Preserving our native Cebuano language
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - October 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Yesterday, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake jolted parts of Mindanao, which was recorded in Tupi, South Cotabato and Alabel, Sarangani. Intensity 4 was felt in in Kiamba, Sarangani, T’boli, South Cotabato and General Santos City; Intensity 3, Cagayan de Oro City; Gingoog City and Misamis Oriental; and Intensity 1 in Dipolog City, Dipolog and Bislig City, Surigao del Sur. No casualty or damage was reported as of last night by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs). The center of the tremor, which occurred at 7:37 p.m., was located 22 kilometers east of Tuluna, North Cotabato.

Phivolcs also said that the quake was felt at Intensity 7 – classified as “destructive” in Kidapawan City. Meanwhile, on my Facebook page, it was reported that a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit southern Mindanao extensively affecting the cities and towns of Mati, Digos, Kidapawan and General Santos. Then early morning yesterday, my Facebook page reported that a major Mexico earthquake registered 8.1 on the Richter Scale. This brought me to check my other internet sources, including CNN and it was a huge surprise that there was no such earthquake happening in Mexico yesterday. This should warn us all that what you see reported on social media doesn’t always connect as a real report. So be careful.

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Three days ago, F. Sionil, who writes a column in The Philippine Star entitled Hindsight, wrote about “Speaking in Tongues: Literary Freedom and Indigenous Languages” which was the theme of the 85th International Congress held in Manila the other week. I also learned from a report by CNN News that the internet has caused the disappearance of many indigenous languages. To be totally honest with you, a couple of decades ago, I joined a group that calls itself Save our Languages through Federalism (SOLFED), which aims to preserve Cebuano, our spoken language.

While I fully understand why the internet may cause the disappearance of indigenous languages, what is really a language killer is our inability to speak our native tongue. We in Cebu are smarter than other countries whose languages are dying simply because other spoken languages are overtaking their native tongues. Kapampangan is one good example, where its proximity to Metro Manila has resulted in more people speaking Tagalog than Kapampangan.

We’ve always known that the Visayan languages, Illonggo, Waray, Karay-a or Cebuano are spoken by more Filipinos than Tagalog. Unfortunately, when the Americans gave us independence on July 4, 1946, the powers that be chose Tagalog as the so-called official language. Later, because of the clamor of other spoken Filipino languages, they changed it to Filipino. But in truth, Filipino is never spoken by anyone as it is taken 99.9% from the Tagalog language.

From a recent CNN report that I gathered the other day, it said that in these times, “almost 40% of the 7,000 languages spoken worldwide are endangered, according to the United Nations (UN). More are going extinct every year. It was once widely feared that the internet revolution would speed up this decline. If developers and smartphone manufacturers aren't willing to invest in supporting minority languages, that would cut off people who speak them from an important way to communicate and trap those languages in the past.”

Meanwhile, I’ll have our readers know that if Cebuano has continued to flourish, it is due to the fact that most of our AM radios always use the Cebuano vernacular. The Catholic Church also ensures that Holy Masses in Cebuano are said even during Sunday masses. Cebuano songwriters also write songs based on the Cebuano language, which is a good thing for our culture.

Mind you, last May, we took a cruise ship to the Scandinavian nations and the places that we visited were Denmark, Estonia, Sweden and Russia. It was then I learned that there are only one million Estonian people and this also goes for other Baltic States, like Lithuania and Latvia. In short, there are more Cebuano speakers than the entire Baltic nations combined. Finland only has 6 million people and the same is true to Copenhagen, which gave me an idea that there are more Cebuano speakers than Finnish speakers or Danish speakers. So I guess the same is true to our Filipino languages, that the Cebuano language is spoken by more Filipinos than the Tagalog language. So hooray for the Cebuano native tongue!

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For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@gmail.com. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

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