KWF tightens bid to protect indigenous languages

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MANILA — Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) aims to better help avert the extinction of indigenous languages nationwide.

KWF will align its efforts to achieve such a goal with the endangered language preservation and rehabilitation agenda developed by the agency and other stakeholders.

“We’ll move based on that agenda,” KWF language researcher Earvin Pelagio said.

He said that governance, economics, education, skills development, health, the indigenous community itself and promotion of one’s own language are aspects covered in the agenda.

“Language endangerment is multi-sectoral so efforts to address this problem must not be focused on culture and research alone,” he said.

According to KWF, languages become extinct particularly if seldom or no longer spoken.

KWF said of the country’s 130 indigenous languages, 39 are already in various stages of endangerment that need preservation and revival.

At this week’s 2019 Buwan ng Wika launch in Manila, KWF Chairperson Virgilio Almario said indigenous languages are part of Philippine cultural heritage and articulate the country’s history and rich indigenous knowledge.

The country will permanently lose part of its heritage if such languages become extinct, he added.

“We don’t want this to happen,” he said.

‘Wikang Katutubo: Tungo sa Isang Bansang Filipino’ is the 2019 Buwan ng Wika theme, highlighting indigenous languages’ importance in helping mold the country’s past, present, and future.

To effectively save indigenous languages from extinction, Pelagio said there is need to promote socio-economic well-being of people who speak these.

He said the endangered language preservation and rehabilitation agenda reflects such need.

Government agencies must see the agenda to understand respective roles in helping protect indigenous languages, he added.

KWF said some indigenous peoples (IPs) are increasingly speaking Tagalog and other major Philippine languages instead of their own languages to avoid experiencing discrimination.

They also perceive major languages as among tickets to better socio-economic opportunities for them and their children, KWF continued.

Earlier, Pelagio said most endangered Philippine languages are in Northern Luzon.

Among Philippine languages at risk for extinction are Arta, Binatak and Iguwak in Luzon, Inata and Karolano in the Visayas as well as Manobo Kalamansig, Tigwahanon and Manobo Ilyanen in Mindanao.

KWF already identified the initial eight agencies that can help increase and sustain the use of endangered indigenous languages nationwide.

These agencies are the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, National Museum, National Anti-Poverty Commission, Commission on Higher Education as well as the education, interior, and social welfare departments.

Food is a basic need of indigenous language speakers so it is essential for the Department of Agriculture to be involved as well, Pelagio said.

“Ensuring their welfare is important in protecting indigenous languages,” he said.

Proclamation 1041 series of 1997 proclaimed August of every year as Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa.

Buwan ng Wika highlights the importance of Philippine languages in promoting communication, understanding, unity, and progress in the country. -PNA

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