this immortal language of Cervantes. It is a fact that the statutes of Asia’s first republic –the one established in Malolos, Bulacán– was written down in Spanish.

It is a much hotter fact that the Philippines is the only Latino country in Asia. Geographically speaking, we are a part of Asia. But when it comes to culture, we are outside of it. We’d rather be in Europe or in Latin America.

It is not enough for the Spanish language to be simply taught again in our schools whether public or private, whether in elementary or secondary or in tertiary. It is not enough for it to be disseminated through mass media, whether in print or telecommunication. It is not even enough for a whole community or two to use it as a means of communication. It is never enough.

It must be once again used as an official Filipino language.

The Spanish language must be guarded, spread, and ennobled. In the first place, that is the mandate of the country’s oldest state institiution, the Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española of which the current government leader, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is a member. But the Academia failed when Spanish was stricken out by the Supreme Court during the promulgation of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

It is not enough that Ms. Arroyo signed a directive in Spain two years ago to renew the teaching of the Spanish language in our country’s school system. No. It must be brought back nationally by giving it at the very least a co-official status together with English and Tagalog (yes, Tagalog, and not the vague term “Pilipino”). And once the language is brought back into the political mainstream, another important aspect will follow: culture, true Filipino culture which is originally based in Spanish. Actually, we already have it in our daily routine — Filipino culture rooted in Spanish can be seen in our dances, in our food, in the manner we act and enunciate, and in the manner we communicate with our Maker. But through language and culture, it will make us realize that without Spanish, our identity as a people would have been nothing. And with such realization, it will spur in us the imperative to be more watchful of any untoward action against our identity.

We also have to come to terms with our past. Enough with the silly notions about the “evils of Spanish colonization” and all that blah. It is time that we give our past a fresher appraisal by using the Spanish language in our everyday lives. Once the Filipino youth learns the language, there would be no more need for those loose, indifferent, poor, and (sometimes) almost inexact English translations of historical books written in Spanish; the true context, essence, and meaning of Spanish texts read in their original form shall remain intact. The Filipino youth will then realize that almost everything learned inside the classroom about our nation’s history was either forged or grossly inaccurate. The myth of the so-called Leyenda Negra shall finally be extinguished.

If Spanish is returned, it will also prove to be a boon to the local economy, particularly to foreign trade, because Spanish is spoken in more than 20 countries. According to a recent research, Spanish speakers all over the world is estimated to be almost at half a billion as of March 2008. And that’s one huge Hispanic/Latino market. Potential profits from exports to Spanish-speaking countries are highly foreseeable. And aside from the Latino countries, Spanish is also the second largest language in the United States (whose government, ironically, was the culprit behind the subtle annihilation of Spanish in the Philippines since the time they invaded our islands). So it is clear that forging links through language will eventually be beneficial for both parties concerned.

Lastly, by making Spanish as an official (or co-official) language again, it only means that we give due respect to our country’s history, thereby we learn how to respect ourselves in the process. For why should we totally forget a language that has been here for more than three centuries? We haven’t even surpassed that monumental epoch in terms of years. And worse, we haven’t progressed as a nation with the removal of Spanish (unlike in the days of the Galleon, arguably the precursor to what is now known as “globalization”). Our pantheon of heroes may have risen against Mother Spain, but they eloquently (and ironically) wrote their protests in beautiful Spanish prose and nonfiction; in fiery speeches, they spoke the language with much candor, fluency, and aptness. Why such bitterness and resentment towards our Spanish past? The Spaniards aren’t even here anymore. And what they bequeathed to us –the innumerable concepts and tools that we now use to enjoy life– have never been proven to be a curse to us. Why such condemnation while it is us who seem to act so vile by being so ungrateful everytime we nod to what lies or inaccuracies we hear against our Spanish past which is our very own history? To repeat: it is not the Spanish era – it is our very own history.

To all concerned groups and individuals, hispanistas, and the few remaining Spanish-speaking Filipinos, we must all unite to help move forward the language which united the whole archipelago into forcing itself into self-governance more than a century ago. Ya es hora para custodiar, difundir, y enaltecer verdaderamente el idioma verdadero de nuestra patria. A political party must be organized to realize our cause. This system may not be perfect, but let’s try to work it out and go with the flow. I say, enough with useless discussions and online forums. So much has been tackled regarding the topic, but nothing substantial has materialized save for a couple of related websites and a struggling Filipino blog in Spanish. Everything has already been debated and clarified. It’s time to take the debate to a much higher level: inside the august halls of Congress where the Spanish language used to have a stronghold. Besides, we already know what we want. I couldn’t make it any more simpler than this: Spanish is an official language of the Philippines. It is time to take action to “relegalize” it. Active solidarity and participation is the key. Get organized! Action speaks louder, words are lame. It is too late to plan for the 2010 Philippine National Elections. But we still have plenty of time to organize and mobilize this party-list group for the 2013 Philippine General Election (tentatively on 13 May 2013) wherein all 240 seats in the House of Representatives will be contested.

If there is a need to reorganize the Propaganda Movement, so be it. But this time around, the struggle is different. The atmosphere is more politically hostile than before. But the cause nobler; the advocacy much bolder. We are going up against a fortified wall built with hatred and fear and ignorance. But with our collective will –and with prayers– we can all do it. And this we do not only for ourselves but for future generations…

It is time we go back to our roots.

No es, ciertamente por motivos sentimentales o por deferencia a la gran nación española que dio a medio mundo su religión, su lenguaje y su cultura, que profesamos devoción a este idioma y mostramos firme empeño en conservarlo y propagarlo, sino por egoísmo nacional y por imperativos del patriotismo, porque el español ya es cosa nuestra propia, sangre de nuestra sangre, y carne de nuestra carne, porque así lo quisieron nuestros mártires, héroes y estadistas del pasado, y sin él será trunco el inventario de nuestro patrimonio cultural; porque si bien es verdad que la Revolución y la República de Malolos y la presente República fueron obra del pueblo, también lo es que los que prepararon y encauzaron eran intelectuales que escribieron en castellano sus libros, sus discursos, sus panfletos y sus ensayos, para realizar obra de doctrina y labor de propaganda; porque seria trágico que llegase el día que para leer a Rizal, a del Pilar, a Mabini, a Adriático, a Palma, a Arellano y a Osmeña, los filipinos tuviéramos que hacerlo a través de traducciones bastardas, en fin, porque el español es una tradición patria que si tiene raíces en nuestra historia también las tiene en las entrañas de nuestra alma, y porque el español es el “ábrete, Sésamo” de la cueva encantada que guarda, como tesoros imperecederos, los más altos pensares y los más altos sentires de que ha sido capaz el hombre desde la mañana de la civilización. –Claro M. Recto–

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