Filipino: The best of all worlds

FILIPINO CAN now be considered a global language. According to Wika ng Agham at Kultura Inc. President and Palanca Hall of Famer Isagani Cruz, this can be attributed to the people’s diaspora and the country’s openness.

Heard everywhere

“Filipino is a global language primarily because of the overseas Filipinos that speak it,” said Cruz in his Philippine Daily Inquirer column.

According to the Center for Migrant Advocacy, Philippine migration can be grouped into four significant waves.

The first wave consists of the pre-colonial and Spanish colonial era. Sulu royalties sent Tausug-speaking Filipinos to China for trade. The Spaniards, on the other hand, provided the first trips to the other side of the globe. Before the beginning of the second wave, Filipino was already spoken in China, North America, and Europe.

The American colonial period encompasses the second and third waves of migration. In the second wave, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were sent to United States (US) factories and plantations. More were sent to surrounding Asian countries to hold post for the US during the Second World War. The end of the war marked the third wave, with the US warmly welcoming Filipino migrants into the so-called “land of opportunity.”

The flight of the first Filipino domestic workers and nurses marked the fourth wave. President Ferdinand Marcos loosened migration policies to stimulate the economy, and thousands took it as a way into the developed countries of the West and the developing countries of the East.

Today, the thousands have turned into millions. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, one-tenth of the Philippine population can be found outside the Philippines.

With that, Filipino languages have been flourishing abroad. In the US, the first school teaching Filipino language and culture opened last May at San Diego, California. In Europe, the University of London offers a Philippine studies program that asks the students to learn Filipino from the Philippine Embassy. Vancouver residents of Philippine ancestry have been lobbying for Filipino language education in their college curriculum for months now. Dozens of Middle Eastern Philippine schools have produced graduates immersed in Filipino culture.

Unlike any other

Flipping the coin to look inward, other countries have also brought their language and culture into the Philippines.

“We are the only Asian nation that is Western,” said Cruz in an online interview with The GUIDON. “That makes us unique and our language, which has borrowed extensively from both Spanish and English, is also a blend of Asian and the Romance languages.”

Chinese merchants arrived in the Sulu sultanate and the influx continued. Today, the average Filipino cannot go a day without mentioning Chinese-imported words such as susi, hikaw, and suki.

Traces of Spanish, the country’s former national language and lingua franca, still remain. According to late Spanish culture preservationist and linguist, Guillermo Gómez Rivera, there are thousands of loaned Spanish words in the Filipino language.

The US propagated English into the archipelago through americanization of national government and education. Eventually, English was constitutionalized as a national language, beside Filipino.

Thus, the Philippines simultaneously took in foreign cultures and languages while sending its people to foreign lands.

“Seen negatively, this is a sign that we are completely confused about our identity, right?” said Cruz. “But I prefer to look at it positively, that we represent the best of all worlds, Asian, European, ancient, modern.”

Author’s note: This article was published in The GUIDON August issue of 2015