Language Change: Pinpointing the Culprit

June 6, 2019

by Guerrero de la Paz

The “National Language,” and the Calamity That Is Language Change among Kapampángans

The enforcement of a “national language” on the country over eight decades ago has devastated languages all over the archipelago. From the deprivation of an audience for regional literature and a calamitous language shift towards Tagalog, to declining proficiency in English, to the virtual extinction of Castilian Spanish, which was an official language until 1987,  the enthronement of Filipino-Pilipino-Tagalog since the 1930s has brought about a linguistic holocaust in which only a single language, or subdialect (since Filipino is the Manila subdialect of Tagalog), is assured of survival.

Language change, at the expense of less favored or unfavored languages, has been happening for some time, but the progressive (regressive, actually) intensification of Manila’s linguistic hegemony is pushing Kapampángan and other non-Tagalog languages ever-closer to the grave.

Nevertheless, language change is taking place towards English, and towards Filipino-Tagalog. Manilacentric “nationalists” brainwashed by the Philippine establishment, acting true to form as creatures of Manila, are unanimous in condemning those bring up their children speaking English, and see no danger in bringing them up speaking Tagalog. This partiality has trained fire on English-speakers and their parents, even as Tagalog-speaking children and their “nationalistic,” Manila-indoctrinated parents, reap praises and are put on a pedestal, that the problem has not merited the attention and concern it has received.

Numerical evidence of the extent of language change, previously anecdotal, is now turning up. A thesis, “A Description of the Status and Origin of the Kapampangan Language Towards the Students of Don Bosco Academy Mabalacat,” which was completed in 2018, provides a graphic demonstration of this. According to the study, Tagalog was the first language of 63.16 percent of the respondents, Kapampángan of 22.81 percent, and English of 14.06 percent. In other words, a clear majority of the students had Tagalog as their first language, despite the fact that both parents of 69 percent of the respondents were Kapampángan, and 85.04 percent of the respondents had lived in Pampanga since birth.

Another survey, at O.B. Montessori Angeles, also indicated that a majority of the students had not been brought up Kapampángan. Only 24.6 percent of those surveyed could understand and speak the language, while 40 percent could understand, but not speak it, and 25.4 percent could neither understand nor speak it. The great majority of those unable to speak  Kapampángan were brought up Tagalog, and only a small proportion grew up speaking English.

This is borne out by data from other parts of Angeles and Pampanga. Don Bosco and O.B. Montessori are both private schools, indicating that their students belong to the upper or middle class. While no numerical figures are available at the moment, anecdotal evidence from Angeles City and other urban areas in Pampanga point to language change, involving large numbers, often a majority, of schoolchildren in public schools, toward Tagalog, and away from Kapampángan, though in this case, English is excluded from the equation. Because of economic factors, language shift in this case is exclusively towards Tagalog.

Language Change in the Rest of the Philippines

The same situation is taking place, not just in Luzon but throughout the Philippines, from Northern Luzon to Mindanao. From Santiago, Isabela, where young people even in the most remote barangays have shifted to Tagalog,

[“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.”


to Cotabato City, where there is a Facebook group proudly announcing that it is the only Tagalog City in Mindanao

[Tagalog Speaking City in Mindanao – Cotabato City


languages other than Filipino-Tagalog are facing a crisis that threatens their very existence.

Tagalization, language shift towards Tagalog-Filipino, has also been happening in other parts of Northern Luzon, such as in San Fernando, La Union, where over half of children are now reportedly being brought up Tagalog:

“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”:


In Cagayan, it is threatening the existence of Ibanag:

[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”!]

In the Pangasinan-speaking part of Pangasinan, a survey early in the millennium revealed a catastrophic shift (around 90 percent) towards Tagalog among children:

[“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 therespondents, 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.”


The calamity of Tagalization has been observed for decades in Puerto Princesa and other parts of Palawan:

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



In Bicol, Tagalization has been taking place for several decades, especially in Camarines Norte, which used to have a Bikol majority:

Language change 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.”

No wonder, a group of linguists has declared the Northern Philippines one of the 20 global language hot spots, where the existence of so many languages is threatened:

[Global Language Hotspots

In the Philippines, indigenous languages are threatened by the more prestigious Tagalog and Filipino languages.]

A Call to Action

It is time to wake and realize which language (or subdialect) is threatening our language, and destroying our identity and our heritage. This position is *not anti-Tagalog.* We are simply reclaiming, revitalizing, our language, culture and identity. Tagalogs themselves are victims of Manila’s neocolonialism.

In portions of the Southern Tagalog, for instance, such as much of Cavite and Rizal and Western Laguna, Filipino, or the Manila subdialect of Tagalog, is replacing their local variety of Tagalog, threatening its existence.

Unless we act now, using the law and all means at our disposal, we will be unable to save our language, our culture, our soul, our heritage. We will be unable to save ourselves, for Kapampángans will cease to exist.

About the author

The author has been a Kapampángan language advocate since childhood. This arose from his experiences with some Tagalogs and Tagalists, who have taken to heart and the privileges conferred on them by the law, media and society, and come to believe that their privileged position entitles them to a special place in Philippine society, above non-Tagalogs. Since then, he has worked to correct this anomalous situation, and has joined or become involved with organizations and groups engaged in the same advocacy. 

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