The Filipino Language

Jose Rizal

He who doesn’t cherish his own dialect, is more beastly than animals and worse than a rotten fish.

Filipino is a prestige register of the Tagalog language and the name under which Tagalog is designated the national language and one of two official languages of the Philippines, the other being English.[2] Tagalog is the first language of a third of the population of the Philippines. It is centered around Manila but is known almost universally throughout the country.[3]


There was no common language in the Philippine archipelago when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. The three major lingua francas were Tagalog, Ilocano, and Visayan. As the Philippine languages are all closely related and therefore easy for Filipinos to learn, most speakers of smaller languages were bilingual in two or more such regional languages.

On November 12, 1937, the first national assembly in the Philippines approved a law creating a National Language Institute to make a study and survey of each of the existing native languages, with a view to choosing one which was to be used as a basis for the national language of the Philippines.[4] The three main contenders were Tagalog, Visayan, and Ilocano.

On July 14, 1936, the Surián ng Wikáng Pambansâ (National Language Institute) selected Tagalog as the basis of Wikang Pambansâ (“National Language”) based on the following factors:

  1. Tagalog is widely spoken and is the language most understood in all the Regions of the Philippines;
  2. It is not divided into smaller, separate languages as Visayan or Bikol is;
  3. Its literary tradition is the richest and the most developed and extensive (mirroring that of the Tuscan language vis-a-vis Italian). More books are written in Tagalog than in any other autochthonous Philippine language, but this is mainly by virtue of law and privilege;
  4. Tagalog has always been the language of Manila – the political and economic capital of the Philippines during the Spanish and American eras;
  5. Tagalog was the language of the 1896 Revolution and the Katipunan – two highly important elements in Philippine history.[citation needed]

In 1959, the language became known as Pilipino in an effort to dissociate it from the Tagalog ethnic group.[5]

Later, the 1973 Constitution provided for a separate national language to replace Pilipino, a language which it named Filipino. The pertinent article, though, Article XV, Section 3(2), mentions neither Tagalog nor Pilipino as the basis for Filipino, instead calling on the National Assembly to:

take steps toward the development and formal adoption of a common national language to be known as Filipino.

This move has drawn much criticism from other regional groups.

In 1987, a new constitution introduced many provisions for the language.[6] Article XIV, Section 6, omits any mention of Tagalog as the basis for Filipino, and states that:

as [Filipino] evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.

And also states in the article:

Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.


The regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein.

Republic Act No. 7104, approved on August 14, 1991, created the Commission on the Filipino Language, reporting directly to the President and tasked to undertake, coordinate and promote researches for the development, propagation and preservation of Filipino and other Philippine languages.[7] On May 13, 1992, the commission issued Resolution 92-1, specifying that Filipino is the

indigenous written and spoken language of Metro Manila and other urban centers in the Philippines used as the language of communication of ethnic groups.[8]

However, as with the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions, 92-1 neither went so far as to categorically identify nor dis-identify this language as Tagalog. Definite, absolute, and unambiguous interpretation of 92-1 is the prerogative of the Supreme Court in the absence of directives from the KWF, otherwise the sole legal arbiter of the Filipino language.

Filipino was presented and registered with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), by then Ateneo de Manila University student Martin Gomez, and was added to the ISO registry of languages on September 21, 2004 with it receiving the ISO 639-2 code fil.[9] In June 2007, Ricardo Maria Nolasco, then Chair of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (Commission on the Filipino Language), acknowledged that Filipino was simply Tagalog in syntax and grammar, with as yet no grammatical element or lexicon coming from Ilocano, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, or any of the other Philippine languages. This is contrary to the intention of Republic Act No. 7104 that requires that the national language be developed and enriched by the lexicon of the country’s other languages, something that the commission is working towards.[10] Furthermore, on August 24, 2007, Dr. Nolasco elaborated further on the relationship between Tagalog and Filipino:

Are “Tagalog,” “Pilipino” and “Filipino” different languages? No, they are mutually intelligible varieties, and therefore belong to one language. According to the KWF, Filipino is that speech variety spoken in Metro Manila and other urban centers where different ethnic groups meet. It is the most prestigious variety of Tagalog and the language used by the national mass media.
The other yardstick for distinguishing a language from a dialect is: different grammar, different language. “Filipino”, “Pilipino” and “Tagalog” 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.[11]

On August 22, 2007, three Malolos City regional trial courts in Bulacan decided to use Filipino, instead of English, in order to promote the national language. Twelve stenographers from Branches 6, 80 and 81, as model courts, had undergone training at Marcelo H. del Pilar College of Law of Bulacan State University following a directive from the Supreme Court of the Philippines. De la Rama said it was the dream of Chief Justice Reynato Puno to implement the program in other areas such as Laguna, Cavite, Quezon, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Rizal, and Metro Manila.[12]

Filipino vs. Tagalog

In practical terms, Filipino is the formal name of Tagalog, or even a synonym of it. It is sometimes described as “Tagalog-based”, part of a political fiction that the national language is based on an amalgam of Philippine languages rather than on Tagalog alone.[2] It is usually called Tagalog within the Philippines and among Filipinos to differentiate it from other Philippine languages, but it has come to be known as Filipino to differentiate it from the languages of other countries; the former implies a regional origin, the latter a national. This is similar to the concept of the names given to the Spanish language, where Spanish is a general national term, but Castilian refers to a regional variant of Spanish.[citation needed]

One famous event which illustrates the relationship between Filipino and Tagalog happened during the impeachment trial of the former President Joseph Estrada. When the presiding justice Hilario Davide, a Cebuano, asked which language the witness Emma Lim preferred to testify in, Lim promptly answered “Tagalog”, to which Davide did not agree. According to Davide, nobody could testify in Tagalog because it is not the official language of the Philippines and there is no available interpreter from Tagalog to Filipino. However, Senator Franklin Drilon, an Ilonggo, defended the oneness of the two by saying that an interpreter will not be needed because everybody would understand the testimony in Tagalog.[citation needed]

Official status

Filipino is constitutionally designated as the national language of the Philippines and, along with English, as one of two official languages.[13]

See also


  1. ^ “?”. Google. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  2. ^ a b J.U. Wolff, “Tagalog”, in the Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2006
  3. ^ “New center to document Philippine dialects”. Asian Journal Online. Archived from the original on 2008-08-04. Retrieved 2008-10-25. “The country… has a national language, Filipino, that has become a common language…. Although Filipino is not the mother tongue of most Filipinos, it has become their second language….”
  4. ^ Paraluman Aspillera (1993). “Pilipino: The National Language, a historical sketch”. from Basic Tagalog for Foreigners and Non-Tagalogs, Charles E. Tuttle Publishing Co., Inc., Tokyo. Archived from the original on 2009-10-20. Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  5. ^ Andrew Gonzalez (1998). “The Language Planning Situation in the Philippines” (PDF). Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 19 (5, 6). Retrieved 2007-03-24.(p.487)
  6. ^ “1987 Philippine Constitution, Article XIV, Sections 6-9”. Chanrobles Law Library. Retrieved 2007-04-08.
  7. ^ “Commission on the Filipino Language Act”. Chanrobles law library. Retrieved 2007-07-19.
  8. ^ “Resolusyon Blg. 92-1” (in Filipino). Commission on the Filipino Language. 13 May 1992. Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  9. ^ “Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: fil”. Summer Institute of Linguistics. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  10. ^ Inquirer (2007). “New center to document Philippine dialects”. Asian Journal. Retrieved 2007-06-30.
  11. ^ “Filipino and Tagalog, Not So Simple”.
  12. ^ “,3 Bulacan courts to use Filipino in judicial proceedings”. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  13. ^ Language, Sections 6–9 of Article XIV, 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, Chanrobles Law Library.
  14. ^

Further reading

External links


The English Language in the Philippines

When planning to visit the Philippines, one might be a bit anxious or even nervous because Filipino (Tagalog) is the national language of the Philippines. However, it might be a relief to know that English is regarded as the country’s second language, therefore one will find that many Filipinos can speak and understand English. For the most part, English speaking tourists do not have to worry that a language barrier may cause problems during their vacation. That being said, it will still be to ones benefit to also learn (Filipino) Tagalog, which is the national language.

The use and influence of the English language in the Philippines can be attributed to the American influence in the Philippines because for a time the Philippines was colonized by America. Today in the Philippines, American influence can be seen in everyday life in such things as food, the music that is listened to, and the programs on television. Moreover, American products are widely available.

The English language in the Philippines is often used along with Tagalog. As a result you will find that people mix English with Tagalog. This is commonly called Taglish.

English is also the primary medium of instruction in the country in elementary school, high school, college, and beyond. Almost all the subjects are discussed in English, with the exception of the Filipino subject, which is taught in the Filipino language.

There are schools that encourage students to express themselves in English while on campus and whenever talking to those in authority. In some families, parents teach their children at an early age to speak and use English in everyday conversations.

In the Philippine islands different languages are spoken, therefore, Filipinos who travel to another region of the country where a different dialect or language is spoken will find that they can communicate with fellow Filipinos using either the Filipino language (Tagalog) or the English language. That is if they do not speak the local language.

Some words used in Filipino were borrowed from English. Some borrowed words cannot be directly translated into Filipino so they are used as is but may be spelled in Filipino according to their pronunciation. Some of the English words that are used in Filipino include words such as: printer, fax, bar, and cell phone. Other commonly used English words in Tagalog include: hello, hi, escalator, and so on..

In the Tagalog language, there are also English words that are spelled according to their pronunciation when used in Filipino. Examples of these words are telebisyon (television), oben (oven), and kamera (camera). There are countless others but here are a few more: traysikel (tricycle), dyip (jeep), and miting (meeting).

It is a good idea and might be advantageous to learn even basic Tagalog or words from the dialect spoken in the region one is visiting. At some point knowing the language could come in handy. For instance, if you go off the beaten path you might find that you are more at ease due to the added peace of mind of knowing that you can communicate with locals, in Tagalog or another dialect; when necessary.

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