A lesson in Filipino

Faye Valencia
The Inbox

By Shielo Mendoza
For Yahoo! Southeast Asia

In celebration of the Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa, we at Yahoo! Philippines paid tribute to our national language by translating to Filipino the headlines and teasers of the stories we featured on our frontpage on August 15.

Amid the positive and negative reaction, it was clear that there's some confusion about our national language — Filipino.

To address the questions raised by our readers, we consulted with the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF).

Filipino, Pilipino, or Tagalog?

"Are Tagalog, Pilipino and Filipino different languages? No, they are mutually intelligible varieties, and therefore belong to one language," said former KWF chairperson Ricardo Nolasco in his article "Filipino and Tagalog, Not So Simple."

Nolasco said that Tagalog, Pilipino and Filipino share identical grammar. They have the same determiners (ang, ng, and sa); the same personal pronouns (siya, ako, niya, kanila, etc); the same demonstrative pronouns (ito, iyan, doon, etc); the same linkers (na, at, and ay); the same particles (na and pa); and the same verbal affixes -in, -an, i- and -um-.

"In short, same grammar, same language," Nolasco said.

The former chairperson added that the reason the national language was changed from Tagalog to Pilipino then to Filipino is largely socio-linguistic.

"From being a language confined to native Tagalogs and their provinces, Tagalog has grown into being the common language of an entire people. It has become nationwide," explained Nolasco.

Based on the 2000 census, nine out of 10 Filipinos speak and understand Tagalog with varying degrees of mastery.

"Inter-ethnic communication through the national language has become a reality. Thanks to TV, radio, movies, comics, out-migration and the educational system," he said.

Article XIV Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution says, "The national language of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages."

Nolasco explained that the country leaders then named "Filipino" with an "F" to signal that the national language will not be based only on Tagalog but also on other Philippine and foreign languages.

For his part, current KWF chairperson Jose Laderas Santos said, "Ang Tagalog ang nukleyo ng ating wikang pambansa dahil ito ang may pinakamaraming naiambag na word entry sa wikang Filipino (Tagalog is the nucleus of our national language since it has the most number of word entries to the Filipino language)."

The official use of Filipino

Aside from the confusion with the national language, the readers also questioned the use of English in the government and in academic institutions.

While the Constitution assigned Filipino as the national language, it also named Filipino and English as the official languages of the Philippines for purposes of communication and instruction.

Santos, however, cited Executive Order 335 of the late former president Corazon Aquino directing all government offices to use the Filipino language in official transactions, communications and correspondence.

The KWF head commended President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III's move to deliver his State of the Nation Address in Filipino.

"Isa siyang malakas na ehemplo sa paggamit ng wika. Kaya sa tingin ko maganda ang naging feedback sa kaniya dahil mas nauunawaan siya ng mga Pilipino (He is very influential in using the language. That is why I think he received good feedback because Filipinos understand him well)," he said.

How to value Filipino

According to Santos, valuing the national language is as simple as: "Gamitin ito nang mahusay, malinis at magalang. Dahil kapag ginamit mo ito nang tama, tiyak na magalang din ang pagsagot sa iyo ng iyong kapwa (Use it correctly, modestly and politely. Because if you use the language right, others will definitely respond to you politely too)."