Why Filipino?

Lesson 2

Of all the many languages spoken in our country, which one is our national
language? Do you know how we came to have one? Are you familiar with how it was
developed? Are you aware of the many issues surrounding its development and use?
Now that you know how important a national language is for a country and its
people, it is time to discuss our very own national language. After studying this
lesson, you should be able to confidently answer “yes” to the questions above. Ready?
Okay, let’s begin.

Let’s Read

One day, I overheard three kids from my neighborhood—Paulo, Sheila and
Dennis—arguing about the Philippine national language. This is how their discussion

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Let’s Try This

What about you? Do you know what our national language is? Check your answer


If you answered Filipino, you are correct!
But why did I tell the children that they are all correct but all wrong? Can you
figure out the answer? Think carefully about what the children said, then write your
ideas below.

Now compare your answer with the one below:

All of the children are right in a way, but they are also all wrong in a way.
Why? Well, let’s review the statements made by each child.
Paulo said that the national language of the Philippines is Pilipino. He is right
in a way—our national language was indeed originally called Pilipino. This was
decades ago, however. Pilipino used to be the name of our national language. It is
no longer true today. So he is also wrong.
Sheila said that the national language is Tagalog. Well, in a way she is right
because our national language was originally derived from the Tagalog language.
But it is different from Tagalog. So she is not entirely right.
Of all three children, Dennis gave the most accurate answer. The official name
of the national language of the Philippines today is indeed Filipino. This is the
term used in both the 1973 and 1987 Philippine Constitution to refer to the
“national language” of the Philippines. However, Dennis was wrong when he said
that Filipino is totally different from Pilipino and Tagalog. As we have discussed,
our national language used to be called Pilipino, and it was derived from Tagalog.

Let’s Learn

Even before the Spaniards came to our country, our ancestors were already using
different languages. They were divided into different groups who lived in different
parts of the islands. There were dark and curly-haired people living in the mountains.
They spoke a different language from the fishermen living by the sea. There were also
farmers in the different islands who spoke different languages.
When the Spaniards came, instead of establishing a national language, they even
encouraged language differences among Filipinos so that they could have better
control over them. However, they established one language—Spanish—as the official
medium of communication to be used in formal schools, religious ceremonies and
government transactions. Thus, Spanish words became part of many local languages
and dialects.
When the Americans took over, they made sure that Filipinos learned how to
speak English. They considered education in English a useful way to unify a people
that spoke many different languages and dialects. So teachers taught English all over
the country. This was the only language used for instruction. English became the first
national language of the Philippines.
After some time, people in the government began seriously discussing the need
for a national language. They argued that it was necessary for national solidarity and

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Manuel L. Quezon
President Manuel L. Quezon recognized the country’s need for a national
language. He said that it “constitutes one of the strongest ties that bind the people and
foster the unity of national ideals, aspirations and sentiments.”

This issue was brought up in the Constitutional Convention held at the time. As a
result, the 1935 Constitution provided at last for the “development and adoption of a
common national language based on one of the existing native dialects.” Accordingly,
the National Language Institute was created to undertake the selection of the said
native dialect. This was composed of eleven representatives from different
communities around the country. After a survey and study of existing local languages,
the Institute recommended Tagalog as the core or basis of the national language.
In 1937, President Quezon proclaimed Tagalog as the basis of the national
language. He believed that having our own national language would help resolve
differences among Filipinos who spoke different languages and dialects. He also
wanted the Filipinos to speak a language not borrowed from the Spaniards or the
Americans. He even declared August 13 to 19 of every year as the National Language
Week or Linggo ng Wika in honor of the Philippine national language. For these
reasons, Manuel L. Quezon is known to this day as the Father of the Filipino Language.

Let’s Think About This

The selection of Tagalog by the National Language Institute sparked a lot of
controversy. “Why Tagalog?” many non-Tagalog speakers wanted to know. Why,
indeed, did the Institute not choose Cebuano, Ilocano or Hiligaynon instead? There are
many other dialects spoken in the country aside from Tagalog.
Do you agree with the National Language Institute’s conclusion that Tagalog
should be used as the basis for the national language of the Philippines? Why or why

Compare your answer with the one below.

 After serious deliberations on the studies that they conducted, the National

Language Institute selected Tagalog as the basis of the national language. The
reasons why Tagalog was chosen were the following:

  1. Tagalog is widely spoken and is the most understood language in all the
    regions of the Philippines. It is spoken in Manila, central and
    south-central Luzon, the islands of Marinduque and Mindoro, and some
    parts of Mindanao.
  2. It is not divided into dialects, like Visayan for example.
  3. Tagalog literature is the richest. More books are written in Tagalog than
    in any other native language.
  4. Tagalog has always been the language of Manila, the capital city, even
    before the Spaniards came.
  5. Tagalog was the language of the Revolution and the Katipunan – two
    events in our history that we can truly be proud of.

The poet Francisco Baltazar Balagtas wrote the epic poem Florante at Laura,
one of the greatest literary treasures of the Philippines, in Tagalog.
So yes, I would have to agree with the Institute’s findings.
Nevertheless, I believe the national language should only be lightly based on
Tagalog, and should contain many elements from the other languages spoken
around the country.

Let’s Learn

The controversy about the Philippine national language continued. The use of
Tagalog as the basis for the national language offended many Filipinos. They believed
that their languages were not represented in the national language. They refused to
accept the Tagalog-based national language.

To show that the national language was not really Tagalog, but just based on it, it
was named Pilipino in 1959. Pilipino was gradually introduced as the medium of
instruction all over the country. Filipino children were made to study both Pilipino
and English and were taught all their lessons in these two languages. This was called
the bilingual education policy. Bilingual means “two languages.”

But many Filipinos still would not accept Pilipino. Do you know why? Look at
the following words:


Do you know what these words mean? Write your answers in the blanks.

Here are their meanings:
Salumpuwit means “chair.”
Salimpapaw means “airplane.”
Sipnayan means “mathematics.”
Salongsuso means “brassiere.”

Can you imagine using these words in your daily conversations? Have you ever
heard somebody say in ordinary speech: “Binigyan ako ng salumpuwit sa
salimpapaw upang mag-aral ng sipnayan”? Can you imagine a mother saying to her
young daughter: “Iha, kailangan mo nang magsuot ng salongsuso.” Many people
found these words funny and ridiculous.

Pilipino became very artificial because many new words were created to be
included in it that nobody really wanted to use. Furthermore, many people protested
that it was still very similar to Tagalog.

To solve the problem, a new language was proposed. This time it would still be
based mainly on Tagalog, but it would include many elements from the different local
and foreign languages spoken in the Philippines. The 1973 Constitution stated that the
new language, to be called Filipino, should be developed and eventually adopted as the
common national language of the Philippines. Meanwhile, Pilipino and English would
remain the official languages of the country.

Finally, in 1987, it was declared in the Constitution that, “the national language
of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and
enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.” Filipino was to
be used in all official communications. It would also be the medium of instruction in
schools. It would serve as an instrument of unity and peace for national progress.

Assigned to look after the development of Filipino is the Commission on the
Filipino Language (Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino). The commission is mandated to
undertake, coordinate and promote research for the development, propagation and
preservation of Filipino and other Philippine languages.

On July 15, 1997, President Fidel V. Ramos declared August of every year as
“National Language Month,” He chose August because President Manuel L. Quezon,
considered the Father of the National Language, was born on August 19.

Let’s Think About This

Do you think that more Filipinos are using or are able to speak our wikang
pambansa today? What is your basis for your answer? Write your answers below.

Read the answer below. Compare it with yours.

A study was undertaken by Xavier University on which Philippine language
was most widely used by Filipinos throughout the years. It clearly indicates that
from 1960 to 1990, the number of those who were using Filipino as a language
increased more than that of those using other Philippine languages. The study
shows that Filipino is becoming effective as a national language; it is being
patronized by the people.
In fact, a 1989 NSO survey revealed that 92 percent of Filipinos were at least
able to speak the wikang pambansa, thus effectively establishing Filipino as the
national language of the Philippines.

Let’s Try

Do you think Filipino has really been accepted by the Filipino people as their
national language? Find out for yourself. Conduct a survey in your community. Here
are the questions you should ask your friends and neighbors:

  1. Do you speak Filipino?
  2. Do you accept Filipino as our national language?

Afterward, review the information you have gathered and write your conclusions
on a piece of paper. Discuss your findings with your Instructional Manager or
co-learners, friends and family members.

What do they think about your findings?

Let’s See What You Have Learned

Put a check mark (4) in the box before the correct answer.

  1. Even before the Spaniards came, our ancestors were already speaking a
    common language.
  2. The first national language of the Philippines was
    none of the above
  3. Pilipino was not accepted by many Filipinos because
    it was still mostly Tagalog-based
    it contained many artificial words that nobody wanted to use
    both of the above (the first and second statements)
    it was based on a foreign language
  4. The ______ Constitution proclaimed Filipino the official national language
    of the Philippines.
  5. Filipino was created in 1987 and is now a fully-developed language.

Finished? Look in the Answer Key on page 53 to check your answers. If you got
at least 3 points, congratulations! You may now move on to the next lesson.
If you got 1 or 2 points, or none at all, don’t be discouraged. This lesson

contained many dates and facts that may be confusing. All you need to do is go back
and study these again. It would be better if you take the above test again to see if
you’ve understood this lesson well before proceeding to the next one. Good luck!

Let’s Remember

  • The first national language of the Philippines was English.
  • A new national language was developed in the 1930s. But because it was
    based on Tagalog, many non-Tagalog speakers did not accept it.
  • President Manuel L. Quezon helped bring about the development of a new
    language that would be the official Philippine national language. For this
    reason, he is known to this day as the Father of the National Language.
  • The national language was named Pilipino in 1959 in order to correct the
    misconception that it was really plain Tagalog. Many new words were coined
    for Pilipino, but these were too difficult and artificial, and many people did
    not accept them.
  • A new national language was conceived, to be named Filipino. This was
    provided for in the 1973 Constitution. Meanwhile, English and Pilipino
    remained the official languages of the country.
  • The new language, Filipino, was finally proclaimed as the official national
    language of the Philippines in the 1987 Constitution. According to the
    constitution, Filipino is to contain borrowings from the different local and
    foreign languages spoken in the country.
  • Studies show that, so far, Filipino has been accepted, learned and spoken by
    more and more Filipinos every year.

Lets try what we have learn here