BRIDGING THE GAP
The Filipino language as spirit of national identity
Today, there is no denying the necessity of learning how to speak and write in the English language, especially that it has become the language of globalization. The Philippine government itself has made pronouncements with regards to the importance of being good speakers of English in order for the Filipinos to be globally competitive. This is done by the continuous use of English as the medium of instruction in schools and by making it as the preferred language of communication.
So, the question is, "Is there still a need for the Filipinos to develop a national language?" It must be recalled that the Philippines started to work for the promotion of Tagalog or, later, Filipino as the country's national language as early as the 1930s during the Commonwealth period. Yet, up to now, the people cannot even agree on what the Filipino language really is. Worst, is that there are Philippine ethnic groups that oppose the use of Filipino even in the singing of the Philippine national anthem. While other countries that started late in developing a national language already speak that singular language, the Filipinos could not even decide yet what to do. Indonesia, the largest archipelago in the world, with about a thousand languages, can now claim to have Bahasa, its national language. Same thing with Malaysia. The rest of the countries in Asia have already their own national languages.
Language is always tied up to one's culture and, of course, his identity. However, the Filipinos cannot even speak anymore of cultural identity, with some social scientists even talking of a "damaged culture". As a people, the Filipinos have extensively adapted and substantially adopted the Western culture. Racially speaking, their features do not differ from the rest of the Southeast Asians such as the Myanmarese, Kampucheans, Vietnamese, Malaysians and Indonesians. Maybe, in todays world and in the future, it is only language that may make the Filipinos distinct from their neighboring Southeast Asians. Even if English is becoming to be the world's dominant language, it is still necessary for the Filipinos to speak their national language or their regional language. After all, it is the only language that can really, in essence, capture the feelings and sentiments of the people, and can represent their true spirit as Filipinos. Also, language can help promote unity within the country and develop a sense of belongingness. Chinese and Japanese display their strength and unity through speaking their own national language and they are more progressive compared to the Filipinos.
It is admitted that by knowing English, thousands of Filipinos have found jobs abroad. But, most of these works subject Filipinos to servitude to foreigners as domestic helpers, care-givers and nurses. Is this the Philippines' idea of competitiveness? True competition is when the Filipinos become capitalists, entrepreneurs, traders, school owners, building contractors, and exporters of Philippine goods in other countries.
The Philippines' national hero, Jose Rizal, expressed the utmostimportance of loving one's country through loving one's language, among others. He wrote in Filipino: "Ang di marunong magmahal sa sariling wika, ay mas masahol pa sa malansang isda." He said that it is difficult to consider one as a nationalist if he was ashamed of his own language. This is an important matter for one who does not give value to his native language, whether national or regional, to be aware of. It is sad to note that, in today's times, there are many Filipinos who admire their countrymen who are very good in speaking the English language but consider those not good in English as not as intelligent or not as knowledgeable as the others.
Yes, it is important for the Filipinos to be able to communicate very well in English. But, every one who thinks of himself as Filipino has also the responsibility to love the country of his birth and, naturally, his own language. It is only in their language that the Filipinos are able to distinguish themselves from other peoples of Asia, especially now that it is already possible to change the color of the skin and the shape and features of the face. In a sense, it is only the language that seem to be the remaining link to the Filipino spirit and his potential towards a lasting national identity.