Last year, my friend and fellow historian José María Bonifacio Escoda (author of best-selling book Warsaw of Asia: The Rape of Manila) became viral after a Facebook post of his was deemed supposedly as anti-LGBT. He was bashed left and right because of this. But I didn’t know anything about it until last night when another friend posted an online article regarding the controversy on her FB timeline. Browsing through the article and comments, I encountered this:
Now this is a brash claim. The Spanish friars preserved our native languages by studying them intently and then writing grammar books about them (“Gramática de la Lengua Tagala”, “Arte de la Lengua Iloca”, “Vocabulario de la lengua Bisaya”, etc.). In fact, the real reason why we are still talking about the Baybayin today is because the Spaniards preserved it for posterity. They were the ones who first wrote about our indigenous syllabary. Furthermore, our local epics such as “Biag ni Lam-ang”, “Ibalón”, and “Hinilawod” were handed down from generation to generation only through oral tradition. But to preserve them in print, the Spanish friars wrote them down using the Spanish-alphabet-inspired Abecedario Filipino.
It was our Spanish conquerors who took all the time and trouble in preserving our native languages. It was not even for their sake. If it is true that they treated our languages as garbage, they would not have done all the scholarly investigation to preserve and conserve them, and even publish precious books about them which we now consider as prized items.
Anyway, going back to this brash claim, never in my over two decades of studying our country’s history, culture, and languages, have I encountered any book, historical document, or any other pertinent scholarly article stating that the Spanish conquistadors treated our language (but which language? we have over 170) as garbage, nor did they enforce the teaching of the Spanish language just to control us. The real reason why the Spanish language was taught to us is to inculcate easily in us Spanish culture and religion. The teaching of Spanish was clearly stated in the Law of the Indies (“Leyes de las Indias“) which governed our country, way before republican constitutions entered the scene. The sad fact remains that that law wasn’t even followed properly because of lack of teachers and because many friars refused to do so (a topic fit for another blogpost).
Hispanophobia and historical ignorance are still alive and well in Filipinas. Sadly.