Monday, February 29, 2016

Los Logros del Hispanismo Filipino (1954)

Debemos muchos de los datos acerca del idioma chabacano a un filólogo especialista en las lenguas criollas, Keith Whinnom. Durante su periodo, eran muy pocos académicos que se preocupaban por la situación del chabacano. En su trabajo pionero “Spanish Contact Vernaculars in the Philippine Islands”, el Profesor Whinnom analizó tres dialectos del español en las Filipinas: el ermitaño, el caviteño y el zamboangueño. Este estudio de 1956 había reunido toda la información disponible en aquel momento sobre el origen de dichas lenguas.

Cuál fue mi sorpresa al descubrir que el Sr. Whinnom no estaba a favor del mantenimiento del castellano en las filipinas. Según él, el español es  un idioma perturbador y no tiene futuro en las islas. Predijo también que el idioma desaparecerá por sí solo con el tiempo.

Este 2016 tiene un día extra, el 29 de febrero es un día que solo se presenta cada cuatro años. En este momento infrecuente, este blog en español hizo una excepción en el artículo en inglés por el profesor Whinnom.

El profesor Keith Whinnom, catedrático de la Universidad de Exeter,
 fue nombrado Miembro de honor de la Asociación Hispánica de Literatura Medieval. 


The Achievements of Modern Filipino Hispanism

     The most notable, if still rather ineffectual, achievements of the Filipino hispanists in their losing battle to re-establish Spanish have been the Sotto and the Magalona Laws.

    The gestures to retain Spanish in the Philippines date back even earlier than the first deliberations of the Constitutional Assembly set up by the Tydings-MacDuffie act of 1934, but there is no need to look into what happened before that date for no effective measure to propagate Spanish was ever introduced, even though, in 1935, it was admitted as one of the official languages alongside English and an unnamed native tongue.

     After the war Spanish obtained greater recognition by the passing of the Sotto Law, which decreed that it should be a compulsory subject in all schools; but in June 1949, a restrictive interpretation was placed on the decree, which had never been implemented, by a Circular from the Director of Education which said, in effect, that the schools that wanted to teach Spanish might do so, but that the students should only take it as an optional subject.

    In April 1951, the Ministry of Education ordered an investigation into the Circular, of which nothing more was heard; and in December 1951 the Federation of Teachers of Spanish passed a resolution that the Sotto Law might obtain in its full original form and intention, but the whole matter was again forgotten.

    The latest move in the game has been the Magalona Law. On May 21st, 1952, senators Magalona, Fecson, Abada, Briones, Tirona and Angeles David backed a bill to make Spanish compulsory in public and private schools and universities as from the beginning of the school year in the autumn of 1952. The bill is now law and was hailed in Spain and South America a revolutionary measure which guaranteed that in a few years all Filipino students would speak correct Spanish.

    The law, however, as the Senate knew very well when it passed it, did not and could not have come into force in 1952. It was a gesture.

    Since then there have been further developments. A five year plan for implementing the law has been … planned. But the circumstances surrounding its geniture were not, possibly, of the most auspicious: Alberto Martín Artajo, Spanish Foreign Minister, together with Alfredo Sánchez Bella, Director of the Institute of Hispanic Culture, were being wined and dined by Philippine Senators who had been made honorary members of the Institute, when, in the course of the after-dinner speeches, two projects were put forward: one, the suggestion of Sánchez Bella, was that the Filipinos should build some place in which to house a Spanish library, books, films, etc., which he undertook to send from Spain; the other, the suggestion of Senator Paredes, was that Spain should send fifty teachers, to train Filipinos to teach Spanish, and that the Philippines should send a corresponding number of students to Madrid to learn Spanish.

    It is obvious that even were this plan put into effect, the establishment of the cultural centre would not be likely to have any considerable effect on people’s learning Spanish. And even allowing that fifty Filipinos should be trained every year in Madrid to teach Spanish, and that the fifty Spanish teachers in Manila could turn out 1,000 Filipino teachers, a total of 1,250 in five years, this figure, in comparison with the figure of teachers required —not employed—given by the UNESCO report, of 98,000 is almost infinitesimal.

     At this rate the Magalona Law cannot be fully implemented in five, fifty or five hundred years. The teaching of Spanish in the Philippines would still compare unfavourably with the teaching of French in England.

    How, then, did this bill pass the Senate? The answer is that the Filipino hispanists are all in responsible positions, as teachers, journalist, and politicians. The hispanists belong almost exclusively to the upper class of Manila; the Spanish Club is the most exclusive club in the capital; society news is the mainstay of the Voz de Manila. But while this minority may have the influence sufficient to get the Magalona Law past the Senate with the Senate knowing full well that it could never be more than a gesture, it does not have the power to secure any more concrete actions.

Mi copia de la revista dominical de la Voz de Manila (2 de Noviembre de 1947)

     The Spanish-speakers are a minority in the Philippines. But they are not the only minority, and not even the most influential minority. There are no less than four very considerable foreign elements at work in the Philippines: the Japanese, the Chinese, the Americans . . . and the Spaniards.

     It is curious to see how these minorities regarded each other. The Chinese suffered in silence. The Americans did their best to ensure fair treatment for the Chinese and the Japanese, and made Spanish an official language. The Japanese launched fierce attacks on everything American. And the hispanists attacked the Japanese, attacked the Chinese, and attacked the Americans.

    The hispanists are, however, as foreign a minority as any of the others. A daring speech by Senator Claro M. Recto attempted to deal with the many accusations leveled against the hispanists, among them one of the most insidious: that the aim of the Filipino hispanists is to reproduce the Franco regime in the Philippines. But his answer, which contains all the arguments with which we are by now familiar, is scarcely convincing: the history of the Philippines is Spanish, Rizal wrote in Spanish, the deliberations which produced the Constitution of Malolos were in Spanish, the Philippines is a Catholic country thanks to Spanish priests, Franco was first to perceive the menace of communism while the ‘so called democracies’ were flirting with Stalin, etc. etc.

    But these desperate attempts to persuade a Malay people who speak Malay languages and English that they are really Spanish at heart — In every Filipino there breathes a Spanish soul— and that the upper class Spanish speaking Manileños are their true representatives are becoming less and less successful.

     The most vital problem facing the Philippines today is the creation and preservation of a national identity. The Philippines, like some other countries of South east Asia, is not a natural unit. The multi-focal structure is a disruptive force which could wreck the new republic; and, paradoxically, the multiplicity of unifying elements is an embarrassment.  The most powerful  factors in determining the solidity of any national or nationalistic feeling — a common language and a common history— are lacking: there are too many ‘common languages’, and neither English,  Spanish nor tagalog can ever, it seems, obtain complete supremacy. Their common history has been unification by outside force, by invasion and occupation by Spaniard, American, and Japanese, and diverse loyalties to each of these tree still divide the nation. One section looks to America and the Western democracies; another looks to Spain and South American Peronist d; another looks to Asia.

    But, behind these divergent trends and discordant voices, the native is beginning to make himself heard. Tagalog writers, educationalists, scholars, and politicians are making their appearance in growing numbers. they are militant, often unrealistic, intolerant, even fanatical. But they are the truest eco of the so far unheard vox populi.

    The situation in the Philippines is unhappy. But if the Filipinos can achieve bilingualism in Tagalog and English—and bilingualism is not an impractical solution in a country where it is commonplace—the graver the national problem of achieving identity and nationhood may yet be solved. The solution is linguistic. That being so, Spanish has no future whatsoever; for, if this disruptive element is not eliminated along with all the others, Spanish will disappear together with the Republic of the Philippines.

Keith Whinnom
Spanish in the Philippines.
Journal of Oriental Studies
January 1954


  1. Muy interesante el artículo. Hay dos contrastes que quiero decir.
    1º EL que hace "Elisabeth Medina" en su libro "Sampaguitas en la cordillera". Elisabeth se crió en inglés y tagalo sin saber español, en cambio su padre si lo hablaba y su abuelo también. En el libro ella menciona, como en el artículo, que siempre se decía que los hispanohablantes eran ricos, en cambio que cuando ella pequeña su padre no tenía dinero...y nunca se lo cuestionó.

    1. Hola Roberto, muchas gracias por dejar un comentario y perdón por mi respuesta tardía porque estaba muy ocupado y no tenía tiempo para mantener el blog. ¡Felices Pascuas!