If language reflects people and culture, then a huge part of our history is in danger.
Online database EndangeredLanguages.com showed that at least 15 Philippine languages are not only becoming less known but are also being forced to extinction by more widely used regional languages.
For instance, Isarog Agta, formerly used by communities living near Mount Isarog in the Southern Luzon province of Camarines Sur, only had six native speakers in the year 2000.
The database tagged Isarog Agta as "critically endangered," noting that it "receded from pressure" due to the use of the regional language Bicolano.
At least five other languages in the Philippines may soon be lost and forgotten, while two others are "threatened" and two more are "vulnerable" according to the database, which uses information from the University of Hawaii's Catalog of Endangered Languages and Eastern Michigan University's Institute for Language Information and Technology.
Next to Isarog Agta, the local language at greatest risk is Sorsogon Agta, which is "severely endangered" having only 18 native speakers in the Bicolano province of Sorsogon.
Bicolano is also pushing into oblivion Lake Buhi Agta, used by communities around Lake Buhi in Camarines Sur, the database showed.
Only 150 native speakers now use Lake Buhi Agta, which has 85 to 90 percent similarity to Bicolano, the database said.
Meanwhile, biligualism in Tagalog is blamed for the weakening Camarines Norte Agta language, which only has 150 native users. Younger individuals in the province of Camarines Norte, the Bicolano province closest to the national capital, "tend to prefer Tagalog," the database said.
Also endangered are Batak, spoken by only 200 individuals in Palawan, and Atta, with 400 to 500 native users in Cagayan.
The Cagayan languages Dupaninan Agta (1,200 native speakers) and Adasen Itneg (4,000 native speakers) are meanwhile "threatened" based on the database and both suffer from "very high level of bilingualism in Ilocano."
Tagged as "vulnerable," meanwhile are Southern Alta and Manobo.
Southern Alta, which was formerly used in the coastal areas of Quezon province and some parts of Nueva Ecija and Bulacan, now only has 1,000 native speakers.
The Manobo language in Western Bukidnon, on the other hand, is used by 19,000 individuals as of the latest data.
The database added the use of following languages also seem to have dwindled although their "vitality" have yet to be measured: Bataan Ayta in the province of Bataan; Northern Alta in Aurora and other eastern Luzon areas; Arta in Quirino; Alabat Island in Quezon; and Ata in Negros Oriental.
The languages are "not closely related to other local languages," the database said, adding that "most speakers have shifted to Tagalog."
Earlier this year, a separate report released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) warned that languages have become extinct at an alarming rate in recent years.
"Among the 6,000 spoken languages and dialects of the world, 50 percent are at risk of dying out, along with the cultural and intellectual heritage that are associated with these," the report said.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement accompanying the report that while multilingualism is an "ally in ensuring quality education for all, in promoting inclusion and in combating discrimination," it should not lead to the extinction of native languages.
"Building genuine dialogue must start with respect for languages," Bokova said.
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