Many Filipinos grow up bilingual, speaking a native dialect and English. When we go to provinces that don’t speak our dialect, we talk to them in English. How weird is that? We’re in our own country, yet we speak a foreign language. Luckily in 1937, then-President Manuel L. Quezon declared Filipino as the national language. Since then, we have something in common with all Filipinos in all parts of the country. Laws have been changed so that the medium of education is Filipino, radio stations will play more Original Pilipino Music (OPM), more TV shows will be in Filipino, etc.
But Filipinos still give English such high importance. It could be part of our colonial mentality. We’re all taught that if we speak English, we will get into better schools, and later on, get better jobs, get higher pay and have better lives. There’s nothing wrong with achieving all these. What I don’t understand is why there are so many young children and teenagers growing up in Manila right now who don’t speak Filipino. Parents are even letting them, or maybe, making them. We should all know that children will be fluent in English simply because they go to school, where they spend at least six and a half hours every day speaking, reading and writing in English. When they get home, they still have to do their homework, still in English. When they turn on the TV or radio or turn to their phones, most programs are in English.
Parents should encourage children to speak Filipino. It’s not enough that they just understand it, because when they have their own children, they would not be able to teach it to them. And that’s the difference. The language will die with them.
So, the half hour we all sit at the dining table while we eat, surely we can make an all Filipino conversation.
This is the same for all Filipino parents here in Australia. Don’t be afraid that your children will not be fluent in English if you speak to them in Filipino. Everything around them here is English. Speaking with you, their parents, might be the only time they have to learn and practice Filipino. Please don’t waste that time.
I can only speak for myself. Deep in my heart, Filipino is still my own, and English is foreign to me. If I want to write poems coming from my heart, I will write them in Filipino. If I want to talk to my mother, I will do so in Filipino. If I want to pray about something special and dear to me, I will pray in Filipino. I love watching Filipino TV shows and movies on YouTube. I love listening to OPM, whether I am sad or happy. It reminds me of the times when we were still young, the memories I had with friends back in the Philippines. Yes, Australia is my home now, but Filipino has a special part in my heart that can never be taken away.
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