Kapampángan’s Continuing Struggle

April 24, 2019

This August will witness once again the celebration of ‘Buwan ng Wika,’ the legally dubious ‘national language’ first imposed, against the wishes of the majority of delegates to the 1934 Constitutional Convention, who approved an amalgam of Philippine languages, as opposed to choices of a ‘national language’ based on Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano or other languages.

Despite the return of the language to the curriculum in 2013 (it was removed following the declaration of martial law, which brought the imposition of the bilingual system, which left Pilipino-Tagalog (which would become Filipino after the approval of the 1987 Constitution). This came when Republic Act 10533 became law, and MTB-MLE (mother-tongue based multilingual education) became recognized, and the was reinforced by the recognition of Kapampángan as an official language in Angeles City in 2017 when the Local Language Ordinance was passed. Yet, Kapampángan continues to be relegated to the background in government, the media, social media, many schools, big business establishments, and the most influential sectors of society, whether in the capital or the Kapampángan Region.

Schools: On the Frontline

Schools are the first line of defense. Surveys, and anecdotal evidence, point to them as the primary reason children are brought up speaking Filipino-Tagalog rather than Kapampángan. Aside from reports that some public schools in the Angeles-Mabalacat area teach Tagalog as the mother tongue, private schools throughout the Kapampángan Region are reported to be practically universal in ignoring Kapampángan, instead choosing to continue with only English and Filipino-Tagalog. This is clearly in violation of RA 10533, which states in Section 4 that ’For kindergarten and the first three (3) years of elementary education, instruction, teaching materials and assessment shall be in the regional or native language of the learners.’ The language meant is clearly not Filipino-Tagalog or English, which are mentioned in the succeeding passages: ‘The Department of Education (DepED) shall formulate a mother language transition program from Grade 4 to Grade 6 so that Filipino and English shall be gradually introduced as languages of instruction until such time when these two (2) languages can become the primary languages of instruction at the secondary level.’

Clearly, private schools in the Kapampángan Region are violating the law by refusing to teach Kapampángan, the regional language. Yet, instead of making several schools in Angeles City law-abiding, the Local Language Ordinance has actually made them defiant, issuing rulings that Filipino-Tagalog, or English, is the students’ mother tongue. This active pronouncement not only spits in the face of the Ordinance, but opens the way to flagrant violation of the law, since the Ordinance explicitly outlaws linguistic discrimination, in schools and in other institutions. And, as previously mentioned, most private schools in other Kapampángan areas (with very few notable exceptions), have continued with their previous deplorable practices.

New legislation has, of course, transformed the situation reversing the previous prohibition against non-Tagalog languages, and allowed their teaching. Things were much worse under the martial law government, and, ironically, in the ‘democratic’ one which replaced it, which continued its slavish devotion to the ‘Isang Bansa, Isang Diwa, Isang Wika’ (one language, one spirit, one language) policy. Nevertheless, the situation is still far from ideal, for Kapampángan and for many other languages.

Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing: What Kapampángan is Up Against

It would have been possible to sue the previous government for violation of the 1948 International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Genocide of course includes “the elimination of people by death,” the strict meaning. However, Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which defines the crime of genocide, also includes two acts:

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

which clearly do not fall under that “strict meaning.”

The ridicule and attacks on the self-esteem of students speaking Kapampángan, and corporal punishment, may in some cases be violations of (b), while creating a situation which causes parents to bring up their children speaking Filipino-Tagalog would run afoul of (e), since it forces the transfer of children to the Tagalog group.

A noted sociolinguist has expressed the opinion that such conditions, in which language change takes place under pressure (usually from the government) would constitute genocide:

“Most of them [endangered languages] disappear as a result of linguistic genocide, which happens especially in schools, where children whose parents speak or have spoken an E.L. [endangered language] are forcibly transferred from their own group to another more powerful dominant group linguistically and culturally because there is no teaching through the medium of their own languages, and where the punishment for speaking and/or shame for their and their ancestors language and culture, and the fact that they mostly do not learn much in school because of the foreign language, certainly causes serious mental harm to them. Both of these are defined as genocide, in the United Nations’ Genocide Convention which most states have ratified.”


Ironically, despite Pampanga’s being in the center of Central Luzon, only a minority of its population could speak Tagalog when Quezon’s Commonwealth government made it the (basis of the) ‘national language.’

Tagalog was NOT generally spoken in Pampanga before Quezon


‘As late as 1960, only 56.9 per cent of the people of Pampanga could speak Tagalog (a very slight majority), so it would be stretching the imagination to say that “most” spoke it. And yet, this was over 20 years since the government ratified a national language in the 1935 Constitution and enforced it (I believe in the late 1930s, after which it was made compulsory along with Nipponggo during the Japanese Occupation from 1942)! And it was also over 20 years since Manila Tagalog media (in the form of movies, radio and comics) began to saturate Pampanga from the 1930s, followed by television in the 1950s. What’s even more telling is that in four Pampanga towns (Arayat, Magalang, Mexico and Porac), less than 50 per cent spoke Tagalog at this late date! In the other Pampanga towns, the proportion of those able to speak Tagalog was below 60 per cent in twelve (Lubao, Mabalacat, Macabebe, Minalin, San Fernando, San Luis, Sta. Ana, Sta. Rita, Sto. Tomas and Sexmoan (now Sasmuan), which is a very slight majority. The proportion of Tagalog speakers exceeded 60 per cent in only five. The percentage exceeded 70 per cent only in Candaba (77.2 per cent), and only because a portion of the town, the part near Bulacan, was already Tagalog in the first place.

‘The figures are equally low in the Kapampángan towns of Tarlac, as the tables show. The percentage of Tagalog speakers in 1960 was 42.9 per cent in Capas and 49.7 per cent in Concepcion. On the other it hand, it was only slightly higher in Bamban (52.8 per cent) and even in the capital, Tarlac (59.7 per cent).’

Unfortunately, decades of the unabated, government-sponsored rampage of the ‘national language’ has pushed Kapampangan, and other non-Tagalog languages of the archipelago from Northern Luzon to Mindanao, to the brink of extinction.

A Language Holocaust in the Philippines

Taiwan and the Philippines hold a huge number of diverse languages. In Taiwan, many of these languages have already been lost, and many of the other aboriginal languages are extremely endangered due to pressure to speak larger languages. In the Philippines, indigenous languages are threatened by the more prestigious Tagalog and Filipino languages.

Taiwan, Northern Philippines



“My own native tongue, Ilocano, is rapidly dying. Children these days speak mainly in Filipino (some are English-speaking), in schools”


“In La Union, Firth McEachern and La Union noted in San Fernando City, more or less half of Ilocano mothers of childbearing age speak Tagalog in whole or part”


Fwd: Alarming Development in Isabela


“I had a chance to meet former Senator Sonny Alvarez at an International Forum on Federalism yesterday…as he is from Isabela, we talked about Ibanag, Gaddang and Ilocano, and the plight of our local languages. He told me that in his home province of Isabela the kids are now Tagalog speaking. Even if you talk to them in Ilocano or Ibanag they will answer you in Tagalog. This is baaad news.”

“I also mentioned my friend in Santiago City, Isabela (at present about 70% Ilocano in the census), an Ilocana, who said that even in the most distant barrios of Santiago, the majority of children are now Tagalog.”




“As to Ilocano, the observation of Senator Heherson Alvarez is that in his home province of Isabela, when he talks to the youth in Ilocano, they reply to him in Tagalog. A language shift is happening there. Many of us have since observed this phenomenon in other Ilocano provinces.”

“Former ilocano areas in nueva ecija , e.g munoz and san jose, are now tagalog areas. Funny, the children speak tagalog and the parents speak ilocano.”


How the Ibanags were conquered


When it [Ibanag] shall have died, the post-mortem report should correctly indicate the cause of death: “Asphyxia by Tagalog”!

“My Ibanag friends…say that they have been going to the Philippines every five years for a visit since 1975 when they came here. Recently, they found out that in their hometown Tuguegarao, all the tricycle drivers and all the young people they meet in the public market speak Tagalog, to their surprise. They would try talking with them either in Ibanag or Ilocano and the response they get was always in Tagalog, It seemed according to them that they had totally forgotten Ibanag and could only express themselves in Tagalog.”





“However, among Kankanais/Kankaneys, less than half (47.14 percent) used their native dialect at home while more than 12 percent of them used Tagalog.”

Ilocano in Baguio


“The proportion of Ilokano-speakers in Baguio fell from 50% in 1995 to 44.5% in 2000. It is now no longer half-full, but rather more than half empty. This is a significant historic development. For the first time in many years, Ilokano is a minority language in Baguio, in which no single mother tongue now predominates…

“The following table summarizes the overall decline of Ilokano speakers in Baguio despite some fluctuation: 1970 (57.41%), 1980

(62.51%), 1995 (50%), 2000 (44.5%)”

Kapampángan and Pangasinan are now DYING LANGUAGES


Language Endangerment: The Case of the Pangasinan Bible


“On closer examination, things do not look so promising even for some of the ‘larger’ Philippine languages. In her 2008 research on Pangasinan, del Corro writes (2010: 68): Everywhere I went in Pangasinan, I always asked the parents or young adults the language they use to children. 90% of the time, they use Tagalog… In all the respondents, adults spoke to children 6-7 years old in Tagalog. The majority of the adults (age 40-50) spoke Pangasinan to their children but spoke Tagalog to their grandchildren.”


Pangilinan writes about the current state of Kapampángan (personal communication, 21 May, 2009):


“In the town of Magalang near the foot of Mt. Arayat where I grew up their parents (my cousins) would only speak to them in that language. This phenomenon is actually wide spread… The Kapampángans themselves are the ones killing their language.”

Language change to in Bikol


“Language change in Bicol, especially in Camarines Norte and parts of Camarines Sur, has been especially rapid in recent years. Camarines Norte had a Bikol majority until the 1960 census, when it was 50.9% Bikol. By 1995, this had dropped to 38 percent, while 60 percent was Tagalog. Daet, the capital, which is historically part of the Bikol area, had become 29.57 Tagalog by 1995. In Camarines Sur, Del Gallego has been the only Tagalog-majority town. By 1995, however, the proportion of Tagalogs in the neighboring town of Ragay had increased to about a third (33.11%) of the population.”

“Virtually all rural-dwelling Cuyonon now speak Tagalog to their children.”



Tagalization in Aklan – DILA


“As I mentioned, it has spread, for the first time, to the Visayas, where [name of reporter withheld] made a survey during a visit to Aklan. According to him, an informal survey/inquiries revealed that about 60% of children in Kalibo are now Tagalog. I think I mentioned to you a report on Cebu, citing Redemptorist priests, who said that Cebu is experiencing the first generation of first language Tagalog speakers (there are no details, and no specifics were given, so I do not know how reliable it is).  But the problem has become all-encompassing.”


“The last Aklanon I had a conversation with declared to me with some pride that his family made the decision to switch to Tagalog.”

Tagalization in Zamboanga City


Tagalog is destroying languages even in Mindanao, like Cotabato Chavacano. Cotabato City used to be Chavacano-speaking. Now it is Tagalog.

Tagalog Speaking City in Mindanao – Cotabato City


Clearly, Kapampángan is in the same situation as other Philippine languages. Because it is closest to Manila, however, it is, literally, in the most vulnerable position. The situation is analogous to that of the 1960s and 70s, when Southeast Asian nations were threatened with communism, and were being subjected to the so-called domino principle. In this case, however, the devastation wrought by Filipino-Tagalog is so all-encompassing that most other languages, even ‘major’ ones, are being torn to pieces by the ‘national language.’ The major, and infinitely rich part, of the Philippine heritage is on the verge of being laid to waste by Imperial, and Infernal Manila’s policy. Eternal vigilance, and cultivation of love of, and pride in, our rich heritage, is necessary if we are to survive as a people. The rest of the country is looking to the Kapampángan to set an example.

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