Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Last Monday was the International Mother Language Day.

It is supposedly an annual and global celebration proclaimed by no less than the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999.

Here, no fanfare whatsoever about it or in connection with the 21 February's significance to us except, probably, for the discovery of anti-Reproductive Health bill posts allegedly spammed by students on Akbayan’s facebook page in exchange for high grades.

Anyway, this year's theme -- information and communcation technologies for the safeguarding and promotion of languages and linguistic diversity – is as relevant as, say, iSchools Project's revitalization of Twitter's use in promoting its various advocacies.

However, historically, we have a fiesta for our Inang Wika.

In fact, we used to honor her for a week, but now we have an entire August.

Well, it is the birthmonth of Pres. Manuel Luis Quezon, our Ama ng Wikang Pambansa, who created the Surian ng Wikang Pambansa, or the Institute of National Language, by virtue of Commonwealth Act No.184 which he signed on 13 November 1936.

Its primary purpose, back then, was to chose one from around 120 and 175languages in our archipelago that we could eventually consider our National Language.

It was Pilipino then. It is Filipino today.

But, in a study from 2000 to 2010, the National Statistics Office refers to it as Tagalog – being the most widely spoken language in every household in the Philippines.

Based on NSO's research conducted in 17 regions: Tagalog has 5,389,246.00 (35.32%); Cebuano has 1,885,583.00 (12.36%); Iluko (Ilocano) has 1,510,169.00 (9.90%,); Bisaya/ Binisaya has 1,301,106.00 (8.53%); Hiligaynon/ Ilonggo has 1,065,502.00 (6.98%); Bikolano has 704,981.00 (4.62%); Samar-Leyte (Waray) has 419,127.00 (2.75%); Kapampangan has 412,784.00 (2.71%); Paranan has 228,790.00 (1.50%); Boholano has 196, 252.00 (1.29%) and other Philippine languages: 2,143,402.00 (14.04%).

To know the difference, maybe we should read Sheilee Vega's Wikang Filipino Bilang Wikang Panlahat or Roberto Aňonuevo's Alimbukad blog entries on its history.

On 13 January 1937, Pres. Quezon selected as the first director of SWP -- Jaime Carlos de Veyra -- a statesman from Leyte. He -- together with Santiago Fonacier (Ilocano), Filemon Sotto (Cebuano), Casimiro Perfecto (Bicolano), Felix Salas Rodriguez (Panay Visayan), Hadji Butu (Moro), and Cecilio López (Tagalog) -- proposed that Tagalog be the basis for the National Language. In 1940, under him, SWP was able to publish the Tagalog-English Vocabulary and the Balarila ng Wikang Pambansa by Lope K. Santos.

At the time, SWP was located in a room at the Department of Public Information Building. Then it was housed in the Philippine Congress' Rm. 326. It took the camino real to the Malacañang Palace before it sought refuge at the sa Philippine Columbian. The 40s saw SWP in three different schools: at the University of the Philippines Alumni Building along Padre Faura in Manila 1940; at the Philippine Normal School in 1942; and at Mapa High School in its “radio room” in 1946. After a year, SWP returned to Malacañang Palace. But, in the end, Philippine School of Arts and Trade took pity on it while a “Japanese Temple” took care of it. Executive Order No. 94 put a stop to its squatter status when SWP was placed under the care of Department of Education where it stayed in Arroceros for 34 years. In 1984, when its home was demolished, the former Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports got the Palacio del Gobernador. SWP, instead, occupied the third and fourth floors of LDCI Building right at the corner of EDSA and East Avenue in Quezon City.

Whew, it says a lot about how we treat our mothers. Or our tongues too!

In January of 1987, under Executive Order No. 117, Pres. Corazon Aquino, SWP became LWP or Linangan ng mga Wika sa Pilipinas, which was later abolished when we had our new Constitution of 1987. On 14 August 1991, under Republic Act 7104, what used to be SWP, or LWP, ended up as KWF, or Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino.

During KWF's 75th anniversary celebration in Angono, Rizal last 25 January, KWF gave the Gawad Jaime C. de Veyra to Agripino Diestro, Gabrielle San Pedro Rojas and Manuel Bautista (music); Cynthia Cruz and Amihan Fenis (education); Ligaya Tiamson-Rubin (language and literature); Clemen Bautista (mass media); Orville D.R. Tiamson, Nemesio R. Miranda Jr., Jose Villones Blanco (posthumous) and Perdigon Vocalan (posthumous) (visual Arts); Gerardo Calderon, Casimiro Ynares, III and Joel Roy Duavit (public service) in recognition of their contribution to the Filipino arts and culture.

KWF's commitment is not merely to Filipino language but also to literature -- through one of its flagship projects -- Talaang Ginto. As early as 1963, it turned out to be the most sought-after award in Philippine poetry. For 25 years, it had been under the wings of the Jorge Collantes Foundation. And we got lucky to be the youngest Makata ng Taon in 1985, the year after National Artist Virgilio Almario bag the “first” Gantimpalang Collantes .

It became Gantimpalang Tamayo in 2009 when the Tamayo Foundation aided KWF.
For 47 years, the Makata ng Taon has been proclaimed by KWF on the 2nd ofApril, the birthday of Dr. Jose Rizal's idol -- Francisco Balagtas -- who will turn 223 this year.

This longest state-run literary contest in the country saw the best and brightest among the following poets in Filipino who became the Poets of the Year: David Michael San Juan (2010); Louie Jon Sanchez (2009); Ruel Molina Aguila (2008); Genero Gojo Cruz (2007); Louie Jon Sanchez (2006); Jerry Gracio (2005); Genaro Gojo Cruz (2004); Nestor Barco (2003); Carlos Guevarra Payongayong (2002); Maribel Bagabaldo (2001); Eugene Evasco (2000); Tomas Agulto (1999); Reynaldo Duque (1998); Tomas Agulto (1997); Ariel Dim. Borlongan (1996); Ariel Dim. Borlongan (1995); Niles Breis (1994); Cirilo Bautista (1993); Ruth Elynia Mabanglo (1992); Rowena Festin (1991); Ariel Valerio (1990);
Lilia Quindoza Santiago (1989); Tomas Agulto (1988); Fidel Rillo Jr. (1987); Mike Bigornia (1986); Victor Emmanuel Carmelo Nadera Jr. (1985); Virgilio Almario (1984); Flor Condino Gonzales (1983); Pedro Ricarte (1982); Edmundo Libid (1981); Lamberto Antonio (1980);
Jesus Manuel Santiago (1979); Jesus Manuel Santiago (1978); Galeny Topacio Manalaysay (1977); Teo Antonio (1976); Romulo Sandoval (1975); Isaias Villaflores (1974); Aurelio Angeles (1973); no Poet of the Year proclaimed (1972); Ramon Belen (1971); no contest held (1970); Rogelio Mangahas (1969); Victor Fernandez (1968); Celestino Vega (1967); Federico Licsi Espino (1966); Vict. V. dela Cruz (1965); Teo Baylen (1964); andBienvenido Ramos (1963).

We were tongue-tied when we were once asked what action was taken to rectify the situation on the year KWF let a person win in both the professional and amateur divisions.

More so, as if adding insult to injury, KWF still regards him as a Makata ng Taon.

Hopefully such “scandal” won't dampen the spirit of those who keep on dreaming of Talaang Ginto's trophy designed by the likes of National Artist Napoleon Abueva. If you are one of them, all you have to do is: submit a poem in Filipino, with meter and rhyme or in a free verse form about anything under the sun and in any length. Then send it to Watson Building at 1610 J.P. Laurel Street in San Miguel, Manila. Deadline is on 11 March.

Today, meanwhile, you can catch KWF and the National Commission for Culture and the ArtsTula at Awit ng Pag-ibig 2011, a tribute to Amado Hernandez, the first writer in Filipino to be named National Artist who passed away on 24 March 1970, at the University of Perpetual Help in Las Piňas at 2 p.m. In commemoration of the 25th anniversary EDSA People Power Revolution and Rizal's 150th birthday as well, the show features Hon. Heherson Alvarez, Sen.Edgardo Angara, Ms.Gemma Cruz Araneta, Rochelle Barrameda, Heber Bartolome and the Banyuhay Band, Liesl Catherine Batucan, Gianina Guiang, Frank Rivera, Dr. Antonio Laperal Tamayo, and Yul Servo, to name a few.

P5 million was the highest prize offered for the capture of then-rebel-now-turned-senator Gringo Honasan.

An arrow can be shot only by pulling it back.
So when life is dragging us back with difficulties; it is going to launch something big. 

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