Tagalog versus Filipino? If you are asking this question, you are not alone. In this blog post, you’ll gonna learn their differences and the quick history of the identity crisis of the national language of the Filipinos.
Tagalog vs Filipino? Which is which?
Even Google is confused.
So, you’re probably here because you are interested in the national language of the Philippines or maybe because all of your “Filipino language” searches in Google are littered with “Tagalog” results. It’s not Google’s fault. The history of the national language of the Filipinos is really that confusing.
To start, let’s talk about the Philippines first. The Philippines is an archipelagic country in South East Asia and as you can see, it has a lot of islands. It has a lot of languages too, around 180 give or take, so just imagine the confusion and stuff lost in translation.
Photo by fimoculous on Foter.com / CC BY
It’s basically like the Tower of Babel.
History of the National Language of the Philippines
Manuel L. Quezon
Father of Philippine National Language
In 1935, President Manuel L. Quezon decided to form a group to determine the language that everyone could use, a.k.a a lingua franca. And he gave the group one rule: it should be native to the Philippines. By 1936, the group called Surian ng Wikang Pambansa (Institute of the National Language) decided that Tagalog should be the national language because:
- There’s a lot of speakers within and outside Metro Manila
- There are a lot of literature or publications written in Tagalog
- Tagalog is the language used in Metro Manila, the political capital of the Philippines
Naturally, the speakers of other Philippine languages didn’t like this because of the political, social, and linguistic power the “National Language” status would give to Tagalog. It’s like being told that you and your siblings are loved equally, yet your bratty brother keeps getting special treatments. All that is missing his nameplate with “Favorite Child” written on it.
Other Philippine Languages to Tagalog:
So, in 1937, instead of making Tagalog the national language, Surian ng Wikang Pambansa declared that Tagalog is the “language basis” of the national language, “Wikang Pambansa”, which is literally “National Language” translated in Tagalog. As vague as “language basis” was, whatever this “Wikang Pambansa” was (spoiler alert: basically Tagalog), it was used as the medium of instruction in schools and official government documents.
Of course, this didn’t stop the people from asking, “So, “Wikang Pambansa” is basically just Tagalog, right?”. Because it was! So, by 1959, they changed “Wikang Pambansa” to “Pilipino” to make it more inclusive. And when that didn’t work, in 1973, they decided to change “Pilipino” to “Filipino” (“Pilipino” became the Tagalog term used for Filipinos, as in people), because changing the alphabet can create whole new other languages, right?
In fact, that is one of Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino orCommission of the Filipino Language(present Surian ng Wikang Pambansa), “evidences” that Filipino is another language from Tagalog based from the additional 1978 provisions, that “[Filipino] shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.”. Basically, the Filipino language was supposed to become a mash-up of all Philippine languages. All of the “shreds of evidence” are:
- Tagalog only has 20 letters while Filipino has 28 because of the words it borrowed from other languages.
- Filipino has sounds and words from other Philippine languages.
- Filipino has sounds and words from foreign languages.
That’s about it really… It’s like saying that English becomes another language just because it accepted French words like “bourgeois”, “brunette”, “chauffeur”, “money”, “honesty” etc in its vocabulary. Sure, there’s American English and British English but both are still English in the end, right?
Even at the present time, speakers of Tagalog and/or Filipino, cannot really say the difference between the two the same way English speakers can differentiate themselves from French, Italian, or German speakers. Most Filipinos use the terms interchangeably. That being said, that doesn’t stop Filipino language activists from separating the two despite the fact that Filipino and Tagalog literally have the same grammar and Tagalog was borrowing from other languages way before it became “Filipino”.
Tagalog = Filipino
Long story short, Tagalog and Filipino are “mutually intelligible varieties, and therefore belong to one language” (Nolasco, 2007). Filipino is basically Tagalog, misnomered by years of misinformation and linguistic propaganda. That being said, the essence of Tagalog/Filipino as the national language came from the good-natured goal of unifying the Filipinos.
What do you think? Is it reasonable to differentiate Filipino from Tagalog? Tell us what you think!
- Andrew Gonzalez (1998). “The Language Planning Situation in the Philippines” (PDF). Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. 19 (5, 6): 487. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 16, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-24.
- Commission on the Filipino Language Act 1991, Section 2
- Commonwealth Act No. 184 (13 November 1936), AN ACT TO ESTABLISH A NATIONAL LANGUAGE INSTITUTE AND DEFINE ITS POWERS AND DUTIES
- Constantino, Pamela C. (22 August 2000). “Tagalog / Pilipino / Filipino: Do they differ?”. Translated by Antonio Senga. Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia: Northern Territory University. Retrieved 22 May2014.
- Executive Order No. 134 (30 December 1937), PROCLAMING THE NATIONAL LANGUAGE OF THE PHILIPPINES BASED ON THE “TAGALOG” LANGUAGE
- Nolasco, Ricardo Ma. (August 30, 2007). “articles: filipino and tagalog, not so simple / how to value our languages”. dalityapi.com. Archived from the original on December 6, 2012.
- Tan, N. (2014, August 7). What the PH constitutions say about the national language. Retrieved from https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/65477-national-language-philippine-constitutions