Today, my children had their culmination activity in school for the yearly celebration of "Buwan ng Wika". They were required to come in Filipino costume, bring Filipino food to share to their classmates, and participate in various Filipino games scheduled for the day. What I failed to ask them was if there was any activity for the day that pertains to the use of the Filipino language since it is after all a month supposed to be celebrating our national language which incidentally is also referred to as Filipino.
An Interesting Question
While they were dressing up, my children had a very interesting question for me to answer. The question was this: If these are the real Filipino clothes, the real Filipino food, and the real Filipino games, how come we only get to wear them, eat them, or do them once a year? Are we not Filipinos everyday? For the life of me, I cannot readily find a suitable answer to that logical question at that certain point in time.
A Look-Back to the Past
While I was trying to find an answer for their question, I did a quick look-back to my own school days, trying to remember how we celebrated "Buwan ng Wika" during our time. As far as I can remember, we were also made to come to school in Filipino costumes, danced Filipino dances, and sang Filipino songs. The biggest challenge however, was the ruling to speak in pure Filipino while in class for a whole month. The penalty was a 25-centavo fine for every foreign word uttered in class. If I remember it right, we only did this challenge once but a whole load of coins were collected which were used anyway to treat the students with candies after the grueling month was over. It was an experiment that provided interesting results.
The main obstacle turned out to be the students' lack of knowledge with the real Filipino language. What we considered then as Filipino was actually a watered-down version of it, known as Taglish coupled with what was then known as "colegiala" speak. It turned out that the words we were using were merely "Tagalized" versions of English and other foreign words. The Filipino subject proved very difficult to learn not because we were fluent English speakers but because of the highly technical form of the formal Filipino language.
Fast Forward to the Present
Our family is a regular one in the Filipino setting. We speak Filipino at home and reserve English speaking for school or work requirements and for other situations that require it. It makes sense therefore that my children will find the study of their Filipino subjects a breeze, but unfortunately this isn't so.
They actually find the subject hard, much harder than their English subjects in fact. I attribute this to the fact that everyday spoken Filipino is entirely different from formal Filipino mainly in construction and choice of words. The former is quite easy while the latter requires a more detailed study to achieve precision.
It would take regular practice and use to bridge the gap between everyday Filipino language used in informal settings with that of the Filipino language used in formal settings such as the school. Parents again share in the responsibility with the school towards this end. Knowing our own language is part of our development as Filipinos. The clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the games we play which are all products of foreign influence can all be attributed to practicality. This however, should not prevent us from looking more Filipino in externals if we wish to.
That said, the most important thing in teaching our children to be true Filipinos is to help them develop a mentality of love of country. This will include respect for our traditions, our way of life, and the symbolism which Filipinos hold dear in their hearts. And so I answered my children: Yes, we are Filipinos everyday, not only for a day but being Filipino extends beyond what is obvious and seen. You can adopt the Filipino clothes, food, and games as much as you want, if you want, but always be a Filipino in heart and in mind.