There is a running joke among Bulakenyos, especially those in Calumpit, that Calumpit Bridge connecting Calumpit, Bulacan to Apalit, Pampanga is the longest bridge in the world because itlog from Calumpit becomes ebun once you get to Apalit. Ebun is the Kapampangan word for “egg.” Langgam means “ant” in Tagalog but “bird” in Cebuano. Pirmi means “fixed” in Tagalog, “frequent” in Cebuano, and “true” in Ibatan. Such is the charm and humor of an archipelagic country home to many indigenous languages.
And precisely because we have so many languages that we need to have a common language to understand each other. In linguistics, we call these common languages “lingua franca.”
Historically, Lingua Franca is the name of the language formerly spoken in Mediterranean ports as the language of commerce and diplomacy. It consists of Italian mixed with French, Spanish, Greek, and Arabic.
There are two main purposes of having a common language: symbolic and practical. The practical side is easy to explain. In the case of Lingua Franca, people in the Mediterranean had to have a common language to do business as it would be a challenge to learn the language of each country they trade with. So Lingua Franca was formed organically, in a way.
In the RareJob Philippines headquarters, a happy community consisting of Filipino and Japanese employees, it would be impractical for Filipinos to learn Nihongo and for Japanese to learn Tagalog, so we use English as our lingua franca.
Today, we regard English as the universal language, the language we need to learn in order to keep up with globalization. And the Philippines—being the third English-speaking country in the world—now reaps the fruits of its proficiency as we see the boom of BPO industries in the form of call centers, back-office support, and of course, online English schools. Our English proficiency has given us economic advantages.
The symbolic aspect of common language, however, is a bit abstract as it talks about unity and identity. Gay lingo (or Bekimon as we call it) for instance, is a very interesting language reflective of the gay subculture that is witty, creative, and dynamic. It empowers the gay community to face the challenges of being a minority in a society that could be a little oppressive sometimes.
But if we talk about national identity, nothing hits close to home more than our national language, Filipino, which is also our official language alongside English.
Despite having studied Filipino yearly in school, many are still confused with the difference between Filipino and Tagalog, quite understandably so because they seem to be very similar at first glance.
To put it simply, Tagalog is the language spoken in Manila and its nearby provinces, while Filipino is the national language based on Tagalog being further developed by incorporating words from other languages in and outside the country.
But not everyone is convinced about the significance of Filipino as a language. Some argue that Filipino is just the language of the streets and that they only had to learn Filipino because they are “forced to relate with the tinderas and the manongs and the katulongs of this world.”
It is not true that Filipino has no capacity to be intellectual. In fact, it is through Filipino that Virgilio Enriquez was able to develop the field of Filipino Psychology, with kapwa and loob as its conceptual bases. In the same way, Zeus Salazar was able to formulate the theory of Pantayong Pananaw that seeks to explain the Filipino history and identity from the Filipino point of view.
Hyacinth Tagupa put it very nicely in her opinion article in Inquirer that “English is essential in keeping up with the world, Filipino is essential in keeping together as a nation, and a basic awareness of local languages and dialects is useful when you find yourself away from home.”
While English and Filipino as common languages have different purposes, they should not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.
Lingua franca. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingua_franca
Top Ten English Speaking Countries. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2016, from http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-top-ten/countries-with-most-english-language-speaker-map.html
Almario, V. S. (2014). Madalas Itanong Hinggil sa Wikang Pambansa. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from http://kwf.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/FAQ_2.4.15-1.pdf
About the author
Leo finds amusement in anime, manga, video games, and videoke. He believes in the power of literature that uses conversational language to entertain, educate, and encourage people to read.