NATIONALISM: THE PHILIPPINES’ EXPERIENCE THUS FAR’

In line with the questions raised by some of our friends on the topic below, I’m posting this article.

i would like to apologize that I misquoted Bro. Andrew’s book, it was not 1% but 2.8% – that’s the percentage of Filipinos according to him that spoke in Spanish (at the turn of the century, 1900’s).

A REVIEW OF BROTHER ANDREW’S BOOK: “LANGUAGE AND

NATIONALISM: THE PHILIPPINES’ EXPERIENCE THUS FAR’

By Pío Andrade

(Historian, Researcher and regular contributor of the Philippine-Chinese weekly magazine TULAY published by Teresita Ang See in Binondo, Manila. Author of the best selling book, ‘The fooling of America’.)

Brother Andrew’s treatise “Language and Nationalism” was praised in the forword by Cecilio López as “the most exhaustive and up-to-date treatment of the language problem in the Philippines”.

It may have been up-to-date when it was published, but by no means could it be described as exhaustive. One look at the list of references shows the absence of very important sources such as the following but which were not consulted at all:

1)The Official Census of 1903;

2)The Ford Report of 1916, which shows that the use of Spanish

was more widespread than commonly admitted, and,

3)Velenzuela’s History of Philippine Journalism.

There are many big and important facts on the language question that are not mentioned at all in Brother Andrew’s book, such as the fact about Spanish being the language of the Revolution, the role of Spanish in effecting the unity of the various Filipino ethnic groups which made the 1896-99 Revolution possible; the role of the Chinese Filipinos in disseminating the language of Cervantes all over the country due to the fact that the Philippines was the most thoroughly educated Asian colony in the last decades of the 19th century, and, the fact about the much higher circulation of Spanish language dailies than either the Tagalog or English dailies in the 1930s.

Brother Andrew González, FSC, uncritically accepted the figure of 2.8% as the percentage of Filipinos who can speak and write in Spanish at the turn of the century given by Cavada Méndez y Vigo’s book. This book was printed in 1870, just seven years after the establishment of the Philippine Public chool system in 1863 by Spain.

Surely by 1900, more than 2.8% of the Filipinos were speaking and writing in Spanish and there was incontrovertible proof behind this assertion.

Don Carlos Palanca’s Memorandum to the Schurman Commission listed 8 Spanish-speaking provinces in the islands in addition to the 9 Tagalog-speaking provinces which, according to him, are also Spanish-speaking. To this total of 17 Spanish speaking provinces, Don Carlos added that there were only 5 other provinces where “only a little Spanish is spoken”. Don Carlos Palanca was the gobernadorcillo of Binondo and the head of the Gremio de Mestizos. (Chinese Christians were the ones referred to as Mestizos since the Spanish half-breed was called Criollo).

William Howard Taft’s 1901 statement after his tour of the Philippines clearly says that Spanish was more widespread than Tagalog.

This fact about Spanish being even more widespread than Tagalog in the entire archipelago is further attested to by the well-documented fact that American soldiers during the Fil-American war had to speak bamboo Spanish to all Filipinos, —-not bamboo Tagalog—-, in order to be understood without any interpreter. There is still that other fact about the early occupational government of the American Military in the Philippines having to publishe, in Spanish, not in Tagalog, all its official communications in order to be understood by the Filipino people. An English translation was appended whenever necessary for the consumption of the Americans themselves.

This official use of Spanish by the Americans themselves went on up to 1910 when they started to issue communications in English but still followed by a corresponding Spanish translation of the same. In view of this fact, if a national Filipino national language needed to be established other than English, the correct choice should have been Spanish, not Tagalog.

A big fault of Brother Andrew’s book lies in his uncritical acceptance of Teodoro Agoncillo’s History of the Revolution. Agoncillo’s History book has already been proven to be heavily distorted by omission of facts, false interpretation of events and documents and by outright lies.. The omission of these other facts was done because the same could not be reconciled with Mr. Agoncillo’s own personal bias in the narration and teaching of Philippines history.

An example of Brother Andrew’s fault with regard his uncritical acceptance of Agoncilo’s distortion of history is the conclusion that the founding members of the KKK (Katipunan) were Filipinos of lowly origin. The founding Supremo of the KKK is Andrés Bonifacio and it is not so that he is of lowly origin. Bonifacio was definitely not a poor man when he got into the Katipunan. Nor were the other Katiputan charter members. Agoncillo also failed to mention that the Philippine economy was booming during that decade and that Bonifacio, unlike most other Filipinos, approved of the torture of a captive Friar.

The years 1900 to the Commonwealth period (1935-1941) were not well researched by Brother and “Doctor” Andrew Gonzalez. Thus, the language issue affecting the Filipinos then are not well discussed. Had Brother Andrew researched more on the language issue of that period, he would have found out that as late as the 1930s Spanish dailies out-circulated both the Tagalog and English language dailies.

He would have found out also that the use of Spanish during the following decade of 1940 was bound to even get stronger had it not been for the devastating 1943-45 war.

The strength of Spanish is evidenced by the majority of cinema films shown between 1900 and 1940. These films, even if made in Holywood were in Spanish subtitles and talkies. And several of the Philippines produced full-length films had an all-Spanish talkies.

Another important fact not found in Brother Andrew’s book is the role of the Spanish language in assimilating and integrating the Chinese emigrants into mainstream Filipino society. The 100,000 Chinese in the Philippines at the turn of the century spoke Spanish in varying degrees of proficiency. The Philippine Chinese Chamber of Commerce since its establishment in 1904 wrote its minutes in Spanish until 1924. When they ceased using Spanish in their official meetings and minutes, they reverted to Chinese, not English. Today, strange as it may seem, the last bastion of whatever Spanish language is left are the Chinese Filipinos, and not those of Spanish descent except the Padilla Zóbel family that maintains the annual Premio Zóbel.

Finally, Brother and “doctor” Andrew González treated very superficially the question of nationalism and language. There should have been more discussions on the point that adopting a foreign tongue, or using foreign words, are not per se against nationalism. If nationalism is love for ones country and foreign words and language can best help literacy and communication, it is nationalistic doing so.

Neither did Brother and Doctor Andrew González realize that nationalism in the question of language can be destructive as has been the case in the Philippines. Doing away with Spanish orthography and the cartilla, the educational authorities did away with a very inexpensive and very effective method for teaching reading skills to the young Filipinos.

Exterminating Spanish in the schools made the Filipinos today estranged to their Hispanic past and made Filipinos prey to nationalist historians who misled several generations of Filipinos in the sense that Spain had done the Philippines very little good when the contrary is true.

What is the prime purpose of language? Is it not to make us understand one another better. Yet, Brother and Doctor Andrew González’ book gives the impressions that showing nationalism is the prime purpose of language.

To be fair to Brother Andrew González, we want to think that he is a victim of too many distortions found in Philippine History including the history of language among Filipinos. Thus, the remark of Cecilio López in his introduction to Brother Andrew’s book “Language and Nationalism”, that the same “is the most exhaustive and up-to-date treatment of the language problem in the Philippines” is only true in the sense that the very few books on the same subject are mostly superficial.

Perhaps it will be correct for us to recall a Spanish saying that prays: En el país de los ciegos el tuerto es rey.

Thanks to Senor Gomez for sending me this article.

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11 responses to “NATIONALISM: THE PHILIPPINES’ EXPERIENCE THUS FAR’

  • nold

    Thanks Ken. I would have to agree with you on that. The discovery of the islands belongs not just to one man, we are all learning how global it is even back then, and in this diversity we all should find invaluable lessons on how these foreigners, whatever purpose they had in mind, has helped shaped the islands.

  • Ken

    nold:

    One way to research the Chinese discovery of the Philippines is to read Gavin Menzies works, esp. “1421, The year China discovered America,” which has references to the Philippines. To discover does not mean to have to establish a state, but to find something that no one else as done other than the original inhabitants of a land, since it was a mere OPINION and opinions can and will always have flaws and are not the truth.

  • nold

    Let’s all have fun studying history, its far more interesting when we ‘question’ what is being taught, you could always comeback and do that here po, your more than welcome Sir Art. Thanks!

  • art o.villanueva

    nold, many thanks for enlightening me with discovery vs. creation as far as the discovery of the Philippines is concerned.

    Now I can move on to use that application to other countries
    like America to start with.

  • nold

    Thank you Sir’s, this post by Mr. Andrade was a contribution to my site but let me share what are my thoughts on this topic.

    Yes I agree, Chinese, Mohameddan Arabs and all the other seafaring traders (settlers) did discover the islands long before the Spaniards came, this is undisputable. Actually, Portuegese were said to have docked somewhere in Manila as early as 14th century – living behind a relic, the Sto Niño in Malate said to be the oldest Catholic icon, older than the one in Cebu. So if we are to base the definition on who came first, I guess the list would be longer than what I have here.

    But this people discovered the Islands, thousands of it and the beautiful people, and their warring tribes – it was not a nation yet. For it will take the Spaniard’s rule to unite this nations geography and demography.

    So ‘discovery’ here in this discussion would be, in my opinion, the ‘creation’ of a state, government and all the other institution that paved the way to the unification of all this islands and tribes into a community, which would later become an identity and a country.

  • jose v. dela riva

    I concur with Mr. A. Villanueva’s observation regarding the Chinese discovering the Philippines ahead of the Spaniards. Could carbon dating be a possibility to prove this point by examining very,very old sunken junks and just as old chinese potteries found near our shores by divers. Thank you and hope you will continue with your very honorable work in teaching the new generation of Filipinos in our country regarding our history.

  • art o.villanueva

    Sometimes I want to believe, the Chinese discovered the
    Philippines ahead of the Spaniards. Hoping Mr. Andrade will
    make a comment on this. Thanks.

  • art o.villanueva

    Sometime I want to believe, the Chinese discovered the
    Philippines ahead of the Spaniards. Hoping Mr. Andrade will
    make a coment on this. Thanks.

  • Pepe Alas

    QUESTION: “Why some violent reactions in the previous post and hate messages on Spain’s legacy?” (Traveler on Foot)

    ANSWER: “There’s no end of stupid people.” (Adolf Hitler)

  • nold

    The comments were ok with me. Violent reactions is something I usually get, with the usual ‘apologist’, ‘hispanist’ etc etc – there is nothing I can do.

    The crimes you mentioned really did took place, I’m sure of this. I’ve researched on this myself (in Malolos for example, I got to speak with the older people and they did confirm some abusive Friar practices told them by their parents). This are the ‘crimes of the times’ as MLQ later would call it, this things happened when we were under the US, Japan and even when we were already under our Filipino leaders.

    A balance, fair assessment of our past is in order.

    For example, the ‘first ever’ people power took place in Intramuros. When hundreds of Las Piñero’s peacefully protested the transfer of Friar Ezekiel (later, St. Ezekiel Moreno). The Saint was a great man. The Recollect friars, if you’ve ever been in Las Pinas and interviewed the older generation seems to have an unblemished record, for some, the Recollect Friar Cera is the town founder, a hero to many. Curiously enough, I have never heard of this things until I studied the towns history, this things are always excluded from our text books. Why? the answer lies in our studies and research.

    Why is it that only the wrongs were highlighted, the contributions negated? have we forgot who we are? we are more American today than Filipino, and if you read history books, this is fine – but Spanish, bad, evil.

    My point is that we should study more of our hispano-filipino past, be objective and see for ourselves if what was taught to us by the this Americans and Filipino ‘Nationalist’ historians are really true. In my case, I’ve uncovered a lot a things that really changed my views.The ‘hate’ you were referring to is the end result of our mis-education. Hate blinds people. Always keep an open mind, and question everything.

    With regards to the Castillian language, and the study of it, Nick Joaquin left this piece of advise to this confused generation, ” A Filipino who knows Tagalog, Spanish and English will, with Tagalog, be mentally moving in the world of oral tradition, with Spanish in culture, and with English, in the electronic era, and the fact that he may, in Tagalog, still cherish a faith in amulets should not reflect on his standing as a citizen of the contemporary world…”

    You should study Spanish now, Mr. Traveler on Foot! 🙂

  • Traveler on Foot

    I love to learn Spanish. I find it a challenge to go through antique documents and study primary sources when I do reseach on places I go to in our country.

    Why some violent reactions in the previous post and hate messages on Spain’s legacy?

    Sus! Sure its difficult to forget what occurred in pass. But being not forgiving in the sins of those countries who conquered, abused, raped, tortured, tormented us keeps us from moving forward as a nation. It’s about time that we think smart and act smart.

    Let’s study our history and rediscover places from our historic pass and promote our heritage so others will be aware of it. Adding some skills, like learning a new language may give objectivity to our study.

    One way we can be critical about current events is to be knowledgeable of the past… but we should get rid of the hate.

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