Limited Filipino language celebration 'colonial' – advocates

MANILA, Philippines – For decades, the country has been celebrating Linggo ng Wika (National Language Week) and Buwan ng Wika (National Language Month) in honor of Filipino, the Philippines’ national language.

In schools, this season means teachers would encourage students to speak more frequently in grammatically-correct Filipino. A culminating activity would sometimes require everyone to come to school in their barong tagalog and baro’t saya amid the scorching Philippine heat.

Buwan ng Wika has become a yearly opportunity to celebrate not only our language but also our identity as Filipinos. But for some, it’s unnecessary – even a pretense – to celebrate a language we should be respecting not only every August.

"Tayo lang sa buong mundo ang nagse-celebrate ng language month [at] week. Hindi naman dapat, kasi parang nagpaparamdam lang na kolonyal pa rin tayo, na wala tayong identidad, kaya dapat ipamukha sa mga Filipino: ‘Uy, may sarili tayong wika, gamitin natin yan,” said Jimmuel Naval, a professor of language and popular culture at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.

(In the whole world, only Filipinos celebrate a language month and week. This shouldn't be so because it shows we still have the colonial mindset and we don't have an identity, that we even need to remind Filipinos themselves: "Hey, we have our own language, let's use it.")

Sa tingin ko, nakakalungkot 'yung pagkakaroon ng Buwan ng Wika kasi ito ang ebidensya na hindi natin talaga pino-promote gaano ang national language,” San Juan, an associate professor at the De La Salle University-Manila, told Rappler. (READ: 12 reasons to save the national language)

(For me, it's sad to have a National Language Month because it's an evidence that we don't really promote the national language.)

Both professors say a month-long celebration limits Filipinos to a short-term awareness and appreciation of their own language and culture.

"Nagiging plastik ang mga tao: nagbibihis ng barong, nagsasayaw ng tinikling, kumakain ng pagkaing Pinoy, pero after nun wala na. Eh dapat araw-araw 'yan,” Naval told Rappler.

(People become fake: they wear the barong, they dance the tinikling, they eat Filipino delicacies, but after that, nothing, when we shoud be doing this every day.)

San Juan said even the government, which should be at the forefront of promoting our culture, has a tendency to fall into this trap. "After a month, after August, balik lahat sa...lalo na 'yung nasa government, balik sa pag-i-Ingles. (After a month, after August, everyone goes back...especially those in the government, goes back to speaking in English.)" (READ: Hindi lang pang-Agosto: Kilalanin ang Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino

Naval believes that, beyond the celebration, there must be a deeper understanding and study of the country’s language and culture – and this should be done all-year round.

Arts and culture week?

This sentiment against Buwan ng Wika is not new.

"Ang alam ko 'yung mga kaibigan ko sa UP, noong pang araw ay ayaw na nila ng ganitong selebrasyon. Noong araw, Linggo [ng Wika] lang ay ayaw nila. Ngayon pa lalo itong Buwan ng Wika, lalong hindi nila magugustuhan,” Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) chair Virgilio Almario told Rappler.

(I know some of my friends from UP, even back in the day, they already did not like this kind of celebration. Back then, they didn't like a National Language Week. With this National Language Month, they wouldn't like it even more.)

Instead of a Buwan ng Wika, Naval said the country should consider a Filipino arts and culture week instead.

But San Juan is more optimistic about the celebration.

At this point dahil nandiyan na yan, i-grab na rin 'yung opportunity para time and again, tuwing August, i-remind ang lahat na sa halip na isang buwan lang, dapat buong taon ay pino-promote natin ang national language,” he added.

(At this point since it's already there, let's grab the opportunity so that time and again, every August, we can remind everyone that instead of one month, we should promote the national language for one whole year.)

Meanwhile, Almario said today’s reception of the national language – especially among the upper class and educated – shows the need for a month-long celebration. (READ: In defense of 'Filipinas')

Napakalaki ng pangangailangan sa Buwan ng Wika upang mapilitan itong mga ayaw kumilala sa wikang pambansa na at least one month a year ay maalala nila ang kahalagahan ng wikang pambansa,” he added.

(There is a great need for a National Language Month to force those who do not want to recognize the national language to, at least once a month, remember the importance of the national language.) – with a report from Michael Bueza/Rappler.com

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Read more stories on Buwan ng Wika here.

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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