Memories from EL GALEON DE MANILA (Part 2)
--Filipinos in late 19th Century Breaking with the European History and Language
By Kevin Stoda
About 15 years ago a group of scholars from Mexico and the Philippines met in a series of round-tables to share presentations on the topic of THE SPANISH FLOTILLA TO MANILA (& BACK). The series was part of the hundredth anniversary of the independence of the Philippines from Spanish rule. They presented then in 1997 a publication dedicated to the EL GALEON DE MANILA. One of the articles in the publication, "Ang Bayan Ko; Algunas Reflexiones sobre la Identidad Nacional Filipina"  or "My Beloved Fatherland: Some Reflections on the National Identity of the Filipino ", is by Jaime B. Veneracion and is concerned with the language reforms at around the time of independence for the Philippines.
I should add that the title of Veneracion's article refers to the song, "[Ang] Bayan Ko". "Bayan Ko . . . is one of the most recognizable patriotic songs in the Philippines that, because of its popularity, is sometimes assumed to be a folk song and the unofficial national anthem of the Philippines. It was originally written as a poem by Jose CorazÃ³n de JesÃºs in 1929, and set to music by Constancio de Guzman."
It also should be noted, "Written as a protest song during the American occupation of the Philippines, it [Bayan Ko] is often sung in protest rallies and demonstrations throughout Philippine history, notably during the funeral of Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr. and the ensuing People Power Revolution of 1986 where Freddie Aguilar led the crowd to sing the song's chorus."
Veneracion begins his piece by referring to the popularity of the song "Bayan Ko" in Filipino history--while also clarifying that for Filipinos the period of the revolution (in and around 1896) continues to be a reference point for Filipino national identity. In addition, Veneracion emphasizes that "[l]ike all revolutions, the Filipino revolution demanded the creation of new concepts and metaphors, in order to build up a new nation [or new peoples]. That is, one that had existed in prior generations." [p. 175]
The most important national leader, Jose Rizal, had already proposed changes for Tagalog orthography by 1892. Tagalog continues to be the language spoken by the dominant (political and economic) classes of Filipinos in the politically centralized region of Luzon, where Manila is located.
Rizal and other leaders of his era had rationalized that the peoples of the Philippines would need to assert their identities in a post-Spanish world in terms of a common language and common orthography--and as quickly as possible. Rizal had proposed "[orthographically] the substitution of K for [both] C and Q and the elimination of V and F, which he didn't consider necessary" because Tagalog "already had other letters which sufficed."
The founding revolutionary thinkers of Rizal's era made various contributions to major reforms in the way that Filipinos would come to think about the roles of church and state in the 20th century. Apolinarios Mabini for example, wrote a new variation on the "true ten commandments" (decalogo verdadero)--which he claimed had outdone any translation created in Spanish or Latin in terms. These "decalogo verdaderos" were eventually incorporated into Bonifacio's own Proposal for the Philippine's constitution in 1898.