04 July 2013

Pilipinas or Filipinas? How the Change of One Letter Sparked Discussion


Earlier this afternoon, the regional edition of TV Patrol ran a feature showing people that the news crew surveyed for their opinions regarding the proposal to change the name of the country from Pilipinas to Filipinas. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of those interviewed were vehemently against the proposal.

For the benefit of readers who have yet to hear of the matter, the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino or the Philippine Language Commission recently passed a resolution whereby it decided to stop using the name Pilipinas in reference to the country and instead use the name Filipinas.

The commission also expressed the hope that the name Filipinas will be how the country will become known internationally.

Point of order, before anything else.


Even among educated people, mind; especially if speaking spontaneously instead of self-consciously. I don’t think it’s just a Batangue┼ło thing, either. I observe the same thing among people from other regions.
Since the Philippines has two official languages – English and Filipino – the name of the country also has two versions. The ‘Philippines’ is the English version of the original Spanish ‘Filipinas,’ a name given in honour of the Medieval Spanish King Philip II or Felipe in Spanish.

Pilipinas is the Filipino adaptation of the name from the original Spanish; and the use of the ‘P’ instead of the ‘F’ was due to the absence of the letter ‘F’ from the original Abakada. The Abakada was the Filipino alphabet developed by the scholar Lope K. Santos and based on the phonetics of the Tagalog language, upon which the official language Filipino would subsequently be based.

However, in 1987, a new Filipino alphabet consisting of 28 letters – compared to 20 of the original Abakada – was institutionalised.

Among the new letters added to the alphabet was the letter ‘F.’ Thus, it became just as technically correct to say Filipino as Pilipino in reference to the the citizens of the country as well as the country’s official language.

The country continued to be referred to as the Philippines or Pilipinas, with only those in the language commission considering the use of the name Filipinas with the letter ‘F.’

This proposal by the commission to junk Pilipinas in favour of Filipinas is now under consideration by the office of the President. The commission claims that Filipinas is more historically correct since this was the original name given by the Spaniards during the colonial era.

It is this very line of thinking which is being challenged by a group of linguistic scholars who are protesting the proposal by the language commission.

According to one linguistic expert interviewed on the national edition of TV Patrol, the reason ‘Pilipinas’ was used was partly to move on from the colonial era; and to revert to the use of Filipinas will be akin to restoring Spanish suzerainty over the country.

The restoration of Spanish domination is probably over the top in terms of logic; but he does make a good point with the colonial reference.

As a sovereign country, after all, we are within our rights to call our country what we wish to; and not that we even have to give consideration to the sentiments of the colonial master.

If memory serves me right, we did not exactly part with Spain in convivial terms. In fact, we revolted against them!

And not that the change from ‘P’ from the original ‘F’ even made one hell of a difference.

In more practical terms, an alphabet is the representation of sounds native to a language. I personally think that the Abakada is a more accurate representation of the phonetics of Filipino, the language.

Government is, of course, always careful to dissociate Filipino from Tagalog. This is so that other ethnicities in these islands of ours will not feel alienated. But find me an idiot who does not think that Filipino and Tagalog are, for all intents and purposes, the same; at least in practical usage.

Truth be told, outside of linguistic cliques, the letter ‘F’ is really alien to either Tagalog or Filipino – or should I now say Pilipino, which is my own personal preference, anyway.

Here in Batangas, which some think of as Tagalog Heartland, there is still the tendency by common folk to substitute ‘P’ for the ‘F’ of English or Spanish words. And ‘B’ for ‘V.’

Even among educated people, mind; especially if speaking spontaneously instead of self-consciously. I don’t think it’s just a Batangue┼ło thing, either. I observe the same thing among people from other regions.

Except, perhaps, those who speak Chabacano, which is a hodgepodge collection of Visayan, Tagalog and Spanish words repackaged into one dialect. Or language, as a former boss of mine used to insist.

Pilipinas, then, or Filipinas?

For practical purposes, because I think that is what the average Juan de la Cruz is bound to say it, I say Pilipinas. With a ‘P.’ Whatever those in the language commission think.

But what do YOU think?

Acknowledgment: Philippine flag from http://www.mapsofworld.com

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