Lecture of Acting Director General of the Kalibapi Camilo Osias, before the Leaders’ Institute of the Kalibapi, Manila, November 10, 1943:

I came this morning to speak to you on the practical steps to be taken in the propagation of the Filipino language. I invited several of our co-workers in the Kalibapi offices to attend this lecture because I believe the members of the Leaders’ Institute should be convinced that our program of work and service has the backing of your organization and mine, our association for service known as the Kalibapi.

We have discussed in this course various cultural projects, work projects, and, more recently, the project of planting 1,000,000 fruit trees that together we are to push through on December 30th next, which will be the first anniversary of the public and official launching of the Kalibapi as an association for service in the entire country. I wish to present today one of our next projects, one that should be a project for 1944, namely, the propagation of the Filipino language throughout the country.

Let me start by saying that I am a non-Tagalog coming, as I do, from the North, but I believe sincerely in the development, in the enrichment, in the dissemination, of one common language, namely, the Filipino language. I have long entertained this belief and I made it officially known when in 1935 we approved the Constitution of the Philippines which provides, among others, as follows:

“The National Assembly shall take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages. Until otherwise provided by law, English and Spanish shall continue as official languages.” (Sec. 3, Article XIIIConstitution of the Philippines.)

The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines settled once and for all, in my judgment, the question of a common language for the entire country, providing, as it does, the following, and I quote:

“Steps shall be taken for the development and propagation of Tagalog as the national language.”

My subject, as I announced, is not the development but the propagation of Tagalog as the national language—the practical steps to take to propagate what we should come to call all over the country as the Filipino language.

With that introductory statement, I wish to add that I have no quarrel with Tagalog specialists. I recognize them as authorities. I likewise believe that the Tagalistas ought to quit quarreling among themselves. The quarrel among the Tagalog writers is unwholesome. It is a stumbling block to the speedy and efficacious dissemination of the national language. I invited those who are connected with the teaching of Tagalog and the specialists in Tagalog within the Kalibapi today because I want to tell them clearly and definitely that as far as I am concerned the Institute of National Language is the authority on Tagalog in our governmental set-up. If we are to organize one strong government, we must fall in line with the governmental agencies and cooperate with the established policies of the government whether we personally agree with them or not.

I may not believe that Tagalog should be the basis of our national language. That is a personal matter. But as long as my Constitution says it is, that is final with me. The period of argumentation is over and I want to warn those Tagalog specialists and teachers within the Kalibapi that as long as I am the Director General I propose to uphold the authority of the Institute of National Language. I do that because one of the lessons that we Filipinos need is to develop deeper loyalty for ideas, ideals, principles, institutions, and causes instead of loyalties to men. Fortunately, I do not belong to any Tagalog “school.” I am discouraged (and I know non-Tagalogs get discouraged) to witness this unwholesome rivalry between schools of Tagalog, among Tagalog writers and authorities. I am appealing to the non-Tagalogs this morning particularly not to mind the debates among the Tagalogs. That is their look-out. What we are interested in is that we have one common Filipino language; and since Tagalog is the language of the cultural center which is Manila and since Tagalog has developed, and this must be admitted, more than any other vernacular, has more literature than any other of the different languages of our country, I set aside my petty loyalties to my region because under the Republic of the Philippines we must embrace the idea and the ideal of a common nation. Above all provinces, above all regions, above all sections of the Philippines is the Republic of the Philippines. I therefore wish to announce as a policy for the specialists and teachers of Tagalog and other Kalibapi workers that they should adopt a spirit of loyal cooperation with, and a proper attitude toward, the Institute of National Language.

Having stated those convictions, may I add that in the study of languages we are doing nothing but to live the Rizal way. Rizal is the one Filipino who was a polyglot par excellence. Without a peer, certainly without a rival, Rizal has blazed the trail for Filipinos in respect to linguistic ability and learning Rizal learned twenty-one or twenty-two languages, mastered many of them. He was a Tagalog. He proposed reforms in Tagalog which are now being followed. He essayed to write a grammar in Tagalog. But he was not bigoted. He learned other languages, like Ilocano and Visaya. We who follow Rizal do well like him to study Nippongo as it is destined to be the lingua franca of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. I think the Filipinos should continue to learn Spanish and English because these two languages open to us the great storehouse of human knowledge and the literature of the world and of all ages.

But my subject, as I said, is the practical dissemination of the Filipino language. Its improvement, its enrichment as a language must be left to those who are better authorities than I. I am for the practical propagation of the national language. In the Department of Education, Health, and Public Welfare as Assistant Commissioner, I worked with the Commissioner and others to determine a graded word list for the different elementary grades especially the primary grades which should become the basis for the preparation of textbooks for use among the boys and girls of the lower grades. In the Kalibapi we have enough co-workers here now to undertake the writing of some publications appropriate for the Junior Kalibapi, one group to be of ages 9 to 13 and another from 14 to below 18. Then we have the common problem, the immediate problem which admits of no delay, to teach adults how to speak, read, and write the national language. Such is the topic to which I particularly address myself this morning.

Now, follow me. We are undertaking to step up the membership campaign in the regular Kalibapi so that we shall have at least 20 per cent of the total population of the Philippines as members. That means, in round numbers, that we expect to have a membership of 3,600,000 within the next few months. We hope also to step up the campaign for women member’s so that one-third of the regular members of the Kalibapi should be women. And we are also campaigning to the end that the Junior Kalibapi will be enlarged so that the members in that junior organization will be equal to twice as many children as there are enrolled in the public and private schools.

Let us go back to the 3,600,000. Within 1944 every Kalibapi members should have learned something of the elementary words and expressions of the national language. If we do that, it means that the Kalibapi will have been instrumental in teaching the national language to 3,600,000. I think there should be short courses held for periods of three months especially in the non-Tagalog provinces, and if we estimate 1,000,000 enrolled in these short courses for every three months, we ought to be able to reach 4,000,000 in the course of a year. Can that be done? Yes. But it will be done only by the acceleration of the tempo of life in the Philippines and not following the old style of doing things. I bank on you who are enrolled in the Leaders’ Institute to get behind this program of practical dissemination of the national language. I want you to develop your readiness to serve, your administrative ability, your ability to organize in your provinces and cities so that when the signal for any constructive program is given in Manila I can depend upon you to get behind and help carry it to a successful conclusion.

As a first and essential step (and I want the Tagalog teachers and specialists to get this because we have to be practical), as a first and immediate step, I desire to have a list of 1,000 basic words in the national language for adults. I take it for granted that the Department of Education, Health, and Public Welfare will look after the propagation of the national language through the medium of the public and private schools. The Kalibapi does not care to duplicate their work nor to absorb any of the work that corresponds to existing governmental entities. These 1,000 basic words should be selected on four bases: First, utility; second, frequency; third, cruciality; and fourth, similarity with other languages or other words in the vernacular.

Utility is the first consideration in our language propagation program. Utility means usefulness in carrying on the ordinary activities of life in the national language. I hope that through the agency of the Kalibapi we may be able to prepare publications to give the common phrases and expressions essential in the home, in the store, in the market, in the office, in social gatherings, and for simple business and social correspondence.

I have to reach an agreement in cooperation with a committee, but I am wondering if it would not be wise to publish common expressions, common phrases, 1,000 basic words, so that we shall show their equivalent in Nippongo, in the vernacular of your locality, and in English. That is not final. We have to consult some authorities on that proposition. But, as you heard from the lecture of yesterday, if we have 1,000 basic words and if to them are added borrowed words from Spanish, from English, from Nippongo, you see that the 1,000 basic words will readily grow so that in no time the Filipino of the North and the Filipino of the South can come to some common understanding and carry on the ordinary activities of life in one common language.

I am not speaking now of our ability to speak in refined literary language but in language that we can mutually understand. I believe that this step should be interpreted as an implementation of the program of the Kalibapi to labor for the unification of our people. What words should be taught immediately in the national language? What phrases and expressions should be publicized? The useful, those that we use in common problems, in common everyday life. So I put as basis for the selection of these fundamental words utility.

Next and closely allied to this first basis is frequency. What are the words that are frequently used? Those are the ones we need to learn. We shall have to study those. We will have to investigate them.

Then there are words not so easy, not so common, but which when the circumstances present themselves must be known. That is why I put as a third basis the cruciality of a word. For example, in teaching hygiene or physiology, you do not frequently come across the problem of what to do when an artery happens to be cut. But when an artery is cut, something must be done and done quickly and effectively or the person will die. We teach, therefore, the word torniquet. Why? Not because cutting of blood vessels frequently occurs but because of its cruciality. It is crucial. Now what are the crucial words? I had to grapple with that proposition when I was commissioned to travel and study the educational systems of the world. I began to envisage the countries that I would visit, so I said: What shall be the phrases I need when I am in that country. What are the crucial words? When I went to Japan I learned three expressions: First, gohan (rice). You must eat. And since cooked rice is what we Orientals eat, I wanted to learn gohan. I can go to a restaurant and say: Gohan. It may not be very polite or literary but the restaurant-keeper will know. And I learned raizu, water. I didn’t want to die of thirst. Then, of course, I learned kirei na musume, maganddng dalaga. Those are crucial words or expressions. (Laughter.) I am happy to report to you that I know those words or expressions in twenty-four languages.

Now, the last basis is the similarity of the national language with other words in other Filipino languages. I do not like to call them dialects. They are rich enough to be dignified by the term languages. They are not just off-shoots of existing media of expression. They are really languages. And when you have a language like any Filipino language into which you can translate the entire Bible, that is a dignified and rich language.

I would like to recommend to my Tagalog hearers that as much as possible they use the simple and the interchangeable words and phrases and preferably those words that are similar to other words that are in existence in the other languages. I am not prepared to give very many expressions here, but they will pardon me if I invade their particular field and say that, speaking as a non-Tagalog, in the beginning I think we should not be condemned if I suggest that instead of using magsimula we use the word mag-umpisa. It may be a corruption from the word empezar but if a Tagalog speaks in Mindanao or in the Visayas and he says mag-umpisa na tayo, I am quite sure they will start the work with him. Or, in order to reach a compromise, you might say magsimula or mag-umpisa tayo. Let the hearer pick what he knows. That is sensible. Why, I advocate that rule in the English language. For example, in spelling I advocate in the Philippines that when one particular word is spelled in two or more ways all of which are correct, we should prefer the simpler or the simplest. For example, “meager.” Meagre—that is correct. Meager is also correct. Since the Filipino mind never mispronounces the word ending in g-e-r but may pronounce the “g-r-e” ending as gre, I prefer the g-e-r form of meager to be used in the Philippines. Take the word “extraordinary.” There are two pronunciations of that word. One is the pronunciation I just used—”extra-ordinary”; the other one, the more English or more American, is “extraordinary.” I was one time criticised by an American for supposedly mispronouncing that word because I used the pronunciation “extra-ordinary.” I told him it is more sensible for the Philippines because the Filipino has already learned extra and pronounces it extra, to which he may tack on ordinary. He knows these two separate words. Why go into the difficult variation. “Extrordinary.” Why teach the “a” to become “o”? Since both pronunciations are permissible, I use the one that is commonly known and is more in keeping with the phonetics of the Filipino language. One more word, “advertisement” (short i). It may also be pronounced “advertisement” (long i). But you have already learned “advertise” and it should be preferred because it is more in keeping with the phonetics of our language.

I hope what I have said by way of illustration will make clear the fourth basis; namely, the similarity of Tagalog, with Ilocano, with Visayan, with Pampango, Bicolano, or Pangasinan or some other language. Of course, in the lecture yesterday we learned some words that are spelled the same but mean the opposite. Some of those words come under the classification of the crucial. For example, I was campaigning one time in Pangasinan. I had a Tagalog lawyer with me in the campaign and when m, automobile stopped he got out of the car and went to a store and asked the Pangasinan store keeper: “Mayroon po ba kayong sigarilyo?” “Wala,”, was the answer.

He left and came back to the automobile I heard the conversation and got out and went to buy cigarettes for him. The Tagalog lawyer said:

“Where did you get the cigarettes?”

“Well, from the store,” I said “He told me ‘wala.'”

“Wala” in Pangasinan means “mayroon” in Tagalog.

My attention is called to the word “genuine” (with long i). That is wrong. It should be “genuine” (short i). The “genuine” (long i) is only appropriate for the loot-and-sell people. Logically perhaps it should be “genuine” (long i) but in the dictionary there is no choice. That is the law; let us follow.

So, in Pangasinan, for example, we have to stress the word “wala” so that it will not be interpreted the way the Pangasinan people use the word ”wala.” “Wala” in Tagalog is none. In Pangasinan none is angapo. “Mayroon in Tagalog is “wala” in Pangasinan. If you use a little imagination you will get into all sorts of complications if you are conversing with a girl in Pangasinan and you misinterpret “wala.” It is just too bad. {Laughter.)

I want to close my lecture by summarizing some of the points we have tried to bring out. I am urging the people within the Kalibapi family, in respect to the propagation of the national language, to adopt a spirit of loyal cooperation with the Institute of National Language since it is the appointed and chosen governmental agency for passing upon the problems of standardization of the national language. If there are mistakes, and the people in the Institute can commit mistakes, it would be better if the marurunong sa wikang pambansa take those matters up directly with the Institute of National Language instead of airing their views in public which only discourage the non-Tagalog.

I trust that nothing I have said or left unsaid will be interpreted as a discouragement for learning the vernacular, Nippongo, Spanish, or English. Personally, I am determined, being an Ilocano, to continue to speak and to write m Ilocano; but I am going to redouble my efforts to study the national language. I am also trying to study a little Nippongo from time to time. I am memorizing a little speech in Nippongo now. I have already delivered or attempted to deliver two brief speeches in Nippongo. I continue to speak, think, and write in the English language and every night I try to read something about Spanish, or in English. One argument which I may pass to non-Tagalogs if you meet opposition in your attempts to teach Tagalog in the localities is the argument I have used with the Ilocanos. I told my fellow members of that wonderful northern “nation” (Laughter) that the teaching of Tagalog does not mean an attempt to kill the Ilocano—you can’t kill the Ilocano anyway; it simply means an attempt to enrich the life of the Ilocano. I used this rather simple argument, but it worked. I said: “You, my fellow Ilocanos, learn Tagalog without thereby forgetting your Ilocano; and if the Tagalogs don’t learn Ilocano we will beat the Tagalogs.” That is correct. Use that argument if necessary. I think it is a good argument. It is a plausible argument anyhow. It must be confessed that we have to do something yet to counteract a little manifestation of sectional feeling or prejudice. Tell them that the Kalibapi is for unification and this is one way of bringing about unification and solidarity of the various segments of the Philippine population.

We hope to work out within the next few weeks 1,000 basic words in the national language selected on the basis of their utility, frequency, cruciality, and similarity with other languages in existence in the Philippines. We hope to publish some common and useful words, phrases, and expressions in the national language, perhaps accompanied by Nippongo, English and/or the vernacular.

Let us dream of increasing the membership of the Kalibapi to 3,600,000 and let it be our hope that everyone of these members shall learn and acquire at least elementary knowledge of the national language.

When the members of the Leaders’ Institute shall have graduated and will return to their respective cities and provinces, they should right away be planning on the people they can use and the procedure to follow regarding the organization of short courses in elementary Tagalog or the national language so that together throughout the country we may be able to reach 1,000,000 every three months or 4,000,-000 in a year. Of course, the propagation of the national language while it is a worthy end in itself is not altogether the end but the means, and the propagation of the national language should be a powerful means to achieving that desired and desirable unification of our people.

We need to produce like-mindedness among the Filipinos and one way of bringing that worthy purpose to realization is through a common medium of expression, and that is the national language. I would be remiss in my duty as a Kalibapi official and worker if I would not say that in all the work that we do, including this teaching and propagating of the national language, we must bring to bear the proper spirit of the Kalibapi. Remember our supreme task is to modify, improve, and reform the spirit of men and the spirit of our people. Through the agency of the Kalibapi, therefore, in all its activities we should never forget that we are after crystallizing a proper philosophy of life. Popularize the Tayo way of life or, if you please, the Filipino way of life. And if we get behind our Kalibapi workers, get behind this program of propagating the national language, we are complying with our elementary duties as citizens because we are doing what our Constitution enjoins us to do. But at the same time we should take on this additional task, carry through this additional project as a means of invigorating the spirit of our people and implementing our way of life.

I thank you for your attention. I want to thank my co-workers in the Kalibapi office for their attendance at this lecture.

Source: Office of the Solicitor General Library