Fleshing out our national language
Why we shouldn’t blame Manila for the underlying debate on our national language
It is easy to blame Manila for all of the country’s woes, from an uneven economy to problematic cultural representations. Manila has been called imperial, centralist, and hegemonic by the neglected peripheral cities or regions—and it is not without fault. The fact that our president hails from Davao could be a manifestation of a general desire to decentralize Manila, given that until the current administration, the government has been run by Manileños without much difference or progress felt in the provinces.
It is not far-fetched to think that even the formation of a national language based on Tagalog can be a symptom of this internal colonialism. However, accusing Manila is simplistic.
If we’d read the manuscript of speeches and proclamation of the national language which led to Manuel L. Quezon’s Executive Order no. 134 in 1937, we’d find that there is more to the issue than Manila-centrism.
First, there is no truth that there was misrepresentation of or even a lack of representation from the regions who would have advocated for the adoption of their local languages to be the national language or lingua franca. A closer look at the composition of the National Language Institute (NLI) tells us that Cecilio Lopez was the lone advocate of Tagalog, while the rest—Filemon Sotto, Jaime de Veyra, Felix Salas Rodriguez, and Hadji Buta—were all from the south and were expected to advocate for Bisaya.
Second, the intention of looking for that local language was more practical than political: They were looking for the most widely circulated language, not only as spoken but also as written and produced in various media. In their mindset, a national language is practically disseminated all over, widely understood not only in the capital but also in the other regions, and capable of incorporating other languages. Even though Sotto believed that Visayan speakers outnumbered Tagalog speakers, in the end, the NLI accepted Tagalog as the most popular and the most capable in that function.