Not just Filipino, but 130 other languages
There was much significance that the August Buwan ng Wika celebration this year was launched a few days before the month began, at the Kartilya ng Katipunan Park with an Andres Bonifacio sculpture right across the Manila City Hall. It was a park one never took notice of, until that Monday morning of the flag-raising after it had undergone a thorough Mayor Isko sweep.
Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) and National Commission for Culture and the Arts chair Virgilio S. Almario welcomed the opportunity to launch at a more public place, and with a larger crowd than usual. The year’s theme, “Wikang Katutubo: Tungo sa Isang Bansang Filipino,” places the emphasis not only on Filipino but on all of our 130 Philippine languages, from Ivatan to Mandaya—the very first time that the emphasis is not on Filipino as the national language but rather on our different languages.
Whenever the staggering number of 130 Philippine languages is mentioned, expatriates almost find it beyond belief. It poses challenges for us as a nation, yet is also evidence enough that long before the colonizers came, the country already had a rich civilization and culture, and a Baybayin ancient script besides.
According to National Artist Almario, highlighting our many languages reminds us of the importance of this diversity to our sense of nation, as language is the most important and chief cultural legacy of any population. Language enables us to articulate our past and tell the story of our victories and disappointments. It carries the wealth of our history along with traditional wisdom.
Almario fears that if language is not cared for, used and nurtured, it would be in serious peril of becoming irretrievably lost. How lamentable and how bereft we would be of a cultural legacy. He has repeatedly said, “We have more than 130 languages, and we want to be open for discussions regarding how each would contribute to a national consciousness, and even into the national language.” How to enrich the language so that Filipino is not only from Tagalog words?
To serve as a fitting reminder for the citizenry to preserve their distinct languages, KWF and the office of then Sen. Loren Legarda have been installing language markers to identify areas where the languages originate. These are simple, dignified-looking tubular-like markers carrying designs of local culture, built in cooperation with local government. Legarda had said, “We must preserve these languages, along with all other aspects of our culture, as a sign of our respect for our history and heritage… This installation will serve as a reminder that a distinct and unique dialect exists and originates from this part of the country. Keep this language alive…”
The first bantayog-wika was put up in Antique as a tribute to Kinaray-a, while other bantayog markers are now in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro; Baguio City for the Ivadoy language; Ifugao for the Tuwali language (which was used in the writing of “Hudhud”); Malaybalay for Binukid; Batangas City for being one of the precursors of Tagalog; Lingayen City for the Pangasinan language; and GenSan for Blaan.
With Bonifacio’s sculpture looming over the park, one could only take his words to heart: “What love can be purer and greater than love of country? What love? No other love.” He may well have said, “What love can be purer and greater than love of language?”
Friday, Aug. 23, is a special day for my Sta. Romana cousins and myself, because we are all traveling to Barangay Sta. Arcadia in our hometown, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, for the formal turnover of the Leonardo A. Sta. Romana Memorial Elementary School, which began in 1960 on a parcel of land of 10,930 square meters donated by our grandparents, Leonardo and Gorgonia Osias Sta. Romana. The Deed of Donation has been completed under the Department of Education’s Adopt a School Program, and will allow the school to grow even more to answer the needs of the students of the community. We have been coordinating with school principal Maricel Candido because of the faculty’s interest in local history and knowing more about the life story of the school donor.
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected] gmail.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
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