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) has seen "Pilipino" (or,
"Filipino," its more acceptable twin ) tossed in the waves of controversies
between the pros and 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 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.
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.
The issue of our national language has been around for the past 60, or
maybe even 90, years. The inhabitants of an archipelago with over a hundred
languages need a common language with which they could communicate with
each other and express themselves as a people of one nation.
The 1987 Constitution provides that, "the national language of the Philippines
is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched
on the basis oe existing Philippine and other languages."
Perhaps it is unfortunate that when the Philippine Commission passed
a bill in 1908 providing for an establishment of an Institute of Philippine
languages and the training of public school teachers thereon, the Philippine
Assembly rejected it through Leon Ma. Guerrero, its Chairman on Public
Instruction who recognized the need for a common language for the Filipinos
but who opted to adopt a foreign language instead of the native ones. Through
him, the Philippine Assembly spoke, thus:
"The idea of studying the
languages of the Philippine Archipelago is very plausible; but the
present aspiration of those who are interested in these languages is to unite them or reduce
them into a single language which, based on the principal dialects of the Islands, might constitute the means
of inter-communication of ideas in the entire Archipelago,
and which might obviate the absolute need now felt of using a
common foreign tongue as a means of transmission
of ideas, sentiments, and aspirations of the inhabitants of
the Philippines." (Romualdez,1936; p.302).
In 1931, the ex-officio Secretary of Public Instruction, Mr. Butte, addressing
the Catholic Women'sLeague, encouraged the use of the vernacular as medium
of instruction in the primary grades (I to IV). He opined:
"If we may assume that one of
the national objectives of the Philippines will be to preserve the
importantnative languages, as far as practicable, the schools
may contribute to the realization of this national objective by abondoning
English as the sole medium of instruction in the elementary schools . .
It must be noted that Lope K. Santos addressed the First Indepence Congress
on 30 February 1930 by expounding on "The Vernacular as a Factor in National
Solidarity and Independence." In 1932, Representative Manuel V. Gallego
authored Bill No. 588 which provided for the use of the vernacular as the
medium of instruction in all public elementary and secondary schools. In
1934 and 1935 the national language issue was discussed during the Consti-
tutional Convention. And the Constitution mandated in Section 3, Article
XIII: "The National Assembly shall take steps toward the development and
adoption of a common language based on one of the existing native
languages. . ."
The National Language Institute was established on 13 November1936 pursuant
to Commonwealth Act No. 184, and it was tasked with "the study
of Philippine dialects in general for the purpose of evolving and adopting
a common national language based on one of the existing native tongues."
This involved studying each language spoken by not less than half a million
people, collecting and collating cognate sets and phrases from these languages,
adopting a system for Philippine phonetics and ortography, comparing critically
all Philippine affixes, and selecting the language which was the most develop
in structure and literature and widely accepted and used by most Filipinos
--which will be the basis for the national language (Sec.V Art.1-5). The
Institute was given a year to accomplish this.
Once the language is selected, the Institute is to prepare its grammar
and dictionary within two years. Then it shall purify the language by weeding
out the unnecessary foreign words, phrases, or other grammatical constructions,
and enrich it through borrowing from the native languages and dialects,
from Spanish, and from English --in that order. And any word adopted into
the national language should be subjected to the phonological rules and
ortography of the Philippine languages.
In 1937, the Institute recommended Tagalog and came up with the Balarila
and the Tagalog- English Dictionary. In 1959, the Department of
Education called the Tagalog-based national language Pilipino. In 1965,
some congressmen took the cudgels againsts the propagation of Pilipino,
which to them is "puristang Tagalog," as the national language. This period
witnessed the purists coining words like
salumpuwit (chair), salimpapaw
(airplane), sipnayan (mathematics),
etc. In 1969, some non-Tagalog
speakers, like the Madyaas Pro-Hiligaynon Society and some Cebuano groups
complained against the movement of Manila toward "purismo." This gave rise
to the problems that needed to be resolved before the non-Tagalog speakers
could accept Tagalog as their own "wikang pambansa."
Be that as it may, the Board of National Education ordered in 1970 the
gradual shift to Pilipino as medium of instruction in the elementary starting
with Grade 1 in the school year 1974-75 and progressing into higher grades,
a level each year. It was also adopted as the medium of instruction for
Rizal and history subjects in colleges and universities. In 7 August 1973,
the Board of National Education introduced the bilingual approach to teaching
--that is, using two languages as media of instruction in the schools,
to wit: the vernacular for Grades I and II, Pilipino for Grades III and
IV, Pilipino and English for secondary and tertiary levels.
This bilingual approach serves to promote the intellectualization of
the national language --that is, to use it as medium of intellectual exchanges
in the academe, government offices, as well as in other disciplines in
the process of acquiring knowledge about the world which could be expressed
by the said language. In addition, it will bring about a national unity
and identity among Filipinos, as they can now express themselves and communicate
with each other in a common language.
The 1973 Constitution states the National Assembly should endeavor towards
developing and formally adopting a common national language to be called
Filipino. Meantime, Pilipino and English remain the official languages
unless repealed by law. Filipino is anchoredon Pilipino. Pilipino has borrowed
and adopted a lot of words from the Spanish lexicon, Spain being the country's
colonizer for over 300 years. These words are carried over to Filipino
as Pilipino, as these lexical items have now undergone phonological and
morphological processes and appear to be native terms. The borrowing
from Spanish has now somewhat waned. What is prevalent in Filipino today
is the rampant borrowing from English. Tabloids, dailies, weeklies, showbiz
magazines, even the Cebuano weekly Bisaya are awashed with English
words. The academicians as well as the newscasters in radio and television
have adopted English words freely and liberally (please refer to Exhibits
The evolution of the Wikang Pambansa, now known as Filipino, has
not remained uneventful, as one finds out from the its historical
perspective in the previous section. From 1935 onwards, to the present
1990s we have seen this language develop, first as Tagalog-based that barely
ill-disguised itself as the "national language"--a clear victory of Manuel
L. Quezon and the espousal of the tagalistas over the Bisayan hopes
of Sotto and his Ang Suga advocates-- then, in 1959 acquiring
the term "Pilipino"given to it by executive fiat to remove the last vestiges
of "tagalogism" and imprint its national character. In 1965, when the "puristas"
(purists) attempted to enhance the vocabulary through artificial wordsmithing
and thereby intensifying the 'word war" with their critics. Then, beginning
in the 1970s which saw Pilipino finally
being used as medium of
instruction at the primary and secondary levels of public and private schools.
And, lastly, from its 1987 constitutional enshrinement as "Filipino" to
the present --an amalgamation of Pilipino/Tagalog, Spanish, and a
preponderance for English in respelled forms.
Some lexical items given in the Appendix will now be discussed here
as representing a type of dominant Filipino written or spoken in: (a) the
academe;(b) a language journal; (c) a Cebuano weekly of general circulation;
(d) an article written by a noted Filipino linguists; (e) a series of TV
news broadcasts, and (f) someMetro Manila daily tabloids. The choice of
sources for these lexical items is rather arbitrary, albeit on firm linguistic
ground that the best sources of data are the people themselves --what they
speak, what they read, and so on. In this study,Tagalog and Cebuano speakers
are taken as a combined language group comprising more
than 50 per cent of the Philippine population (Atienza, 1996, citing NSO
1989 figures) with 92 per cent of Filipinos being able to speak the wikang
pambansa, thus effectively establishing Filipino as the lingua franca
of the country, if not, as the national language itself.
Exhibit A (please see Appendix) presents some lexical items used by
professors of the University of the Philippines in their publications in
Filipino on the same topic. These terms are arrayed alongside their English
equivalent. Thus, konsiderasyon is "consideration" (respelled form),
natural is, likewise, "natural" (adopted form). The original
data of about 600 terms show consistency on the aforementioned forms.
Exhibit B, with lexical items sourced from the writings of of a distinguished
group of Filipino writers, exhibits the same forms --respelled, affixed,
or adopted (e.g., diyagram, kategorya, and
C, with lexical items from the highly popular and widely-circulated Cebuano
weekly, Bisaya, shows a close congruence of Filipino
usage as its staid counterparts above (Exhibits A and B). For instance,
for "to deposit," and tiloring
Exhibit D shows some lexical items from one of the works of the foremost
proponent of the "universal approach" to Philippine languages (Constantino,
1974). These items are unabashed borrowing from the English language, such
as fyutyur (future), vawel (vowel),
(subjective), and diksyunari (dictionary).
Exhibit E is a transcription of terms used in selected, highly-rated
TV newscasts in Filipino.Typically, the commentary is fast-paced, accompaniedby
live "on the spot" camera footages, with words pouring out in staccato
manner, like administrasyon, kovereyj, masaker, trafik apdeyt,insedente,
aprobahan, and the like. (The respelling of these English equivalent
in Filipino is the researcher's alone, consistent with the phonological
rules of Philippine languages.)
Exhibit F lists lexical terms from the proliferating Metro Manila tabloids
written in Filipino and read by the masa, the "man in the street"
literally. Familiar words like mentaliti (mentality), sektor
isyu (issue), and abroad (abroad).
Taken as a whole, the lexical items drawn from Exhibits A toF reveal
a common, tell-tale pattern of usage one can ignore at his/herown peril.
point ot a heavy and consistent borrowing from the English language.
Why this phenomenon is so will be explained in the next section.
Towards a Theory of Filipino
What do academicians say about Filipino? Dr. Ernesto A. Constantino,
a distinguished Filipino linguist says: "Ang pinili naming wika na idedebelop
bilang wikang pambansa natin, ang tinawag naming linggwa prangka o Filipino."
[We chose to develop as national language Filipino, that which we refer
to as the lingua franca] (Constantino, 1996:p.180). Atienza (1996)
describes it as "isang wikang kompromiso, o lingua franca." Flores(1996)
points out that Filipino is the language of the "kulturang popular na nagmula
sa Metro Manila at pinapalaganap sa buong kapuluan." Another view is that
of Isagani R. Cruz of DLSU who states that for him Filipino is the
English-Tagalog code switch. On the other hand, Alegre (1989) expresses
that "contemporary Manila Tagalog is the basis of Filipino." He claims
that Tagalog is developing into the national language as it is the lingua
franca of the non-Tagalog provinces.
Is the Tagalog-based Pilipino really Filipino? Dr. Constantino cites
the differences between Pilipino and Filipino, to wit: Filipino (1) has
more phonemes; (2) has a different system of ortography; (3) manifests
a heavy borrowing from English; (4) has a different grammatical construction.
Based on the trend of development of Filipino as manifested in the data
presented in this study, as well as the actual usage by the linguistic
trendsetters in Philippine society --newscasters (both in radio and television),
Filipino writers andsome academicians, showbiz personalities--it would
appear that his theory is closest to reality.
There is a consensus, however, among the academicians above that Filipino
is the lingua franca in MetroManila which is inexorably pervading the regional
centers through the print and broadcast media, through the songs
that the local bands sing, through intellectual discussions among academicians,
etc. It is the language through which a prominent Filipino linguistcommunicates
(Exhibit D), as well as the medium of expression among academicians (Exhibit
A), and of the "caretakers" or "authority" of national language development
in the University of the Philippines System, namely, the writers and editors
in the Sentro ng Wikang Filipino(Exhibit B).
Even the leading Cebuano weekly, Bisaya (which has been around
for the past 68 years) has now printed in its pages loan words from English
which, more often than not, retain their original spelling despite their
being subjected to the Cebuano rules of grammar. One can safely
say that Cebuano, like Tagalog, is undergoing linguistic change through
lexical borrowing from English. Right now the Cebuanos adopt two alternate
forms --the original spelling and the modified. Soon only one form will
be retained, by theory of simplification as embodied in the universals
At the moment, it is very clear that English borrowing has a dominant
and pervading influence in the shaping of the lingua franca which is the
penultimate form of Filipino, the national language. But will this trend
continue? Language is dynamic. This researcher is of the opinion
that as long as English remains the official language of commerce, science,and
technology the trend will continue.
Unfortunately, there isn't much borrowing from other Philippine languages.
Maceda (1996) introduces some Cebuano words and phrases in her discourse.
So natural was the insertion, the reader can contextualize the meaning.
Atienza, in the same book included in his text "pakikipag- lakipan," the
rootword of which. "lakip", is also found in the Cebuano lexicon.
At the UP campus, one sees Cebuano signs like "Balay Kalinaw" and "Ugnayan
sa Pahinungod." Would a little bit more adoption of words from other Philippine
languages foster goodwill and unity among the etnolinguistic groups in
the country in the future? Being a Cebuano, the researcher feels proud
that some Cebuno terms are now significant in the national context. Probably
members of disparate ethnolinguistic groups would most likely feel the
On the other hand, there are expressed illusory hindrances to the concept
of a unifying language, to wit: (1) it is impossible to develop a national
language from one of the country's 100-plus languages; (2) the emergence
of a national language will wither the other languages; (3) it is equally
impossible to develop a national language based on two or more languages;
(4) regionalistic pride prevails over nationalistic aspiration --like the
Cebuano who insists on using his own language over Pilipino.
But considering the rapid linguistic development of both Cebuano and
the Metro Manila Filipino, there seems to be hope for Filipino. And this
is manifested in the perceived convergence of Pilipino and Cebuano
through their respective borrowings from English. A few examples are given
| English Terms
|| Pilipino Form
One is confident that the converging process will continue, not only
for Pilipino and Cebuano but likewise for other Philippine languages like
Hiligaynon,Bikol, Ilokano, Waray, Kapampangan, and so on. Language change
is, however, gradual and it will probably take several years before a substantive
convergence can occur.What is apparent for now is that the convergence
is already taking place.
Meanwhile, Almario (1997, p.9) gives an update on Filipino:
"Nasa kalooban ngayon ng Filipino ang paglinang
sa "sanyata" at "ranggay" ng Iloko sa "uswag"
at "bihud" ng Bisaya, sa "santing" ng Kapampangan,"laum"
at "magayon" ng Bikol at kahit sa "buntian" ng Butanon at "suyad" ng Manobo.
Samantalay hindi ito hadlang sa madaliang pagpasok
ng "shawarma" "shashimi," "glasnost," "perestroika,"
"shabu," "megabytes." "odd-even," at iba ang idadagsa ng satelayt
at FAX sa globalisasyon."
What does one make out of this assertion? Are we now to believe that the
process of borrowing from other Philippine and foreign languages is now
a linguistic reality? Judging from the data gathered and presented here,
perhaps this is only partially true. That is, borrowing is almost exclusively
from the English language. And why is this so? It is difficult to give
a substantive answer to this particular question, given the limited scope
of this study. Perhaps one indication why there is a lot of borrowing fro
English compared to other Philippine languages is the facility and
appropriateness or applicability of English terms to modern day-to-day
living of the average urban Filipino. More so because the urbanized Filipino
is constantly exposed to the trappings --high technology, media, etc.--
of modern society which adopts English as its medium of communication,
commerce, and education. As for Filipinos living in rural communities,
the far-reaching radio and television broadcasts bring to them the linguistic
trend emanating from the urban centers.
Thus is the metamorphosis of our national language, Filipino. Quick
to adapt and change with the times and the demands of its speakers' culture
and politics, it had initially lain quiescent beneath the controversies
and debates over its birth and composition. But now, thanks to globalization
and the rising quality of life of the average Filipino, it has, like the
moth, grown uncomfortable inside its cocoon prison and longed for freedom
of expression. Much may yet have to be done, but Filipino as national language
of unity has arrived.
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