Language change is happening very fast in the Kapampángan Region, Indúng Kapampángan. Whereas a generation ago, it was taken for granted that apart from non-Kapampángan recent settlers, everyone could speak the language, it is now regarded as ‘definitely endangered.’
Despite the reincorporation of the language into the curriculum (following its removal in 1973, after martial law), institutionalized in Republic Act 10553, signed into law in 2013, and the Local Language Ordinance which made it the official language in Angeles City in 2017, the observers cannot fail to note that Filipino-Tagalog dominates most conversations, not just those involving visitors or non-Kapampángans, but among Kapampángans themselves.
The issue of ‘teaching’ of Kapampángan, therefore, involves both its teaching in the home, by parents to children (actually, bringing up children speaking Kapampángan), and its formal teaching in school. This question is in two parts, objections to teaching it at home (or bringing up children Kapampángan), and to teaching it in school. We will be taking up the most common of these objections, and address them.
Tagalogs are influential in society, so it is best to teach children Filipino-Tagalog, rather than Kapampángan, so that they will grow up favored by the system, which inherently advantages Tagalog speakers, while, in a racist manner, imparting a systemic disadvantage to speakers of Kapampángan and other non-Tagalog languages (this was the reason given me by a Kapampángan who chose to bring his children up speaking Tagalog)
This line of reasoning suffers from several flaws.
- Teaching children Filipino-Tagalog does not preclude also teaching them the language of their parents, Kapampángan, and therefore imparting the advantages of Tagalog without necessarily alienating the children from the language, culture and heritage of their parents.
- Slavishly following the system, without inquiring whether or not it is right or wrong is the most mindless form of mob mentality. As it is, this Jacobinist, industrial era, mass-market manner of thinking is totally out of step in the post-industrial era, where customization can be done to the individual level. Following Manila’s dictates, even when it forces Kapampángans to deny their heritage, and retreating to a slavish position beholden to the capital, does not raise them, but, on the contrary, shoves them to a lower level, in which they implicitly accept Manila-Tagalog superiority.
- The way Tagalog is spoken by many Kapampángans who have brought up their children speaking the subdialect Filipino (the Manila subdialect of Tagalog) is riddled with grammatical errors, and reflects Tagalog as filtered through Kapampángan, and not the speech of Manila itself, or correct Tagalog. As such, instead of elevating them socially, it only degrades them, exposing them as pathetic apes struggling to imitate their perceived betters, instead of exalting them as the proud bearers of a distinguished language, history and heritage.
- Filipino-Tagalog is associated with Metropolitan Manila, the most economically advanced and privileged part of the archipelago, so teaching children Filipino-Tagalog will mean access to jobs and economic opportunities
- Again, even if we grant the advantages of being able to speak Filipino-Tagalog, teaching children the imperial subdialect does not necessarily preclude also teaching them their own language, Kapampángan. Children are at an age when they are in a position to learn many languages, so not teaching them Kapampángan even as they are taught Filipino-Tagalog amounts to depriving them of the opportunity to learn one more language, their very own, which is not just advantageous in itself, but also imparts the broader perspective, outlook and skills of the multilingual, something familiar to educators and psychologists.
- Again, this is a matter of power and privilege, that improperly granted to Metro Manila, its language and people at the expense of non-Tagalogs in the Philippines. But Tagalog is not the sole holder of power here. What about English, which has become the global language, the language of science and the Internet, and remains an official language and medium of instruction in the Philippines? Wouldn’t it at the very least merit equal claim to power and transmission as Filipino-Tagalog, at a time when it is also becoming the global language of higher education, in North America, the emerging political and economic superpower that is India, much of the Middle East, Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand), and more and more European countries, where it is beginning to replace other European languages in universities as the medium of instruction in universities?
- A common language is necessary for ‘national unity,’ for the unity of the Philippines. Therefore, children have to be taught Filipino-Tagalog, to prevent disunion.
- Again, this line of reasoning contains several logical fallacies. In the first place, the Philippines is not a single nation but a multinational state. In fact, forcing a single language on a multilingual state is what has often brought disunity, and even resulted in the division of countries. For instance, Bengali-speaking East Pakistan seceded to form Bangladesh when the central government of Pakistan in Islamabad tried to force Urdu on the entire country. Sri Lanka, where Sinhalese and Tamils live, nearly split into two separate countries when the capital tried to force Sinhala on the Tamils. Both languages now have official status.
- In fact, several multilingual countries maintain their unity while recognizing their multilingual status. Switzerland, where four languages – German, French, Italian and Romansh, have official status, is the best example. Also, the Swedish-speaking Aland Islands have cultural and political autonomy within Finland, while the Faeroe Islands are also autonomous status, and their language is an official language in their area, while being part of Denmark. The United Kingdom, too is composed of separate nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and their languages also have official status.
- On the other hand, Somalia, where most people speak one language, Somali, is ruled by several separate governments. Late last year, the leaders of the states of Galmudug, Hirshabelle, Jubaland, Puntland and South West suspended all ties with the central government, accusing Mogadishu of failing to handle the country’s security, and failing to fulfill its responsibilities toward the states1. In addition, another part of Somalia, Somaliland, declared that it was a separate country in 1991, and has been holding democratic presidential elections since 2003.2
1 Somali Regional States Suspend Ties With Federal Government
2 Somaliland: The Horn of Africa’s Breakaway State