Saturday, August 16, 2008

Five Reasons Why Filipinos speak English, rather than Tagalog

Filipinos speak English, even to each other. I went about browsing different Filipino-oriented blogs and forums yesterday to get a more thorough insight into how overseas Filipinos think and feel. I felt uneasy when I gathered that some overseas Filipinos took issue of the fact that some Filipinos do not speak the native tongue even among each other. The native "tongue" was specifically referred to in one entry as "Filipino," which in fact is Tagalog.

Hey, I'm Cebuano-speaking (a.k.a. "bisdak" or "bisayang dako"), so that already gives you an idea why I cannot relate with the sentiments. Cebuano and Tagalog may have common words, but hey, they're different. An untrained Cebuano will not understand, much less speak, Tagalog and vice-versa.

My wife is Tagalog and my children will grow up speaking Tagalog and English because we live in Metro Manila. I don't mind that at all. I'll be teaching them Cebuano in due time. This post is not about people speaking the languages, but about how people from different parts of the Philippines perceive the languages .

The non-speaking of the "native tongue" in the foreign land was misconstrued as something akin to lack of identity, inferiority complex, or worse, embracing a foreign culture. In short, those who did not speak the "native tongue" was perceived as "plastic" or hypocrite. That at least was my impression of what the blogs were saying. Clearly, that was not my thinking and belief.

It may hurt to say that such impression is born out of lack of understanding, a.k.a. ignorance, of the diversity among Filipinos but sorry I must say so. Being "plastic" is a guilt we can accuse Filipinos of (and the rest of humanity to put this into proper perspective), but I do not see it among the primary reasons why "Filipinos speak English."

In fairness though, Filipinos from all over the country have learned to adapt to each other and appreciate the differences as well as commonalities. Out of the many, many, many blogs I browsed yesterday and early today, I saw this issue in only around two or three. So, this is not a major issue, really. But it's worth getting into if only to dispel once and for all this "myth" that Filipinos are somehow ashamed of their "native tongue."

The issue touched on something beautiful about Filipinos, only misunderstood. There is more to the question than meets the eye, and proper understanding of the reasons I am about to cite deepens our understanding of the diversity among Filipinos, wrapped in a common culture and spirit. That, I say, is what's beautiful, almost in a romantic sense, about our country.

Reason #1. The USA established our educational system in 1901 and English became the medium of instruction. It's 2008 and this has not changed. I believe it never will.

That's right. A little of history here. We have been a colony of the United States of America for almost half a century, from 1898, the year they conned Aguinaldo, until 1946 the year the USA granted independence to the Philippines. (Of course there was a 5-year Japanese occupation from 1941-1945 during World War II, during which Filipinos fought valiantly as guerillas.) During the US occupation, they sent to the Philippines what we refer to now as the Thomasites (after the transport vessel USS Thomas), who "expanded and improved the public school system, and switched to English as the medium of instruction."

So, what that meant was, our grandfathers and great-grandfathers were educated by the American system, and they were very good English speakers, which most of us inherit if not consciously, then subconsciously. My mother (now 81 years old) used to tell me that at Grade VI, she was already so good in English that she taught younger grades the language. That's unimaginable these days, I know. But the use of English as medium of instruction, to me, is there to stay, regardless of what our nationalist friends say.

Why is that? You'll find out in Reason #5, but please don't skip. Reasons #2 to #4 are even more important in the present day context.

Reason #2. English is the language of governance. It has not changed too since 1901.

That's right. Go to Malacanang, the Senate, Congress, any government department or bureau, even the police and the military. Everybody there uses English as medium of communication. Look at the letter heads of their communications and you will see "Office of the President of the Philippines," "Senate of the Republic of the Philippines," "House of Representatives," etc. etc. Look at your SSS card or Driver's License and what's on top? Does it say "Republika ng Pilipinas"? No, sir. It says, "Republic of the Philippines."

Look at our constitution and laws. They're in English for goodness sake. You can look for the Tagalog versions, if you want. I wish you luck.

Look at our streets, street signs, public notices. They're all in English! The major streets are called Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, Roxas Boulevard, South Expressway, North Luzon Expressway, etc.

What this means is, anyone who deals with the government --- and that's everybody --- must somehow learn to at least read in English! Thanks to our educational system, that's possible.

Reason #3. English is the language of business. This is the ONE THING that I don't think will ever change.

Business in the Philippines is English. No English? No business. All you have to do is go around the streets and you'll see that even the smallest store has some English in it: "Marvin's Store," "Eloy's Barber Shop," etc. I didn't make up these names. These are stores in my neighborhood and "Marvin's Store" isn't my store, it a namesake's store.

Go to any bank and you see English splashed all over. The largest banks here are called "Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company," "Bank of the Philippine Islands," "Equitable-PCI Bank," and so on.

All communications in business are in, guess what? English! I still have to see a business letter between two companies written in Tagalog. I'm 39 years old. Maybe I haven't looked very meticulously the past 19 years I've been working.

What that means is each Filipino must learn English not just to move around but to also to eat three times a day!

Reason #4. English is the language of mass media.

The major broadsheets are in English. There are three major broadsheets in the Philippines that I can think of and they're Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Bulletin and Philippine Star (not necessarily in that order). Of course there are Tagalog tabloids, but none that I know that is of national circulation as big as any of these three.

Most of the magazines are in English. Just go to any magazine stand and do a count. How many are in English? How many are in Tagalog? It will be fun. Chances are, if you close your eyes and pick up any magazine, chances are it's in English.

Radio stations are bilingual. Well, you'll hear English in almost all FM stations that broadcast music. You'll hear Tagalog and other local dialects usually in AM stations. You don't want English, stick to AM stations, which many Filipinos do, by the way.

TV stations are bilingual. TV stations now broadcast news in Tagalog, I concede to that. We are a bilingual country, that's why. Thanks to mass media, non-Tagalogs now have a greater exposure to the "Filipino" language, which is in fact Tagalog. But English is not completely out. The newscaster may be speaking in Tagalog, but the one in the news can be speaking in English, especially if it's a government official or corporate executive; and you don't get any Tagalog translation for the English you get.

What this means is, one must learn English to better understand what's going on in the country!

Reason #5. English is the Great Unifier among Filipinos. Without it, I could not see how Filipinos would understand each other when Spain left.

Be ready for this: English is the second language of most non-Tagalog Filipinos. Would you believe that? They count a total of 172 "native languages and dialects spoken" in the Philippines, "all belonging to the Austronesian linguistic family. " The major branches are Cebuano, Tagalog, Ilocano and Hiligaynon. Cebuano is the largest homogenous group, which includes not just Cebu but also most of Central Visayas (Negros Occidental, Cebu, Siquijor, Bohol, Leyte provinces, parts of Masbate); as well as practically most of Mindanao with the exception of provinces with Muslim majority.

I was handed a set of data in November 2007 (the month the Excel file was created). While the population figures may no longer be valid, I do not see why the percentages would significantly change.

Here it is:

Other Visayan2,289,0003.1%

Do we now see why the USA imposed English in 1901? Clearly, there was no alternative. Had Spain taught us Spanish, then that would have been an alternative. Tagalog may be spoken in Manila in 1901, but 81% of Filipinos did not share that language. Only 19% of Filipinos speak Tagalog (or "Filipino") as the "native tongue." It was only much later when Manuel Quezon moved for the adoption of "Tagalog" as the national language, which proud Cebuanos resisted, even to the point of telling "imperial Manila" that they would reword Lupang Hinirang into Cebuano and sing the Cebuano version instead of the official version (I just heard this over the radio).

Now, do we still accuse Filipinos of not speaking the "native tongue"? In the light of the Reasons #1 to #5, clearly that's not fair.

Reasons why Cebuanos prefer English over Tagalog

There are only three vowels in Cebuano, and Tagalogs think that's very funny. It is a typical experience for a Cebuano to be an object of amusement by Tagalogs the moment they open their mouths and speak Tagalog. But the moment they speak English, which is the second language, they are able to express themselves better. For some Cebuanos, every experience like that is just a day in a life. Unfortunately for some Cebuanos, it drives some pain in their hearts such that they resist Tagalog all the more.I believe other linguistic groups in the Philippines can relate with this, or at least have their own versions of this.

English is an option for Cebuanos to express themselves. While I felt that Tagalogs were not comfortable with my Tagalog, I found that they were able to relate with me better when I spoke English. They would speak back to me in English or at least Taglish. Things went very well that way with me.

But when I decided to shift course and transfer campus from UP Diliman to UP Los Banos, things were different. The second campus was (and is) in the heart of "Southern Tagalog" where the die hard Tagalogs were (and are). When I spoke to them in English, they would talk back to me in Tagalog just the same. That really put a lot of pressure on me to speak Tagalog.

I had to practice Tagalog's two extra vowels. For instance, I had to practice pronouncing the word "bola" differently. Tagalog's pronounce it as "ball-a" while Cebuanos pronounce it as "bull-a." For Cebuanos, "e" and "i" are the same, while "o" and "u" are the same as well. Tagalogs say, "ba-be-bi-bo-bu" and Cebuanos would tend to pronounce it as "ba-bi-bi-bu-bu." No kidding there. It's just the way it is.

Here's more: there are similar words in Tagalog and Cebuano, but the meanings are completely, and even outrageously, different. The Tagalog word for cotton is "bulak," which is the Cebuano word for "flower." So Cebuanos must never buy "bulak" in the flower shop in Cubao. The Tagalog word for ants is "langgam," which is the Cebuano word for bird. When someone yells "langgam" in a crowd, you'd know who the Tagalogs and Cebuanos are. Those who look at the ground are Tagalogs. Those who look up are Cebuanos.

On weekends, the "probinsyanos" (from the province) were usually the ones left in the dormitory. Tagalogs were in their respective homes. But on one Sunday morning, a Tagalog was around. As me and my Cebuano friends were rushing to go to mass, one impatient guy yelled from the lobby, "agpas mo diha bay!" (Hurry up, friend!). Then almost in unison, one replied, "Kadyot na lang bay! Kadyot na lang!" (Just a few more moments, friend! Just a few more moments).

But the word "kadyot" did not go in well to that unfortunate Tagalog around; so he yelled at all of us, "magsisimba na lang kayo, ang babastos nyo pa rin!" (see you're about to go to Mass and you still have the gall for foul language!).

So, don't ever wonder again why Cebuanos would rather speak in English, rather than Tagalog. Trust me, they mean well.

What about Cebuanos to a Cebuano in a foreign land? Do they speak Cebuano to each other?

In my experience, it depends. If they just met each other, they would tend to be cordial and speak the language by which they started the conversation with. But as the conversation progresses, they would end up switching to Cebuano. That can happen very fast, or gradually. That's my experience here in Manila. It happened to me in Hong Kong. My wife befriended a Filipina with an Australian husband during a tour, and the Filipina happened to be Cebuano-speaking. So when it was my turn to speak to this Filipina, we spoke in Cebuano immediately.

My brother has a prank of speaking Cebuano wherever he goes, just for fun, whether in Manila, Vietnam or Australia. In Melbourne, he bought something from an Asian-looking guy and spoke to him in Cebuano. The guy looked intently at him for about a few moments, then replied, "taga dis-a man diay mo?" (oh, where are you from?) My brother said, "butangi!" (no English translation for that, but, "what the heck!" would be close.)

In fact, Cebuanos, in my experience, have the collective guilt of speaking Cebuano even in a crowd to the exclusion of others. Then we tend to giggle about the others who wonder what we're laughing about. That can be fun. Cebuanos refer to anyone who understand a bit of Cebuano as someone "dili mabaligya" (cannot be sold). That can be fun indeed, but that can also be rude. So, when a non-Cebuano is in a group, Cebuanos MUST speak the language of the land, as a matter of courtesy.

In closing...

Outside of linguistic differences, Filipinos share a whole lot of warmth, hospitality, sense of humor, sense of adventure, adaptability, and many other good things about our culture that clearly defines us distinctly as a people. Language has never been a barrier among us, and language has never been a barrier in our relationships with other nationalities. That's the way we are.

Fortunately for the world, that's the way we are.



  1. Very interesting blog! Tagalog ako, and this changed my view of the Filipinos in general. I've always thought of us as people who prostrate ourselves before the English language, now it's different. Thanks!

    The only thing I want, however, is to bring Baybayin our ancient alphabet back.

  2. Great post. The Tagalog-Cebuano differences were very interesting. I wonder though if the word "kadyot" also refers to the English word "quickie."

  3. Hi Lester! No. Not at all. The word "kadyot" in Cebuano means "just a moment" in English. In Tagalog it means "sandali lang" and that refers to what one will say when a friend says, "hurry up we're getting late."

    But yes, the word "kadyot" does not sound clean to Tagalogs, who thinks of the word as the English equivalent of "quickie."

  4. but if we are going to analyze and have a survey if all the filipinos whose not cebuano related, it has a different meaning. or should i say, they have given it another meaning. :)

  5. Where did you get your data? Sources?

  6. Ang pagkaka alam ko sa "kadyot" ay yung bastos

  7. Marvs! BUTANGI! Pastilan! I was in Chiran Town (the southern-most town) in Kagoshima Prefecture (the soutnern-most province) in Japan, and I bumped into two women arguing about the price of a commodity in a supermarket! And guess what, they are speaking Cebuano! BUTANGI!

  8. You got great great great write up here. Thanks for educating all of us.

    1. Hi Karl! Apologies for responding a year late :) Your tale is very amusing indeed. Gakalat mga Cebuano tibook kalibutan.

    2. Hello, Bisdak. I'm a grad student in Linguistics in Seattle. I'm writing a paper on Why Filipino Americans don't teach Filipino (which is now the official term for the national language of the Philippines) to their kids. Your article made me think of reasons (regionalism, the numerous dialects spoken in the Philippines, English as the language of instruction) why, which were outside of my frame of reference. So, thanks!

      My first language is Tagalog, and I can read and understand Ilocano. I finished college in the U.S., so I had to learn how to speak and write in English. I took French in high school, and would love to learn how to speak Spanish and greetings in my students' languages. After reading your article, I became more interested in Cebuano. It sounds like a cool language. And you're right, Tagalogs make fun of Cebuano accent, which isn't really funny to me.

      English is also the language of the rich and upper middle-class in the Philippines. It is the language of power and dominance, in social justice terms. And like you said, it was a language imposed on Filipinos in 1901 through the educational system, and after the Japanese occupation.

      Let me know if you have any more info and/or insight on this issue.

      Thanks again, Bisdak.

      E. de Leon

    3. Hi E. de Leon,

      English is definitely associated with the upper middle-class in the Philippines. They're the ones who use English even in private conversations.

      We can also say that it is the language of power and dominance, in the sense that it is the language of government, business, education and mass media. Meaning, even with zero knowledge of Tagalog (which is impossible), you may survive in the Philippines. But you can never survive with zero knowledge of English (which, again, is impossible, given that English is everywhere here).

      The "Filipino" language is a fairly recent innovation. I'd bet most Filipinos would describe the "Filipino" language simply as Tagalog. Frankly, I don't have much confidence about such "Filipino" language ever evolving. At the rate that the world is getting smaller, thanks to digital communications, I would even bet that such "Filipino" language would altogether be overtaken by events. Meaning, given how many Filipinos couldn't care less about the "Filipino" language today, its prospects in the future is even darker.

      So, no, I don't believe Filipinos living abroad would ever teach "Filipino" language because, for all intents and purposes, it does not exist. Secondly, whether we like it or not, Filipinos would naturally choose to teach their kids their vernacular, which can be Tagalog for some, Cebuano for others, and any of the 60 or 120 (depending on the source) languages in the country for the rest.

      Regionalism in the Philippines is a fact. We can say whatever we choose to say about it, but it does not remove the fact that it's there. The varying languages alone is already a testimony to that. The only thing we can control is our attitude about it. Some of us lambast our culture for our regionalistic tendencies. Others see the beauty of the Filipinos through our diversity.

      That being said, take the language differences aside, Filipinos are actually of one soul. Regardless of our vernacular, we speak the same inner language. We are all passionate lovers of our families. We love to sing our hearts out. We love lechon. We love Christmas. We are frequently the noisiest circle in a party, the noisiest house in the neighborhood, etc.

      We are a nation, in spirit and in deed. But our strength comes from our deep appreciation of our diversity and our passion for the same things.

  9. Nice one but I wish that Filipinos will stop being regionalistic and should unite as one. I don't like it if a Cebuano will be more proud of being Bisaya than a Filipino or a Tagalog that also do the same. Theres nothing wrong to be proud of your own province but more than anything we must be more proud that we are Filipino. And by the way, I don't like that Philippines as 3rd largest English speaking country. It makes me feel more ashamed to be a Filipino. I'm college graduate and work as marketing supervisor in a restaurant chain but I don't speak English well and I cannot even write good English but because of this ignorant label, everybody around the world expects me to English very well. (I know I have many wrong words here but please don't make a fun of me & I know my English is bad. I English just for this blog )

    1. Hi Anonymous! Apologies for responding more than a year late :)

      The second largest English-speaking country in the world is India. Trust me, they too have their challenges - If you doubt that, ask those who work at the call centers.

      So, just go ahead and speak English. You can can speak better English then a lot of Europeans. Again, trust me on that one.

  10. A Tagalog tends to be regionalistic when he imposes his own tongue on other regional groups. Come to think of it before Magellan came to this group of islands that he called "Filipinas". Each island has already its own language and culture.

    It is very unfortunate for one who does not knwo how to speak English when he is a college graduate.

    Abiag ti Filipinas!

    1. This sentiment started when Manuel Quezon cooked up the "Sariling Wika" slogan, which, really, is something that did not sit well with other regions. But that's really water under the bridge now. With Metro Manila being the center of Philippine affairs, one can't go without Tagalog. But more importantly, English is still the language being used in business, education, government and mass media, which Filipinos from all ethno-linguistic groups can relate with.

  11. Hi Anonymous, that's how life works out a lot of times. But so far we're doing great as a nation. Underneath the crust created by language, Filipinos share the same core values of family and familiarity with each other. Even the regionalistic trait is common and tolerated. That makes our culture absolutely colorful.

  12. There's a 2-year old question here about where I got my data. It's in Wikipedia. Numbers have changed since I wrote this piece and I may need to update this post. But here it is:

  13. I am from Mindanao and I speak Bisaya. Speaking Tagalog if you area native Bisaya speaker is really a struggle, my jaw locks. With English, I am sooo confident that my accent is almost flawless. when i speak English I don't know if Tagalog-speaking people think of me as "mayabang or boastful." Honestly I find it really very difficult to speak in Tagalog because of the heavy accent. so to to the Tagalogs out there I appeal, please don't raise your eyebrows when Bisaya-speaking people speak to you in English!!!!! For us Tagalog is a STRUGGLE. period.

  14. Hi, can you give me the link where you got the population break down? Thanks!

  15. Hi Anonymous, when I wrote this post more than 3 years ago, I did not bother to record the exact source of the data that I got in the Excel file.

    Wikipedia shows a roughly similar table. Check this out ...

    In Wikipedia's data set, Tagalogs come out as the most number of native speakers, which is, at the very least, questionable. A possible reason for the disparity is in how data was interpreted, which can be gleaned from the diagram:

    Look at Mindanao. Outside of the areas colored orange, most people there speak Cebuano or Hiligaynon or other local languages spoken. The so-called Bisaya or Binisaya is actually Cebuano, but were not counted as Cebuano, which is widely spoken in northern Mindanao and the Zamboanga peninsula.

  16. I found this page trying to find back up sa reasoning ko. Yesterday I commented on a facebook page wrote in English. Well actually it was Taglish but more in English. Bisdak here from Mindanao. But I was criticized and been told like "wala ba tayong sariling atin?" and "mahalin ang sariling wika". I was really offended as if I just committed a treasonous act against my so beloved Pinas. And yes the arrogance was really annoying! If they want me to speak my own language, how are they gonna understand me since they're Tagalog? Thank you Mr. Macatol for giving me more tools to establish my ground on my reasoning regarding that matter. Dont worry, I didnt copy or infringe your article LOL.

    1. Hi Anonymous! Thanks for the feedback. It's a sweet affirmation of the energy I put into this post :)

  17. i know this is late but what the heck..

    I am in cavite for the past 2 weeks and feeling the pain..and posted on facebook about the smirks i get when i speak tagalog. I am a damn good english speaker but do not want to sound arrogant so i am caught between the devil and deep blue sea so to speak.

    1. Hi Jesse! Nothing's too late in a discussion about this topic :)

      So, what exactly happened in Cavite?

  18. Leave the Tagalogs alone and we in the Visayas and Mindanao are happy with our Cebuano dialect. We prefer to learn English first because it is an international language and good for educating our children. With Tagalog you are stuck in the Philippines with the corruption and the bull shit of the Manila government and the politicos. I feel sorry for the majority of the poor Filipinos who deal with them everyday.

    1. HI Anonymous, while we are happy being Cebuanos, we can't blame the Tagalogs for our country's problems. There are politicians all over the country. The Marcoses and the Aquinos are Ilocanos. The Arroyos are Kapampangans (correct me if I'm wrong). The central and southern parts of the country have politicans too: Piimentels, Zubiris, etc.

      The lack of a sense of nationhood among our politicians is something we all need to overcome as a country. I firmly believe that had they truly loved the country as their own, they wouldn't dare cross the line.

      But, as Rizal has said, we can only pin our hopes on the young.

  19. Pero si todos los apellidos, nombres de las calles, pueblos, provincias, iglesias, fiestas, alimentos son de origen español así que la influencia castellana es ubicua y perdura. Es más, el chabacano es lengua criolla del español. La mayoría del pueblo filipino NO habla bien el inglés por mucho que el gobierno filipino quiera. Gracias a Dios, sigue habiendo hispanohablantes esparcidos por todo el archipiélago.

    Felipe Robles Perales

    1. Hi Felipe, you're absolutely right. Prior to Spain, there was no "Philippines" as a nation. We were just a bunch of islands separated by blue seas occupied by people of different languages or dialects.

      Unfortunately for Spain, it did not teach Spanish as extensively as the US taught English to the inhabitants of "Las Islas Filipinas". Had they done so, 330 years of occupation would have embedded Spanish very deeply into the Filipino tongue.

      Fact is, outside of the Spanish-sounding names and the way we refer to a lot of everyday things (kutsara, plato, platito, cepillo, etc.), there isn't much we can remember Spanish for these days. Then in 1985, Spanish ceased being a required subject in all schools in the Philippines.

      But English has remained as a required subject in schools at all levels until today.

  20. this is what i'm talking about. i don't understand why they make fun of me when in fact i can speak three dialect fluently and without an accent at all (except english of course). i speak hiligaynon (fluently), cebuanno (fluently) and tagalog (fluently. Mr. Marvin, you made my day five years later. Thank you.

    1. Hi Jinky70! Spot on :) Just carry on. We make the country beautiful.

  21. Wow, this blog is really cliche. And the comments and replies so far are no better. Same topic from 80 years ago, same lame arguments. Cebuano is not the national Filipino language, it's not even an official Philippine language (though it's recognized as an official regional language.) There really are more Tagalog speakers in the Philippines than Cebuano-speakers if you count all the native speakers in the Tagalog areas of Luzon, Palawan and Mindanao. And then add the population from all over the Philippines that speak Tagalog as a second language but don't have the inferiority complex that Cebuanos have about the national language. Cebuano is really only spoken in Cebu - claiming other Bisaya dialects is not fair since many of the Bisaya dialects are really more like languages in themselves and are not even 50% intelligible to each other. You've missed the point of having Filipino (based on Tagaglog) be the national official language of the Philippines. It is intended to give Filipinos a unifying language that they can call their own. English is not of the Philippines and Filipinos in the Philippines speak English pretty funny in general, regardless of how educated or fluent they claim to be in English. Now don't get me wrong, I was born and grew up in the Philippines until I was 10 years old when my family moved to California (45 years old now). I still speak Tagalog fluently, probably better than Filipinos in the Philippines these days because when I was a kid in Manila, no one spoke Taglish. Watching TFC these days is painful because of the way Taglish speakers massacre the beautiful Filipino (Tagalog) language. I have traveled all over the Philippines, even in Marawi and very rural areas, and I spoke Tagalog with the locals. I had no problem speaking with most people in Tagalog and some were even thrilled to practice their Tagalog with someone who they thought was from Manila. You Mr. Marvin just serve to justify further regionalization of the Philippines rather than unifying it. You prefer English when English is a foreigner's and colonizer's language. Your five reasons for speaking English instead of Tagalog are childish and illogical.

    I worked in southern Thailand for 2 years and I learned to speak Central Thai even though those around me spoke Southern Thai. The southern Thais were very proud of the richness of Central Thai and claimed it as their own even though they had their own Southern Thai language. As the Central Thai language grew and evolved, it helped the other Thai languages survive, grow and evolve. And I could speak to anyone all over Thailand using Central Thai. I believe the situation is the same in Malaysia, Indonesia and China - each of these countries have a national lingua franca that unites people and their national experience. Anyway, I love it when I hear President Aquino speak in Filipino (Tagalog) - it's beautiful and very Filipino! Mabuhay ang lahat na Pilipino!

    (by the way, although I posted this as Anonymous, anyone who cares to contact me can at

    1. Thanks boomer619 for your candid reply. Diversity is something that we Filipinos can be proud of. What I'm trying to say in this blog post is the perspective of someone from the southern side of the country. Trust me, I speak from experience having grown up there and moved to Manila. We can appreciate the diversity only when we recognize and accept the differences among Filipinos.

      Filipinos ARE regionalistic. That's a fact that we need to accept. Only then can we overcome it. We all know that there was no "Philippines" before Spaniards came. We were just a bunch of islands occupied by peoples of different languages. Thanks to Spain, we began referring to everyday things the same way: kutsara, tsinilas, sipilyo, etc.

      Now, using your argument, we can safely presume that almost 100% of Filipinos speak Tagalog either as first, second or even third language. Hope that makes you happy. The figures I have posted are about those who speak those languages as their vernacular, meaning first language. The statistics are all over the internet.

    2. I would say your mom is a genius being fluent in English with only a few years of education. I was already in high school reading Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, yet I would not volunteer myself as a Tagalog-English interpreter. That was in the mid 70s.

      Filipinos ARE regionalistic.? No, it is not only the Filipinos who possess that bad habit. I would say it is universal. I have heard of jokes about the Polish people, the Mexican people, the Islamic people, people from Illinois calling the people from Wisconsin cheeseheads, the bad jokes about African Americans, the jokes about Irish people and their whiskey. Sometimes these very same nationalities will joke about their weird differences and have fun with it.

    3. Thanks Anonymous. Well, if you're referring to my mother, let me mention that she was born in 1927 and the Americans were still the colonial masters during the time she grew up. I mean, she was 13 when the Japanese came and she was 19 when the US granted independence to the Philippines. So, as you may see, English was really the primary mode of communication during her time, with no competition.

  22. earlier this morning i was going through some posts about mindanao and some comments and something about a friend posting about an article over cannibalism in certain areas of mindanao garnered a less thought of comment such as "lunacy in mindanao"... and frankly, i take offense to the regional discrimination of not delivering the thoughts in a politically correct manner; although i do understand that the thought of the expression was meant differently, it just hit a nerve somehow... a whole lot of manilenyo's do this crap and feel that they are the dominant race when in fact, there really is no such thing as "manilenyo blood" since most of the people from manila are migrants from their own provinces... and i do feel offended as I do not know where to put my place in such scenario... it has been going on since then and i have heard these crap even in my younger years --- to which bisaya is a language that shouldn't be used inside the house but rather in the streets. i'm by blood from the northern part of the country but born down south and here in Davao, dialects seem to have a status of its own...english or tagalos is spoken in social gatherings and bisaya is for the street people and blue collar workers... it's noticeable... i speak bisaya and i believe other regional tribes feel that certain discrimination and how offensive it is when the northern folks tend to put down the people from the food basket regions of the country or even other regional tribes... ilonggo are also often a target of jokes... kaya sa cebu binababoy ang mga tagalog eh dahil sa kayabangan... subukan mo managalog sa cebu walang papansin sayo.

    1. Hi DvoVirtualTech, I understand your sentiment and I agree with you about speaking Tagalog in Cebu. Everytime I know someone from Manila who go to Cebu, I always tell them to expect such cold response. But by learning just a few Cebuano words, even at a "trying hard" level, Cebuanos are appreciative of the effort and warm up immediately.

  23. You´ll find that Queen Isabel ordered education in the archipelago and that the first university in Asia was built by the Spanish. Manuel Quezón was a Hispanophone as is Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The problem is that Filipino governments have been obsequious in their approach to the U.S., which provides or certainly has provided multimillions to maintain U.S. influence in the archipelago. You may learn U.S. English as a foreign language, as it will never be a native tongue but your culture is definitely Hispano-Asian. ¡Viva Filipinas!

    1. Everyone here know that. The oldest universities in Asia are in the Philippines and those were built by the Spaniards but and this is a big BUT the education system that Spain built is elitist. The majority of Filipinos werent able to afford it. That is the very reason why despite more than 300 years of colonial rule, Filipinos don't speak Spanish. (Only a tiny bit, a very very small percentage, you survive here without Spanish at all).

      Nevermind the atrocities Spaniards inflicted on us, e.g. forced labor, elitist social system, Filipinos treated as second class citizens almost subhuman etc.