On Buwan ng Wika

By Joshua Corcuera

Every August, we celebrate Buwan ng Wika, the month of the national language, Filipino. Despite the fact that we were colonized by several countries throughout our history, we Filipinos converse with one another in Tagalog Filipino or other local languages in the country.

With this in mind, it is right and just to promote literary works in our mother tongue. It is also saddening to see that many young people do not read books anymore, or if they do, they rarely read and devote much of their time to leisure activities. This is especially true for literature in the Filipino language—only a few books by Filipino writers are well-known among the general public. In recent years, thanks to the rapid rise of technology, we tend to focus on watching movies and television. Fortunately, there are Filipino books adapted into films and are sometimes even well-received.

Speaking of literary works, it seems unjust to censor some books simply because of their content. In the United States, for instance, some schools ban books because they are allegedly too violent, too explicit, and are not suitable for adolescents. A similar occurrence can be observed in various places around the world including here in the Philippines. However, as the saying goes, a book worth banning is a book worth reading.

History has shown that books that have been censored are usually controversial and may even cause heated debates, but it can also help readers become aware of the harsh reality they find themselves in. We should remember, as an example, that Rizal’s magna opera, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, were banned by the Spanish authorities due to its content. As a matter of fact, these masterpieces even cost Rizal his life; but it also helped ignite a sense of nationalism and patriotism among native Filipinos to resist the abusive colonial government and fight for their own rights in their own land.

At present, we use our own language to talk with others in most instances. It is inevitable, however, that we would use English in some of our daily tasks. In the courts of law, for instance, English is the language spoken during trials and hearings. In government, files are normally in the English language and our senators speak English during sessions in the legislature’s upper house. In universities and schools, English is the medium of instruction, and academic books— except for Filipino, of course, and sometimes Araling Panlipunan—are written in English.

To be candid, it is imminent that we have to use English every now and then. As a matter of fact, I wrote this article in English and not Filipino. Some technical terms can be best communicated, after all, using English. But despite this, we should appreciate our mother tongue and all products as a result of our own language—our own books, our own films, our own identity. What makes us unique as a Filipino people is we have our own language that only a few foreigners know. Thus, it is right to appreciate and develop further our language as it forms part of who we are as a people.