Pride in the Filipino language


PHILIPPINE schools line up activities to celebrate August as “Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa.”

This year, the theme that the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) set for the celebration is Filipino: Wika ng Pambansang Kaunlaran.

It was only in 1997, through Proclamation No. 1041, that the Linggo ng Wika was expanded to Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa. It is observed in August as a tribute to former President Manuel L. Quezon, who was born on August 19, 1878. That is also why August 19 is a holiday in Quezon City even if it is not the city’s founding day.

This is the time of the year for nationalistic and patriotic Filipinos to show their love and concern for the country, not just in words but also in deed. It is the time for fitting activities to showcase Philippine language and culture.

However, we have a serious problem with our national language. I believe that the confusion between Filipino and Pilipino is widespread. I am not talking about regional languages and dialects here yet, but just the difference between the use of F and P.

I used to think that Filipino refers to the people; Pilipino refers to the language. But when I checked the Official Gazette, Filipino refers to the national language, as shown in the name of the agency mandated to develop the Philippine national language.

The Commission on the Filipino Language came from the Institute of Philippine Languages (IPL) that was set up in 1987. The IPL came from the Institute of National Language established in 1937 through Commonwealth Act No. 184.

Upon further reading, I found out that Pilipino refers to Tagalog, the dominant of 185 or so local languages spoken mostly in several Luzon provinces, particularly in Central and Southern Luzon. Filipino encompasses other regional languages such as Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Ilokano, Kapampangan, and Bikolano.

Other readings said that Filipino is the standard register of the Tagalog language and the national language of the Philippines, sharing official status with the English language.

Officially, the KWF defines Filipino as “the native language, spoken and written, in Metro Manila, the National Capital Region, and in other urban centers of the archipelago.”

If people get confused in the name of the KWF, which is sometimes referred as Komisyon ng Wikang Pilipino (note the use of the preposition “ng” and letter “P”), the agency ought to make its presence felt not only in schools during the observance of the Buwan ng Pambansang Wika but also among the older generations who were already out of school when the annual celebration was mandated.

On the part of Malacañang and Congress, KWF must be given adequate budget to be able to propagate the Philippine language. While English is the global language, Filipino should be given as much importance by Filipinos.

It is enviable how Americans promote the English language, and how the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans ignore other languages than their own in their official dealings. Even if they understand and speak English, they choose to use their language and have an interpreter translate what they say to English.

I have yet to see a Philippine official or business leader speak in Filipino and have a translator to communicate with a foreigner. I don’t think this is just a cost-saving measure. Hiring a translator would mean additional expense for travel, accommodation, and other perks.

I believe that it is all about not having enough love for our national language.

I remember a time during my early years in field reporting when Malacañang came out with an executive order requiring all official communications to be in Filipino. Many offices had a difficult time complying with the order because they could not express in Filipino what they wanted to say.

For us journalists, it was equally difficult to translate in English several words in official communications because those were either archaic or not conversational.

Filipinos may have the advantage over other nationalities on our knowledge of the English language, regardless of the grammatical mistakes, but shouldn’t Filipino leaders speak our language in order to be widely understood by Filipinos?

What I don’t like is the use of gutter language or street lingo in public speeches. We should care being understood by Filipinos, and not by foreign dignitaries and others who understand Tagalog less than their regional or ethnic language. They can have the translation later, if not at the same time that a speech is delivered.

We are Filipinos. We should be proud of our own language!

Last week, I was invited to an event “Celebrating English Language Programs and Resources” at the US Embassy in Manila. It showcased the English language programs the embassy has in the Philippines at the same time that Dawn Rogier, the Regional English Language Officer, bid farewell after two years of helping promote the teaching of American English in various Philippine schools and communities.

It dawned on me that while we take pains learning the English language, we don’t give as much attention to our own Filipino language.

In my short stint as a journalism instructor and trainer, I devote more time teaching English grammar than news writing styles. But when I try asking a student who is poor in English to write in Filipino, the result is equally depressing.

What is worse is when the student uses “jejemon” words. Oh my!


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  1. I don’t agree with the comment that “Nobody else speaks Tagalog except the Filipinos”. In the Tokyo University of Foreign languages, Osaka University of Foreign Studies and Sophia University, Tokyo, there are a large number of Japanese students and working adults learning the Filipino language under Filipino and Japanese professors.

  2. Filipino is not a national language. There are many dialects used in different regions of our country. English should be used as the common language for communication. In the US with many more languages, such as Sioux, Arapahoe, French, Italian, Spanish, etc, the common language is English. The US does not have an official language. We should not have an official language, but we should use English as a communication vehicle.

    • well, you can’t do anything now because it is already the national language although I agree with you that it should not be….as we have a lot of existing major dialects. we may as well term it as it is: TAGALOG LANGUAGE, then promote it as such….together with the other dialects. As one writer said that the term “Filipino” even can not evoke real pride because it is just a term from the word “filipinas” that the spaniards gave in honor of their king!

  3. Philippines should have an amendment to change the spelling of Filipinos to Pilipinos.Is there F in the Philippine alphabets?? Nobody else speaks Tagalog except the Filipinos. If the country wants the younger generation to succeed outside the country, schools should make English as the medium of instruction and students should be taught correct way to speak the language.Philippine educated with poor communication skills hardly get advancement or promotion because our English is not good enough.

    Yes there is “F” in the latest version of the Philippine alphabet released by the National Language Commission.