Inglesero, Hispanggol, and the myth of the great cultural divide

Erwin S. Fernandez

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'We should celebrate regionalism and appreciate our linguistic history when it comes to teaching languages'

The ruckus made by the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) memo reopened an old wound that cultural activists across country must now try to heal, without using supremacist band-aid solutions.

One has accused the CHED and the alleged complicit anonymous for “betraying the Filipino language.” (READ: ‘CHED is not targeting Filipino language instruction’)

My instant reaction, having outgrown this kind of bullshit nationalism – which is nothing but an appeal to a misplaced ethnocentrism – is that I did not betray anything.

It is us who were forced to betray our primordial ethnic identities.

Let me debunk one by one the gross stupidities that are prevalent among Manila-based intellectuals who pride themselves of wearing that fabulous, but empty hat called “Filipino nationalism.”

Graphic by Nico Villarete/


First, there is no “national narrative” because what we actually have which is still unrecognized or suppressed is “multiple” national narratives.

Second, Spanish and American colonization were never totalizing because there was allowance for local identities and languages to grow and evolve.

Regionalism, which is seen as anathema to a monolingual imperialistic nationalism, is, in truth, the strength of the nation.

Third, the unity among Filipinos whether they are Pangasinan, Ibaloi, Waray, Tausug, is not to be found in any language, not even in English or Spanish.

It is in the geography which binds all Filipinos living in an archipelagic country.

The real tragedy of Filipinos lies not in the resistance towards Tagalog, but in its continuing imposition. We do not appreciate linguistic diversity and how these local languages should be nurtured in their respective regions.

They should be given the national and official recognition they deserve.


The more tragic are non-Tagalogs who wittingly become the convenient defenders of an unjust and unfair policy to the disadvantage of their own languages.

Why did they turn out to be that way?

Having undergone intensive brainwashing in the local schools, they erroneously believe that Tagalog/Filipino is the only language apart from English because their language is a mere dialect.

They wrongly believe that speaking and writing in Tagalog/Filipino expresses their nationalism while speaking and writing in the local language (read: dialect) is, to them, parochialism.

Consequently, they talk to their children or to their grandchildren not in the language they were accustomed to but in Tagalog/Filipino.

Others would view English or Spanish as foreign tongue. To them, knowing it or even loving it is already a sign of colonial mentality and would earn the derision of being called “Inglesero” or “Hispanggol.”

‘Cultural divide’

Others would even perceive Spanish and English as the cause of “a great cultural divide” in Philippine society. Is this really so?

There is no such thing as a “cultural divide;” it is a bogus construct to pave the way for Tagalog supremacism.

It blatantly ignores that in the interstices of colonial and postcolonial Philippine society the Filipino people are actively shaping, sometimes passively receiving, but always reacting in dissimilar ways to Spanish, American, and post-war stimuli in whatever language.

To those who subscribe to this faulty rhetoric, Tagalog language is seen as the only modality in which “authentic” nationalism can be inscribed.

In contrast, a healthy nationalism inculcates the following: that all Philippine tongues are languages, not dialects; that loving your mother tongue is not a sign of being barok or bakya; that love of country can be expressed in any language, most especially in your mother tongue.

Whether you are Chinoy or Bombay, you can still show your patriotism in either Mandarin or Hindi. (READ: My Tsinoy dilemma

What needs to be done

Going back to the CHED memo, I have read its entirety and there was no abolition of Filipino contrary to what is being peddled around just to gain undeserved sympathy.

Nonetheless, I support its abolition in non-Tagalog areas so that a department of the majority language in a particular place could be established in its place. Or that these departments must be forced to include course offerings on local language and culture.

But there’s a hitch.

The present curricula of baccalaureate degrees in Philippine universities are oriented towards Tagalog and English, while in the K – 12 program courses are bilingually taught in Tagalog and English – with no subject on local language and culture.

The Department of Education must come up with a subject in junior and senior high school in which local language and traditions are highlighted, while CHED must see to it that new core courses in the General Education Curriculum can be taught in the local language. (READ: Luistro to teachers: Use jejemon if you have to)

For example, the course “Understanding the Self” would be more meaningful in a Pangasinan university when the discourse is in Pangasinan, along with English until in due time Pangasinan gradually dominates the discussion and the production of knowledge.

It is the same with “Purposive Communication” where English and Pangasinan can be taught to students while “Readings in Philippine History” could be modified to include primary sources on local history that some, based on my archival work, are written in Pangasinan and of course Spanish.

The CHED memo is not to blame for the groundless fear of putting at risk the intellectualization of Tagalog. (READ: CHED may require use of Filipino in some subjects)

The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino has been here since 1991. With 23 years of ruling over other languages, it has failed in its mandate of intellectualizing the “national language” and the other languages in the country.

But if we elevate Pangasinan as one of the official languages, and in less than a decade, I can assure you the language could become what it should be. –

Erwin S. Fernandez is an independent political analyst based in Pangasinan with his own research center, the Abung na Panagbasay Pangasinan (House of Pangasinan Studies)

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