The Philippines is a multilingual country where everyone speaks a different language. Made up of over seven thousand islands, it’s no surprise that we have a plethora of languages that most of us refer to as dialect—187 in total. Almost every household can speak more than two, and in mine, we can speak four.
All of us in the family can speak Hiligaynon, our medium of speech, and Kinaray-a, my mother’s first language from her home province. Other relatives who live in different regions can speak both languages as well as the local dialect. And we speak Filipino or Tagalog and English, the primary languages in the country.
I grew up in a place where people speak in a constant affectionate sing-song tone no matter what they’re trying to say. With that inherently sweet disposition in our speech, one may wonder if we even know how to get angry at all. We’d be enraged while still sounding affectionate.
I’ve been to Manila (our country’s chief city and the center of our economic, political, social, and cultural activity) a few times and had to communicate in Tagalog in the subway and at shopping malls. I am met with a few stares—some in fascination—the moment I speak to inquire about the location of my destination or the cost of my purchase. People would then ask if I am Ilonggo.
There’s a certain amount of meekness in the way we say things, and it’s usually accompanied by a smile. I guess that distinctive and gentle melodic tone always gives me away. I can never speak Tagalog without sounding melodious.
While having a national language is important for uniting us as a nation, Filipinos must also continue to use and celebrate regional languages. Normalizing the use of our native languages even in “big cities” can make everyone feel included and accepted in their motherland. Being Filipino, in our pursuit of unity, I believe that we must not lose sight of an important feature of our country: its diversity.
Liezel is a Xillium writer. She has a degree in literature and has spent years mentoring foreign students with their English communication skills in a remote work setting. Her academic involvement includes the development and revision of instructional materials and content. Her distance learning career honed her skills in communication, management, research, and technology.