[lg policy] Behind Filipino (2)
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Fri Aug 29 14:54:40 UTC 2014
Behind Filipino (2) By Michael L. Tan
<http://opinion.inquirer.net/byline/michael-l-tan> |Philippine Daily
12:07 am | Friday, August 29th, 2014
1 6 0 17 1
Last Wednesday I began to write about how we came to have Filipino, a
national language, drawing on a booklet written by Virgilio Almario, chair
of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, with additional research.
We saw how the moves to have a local language as the national language
started in the 1930s, spurred by strong nationalist and pro-independence
politicians. Contrary to popular myths, the Surian ng Wikang Pambansa that
chose Tagalog as a national language was not dominated by Tagalogs.
After World War II and our regaining of our independence on July 4, 1946,
the promotion of a national language continued. A few months before
independence, President Sergio Osmeña proclaimed a National Language Week
from March 27 to April 2, which President Ramon Magsaysay later modified
slightly so that April 2, the birthday of Tagalog writer Francisco
Balagtas, would fall in the middle of the National Language Week.
Magsaysay later issued another proclamation moving this celebration to
August, noting that the original National Language Week was taking place
outside of the academic school year. This new National Language Week
included Aug. 19, the birthday of Quezon.
It was President Fidel Ramos who later dedicated the entire month of August
to the national language, a commemoration which is now translated, in many
schools, into a “Filipiniana” month for cultural presentations.
*Tagalog to Pilipino to Filipino*
All through the years, and even today, the national language was referred
to as “Tagalog.” In 1959, Education Secretary Jose Romero ordered the use
of “Pilipino” as the proper name for this national language.
The 1960s was a contentious decade for the national language. On one hand,
the rising tide of nationalism produced “purists” advocating a national
language with minimal foreign influences. The purists coined new words such
as “salumpuwit” for a chair, and the use of the suffixes “Anak” and “Apo”
for names, instead of “Junior” and “III.”
This “purist” tide produced two responses. One was a campaign against
Tagalog as the national language by non-Tagalogs, who used the purists to
complain that a difficult Tagalog was being imposed on the nation.
The other reaction was a “Modernizing the Language Approach Movement” or
Molam, headed by Congressman Geruncio Lacuesta, attempting to promote a
“Manila Lingua Franca” which integrated words from different Philippine, as
well as international, languages. He published a magazine called Katha,
using this Manila Lingua Franca. After Lacuesta died, the movement fizzled
The 1973 Constitution declared both English and Pilipino as official
languages (with then President Ferdinand Marcos adding, in 1973, Spanish as
another official language). The 1970s was marked by social ferment and
martial law. The use of Filipino (or Pilipino) became a marker of
nationalism, and sometimes, as an expression of antimartial law sentiments,
but there was ambivalence here, with even the most radical students
switching between Pilipino (for example, “Ibagsak ang Rehimeng EU-Marcos”)
and English (“Expose and Oppose the US-Marcos Dictatorship”).
After Marcos fell, a new constitution was written, naming Filipino and
English as the official languages. It also instructed the government to
“take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of
official communication and as language of instruction in the educational
system.” In 1988, President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order No. 335
ordering all government agencies to use Filipino in all forms of
communication, in names of offices, buildings and signages.
The post-1987 national language policy was more pragmatic and inclusive. A
new Filipino alpabeto was introduced, expanded from the 20-letter
Tagalog-based abakada. The current alpabeto includes F, J, V and Z,
which are actually present in several Philippine languages. In addition, it
has the Spanish N, Q and X, which, together with F, J, V and Z, make it
easier to borrow words from English and other international languages.
The 1987 Constitution also mentions “regional languages” as “auxiliary
official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of
instruction therein.” But it took another 20 years before the Department of
Education was to look into regional and auxiliary languages, with a Mother
Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) system. The rationale of this
system is that children learn more quickly in schools if a local mother
tongue is used. This mother tongue is used up to Grade 3 to teach various
subjects, including Filipino itself.
In this MTB-MLE system, 19 languages have been named as possible languages
for instruction in schools. These include eight “major languages,” “major”
being defined by the relatively large number of speakers (more than a
million). These are Bikol, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Pampanggo, Pangasinan,
Sebwano, Tagalog and Waray. Another three languages spoken by Muslim
Filipinos are also included as “major” languages: Maranaw, Tausug and
An additional eight languages are also recognized for the mother
tongue-based program: Ibanag, Ivatan, Zambal, Chabacano, Akeanon, Yakan,
Kiniray-a and Surigaonon.
The 19 languages may seem like a confusing lot but we should remember there
are more than 170 languages spoken in the Philippines. Note too the 19
mother languages do not include English, which is actually considered as a
first language for many upper-class Filipino children. Thus in many private
schools, students feel more comfortable in English and end up learning
Filipino as a second language or, in non-Tagalog areas, even as a third
No doubt, we have made progress toward a national language. In 1939,
speakers of the “wikang pambansa” numbered about four million Filipinos or
25 percent of the total population. By 1980, speakers of the national
language totaled more than 12 million or 44 percent of the total
A 1989 survey conducted by Ateneo de Manila University found that 92
percent of Filipinos understood “Tagalog,” 83 percent could speak it, 88
percent could read it and 81 percent could write in that language.
Today debates continue on language policies with a vocal “English only”
lobby. It didn’t help that President Gloria Arroyo ordered, in 2003, a
return to English as a monolingual language of instruction. Fortunately,
that has been replaced by the DepEd’s mother language system, a reflection
of the way we continue to appreciate the need for a national language,
while recognizing how linguistic diversity can be beneficial too.
Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/77916/behind-filipino-2#ixzz3BnE8ZUO0
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