Malacañang “admonished” the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) for changing the word “Pilipinas” to “Filipinas” in the official title of the office “Ang Pangulo ng Pilipinas” (News, 8/19/13). The KWF’s move was not cleared with President Aquino. Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo likewise criticized the KWF; the KWF either has very few things to do or is doing work beyond its mandate.
The head of KWF, Virgilio Almario, apologized; he was ready to be fired. However, he insisted that he was right. He said the letter “F” was justified as it was used originally in the name of our country. But we ask: Why go back to those centuries of subjugation and servility with “F” when the “P” evokes freedom and independence?
We do not blame Almario for being confused. Recall that Rizal highlights the doubts of a character, Doña Victorina de Espedaña, in one of his novels, about the proper name of her country—“Filipinas,” “Felipinas,” “Felipenas,” or “Pilipinas”—knowing that the country is named after King Philip (Felipe) of Spain.
Up to high school, we had held dear “Pilipinas” as the name of our country, and “Tagalog” as the national language. In college, “Tagalog” became “Pilipino.” With the 1987 Constitution, “Pilipino” is now “Filipino” as our national language.
But while implementing “Filipino” as it evolves, the KWF makes a chop suey out of the language. Imagine the riot that will ensue if the letter “P” in the names of institutions of the land carrying the word “Pilipinas,” would be changed to “F,” including Ang Pangulo ng P(F)ilipinas, Unibersidad ng P(F)ilipinas, Bangko Sentral ng P(F)ilipinas!
The Philippines has several regions with different languages. Let them continue to use the local languages like Tagalog, Bicol, Ilocano, Visaya, with “Filipino” having priority over English as “official” language, for purposes of “communication and instruction” throughout the archipelago, as ordained by the 1987 Constitution. But let us avoid “Hispanizing” words or letters. When Tagalog was the national language, it did not insist on “Tagalizing” words, like “Cebu” to “Sebu,” or “Virgilio” to “Birhilyo.”
In Europe, a small country, Switzerland, has several languages—e.g., German, French, Italian. Each region or canton speaks a different, distinct language; and respects the spelling and pronunciation of words. So the word “Volkswagen,” for instance, remains as is, retaining the sound of “F” for the letter “V,” and of “v” for the letter “w” anywhere in the country.
Let us respect our Constitution, law and culture on the issue of languages. And the Office of the President, Ang Pangulo ng Pilipinas, has issued a good advice and rule—“It is Pilipinas if you are referring to the country’s name, Pilipino if you are referring to a Philippine national, and Filipino if your are referring to the national language.” Therefore, “Filipino” (nationality) has to be changed now to “Pilipino” (with a “P”) in Philippine passports.
—NELSON D. LAVIÑA,