Daily Archives: 09/14/2012

Filipino? Tagalog? Pilipino?

The basis for the Philippine national language is Tagalog, which had primarily been spoken only in Manila and the surrounding provinces when the Commonwealth constitution was drawn up in the 1930s. That constitution provided for a national language, but did not specifically designate it as Tagalog because of objections raised by representatives from other parts of the country where Tagalog was not spoken. It merely stated that a national language acceptable to the entire populace (and ideally incorporating elements from the diverse languages spoken throughout the islands) would be a future goal. Tagalog, of course, by virtue of being the lingua franca of those who lived in or near the government capital, was the predominant candidate.

By the time work on a new constitution began in the early 1970s, more than half the Philippine citizenry was communicating in Tagalog on a regular basis. (Forty years earlier, it was barely 25 percent.) Spurred on by President Marcos and his dream of a “New Society,” nationalist academics focused their efforts on developing a national language — Pilipino, by that time understood to be Tagalog de facto. Neologisms were introduced to enrich the vocabulary and replace words that were of foreign origin. A much-remembered example is “salumpuwit” (literally, “that to support the buttocks”) for “chair” to replace the widely adopted, Spanish-derived “silya.” Such efforts to nativize the Philippine national language were for naught, however, since words of English and Spanish origin had become an integral part of the language used in the everday and intellectual discourse of Filipinos.

This reality was finally reflected in the constitution composed during the Aquino presidency in the latter half of the 1980s. The national language was labeled Filipino to acknowledge and embrace the existence of and preference for many English- and Spanish-derived words. “Western” letters such as f, j, c, x and z — sounds of which were not indigenous to the islands before the arrival of the Spaniards and the Americans — were included in the official Filipino alphabet.

The aforementioned evolution of the Philippine national language is taught as part of the school curriculum in the Philippines, such that when you ask a Filipino what the national language of the country is, the response is “Filipino.” In the same way that there are English (composition, literature…) classes in American elementary, secondary and tertiary schools to teach the national language of the United States, there are Filipino classes (not Tagalog classes; Filipino literature classes, not Tagalog literature classes) in Philippine schools.

So what is the difference between Filipino and Tagalog? Think of Filipinoas Tagalog Plus. Filipino is inclusive of the contributions of languages other than Tagalog. For instance, it is quite all right to say “diksyunaryo” (from the Spanish diccionario) in Filipino, whereas a Tagalog purist (or someone stuck in the “Pilipino” era) might insist on a native Tagalog word like “talatinigan.” It is also more politically correct to refer to Filipino, not Tagalog, as the Philippine national language. For Filipinos from other parts of the country, Tagalog is not their first language; they learn to speak Filipino because it is constitutionally the national language and taught in schools.

In practical terms, most people, especially Filipinos overseas who have come to realize that foreigners favor “Tagalog” to refer to the Philippine national language, don’t strictly differentiate among the words Filipino, Pilipino and Tagalog, and have learned to adapt to how Americans or Canadians perceive the meaning of each word. That is why when you go to a bookstore in North America, for example, you are more likely to find a “Tagalog (or Pilipino) dictionary” than a “Filipino dictionary.”

Postscript: Philippino, Philipino and other such misspellings are unacceptable and are jarring to Filipino eyes. Remember: Filipino is the noun that refers to the Philippine national language and to the Philippine people (Filipinos); it is also an adjective to describe people, things and such from the Philippines (the other adjective being Philippine). The country itself is called the Philippines (currently the Republic of the Philippines; formerly, and actually still, the Philippine Islands) in English, Las Islas Filipinas or simply La/Las Filipinas in Spanish, and Pilipinas in Filipino (Tagalog).

Cultural Note: Although the word “Filipino” is acceptable in Filipino (the Philippine language), most Filipinos will still say Pilipino when referring to a Filipino person while speaking in Filipino/Tagalog.

For example: “Ako ay Pilipino.” (“I am Filipino.”)

Why? Primarily because a “p” sound is easier for a Filipino to pronounce than an “f” sound. In fact, even though the letters c, f, j, x, z, etc. have formally been included in the Philippine/Filipino alphabet, there is still an overwhelming tendency to transliterate foreign words into native pronunciation forms.

Examples: kompyuter, kwalipikasyon, okasyon, kendi, indibidwal, sipilis…



Sa Aking Mga Kabata / To My Fellow Children

Sa Aking Mga Kabata / To My Fellow Children 
ni Jose P. Rizal

Ito ang kauna-unahang tula na isinulat ng ating pambansang bayaning si Dr. Jose Rizal.Sa edad 8, isinulat  niya ito sa katutubong wika at pinamagatang “SA AKING  MGA KABATA”.

Kapagka ang baya’y sadyang umiibig
Sa kanyang salitang kaloob ng langit,
Sanglang kalayaan nasa ring masapit
Katulad ng ibong nasa himpapawid.

Pagka’t ang salita’y isang kahatulan
Sa bayan, sa nayo’t mga kaharian,
At ang isang tao’y katulad, kabagay
Ng alin mang likha noong kalayaan.

Ang hindi magmahal sa kanyang salita
Mahigit sa hayop at malansang isda,
Kaya ang marapat pagyamaning kusa
Na tulad sa inang tunay na nagpala.

Ang wikang Tagalog tulad din sa Latin
Sa Ingles, Kastila at salitang anghel,
Sapagka’t ang Poong maalam tumingin
Ang siyang naggawad, nagbigay sa atin.

Ang salita nati’y huwad din sa iba
Na may alfabeto at sariling letra,
Na kaya nawala’y dinatnan ng sigwa
Ang lunday sa lawa noong dakong una.

(Nagsalin sa Filipino di kilala.)

To My Fellow Children
translated by Fank C. Laubach

Whenever eople of a country truly love
The language which by heav’n they were taught to use
That country also surely liberty pursue
As does the bird which soars to freer space above.

For language is the final judge and referee
Upon the people in the land where it holds sway;
In truth our human race resembles in this way
The other living beings born in liberty.

Whoever knows not how to love his native tongue
Is worse than any best or evil smelling fish.
To make our language richer ought to be our wish
The same as any mother loves to feed her young.

Tagalog and the Latin language are the same
And English and Castilian and the angels’ tongue;
And God, whose watchful care o’er all is flung,
Has given us His blessing in the speech we claim,

Our mother tongue, like all the highest that we know
Had alphabet and letters of its very own;
But these were lost — by furious waves were overthrown
Like bancas in the stormy sea, long years ago.

Interpretation of the poem, “Sa Aking mga Kabata”

The first stanza speaks that Rizal wants us to love our own language and it is a gift from above that was given onto us to be grateful of. It is a blessing that like any other nationalities we were gifted of. We are aware that Rizal was motivated to write this poem during the time of Spanish supremacy because we were under their colony. He addresses us to love our language for it is our step towards liberty. As Rizal correlated it to a bird that can freely fly up in the sky, it has a will to fly wherever it wants to go and whatever it wants to do. But if this bird is in a howl like us, Filipinos, who cannot stand for what we believe is right, we will never experience independence.

The next stanza implies that a nation that loves a God-given language also loves freedom. “For language is the final judge and reference upon the people in the land where it holds and sway.” A Filipino who loves his native tongue will definitely fight for his freedom seemingly like a bird “lumilipad nang pagkataas-taas para sa mas malawak na liliparan”, a person who preserves the marks of its liberty, as man preserve his independence. Language is not merely a communication tool but as an expression of one’s identity, of one’s individual and social consciousness. Without a common identity, there could be no real sense of nationhood. Love and use of one’s native tongues was one of the badges of a true patriot.

In the succeeding stanza, Rizal compared the person who doesn’t love his native tongue from a putrid fish. Just like a fish which originally lives in water, stinks every time it goes out of its place. Like some of the Filipinos that we could observe, we could see that when they have reached a foreign country and adapted the foreign language and culture, they tend to forget their own. And as they have adapted that culture, they will be so haughty   to despise and scorn their own fellowmen. They hide and cover their identity for being a Filipino even though it’s very discernible. They just make themselves look foolish and shameful. And with the last two lines from the third stanza, Rizal addressed to us that our own language must be cherished and should not be forgotten because it’s a very valuable possession of our own country.

Fascination when we discovered that Rizal was just an eight-year-old lad when he wrote this poem. At a very young age and a boy who grew up speaking several languages, it is very inspiring to hear someone say these lyrics with such great nationalism with great love of his own tongue. Reflecting our past, we saw ourselves unconsciously patronizing foreign languages. We wanted to be those whites who have slang tongues. Where have our native tongues has gone? We were gaining colonial mentality without our awareness. The bad news is, we allow it to happen. And what Rizal was trying to resound is that even our very own Filipino is also a language to be respected and valued. It is also a language likewise with the angels and with the others. There should be no hierarchy that the Filipino is the least. For rejecting it is like denying ourselves of who we really are.

Finally, the last stanza implies that we, just like the other nations existing, have its own exceptional characteristics that we can be greatly proud of, those distinct qualities of being a Filipino such that the blood itself that runs through your veins, the culture, and your innate YOU is a certified Filipino that you can never obliterate. Sad to say, the cornerstones established by our forefathers to come up with a better country is now into annihilation…Annihilation caused by the influx of challenges doomed to spoil what we have.