‘One nation, many languages, cultures’

(Editor’s Note: The writer is the representative of the second district of Valenzuela City in the House of Representatives.)

The designation of Tagalog/Pilipino/Filipino as wikang pambansa has led to a dangerous misconception that any work written in a language other than in the national language is not considered part of the national literature.


This “overprivileging” of one region’s language and literary imagination also affects the writing of our nation’s history. The struggles in the various regions for freedom and democracy have been ignored in favor of the political center’s narrative of the making of the nation.

Hence, the pantheon of heroism in the national struggle marginalizes the roles of Dagohoy of Bohol, Leon Quilat of Cebu and Sultan Kudarat of Mindanao, among many others in successive generations of Philippine heroes.


To correct these historical and cultural inequities, a kambyo sa pananaw—as some Bisayan friends call it—is very much in order, especially on how we value our linguistic and cultural diversity.

By this diversity, we shall be able to evolve an emancipatory education that teaches our people the collective virtue of a Philippine nation built upon the variety of the memories, experiences, dreams, aspirations and ambitions of our different ethno-linguistic communities.

Out of this “many-ness,” we are committed to be one national community.

Official versions

The country’s native languages, including the Filipino Sign Language, have been given official status through the institutionalization of mother tongue-based multilingual instruction in our education system.

Under Republic Act No. 10533 signed by President Aquino on

May 15, basic education shall be conducted in the learner’s native language throughout kindergarten and the elementary grades. English and Filipino shall be gradually introduced beginning Grade 4 until such time that these can become the primary languages of instruction in the secondary level.


However, these goals have been muddled by the very institution we have entrusted to take care of our languages. Recently, the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) announced that it was changing the official name of our country from “Pilipinas” to “Filipinas.”

The KWF obviously is not aware that there are two official versions of the 1987 Constitution, one in English and one in the national language. Each version was approved and signed by the members of the Constitutional Commission. In the national language version, we read that our country is officially referred to as Republika ng Pilipinas.

It is this same Constitution, notably Section 2, Article XVI, that gives Congress the authority to change the name of our country and only upon approval by the people in a plebiscite.

Creation of KWF

In 1991, RA 7104 created the KWF. Section 6 of this law states: “No one shall be appointed as commissioner unless he/she is a natural-born Filipino citizen, at least thirty (30) years old, morally upright and noted for his/her expertise in linguistics, the culture and the language of the ethno-linguistic region and the discipline he/she represents.”

Curiously, when the proponents of “Filipinas” took over the language agency, one of the first things they did was to promulgate a new set of implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on Feb. 13 that deleted this particular qualification.

We now find in the new IRR kadalubhasaan sa wika or “expertise in language,” instead of kadalubhasaan sa linggwistika, or “expertise in linguistics.” The former refers to the use of language; the latter to the scientific study of the nature of languages.

One may be good at using a language in writing and in speech, but may be completely ignorant of how languages are described in scientific terms, and hence, on how a language works.

KWF expertise

Many are asking: Are the new KWF officials not experts in linguistics? Were the new IRR of 2013 written to justify their appointment?

I think it is time to reinvent the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino into a Komisyon ng mga Wika sa Pilipinas, or a Commission on Philippine Languages.

“One nation, one language, one culture” is out. “One nation, many languages, many cultures” is in.

Bago ako magtapos, nais ko pong idulog sa inyo ang kaso ng tatlong estudyanteng na-expel sa isang pribadong paaralan sa Laoag City. Ang kasalanan po nila: Nag-Ilokano sila sa kampus at nilabag daw nila ang English-only policy ng eskuwelahan.

Kailangan nating wakasan at ipagbawal ang English-only policy sa lahat ng paaralan sa Pilipinas. Hindi lamang nito niyuyurakan ang kalayaan sa pamamahayag na ginagarantiyahan ng Saligang Batas. Nilalabag din nito ang karapatang pantao ng mga kabataan at pinipinsala ang kanilang edukasyon. Manalig po tayo sa kakayahan ng sarili nating mga wika at huwag nating bigyan ng sobrang pag-pi-pribilehiyo ang isa o dalawang wika, katutubo man o dayuhan.

Bilang pangwakas, nais ko pong isalaysay sa inyo ang isa pang matandang paniniwala na kailangan nating iwaksi. Kapag nagkaroon daw ng malubhang sakit ang isang bata ay kailangang palitan ang kanyang pangalan. Sa pamamagitan nito, maliligaw raw ang masasamang espiritu at hindi sila makapagdudulot ng sakit sa bata. Ang ganitong kaugalian ay walang iniba sa ginagawa nating pagpapalit ng pangalan ng ating mga maysakit na institusyon nang hindi naman ginagamot ang karamdaman ng mga ito. Walang katuturan ang pagpapalit ng pangalan kung hindi natin matukoy ang sakit at mahanapan ito ng mabisang lunas.

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