THE historian, Horacio de la Costa, S.J., once shrewdly observed that in our national language (and in Tagalog), there are two words for “we.”
1. There is “kami,” the we exclusive, meaning “we” excluding “you.”
2. And there is “tayo,” the we inclusive, meaning “we” including “you.”
Fr. Leo James English in his Tagalog-English dictionary defined the word “tayo” as follows: we “inclusive of person addressed”. He defined the word “kami” as “excluding the person addressed.”
The lexicographer also defined “tayo “ as “us”: “the person speaking including the persons or persons addressed.”
We think it appropriate that in the first day of the New Year, the nation should turn its thoughts, and resolve, to learning to use “we” as a tool for inclusion, and not for exclusion.
National consensus, De la Costa suggested, on what Filipinos are, what we want to be, and what we can contribute to the world is an issue that has long divided us. In the midst of war and revolution and rebellion, our nation has perennially been marred by treachery and dissidence.
De la Costa went further, as a man of the cloth, to suggest that the role of the Church is to “help a people find itself.” Yet, he also belonged to one of the most sectarian organizations in the world – the Catholic Church.
The first sentence of the Philippine Constitution, in the preamble, opens with: “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of almighty God…”
The pronoun “we” is exclusive here in that it means the people of the Philippines as distinct from the peoples of other lands.
But in another sense, the use of “we” here is also inclusive—it means to encompass and include all groups and peoples who are part of the national Filipino community.
It takes conscious effort to leap from “ kami” to “tayo.” In the course of our lives, we are used to using “we” in the sense of kami, especially when talking of family and friends. We make the transition to “tayo” when we become part of a group and speak of the aspirations and interests of the group.
The great shortcoming of Filipinos historically is the disease of faction. Too often, when we use “we’ it is to refer to the ethnic group or political party to which we belong.
This is the sense in which the opposition speaks of “we the Liberal party” or we in the yellow cult.
This is also the sense in which the members of PDP Laban and Duterte supporters use “we.”
And this too is the sense in which the Left and the Communist Party of the Philippines use we.
They reflexively point to the exclusive group to which they belong.
We can think of no better resolution for Filipinos to aim for in the New Year than for us to learn to use we in the inclusionary way – to include all our fellow Filipinos.
We have to strengthen our sense of being a real national community – with shared aspirations and purposes for ourselves and for our nation.
We have to value what makes us different from other people, and we have to recognize and defend what is our interest and purpose in the community of nations.
Today, we are passing through a phase of national life when for a change, we are supporting our weight in the world, and depend less on the support of others. Our national economy is a pacesetter in world economic growth today. The country is set to commence an epic drive to modernize national infrastructure from north to south. And we are moving aggressively to terminate outstanding rebellions and insurgencies in our society, so that we can at last live and prosper in peace, unity and freedom.
Learning to use “ we” in the sense of “tayo” is a choice. You do it individually and together.