Taking pride in Filipino
One knew the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) meant serious business in launching August as Buwan ng Wika when it invited cultural agencies to take part in its Monday flag-raising ceremony at the NCCA’s Teatro Leandro Locsin. It was more than ceremonial, because those of us present took our oath to endeavor to carry all our transactions, communication and correspondence in Filipino—not an easy pledge to make. There is basis for this in the 1987 Constitution.
Neither was this a one-day event, for most of the month carries on the spirit of the theme, “Filipino: Wika ng Saliksik,” with events in Metro Manila and farther away, from Abra to Kalinga, Palawan to Sulu. The theme highlights the importance of elevating Filipino as the language of scholarship.
A very helpful and informative booklet is KWF’s publication, “Frequently asked Questions on the National Language” (2018), written by KWF director Virgilio Almario and translated by Marne L. Kilates. It presents 25 major issues on the language that are not known or widely circulated. Among them are:
What do we really mean by “Philippine languages”?
The phrase refers to all the different native languages spoken in the archipelago. The count varies, from 86 to 170. A native language is any language “suckled from birth by the individual whose parents are natives of the Philippines.”
Why are there “major languages” of the Philippines?
These are languages which have more than a million speakers and play an important role as the language of instruction or the language used in formal education. The eight major languages are: Bikol, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Pampanggo, Pangasinan, Sebwano, Tagalog, Waray.
Why Pilipino, then Filipino? And what about Tagalog?
The National Language was proclaimed as the official language on July 4, 1946. Its official name was “Pilipino” in 1959, and it was promoted as the language of communication in government and as language to be used in education. In the 1987 Constitution, the term “Filipino” for the national language was adopted—proof that it was intended to be separated from the Tagalog “taint” of “Pilipino.”
In a sense, Pilipino is different from Tagalog, which is the native language of the Tagalogs and was selected to be the basis for the national language in 1939. Pilipino was the name given to the national language. “Pilipino” became “Filipino” because there is no letter F in the Tagalog abakada, which has 20 letters. Before then, any reference to the national language meant Tagalog or Wikang Pambansa. The change was one way of “baptizing the National Language,” for it to be separated from the identity or brand of Tagalog.
In another sense, Pilipino is no different from Tagalog. The language referred to in 1939 still bore the same qualities. But the national language grew more with the continued borrowing from Spanish and English.
Other questions discussed continue to be contentious and passionately debated: Why was Tagalog chosen as the basis of the national language? Did President Quezon “manipulate” the selection of Tagalog? Why not a national language that is an amalgamation of the native languages of the country?
It is important to raise these questions and continue the national conversation on the topic, to raise greater consciousness on an important facet of our life as a people.
Yes, it is not lost on me that while I now sing praises about the beauty of Filipino, our national language, my family and school background, as was common with others of my generation, favored fluency in English. Thus, there was what I consider a lamentable deficiency in my education—not being able to speak Filipino with ease and familiarity.
Remember how we had demerits for speaking in our mother tongue? I recall how miffed, rather than complimented, I felt at the many instances in international conferences when I would be asked, “How did you learn to speak English so well?” I told them the truth, that we were colonized too well by colonial masters.
It is never too late to learn and appreciate Filipino, especially with the availability and wealth of well-written books in the language. And what better time to rediscover the language than now, during Buwan ng Wika?
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.