Jose Rizal's language. Why did our hero not write in Tagalog?

clip_image002MANILA: Some emails are enlightening; some are frightening; in this case we have both. Here is Rizal resurrected; here is Rizal contradicting himself!

This morning I received email with attachments from a friend, and this is what I'm going to tell you about this time. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this one, because it's about the Tagalog language and my favorite hero and my new non-hero. So as not to embarrass anyone directly, I am going to use only the initials of the fellows involved (excluding my friend the email sender).

Apparently, IPG has made it his lifelong task to proselytize the Filipinos about Tagalog. He's all over the Internet! This is from his recent email (with little editing by me):

Minamahal na Mga Kababayan at Kapatid sa Lahi: (My translation: Beloved Countrymen and Brothers of the Race)

Sa paniwalaan ninyo o hinde, ang sadyang ugat ng KAHIRAPAN sa Ating Inang Bayan ay ganito: (Believe it or not, the root cause of the poverty of our Mother Country is this)

All ARGUMENTS circulating in our e-mails give valid reasons and illustrate Convincing Means on How to SOLVE POVERTY IN THE PHILIPPINES. However, a very basic flaw in the understanding by many of our thinkers can be simply stated, as:

Inadvertent DISREGARD Of the Intelligence Bequeathed to our race by our own national hero - Jose Rizal - which he simply stated, thus:

"Any nation which uses a foreign language is an accursed race on the face of the earth."

Which simply means that for as long as our government processes and the system of education are conducted in an alien / borrowed language, our country and people will remain pitifully mired in the bog of a DAMAGED CULTURE!

RA 7041 which was enacted during President Corazon Aquino's leadership at the instance of PAMANA (Ka Pule2's Group) in the Office of the President, and which served as the basis of the present KOMISYON NG WIKANG FILIPINO, has not been really and substantially implemented!

Even the HISTORIC Memorandum of President Marcos to his Cabinet, particularly to the Minister of Education and Culture, dated 17 January 1986 ... "to create the conditions in your respective ministries and other instrumentalities of the Government for the optimal promotion and development of Filipino as a national language" was torpedoed - one month and eight days after its issuance - by the US Marines, c/o the CIA, with the EDSA One uprising as "cover."

Let our nation's leaders - nay! ALL OF US - hearken to our hero's strident admonition and call, even BEYOND HIS GRAVE:

"Uno y otro olvidais que mientras un pueblo conserva su idioma conserva la prenda de un libertad, como el hombre su independencia mientras conserva su manera de pensar. El idioma es el pensamiento de los pueblos... Xxx." - Simoun

"Nalilimutan ng isa't isa sa inyo na samantalang ang isang baya'y nag-iingat ng kanyang wika, ay angkin niya ang sagisag ng kanyang kalayaan, katulad rin naman ng pag-aangkin ng tao sa kanyang pagsasarili habang iniingatan ang sariling pagkukuro. Ang wika'y siyang diwa ng mga bayan. Xxx." - Salin ni Maria Odullo de Guzman.

"One and all you forget that while a people preserves its language, it preserves the marks of its liberty, as a man preserves his independence while he holds to his own way of thinking. Language is the thought of the people... Xxx." - Translation by Charles B. Derbyshire

Need we say more?!

FAH: The quote, in Spanish, followed by translations, is from Jose Rizal's novel El Filibusterismo, Simoun speaking.

ECK's reply is this:

Your statement that our poverty is mainly due to the "damaged culture" resulting from the adoption of the English language as one of our national languages is an oversimplification. While there are two other official national languages for conduct of government business, namely the Wikang Pambansa (WP-based primarily on the Tagalog dialect) and Spanish, English has developed as the "lingua franca" of the people, because it is widely understood and spoken. The different groups of our indigenous people are most facile in the use of written and spoken of English than the WP and Spanish. Our gifted writers in English have produced a body of literature that is viable, permanent, and the envy of English-speaking peoples around the globe.

The world has seen the English language as the most convenient mode of communication among the different peoples and cultures. That our people are well-versed in the use of both written and spoken English is actually a blessing, and the Filipinos now have the reputation of being adept in that language for business, cultural and personal exchanges. That fact is definitely an advantage, and has seen foreign business establishments come to our land to conduct business. The call centers of our country are booming, topping India, which previously was the locus for call centers. Reason is that Filipinos speak better English than the Indians. This is a source of good jobs for our people.

The root of poverty in our country has many causes, the primary one being our high birth rate. Our nation has one of the highest birth rates in the world and that means more people to feed and to secure jobs for, as the years roll by. The economy cannot provide for the phenomenal population expansion, in terms of jobs. Hence, our work force has to go abroad to look for jobs, resulting in the Philippine Diaspora, which has been conservatively estimated to be between 15-20 million. The bright picture of this overseas labor force is that it continues to send back money to support relatives back home, estimated to be about $10 Billion yearly, sustaining the national economy even in times of depression.

The quotation you attributed to our national hero, Dr Jose P. Rizal, about "an accursed race" was written at another time and circumstance. The world has contracted since his time due to modern modes of communication and media resources, unknown during his time. The adoption of English as one of our national languages is now a favorable factor for national development and progress, contrary to your thesis, and will favor our progress in the days ahead. Bear the fact that our WP does not have the equivalences in scientific terms, hence that is its inherent deficiency. To adopt the WP as the sole language for our land would be unwise due to the inadequacy of WP in the wide ranges of scientific expression.

Yes, as a nation, we have inherent intelligence, which has been developed by our educational system. Our people have a great gift of knowledge acquisition, and our yearning for knowledge is well known the world over. In that sense, one of our greatest resources is our human population. And patriotism can still be instilled in our people when we use the English language. The British are patriotic in their language, English. The Americans are as patriotic by using the English language. We can teach our children our rich history of patriotism and nationalism in the English language just as well. The mode and content of learning are the important roles in any culture; the medium is secondary. Fortunately, the English language is versatile in all phases of expression.

To say that our adoption of a foreign language, English, is the root cause of our poverty is simplistic, false, and not rooted in reality. We should continue and intensify development of the English medium in our country, because that will lead to further economic and literary benefits for our entire people.

And here are some of IPG's counter-reply point by point (the rest I will not dignify by quoting them because they are merely rants); those of ECK are in italics, IPG in underline (both with little editing); with my translation also in italics:

ECK: Your statement that our poverty is mainly due to the "damaged culture" resulting from the adoption of the English language as one of our national languages is an oversimplification.

IPG: Anong bahagdan (percentage) sa palagay ninyo ang talagang dumudunong sa English? Maraming nalalaglag sa pag-aaral (school dropouts); at konting bahagi lamang ang dumurunong! My translation: What percentage do you think are those who are becoming more educated in English? There are many school dropouts, and there are only a few who are educated!

FAH: IPG, since the Filipinos are not well-educated as you claim, and since the nationalists have been in fact trying to educate us in Tagalog since the time of Manuel Luis Quezon, and since we have many school dropouts, shouldn't we blame Tagalog instead?

ECK: The different groups of our indigenous people are most facile in the use of written and spoken English than the WP and Spanish. Our gifted writers in English have produced a body of literature that is viable, permanent, and the envy of English-speaking peoples around the globe.

IPG: Iyan lamang po ang inyong akala; malayo po sa katotohanan. Kokonti lamang po ang GIFTED! Ang napakalaking bahagi ng ating mga kalahi ay mangmang SA SARILING BAYAN. Translation: That's only what you think; it is far from the truth. There are only a few who are GIFTED! The greater portion of our people are ignoramuses IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY.

FAH: Your opinion or mine? In his reply, IPG says what ECK says is just his opinion - which is the opinion of IPG! More: IPG replies as if he is the authority on this one. My retort to IPG: If as you claim there are more Filipinos who are ignoramuses, we must blame Tagalog (Filipino) because that's what the government has been insisting as the National Language and taught in schools in all these decades! Since the time of your beloved Manuel Luis Quezon, in case you forgot.

ECK: The world has seen the English language as the most convenient mode of communication among the different peoples and cultures.

IPG: Hindi po tumpak iyan; tayo lamang sa Pinas ang ganyan ang akala. Sa Tsina po baga, sa Japan, sa Taiwan, Indonesia, India, Korea (North & South), sa Vietnam, atbp. ay Ingles ang sinasalita? Translation: Sir, that is not correct; only we in the Philippines believe that. In China, in Japan, in Taiwan, Indonesia, India, Korea (North & South), in Vietnam etc, is English being spoken?

FAH: IPG's reply is a non-sequitur; it does not necessarily follow that in countries where English is not the native language, they don't understand English. The point is that English is the most convenient medium of communication the world over, period. Well, if IPG is not conversant in English, then it's not a convenient medium for him.

ECK: That our people are well-versed in the use of both written and spoken English is actually a blessing, and the Filipinos now have the reputation of being adept in that language for business, cultural and personal exchanges. That fact is definitely an advantage, and has seen foreign business establishments come to our land to conduct business.

IPG: Anong percentage po kaya ng ating population ang well-versed sa Ingles? Milyun-milyun ang tulala! Ang kinalabasan ng ating pambansang populasyon ay CONSUMERS; KASI'Y ANG BANSA NATIN AY NAGING MARKET PRESERVE NG USA! Translation: What percentage of the population do you think are well-versed in English? Millions are dumbfounded! What our population has turned out to be is CONSUMERS; because our country has become the market preserve of the USA!

FAH: IPG ignores the point made by ECK about our people being well-versed in English and insist on looking at those who are not. Well, okay, IPG, do you know why millions of Filipinos as you claim are dumbfounded (tulala o tanga?) when it comes to the English language? Because of the insistence of Manuel Luis Quezon and his cronies that we speak Tagalog as the National Language! Even my alma mater the University of the Philippines teaches in Tagalog those subjects that it should be teaching in English.

FAH: IPG's point that we Filipinos have become the market preserve of the USA is not correct - the ones who barely speak English have become so, and who are they? The Chinese in mainland China. Not to mention the Indians, who speak British English.

ECK: The call centers of our country are booming, topping India, which previously was the locus for call centers. Reason is that Filipinos speak better English than the Indians. This is a source of good jobs for our people.

IPG: We simply feed the gluttony of alien commerce in our land!

FAH: IPG, when we engage in commerce and it is in English, that is gluttony? When we engage in commerce in Tagalog and we make millions at the expense of other Filipinos, that is not gluttony?

ECK: Bear in mind the fact that our WP does not have the equivalences in scientific terms, hence that is its inherent deficiency.

IPG: Our former Institute of National Language had assiduously developed scientific equivalents in our language; but the program was systematically neglected: first by the plane crash of President Ramon Magsaysay …Succeeding events are too lengthy to enumerate!

FAH: IPG, wake up! You're thinking like old Jose Villa Panganiban. Your National Language will never be able to develop scientific equivalents of English terms - science is not in the vocabulary of the Tagalogs, nor the Ilocanos like me. We don't have a scientific culture, so to progress as a country, all we can do is import it lock, stock and barrel.

ECK: To adopt the Wikang Pambansa (WP) as the sole language for our land would be unwise due to the inadequacy of WP in the wide ranges of scientific expression. It's our national leaders' neglect which hampered the development of our WP.

IPG: Quezon's Language Week has been just like floating a toy WP paper boat on the English stream, which became lost before reaching the ocean! FVR's Proclamation No. 1041 for a National Language Month of August is just like the curse of Sisyphus who was punished by Zeus to repeatedly roll up a boulder to the top of the mountain. which, when he gets exhausted, rolls back again and again to the plains, until eternity! A language-month and eleven months of neglect has stunted the growth and development of our language!

FAH: IPG, the law that mandates Filipino (Tagalog) as the National Language has not been outlawed (it should be), so what are you saying months of neglect? Despite the law in its favor, the growth and development of Tagalog has been stunted by the neglect of the Tagalogs themselves. But I suspect that it is more this: Tagalog is incapable of growing and developing into a real national, much less an international language.

ECK: Yes, as a nation, we have inherent intelligence, which has been developed by our educational system. Our people have a great gift of knowledge acquisition, and our yearning for knowledge is well known the world over. In that sense, one of our greatest resources is our human population. And patriotism can still be instilled in our people when we use the English language.

IPG: The Filipinos having been thoroughly brainwashed by the Thomasites have become unpatriotic! And Rizal called them "renegades"!

FAH: Tagalog is the National Language of the Philippines, IPG, and if most of us have become unpatriotic, we must blame it on Tagalog, mustn't we? And why didn't Rizal write in Tagalog, tell me?

ECK: We can teach our children our rich history of patriotism and nationalism in the English language just as well.

IPG: Our future hopes of the Motherland would do better in our native language(s); if they are not being systematically neglected or destroyed.

FAH: Don't blame English, IPG. We have had about 80 years of Tagalog as the National Language and you are still complaining about patriotism and nationalism? You must blame it on Tagalog!

ECK: To say that our adoption of a foreign language, English, is the root cause of our poverty is simplistic, false, and not rooted in reality.

IPG: Our present states of national under-development - culturally and economically - are the true indications of our government's past errors.

FAH: Our present state of underdevelopment is the true indication of our government's past error in declaring Tagalog as the National Language.

ECK: We should continue and intensify development of the English medium in our country, because that will lead to further economic and literary benefits for our entire people.

IPG: On the contrary, only the OFWs will be able to help in the survival of their kindred!

FAH: Don't forget, IPG, that Tagalog is the current National Language of the Philippines. If only the OFWs who must speak English are able to survive and their families, then we should blame the local failure of survival of the Filipinos who are forced to speak Tagalog, shouldn't we?

Related to all that, someone blogged IPG's "English is the bane of RP's socio-economic and cultural life" (14 February 2012, La Solidaridad, laonlaan.blogspot.com),[1] where IPG emphasized the following 3 points:

(1) In the 7th chapter of the novel El Filibusterismo, our hero counseled thru Simoun: "Any nation which uses a borrowed language is an accursed race on the face of the earth." "Ang alinmang bansang hiram ang salita ay lahing walang palad sa balat ng lupa."

(2) Sa kanyang "Liham sa Mga Kababaihan ng Malolos" ay tinutulan din ni Rizal ang kanilang petisyon sa mga namamahalang Espanyol na ituro ang salitang Kastila sa mga paaralan. Translation: In his letter to the young girls of Malolos, Rizal also objected to the teaching of Spanish in school.

(3) Nung musmos pa siya ay sinulat niya ang tula: Sa Aking Mga Kababata at doon ay sinabing: "Ang hindi magmahal sa sariling wika ay mahigit sa hayop at malansang isda." Translation: When he was still a child, he wrote the poem "Sa Aking Mga Kababata" and said, "Those who do not love their own language are worse than smelly fish."

My counterpoints to IPG's powerpoints:

(1) "Any nation which uses a borrowed language" - That was Simoun speaking, not Rizal, in fiction. What did Rizal do in real life? He wrote in German (to his soul brother Ferdinand Blumentritt) and Spanish (to the intelligentsia in the Philippines and in Europe). Don't forget, IPG, Rizal's masterworks Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo were both written in Spanish! His articles in La Solidaridad were all in Spanish. He wasn't contradicting himself. That was proper and correct - you communicate in the language of your target reader, not the language that your politicians or nationalists say you must use.

(2) No, IPG, Rizal did not object to the teaching of Spanish in schools in that letter! Please never forget to go to the Internet and check your facts before you open your big mouse. For one, that letter had no title. In fact, Rizal wanted those young girls to learn and teach others. Those girls were going to study Spanish and he knew that, and that's why he wrote that letter to commend them!

(3) If IPG is correct in his analysis, since Rizal never wrote in Tagalog (except a few lines, like his letter to the young girls of Malolos), this national hero was worse than a smelly fish? No! It is IPG's analysis that is worse than a smelly fish. By the way, the original title is "Sa Aking Mga Kabata," not "Kababata." Actually, that oft-quoted line about "malansang isda" is not the main message of that poem. Years ago, I translated that poem into "To Kids Of My Own Time" (in English of course), and noted that the poem was actually about freedom. If you want to know more of what I have to say about that poem and Rizal, see my "A Dangerous Peace. Being About Rizal" (19 June 2007, americanchronicle.com). IPG, Rizal was Tagalog but not Tagalista.

A rabid nationalist is what IPG is; that's what all the above tells me, after all these years. Some people change; some people don't. From all indications, now that he is nearing 90, I think that when his time comes, he will go rabid.


[1] By the way, the correct alias of Jose Rizal writing in La Solidaridad was Laon Laang (Old Only), not Laong Laan (Old Ready).

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