By Meeko Angela Camba
For Filipino writer and national hero Jose Rizal, a few words were all it took to face Spanish invaders who ruled the country for more than three centuries: “While a people preserves its language, it preserves its liberty.”
It was a time when being Filipino was a sin, and religion was the only attainable salvation, when friars were kings, and indios were slaves of their own land.
It was a time that could have gone on if not for Rizal’s revolutionary works—a feat which students of the College of Mass Communication (CMC) seek to replicate and surpass.
There was only one minor detail: like Rizal, majority of CMC’s students are taught to communicate in a foreign language—one which arguably only a few Filipinos can understand.
While the English language continues to dominate the pages of academic research, Filipino remains as the lingua franca of the multicultural country.
As such, the university has taken it upon itself to lead the transition of Filipino as a national language and medium of instruction through UP Palisi sa Wika passed in 1992, supported by
Article 14, Sec. 6 of the Constitution that mandates the government to “take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.”
According to the policy, the university, through its Filipino department, should pioneer the strengthening and promotion of the use of Filipino in research as well as making it the official language of communication.
More than two decades since, however, the use of Filipino in CMC courses remains as mere discretion of the student for his or her respective outputs.
“Depende doon sa estudyante kung anong gusto niyang gawin. In fact, meron na diyang mga thesis in Filipino,” CMC Dean Elena Pernia said.
“Kung sino yung faculty advisor na makakaya niya magawa yoon, nangyayari yoon. Nothing stops the student from [using Filipino],” she added.
However, out of 70 graduate and undergraduate theses published last year, only three are in Filipino, all from the Broadcast Communication (BC) and Film departments.
The courses currently offered by the college are largely set in English for the Journalism and Communication Research departments while BC and Film use Filipino at a “prod-to-prod” basis.
“In journalism, it’s actually encouraged [for students to write in Filipino] especially for those who want get into radio,” College Secretary Teresa Congjuico said.
“Pero karamihan talaga [ng classes] ay in English kasi mas open yung [job] opportunities for online and print when they graduate,” she added.
On the other hand, senior journalism student John Reczon Calay views the need for journalism courses taught in Filipino as a necessity to further develop the language as stated in the Constitution.
“Hindi lang sana sa pagsulat ng balita, pati na rin sa pagsulat ng iba’t ibang artikulo tulad ng lathalain, isports, agham, pagnenegosyo, atbp.,” Calay said.
At present, students turn to the College of Arts and Letters to learn print and broadcast journalism in Filipino, only as a free elective.
Although it is the obligation of the university’s Filipino department to do so, the need for training communication students in the national language persists.
“Mahalagang mahasa ang mga mag-aaral [ng komunikasyon at pamamahayag] gamit ang wikang Filipino, lalo pa’t ang karamihan ng pagbabalita [partikular] sa brodkas pangradyo o telebisyon ay nasa wikang Pinoy,” Pamamahayag sa Filipino professor Abner Mercado said.
Furthermore, he said it is proof of how a country values and loves its own language, citing the French, German and Japanese press as examples.
While the policy promotes the use of Filipino, it also emphasizes the importance of English as the global lingua franca, as well as other foreign and regional languages in order for a much wider community to make use of local research.
“All of us are Filipinos and we value Filipino as our national language. But just because [a piece of research or output] is done in English doesn’t mean it [cannot effect change],” Pernia said.
However, in a highly diverse society that has been shaped by indigenous traditions as well as Eastern and Western influences, using the national language as a means of communication provides not only a unifying factor, but also an equalizing one, according to the policy.
While communication students must learn to be proficient in English, Mercado said one must not overlook or underestimate the national language.
The college views the media first and foremost as a public service. Through almost five decades, it has taught students to tell stories for one purpose: to serve the Filipino people. With a more active integration of our language, perhaps someday in words that the masses can understand.#