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A Talk of Our Tongue

Junelie Anthony Velonta

In abundance we do see Filipino dictionaries in the shelves of our nearest, or most convenient, book stores. We often learn Filipino; we remember that it was taught to us in our elementary and high school days then forget all about it and speak other languages, and the cycle goes on. When we meet someone who does not speak our native language, we turn to English. But when our luck runs out and so does our vocabulary, Filipino creeps back into our spine, coldly—forcing us to utter words we haven’t used nor understood, and stumble upon where we haven’t stumbled before.

No, Filipino is not an evil language, and is not a last resort for communication. It may be our incessant fetish for everything “sosyal” or “western” which has turned us to reject the very “dank and nasty hodgepodge of a language,” and almost actively deny the fact that it exists. For a moment let us open our minds, and breathe in the language we rarely speak in, or of.

Many say that Filipino is just formalized Tagalog. Yes, it may be true that it was and is based on the language of the “imperial” North—but it is little known that Filipino serves as a medium to cater the language gap between individuals, and indeed cultures. “As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.” Section 6 of Article XIV of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides basis for this; it implies that each cultural group could have their own variety of the Filipino language, as it is natural for it to nurture. Saying so, there is not much of the strict guidelines “ye olde” Filipino teachers have implemented, as what they were teaching was Tagalog, which does not really cater to the many ethnic groups in the Philippines. Mixing up words from the many native tongues to the context of Filipino is almost perfectly fine, as long as we follow the grammatical rules.

Filipino is actually a solution to many problems. Aside from the aforementioned reason, it could also be a transitional language as it was built with the other languages of the country in mind. After the National Assembly passed the Commonwealth Act No. 184 (1936), eminent linguists representing a linguistic group including Jaime C. de Veyra (Hiligaynon), Santiago Fonacier (Ilocano), Casimiro Perfecto (Bicol), and Filemon Sotto (Cebuano), among others, were gathered to form a committee to decide on the basis of the national language. This, together with the efforts of many in the following years, assured that Filipino was a tongue that has the potential to cater and provide transition to other languages and cultures. In the perspective of foreigners in the country, Filipino is not so hard to learn as it uses the Latin script unlike many other Asian languages. It is also not difficult to speak, since the words are spoken and pronounced almost like the way they are written. As a bonus, Filipino is a flexible language, resulting from being “under colonial overlords” at least twice; thus, we have borrowed words like educación,  (bah-mi), hukum, among others, since then until now.

The Filipino language does not deserve the amount of hate and ignorance it has. Most of these alleged hate is actually directed towards ourselves, and reflects how we absorb what is “poreyn and sosyal” with all our rigor and fetish. Filipino is a step for us to be united; however, it is also true that it does not cater to all. But with enough dedication and education, we will see that though we may be different, we share a common language, a common tongue.

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