Language Policies in the Philippines during the Spanish Colonization 1996-06-03
In 1565, a fleet headed by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, a Spanish explorer, reached Cebu Island and then the Spaniards started to colonize the Philippines islands. The Spanish rule continued until 1898, when sovereignty was transferred to America as a result of the Spanish-American War. For three centuries the Philippines was under the rule of Spain. This has left many traces in every aspect of Philippine life.
One of the most deeply rooted influences on the Filipinos was caused by the propagation of the Christian faith. At present, most of the Filipinos are devout Christians with the exception of the Muslims who live in the southern parts of the country, Mindanao and the Sulu Islands.
Another influence was brought about by a contact with the Spanish language. All the major languages in the Philippines have been greatly influenced in terms of vocabulary, pronunciation and the writing system by the Spanish language. At the market-place buyers and sellers still use Spanish expressions for money, peso (one peso), dos pesos (two pesos), tres pesos (three pesos), kwarto pesos (four pesos) and the like. People also use Spanish expressions for the hour and minute, alas dose y singko (five past twelve), alas tres y medya (half past three); for the week, Lunes (Monday), Martes (Tuesday), Myekules (Wednesday) and so on; for the month, Enero (January), Pebrero (February), Marso (March), Abril (April) and so on. Listening to conversations among Filipinos, we find a large number of vocabulary items derived from Spanish.
The Spanish language left several creoles across the islands, which have mixed with indigenous languages. There were once a large number of creole speakers in such districts as Davao, Cavite, Ermita, Ternate and Zamboanga (Lipsiki 1987: 91). Currently most of the creoles are extinct, with only Chabacano remaining, which is spoken by several thousand residents in the city of Zamboanga at the western tip of Mindanao Island.
Those linguistic legacies were in part brought about by a natural process of language change, but in part caused by language policies conducted by the Spanish authorities. In this paper we will look mainly at the latter aspect of language change.
Since the colonists spoke a totally different language from the languages of the people whom they conquered, one of the crucial issues to be dealt with was what language should be employed in missionary and administrative activities. Which language should be selected, Spanish, Tagalog or other indigenous languages? After selection, then, how should the language be propagated? All these considerations are comprised into the category of language policies.
During the Spanish regime, royal decrees concerning these language considerations were issued in the homeland and then conveyed to the colony. The colonial government had to execute their language policies in compliance with the decrees. The friars were also an influential factor because no other Spaniards except them were allowed to live in villages, where they had direct contact with the natives and supervised them. All governmental policies regarding natives had to be implemented by way of the friars. Without the friars’ approval and cooperation no policies could be conducted. In addition, Filipinos’ attitudes toward these language issues should not be disregarded, because the current sociolinguistic situations depend greatly on whether they were willing to accept the Spanish language or not.
Thus, when we will look into the history of language policies in the Philippines, we should take note of the following factors: the government in Spain, the colonial government, religious orders (friars) and the attitudes of the Filipinos.
The purpose of this paper is to discuss how these factors have contributed to the sociolinguistic situation in the Philippines in terms of language policies. This paper is organized as follows: (1) First we will discuss the linguistic situations in the Philippines when the Spaniards arrived; (2) Then, we will look at language policies planned by the authorities in Spain, in particular, by means of looking chronologically at royal decrees; (3) We also look into some laws relating to the language policies of the colonial government; (4) Next we will investigate how the friars reacted to these policies; (5) Then we will look at the Filipinos’ attitudes and describe how they reacted to the Spanish language; (6) Finally we will discuss what significance the Spanish language has had on the mentality of Filipinos.
1. The Philippines When the Spaniards Arrived
What is referred to as the Philippines is composed of more than 7,000 islands. These islands were originally inhabited mainly by Malays, who formed a small community called “barangay” along the sea coasts or on the riverside, and led a subsistence life by farming or fishing, and believed in primitive animism. Around the 15th century, the influence of Islam reached the southern parts of the Philippines, such as Mindanao and the Sulu islands which are currently strongholds of the Muslin religion.
As for linguistic situations, inhabitants spoke languages of the Malayo-Polynesian family. It seemed that more than several hundred languages were spoken in those days. This is also true in the present day. But, unfortunately, there remain so few historical documents that it is difficult to visualize the sociolinguistic situations of the ancient societies. One of the few sources available was a book titled Relación de las Islas Filipinas published in Rome in 1604. The author was a Spanish priest named Pedro Chirino, who states as follows:
Of all those languages, it was the Tagal which most pleased me and which I most admired….I found in this language four qualities of the four greatest languages of the world, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Spanish: it has the abstruseness and obscurity of the Hebrew; the articles and distinctions in proper as well as in common nouns of the Greek; the fullness and elegance of the Latin; and the refinement, polish, and courtesy of the Spanish…(DS 3. 368)
…and there is hardly a man, and much less a woman, who does not read and write in the letters used in the island of Manila. (DS 3. 370)
There is another valuable document descriptive of the sociolinguistic situations of the islands. In 1609, Morga, a former governor of this colony, published Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas in Mexico city. The book illustrated the life-style of the Filipino people and admired their languages as follows:
The inhabitants of the province of Manila, the Tagals, have their own language, which is very rich and copious. By means of it one can express elegantly whatever one wishes, and in many modes and manners. It is not difficult to learn or pronounce. The natives throughout the islands can write excellently with certain characters, almost like the Greek or Arabic. (DS 4. 46)
These two books indicated that Filipinos had possessed the writing system and most of the inhabitants had already known how to write and read, at least in the surrounding areas of Manila. They showed that there was already universal literacy by the 16th century and seemingly a civilized society. These books contained descriptions highly flattering to Filipinos.
But some researchers such as Corpuz expressed skepticism about this Chrino-Morga assertion that the writing system was prevalent in those days. In order to refute the assertion, Corpus (1989:20-36) showed much counter-evidence which seems convincing . Here, we lack time to go into the problem of whether this assertion is true or not. Simply, we should pay attention to the fact that in the 19th century many Filipino patriots showed an interest in these passages of the books and “found” that there was once a great culture in their country which had been despised and regarded as a backward country. These two books provided many Filipino intelligentsia with confidence and pride in the motherland.
2. Language Policies by the Government in Spain
2.1. Some Features of the Spanish Colonization
According to Constantino (1978:29-31), there was the difference in the tactics of colonization between Spain and the other colonizing powers in Southeast Asia. In general, the Western powers initially instituted a system of indirect rule through the ruling class of natives. Britain and Holland were not so much interested in military conquest as trading and commerce, therefore, they preserved the old ruling class to avoid military confrontation. Thus the former ruling class was able to preserve its cultural tradition. When the Western powers started to implant direct rule in the 19th century, the level of culture of the colonized people was such that it could no longer be completely obliterated. Thus there remains the consistency of history, culture and literature.
But in the Philippines the Spanish authorities directly controlled natives with the assistance of the friars. No ruling class was allowed to be an intermediary between the colonial master and the masses. In addition to that, the friars stayed in villages and influenced the mentality of natives. They urged villagers to renounce old practices and customs and systematically destroyed religious literature and whatever smacked of paganism. Thus the identity of Filipinos as a Malay people was almost totally wiped out.
2.2. Friars and Their Religious Enthusiasm
The fall of Granada marked the end of the struggles between Christians and Muslims over the Spanish Peninsula. During the struggles the government and the missionaries closely cooperated to conquer by military might and to spread the Christian faith. The consolidation of the Cross and the Sword was established during the time of “Reconquista” and continued after the Spaniards sailed off to conquer vast territories in America and Asia. Soldiers arrived in the Philippines, accompanied by the religious orders (friars) whose job was to convert the natives, to pacify them and to secure Spanish rule.
The friars were, in later days, notorious for their abuse of power and their corrupt and luxurious life-style. But the documents in earlier days showed a contrastive image in which they were enthusiastic about their obligations. Alzona (1932: 165-7) praised missionary activities in the 16-17th century and stated, “A perusal of the chronicles written by missionaries reveals the diligence and zeal of the Spaniards in bringing the Faith even to unwilling and hostile people.” Earlier missionaries went to remote jungles or Muslim villages in spite of dangers and sacrifices in the performance of their duties. They also suffered from hunger, epidemics, tropical weather, terrible road conditions, etc. The friars seemed to be driven by any other force but the pursuit of worldly profits. We are impressed by the earlier friars because of their self-sacrifice in missionary activities, which was quite different from their counterparts in later days.
2.3. Language and Religion
At the time of the Spanish conquest, inhabitants in the Philippines had not yet met a sophisticated religion, with the exception of Islam coming to the southern parts of the islands. Believers of primitive animism were quickly attracted to a new refined and systematized religion, that is, the Catholic doctrine. Conversion was so complete that we might say that the mentality of the Philippine people shifted almost totally from Malay culture-oriented to Western culture-oriented.
In terms of a missionary language, the friars discussed which language was the most effective for spreading Christianity and which language was the most accurate in conveying the message from the Bible. Missionaries might think that they could convey the Christian doctrine more precisely by means of Spanish rather than through indigenous languages. But from earlier experience in the Spanish colonies of South and North America, the friars found that the most effective way to teach the Christian doctrine was to employ the languages of the natives (Bernabe 1987: 10).
When missionaries started to translate the catechism into the languages of the natives, they faced the problem of how to translate the central concepts of the Christianity. It was almost impossible to translate precisely the important concepts such as Dios (the God), espíritu santo (holy spirit), iglesia (church), Jesucristo (Jesus Christ), cruz (cross) into indigenous languages. In order to maintain the purity of the concepts that these words conveyed, the missionaries decided to leave them untranslated, convinced that they had no exact equivalents in indigenous languages. According to Bernabe (1987:10), this decision might well be considered the first of the language policies in the Philippines.
In religion, how a sacred name is pronounced is of great concern to clergymen, so the spoken language is often more important than the written language. To pronounce the God or other sacred names in a different way is tantamount to blasphemy. Missionaries found the phonetic scripts of natives inadequate because they had only three vowels and sometimes only consonants were written. Consequently, missionaries decided to adopt the Roman alphabet as a writing system for indigenous languages.
2.4. Alphabet Writing System
Natives’ scripts were called baybayin, which was probably of Sanskrit or Arabic provenance. Babybayin was reportedly in wide use among the Tagalogs as well as other linguistic groups in the archipelago during the early period of colonization (Rafael, 1988: 44). But after the introduction of Romanized letters, baybayin was quickly displaced by romanized phonetic writing among the Christianized natives (Rafael 1988: 45).
In 1663 Father Francisco Colin witnessed, “all of them have now adopted our way of writing, with the lines from left to right; for formerly they only wrote vertically down and up, placing the first line to the left and running the others continuously to the right, just opposite to the Chinese and Japanese…”(DS 5.6). Thus by the end of the 17th century, most of Filipinos shifted to the alphabet writing system.
About the significance of alphabetical letters, Alizona (1932:3) gave a favorable assessment, “the introduction of the Latin alphabet was one of the contributions of the Spaniards to the advancement of Philippine civilization.” Bernabe (1986:9) presented another view, however, in which she admitted that the introduction of alphabet made the intake of Western thoughts easier, but at the same time she pointed to the fact that Filipinos started to alienate themselves from their traditional culture and their original Malay identity.
2.5. Language Problems in the Philippines
The modern nation has a clear-cut goal for its language policy and has founded an organization which systematically implements policies. In colonial Philippine, at first the authorities did not realize what the problem was, or what it should be done in terms of language problems. In a sense, the history of language policies was the history of gradual realization of language problems.
The colonial government received royal decrees from the government in Spain. Looking at the whole colonies in Asia and America, the Crown government thought it desirable to teach the Spanish language to natives in order to establish a unified consciousness of the Spanish Empire. But the home government did not have detailed information about the colonies, so the royal decrees tended to be vague and abstract.
The colonial government should have implemented polices in complying with the royal decrees. But governors and high-ranking officials usually could stay on their positions only for a few years due to the rotation policy of the homeland. The colonial authorities were hesitant to carry out any policies from a long-term perspective, because they could not stay long enough to know about their outcome.
The friars were more influential to language policies than the colonial government. Only the friars were able to speak indigenous languages and they took advantage of their linguistic ability. They knew clearly that their advantage depended greatly on their position as an intermediary between the colonial government and the natives. They did not want their position to be undermined by teaching Spanish to the natives.
2.6. Royal Decrees Issued by the Government in Spain
In Spain, it was the Council of the Indies at Madrid that decided the law relating to the language policies until 1837. After 1837, the Ministry of the Colonies took over that job from the Council of the Indies (Alizona 1932: 19-20).
In the Philippines, missionaries decided to use indigenous languages for propagating the Christian doctrine. But the Council of the Indies insisted that missionaries should use Castilian because they were of the opinion that indigenous languages were inadequate to convey Christian ideas (Alizona 1932:19).
Concerning language policies, the government in Spain sent the colony many decrees, which can be generally categorized into two types. The first was to ask the friars to learn indigenous languages. Because the Madrid government knew that indigenous languages were indispensable for missionary activities through its experiences in North and South America. The second was to ask the colonial authorities to teach Spanish to the natives. Because, in process of time, the industrial and bureaucratic system began to require a universal knowledge of Spanish.
In the following we will look at important decrees chronologically and examine the significance of each decree.
2.6.1. Decree in 1550
The earliest of the decrees concerning language policies was issued by Carlos I in Valladolid in 1550 (June 7) and reissued in the same year (July 17). This is the first decree demanding the teaching of Castilian in the Spanish colonies which was issued before the colonization of the Philippines (Bernabe 1987:11; Alzona 1932: 20) . This decree showed a great concern as to whether the message of the Christian doctrine could be conveyed precisely through indigenous languages or not. It stated as follows:
Having made special investigation as to whether the mysteries of our holy Catholic faith can be thoroughly and properly explained even in the most perfect language of the Indians, it has been seen that it is impossible without committing great discords and imperfections; and although chairs are founded, where the priests, who should have to instruct the Indians , may be taught, it is not a sufficient remedy, as the diversity of the language is great. Having resolved that it will be advisable to introduce the Castilian, we ordain that teachers be assigned to the Indians, who may teach them what they wish to learn of their own accord, in the manner that will be of least trouble to them and without expenses. We have considered that this might be well done by the sacristans, just as they teach reading, writing, and the Christian doctrine in the village of these kingdom. (B&R 45.185) .
Three points which are characteristic of these decrees should be paid attention to. First, the purpose of the Spanish teaching was mentioned only in terms of contributing to the spread of the Christian doctrine. Here language teaching was mainly related to religious purposes, not to nationalism or effectiveness of communication as is often found in modern times. Second, the decree was rather vague and inadequate, not referring to such a concrete matters as financial considerations. Third, it upheld the idea that the sacristans should teach Spanish. There was not yet an idea of systematic language teaching by professionals, even though teaching was usually done by sacristans in those days.
2.6.2. The Instruction to Tello in 1596
The king of Spain (Felipe II) sent to Tello, Governor of the Philippine colony, an instruction which stated that learning of indigenous languages by the friars was inadequate for missionary work, instead the friars should teach Spanish to the natives.
As you will find out, especial care has been taken that the ecclesiastics and friars who present themselves to give instruction should learn the language of the Indians whom they are to teach and instruct; and that chairs should be established where the said language may be taught, so that there may be plenty of priests and ministers who know the language, in order to fulfill the above purpose. But inasmuch as this method has not proved, nor is it now, a sufficient aid by which the Indians may be taught and instructed in the Christian faith and religion, so that they may receive as much benefit therefrom as is advisable and desirable — and as they would have received had the same care been taken to teach all the Indians Castilian, by which plan more and better ministers would have been had for their teaching and instruction, and they would have fallen into fewer errors, or none, on account of their idolatries and other former vices and superstitions — it has been deemed advisable to provide in this regard the decree (issued in 1550) that will be given you with these instructions. …you shall decide and ordain how the contents of the said decree may be observed, obeyed, and executed exactly and to the letter, both in that city and in all the other cities of those islands and provinces, so that all its contents may be fulfilled and executed. (B&R 9. 255-6)
This instruction was issued within relatively a short time after the occupation of the Philippines. The government in Spain began to realize the importance of Spanish although they also understood the necessity of indigenous languages. As Bernabe (1987: 10) put it, “ originally, the Crown had encouraged the clergy to preach the faith through the medium of the native languages in order to facilitate the transition from paganism to Christianity, but in the 16 the century, it reversed its position as stated in the Instructions to Governor Tello.”
2.6.3. Decree in 1603
The above two decrees required the teaching of the Spanish language, but at the same time the Crown government demanded that the friars also learn indigenous languages, probably because some of the friars were reluctant or unable to master indigenous languages (Frei 1959:8). This decree was issued by Felipe III as follows:
Although it has been stringently ordered that the ministers appointed to the missions of the Indians, both seculars and friars, must know the languages of the Indians,… I have been informed that those orders have not been observed as is needful; … I charge you … to satisfy yourself that he has the necessary competency, and that he knows the language of the Indians whom he is to instruct…. In the visitations that you shall make you shall remove those whom you shall find to be incompetent, or lacking in the ability and good morals that are requisite, and those who do not know sufficiently the language of the Indians whom they instruct. (B&R 20. 250-2)
There were a small number of other royal decrees which urged the friars to learn native languages. Such decrees were not necessary in later days because the friars became willing to learn native languages. Evidently they knew the importance of a knowledge of the languages and its usefulness to their worldly success.
2.6.4. Decree in 1634
Felipe IV issued a decree requesting that the colonial government should teach Spanish to all the natives. The previous decrees stated that the Spanish teaching should be given only to those natives who were willing to learn. But this decree stated that all the natives should learn Spanish.
We ask and request the archbishops and bishops to take measures and give orders in their dioceses for the curas (parish priests) and missionaries of the Indians by the use of the mildest means, to order and direct all the Indians to be taught the Spanish language, and to learn in it the Christian doctrine, so that they may become more capable of the mysteries of our holy Catholic faith, may profit for their salvation, and obtain other advantages in their government and mode of living. (B&R 45.184)
2.6.5. Decree in 1686
Carlos II issued a decree in which he complained that former decrees (issued in 1550,1634 and 1636) had not been observed and stated there would be punishment if they were not observed.
… therefore, considering, in my royal Council of the Indias, the great advisability of observing this in the future strictly and inviolably, as it is inferred to be the most efficient means for banishing idolatries, to which the Indians are for the greater part addicted at present, as they were in the beginning of their conversion, from this means also it follows that the vexations which are practiced on them will cease in whole or in great part, and the Indians will be able to make their complaints directly to the superiors without making use of interpreters, who being bribed change the translation.
… and I warn … that the non-observance of this shall be charged against them in their residencias (residences).(B&R 45.184-6)
This decree is remarkable in that the authorities mentioned, for the first time, non-religious purposes as the reason to teach Spanish. The decree was issued so that natives might be able to complain directly to the authorities. Usually the natives complained through the friars who were “interpreters”, but the decree intended the natives to communicate with the authorities without the friars’ interpretation. It was no wonder that the friars strongly opposed and sabotaged this decree.
2.6.6. Decree in 1792
A similar type of decree was issued by Carlos IV in which he evoked the previous decrees (May 10, 1770; November 28, 1772; November 24, 1774) and lamented the noncompliance of them.
… in regards to the establishment of schools for the Castilian language in all the Indian villages, so that they may learn to read, write, and speak Castilian, prohibiting them from using their native language, and appointing for it teachers in whom are found the qualifications of Christianity, sufficiency, and good deportment that are required for so useful and delicate an employment. They shall be assigned the salary for the present from the receipts of my royal treasury, by way of teaching fund in the villages where this contribution is current, while what is lacking shall be paid from the communal properties and treasuries.
… and you shall order that no other language be spoken in the convents, monasteries, and in all judicial, extra-judicial, and domestic affairs than the Castilian. (B&R 45.221-2)
This decree was more realistic than former decrees in that it mentioned clearly the financial sources, the type of desirable teachers and the mandatory use of Spanish in domestic affairs. It came closer to a modern language policy.
2.7. Trend of the Decrees
The Crown government repeatedly issued these decrees as regards language issues. As we have seen, the contents of the decrees were gradually changing. At the first stage, the decrees asked both that the friars should learn indigenous languages and that Spanish should be taught to the natives. Frei (1959: 10) stated, “the primary purpose of teaching the Spanish language was the desire to spread Christianity.” However, as time went by, the teaching of Spanish became more and more necessary partly because, “there is the diversity of the dialects which made ineffective the training of the clergy in the Philippine languages, which became more numerous as conquest brought more territory of the islands under the Spanish rule.” (Frei 1959: 10). Another consideration was the necessity of direct control of the natives, as capitalism made inroads into the colony.
Then the necessity for language for administration came to be realized in the issuance of Education Act in 1863 (see Chapter 2.9). As Frei (1959: 11) mentioned, “The other consideration was the need of the state for a medium of promoting administrative matters…. Political and social aspects took on increasing importance at least toward the end of the Spanish regime and held equal rank with the religious motive….”
2.8. Language Policies by the Colonial Government
In compliance with decrees issued by the home government, the colonial government also issued several laws concerning language policies. Compared to the royal decrees, those laws presented more concrete and realistic methods. But they were equally ignored by the friars.
2.8.1. Ordinance 1768
Governor Solís issued the following law on October 19, 1752, later it became Ordinance 52 in 1768:
… so that in the villages of their districts they demand, establish, and found, from this day forward, schools where the children of the natives and other inhabitants of their districts may be educated and taught (in primary letters in the Castilian or Spanish language), seeing to it earnestly and carefully that they study, learn, and receive education in that language and not in that of the country or any other.
For that purpose, and so that it may have the fullest effect, I revoke, annul, and declare of no use and value ordnance 29, which declares that Spaniards shall not be allowed to live in or remain in the villages of the Indians; for in the future they must be admitted to such residence.
… and for the attainment of the duties and posts of governors and other honorable military posts it shall be a necessary qualification that those on whom they are conferred be the most capable, experienced, and clever in being able to read, talk, and write, in the above-mentioned Spanish language, and such posts must be given to such persons and not to others.” (B&R 46.277-8).
One of the radical reforms was proposed here. So far ordinary Spaniards were forbidden to stay in native villages, but the residence of Spaniards began to be allowed for the sake of the propagation of Spanish. The friars, however, wanted to preserve their privilege, so they harassed and tried to repel those Spaniards who had taken the trouble to move to the villages. As a result, only a small number of Spaniards settled down in villages.
This ordinance called for the establishment of schools and prohibited the use of any language other than Spanish in schools. It also stated that official jobs could be given to those speaking Spanish as an incentive to learn Spanish. Obviously the developing bureaucracy needed more and more Filipino officials with a knowledge of Spanish, though, in low-level jobs.
2.8.2. Ordinances of Good Government
Governor José Raon issued 94 ordinances in 1768 which became virtually a colonial code of the local government. Ordinance 25 concerned Spanish language education and its financial sources as follows:
It is important that there should be good school teachers to instruct the natives so that these natives may learn the Spanish language for better understanding of the Christian Doctrine. Since the salary of the teachers paid by the community fund is very small — one peso and one cavan (unit of weight) of rice; it is, hereby, ordered that the alcalde-mayor (mayor), with the help of the curas (parish priests) and missionaries, readjust the teachers’ salaries in proportion to the tributes, and inform the Superior Government and the royal accountancy on this matter so that better teachers may be appointed. (DS 6.134).
Due to the small salary, it was hard to recruit capable teachers. The law initiated one of the reforms related to teacher’s financial problems.
In general, compared to the royal decrees, most of these laws were more down-to-earth, adjusting to the realities in the colony.
2.9. Education Act in 1863
These decrees and ordinances paved the way for the Education Act in 1863, which marked a watershed for the education system in the Philippines. In 1839 a commission was formed to draft a set of regulations for the establishment of primary education in the Philippines. At that commission there were long discussions as to whether the medium of instruction should be Spanish or not. A friar named Gainza opposed the use of Spanish and argued that “the scheme would give the Filipinos a common language and it would eventually undermine the Spanish regime.” (Bernabe 1987: 15). Anyway the commission finally reported that Spanish should be used as the medium of instruction in primary schools. This reports prepared the basis for the educational decree of 1863.
In 1863 the Educational Act was issued. The Act stated that: in every town a primary school should be established; primary education became compulsory for boys and girls aged 6-12; tuition fees should be free and equipment should be provided to the poor.
It also prescribed that Spanish was to be the sole medium of instruction. To this end, the decree provided that natives who could not speak, read and write Spanish five years after its issuance were not to be permitted to hold salaried government positions. This was the major motivation to induce the Filipinos to study the language (B&R 46.85).
We cannot underestimate the significance of this educational act. Because it established primary education and contributed to the opening of the modern education system. B&R (46.15) stated, “with the decree of 1863, new life is put into education, and that all the many decrees and orders issued later by the government are harmonious in effect and purpose.”
As for Spanish language education, however the education act in 1863 did not attain its original goal. Of all its provisions, that on the requirement to use Spanish as medium of instruction was most openly violated by being ignored by the friars. As before, the native languages continued to be used throughout the primary schools. The promulgation of fourteen decrees in all between 1867 and 1889 (within the space of twenty-two years) concerning the use and teaching of Spanish attests to the dubious manner and lack of success in the implementation of the laws (Bernabe 1987: 17).
3. Failure of Spanish Language Education
As we have seen, most decrees were not observed: that is the reason why similar decrees were issued one after another. As Alizona (1932:21) mentioned, “the decrees suffered a natural death upon their receipt here.”
Remarks by Le Gentil, a French tourist, objectively described Spanish language education as follows:
According to one of the King’s ordinances, renewed perhaps a hundred times, the friars have been instructed to teach Spanish to the young natives. But his Majesty … has not yet succeeded in making himself obeyed, and his ordinance is still a dead letter. (Corpuz 1989: 357)
Some schools managed to introduce Spanish language education into their curriculum. But even in such schools, it was hard to say that language education was successfully implemented. In the words of a friar named Eladio Zamora:
In the schools the children read and wrote in Castilian, learned the grammar by heart, and some teachers gave the explanation in Castilian also. The teacher asked questions in Castilian, and the scholars replied in certain dialogues, which they learned by heart. But what was the result? The children did not understand one iota of the master’s explanation. They answered in the dialogue like parrots, and the few phrases which they learned in the harmonious language of Cervantes, they forgot before they reached home, if not in the very school itself, because they did not again hear either when playing with their comrades or in their homes, or in the school itself.” (B&R 46.328-9)
The reasons of the failure of Spanish language education was multifaceted, some of them being enumerated as follows:
(1) The Philippines is geographically distant from Spain, so royal decrees were not so forceful as in the homeland.
(2) In order to prevent the impact of independence of Latin Americans, the authority wanted the natives to be barred from news from outside, therefore, they were hesitant to spread the Spanish language.
(3) The decrees being originally oriented for Americans, it did not fit the realities in the Philippines (B&R 46.285).
(4) A lack of funds was another reason. It was said that funds were not available very often and this hampered the hiring of teachers. Bernabe (1987: 13) mentioned that “except in the later part of the Spanish regime, education was not a critical item in the finances of the government.” Therefore, expenses for education were largely defrayed by the clergy, not by the national treasury.
(5) There were generally no incentives for natives to learn Spanish. As Bernabe (1987:14) mentioned, “the sheer lack of need to use the language was enough reason for its unattractiveness to the people.”
(6) The Spaniards except the friars were forbidden to live in the native village, therefore, the natives had few chances to practice Spanish.
(7) Even though the colonial government planned to spread the Spanish language, the friars in villages and towns wanted to monopolize the tools of communication and ensure their own power base. The friars were categorically opposed to the spread of Spanish. This reason was generally believed to be the most decisive one.
4. Viewpoints from the Friars
4.1. Criticism against the Friars
In the earlier days of colonization, some friars criticized the colonial system (such as encomenderos system which abused natives) and showed sympathy with the natives, but gradually the friars themselves became recipients of benefits of that system and they became more and more involved in the system. Later they became the target of harsh criticism (Corpuz 1989: 95). For example, in 1768, a jurist-soldier, Don Simon Anda y Salazar exposed the abuses committed by the friars in his famous “Memorial.”
The revolt against the Spanish regime and the Philippine Revolution, and the severance of the Philippines from Spain were generally thought to be caused by the friars’ abuses of power. The friars were regarded as responsible for the fall of the Spanish regime in the Philippines.
In terms of language policy, they became also the target of criticism for the reason of negligence of Spanish education among the natives. Many complains were charged against the friars for not implementing Spanish language education. But according to Corpuz (1989: 220-1), at first the friars simply ignored these charges. It was not until the 19th century that the friar orders issued a written justification of their position on the issue.
4.2. Justification by the Friars
Toward the end of Spanish regime, the friars began to justify their position. The friars’ justification is based chiefly on two excuses: (1) The friars, in fact, made efforts to spread Spanish contrary to the general belief. Consequently, others, be it the colonial government or the Crown government or whatever else, might be responsible. (2) The natives were not able to understand the Spanish language, therefore, it was useless to teach Spanish to them. The friars asserted that they could not overcome the inability of the natives to understand a sophisticated language such as Spanish.
4.2.1. First Justification
It was claimed by many friars that they, in fact, were serious to propagate Spanish, which, however, might not be supported by the general belief. The friars presented various kind of evidence to try to prove that their activities were far-sighted and superior to others in terms of Spanish language education.
A friar named Eduardo Navarro made this assertion in his book Estudio de Algunos Asuntos de Actualidal. He referred to the historical fact that in 1596, among the Augustinian order, the resolution was established, which were capitular laws and compulsory in all the religious of the province. The resolution stated that “it is enjoined upon all the ministers of Indians, that just as the schoolboys are taught to read and write, they be taught also to speak our Spanish language, because of the great culture and profit which follow therefrom.” (B&R 46.288)
Another friar named Eladio Zamora claimed that, after the transfer of education from the friars to the municipalities, the standard of education declined. He claimed “while the normal teachers remained under the immediate supervision of the parish priests, authorized by the official rules to suspend them and fashion them suitably, education made excellent progress. But when they were emancipated from the supervision of the parish-priest religious by the decree of sad memory countersigned by Senor Maura in 1893, creating the municipalities to which passed the supervision and management of the schools and the teachers, education went into a decline.” (B&R 46.327)
He also asserted that the villages under the friars’ rule enjoyed a higher Spanish prevalence than those under other authorities such as secular priests. “To accuse the religious of being the reason why Castilian is not popular in Filipinas when we have the most eloquent data that in the villages ruled by secular priests of the country, there is less Castilian spoken than in the parishes ruled over by the friars.” (F&R 46.339)
4.2.2. Second Justification
In general the friars underestimated the Filipinos and occasionally showed their racial prejudice. The prejudice was openly presented even by a well-known friars.
A famous missionary and historian, Gaspar de San Agustin, wrote a letter to his friend in 1720, in which he depicted the Filipinos as “an inferior race — cowardly, lazy, liar, ungrateful, dishonest, devoid of honor, thievish, imbecile, treacherous, ignorant, rude, etc.” (DS 5. 209) A Jesuit priest, erudite scholar and historian, Muillo Velarde also showed in an addendum to San Agustin’s letter his racial prejudice, “What is the Indian? Reply – The lowest degree of rational animal.” (DS 5. 250)
The friars believed in their racial superiority and felt that the Spanish language was beyond Filipinos’ capacity. They sneered at Filipinos’ efforts to learn Spanish and obtain education. A friar named Miguel Lucio Bustamante showed his contempt toward Philippine natives. He (quoted in Alzona 1932: 96-7) “ridiculed the efforts of the Filipinos to acquire the same education as that possessed by the Spaniards, and stated that all a Filipino needed to enable him to go to heaven was to learn how to pray, to plow, and to be obedient to his superiors, especially to the parish priests…. The author’s conclusion was that to teach the indio Spanish and give him a little education was fatal. The indio was destined to tend carabaos (water buffalo), and not to live like Spaniards.”
5. Attitude of the Natives toward Spanish
As we have seen, there were two conflicting groups on the ruling side: one group was eager to teach Spanish and the other was reluctant to spread Spanish. We need to look at situation on the natives’ side: how the natives responded to the Spanish language. Looking at various documents, we get the impression that Filipinos were generally curious to know a new language.
In earlier colonial days, Chirino (quoted in Rafael 1988: 56) recorded as follows: “they have learned our language, pronouncing and writing it as well as we and even better, because they are quite skilled so that they can learn anything with great facility.” Alizona (1932: 19) analyzed Chirino’s book and judged that “the Filipinos showed great interest in learning the new language. Old men, and even women, flocked to the mission schools eager to study the new faith and the strange language.”
In the 19th century, as the colonial society developed and new industry arose, some Filipinos became interested in social advancement, seeking to make their fortune. To get a job in bureaucracy or professional jobs such as priest or lawyer, a knowledge of Spanish was absolutely necessary. Spanish became the symbol of advancement and affluence. Most educated Filipinos wanted to learn how to speak Spanish because it was considered a status symbol in Philippine society (Bernabe 1987: 128). In general, the educated Filipinos strongly demanded the teaching of the Castilian language to the masses, and the establishment of a common language. As Alzona (1932: 170) mentioned, “the Filipinos expressed their desire to learn the Castilian language and their regret at the failure of the public schools to spread the language.”
6. Impact of the Spanish Language on the Philippine Mentality
For three centuries Spanish was the language of the ruling class. By the end of its regime, it was reported that 2.46% of the adult population could speak Spanish (1870 Census, quoted in Gonzalez 1980: 26). As the strongest impact of the Spanish language on the mentality of the Filipino people, we can refer to the fact that Spanish language education led to the rise of Tagalog and the unified consciousness as a Tagalog-speaking race.
6.1. Unified Consciousness of the Filipino people
The development of nationalism occurred earlier in the Philippines than in any other region of Southeast Asia (Steinberg 1987:170). Its nationalism was developed during the Propaganda Movement and the Philippine Revolution.
In the middle of the 19th century, in Spain, the Liberal Movement arose in Barcelona then moved to Madrid. Those days a great number of Filipino students were studying there and naturally were influenced by this movement. They began to campaign for the liberation of the Philippines, which did not mean that they aimed at independence from Spain but the assimilation into Spain with Filipinos’ rights fully recognized.
In 1882 Del Pilar founded the nationalist newspaper Diariong Tagalog, through which he propagated his idea. In 1892 José Rizal founded an organization Liga Filipina and started his campaign.
José Rizal played an important role in the history of the consciousness of the Philippines. He studied Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas and “found” that the Philippines had a great language and culture (See Chapter 1). He found that there was once a great race and culture in the ancient Philippine islands. Explaining to his fellows that they all belonged to this great race, he went so far as to insist that before the arrival of Spaniards, there was no abuse, no exploitation , and people were living a fruitful and prosperous life. Also a revolutionary, Andres Bonifacio wrote in the same tone, “these islands were governed by our own compatriots who were then living in the greatest abundance and prosperity … young and old, the women included, knew how to read and write, using their own alphabet.” (DS.8: 201).
The nation “Filipinas” and the people “Filipinos” were finally conceptualized in the mind of José Rizal and his fellow campaigners. This finding was quickly spread to other intelligentsia in the Philippines. Filipinos began to understand their motherland was not Spain but the Philippines. Thus, Spain and the Philippines came to be recognized as separate entities.
But the Propaganda Movement was not so prevailing as to be supported by the general public. One of the characteristics of the Propaganda Movement was that it was established through the Spanish language. Therefore, the limit of the Propaganda Movement was that this movement mainly depended on Spanish, not on the public language, Tagalog. Due to this, the movement could not spread to the masses. Constantino (1975:157) clearly stated that “an important factor limiting the influence of the propagandists was the fact that they wrote in Spanish, a language virtually unknown among the masses.”
6.2. Philippine Revolution
In 1896 the Filipinos finally took up arms, aiming at independence. Here we cannot go into the details of the Revolution, but simply take note of some of the linguistic significance of the Revolution. During the Philippine Revolution, the language shift from Spanish to Tagalog proceeded greatly. As long as the movement remained within the theory planned by intellectuals, the Spanish language was able to play a significant role. But once the theory was put into practice and spread to the real revolution, the role of Spanish became radically reduced. To mobilize the majority of the people, the intellectuals should appeal to them through popular languages, that is, Tagalog and other Philippine languages. Thus, in 1897 the Biak-na-Bato Constitution was promulgated which contained an article providing that Tagalog would be the official language of the Republic ( Frei 1959: 29; Hayden 1955: 588-9).
At first there was no consciousness of the tie between language and ethnic identity. It was not until the outbreak of the Revolution that the tie was found. At the last stage of the Revolution, Tagalog and the other Philippine languages were praised as a symbol of resistance against Spain. During the revolution they confirmed that their true language was not Spanish.
Conclusions (From Spanish to Tagalog)
The purposes of the language policies shifted from a religious one to a non-religious one. Although the religious purpose had been one of the important purposes of the language policies during the Spanish rule, as time went by, non-religious purposes became more and more salient, such as effective administration, the direct control of the natives, the creation of the work force with the knowledge of Spanish. The authorities believed that Spanish language education for the natives was one of the surest ways to secure their colonial rule.
To this end the Crown government tried to spread Spanish by issuing many royal decrees and finally issued the Education Act in 1863. After this Education Act, school education began to spread and policies became more and more concrete on the problem of financial sources, the quality of teachers, and incentives to learn Spanish. Even though the spread of Spanish was slow due to various reasons such as the opposition of the friars, eventually Spanish became a symbol of advancement and civilization, then, the elite of the natives began to learn Spanish with enthusiasm.
Paradoxically the spread of Spanish gave Filipino intellectuals tools to know the Liberal Movement in Europe, to find their own national pride and to criticize Spanish rule. Influenced by Romanticism, Filipinos began to look at their past and found that Tagalog was an appropriate symbol of ethnic identity. As they needed to unite to resist the Spanish regime, they appealed more and more to the symbolic function of Tagalog. We might say the Spanish language stimulated Filipinos to find the significance of Tagalog and other Philippine languages.
But the 300-year presence of the Spanish language was so weighty that it cannot be obliterated from the Philippines completely. Spanish was strong enough to deprive the Philippine people of their Malay identity, but was not long enough to destroy their identity as ‘the Filipino people.’ Thus the pendulum of the Philippines is still swinging between the Malay-Philippine identity and the Spanish-Western identity.