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The Filipino people and the Spanish language (according to Quezon)

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The Latin American people believed and feel that we Filipinos form past of that vast family, the children of Spain. Thus, although Spain ceased to govern those countries many years ago and although another nation is sovereign in the Philippines, those Latin-American peoples feel themselves as brothers to the people of the Philippines. It is the Spanish language that still binds us to those peoples, and the Spanish language will bind us to those peoples eternally if we have the wisdom and patriotism of preserving it.
—Manuel Quezon—

The abovementioned Quezon quote was culled from the book Chulalongkorn’s Elephants: The Philippines in Asian History (Looking Back 4) by renowned historian Ambeth Ocampo. The said book is available in popular bookstores nationwide for only ₱95.00. It would make a perfect Christmas gift for history buffs.

Why Spanish?

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WHY SPANISH
Jorge Domecq

Señor Don Jorge Domecq, Spanish ambassador to the Philippines.

On Wednesday, November 23, language teachers and experts from all over the region will assemble in the Instituto Cervantes de Manila for the Second Conference of Spanish as a Foreign Language in Asia and the Pacific which will be inaugurated by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte. Many will remember the common heritage and the historical bonds between our two countries but wonder why reviving the Spanish language is an issue of interest in the Philippines as we enter the second decade of the 21st century.

Way back in 1937, President Manuel L. Quezon, referring to Spanish, said that “the Latin-American people believe and feel that we Filipinos form part of that vast family, the children of Spain. Thus, although Spain ceased to govern those countries many years ago and although another nation is sovereign in the Philippines, those Latin-American peoples feel themselves as brothers to the people of the Philippines. It is the Spanish language that still binds us to those peoples eternally if we have the wisdom and patriotism of preserving it.”

However, the 1987 Philippine Constitution abolished Spanish as an official language of this country. Although this decision could have been avoided, the truth of the matter is that the majority of Filipinos then no longer used Spanish in their daily lives and therefore the constitutional reform only represented a statement of fact.

It makes no sense to look back on the Spanish language just as an element of our common past, which is no longer there in our efforts to enhance our bilateral relations, to get to know each other better and to better understand our history and culture. We must admit, and we would be foolish not to do so, that there is so much about the Filipino culture that can only be understood fully if we have knowledge of the Spanish language.

Without forgetting Rizal, we can affirm that the “Golden Age” of Philippine literature (which paradoxically coincided with the American period in the Philippines and as Spanish began to disappear from all official communications) produced first-class writers like Pedro Paterno, Isabelo de los Reyes, Apolinario Mabini, José Palma and Fernando Mª Guerrero, who wrote all their works in Spanish. We must note that more than 20 percent of Tagalog words are of Spanish origin, although many of the popular expressions have a slightly different meaning. The oldest and some of the most important documents found in the National Archives of the Philippines or in the archives of the University of Santo Tomás can only be best understood and interpreted if one is fluent in Spanish. I am happy to say that we are working closely with Filipino authorities and some private institutions in the country to reverse this situation, among other things, by providing language training to the archivist who will have to ensure that the history that is there will continue to benefit future generations. All these efforts are commendable and need to be continued.

However, that is not the real reason why we are obliged to preserve and promote Spanish among the young and future generations of Filipinos.

Spanish must not be viewed as some archaic and dead language like Latin, that most Filipinos above the age of 50 remember as a compulsory subject in school, which they did not like and which for them was just a waste of time. Spanish should not be regarded either as a language of the elite spoken among Spanish mestizo families or as a legacy of a past that no longer exists. Spanish, along with the English language, is one of the only two global means that exist for communication (even if Chinese is the largest spoken language in the world). Today, more than 500 million people speak Spanish. It is also the second most studied language and the third most used on the Internet.

Furthermore, as far as the Philippines is concerned, Spanish can be a fundamental tool for many young Filipinos seeking employment in call centers or BPO businesses in this country or trying to get a better employment abroad as seafarers, nurses, social workers, etc. The United States is the main land of promise for the citizens of this country, and there are nearly 50 million North Americans who speak Spanish as their mother tongue. In addition, many Latin-American countries are notably increasing their trade and investment relations with Southeast Asian countries, gradually shifting their economic focus toward the Pacific.

If only Spanish were commonly spoken in the Philippines, along with the English language, the Philippines would become the next unbeatable business hub in Asia.

Since I arrived in Manila less than a year ago, I have been constantly asked about the relevance of Spanish in the Philippines of today. I would always reply by saying that I am very confident that Spanish is under no threat of disappearing. Manila has the third biggest Instituto Cervantes in the world in terms of number of students (an annual enrolment of 6,500) and at present, it can hardly take in more students. The real issue is whether we are ready to face the challenge of providing the young generations of Filipinos with the necessary academic backing that will enable them to study Spanish as a language of choice that will open for them a wealth of opportunities in employment. To this end, I hope to work closely with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education.

*******

This article was first published in Inquirer.net.

Spanish for English

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Thanks to midfielding1 (a YouTube user who uploaded the video), we can now listen to President Manuel L. Quezon giving a speech in Spanish! See video below (at 3:02):

President Manuel Quezon learned English in only 18 days (and not three months as I wrote in the comments box of that video in YouTube, my mistake; three months was actually the time it took for another great Spanish-speaking Filipino, Claro M. Recto, to learn and MASTER the English language). Quezon’s primary languages were both Spanish and Tagalog. But like most Filipinos of his time, he was more articulate in Spanish.

Yes, I said MOST Filipinos. Because you see, it is not taught in our classrooms that when the US invaded (not saved) the Philippines in 1899, they killed around 1,250,000 Filipinos — that is about 1/6 of the population during that time! And they murdered more Filipinos in such a short span of time compared to those who perished in more than three centuries of Spanish rule! And worse, more Spanish-speaking Filipinos also perished in the last world war. Those who survived either migrated to Spain or to the US. And the few remaining are now regarded as a very small and almost forgotten minority.

Today, there are more or less 3,000 Filipinos who use Spanish as their primary language, i.e., they think in Spanish (the 1990 census declared that there were 2,660 Spanish-speaking Filipinos).

In my family, there are only two of us who use Spanish: me and my dad’s sister, María Rubia E. Alas. Before us, the last member of the family who spoke in Spanish was Tía Rubia’s maternal uncle, Windalino Évora y Bonilla of Unisan, Quezon province. Uncle Carding was also fluent in French (another cognate of Spanish); he died in 1997, the last Spanish-speaker of Unisan town. Sadly, the rest of the family seem not to care about the language anymore. But I am trying to conserve it by teaching it to my children: my nine-year-old daughter Krystal is already conversational; my five-year-old son Momay can speak and understand the language moderately; my second son, Jefe, who is already two, can comprehend the language (I can already give out orders to him in Spanish); And I plan to make Juanito, who is barely a year old, a pure Spanish-speaker. Actually, my children’s primary language is Spanish. But since their playmates and our neighbors and my wife’s relatives all speak in Tagalog, I’m having a hard time maintaining the language up in their psyche.

Going back to President Quezon, one main reason why he learned English that fast is because of his Spanish. Although English is a West Germanic language, it is also a cognate of Spanish. Countless words in Spanish resemble those in English. Take the following words for example:

Biblia / bible
botón / button
mantener / to maintain
mártir / martyr
política / politics
responsable / responsible
sufrir / to suffer
teléfono / telephone
televisión / television
tolerar / to tolerate

Many proper names in Spanish also have their English counterparts:

Jesucristo / Jesus Christ
Clara / Clare
Juan / John
José / Joseph
María / Mary

That is the reason why the first generation of Filipinos under the American Occupation were much better speakers and writers in the English language compared to our generation. National Artist for Literature Nicomedes “Nick” Joaquín (1917-2004) is regarded as the greatest Filipino writer in English. But his primary language was Spanish. The quintessential poet in English and another National Artist for Literature, José García Villa (1908-1997, son of Simeón Villa, a physician of President Emilio Aguinaldo and a close associate of General Antonio Luna), also had Spanish as his first language. The Philippine Star’s Máximo Solivén (1929-2006) also spoke in flawless Spanish. And who could ever forget playwright and thespian Wilfrido Mª Guerrero (1917-1995) whose “Wanted: A Chaperon”, among other plays, is now considered a classic? Guerrero is a descendant of Lorenzo Guerrero (1835-1904), another native hispanoparlante. He first wrote in Spanish before shifting to English. And many of his plays were even staged in the US!

The abovementioned great men of Philippine letters had previous notions of Spanish, a daughter of the Latin language, therefore a basis by itself of English. That is why the English of the early 20th-century Filipinos were much superb compared to ours.

And that is why teaching Spanish in Philippine schools is crucial to the government’s efforts to make Filipinos fluent in English. The 24 units of Spanish should be brought back to colleges and universities. Imagine… Spanish has been with us for more than three hundred years. English for just a hundred or so. But why put so much importance to the latter? Isn’t it that Spanish is a global language, too? English was never ours in the first place. But Spanish is something that is already ours…

“Spanish is a national, Filipino tradition, for not only has it seeds in our history but roots that saturate the very core of our national soul and being, for it is the “open sesame” to the enchanted cavern that keeps like enduring treasures the highest thoughts and the deepest feelings of our race since the dawn of civilization.” –Claro M. Recto–

What are you lookin' at?

Special thanks to Inu Yasha (a reader of FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES) for sharing the MLQ video to us! =)

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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