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Is Filipino language a dying foundation of cultural heritage? 

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With the further discussion of language as an identifier of belongingness and identity beyond nationality, race and ethnicity, the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), in commemoration of the 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines (2021 QCP), celebrates this year’s Buwan ng Wika (National Language Month) with the theme, “Filipino at mga Katutubong Wika sa Dekolonisasyon ng Pag-iisip ng mga Pilipino”. 

Among the existing 186 languages in the Philippines, the KWF identifies approximately 50 endangered languages and the growing number of decline by native speakers is alarming even for the eight major languages such as Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Bicolano, Waray, Kapampangan and Pangasinense. The Philippine Statistics Authority survey results of 2019 show 2.2 million Filipinos in hundreds of countries abroad who are overseas workers, student migrants, and immigrants. This is where globalisation comes into the picture, wherein proficiency in principal languages like English and Tagalog dominantly takeover opportunities and success. Why? One, because these are the most commonly used languages in big cities, corporations, in media –TV, radio, newspapers, entertainment, social media platforms, and ironically enough even our government websites are written in English, our President’s State of the Nation Address is in English. 

As an archipelagic country, the Philippines has different culture and languages from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; it is a very diverse country. Today the second-generation Filipino migrants, who were born and/or raised abroad, make it even more diverse by living multiple identities formed and groomed from the country they now call home. To these migrants, being a Filipino is a periodic and brief event they only experience during the holidays with relatives, during reunions, or a short visit to the Philippines; but on a day-to-day basis, these individuals adapt and assimilate the culture to which they now belong. 

Like any other holidays and events celebrated by Filipinos all around the world, Buwan ng Wika is a celebration of Filipinoness. In 2021, how relevant and seen is this celebration for Filipinos abroad and how do we celebrate the Filipino language? Unlike other celebrations of being a Filipino, such as how we brought the Pinoy cuisine globally, how Filipino music dominates global charts and trends, Filipino films streamed in different countries, Filipino athletes making history; with language, we need to build a bridge to be able to bring it to the world.

One of the many foundations of cultural heritage like social values, physical attributes, beliefs, traditions, religion, etc., we identify within a distinct group, and language is one of the most common and tangible of them all. What happens if an individual does not live the culture and does not speak the language, does that make them less of a Filipino?

Language being an integral part of our identity is entangled in our culture. Although, in the Philippines alone, languages are starting to fade even to its speakers, the Filipino language, in general, is a second choice –we speak, we write, and even understand in English or in any other language especially those who live overseas; but we learn to accept and adapt to a foreign culture. And with that the Filipino language is a reminder as to where our identities and belongingness are anchored, it is what we use in Filipino households, Filipino gatherings, we use it to chitchat and catch up. However, as we step foot in the world, our versatility as Filipinos lets us shift to the more communicable language where we can be understood and seen, to where we can be globally competent and successful. Language along with our beliefs, traditions, and religion is the foundation of our cultural heritage, that holds significance for celebrating being a Filipino.


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