The Metamorphosis of Filipino as National Language

by Jessie Grace U. Rubrico


Filipino, the term used in both the 1973 and 1987 Philippine Constitution to designate as the "national language" of the Philippines --whether in sense of de jure, or  de facto, it matters not-- has come full-circle to prick the national consciousness and lay its vexing burden at the feet of our national planners, as well as of the academe. For indeed, the past six decades (since 1935) have seen "Pilipino" (or, "Filipino," its more acceptable twin ) tossed in the waves of controversies between the pros and the antis as each camp fires off volleys of linguistic cognoscente or even garbage, as the case may be, while the vast majority watched with glee or boredom.

With a strong constitutional mandate to evolve, further develop, and enrich Filipino "on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages" (Art. XIV, Sec.6, 1986 Constitution), our language planners were supposedly equipped to deal with the legal and administrative details of the problem, after the sad episodes appurtenant to its admittedly emotional sideshows in the 1971 Constitutional Convention (Santos, 1976) and the polemical articles of Vicente Sotto, et. al. (Rubrico, 1996), among others.

Key Issue and Sub-issues

But after more than 60 years, has Filipino truly  metamorphosed into a Philippine national language? To what extent? What has been its "success stories"?  Its failures? What is its current state or condition in the present? What needs to be further done? What is in store for the future? What are the development prospects of the other non-Tagalog languages of the Philippines for integration into Filipino?What are the pervasive influence of English or of other foreign languages on today's speakers?

This paper is an indicative study of  Filipino's current lexicon, particularly borrowings from the English language --an ineluctable task, but necessary nonetheless, if one has to face honestly the current phenomenon to be described more fully in this study. The researcher fully agrees with the observation that a national language can be a unifying concept of our continuing struggle against our colonizers (Atienza,1996), of freeing ourselves from our colonial mindset (Maceda, 1996). Still, the illusory pitfalls (Constatino, 1996) warned about in the development of the national language compendium can be cause for some soul-searching pause, even as others deny them (Almario, 1996) with equal logic.

But if debates must continue, the let the "game" begin and may the best argument -as perceived by its arbiters. the officials and the public, especially--win. Language and culture are, after all, inseparable, with the people's lexicon mirroring their culture.

The Corpus

Virtually everyone agrees that media -print, radio, and television (and now, cyberspace) has had a profound influence on people, especially on their language. The Filipino spoken today, especially by the young (35 years old and below) is undeniably distinctive, to use a loose term, and may have been so influenced by media to a greater extent. This Filipino is spoken by a  significant segment of the population and it warrants a  linguistic inquiry. Selected articles  from Filipino tabloids and  dailies, scholarly papers from the University of the Philippines Press, candid and structured interviews of college students, television news, sitcoms and talk shows, and radio programs in Metro Manila are some of the culled sources for the Filipino words, phrase, or sentences found in this study. Filipino, Tagalog, and Cebuano words are arrayed for cognate purposes, with English juxtaposed as a meta- or reference language. The corpus is found at the end of this paper as Appendix.

The conclusion derived therefrom form the bulk of the recommendations of this researcher, particularly on the "key success variables" that could ensure the continuing development and metamorphosis of Filipino as the national language of the Philippines in the next century.

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Maintained by Mark Rubrico