It is not often that I am in agreement with the Commission on Higher Education, but on the matter of purging the college curriculum of Tagalog masquerading as the national language, I rise in sincere applause and commendation. There is hardly any teacher who does not complain about the virtually inexistent competence of our high school and college students in English. Decades ago in the high school seminary, our English teachers concerned themselves with teaching us to write elegantly! Today, getting students to write complete, coherent sentences observing agreement between subject and verb is almost an insurmountable challenge to teachers who, because of this effort alone, can make a lawful claim to hazard pay. Repeating a lesson with a sense of purposelessness is hazardous, after all, to one’s sanity!
Why should we be surprised that we have produced generations of students for whom the works of Shakespeare remain unheard and unread and might as well by written in Egyptian hieroglyphs, and whose notion of research is producing a collage from paragraphs “cut” from a potpourri of online sources, “pasted” together in some senseless collage? How does one teach literature to students for whom spelling the word correctly is already a Herculean achievement? It is our directionless, vacillating, ambiguous and clearly stupid language policy in education that has produced all this.
Sariling atin? In what sense? For Ilocanos, Ibanags, Kapampangans, Pangasinenses, Cebuanos, Warays— in short, for the majority of Filipinos, the language imposed upon them as the “national language” was not theirs. Our policy makers and (mis)educators shamelessly marginalized every ethnicity other than Tagalog, making it a matter of rule that except for mathematics and the sciences, all subjects were to be taught in the language of Manilenos! And the media conspired, submerging all other Filipino languages in a deluge of moronic dramas, radio programs and advertisements in Tagalog.
But the fact is that the world does not speak Tagalog, and for many years now, our Asian neighbors, Koreans and Japanese in particular, have sought Filipino teachers not to learn Tagalog, but to be taught English, our squandered capital! As for Rizal and his “malansang isda” he might as well have been talking about himself because approximately sixty percent of his literary output was in Spanish. “Ang hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika”—and for us Ibanags, that means Ibanag, for Ilocanos, Ilocano, down the variegated strands of Philippine languages that we should have been proud of. What we have instead is a shameful example of “cultural invasion”: not by Spanish that we stupidly expunged from national life, neither English, that we are stupidly trying to forget, but by Tagalog, the language of the region around Manila that the rules of the imperial capital have haughtily foisted on an entire nation.
We have no medical tomes in Tagalog. We have no law reports in Tagalog. We do not have the works of sociologists, economists and philosophers in Tagalog. It is not worth the effort. It should be a matter of pride that we are a nation of different ethnicities, characterized by that remarkable facility with languages that allows Davaenos to speak Ilocano, and Ibanags, to communicate in Tagalog without having to sacrifice their own languages before the bogus shrine of national unity! It should be a matter of shame that one region has imposed its language on an entire nation—even if, in most cases, there was hardly any sustained resistance. Invasion remains offensive, even when the invaders make their way through guile and subterfuge into the welcome embrace of their victims.