National Language vs Native Language

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By Robby Tantingco

Peanut Gallery

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


THIS month of August, as we celebrate the Buwan ng Wika (Language Month), let's remember that "wika" does not refer to Filipino, which is only the national language by legislation.

The "wika" in Buwan ng Wika refers to our native language, or mother tongue. In our case, it's Kapampangan.

I urge schools, therefore, to put their celebration this month in the right perspective. If they can't do away with their traditional celebration of the Filipino language, they can at least insert a parallel celebration of the Kapampangan language.

For example, if they have balagtasan, why not have crissotan, too? If they assign their students to collect and post old Filipino sayings, they might as well assign them to collect old Kapampangan sayings. They can also display pictures of Kapampangan heroes alongside those of Manuel Quezon, Jose Rizal and the other national heroes.

Local cable TV should televise Kapampangan-themed programs and local radio stations should broadcast Kapampangan songs. There are actually laws passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan asking malls, schools and media outlets to regularly play original Kapampangan songs not just in August but throughout the year.

SP Resolution No. 138 asks "all AM and FM radio stations in the Province of Pampanga to play at least one Original Kapampangan Music (OKM) in the morning, afternoon and evening every day as a way of not only popularizing these songs but also of creating a sense of cultural awareness and pride among Kapampangans."

Another law, SP Resolution No. 147 asks "all municipal mayors and the mayor of the City of San Fernando, cinema/theatre operators/owners, schools and malls in the Province of Pampanga to do the same."

This second resolution suggests "reasonable" time and frequency of airing Kapampangan music, as follows: cinemas after every showing of the movie; schools, before the flag ceremony, and included in music lessons inside the classroom; malls, included in the centralized piped-in music; municipal/city halls, before and after flag ceremony.

Both resolutions were proposed by the Center for Kapampangan Studies a few years ago. They were sponsored by then Board Member Nestor Tolentino, signed by Vice Governor Roseller Guiao and approved by Governor Mark Lapid.

The Center also later proposed a resolution (later approved) designating the last Friday of August each year as Aldo ning Amanung Sisuan, and another resolution creating the Pampanga Language Council (PLC), which is in charge of the celebration and other activities promoting the Kapampangan language.

The initial success of these initiatives will not be sustained unless both the provincial government and the private sector support them.

We are heartened by the fund-raising efforts this year of certain groups both here and abroad to encourage Kapampangans to speak Kapampangan through posters, streamers and stickers.

There is also a group that raises funds for the reproduction of Kapampangan reading and instructional materials for pre-school pupils, as part of the DepEd Order requiring schools in the Philippines to implement the Mother Tongue-Based Multi-Lingual Education (MTB-MLE) program, where teachers must use Kapampangan as medium of instruction from pre-school to Grade 3.

And then there are cultural advocates like filmmaker Jason Laxamana who makes highly polished movies and MTVs in Kapampangan; composers like Msgr. Greg Canlas, Fr. Carmelo Agustin and Cris Cadiang who write sublime Kapampangan church hymns; music theatre groups like ArtiSta. Rita and ImaArti, headed by Andy Alviz and his equally brilliant composer-lyricist Randy del Rosario; recording groups like OK Musika and ASLAG Kapampangan; Kapampangan-language newspaper writers Kragi Garcia and Joel Mallari; Kapampangan lexicographers like Venancio Samson and Ernie Turla; local poets and polosadores, and many more.

We should also thank the Catholic clergy for using Kapampangan in the Mass, novenas, rosaries and other church services.

The Church is the last bastion of the Kapampangan language; all the other institutions like government offices, the courts, media and academe have resorted to Filipino and English. (I just can't understand why we keep using Tagalog hymns during a Kapampangan Mass when we have more than enough beautiful Kapampangan hymns just waiting to be sung.)

As you can see, we have a lot of people who are determined to promote the Kapampangan language. The only problem is the equally determined effort of national government and national media to promote the Filipino language.

We should teach our cabalen to learn all three languages (Kapampangan, Filipino and English), but if they must learn only two, let these be Kapampangan and English. Of the three, the most dispensable is Filipino; we need to speak Kapampangan because it is our mother tongue, and English because it is the language by which the rest of the nation and the world can understand us.

When our government promoted Tagalog as national language, they called it by another name, Filipino, and told the rest of us that they'd reinvent it as an aggregate of different regional languages. It didn't work. Filipino was, is and will always be Tagalog, the language of the people living in Southern Luzon. It is not superior to Kapampangan or Cebuano or Ilocano or Hiligaynon, and therefore should not be imposed on us as a replacement for our respective native languages.

I'm sorry if I talk this way about our so-called national language, but I have enough sympathy only for the underdog. In this case, the underdog is Kapampangan.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on August 09, 2011.

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