[English translation of the message of His Excellency, Jose P. Laurel, President of the Republic of the Philippines, on the occasion of the formal opening of the “Paaralan sa Pagtuturo ng Wikang Pilipino,” Philippine Normal School Auditorium, Manila, January 8, 1944]:
To our acquiring a new language in the Philippines, the leading character in Rizal’s El Filibusterismo advanced one serious objection. Knowing that linguistically the Philippines was as it is still a veritable tower of Babel, Simoun asked, “Do you wish to add another language to make yourselves less and less understood by your people?” By adopting a foreign language, the same character argued, “you will kill your originality, subordinate your thoughts to another’s, and instead of making yourselves free, you convert yourselves into real slaves.”
The present Administration, as you know, is definitely and unequivocally embarked upon building a stately mansion, a national mansion, worthy of the Republic and of the generations to come. But more than merely reconstructing the Philippines physically, morally, and spiritually, it is also forming a national language worthy of the Filipino race, a language that will be spoken and understood by every Filipino from the northernmost tip of the Archipelago to its southernmost region. The Head of your Government believes with Simoun that “while the people keep their languge they preserve the gift of their liberty, just as a man preserves his independence of thought while he retains his manner of thinking.”
Of our national language, now happily on an advanced stage of perfection, you are, as it were, the first national torchbearers. From this institute you will be sent out in due time fully trained and equipped to spread to the farthest nooks and corners of your country the new gospel that the Republic of the Philippines has now a language of its own, expressive of the people’s thoughts and aspirations, and that language, through scientific study and cultivation, will be the language of the Filipino children yet unborn as it is now the official language of the entire nation.
Your reading of history must have taught you that every country that has attained greatness, whether in arms or in letters, has a language of its own, a language that is native to the soul, something the people have used from time immemorial. Only backward and subject peoples have used a borrowed language that they did not learn from the lips of their mothers, that does not express faithfully their idiosyncracies, their peculiar habits of thought, the genius of their race.
Precisely because we want the Philippines to become great, to have a literature written in the language that their forebears spoke and that the Filipino heart uses to express its deepest emotions and most sublime thoughts, we all must develop to the utmost of our ability the newly adopted national language, the language that you are expected to master as students of this institute.
Of the origin of language, we know very little. All that we know is that it is a divine gift, a gift which nature has endowed upon man to convey his feelings, his perceptions, his thoughts, in such a way that his fellowmen will readily understand him. It involves what is called a tradic relation; that is, there is the speaker, the thing said, and the thing or person spoken to. Because of this important relation, it is your duty as future teachers of the national language to go slowly, to use and adopt only those words that have gained currency or acceptance among the recognized masters of the language. You must avoid resorting to such new-fangled, unintelligible words as only a counted few self-constituted experts can understand. There is such a thing as usage which sanctions the proper and correct use of words and expressions in every civilized language.
It certainly would be a tragedy if, instead of making language a slow process of evolution and development, expressive of the needs and intellectual advancement of the people, it becomes a painful, haphazard process of invention to be crammed into the throats of the people. Already, we hear murmurs here and there that the printed Tagalog is not and cannot be the same as the spoken Tagalog, because even those who lisped it in their infancy cannot understand it when it is written by the so-called modernists. Utmost care should, therefore, be taken that in teaching the language you teach it not as those who pose as final arbiters would like to foist it upon the public, but as usage and custom sanction it, as the educated Tagalog speak it.
Largely for that purpose and in order to settle any difficulties that might arise, we have established an Institute of National Language which, like the academy of languages in many European countries, will enlighten us from time to time on the richness of our native language as well as on what is the good and correct way of using it. Needless to add, the most important thing in language is not to employ big, ponderous, and intricate words that the ordinary man cannot understand, but plain, simple, and everyday words that are thoroughly intelligible even to the illiterate Tagalog. After all, the object is not to parade our knowledge, but to make ourselves understood by all those who speak our own language.
Let me wish you all success.