Sounds too dirty old man for comfort, yes? Which brings us to the more apt question: What the puck is wrong with the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino?
It seems to have come out of nowhere, this decision (in Filipino “kapasiyahan”) that asserts that the country now needs to be called Filipinas with an F, instead of Pilipinas with a P–the way we’ve called it all this time. The rationale is that the letter F exists in the modern Philippine alphabet, and ergo we can now spell the original name of this country correctly. The question of course is why? Why even go back to an original appellation that’s got the colonizers’ blood all over it?
For a while, a 1992 piece from the defunct Diaryo Filipino written by KWF President and National Artist Virgilio Almario, was the only real explanation that existed on the KWF website. After talking about how it is confusing to be calling our nation Philippines or Pilipinas, and our citizenry Filipinos or Pilipino, Almario’s reasoning would boil down to this: the KWF has long ago insisted that Filipino is the national language. It is a language that is based on the modern Philippine alphabet, one with that F (lest we porget), so that it might adopt English words that have the same.
According to Almario, “sagisag din ng patuloy nating pagdadalawang-isip at pagbabantulot palaganapin nang puspusan ang “Filipino” ang patuloy pa nating paggamit sa “Pilipinas.”
Which is to say we are being forced here to use Filipinas, so that we might also push for the use of Filipino as national language, according to the powers-that-be over at the KWF.
It’s as if we are kids who do not have a handle on our language. Worse, like we are all kids who can be told to stop using a word because it’s wrong, or it’s bad.
When in fact our refusal to use the letter F in the vernacular is really borne of its non-existence in the Pinoy part of our psyches. We do not have a letter F in our heads when we speak the vernacular, and many Pinoys don’t even know to make that sound. This is a letter that’s been in the modern Philippine alphabet since 1987. Have we started using it since?
That Lope Ka Santos and his generation of writers started calling this country Pilipinas, and that that appellation has stuck, is already telling of how our tongues know to speak of nation in this way. To insist that we must change it, at this point, when there are problems bigger and more important regarding language policy and literacy, is KWF’s undoing.
Worse than the English grammar police, this is a government office whose only reason for being really is to police the language that we speak every day. A language that we all use, and gain from, and recreate every day. I remember in college when suddenly we had to see our adbayser, for adbaysing, and how we could buy keyk at the canteen.
Yup, as absurd as it sounds. It didn’t pick up for reasons that are obvious.
Bad enough that KWF is a government office that barely affects our daily lives, removed as it is from the urgencies that come with popular cultural productions, TV and radio, that are changing, evolving, language every day. This is an office removed from those of us on the ground, who are using language every day and wanting to speak it better, and use it better, and be defined by it better, but who cannot find a real definitive place for rules that will push us to be creative and imaginative in a language we call ours. As with all national language commissions before it, KWF is being run by academics, and in many cases such as this one, they reveal how those in local academia remain in ivory towers—happily strutting their stuff in positions that allow them to further justify the distance that they keep from nation.
And then once in a blue moon, an office like KWF will affect our daily lives. It will do so by insisting that we must cease and desist from using “Pilipinas” because we should use “Filipinas.” Because they have ascertained that it is correct.
Never mind that this puts into question every song, every poem, every text, written with the word Pilipinas, or Pinas, or Pinoy. Never mind that this disenfranchises a majority who will always speak in the vernacular without an F, and for whom nation will always be Pilipinas with a P. Never mind that the language that we speak every day, the Tagalog that we speak—because that is still what we call it instead of Filipino—is also being put into question by a government office that should in fact be celebrating a language that is alive and well, that is being changed and revised, that is being imagined and re-imagined, in new ways by the people for whom it is vernacular.
This is why the humanities are fucked in this country. Bad enough that we’ve got writers who refuse to engage with nation, but to have a national artist for literature engage with nation by telling us all we’ve been wrong to call it Pilipinas? By saying that his is the only way to speak of nation?
Puck, talaga, fare.