Let's support Philippine languages developing their own writing systems!

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The Philippines is a country of 175 languages. Four have already died, and many more are endangered. Only two languages are official: Tagalog (Filipino), and English. Of the other languages, only two have been declared official locally. One of them, the Ilokano language, was declared as official in La Union province. 

Ever since the Philippines passed Republic Act No. 10533 to ensure, among other things, that children are taught in their native language, an initiative known as Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE), the Department of Education (DepEd) has been consulting with educators and linguists on how to best formulate a Mother Tongue-Based curriculum. They have sought the assistance of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), the agency tasked to enrich Filipino as a national language as well as to protect all Philippine languages, for this purpose.

However, the KWF Chairman, Virgilio Almario, is intent on promoting a unified, standardized orthography (writing system) for all Philippine languages based on Tagalog (Filipino), even if they already have an existing system in the literary works and publications of those languages. For the Ilokano language, which has an extensive literary and publishing tradition, and has developed its own orthography, the KWF assigned Commissioner Purificacion Delima to develop a different orthography to the exclusion of other orthographies used by Ilokano poets, writers, and publishers, as well as by academic programs in the Philippines and the international community, organizations committed to developing Ilokano language and culture, and other groups.

This is an outrage. By creating a new orthography to supplant the one already in use, without honest consultations with Ilokano publishers, poets, educators, and linguists, Almario and Delima are sending the message that the established Ilokano literature and press do not matter in formulating the orthography. They are sending a message to other Philippine communities that the KWF does not care about existing literature or efforts by them to develop their languages by themselves. They are communicating that they are ready to do the dirty work of imposing their own writing systems from above, and even to use divisive politics in each ethnic region to achieve it.

These messages infringe upon the right of Philippine peoples to protect and develop their own intangible heritage and culture, in the name of "standardization". And they contribute to a declining quality of education and a declining interest in being educated. Who would consider being educated in one's native language if is being mocked as "small-town" and "backward" because it is not "officially sanctioned"? 

Let us stand against this. Let us resist them by showing our support for the Ilokano publishers, poets, educators, linguists, and the man-on-the-street who hopes for a bright future and quality education for his kids. Sign up here and declare with us the following:

1) Respect for the writing systems of Philippine languages which have already been developed by the native speakers themselves;
2) Support for the educators, linguists, publishers, and poets of Philippine languages who are currently making efforts to develop their writing systems, and protection from intervention by outside agencies with an agenda other than to support them;
3) Support for the rights of native speakers of Philippine languages to take and maintain the lead in developing their own writing systems where none yet exist, and;
4) A demand for the Department of Education and the KWF to respect and not intervene in the development of orthographies of the different Philippine language groups, and not advance an agenda of "standardization" while neglecting the cultural heritage of each ethnic group.

Join us in ensuring the health of cultural democracy in the Philippines and making sure that our future generations will receive proper education through a fair and just use of their native languages in education!        



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