How preserving a country’s languages can lead to decolonization

June 5, 2022

As a child in the Philippines during the 1970s, Joi Barrios-Leblanc remembers singing songs that glorified the country’s president Ferdinand Marcos, and his U.S-backed regime of martial law that turned the government into a one-man dictatorship that killed, tortured and incarcerated thousands of its citizens.

The songs sung in Tagalog — the Philippine national language — were slogans of propaganda that stressed the need for the populace to be submissive, disciplined and loyal for the country to prosper, said Barrios-LeBlanc, a UC Berkeley senior lecturer in South and Southeast Asian Studies.

Barrios-Leblanc grew up to become an activist, writer and academic who opposed Marcos’s rule. A few weeks ago, she witnessed Philippine voters, once again, sing similar songs for Marcos’s son, Bongbong Marcos, who won the 2022 presidential election in a landslide nearly 60 years after his father first assumed office.

“Same tune, same name,” she said.

Berkeley News