The Philippines is in a continuous struggle in search of her identity. Three hundred years under Spanish influence. Fifty years under the Americans. Seventy-five years under different despots who can’t seem to stabilize governance, the economy and worst, strengthen our national spirit.

Are we broken? Although the Filipinos are rated to be one of the happiest people on earth, we are truly desperate, frustrated and unhappy. We long for great changes in our country. One that would bring us peace, prosperity, protection and pride. Too much politicking has destroyed the fabric of this nation. We must come up with a better set of standards in choosing our leaders and public servants, from the barangay level to the national level. If we continue to allow any Tom, Dick and Harry to lead us, then we will continue to fail. We will end up in the very bottom of the line, as we already are.

After postponing the scheduled general community quarantine (or GCQ) in the NCR and instead having us remain under the modified enhanced community quarantine (or MECQ) status last week, we saw the President and his men in the national convention of PDP-Laban (Energy Secretary Cusi’s faction) in Pampanga. What was wrong? Everything. So, they can gather a huge crowd while restaurant, salons and fitness gyms cannot take in customers in a limited capacity?

And this is the story of our country. A nation full of contradictions. A nation full of power play. A nation that can change a street name anytime of the day. A nation lost in transit. A nation in her continuous search for identity. Until our leaders protect our culture and heritage, we will be stuck in the abyss, searching and struggling to better understand who we are.

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The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) is a major contributing force to the strengthening of our culture through the protection of our language. In the past decade there has been a tug of war between the use of F (Filipinas/ Filipino) or P (Pilipinas/ Pilipino).

In 2013, KWF passed a resolution to spell the name of the country as Filipinas and its citizens as Filipino. According to then KWF chairman, National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario, the spelling of the two words were in accordance with the country’s original name Filipinas. He added that this also showed the inclusive nature of the language development that the commission has been promoting. The words used the letter F, which could be found in many languages across the Philippines but was not in the old Tagalog-based alphabet.

Recently, the new chairman of KWF, Arthur Casanova, announced that the agency had agreed to spell the country’s name with a P (Pilipinas) and the people’s name as Pilipino, citing the Tagalog translation of the 1987 Constitution, which spells the two words in this way.

After eight years, here we go again. Is it an F or a P? But why do we need to change all of a sudden? We’ve been doing fine calling our beloved country, Filipinas and its citizens, Filipinos.

I am quite surprised to note that the basis of this decision, according to KWF in their memorandum, is the opposition made by different institutions like the University of the Philippines and unnamed organizations, newspapers and websites. Whaaaat? Did the University Council of UP issue such a statement? Can the KWF show an official statement, even at least from the College of Arts and Letters or from the Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas to prove that it was really debated and decided upon?

This language issue may not be important to ordinary workers but it is crucial to the youth and to the educational sector. How can you base your decision on what UP will say (if they ever did) and from nameless organizations? Sanamagan!

The Philippines has more than a hundred ethno-linguistic communities that must also be considered. Basic education should be seriously consulted even if it will take time and resources to ensure a more intelligent decision. Are you not aware that language is first learned in grade school and not in the universities? I am speaking as an educator who believes that it is only logical that the language and the citizen of a nation is referred to as the same, just like any languages and people in the world (i.e. Italian, French, Japanese).

The last three decades made us embrace the fact that we are all Filipinos and we are known in the world to be Filipinos. The idea of calling for an “emergency meeting” to decide on this matter is quite disturbing. Not only does it imply callousness to the plight of the students suffering from the pandemic and to the schools that are trying to survive online mode, but also a complete disregard for the achievements of the last three decades. Teaching that we are Filipinos is not only an issue of orthography. It is developing the nationalist ideology. Being Filipino is the reason for excellence and our continuing struggle for independence. We must not forget that it is the marker of the 1987 Freedom Constitution. It is the reminder that we have fought and ousted a dictator and not allow it to happen again. We have learned so much from that juncture and regained our identity in the face of the world.

Is it not pathetic to see how KWF, “language planning” being the main responsibility of the commission, is now being done incorrectly? According to what I’ve read, language planning is about the development of policies and programs to direct language use, and to standardize and modernize a language. The term “modernization” is very important because it is the key to modern education and global competitiveness. That is why KWF is mandated to “develop Filipino as a modernizing and intellectualizing language.” KWF must push the Filipino forward, not backward. This move is senseless if not a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Reverting to the use of Pilipino (the citizen) is definitely moving backwards. It will just bring back the sloppy debates before Filipino was accepted and embraced by the country. The proponents of Filipino as our national language studied, worked and fought a very long and hard battle before the provision was adopted. It was a product of a tedious linguistic study fueled by nationalist sentiment that aimed to choose the national language that would be functional, unifying and accepted by the majority.

The preamble of the Constitution starts with “We, the sovereign Filipino people.” Isn’t this crystal clear that our nationality is addressed with an F – “Filipino” according to the highest law of the land which KWF regarded as the basis of their argument?