Monday, August 20, 2007

President Quezon and King Canute's Lesson

The 1935 Constitution states: Art. XIV Section 3. The Congress 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. In 1937, Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon signed Executive Order No. 134, "Proclaiming the National Language of the Philippines Based on Tagalog".

More than just based upon it, Tagalog was renamed "Pilipino" -- in which thin disguise it became the "common national language." Or did it?

The 1973 Constitution and its language provisions are discussed at length by Marvin Aceron (La Vida Lawyer) in a June post

From 1973: "Section 3. (1) This Constitution shall be officially promulgated in English and Pilipino, and translated into each dialects spoken by over fifty thousand people, and into Spanish and Arabic, in case of conflict, the English text shall prevail.

(2) The National Assembly shall take steps towards the development and formal adoption of a common national language to be known as Filipino.

(3) Until otherwise provided by law, English and Pilipino shall be the official languages."

When the adoption of the 1973 Constitution was finally declared, the national language was supposed to be multi-language based, but the multi-lingualists did not appear to be the clear winner. The real outcome was contingent upon how the Batasang Pambansa was to evolve the multi-language based Filipino as the 1973 Constitution mandated.
1987 Founding Father Joaquin Bernas, S.J. weighs in on the National Language issue with Filipino or Pilipino or Tagalog? noting a recent heated debate over it in the House of Representatives. He explains the subtle distinction between "Filipino" and "Pilipino" as used in the 1987 charter which he helped to draft.
Bernas: "Under the 1987 Constitution, the basic policy on language is stated in Section 6 of Article XIV. It 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 and other languages. Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.”

As can be seen, Filipino, which was seen as a dream by the 1973 Constitution, is now categorically declared the “national language.” While the 1987 Constitution has retained the distinction between Filipino and Pilipino, it in effect has demoted Pilipino, the more developed language, in constitutional stature. In its stead, Filipino has been made the national and official language.
If I may summarize what has happened:

1935 A common national language is mandated by the Constitution.

1937 President Quezon proclaims Tagalog, renamed Pilipino, to be that common national language.

1973 A common national language is again mandated by the new Constitution, to be called Filipino, thus demoting Quezon's Pilipino, aka Tagalog, from "national language" to "official language, one of two along with English.

1987 The Filipino referred to in the 1973 Constitution was elevated to the status of that "common national language" even though in the short interval of 14 years Congress did not pass any law or do anything to "evolve" Filipino any further, for example by incorporating "Philippine and other languages" into the Pilipino of Commonwealth President Quezon as the 1973 charter mandated.

In a sense therefore, the "political deception" of the 1930s, in which Tagalog aka Pilipino became the national language, was continued in 1987, which proclaimed Filipino aka Pilipino unevolved, aka Tagalog as the common national language. The only real constant was the English language, the official language in which all the National Language making by successive governments and Constitutions was being conducted.

That, in my view is the SUBLIMINAL or SUBLINGUAL aspect of this whole thing. English is our official and real national language. Period.

But there is a deeper kind of deception, or common delusion that runs through all three Constitutional stabs at the common national language idea.

Perhaps it is IMPOSSIBLE to decree, legislate or even will into existence a common national language in an archipelago surrounded by oceans of language. Ethnologue lists 175 distinct languages in the Philippines, including the biggies like Cebuanao, Tagalog, Ilokano, Pampango, etc.

A national language is not like the national bird or the national flower, which you can just designate by law and that alone makes it so. NOT SO with such a mysterious and powerful thing as language.

From 1935 to 1973 to 1987 to 2007 the common thread in the thinking of our leaders and constitutionalists is the hopelessly vain and demonstrably nilpotent concept that a common national language can be politically and legislatively willed into existence.

Yet, even if between 1973 and 1987 some national language institute had indeed been busily "evolving" Pilipino and other Philippine languages into Filipino, they would only have produced a Frankenstein Monster composed of Tagalog, Ilokano, Pampango, Cebuano, Bicolano, Tausug, etc. that for sure NO ONE at all speaks in any such artifically defined configuration.

Language is the most powerful, most viral, most infectious of all the MEMES, for Language is the Meme that carries all other memes into our brains, and remains therein the actual "container" of those memes. Simply put, every idea that enters our head is immediately labelled in the language that it arrives in. Thus both payload and carrier occupy and suffuse into the newly entered brain.

Unfortunately for our common national language idea, it has been arriving in the brains of politicians, academics, and legislators in neither, Tagalog nor Pilipino nor Filipino, but in the very language in which you are reading this post!

For when you look at 1935, 1973 and 1987, it is very clear what the Lingua Anglica of the Filipinos truly is--the very language in which those pious incantations to conjure up the Genie of a Common National Language were themselves written and debated to this day.

Here is Manuel L. Quezon in that 1937 radio broadcast from Malacanan Palace: "It affords me an indescribable satisfaction to be able to announce to you that on this the 41st anniversary of the martyrdom of the founder and greatest exponent of Philippine nationalism, I had the privilege of issuing, in pursuance of the mandate of the Constitution and of existing law, an Executive Order designating one of the native languages as the basis for the national language of the Filipino people."

There must be some irony in the fact that Jose Rizal was a Spanish writer, even if he was the First Filipino, but President Quezon may have inadvertently smothered the common national language idea in its infant bed with such surpassingly beautiful English in birthing it. And the framers of every Constitution written since then have participated in the same infanticide while hoping Francisco Balagtas will be reincarnated in their best laid plans and progeny.

As it turns out, King Canute had better luck commanding the oceans to stop their ceaseless rolling, not knowing 'tis the Moon commands the tides.

In the 100 years since the Supreme Court and the Legislature have existed, what we have in the stream of official language are all the laws and decisions, debates and deliberations of these two branches of government whose entire output comes in the form of WORDS of a very powerful sort.

But this is now an objective and irreversible FACT: During the first Century of the Philippines as a democratically constituted republic English has been the medium of official communications of the government. It is the language in which every Constitution, save Malolos, has been originally written and promulgated. It is the language in which is written and promulgated, virtually every single law enacted by Congress and every decision rendered by the Courts.

The MEMORY of our Republic, the record of its existence during its first century, is ineradicably cast in the MEME of the English language. Thus even if by magic a national language is made tomorrow based on one or more or all of the 175 officially recognized languages in the Philippine Archipelago, it would have to contend with that First Century's worth of English grammar and composition.

Father Bernas ended yesterday's PDI column piece with a question: "So, when Congressman Lopez spoke at the Batasan in celebration of Linggo ng Wika, did he speak in Filipino, Pilipino or Tagalog?"

if I were to guess, and knowing the habits of these Lower House talakitoks as Miriam Defensor Santiago calls them, I'm willing to bet you Rep. Lopez was thinking in English and translating into Pinoy English, Pinglish, which is the largest single English dialect in the world, when you count its native speakers. Since he was quoting and addressing all of the above Constitutions and linguistic history, how could he possibly avoid it?

But there is something that English has in common with Tagalog that was truly new only in the 1987 Constitution and a year 2000 Supreme Court decision we've been discussing here recently. King Canute should be rolling around laughing in his grave about this...and Jose Rizal too:

Both English and Tagalog are NON-INDIGENOUS languages according to the Supreme Court.


blackshama said...

This should be the subject of research by esteemed academics from the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy of the almost century old University of the Philippines!

Is Pilipino a common ancestor of Filipino? Do Tagalog, Pilipino and Filipino belong to one clade?

Language evolution can be modeled by Hennig's cladistics methods. Evolutionary models may give us insight how adaptive Filipino is. Does Filipino confers fitness? Now that we have loosed out the Dawkinian meme word!

Nonetheless evolutionary trajectories cannot be legislated or even fixed by legal instruments.
Canute, King of England and Denmark realized that. Also academics from the great CSSP can't stop language evolution and neither they can direct it. Even Lee Kwan Yew flopped in this enterprise in his island fief of Singapore.

BTW, the UP was conceived using American and English memes. I find it extremely silly that this so called "nationalist" university has incessantly cut itself from its historical contextual roots.

There is some irony why the UP Charter fails the last legislative hurdle. The UP in its attempt to redefine itself, has become maladaptive in the Dawkinian sense! The Congress probably can't get it.

And so is the Filipino orthography that is used only in Palma Hall (which people outside find so hilarious).

And that beauty sash of a sablay is also emblematic of this maladaptiveness.

DJB Rizalist said...

right you are blackshama. so many wonderful tools that could be used. But it seems congress has never done anything to "evolve" Tagalog into Pilipino into Filipino into a full fledged national language. Thus the truth is: Filipino is Pilipino is Tagalog, 70 years after Quezon decreed it.

sometimes i think the whole attempt to create a national language by edict or constitution (all in english!) is what prevented that very thing from happening!