Buwan ng Wika — Hindi lang wika… buhay!
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2019 - 12:00am

Let us set aside politics and unnecessary issues to pave the way for the Buwan Ng Wika (Philippine Language Month) celebration. This seems to be the only longest observation and celebration of our languages. But for some reason, we have been only focused on the national language, Filipino when we should also be aware of the many languages that abound us.

Review 101: First, our national language is Filipino. Second, we have eight major languages: Tagalog, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Waray, Bicolano, Cebuano and Hiligaynon (Ilonggo). Third, we have around 185 languages and dialects. Fourth, whether you accept it or not – the official language or as Peter Wallace coined it, the “language unifier” is Filipino and English. Yes, there is much debate on this but let’s leave it for now.

In 1946, President Sergio Osmena, through Proclamation No. 35 of March 26 declared a week-long celebration of the national language which lasted from March 27 to April 2 each year, the last day being the birthday of the Filipino writer Francisco Baltazar, author of the Tagalog epic Florante at Laura. Proclamation No. 186 of September 23 was later signed in 1955 by President Ramon Magsaysay to call it Linggo Ng Wika. In 1997, another Proclamation signed by President Fidel V. Ramos was made to lengthen the celebration into a month; thus, it became Buwan ng Wika. It was also made to fall on the birth month of President Manuel Quezon who was known to be the father of our national language or Ama ng Wikang Pambansa. He felt that our countrymen needed to unite using one national language (Tagalog later changed to Filipino) without forgetting their ethnic languages or dialects.

So, what is the significance of Buwan ng Wika? 1) We celebrate Buwan ng Wika to recognize and solve the language problem due to our archipelagic nature and colonial past; 2) Ever since we declared Philippine independence, the constitution asserted that we have a national language that should represent us as a people and country; 3) The Philippine National Language up to now is very controversial if not contentious as to what it is, how to develop and propagate the use of it; 4) After more than 3 decades of the ratification of the freedom constitution where the language provision is very clear about the Filipino as the existing national lingua franca and therefore the logical choice to use as the official language and as the medium of instruction, the language as an academic discipline is suffering a setback because of the recent events (like the idea that Filipino should only be taught until the high school level; the Supreme Court’s rule that colleges may already exclude Filipino and Philippine Literature from their curriculum).

This year, the theme of Buwan ng Wika is “Wikang Katutubo: Tungo sa Isang Bansang Filipino.” According to Roy Rene Cagalingan, senior language researcher of Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), the 2019 activities nationwide aim to help raise awareness about indigenous languages’ role in promoting Philippine development and forming the country’s identity. It recognizes Filipino as a national language that serves as the bridge to unite the many ethnolinguistic groups in the country. Moreover, this analogy also recognizes that the bridge is an avenue to enrich and make the Filipino language more inclusive by incorporating and preserving elements from native Philippine languages (KWF, 2019). The Buwan ng Wika activities this year coincides with the celebration of 2019 as the International Year of the Indigenous Languages (IYIL) as declared by the UNESCO. The overall message of the theme is that the Filipino language should also embrace the multicultural identity of our nation.

What does this mean? Filipino, as a living language, should also reflect the social and cultural realities that our nation undergoes. Our language reflects our culture, our heritage – our identity as a people.  Recognizing this month as the Buwan ng Wika also means appreciating the numerous cultures and ethnolinguistic groups that together form the nation. It is seeing the Filipino not only as the barong-clad politician shown on national television but also as the Fliptop artist, the Lumad educator, the vendor in the palengke, the rice farmer, the fisherfolk, the OFW in a foreign land, and many more.

Likewise, we should see and understand the Filipino spoken in these various contexts as the embodiment of our national language. In celebrating our national language, we must not forget to celebrate the people who build our nation, people who communicate with each other to achieve the common goal of making a better country.

Ultimately, we celebrate to show to our audience what our nation has been through to fight for freedom and democracy. According to historian Renato Constantino, the unifying thread of Philippine history is the struggle of the Filipino people against colonization, and that must never be forgotten by our ideal audience – the Filipino youth. The youth must see that Filipino is the soul of our culture and the development of our nation is dependent on it. They must never forget that the Filipino was the language used to end colonization and that the dark part of our history must never happen again. They must believe that the struggle for freedom is actually won by those who fight, recognize their identity and can see that the future of our country belongs to the Filipino people. They must believe all these and that they are the future.

Mabuhay ang Kultura at Wikang Filipino! Mabuhay ang sambayanang Pilipino! 

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P.S. This week there is a special Buwan Ng Wika Celebration at O.B. Montessori Center. Hindi Lang Wika...Buhay! - Mapa ng Ating Mga Wika: Bubuhayin ng OBMC & Apat na Kwento ng Makabuluhang at Malikhaing Pilipino. The show is directed by Floy Quintos, choreographed & costumes by Ramon Obusan Folkloric Foundation, Inc., music by Krina Cayabyab and technical direction by Leandro Calingacion – all dedicated in promoting the Filipino spirit. For more details call 722-0019.

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