What the F

By in

The key stakeholders in the name of a nation are the people. It’s not the commission in charge of language, much less the national artist in charge of that commission. Just because “Filipinas” is correct (at least from the point of view of indubitable scholars of the Filipino language like Rio Alma), doesn’t mean we should reject the word “Pilipinas” altogether.

To be fair, the vanguards of the Filipino language – the likes of Almario and the commission he leads – make a very good point. Our language is “modernized.” Nevermind that the consonant “f” is found through many languages in the land before colonization; but it is this “modernization” that makes us move beyond, say, “ispageti” and call it “spaghetti,” or our reporters’ penchant for the word “pamoso” when referring to someone famous. The more we reject unitary identity the more we struggle with national identity, and linguistic inconsistencies are a symptom of that.

What I’m struggling with, though, is whether or not this is a problem in the first place.

I’m not particularly sure with the history of it, but our name isn’t ours: we took it. Some conquistador named us after the Felipe, the Crown of Spain, our documents were written in Spanish, and even our heroes used “Las Islas Filipinas” because that’s how we were called with the form the Spanish people introduced here. Then came the Americans and called us the “Philippine Islands,” maybe because “Philip” sounds more English considering the English language and English documents needed here. I guess we were used to “P,” and not “F,” but over time we made it our own. “Pilipinas,” harking back to the American resistance, perhaps. “Pinas,” maybe during the Marcos resistance and Pinoys all over the world. We’ve taken the name of a Spanish king and made it our own.

We don’t exactly have the cohesive cultural reality we have in our imaginations or that of our neighbors, but it works. It’s unique to us. It’s special to us, heck, peculiar to us.

And there’s the question: so what, really? We’re a country named after a Spanish king: should we aim towards those roots again in the name of linguistic correctness? Institutions, organizations, and even businesses were made and named with the “Pilipinas” convention in mind: should we sweep all that under the rug because the National Artist in charge of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino said so? “We do it slowly and in phases,” sure, but is it the desire of the people or the edict from the ivory tower?

Besides, does it matter that we have different names? “Pilipinas” may be offensive to the senses of our trained scholars, but what about Japan and “Nippon?” What about Germany and “Deutschland?” I’m pretty sure life goes on despite these inconsistencies. Sometimes those inconsistencies define who we are as a people (more on that when I feel like it). As important as the correct spelling of a country’s name is, we – the people – own that name.

Language is a living thing, forever changing and adapting. All I’m saying is “Filipinas” may be right, but that does not mean we should reject “Pilipinas” altogether, in the name of linguistic consistency. It’s unique to us, it’s what we refer to our nationhood (no matter how fragmented it is), and it’s what we use to refer to what we own.

What’s keeping the KWF from accommodating this form as convention, as how the people spell it? We could be doing more important things with the power of the KWF than to change logos and letterheads. It’s just a bit of a shame that the KWF’s good work all over the years has been blurred, and the spotlight trained on a single letter.

Really, what the F.

4 comments on “What the F”

  1. Reply

    Funnily enough in Dutch we have a similar thing. Usually it deals with whether to use ks or x, among others.

    For a while, pre-hipster era, some nostalgic linguists and hip people would stick to the more archaic form and constantly use ks, as a sign of traditionalism, and respect for the origins and history of our language. Ironically enough this was called progressive spelling.

    Obviously, even in the First World countries, red tape rules and schools are expected to teach the more modern variant with x. But teachers can not deduct points if someone opts for the other progressive variant.

  2. Reply

    I would have appreciated it if presented as a respectful suggestion, not an official imposition.

  3. Pingback: patayin ang ‘pilipinas’ ?!? | StuartSantiago.com

    • J
    • July 1, 2013

    Nippon is actually a bit controversial in Japan, as it connotes militaristism/ nationalism. Nihon is the most widely-used and politically correct name.

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