August marks the month of our national language. During this period, institutions exert conscious effort to speak and write in Filipino. Students customarily don national costumes, perform Philippine folk dances and compete in balagtasan.
President Sergio Osmeña declared an annual celebration of Linggo ng Wika from March 27 to April 2. President Ramon Magsaysay modified the dates to Aug. 13 to 19 to end on the birthdate of President Manuel Quezon, the father of National Language. Eventually, President Fidel Ramos modified the observance to a month-long celebration and changed it to Buwan ng Wika.
Buwan ng Wika aims to promote the national language, the means by which we communicate with each other. In fostering the use of an indigenous language, we further the understanding of our culture and identity.
The Filipino language contains vocabulary uniquely expressing who we are and how we behave. Wordle’s Filipino version, Saltong, exposes indigenous words commonly and seldom used in the vernacular. A fundamental Filipino word that commands attention is kapwa.
In language dictionaries, kapwa is translated to “both” or “others.” However, its true meaning transcends this. Prof. Virgilio Enriquez, ama ng Sikolohiyang Pilipino (father of Philippine Psychology), explained that kapwa is the unity of self and others. It is the recognition of a shared identity. He elaborated that the conviction and value associated with kapwa is pakikipagkapwa, where one treats the other person as an equal.
How is pakikipagkapwa manifested in current society? Kind-hearted persons and service-oriented organizations exhibit pakikipagkapwa in ordinary and extraordinary events.
For instance, Bahay Tuluyan (http://bahaytuluyan.org/) is a rights-based organization that reaches out to exploited children, street children, children in conflict with the law and youth mothers. Their goal is to reduce abuse and violence against children and empower the youth to be independent citizens of society. Bahay Tuluyan’s president explained that when children feel heard, loved and trusted, they feel safe and protected.
Jose (not his real name) exudes gratitude for the care he receives in the shelter. He said “Dito po naming nararamdaman ang pagmamahal ng isang tunay na ina kahit hind naming sila kadugo. Tapos, ..tanggap kami lahat dito. Wala silang ibang tinitangi sa aming iba kundi isang tunay na anak (Here, we feel the love of a true mother even if we are not related by blood. They accept all of us. They do not have any other treatment towards us, except that of a son).”
A young girl in another center shared: “Mababait po sila. Di po kami pinababayaan. Parang tunay na nanay namin. Hinahanap po kami. (They are good here. They do not neglect us. They are like our true mothers. They always look for us.)” The youth are also thankful for the training and skills they learn.
Reign is a graduate of Anihan Technical School in Laguna. She was a full scholar of the technical-vocational school that offers a 2-year senior high school program and 1-year program in Quick Service Restaurant Operations. She recalled how she and her classmates were locked down in their boarding house during the general community quarantine.
Because of the looming threat of contracting COVID-19, the school personnel who lived with them acted as their mother and went out for errands. The school management also continuously sent their allowance and food packs. When the government mitigated the restrictions, the management gave them the opportunity to work in a livelihood center. Through this, she could send financial assistance to her relatives in the province who were completely bereft of basic goods due to unemployment.
Respect and care towards Filipinos, regardless of relationship, captures the essence of kapwa. Through pakikipagkapwa, one demonstrates the treatment of another as a fellow human being.
We desire to witness this value in day-to-day interactions, consumer-business connections and citizen-state relationships. However, certain occurrences threaten us to doubt the practice of this virtue.
Netizens hurl lies on personalities they wish to (or are paid to) silence. People in business connive in fraudulent schemes to amass wealth. Officials embezzle funds earmarked for ailing citizens.
Where is shared identity in these? Is fellowship limited to people we know? Is unity constrained to powers that enrich us?
Prof. Enriquez reminded us that pakikipagkapwa is more important than pakikisama. The barkada (peer group) will not be pleased without pakikisama, but society suffers without pakikipagkapwa.
Buwan ng Wika is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the Filipino language that identifies us as a people. Many selfless people and organizations exemplify the language of kapwa and pakikipagkapwa. Let us uphold the culture of treating others as persons and as one of us.
Maria Adiel Aguiling is an Assistant Professorial Lecturer and candidate for a Doctorate in Business Administration at the RVR College of Business, De La Salle University, Manila. She is a board trustee of Foundation for Professional Training Inc. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.