It’s time to stop denying our diversity


Written by Dr. Elizabeth Caliwanagan (UP-Baguio)

AUGUST is Buwan ng Wika (Language Month). For some, this is a happy celebration; for others, it is observed just for compliance, while others avoid it out of frustration.

Before explaining why, let us review a little history. In 1968 Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Proclamation 187 establishing the Linggo ng Wikang Pambansa (National Language Week) during which government agencies and schools were told to use Pilipino in all their official communications and transactions. President Fidel Ramos altered the timeframe of this celebration in 1997, declaring the whole month of August as Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa.

For 46 years, the national government has set aside a time of the year in which Filipinos are supposed to use, prioritize, and idolize the national language. The frustrating aspect, however, is how it never seems to change. It would be wonderful if someone thought to make Buwan ng Wika more inclusive. In other countries, celebrations designed to promote language usually target regional, minority, and indigenous languages, because these are the languages that are in most need of attention. With 90 percent of the world’s 6,000 languages endangered, it is urgent that we give time to think about their place in our societies, their legacy, and their future.

The national language is not endangered. The advocacy for its use nationwide has been achieved. It is rapidly being integrated into new domains of technology like Facebook and is spreading around the world as the lingua franca of Filipinos. It is like a virus that permeated the communication system via mass media and social media.

In fact, Tagalog (or, more formally, Pilipino) is spoken by more people today than in any time in human history. In fact, even foreigners learn and speak it. By contrast, there are many Philippine languages that are endangered, and a few Ayta/Agta languages have already gone extinct. Even large languages, like Capampangan and Pangasinan are fast declining, as has been reported by this newspaper in past issues.
Without many realizing, we are gradually losing our linguistic and cultural diversity. This should be a cause for concern for everyone. In a recent conference held in China, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Director-General Dr. Irina Bokova explained why we should protect our many languages:

“I see multilingualism as essential to crafting more inclusive human development, reflecting the needs of every society. There can be no ‘one size fits all’ model. The new development agenda to follow 2015 should be universal in order to be sustainable, engaging all countries equally and reflecting their diversity.

This is an issue of human rights. It is an issue for poverty eradication and sustainable development. Ultimately, it is an issue for lasting peace, for respect and tolerance. Each of the world’s 6,000 or so languages contains its own wealth of knowledge.”

The typical refrain of Buwan ng Wika, however, is ‘one size fits all.’ What the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) tells us is that the national language fits us all. No matter if we are Bicolanos, Bisayans, Kapampangans, or Muslims, we should all just love and use the national language. There was only a brief period of three years (2006-2008) in which the KWF became more attentive to other Philippine languages, evident in Language Month themes like “Ang Buwan ng Wika ay Buwan ng mga Wika sa Pilipinas” (2006), “Maraming Wika Matatag na Bansa” (2007), “Wika mo, Wika ko, Wika ng Mundo, Mahalaga” (2008). Since then, the KWF has reverted back to a platform of uniformity. The Philippine Constitution espouses “unity in diversity”, but then why are our children forced to sing and chant about the importance of the national language for a whole month, without a single day of August in honor of their mother tongues? The KWF might argue that they do things for other languages, like the recent publication of Cordillera folk stories, but it is not enough. The big majority of their resources is spent on Pilipino.

Buwan ng Wika is frustrating to many Filipinos not because they are against the national language. They are frustrated because, after half a decade, the approach has not changed. The national language is spoken by almost all Filipinos. The national language has become more powerful than anyone expected. Is it still necessary to push it so hard, while other languages are silenced? Filipinos don’t buy the argument anymore that we have to abandon our languages to be unified. We can get along fine with our diversity. There is nothing to fear. Let’s do the right thing and make Buwan ng Wika a celebration of all our languages.
 An expounded version of this piece shall be presented in a forum held at UP Baguio on August 27 and UP Diliman on August 28, 2014


Updated Position Statement: Languages in the General Education Curriculum (GEC)

We are in favor of a language policy that:
I. is inclusive and non-prescriptive;
II. gives HEIs the freedom to select the language or languages of instruction to be used in the GEC, as appropriate to the specific context.
We do not support a language policy that:
I. limits the teaching of GEC subjects to just English and Filipino;
II. stipulates any minimum number of subjects that must be taught in a particular language.

The above position is founded on, but not limited to, the following reasons:

a. Medium of instruction should be a contextualized choice depending on the needs and interests of a particular learning community.
b. Numerous factors should be considered in selecting an appropriate medium of instruction for an HEI, department, or even a particular subject, such as research thrusts, economic forces, the competencies of the instructor(s) and students, learning materials, and public approval.
c. In addition to English and Filipino, several Philippine languages have been effectively used as mediums of instruction by HEIs, such as Negros Oriental State University (Journalism), University of Northern Philippines (Communication), Ateneo de Naga (Philosophy), Catanduanes State University (Engineering), Bohol University (Engineering), UP Tacloban (Literature), and more. Being institutions of higher learning where the operative mode is exploration and discovery, they should not be restricted to just teaching in Filipino and English but instead be given the freedom to innovate in teaching in other languages and contribute in the intellectualization of languages in their region.
d. General Education is supposed to be general. Requiring subjects of only one particular language or the use of one particular language in a number of subjects does not qualify as general education. If the GEC is to have a language requirement, it should be a flexible one whereby the student has a choice as to what language he/she would like to take to fulfil the language requirement.

a. The Philippines is a multilingual country. Privileging English and the national language in the 20th century has  i) reinforced  class divisions based on language, whereby fluent speakers of these languages enjoy advantages, privileges, and prestige not afforded to other Filipinos; ii) undermined access and innovation; iii) hampered awareness, tolerance, sensitivity, and appreciation of the true diversity of the country; iv) threatened the vitality and existence of dozens of Philippine languages and associated cultures; Schools should not reproduce such inequitable conditions in our society but instead become an agent for social change. Moreover, any language to be taught or used should be presented in the context of a multilingual society.
b. Diversity is not a threat to national unity. It is the disrespect and ignorance of diversity—manifested in exclusionary policies and attitudes—that is far more dangerous. The Philippines has been identified among the countries with the highest risk of educational, economic, and social problems due to its restrictive language-in-education policies.

a. Efforts have been made to intellectualize various Philippine languages by groups like Akademiyang Binisaya, NAKEM, GUMIL, Sumakwelan Writers’ Association, Katig Waray Writers, and Ulupan na Pansiansay Salitan Pangasinan, and many more. We have also existing university-based research hubs like the Center for Capampangan Studies (Holy Angel University), University Center of Bicol Studies (Ateneo de Naga University), the Ilokano Language and Literature program of the University of Hawaii. Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education teachers have started teaching and thus intellectualizing the mother tongues of their pupils. The potential of Philippine languages to facilitate intellectual discourse should not be dismissed. Regional and local languages may be particularly suitable for GEC core subjects like Understanding the Self, Readings in Philippine History, Purposive Communication, and various General Education Electives.
b. The 1987 Philippine Constitution declares that Filipino shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages. In the more than 20 years since, very few features from other Philippine languages other than Tagalog have been incorporated into the Filipino used in school and media.  Excluding native Philippine languages (besides Tagalog in the form of Filipino) from various domains, particular higher education, will continue to hamper the enrichment of Filipino. Pushing the national language without any practical mechanisms to make it more representative, will likewise undermine its public acceptance.  

a. The right to learn and use one’s mother tongue, and the right to a pluralistic, equitable education system are promoted in international legal instruments such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious, and
Linguistic Minorities, and the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. These rights are not limited to basic education.
b. The 1987 Philippine Constitution recognizes Filipino as the national language.  The Constitution, however, does not declare it as the sole medium of official communication and instruction—English is an official language and the regional languages are recognized as auxiliary official languages and media of instruction. Any policy therefore on language use should always reflect such combination – Filipino, English and regional languages.
c. The Constitution espouses “unity in diversity”, freedom of speech and expression, and academic freedom for all institutions of higher learning. The Philippines is a democratic country and freedom of speech and expression should include what language a person or persons would like to use, while academic freedom should include what languages a teacher would like to use and teach.
d. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (RA 8371) recognizes the rights of indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples to determine their education systems by providing education in their own language and in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

In light of the above, we earnestly request that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) uphold the existing Commission Memorandum Order 20 s. 2013 regarding the new General Education Curriculum, with only a minor revision necessary: to allow the use of other Philippine languages besides English and Filipino as mediums of instruction.

CHED and other concerned government agencies are also requested to announce concrete plans on the retooling and deployment of affected GE instructors (not just Filipino but also Math, Humanities, English and PE) when CMO 20 2013 comes into effect.

Finally, as advocacy group for MTBMLE, we ask CHED to expedite the revision of Teacher Education Curriculum so that it will respond to the language and pedagogical requirements of MTBMLE.

170+ Talaytayan MLE and other concerned Filipinos
Sign our online petition: http://bit.ly/no-interference-HEI

Download the PDF version



(Click this link to sign the petition)

Several related groups have been pressuring the Commission on Higher Education to amend the newly crafted CMO 20 series 2013 and make Filipino a requirement in higher education. And to think that some members of the said groups were privileged to participate in the series of consultations and crafting of the said policy, which they now oppose. In May 2014, the Committee on Language and Translation of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) issued a resolution demanding that 9 units of Filipino language be a mandatory part of the General Education Curriculum in colleges and universities. Does anyone else find it ironic that the government body entrusted to preserve cultural diversity, which includes linguistic diversity, sponsored a resolution that seeks the blanket inclusion of 9 mandatory units of only Filipino and makes no mention of any other language?

Unfortunately, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) seems to be bowing to the pressure of these one-sided groups, which are composed mostly of national language writers and instructors. The chair of CHED, Dr. Patricia Licuanan, issued a press statement on June 23, 2014, saying that they are considering (maybe as a concession) making it mandatory that three of the General Education subjects be taught using Filipino. They say, yes there is academic freedom but only as far as deciding which 3 GE subjects are to be taught in Filipino. The reservation of a certain number of national language slots in the GEC without extending the same kind of privilege to other languages—Philippine or otherwise—is a highly problematic move. CHED would essentially be forcing colleges and universities—which should be bastions of free thinking, plurality, and equality to subscribe to a hegemonic one-nation-one language ideology. Any language policy should reflect the multilingual context of our learners. Furthermore, since languages mediate learning, the choice of language to be used in a particular area of study should be based on the objective to improve learning outcomes and to equip the students to the world of work and service in their own community and beyond.

Pro-national language adherents may invoke the Constitution to support its demand. Yes, the Constitution states that “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.” Regardless of the questionable wisdom of having a constitutional provision that—a) reads like an implementing rule, forever committing the government to promote something without recourse; and b) pushes a concept of national homogeneity so at odds with our multicultural/multilingual nature—the Constitution is nevertheless not an unequivocal legal basis for the mandatory use of Filipino in higher education. Why? “Taking steps to initiate and sustain” is not the same as “mandating” and it should be viewed in the context of linguistic democracy and academic freedom.

Furthermore, there is a critical difference between the indefinite article “a” and the definite article “the.” The wording of the Constitution—“a medium of official communication” and the absence of an article altogether in reference to language of instruction—means (mercifully) that the promotion of the Filipino national language is inclusive. Using Filipino at the exclusion of English, other Philippine languages, or even other foreign languages is not actually demanded by the Constitution, and any dictat to that effect is unduly restrictive.

Aside from the language provisions, the Constitution also protects several other fundamental principles:

Section 4, Article III (the Bill of Rights) states, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press…” As an instrument of speech and expression, language is protected under this clause. People, and by extension their institutions, should have the freedom to choose what languages they wish to learn and use. Jose Rizal himself deftly wielded Spanish to rouse patriotic spirit and indeed learned more than 10 other languages throughout his life—a potent refutation of the trope that patriotism is to speak or favour only one language. Patriotism pre-existed the national language.

For decades, we have allowed our language of learning policies to misrepresent the multicultural/multilingual nature of the Philippines. We celebrate the fact that finally in 2012, we passed a law (RA 10533) that recognizes the diversity of our languages as a great resource to improve learning. Now for the first time, any young pupil who speaks mostly Tausug or Waray or any of the local languages will find the school a friendly place for learning. Grade school teachers are discovering how to explain academic concepts using the pupil’s mother tongue and local culture. This commendable initiative to explore the resources offered by our multicultural and multilingual contexts must be a fundamental component of our educational system.

In a Philippine Star column last November 28, 2013, Former DepEd Undersecretary Isagani Cruz made reference to another key Constitutional provision. Section 5 of Article XIV states:

1. the State shall take into account regional and sectoral needs and conditions and shall encourage local planning in the development of educational policies and programs.
2. Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning.

We are openly declaring that we are promoting the equitable treatment of all our languages, especially in promoting learning and respecting ethnic identities. However we find it immoral that we impose such bias on our higher institutions of learning.

CHED should be reminded that RA 7722 (Higher Education Act of 1994) Section 13 stipulates that it is to “guarantee” academic freedom of universities and colleges and its power is clearly limited only in setting the following: (a) minimum unit requirements for specific academic programs; (b) general education distribution requirements as may be determined by the Commission; and (c) specific professional subjects as may be stipulated by the various licensing entities.

The imposition of language of instruction is not part of CHED’s power. We ask that the technical panel for General Education and the CHED commissioners to continue upholding academic freedom and not enter into any concession with any interest group. Moreover, we would be greatly relieved if CHED issued a formal statement endorsing the use of any local or international language in higher education.  


Implications of MTBMLE in higher education

Mariano Marcos University has just created a new program - MA Education - Ilokano Studies... I heard the good news from Dr. Agcaoili /Dr Visaya that other state universities/colleges in Region I are also planning to start offering Ilokano in their curriculum....I hope other teacher education institutions in other regions would do the same... MA Ed - Cordilleran Studies in BSU would be wonderful. MA Ed - Multilingual/Multicultural Education is another possibility. We need to equip our teachers and educational leaders so that that the MTBMLE program that we have will be grounded (thru research and practice) on local languages/cultures in the area...

MA-Ed Filipino should also be reframed so that Fiipino will be de-centered and be taught in the context of a multilingual society where all languages are valued equally.... each language should be recognized and allowed to flourish on its own...we should not allow that one language (be it Tagalog or Ilokano), no matter how "developed" it is, to impose its own rules on other languages...



We applaud the decisive move of the present government to include Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE) as a main component of the new K-12 Law (RA 10533). Such education reform initiative recognizes the learner’s language and knowledge system as effective starting points for further learning. We also affirm how RA 10533 and other existing policies, especially those that address the educational needs of marginalized learners, value contextualized and culturally-responsive materials developed through a dialogical process among local stakeholders. This upholds not only our democratic values but also research-based and additive MTBMLE practices all over the world. 

As writers, educators, scholars and advocates of the Ilokano language we see that MTBMLE gives us opportunities to help provide a literate community for our own children. We have more than a hundred years worth of Ilocania materials written by notable Ilokanos like Isabelo de los Reyes and the tradition has continued and has been sustained even in places where the Ilokano people have immigrated. We have formed writers guilds and organized forums, conferences and workshops to intellectualize Ilokano and other languages in Ilocandia. We have working existing traditions in orthography, stylized writing, and a vibrant literary tradition that came about through experimentation, dialogue and debates among our members. We want to transmit the same love and respect for the Ilokano language, including our discursive processes and bodies of knowledge to our children. We have this mind unconditionally: that our Ilokano language is the residence of our four Ilokano souls, and thus, this, by all means, ought to remain with us as this contributes to our sense of being and becoming. 

We are thankful that some of us were given the chance to partake in the crafting of the policy and programs of MTBMLE. As a result, dictionaries, grammar book teachers guides, storybooks have been developed. 

And so we were taken by surprise that all of a sudden we received a copy of the “Ispeling ng mga Salitang Ilokano Alinsunod sa Ortograpiyang Pambansa” written by Joel Bagain Lopez. Such spelling guide which will be used by our children, and was said to be implemented in Ilocos Norte, deviates from our existing traditions in language development. 

We likewise ask the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino to make public the process involved in coming up with the KWF-endorsed Ilokano Orthography. Many of us are not aware of this consultation, who conducted it, and who participated in it. Many of us have questions on the usefulness of this KWF-endorsed Ilokano Orthography in the development of a more intellectualized Ilokano discourse as required in key areas of our educational agenda such as sciences, technology, humanities, engineering, and mathematics. 

We wish to quote here certain passages of the Lopez “Ispeling” to prove our point: 

1. “Ti agdama nga (sic) Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino iti panangidaulo ni Dr Virgilio S. Almario ket suportaran na (sic) daytoy a wagas ti pannakaisurat ti pronoun ken pronominal adjective.” (page 2) 

2. “Pinapatunayan ng KWF na ang mga nilalaman ng akdang ito ay alinsunod sa Ortograpiyang Pambansa.” (page 6) 

What authority does one or two people from the KWF have over the issue about how the Ilokano pronoun and the pronomial adjective, among others, are to be written? Why is there a need for Lopez to hide behind the approval of the KWF chair and the KWF Ilokano Commissioner? 

There is claim that such spelling guide is keeping with the KWF’s idea of “ortograpiyang pambansang (OP).” The idea of making all Philippine languages conform to the orthography of one dominant language is an outdated practice, reminiscent of language planning done by fascist governments in the past. Research shows and as recommended by UNESCO, that for orthography to be owned and used widely, it should be crafted jointly through a participatory process among its speakers and stakeholders. In some instances they are guided by an expert but he/she must be a legitimate linguist and knowledgeable of the language. 

We are concerned that apart from the mistakes of the Lopez proposal, the author of the 8-page booklet reworks an existing working orthography and argues that what he does is in keeping with the OP so that instead of looking into the merit of the existing working Ilokano orthography, he hides behind the idea of a misguided top-down language planning. 

What Lopez lacks is a fuller understanding of participatory orthography development, history of the Ilokano language, and how that history has provided a variety of contexts in its development. 

More so, in the drawing up of ‘a working orthography’ of a language, the implementing guidelines of the MTB-MLE is clear on the role of ‘stakeholder participation,’ a requirement that we think has been violated in the KWF-endorsed Ilokano orthography and the Lopez spelling proposal. IRR 10.5 states: “To achieve an enhanced and responsive basic education curriculum, the DepEd shall undertake consultations with other national government agencies and other stakeholders including, but not limited to, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), private and public schools associations, national student organizations, national teacher organizations, parents-teachers associations, chambers of commerce, and other industry associations, on matters affecting the concerned stakeholders.” 

The signatories of this Statement are all stakeholders of the Ilokano language. We wish to participate in all aspects of this MTB-MLE and not to be used as pawns at the service of some narrow views or agenda. 

The Joint National and International Committee for the Protection of the Ilokano Language, 25 January 2014
Individual Stakeholders: Aurelio Solver Agcaoili, Alegria Visaya, Edna C. Nagtalon, Natividad Lorenzo, Ferdinand N. Cortez, Lorenzo Garcia Tabin Sr., Sinamar Robianes Tabin, Eduardo Arellano Padaoan, Felix R. Udasco, Franklin Macugay, Bonifacio Ramos, Elmer Agcaoili Palacio, Herdy La Yumul, Eugene Carmelo Cabanilla-Pedro, Roy Vadil Aragon, Pearl Fontilla, Errol Abrew, Jordan Ang Oay, Melchor Espeleta Orpilla, Ryan Pesigan Reyes, Carmencita Tomas Macatangay, Wilma Manzano, Mario Singson, Ajarn Wu Hsih, Mark Gil Ramolete, Neyzielle Cadiz, Ronan Paul Dayot y Bulahan, Gloria Tuzon, Josephine Lopez Agcaoili, Letecia Florendo, Orlando Rojas Agcaoili, Jayzl Villafania Nebrê, Jose Gonzalez, Ausbert Felicitas, Rex Alejandro, Terry Tugade, Joven Ramirez, Raymund Liongson, Peter Julian, Ridel Tabian Cabulisan, Mario Tejada, Dennis Mendoza, Regie Tagavilla, Cristino Inay, Vilmer V. Viloria, Freddie Padua Masuli, Jan Rich, Eufe Madariaga, Santíago Víllafanía, Ched Estigoy-Arzadon 

Organizational Stakeholders: Nakem Conferences Philippines, Nakem Conferences International, Guild of Ilokano Writers Philippines, Guild of Ilokano Writers America, Guild of Ilokano Writers Global, Timpuyog ken Saranay Dagiti Ilokano, Chavacano Ethnolinguistic Group, and Timpuyog Dagiti Mannurat nga Ilokano-Hawaii


4th International Conference on Language and Education (Bangkok, Thailand)

170+ Talaytayan MLE is co-sponsoring the 4th International Conference on Language and Education: Multilingual Education for All in Asia and the Pacific – Policies, Practices and Processes to be held on November 6-8, 2013 at Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand. Other organizers are: UNESCO-Bangkok, UNICEF, SIL, RILCA, CARE, AIT, SEAMEO, ROYIN, RtR, PLAN, DVV, LSP and TAP. See http://www.lc.mahidol.ac.th/mleconf2013/organizing.htm


  • To showcase promising practices so as to increase understanding of the importance of expanding access to effective MLE and strengthen the momentum for MLE in the AsiaPacific region. 
  • To adopt a common definition of MLE and enhance understanding of its characteristics in the Asian context;
  • To support the mainstreaming of MLE by showcasing recent policy developments in the Asia-Pacific region; 
  • To determine the factors that enable effective, efficient and sustainable MLE by sharing challenges and lessons learned from current MLE practice; 
  • To identify promising practices in monitoring and evaluating MLE; 
  • To expand the role of the Asia-Pacific Regional MLE Network and increase synergies among actors around the region and the world to promote MLE

Below is the tarpaulin that Talaytayan will set-up. 



August 5, 2013


Ginoong Ispiker, bilang paggunita sa Buwan ng Wika, nais ko pong talakayin ang tungkol sa estado ng mga lengguwahe ng ating bansa at ang tungkol sa ahensyang inatasan upang pangalagaan ang mga ito. 

Gusto ko pong magsimula sa mga pangalang “Tagalog”, “Pilipino”, at “Filipino”, Ginoong Ispiker.  Makailang beses na rin nating binagu-bago ang pangalan ng ating pambansang wika nang hindi naman naiiba ang esensya nito. Sa mga paaralan, tinuruan tayo na ang “Tagalog / Pilipino” ay tumutukoy sa dating pambansang wika na ang basehan ay Tagalog lamang.  Tinuruan din tayo na ang “Filipino” naman ay ang kasalukuyang wikang pambansa na nakabatay sa lahat ng wika ng Pilipinas.

Parang may mali sa ganitong mga haka-haka, Ginoong Ispiker.

Kumbisido ako, Ginoong Ispiker, na ang “Tagalog”,“Pilipino”, at “Filipino” ay iisang lengguwahe lamang.  Bakit ko po nasabi ito?  Ito’y sapagkat malayang nagkaka-intindihan ang mga nagsasalita ng Tagalog/Pilipino at nagsasalita ng Filipino.  Sa wikang Ingles, mutually intelligible ang Tagalog/Pilipino at Filipino.  Ito ang pangunahing paraan ng mga linguista para malaman kung ang dalawa o higit pang pananalita ay nabibilang sa iisang wika o magkakaibang wika.  

Ang isa pang panukat para malaman kung nagsasalita ang mga tao ng iisang wika o magkaibang wika ay ang gramatika.  Ang mga pananalita ay itinuturing na kabilang sa isang wika kung magkapareho ang kanilang gramatika.  Ang tanong ay:  Magkaiba ba ang grammar o balarila ng“Tagalog”, “Pilipino”, at “Filipino”? Malinaw po na hindi.  Kung gayon, ang “Tagalog”, “Pilipino”, at“Filipino” ay nabibilang lamang sa isang wika.

The next question is:  Are other speech varieties, like Binisaya, Ilokano, Hiligaynon to name a few, languages or dialects?  The answer is they are full-fledged languages, Mr. Speaker, since they are not mutually intelligible and they have different grammars.  In fact there are 170 separate Philippine languages. They are NOT “dialects.”  The term “dialect” is reserved for geographical linguistic variants, like Tagalog-Bulacan, Tagalog-Batangas and Tagalog-Quezon, or Cebuano-Binisaya, Iliganon-Binisaya, or Davao-Binisaya.  When answering “yes”, for instance, there are Ilocanos who say either “wen” or “wən”.  Some have the “e” sound while others have the “ə” sound.  Despite the variation in pronunciation, intonation and vocabulary, these Ilokano speakers can understand each other, and therefore it is correct to say that they speak different dialects of the same language.

The discussion, Mr. Speaker, takes us to “Filipino” which is the name chosen for our national language under the 1987 Constitution.  As I have said, that language is supposed to be based not only on Tagalog but also on other Philippine languages.  But Mr. Speaker, I must admit that Filipino is still “evolving” into its ideal multilingual character.  At present, it is still predominantly Tagalog/Pilipino and probably will stay that way for several generations.  I don’t find anything fundamentally wrong with that so long as this language is accepted by our people.  After all, it is the people who use and sustain languages and not those who study them.     

But a quarter of a century after the national language was renamed Filipino, most people still refer to it as Tagalog, except in school where it is called Filipino in reference to the subject.  They call it Tagalog because they recognize it to be the same language they have come to know a long time ago and because they refuse to kowtow to the arbitrary wishes of those who want to police the expressions of our national and collective life.

Mr. Speaker, the designation of Tagalog, then Pilipino, and afterwards Filipino as wikang pambansa, has led to a dangerous misconception that our pambansang panitikan or national literature should be written in the national language.   Thus, any work written in a language other than in the wikang pambansa is not considered part of the national literature but of the regional literature. 

The over-focusing and over-privileging of one region’s language and literary imagination has a parallel development in the writing of our nation’s history.  The struggles in the various regions for freedom and democracy have been ignored in favor of the political center’s narrative of the making of the nation.  Hence, the pantheon of heroism in the national struggle marginalizes the roles of Dagohoy of Bohol, Leon Quilat of Cebu and Sultan Kudarat of Mindanao, among many others in successive generations of Philippine heroes.      

In order to correct these historical and cultural inequities, Mr. Speaker, a kambyo sa pananaw—as some Bisayan friends call it—is very much in order, especially on how we value our linguistic and cultural diversity.  It is this diversity that we must recognize as our social and cultural resource, and our intellectual capital. By this diversity we shall be able to evolve a truly liberating education, an education that teaches our people the collective virtue of a Philippine nation built upon the variety of the memories,experiences, dreams, aspirations, and ambitions of our different ethno-linguistic communities.  Our people know we are many, and out of this many-ness we are committed to be one national community.  This, Mr. Speaker, is our guiding light in nurturing our cultural pluralism.

It must be pointed out that while the people have embraced Filipino as our common language, they have done so without repudiating their own native languages.  According to the latest census, the number of speakers of large-sized languages (such as Tagalog, Binisaya, Iloko, Bikol, Waray, Kapampangan, Maguindanao) and medium sized-languages (such as Kankanaey, Ibanag, Manobo, Ifugao, Masbateño) continue to grow.  It is the small languages (such as the Aeta languages) that appear to be threatened with extinction.

The country’s native languages, including Filipino sign language of our Deaf population, have been given official status through the institutionalization of mother tongue-based multilingual instruction in our education system.  Republic Act No. 10533 signed by President Aquino last May 15, 2013, provides that basic education shall be conducted in the learner’s native languages throughout kindergarten and the elementary grades.  English and Filipino shall be gradually introduced beginning Grade 4 until such time that these can become the primary languages of instruction at the secondary level.

The multilingual provisions in RA 10533, also known as the K-12 law, are incontrovertible evidence that our country has shifted from a “one nation, one language” mindset to one that recognizes our linguistic and cultural pluralism.  We are witness to the steady realization of President Aquino’s vision of using English to connect with the world, the national language to connect with our country, and the native languages to connect with our heritage.  In short, Mr. Speaker, that kambyo sa pananaw that I am talking about has already taken place among our people.       

However, these goals have been muddled by the very institution we have entrusted to take care of our languages so that they may survive and thrive.  Recently, the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipinoannounced that it is changing the official name of our country from “Pilipinas” to “Filipinas”. 

Is KWF not aware of Sec. 2, Article XVI of the 1987 Constitution that gives Congress the authority to change the name of our country?

Is KWF not aware of Republic Act no. 8491, sections 41 and 42 that provides that the coat of arms and seal of our country  must contain the words “Republika ng Pilipinas” with a ”P” not “F”.  

Is KWF not aware that the President uses Pilipinas to refer to our country, as he did in his State of the Nation Address? If no less than the President of the Republic of the Philippines uses “Pilipinas” in his SONA, then I am certain without fear of being validly contradicted that this is official.     

In other countries, the responsibility of establishing principles, policies and procedures for the naming of places and other geographical sites rests on a geographical names board, and not on a language agency. In the Philippines, changing the name of our country is the constitutional mandate of Congress. 

Republic Act No. 7104 which was enacted in 1991, created the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, our national language agency. Section 6 of this law explicitly states:  “No one shall be appointed as commissioner unless he/she is a natural-born Filipino citizen, at least thirty (30) years old, morally upright and noted for his/her expertise in linguistics, the culture and the language of the ethno-linguistic region and the discipline he/she represents.”   It is clear from the wordings of the original law that a KWF commissioner must be noted for his/her expertise in linguistics. 

The original Implementing Rules and Regulations dated April 15, 1992 accurately reflects the text of R.A. 7104 pertaining to this particular qualification on linguistic expertise.

Curiously, when the proponents of “Filipinas” took over the language agency, one of the first things that they did, Mr. Speaker, was to promulgate a new IRR on February 13, 2013 that deleted this particular qualification.  Instead of “kadalubhasaan sa linggwistika”, we now find in the 2013 IRR  “kadalubhasaan sa wika, panitikan, kultura, at disiplinang kinakatawan”

“Kadalubhasaan sa wika at panitikan” translates to“expertise in language and literature”, Mr. Speaker, which is not the same as “expertise in linguistics.”  The former refers to the use of language; the latter to the scientific study of the nature of languages.  One may be good at using a language in writing and in speech, but may be completely ignorant of how languages are described in scientific terms, and hence, on how a language works.

Many are asking, Mr. Speaker:  Are the new KWF officials not experts in linguistics? Were the new IRR of 2013 written to justify their appointment?   I call on my colleagues in the Commission on Appointments to scrutinize the qualifications of these KWF officials on the basis of the original wordings,spirit and intent of RA 7104. It is an accepted legal principle that the law is superior to any implementing rules and regulations.    

Mr. Speaker, let me be straightforward about all these.  I think that it is time we re-invent the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino and discard the “one nation, one language” concept under which it was built. 

In its ashes, let us establish a Komisyon ng mga Wika sa Pilipinas or Commission on Philippine Languages.  Let us inscribe in its banner “one nation,many languages” as its official motto, and declare “respect for all Philippine languages and cultures” as its guiding principle. 

The new Komisyon shall undertake, coordinate, and promote research for the development, propagation, and preservation of Philippine languages, including the national language, without valorizing one or two languages and marginalizing others.   

The new Komisyon shall have regional sub-commissions composed of representatives and staff from the various languages and cultures in the regions who will carry out most of the commission’s study, research, development, and publication functions. 

The new Komisyon shall be governed by a board consisting of the heads of these sub-commissions, democratically chosen by their constituents and whose appointments are affirmed by the President.

Bilang pangwakas, nais ko pong isalaysay sa inyo ang isang katutubong paniniwala sa pagpapalit ng pangalan ng bata. Kapag ang bata ay nagkaroon ng malubhang sakit, nakasanayan nang palitan ang kanyang pangalan. Ginagawa raw ito upang iligaw ang masasamang espiritu at hindi sila makapagdulot ng sakit sa bata. Magandang kuwento ito, Ginoong Ispiker, sapagkat walang iniba ito sa ginagawa nating pagpapalit ng pangalan ng ating mga maysakit na institusyon nang hindi naman ginagamot ang karamdaman ng mga ito. Walang katuturan ang pagpapalit ng pangalan kung hindi natin matukoy ang sakit at mahanapan ito ng mabisang lunas.

Maraming salamat po, Ginoong Ispiker.