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“Language is a segment of the blood and soul, where thoughts trickle out of where one grows”
“Kamusta” means “How are you?” in the Filipino language. But how many Filipinos living in Britain would know how to respond in a conversation? Or even attempt to continue talking in Filipino? There are many Filipinos brought up here in Britain who have no idea what to say when such a conversation begins like this. Beyond the standard “I’m OK.” Or “Mabuti.” What happens next? Many elders shake their heads in disappointment when the British-born Filipinos in response shake their own heads, unknowing how to respond to such a simplistic Filipino greeting.
The history of the Filipino language was a battle for our ancestors. Language, to them, meant freedom. Blood and Ink was shed for our rights of liberty to be declared. The struggle of ownership of identity, citizenship for our people and a language for our country inspired our national heroes, especially our most venerated, Dr. Jose P. Rizal. He shed ink through his novels, letters and poetry in order for our people to believe in themselves but the irony is, it was only after he shed his own blood that it was ultimately realised.
There was much controversy when the Spaniards wanted to declare Spanish as the National language of the Philippines, therefore a committee was formed in the Philippines that declared in 1935 to choose a National language. The Philippines has many dialects which could be compared to Nigeria or China, due to the variety of tribes, regions and ancient countries clustered together unlike France or Portugal where only one main language is dominantly spoken.
Hence it was important for Philippines to find liberty in having their own National language. Through much debate “Tagalog” was finally chosen as it was widely spoken throughout Philippines, although it caused quite controversial issues “Tagalog” modified into “Filipino” in 1987 became the National language of the Philippines in the Philippine Constitution. Through the declaration of the Filipino language in the Philippines Constitution it reveals the importance of what surrounds the meaning of what marks us as Filipinos.
Through the neglect of not knowing our own language, we hurt our ancestors who passed us the right and opportunity of having a National language. As Dr. Jose P. Rizal declared, “He who does not love his own language is worse than an animal and a smelly fish.” Sometimes the truth is harsh, but the truth is true, as he states, “While a people preserves its language; it preserves the mark of liberty.” We have been given a gift by our ancestors, but yet we refuse to accept it. The importance of liberty in language is lost in today’s world. The struggles it took for our ancestors to acquire our National language are long forgotten.
Hence there is a wide margin between the Filipino heritage in contrast with the British way of life. It is a shame at this present moment that not many Filipinos know how to speak their own language of heritage when it is language that makes us who we are and where we come from.
Many Filipino parents have not taught their children how to speak Filipino, instead they have adapted to the language of the country in which they have settled, in our case “English”. Although it is not wrong to integrate into the British way of life, Filipinos born and/or raised in the UK sometimes fully enter the British way and neglect the Filipino way. In contrast, a Filipino brought up in Britain who was taught how to speak Filipino by their parents and converses well, provides a source of pride to a Filipino, for it is often rare to converse in Filipino with a British born Filipino.
It is however ironic that the Filipinos who do try to speak the Filipino language are teased because of the accent and lack of knowledge, although they want to speak it, the lack of confidence and support draws them further away from the heritage which should be rightfully theirs; a heritage which they should be proud of.
Philippines should be our home; however it seems to be a foreign place to us. There are many Filipinos who go on holiday to the Philippines who cannot speak the Filipino language. It would be beneficial to be able to go on holiday to your own country without having someone to interpret the Filipino language for you. It is strange to think that most Filipinos who go to the Philippines cannot speak their country of origin’s language but this is not strange to us, it somehow is perceived the “norm” back home and this perception is unfortunately the reality.
Perhaps it is time for a change of really going back to our roots and learning the Filipino language. To change something, there has to be a way of making it happen and to make it happen there has to be a source. Being Filipino is something we should be proud of, learning the language is important in promoting the Filipino identity and sense of ‘Pinoy Pride’.
Due to the lack of Filipino language spoken within the second generation and British-born Filipino Community, Philippine Generations are launching classes to teach the Filipino language for over 18s and if the classes run smoothly, more classes will be introduced for all ages. It is important that the heritage of ‘what constitutes of being a Filipino’ will not be forgotten regardless of living in Britain. Our Filipino way of life such as speaking the Filipino language should be a simple task; however it is often diminished by the British way of life which should not be so. Filipino culture should be embraced and kept within tradition regardless of the environment.
By starting the provision of Filipino language classes now, it will be beneficial for the second generation and the next generations to come so that the Filipino language would be passed down, preserved and not be lost. The Filipino language has been neglected for far too long. Through neglecting the language, it is as if one is neglecting oneself of being a Filipino. Language is the connection within our blood and soul which ties our heritage together.
The time is now to meet the need for the Filipino language to be spoken, to fill the gap and create a bigger bond between the Filipino community and the next generation. Perhaps one day, all Filipinos would unite to speak their own language once more. We live in Britain but through speaking the Filipino language it should keep us home. In the future, the opening of a simple “Kamusta” would hopefully turn into a real Filipino conversation, the Filipino way!
The gift of heritage is yours if you choose to take it. Philippine Generations is here to EDUCATE, INSPIRE and ENRICH the Filipino community. It is time to claim your inheritance and make it yours once more.
Written for Philippine Generation & Planet Philippines