by JHONA VITOR and BLESS AUBREY OGERIO
AUGUST MARKS the 24th year of celebrating Buwan ng Wika and the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) pushed to emphasize the importance of not only Filipino, the national language, but also of the native languages in the call for decolonization that affected Filipinos’ collective identity as a nation today.
The Philippines continues to face the endangerment of 40 out of over 180 languages and if these languages disappear, the rich tradition, customs, knowledge, and wisdom will also vanish.
Filipino language on the frontlines
As the pandemic is a real struggle for all communities across the world, language is playing an indisputable role in addressing them.
UST Department of Filipino Chair Prof. Roberto Ampil told The Flame that one cannot deny the great help of the Filipino language in making the common people understand the important information related to the pandemic.
“Kaliwa’t kanan ang mga ahensya ng pamahalaan sa pagtitiyak na maisasalin ang mga pabatid at tuntunin sa wikang nauunawaan ng taumbayan […] Ang social media—Tiktok, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter ay gumagamit na rin ng Filipino,” he said.
(A lot of government agencies ensure that the notices and regulations are translated into a language understood by the people […] Social media—Tiktok, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter are also using Filipino.)
Ampil also noted the frequent use of Filipino in the print and broadcast media of government services since the majority of its consumers are in the marginalized sectors.
Owing to the fact, however, that the Filipinos have low reading comprehension, Prof. Ampil recommends studying if the statements that will be presented to the people are interesting, important, and timely.
He also mentioned the relevance of audio-visual aids to the interest of the Filipino people in learning and understanding information.
“Hindi na bago sa atin ang katamaran o kahinaan ng mga tao sa pagbasa. […] Habang dumarami ang mga impormasyon ay nagiging kabagot-bagot itong basahin. Ang mambabasa ngayon ay audio-visual na, kaya kailangan talagang pag-aralan muna ang mga pamamaraan sa pagpapaabot ng impormasyon sa tao,” he said.
(The laziness or weakness of people in reading is not new to us. […] As the information multiplies it becomes boring to read. Readers now rely on audio-visual technology, so it is really necessary to first study the methods of conveying information to the people.)
Native languages as key to decolonization
KWF stressed that this year’s celebration of National Language Month should be ‘Filipino-centric’—that it should reflect the perspective of the Filipinos to raise the sense of pride in the rich cultural heritage of the nation’s ancestors.
In an exclusive interview with The Flame, KWF Commissioner and University of the Philippines Baguio’s College of Arts and Communication Dean Jimmy Fong explained that the natives are colonized twice.
“Ang unang kolonisasyon ay kolonisasyon ng banyaga sa Pilipinas [kung saan] [a]ng mga katutubo ay naging katutubo. Dati, lahat naman ay katutubo pero dahil sa […] [pagturing ng mga] banyagang kolonisador sa mga katutubo ay parang mga hayop, [n]aipalaganap din ang kaalamang ito sa mga Pilipino,” he said.
(The first colonization was done by the foreign colonizers in the Philippines where the natives became natives. Before, everyone was a native but as they were treated as animals by the foreign colonizers, this behavior was also propagated to the Filipinos.)
He furthered that establishing a national language had also affected the dynamics of power across the different regions and resulted in leaving out the ethnic minorities.
“[Ang] [p]angalawang kolonisasyon ng mga katutubo ay ang kolonisasyon ng nation-state o ang [pag-usbong ng] konsepto ng bansang Pilipinas. [Dahil dito,] kailangan may pambansang wika. […] Hindi kasama sa pangkalahatan ang mga katutubo sa usaping bansa kaya wala ang kanilang katutubong tunog sa abakada,” he added.
(The second colonization of the natives was the colonization of the nation-state or the emergence of the Philippines as a nation. Hence, there is a need for a national language. In general, the natives were excluded in national affairs that is why indigenous sounds are not in the alphabet.)
With this, Dr. Fong highlighted the constant use of indigenous language as one of the many ways to honor them and their knowledge for the betterment of the country.
“Ang pagsuporta sa paglago ng mga katutubong wika ay tungo sa pagbaklas ng kapangyarihan ng bansa at ng mga banyaga sa mahalagang katutubong kaalaman na magagamit sa paglago at pag-unlad din ng bansa,” he added.
(Through the support of native languages is a way of resisting the power of the nation and the foreigners as they hold important indigenous knowledge that can be used as well in the development of the country.)
Resisting against ‘cultural imperialism’
The Filipino language is one of the foundations of the Filipino identity which has been passed down through the centuries. But even so, colonization plays a big potential to disrupt the Filipino linguistic perception.
Mark Anthony Angeles, a faculty member of the UST Department of Filipino explained how cultural imperialism is manifested in the context of language endangerment in the country.
“For decades, the language of US bureaucrats has been dominating all facets of the lives of Filipino people. Even the 1987 Constitution ensures that the English language is taught and used in government and educational institutions. Where Filipino should be taught as a second language, with the native languages being the first, it is English that holds dominion,” he told the Flame.
The Filipino professor also noted that the language of China, which is Mandarin, has entered our government and commercial transactions.
In terms of how Filipino and indigenous languages help in decolonizing the Filipino culture, Angeles said that it is necessary to ask first if the political and economic system of the country has already been decolonized.
“It would be more difficult to free the consciousness of the Filipinos, through our languages, if our government officials and academicians are in favor of the language of the colonizers,” he said.
Moreover, he also commended those who are involved in promoting the Filipino regional literature, through training, publication and translation.
“Mas mahalaga sa akin ang pagsasa-Filipino ng mga tekstong nasa mga banyagang wika, pampanitikan man o pang-intelektwal, kaysa sa pagsasalin sa Ingles. Lalong mahalaga ang interaksyon sa pagitan ng Filipino at ng iba pang mga katutubong wika sa ating bansa,” he added.
(It is more important to me to translate texts in foreign languages into Filipino, whether literary or intellectual, instead of translating it to English. Also, the connection between Filipino language and other indigenous languages in our country is even more important.)
Given that the process would take a long time, Angeles asserted that Filipino and indigenous languages will materialize decolonization in the country today.
“Decolonize the language users. We have to look at our history through the eyes of our fellow Filipinos. We have to recognize the need to intellectualize Filipino.”
To keep the archipelago as one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world, there is so much to be done in promoting, protecting, and preserving the Filipino and native languages to get the message of hope and resistance across the country especially in these trying times where the pandemic crisis persists and the ever-present cultural discrimination is perpetuated. F