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The call of August

Why we should speak our native language more often

langText and image by Isabelle Laureta

We had this rule in grade school that discouraged us students from speaking in Filipino—well, not discourage, but the rules said we should only speak in English or else our teachers wouldn’t acknowledge us, and to me, that was pretty much the same thing. What was worse is that if we got “caught” speaking in Filipino, we’d have to pay five pesos, as if speaking our native language was a crime that deserved some sort of “punishment.” Now, before any of you protest, let me just say that I get why our teachers required us to speak in English. I now know that it was for our own sake, and the skill of conversing in straight English would be an advantage to us in the future.

But shouldn’t Filipino—our very own native language—receive the same regard, especially from Filipinos like us? Don’t you think it’s about time we appreciate our own language, as much as we appreciate others’? August marks Buwan ng Wika in the Philippines, and I think it’s the perfect time to encourage you guys not only to appreciate, but also to speak, Filipino more. Here are reasons Filipino deserves more of our appreciation:

 

1. Because it’s a beautiful language

I wrote an online article about a year ago enumerating beautiful Filipino words. At first, I was only planning to list these chosen words (paraluman, tadhana, and bayanihan), give their meaning, and that’s it. But upon looking at the words and understanding what they meant, I knew merely listing them wouldn’t do them justice. They’re just too beautiful. So I decided to write these words in watercolor calligraphy, not because they needed to be more beautiful, but because the treatment needed to reflect the beauty they already possess. To this day, it’s still one of the most viewed articles and the comments saying how beautiful the Filipino language is just keep on coming. We’re often amazed by how beautiful the French language sounds, but maybe we’re just taking our language for granted. I’m thankful I made that article, because it hit me in the most unexpected way. It made me see the beauty that has always been there.

 

2. Because there are still lots to explore

My mom is a Tagalog native, and sometimes, she uses words that are too deep for my comprehension. For someone whose first language is Filipino and who has lived in the Philippines since birth, it made me realize how complex and diverse our language is. A simple word like “basa” could mean different things. It always simultaneously excites and leaves me in awe every time I reflect on this or discover a new Filipino word. I know I won’t be able to know every Filipino word there is in this lifetime, but if I speak it more often, I might just come close.

 

3. Because knowing how to speak English is not an indicator of success

Most people often give high regard for people who can speak flawless English. But does our ability to speak English automatically mean we’re intelligent and successful human beings? In some ways, maybe. But to me, not necessarily. Think about it, when we say people who can speak proper English are smart, don’t we also mean that people who can only communicate well in Filipino (or their native language) aren’t? A lot of Filipinos find it funny when a person can’t understand or can only speak in “barok” English, tagging them “stupid” and often making them subjects for comedic scenes in movies or stand-ups. But that’s not true, isn’t it? I’ve been watching a lot of Korean and Japanese TV shows and if there’s one thing I’ve noticed (aside from the actors not having pores that it’s almost insulting), it’s that they almost never speak English. Some can’t even construct a straight English sentence. They have their own translation for almost every English word. The most amazing part is, Korea and Japan are countries evidently more developed than the Philippines.

 

4. Because it’s one of the things that’s rightfully ours

You guys remember how much we rejoiced when the court ruling said that the West Philippine Sea is rightfully ours? Everybody celebrated. But how did we feel about it when the issue has not even been raised yet? Did we even care about that huge body of water? My point is, we never knew how much we wanted it until it was being taken away from us. We often take things that have always been there for granted, like the Filipino language, and only realize its importance when it’s gone (pardon my hugot). I don’t know if it’s even possible for the Filipino language to be taken away from us, but should we wait until we find out? The Philippines is a Third World country. We may not have much economically, and the best thing we could do is be proud of what’s rightfully ours.