Thursday, August 16, 2007


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Friday, August 03, 2007

Filipino with the "F": A Guide for the Perplexed (Conclusion)

It's the National Language Month. It's time to finish the blog series on the national language. The first part is here. The second part is here. The complete article in .doc format is here. This part catalogues the discussion on the national language issue among the 1987 Constitutional Commissioners.

III. National Language Policy under the 1987 Constitution:
Merging of Movements

A. Pilipino as the Nucleus

After laying down the legal evolution of the national language, this note will now investigate the proceedings of the 1986 Constitutional Commission (hereinafter 1986 CONCOM) in order to arrive at the definition of Filipino as envisioned by the Constitutional Commissioners. Professor Yabes once remarked that since the mono-lingualists succeeded in baptizing Tagalog into Pilipino, it would not be difficult for them to rebaptize Pilipino into Filipino.48 His worlds proved to be prophetic, for the 1986 CONCOM found itself in a predicament where rebaptizing Pilipino into Filipino was the only practical option. The objections against the purist Pilipino persisted, although the Surian ng Wikang Pambansa (SWP) formerly the Institute on National Language, had formally adopted49 a new alphabet. Meanwhile, Pilipino gained popular usage. Estimates put the level of dissemination of Pilipino at 80 per cent.50 Hence, to disregard this achievement by pursuing the original concept of the 1973 Constitution’s linguistic legal fiction would mean a set back for the national language program.

It is for these reasons that the Committee on Human Resources of the 1986 CONCOM proposed the adoption of Filipino, the multi-language based national language, with Pilipino as the nucleus, which is short of saying it had adopted the universal approach of Ernesto Constantino.51 Filipino was thus fashioned as a merger of the two ideas on national language which evolved in history. The committee draft read, “The national language of the Philippines is Filipino.” The interpolations of Commissioner Ople would illustrate the committee conception of Filipino.

MR. OPLE… (A)t the present stage of development of Filipino, especially, (as) this is taught and actually utilized in the University of the Philippines, Filipino with its main features, that is to say with a capital “F” is not yet really highly distinguishable from Pilipino with a capital “P.” Will the committee agree to that construction?

MR. VILLACORTA. The qualification “highly distinguishable” is appropriate. It is not highly distinguishable. So we agree with the Commissioner, Madame President.

MR. OPLE. Thank you. And the developments in grammar, syntax, and the rules of language that have pertained to Pilipino with a capital “P”, although amended to become highly liberalized, will not be discarded because we are recognizing Filipino with a capital “F” as the national language. Will that be correct?

MR. VILLACORTA. It is inevitable. Madam President, that the starting point would be Pilipino because that has already been developed in the past as an evolving national language, but then this does not mean that we should limit ourselves to the syntax or to the vocabulary of Pilipino which is based on Tagalog.52 (emphasis supplied)

The opposition to this proposal was raised by Commissioners Davide and Sarmiento. Both argued that Filipino did not exist. Thus, they maintained that the constitutional provision on language should keep the original phrasing in the 1973 Constitution which stated that the national language of the Philippines shall be, and not is, Filipino.53

Commissioner Villacorta reiterated that Filipino existed and gave some samples.

MR. VILLACORTA. (W)e are referring to the masses of people – the ones who came in contact with in our public hearings. They are the ones who say. “Sain kayo maglakad tapos dini?” instead of the purist saying “Saan kayo magtutungo pagkatapos ditto?” But we understand what they mean when they say, “mas guapo kuno ang kanyang amiga” o “ yawa kawatan pala ang soltero” or “ huwag ka man magtapo sa road” or “mayroon pa ngani.” These speakers of the lingua franca throughout the country make themselves clearly understood because consciously or unconsciously, they use words that most Filipinos can comprehend.54

B. Filipino as lingua franca

The argument on Filipino’s non-existence was reiterated by the interpolations of Commissioner Bacani who asked Commissioner Villacorta whether the speech delivered by Commissioner Tadeo, a native of the Tagalog province of Bulacan, was in Filipino. Commissioner Villacorta said no, but he qualified that it was partly Filipino. Commissioner Villacorta answered that Filipino refer to two things: that which had “Pilipino” as the nucleus and that informal language used by native speakers who come from different linguistic groups which language he illustrated through his examples. Hence, it could not be said that Filipino did not exist. The following exchange would clarify the matter.

BISHOP BACANI. I noticed that when the Commissioner was speaking, I could understand the words but I could not easily get the sense. That is the reason I ask these two main questions: Is the language of Commissioner Tadeo Filipino? Were those phrases mentioned by Commissioner Villacorta meant to be Filipino? Let us have a national language which is Filipino. Thus, it will be either of these two. In other words, is Filipino not yet an existent national language? Is it a language that is still to be formed?

MR. VILLACORTA. It is an existent national language and the nucleus is Pilipino with a “P.” The contemplation of the committee is that the nucleus is still Pilipino because it is already a widespread and existing language – Pilipino with a “P.” We also said that there is an existent broadened, expanded language called Filipino and its formalization has to be done in the educational system and others but it does not mean that since it is not yet formalized, it is nonexistent. It is a lingua franca.

BISHOP BACANI. So when we say the national language of the Philippines is Pilipino, are we not saying that the national language of the Philippines is the language spoken by Commissioner Tadeo?

MR. VILLACORTA. It is part of that national language…55

At this point, Commissioner Bennagen stood up to explain that a language does not come fully-bloomed at a particular point in time, but is something dynamic and ever-growing. This implies that looking for definite parameters of Filipino is not the way to view the language.

MR. BENNAGEN. There seems to be an assumption that a language comes fully blown at a particular point in time. I think that even we who speak our own native languages cannot pinpoint a specific period in history when it emerges full blown. So we should look at language as a growing organism and that it grows in at least two identifiable ways.

First, it is unplanned – that which is used in everyday life by people of all sorts with different first language who come into contact with each other. Second, through a planned manner which we hope we should be mandated by this Constitution. For instance, in 1957, the people of Malaysia decided to have Bahasa Malaysia as their national language. They undertook a great deal of studies. But it was only sometime in 1972 or around 1973 when they had systematized the spelling. In 1973, it finally became the medium of instruction up to the tertiary level although it was already being used in government, in commence, and in industry.

… That is why we say that in the proposal it should be further developed on the basis of Philippine and other languages and that steps shall be taken by the government, et cetera, to accelerate this law.56

Commissioners Davide and Sarmiento later withdrew57 their opposition when a new sentence was added to the proposed provision. The additional sentence read,

As It [Filipino] evolves, it shall be developed and enriched on the basis of Philippine and other languages.

The provision was passed with the CONCOM voting 44 to 0.

The preceding exchanges show that the intent of the 1986 CONCOM was to adopt Pilipino as the nucleus of the multi-language based national language. Hence, Director Pineda’s construction is legally supported.

C. Liberal standards adopted

The next important point is that by adopting Pilipino as the nucleus of Filipino, the CONCOM also overruled the “purist” policy of the previous Institute on National Language. The speck of Commissioner Rodrigo provides a colorful elaboration on this matter. It deserves an extensive quote for its significance.

MR. RODRIGO… Ang unang mahalagang malaman natin ay itong Filipino ay hindi isang bagong kinatha o kakathaing lenggwahe. Ito ay batay sa Pilipino. Palalawakin lamang natin ang saklaw ng Filipino… Kaya nga’t ang Pilipino ay batay sa Tagalog at ang Filipino ay batay sa Pilipino. Kaya’t hindi natin buburahin ang nakamtan na nating mga developments sa Pilipino.

Ngayon, ano ang nangyari roon sa Pilipino? Bakit tinalikdan iyang Pilipino at ginawang Filipino? Palagay ko, ang isang dahilan ay sapagkat noong magkaroon ng Surian ng Wikang Pambansa na pinamunuan ng nasirang Lope K. Santos, sumalangit nawa, ang kanyang sinunod na patakaran ay yaong purismo. May roon tayong maraming salita sa wikang Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynoon, Ilokano, Bikolano, na hango sa wikang Kastila. Mula 6,000 hanggang 10,000 mga salita ang hango sa wikang Kastila – libro, mikropono, sapatos, pantaloon, bintana, silya – ngunit ang ginagawang patakaran ng Surian ay purismo. Umimbento ng mga bagong salita. Halimbawa, kapag sinabi mong “gramatika” ay maiintindihan na ng lahat, maging ng mga Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, o Bikolano. Pero ang Surian ay kumatha o umimbento ng bagong salita – “balarila.” Iyong salitang diksyonaryo ay alam na ng lahat ngunit muling kumatha ng bago – “talatinigan”; “bokabularyo” – alam na ng lahat, pero kumatha ng “talasalitaan.” Mga kaibigan, noong ako ay nasa Senado at araw ni Balagtas, Abril 2, ako ay nagtalumpati on a privilege speech at binatikos ko iyong purismo. Ang sabi ko ay hinirapan natin ang wikang Tagalog maging para sa Tagalog. Ako ay sumusulat sa Tagalog; tumutula pa ako kung minsan sa Tagalog. Ngunit alam ba ninyo na iyong aking mga apo ay natutulungan ko sa homework nila sa arithmetic at history pero hindi ko matulungan sa wikang pambansa o national language? Napakaraming bagong mga salita na ni ako ay hindi ko naiintindihan. Kaya noong ako ay nagtalumpati, sinabi kong pati iyong “silya” ay gusto pang gawing “salumpuwit.”…

Noong nag-recess kami sa Senado, lumapit sa akin si Don Claro Recto. Alam ninyo medyo pilyo iyang si Recto. Sabi sa akin, “Hoy, soc, binabati kita. Mayroon lang akong itatanong sa iyo.” “Ano ho iyon?” wika ko. Ang sabi niya, “kung ‘yong ‘silya’ ay ‘salumpuwit,’ iyong ‘bra’ ay salong ano?” (Laughter)

Minsan naman, sinabi ni Raul Manglapuz, “Hindi ba iyong telegrama ay gusto pang gawing ‘pahatid kawad’? “Oo,” wika ko. Sabi niya, “Eh, kung iyong telegrama ay pahatid kawad, iyong ‘wireless’ ay ano?” “Aba, eh, siyanga pala.” Ang wika ko, sabi ni Raul, “Siguro iyon ay pahatid-kawad-na-walang-kawad.” (Laughter)

Kaya nga naantala ang paglaganap ng ating wika. Natakot ang mga estudyante. Kahit ang mga Tagalog ay natakot. Ang mga Tagalog ay lumalagpak sa national language. Kaya nga iyan ang isang dahilan kung bakit ginawang “Filipino.” Ako ay nagagalak sapagkat akalain ba ninyong inalis iyong napakaraming letra sa ating alpabet. Inalis ang letters “c”, “f”, “j”, “q”, “y”, at “x”. Kawawa naman ako. Ako ay Francisco, nawala iyong “f” iyong “c” kaya ako ay “Prankisko” (Laughter) May nagsabi sa akin, kung lahat ng “c” ay magiging “k”, iyong “Cecilio” ay ano? Di “Kekilyo,” wika niya. (Laughter)

Kaya’t ako ay kumakatig na ang ating gawing wikang pambansa ay ang Filipino.59

The inference that can be drawn out from this is that any “purism” which the Commission on National Language, the body which replaced60 the Institute on National Language may adopt stands to be overruled as unconstitutional. There is legal ground to hold that the Commission on National Language must promulgate liberal rules on standardization based on usage. This is particularly significant when it comes to orthography and grammar. Lope K. Santos’ twenty-letter alphabet and grammar of the Pilipino language must be amended to accommodate the fusion of other languages.

D. Expanding the Usage Domain

In the schema presented by Director Pineda, expanding the usage domain of the nucleus is the key element to the development of the multi-language based national language. It is important that Filipino be used widely in national affairs. In the 1987 CONCOM, Commissioners Aquino and Villacorta stated that the approach in the development of the national language should not be hermaphroditic.61 Experiences here and abroad showed that a national language is useless if it is not used as the medium of instruction and official communication. People remained semi-literate and ignorant about scientific concepts, skills, and principles, because science and technology were usually written and transmitted in the English language which only a small part of the population had mastered.

In this regard, the Committee on Human Resources proposed62 that the Constitution should provide that resolute steps be taken by the government in order that Filipino be used as medium of official communication and school instruction. Commissioner Bernas pointed out that the proposal would create a redundancy, because making Filipino the official language would have the same effect as a provision which stated that the government shall take steps to use Filipino as a medium of communication in all branches of government. Commissioner Villacorta’s reply was that the committee intended to kept the detailed provision to reinforce the character of Filipino as an official language. Commissioner Bennagen explained that Filipino as an official language had been mostly practiced in stationeries and government buildings as names and in titles as well as in post offices. Filipino should be utilized in government as well as in communications and in all levels of the educational system. The proposal was carried 37 votes to none.

E. The Examples in Perspective

A discussion of the language policy is not complete without considering the samples of Filipino which were presented in the deliberations of the 1987 CONCOM. Rev. Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J. has quoted some of them in his popular treatise63 on the Constitution. The danger is that these might be misunderstood and become a source of legal complications in the future. Moreover, as an acknowledged authority on Constitutional Law, Fr. Bernas has raised the opinion that these examples show that the language policy is still hazy. A language similar to what Commissioner Villacorta illustrated is simply inelegant, if ever it does exist. It is thus necessary to contextualize these examples in order to avoid further confusion.

During the proceedings, there were other samples presented on the floor aside from the Villacorta examples indicated above. One of these samples was provided by Commissioner Tingson, which was in the form of a prayer,

MR. TINGSON… Panginoon, bigyan mo po kami ng mga Filipinos nga may kasing-kasing na mahinulsulun. Nga nagahigugma sang katarungan apan nagasabdung sang kalainan. Kay, Ginoo, ito pong mga Filipinos ang aming bayan ngayon may kailangan kay amo ining mga Filipinos nga may matuod nga sadsara.64

It can be observed that the examples appear to be rough mixtures of words culled from different local dialects, but the important point is that these examples will not bind the users of Filipino. Commissioner Ople clarified that the enrichment, expansion, and indenfinite strengthening of the language through assimilation will have to be done in the course of the evolution of this language. It is not the intention of the framers of the Constitution to prescribe certain quotas in accordance with a certain fiat of the government.65 The Constitution did not adopt the Complete Amalgamation Approach in the development of the language.

It must be further emphasized that the Constitution refers to two types66 of Filipino. The first is that which is embodied by Pilipino at the present and to be engineered as to allow influences from other languages. The second is the informal lingua franca developed as speakers from different linguistic groups in the country converse. All of the examples referred to the second type. While the 1987 CONCOM did not bother to give similar examples of the first type (it being an obvious matter), it should be remembered that Filipino is not limited to the second. More importantly, the relationship of the first and second examples must be examined. The second is said to have evolved informally. It has no established grammar and vocabulary. It bears, however, a semblance of the end goal of the first type, when time and usage have allowed the first type to grow and develop with the least amount of control from the purist. The second type is what eventually the first type will be in the future when the languages have fused.


The language provisions67 of the 1987 Constitution read,

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.

Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.

For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English…

The ambiguity of the concept of Filipino under the present Constitution might have been avoided if the framers had only expressed the fact that they meant a Filipino with a nuclear basis on Pilipino. Although this intent was repeated throughout the proceedings, such was not manifested in the final draft of the Constitution. We can only surmise at what the reasons were. In any case, the crucial point has been established: Filipino with the “F” is the national language based on all existing native languages with a nucleus nesting on Tagalog or Pilipino with the “P.” Hence, the observation of Edilberto Alegre is correct. Filipino with the “F” and Pilipino with the “P” are similar. This can also be the basis for the use of Pilipino as an official language and medium of instruction. But this will only hold as long as the multi-language based national language has not taken off from its Tagalog roots. If it does – in the meantime that all the obstacles preventing it from doing so are being removed under the liberal language policy – then the distinction can be rightfully made. But whether it will is another question.


48 Yabes, supra note 32 at 342.
49 20 October 1971.
50 Pineda, supra note 13 at 60.
51 Reference to Ernesto Constantino’s work pervaded the discussions on the floor. See 4 CONCOM 152, 155.
52 Id. at 153.
53 Id. at 464.
54 Id. at 478
55 Id. at 481
56 Id. In order to facilitate understanding, the speech as reproduced here has been divided into paragraphs shorter than what appears on record.
57 4 CONCOM 487, 489.
59 Id. at 484-485.
60 An Act Creating the Commission on the Filipino Language, Prescribing Its Powers, Duties and Functions, Appropriating Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes, Republic Act No. 7104, sec. 16 (1991).
61 Id. at 489-490.
62 See 4 Concom 489-495 for the entire discussion.
63 2 Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J. The Constitution of the Philippines: A Commentary 528 (1987).
64 4 CONCOM 486.
65 Supra note 14.
66 Supra note 56.
67 Philippine Const. Art. XIV, secs. 6 and 7.