There are perhaps only four remaining institutions or social forces that could be considered unmistakable champions of Filipino and Philippine languages, and it is quite tragic that the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino has reportedly targeted one of them.
All three branches of government prefer to speak and write in English. Heck, they all agreed to downgrade or remove the teaching of Filipino and Philippine literature in schools: DepEd and CHED decided, the administration backed them up, Congress stood silent and the courts agreed with the agencies. That’s colonial mentality for you, codified into law and policy.
KWF and advocates of Filipino and Philippine languages only have the churches, media, social movements and the public to depend on. They are the institutions and social forces that keep Filipino and Philippine languages alive. They use our languages daily, faithfully, creatively and passionately. No other institutions can challenge them in this regard. All the others can only claim to pay periodic lip service to Filipino and Philippine languages.
Of the four, it is not a stretch to identify social movements as the first and principal champions of Filipino identity and language. It was among the ideas of Filipino revolutionaries of 1896 that the new nation they sought to build should have a national language. It was no surprise that those who carry on their revolutionary ideas also include the promotion of Filipino and Philippine languages. Other institutions like the media and the church took decades to formally adopt our own languages as media fitting enough to communicate with the Almighty.
Social movements include cultural, artistic, journalistic and academic elements. In fact, artists and writers were among the founders of the revolutionary, nationalist and democratic movements. And because they challenge the status quo, the activists and revolutionaries preferred to speak, talk, rally and struggle in our own languages. This belief, faith and commitment to our diverse linguistic and cultural strands continue to bind these movements to millions nationwide.
Being pro-Filipino continue to be “subversive” in a government and society dominated by colonial-minded leaders and ideas, which look down on Filipino and Philippine languages as inferior and unfit for use by government and society. This is the tragedy of the withdrawal of certain books they dubbed “subversive,” “anti-establishment” and “anti-government.”
On Aug. 9, KWF commissioners ordered a stop to the distribution of “Teatro Politikal Dos” by Malou Jacob, “Kalatas: Mga Kuwentong Bayan at Kuwentong Buhay” by Rommel Rodriguez, “Tawid-diwa sa Pananagisag ni Bienvenido Lumbera: Ang Bayan, ang Manunulat, at ang Magasing Sagisag sa Imahinatibong Yugto ng Batas Militar 1975-1979” by Dexter Cayanes, “May Hadlang ang Umaga” by Don Pagusara, and “Labas: Mga Palabas sa Labas ng Sentro” by Reuel Aguila.
In the memorandum, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera was practically defamed. Writing about Lumbera, the author of the landmark “Tagalog Poetry 1570-1898: Tradition and Influences in its Development,” has become an indicator of subversion and a criterion for banning?
The anti-dictatorship resistance produced poetry, plays, essays, novels, academic studies, pamphlets, flyers, newspapers, and other publications mostly in Filipino and other Philippine languages. Is this book purge, the KWF’s contribution to tampering with the historical record by misportraying an anti-dictatorship literary icon and what he wrote about as “bad?”
What the KWF commissioners intend to do to the body of work of National Artists for Literature Amado V. Hernandez and Lumbera, and National Artists for Film Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal, we are not sure right now. Would the KWF ban their works or refuse to honor them? But the greatness of these artists arose from the subversion of the norms, from their most excellent use of artistic and creative expression, and from their participation in social movements against imperialism, colonial mentality and tyranny. Banning or demonizing them would leave a gaping hole in our identity and in the development and promotion of Filipino and Philippine languages.
It is not too late for the KWF commissioners to wake up from the terrible nightmare planted in their minds by red-taggers, and to grow a spine of steel. If they only look back at the record of the authors that are sought to be demonized, and those who seek to demonize them, they would see who are real enemies and the real champions of our languages. If they look closely, with courage and a clear mind not infested with scare tactics, they would arrive at two conclusions: that we need more activists and revolutionaries in and for our language, and that red-tagging is a serious sickness that retards their important work.