No one can create a Filipino or any other philosophy except by accident.

Zhuang Zhou did not try to develop a Chinese philosophy. He simply awoke to the Way within him and around him, tried to awaken even more, knew that what he lived could not be put into words—when all that can be said has been said, the most important thing cannot be said—yet felt compelled to say all that he could say. Hundreds of years later, what he said still lives and is called Chinese philosophy. He is surprised. It is the Way that matters to him, not the label.

What more German than Hegel or Nietzsche? Yet neither are in agonies to be Germanic. They are too fascinated by the striving to see [the truth], by the visions that occasionally break [over] them, to engage in dramatics about identity. At the beginning of Discours de la méthode, Descartes says half-proudly, half-apologetically, that he is writing it in French.¹ For the rest of the work, he simply philosophises. No symptoms of an anguished thrust to Frenchness. He is too French for that.

When I try to philosophise in Filipino, it is with the intent to live and to help awaken other people into living. Each language is a way of being alive that is irreducible. No, Filipino is not my favourite language. But it is a good language.

[I have been asked,] ‘How do you translate philosophical terms?’ That is really no problem. Most English philosophical terms are really Latin words (subjectivum, objectivum, intuitio, praedicatum) somewhat mispronounced and misspelled (subjective, objective, intuition, predicate). Or Greek words similarly distorted (metaphysics). The Germans sometimes use Latin and Greek (subjektiv, Metaphysik) or create their own terms (Mitzumachung) or do both at the same time (Objekt, Gegenstand). We followed the German model.

But this question was not usually asked as a request for suggestions on how to proceed or for information on how we proceeded. Usually, it was asked rhetorically, as a way of saying: ‘You cannot do this.’ Sometimes so bitterly as to mean: ‘You cannot do this to me.’ Often the question was a cover for a presupposition that what English and Spanish are allowed to do cannot be allowed to Tagalog or any Filipino language. So, intuition is ‘derived from’ the Latin. Coffee and alcohol are ‘derived from’ the Arabic. But sumbalilong² is a ‘corruption of’ the Spanish, istrok³ is ‘corrupted from’ the English.

Another form this question took was: ‘How do you say “being” in Filipino?’ with a facial aha-this-shows-you-cannot-do-philosophy-in-Filipino expression. There are many ways of answering that question. One is: ‘as inadequately as in English.’ The English word ‘being’ does not really express the central deed of metaphysics. Another answer is: ‘What philosopher have you in mind?’ ‘Being’ in Bertrand Russell⁴ is a different word from ‘being’ in Heidegger.⁵

‘Are you still doing it?’ The questioner is usually an English-speaking academic, fifty to sixty years old. He is taken up with obvious facial preparations to assume a grief-stricken pose the moment he hears the, he hopes, inevitable ‘No’. Chagrin as he hears ‘Yes’.

The asker feels threatened by this continuing effort to philosophise in Filipino. The question proceeds from the hidden conviction of the asker that nothing profound has happened in any Filipino language, that translations of foreign terms are not mere ornaments or helps but the very life blood of Filipino thought. Can there be any depth, he asks, in a Filipino centre? The Lord save him from his own superciliousness. He himself cannot.

A little over half a hundred years ago—according to reliable hearsay—I saw first light on floor twelve of the Philippine General Hospital. Later, I saw more and more light in Sampalok.

Trying to make friends in the playground, I talked to my peers in something I thought was Tagalog and was laughed at.

In North Sampalok, nobody felt superior to you if you spoke with a different accent or mixed Ilocanisms⁶ with your Tagalog. Not three kilometres away, the little sons and daughters of the Tagalese⁷ were enforcing elitist norms. Slowly, I came to know that my language was not Tagalog but North Sampalokese.

Twenty-five years after I had left home, I was in Wao, Lanao del Sur. A man a little older than me called me by my name. After a few minutes of talking, I too could call him by his name. He was an old neighbour. ‘How did you know I was here?’ ‘I recognised you on the altar when you were saying Mass.’⁸ He had a farm in one of the barrios.⁹ He could not live in our old neighbourhood after it had become too dense. We talked in North Sampalokese.

In six years, one comes to know that, for human thinking, North Sampalokese is better than Plato’s Greek.