Diary of Antonio de las Alas

June 9, 1945 Saturday

In the morning, we continued working cleaning the premises. In the afternoon, immediately after meals, the same Sergeant who supervised us in the morning came to order us to work. He was very rough, treating us like schoolchildren. We nevertheless were in good spirits and did what he said, dressing up hurriedly to go to work. He kept hurrying us. Mr. Paredes was indisposed and could not go out. Like on previous occasions, somebody immediately volunteered to substitute for Mr. Paredes. The substitute told the Sergeant that he would work for Paredes. However, the Sergeant insisted that Mr. Paredes come down and work. Paredes, weak from fever, approached the Sergeant to tell him that he would not work, citing the Geneva Convention. The Sergeant’s answer was that the Geneva Convention did not matter to him, that all of us had to work. He added that we also had to work tomorrow, Sunday. Paredes answered that he would not work. We heard the whole conversation and we all said that we would not work also. The Sergeant left very angry and immediately came back with Lt. Severance. We were ordered to line up in front of our quarters. There was great excitement; all of the enlisted class were ready and eager to back us. We were expecting hell. Paredes immediately approached the Lieutenant and in a very excited tone, said that we would not work and that our attitude was supported by the Geneva Convention. Turning to the Sergeant, Paredes said, “This guy here is rough and impolite. We will not work unless he is relieved”. The Sergeant was excited also and began muttering under his breath. But the Lieutenant maintained his serenity; he was unperturbed. Finally, he dismissed everyone but told us of the officer class to go back to our quarters where he followed us. We found him very kind and even apologetic. He explained that the Sergeant is an ignorant man; that we did not have to work and much less should we be treated as we were treated. He added that he hated his job here and hoped he would be transferred soon. We were moved by his attitude and explanation. We responded by telling him that we were satisfied with the treatment he accorded us and that we did not mean to offend him. We pledged to him our cooperation.

I was proud and happy. It was a contrast to our attitude of the other day. If we want to be respected, we should show dignity when the occasion arises. We did not bow our heads to a tyrant. Lt. Severance’s attitude restored my confidence in the American sense of fair play. Americans expect us to be frank and sincere. They do not hesitate to apologize once convinced that they are wrong. Lt. Severance proved that good treatment is more effective than any order that can be given. On our part, sportsmanship demanded that the incident be forgotten. The Lieutenant and the Sergeant thereafter became our good friends. They are real Americans.

I am happy that the conflict was satisfactorily resolved. We are charged with being Pro-Japanese, and any trouble started by us may be exploited as an effort to create difficulties for the U.S. military. The most insignificant and innocent act at times is made the motive for oppression or the suppression of privileges.

Tagalog is receiving impetus in the Colony. The non-Tagalogs are making efforts to learn Tagalog. We have various Tagalog poets and speakers. One is Prof. Aurelio Alvero who is one of our outstanding scholars in Tagalog. Others who speak perfect Tagalog are Messrs. Prudon and Narciso Galvez. Tagalog poetry is also receiving proper attention. Many poems which are very good have been submitted. I have some of them. Most of them refer to our present situation. I was carried by the flood and I am now preparing a series of “Salawikain”. I prepare five everyday and I propose to increase the number to 100. I do not just write anything. I am always observing and every time there is an incident from which I can draw something, I prepare the corresponding “salawikain”. So each “salawikain” has an occasion, an incident or story connected with it. At times, my companions thought I had become crazy. Many times I run, grab pencil and paper, and write. This is because I do not want to forget the “salawikain” in my head at that moment.

We have to admit that the propagation of Tagalog has been very slow. Undoubtedly, it is mainly due to the lukewarm attitude of the government. This is caused by the fact that those who are non-Tagalogs, although admitting the necessity of a single national language, do not want to accept Tagalog as the national language for political and regional reasons. During the regime of Pres. Quezon, a strong movement for Tagalog started. However, it was not until the regime of Pres. Laurel that a definite, more determined step was taken. It was declared the official language. A large representative board was created to make its propagation faster. Tagalog was made a compulsory subject in all the schools. Official terms were translated in Tagalog. Use of Tagalog in official correspondence was recommended. In a very short time, its propagation made great progress. Of course the Tagalog films helped a lot. There must be no letup in our efforts to have a national language. There is no doubt that it will help foment a spirit of solidarity all over the Philippines.

But I believe that if we wish to go faster we must simplify the Tagalog language. Alvero’s Tagalog is perfect and is the pure Tagalog. He uses all the correct words and sentences. But I am afraid radical changes such as he proposes will only hinder the growth of Tagalog. There are many words and expressions which are used incorrectly, but at the same time have been thus used since time immemorial. There is no use changing them now. Many of the Visayans with us who were very enthusiastic in learning Tagalog are now giving up. They say they do not understand Alvero’s Tagalog and it would take them years to learn it. Lope K. Santos has done much for the Tagalog language, but at the same time, he has discouraged the study of the language by his coining many words that are hard to pronounce or are not used in daily life so that the people have never heard them spoken. If a word has been generally used, it must be accepted even if it is of foreign origin. If we have imported anything from a foreign country for which we do not have a Tagalog name, let us adopt the foreign name for it. There is no language in the world which has no foreign words injected into it. Baseball came from America; we did not have it; let us retain the name. On the other hand, we must not translate Tagalog words into a foreign language. I still remember an incident when I was in America. An American who had been in the Philippines asked me whether I played the “kick”. I answered that I did not. I told him that the French played it very well. I had in mind the French “Zabat” a game using a form of kicking. He said he didn’t think the French played the game. He said that the “Kick” was a very interesting Filipino game and he stood up and started “kicking” I was embarrassed—he was doing the “kicking” of our game “Sipa”. I told him the game was “Sipa”. “Ah, so it is called ‘Sipa’,” he said. “A Filipino told me that its name is ‘Kick’.”

There are many Tagalog writers in the Philippines each with his own theory on how to speak and write Tagalog. Each insists on his opinion. This divergence of opinion is the reason for the retrogression in the propagation of Tagalog. Non-Tagalogs say that it would be impossible for them to learn the language since the Tagalogs themselves do not agree as to what to learn. If we are really interested in making Tagalog the national language, we must agree on a simple, uniform language. We must give up all personal feelings, sacrifice our personal opinions, and even give up grammatical, phonetic and psychological considerations for the sake of the general good, for the proper formation of a people and of a nation.

Among the detainees is a man by the name of Dr. Lanuza who calls himself Prof. Samari. He was the one I wrote about who during the program hypnotized two men. He is also a fortune teller. All of us had our future told. Mine was encouraging. He said I would live to a ripe old age; that I would again be in politics and may occupy positions other than what I have already held, and that I would also continue as a merchant and be quite successful. I will receive a large sum of money soon. I will be happy with my family. But there are some who are very envious of me—Some of them my very close friends. Although they appear to be supportive of me, the fact is they are secretly working against me. I must be very careful.

Since my arrival, I have been writing almost continuously. I lost all my documents, my writings, my memoirs, and I am trying to reconstruct them. I am very tired.

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