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FO: Manuel Quezon on the National Language

See also the category "Talumpati."

Manuel L. Quezon III emailed the following after I posted "Talumpati Ni Manuel Quezon." Reprinted with permission.

Excerpt from remarks delivered by Manuel L. Quezon
San Juan de Letran Alumni Annual Banquet
Intramuros, Manila, 7 November 1937
[Updated 17 August 2009: For the Tagalog translation, see "Talumpati: Manuel L. Quezon — Wikang Pambansa."]
We shall not drop English, because English can be of great help to us in so far as democratic ideas and practices are concerned. Thence we must continue Spanish and English. But I am going further; I tell you that I want neither Spanish nor English as the language of our Government. The Philippines must have a language of her own, a language based on one of the vernacular tongues...

[M]any of the difficulties or defects now existing here are due to the fact we have not a common national language of our own. The desire to imitate everything alien without knowing whether that which we are trying to imitate is good or bad, is due to an evil—to the lack of a real national soul. A national soul cannot exist where there is not a common language. We shall never have any genuine national pride until we have a language of our own. We shall always have that sign of inferiority. Copying is all right; but we must copy what is good, what is adaptable to our idiosyncrasy. And reject what is bad. I never realized how terrible the lack of a common language is until I became President. I am President of the Philippines; I am the personal representative of the Philippine nation and the Philippine people. But, when I travel through the provinces and talk to my people, I need an interpreter.

Did you ever hear of anything more humiliating, more horrible than that? I am all right when I go to the Tagalog provinces, because I can speak to the people there in the vernacular, in Tagalog. But if I go to Ilocos Sur, I am already a stranger in my own country, I, the President of the Philippines! I, a stranger in my own country! How can I tell the people what I think and feel when in order to do so I need an interpreter who, in the majority of cases, says what he wants to say and not what I have said? That happens, because sometimes the interpreter, either because he has not understood me or because he cannot think of words in the vernacular expressing what I have said, says whatever occurs to him. How often have I not said to some one interpreting for me into Visayan or Bicol: "You are not saying what I have said"?

I am agreeable to having English continued in the schools and I am going to advocate that Spanish be continued, too. But I say that the time has come for us to have a national Philippine language. Until we have that, we shall not be a people.

I remember the time when the American imperialists said: "How can you have independence when you have no common language?" I replied: "It is not necessary to have a common language. In Switzerland, Italian, French and German are spoken, and Switzerland is an independent nation." And we were all satisfied with our answer. And as those Americans were not educated in a college like that of the Dominicans, where they are so strong on the logic of Saint Augustine or Saint Thomas, they let us get away with that...

Several Filipino ladies who were traveling related to me the following incident: They were speaking English on board a ship before an American girl of about 14 years. Both were alumni of a college of the University of the Philippines. After the conversation, the American girl asked them this question: "Why don’t you speak in your own language?" The American girl was right. Why did they converse in English, being Filipinas? They could not use the vernacular because one was Ilocana and the other a Tagala.

...The difficulty is that the Ilocanos want Ilocano to be the national language; the Tagalogs, Tagalog; the Visayans, Visayan. And yet, those same Ilocanos who do not want Tagalog, accept English as the national language! Have you ever seen anything more inconceivable? A Filipino preferring a foreign language to a Philippine tongue? And at that only because Ilocano is not the tongue which has been made the national language! What I have said of Ilocano I also say of Tagalog, Pampango, Visayan, Bicol, etc.

I am a Tagalog. If the men familiar with the advantages of the several Philippine tongues were to tell me that the vernacular tongue we must adopt is Mangyan, I would be for Mangyan than for any other tongue. You know that I do not speak Spanish well; but I have spoken it from my infancy, the same as Tagalog... Tagalog is the official language in my family. But I am ready to learn Ilocano, Visayan or any other vernacular tongue so long as we shall have a language that can be spoken by all....

Do you know, I often ask myself: What shall we do when the Americans are gone, when the stimulus to be united no longer exists? We shall have strife, such as that which existed when we were students here in Letran and when the Tagalogs used to fight with the Ilocanos, the Pampangos with Visayans, the Visayans with the Tagalogs, etc. I have seen that here, and not so long ago, either. I am not old yet, and I have seen the fights we had here. The language is going to save us because no one will remember that he is Tagalog, Visayan, Ilocano, Pampango, Bicol, etc. They will all forget that difference.

Category: Filipiniana Online, Talumpati

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