How about a “Buwan ng mga Wika”?

Once again we will celebrate the “Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa” which commemorates the decision of the now-Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino to adopt Tagalog as basis for our national language, which will again reignite debates on whether we should keep it as it is or not.

The author of this blog is firm in its position in making fundamental reforms or changes in our official language policy, complementing the shift from a unitary form of government dominated by Manila-based, Tagalog-speaking elites to that of a federal government which reflects the reality that we are a multi-ethnic, multilingual nations and such reform will recognize that diversity.

Filipino has long been seen as merely a variant of the Tagalog language spoken in Metro Manila and its peripheral provinces, or even Tagalog itself just being repackaged as a national language. And because of its prevalent usage in mass media and government, this is being seen as reason why usage of other regional languages are in decline, complicated by the prevailing discrimination among non-Tagalogs, in other words, Imperial Manila. We’re also used in the wrong notion that the non-Tagalog languages (Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Kapampangan, Maranao, Tausug, Ilokano, Bikol, etc. etc. ) are mere dialects of the Filipino language. Is it really that so? How are we going to change this?

One of the ways to rectify this is to change the way we celebrate the month. It is time to celebrate the diversity of languages and start calling it Buwan ng mga Wika, or Month of Philippine Languages, as there are 176 languages existing in this country and they are among what makes us Filipino. This only a small way in helping to correct the decades-long injustice created by our existing language policies.

What do we propose other than changing the character of the celebration every August?

  • Establish a Philippine Language Institute, which will act as the common regulator of all the languages in this country which will help in their protection and preservation for future generations, and will also act as a learning institution to help Filipinos in further studies in learning other languages
  • Encourage the use of 3 or more languages, which can be achieved through constitutional provisions and an educational curriculum which will promote multilingualism
  • Promote a multilingual mass media, with newspapers in national circulation and radio and television stations broadcasting in the various languages in the country
  • A provision in the Constitution which establishes all our languages as co-official alongside English and Spanish

And as a bonus, reform Filipino as a language combining all the existing languages in the country, fulfilling what it was supposed to do, which is bridging the islands with a common language with vocabulary from all languages in the Philippines, and not just a mere extension of Tagalog.

With this month, we hope we can help in fulfilling meaningful change in our language policy, rectify long-held misconceptions, and embrace our diversity. Malipayong buwan sa mga Nasudnong Lengua! (A happy Month of National Languages!)

Embracing language diversity in the Philippines

(Note: The post should have been published during the Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa last August 2016 as part of a two or three-part series. Apologies for the delay.)

The Philippines at present uses Filipino and English as official languages. However since then, it has become the topic of various debates, on whether Filipino is just another branch of the Tagalog language instead of being a amalgamation of all Filipino languages as originally intended, and why the use of English is more prominent than the use Filipino in various discourses, and the never-ending stigma of calling non-Tagalog languages as dialects, which earns the ire of non-Tagalog people especially the Cebuanos. (We have already debunked that in the first part of the supposed series.)

Now, how should we correct this? 

It’s time for us to enact a new policy in embracing this reality, that is declaring the most common languages as co-equals (Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Ilokano, Pangalatok, Kapampangan, Bikol, Tausug, Chavacano) and recognizing and protecting the rights of the minority languages (Akeanon, Kinaray-a, Ibaloi, Kankana-ey, Maranao, others). We must also protect them by having a national language institute regulating and protecting them.

There should also be a promotion of the use and proficiency in English (promotion of global competitiveness) and Spanish (to rekindle ties with our cultural cousins in Latin America).

We should also encourage our children to know at least 3-5 languages aside from their mother tongues.

Filipino languages must also be taught since elementary with the option of further studies in college.

Lastly, we must also launch a campaign promoting and encouraging multilingualism to end the still-lingering stigma that all Filipino languages are “dialects” (through schools, media, others).

For us to have a true sense of unity, we have to embrace diversity. We are one nation of many distinct cultues and tongues.