In honor of the "Buwan ng Wika" ("Language Month"), here are 25 facts you may not know about the Filipino language.
1. "Filipino" is the standardized form of Tagalog, which is spoken by 28 million people as their first language, and 45 million as their second.
2. "Tagalog" is derived from the phrase "taga-ilog," which means "from the river." It's also the word used to refer to people who live in Metro Manila, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA and Central Luzon.
3. Before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, the country didn't have a common language. Instead, Filipinos used trade languages to communicate with each other, and with merchants from all over Southeast and East Asia.
4. Those who spoke Tagalog wrote it down in the form of baybayin, a primitive form of the alphabet.
5. In 1613, a Franciscan named Pedro de San Buenaventura wrote the first Tagalog dictionary. It was published by Tomas Pinpin, who thereafter became known as the "father of Filipino printing."
6. Around a century later, a Czech Jesuit missionary named Paul Klein created another Tagalog dictionary. Klein was a fluent speaker of the language, and used it in many of his works.
7. Klein's work was subsequently revised and re-published as the "Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala" in 1754. The book was re-edited so many times, with the latest version dating to 2013.
8. On December 13, 1937, then-Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon issued Executive Order 134, which declared that Tagalog be the basis of the "wikang pambansa" ("national language").
9. In 1959, the "wikang pambansa" was called "Pilipino" to distance it from the Tagalog ethnic group.
10. In 1973, the constitution stipulated that "Pilipino" become "Filipino." This was heavily criticized by non-Tagalog ethnic groups.
11. In 1987, it was declared that "Filipino" evolve based on other Philippine languages, not just Tagalog.
12. Tagalog is considered a member of a Malayo-Polynesian subfamily of languages. Over the centuries, it borrowed from Malay, Chinese, Spanish and even American-English. For example, "kuya" and "ate" refer to an older brother and sister, respectively, similar to how the Chinese nickname siblings according to their birth order.
13. According to the World Atlas, Tagalog is the fifth most spoken language in the United States, with 1,613,346 speakers to date.
14. According to Wikijunior, there are 22 million Tagalog speakers around the world.
15. Famous Tagalog speakers include Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines; Andres Bonifacio, the founder of the Katipunan movement, which sought to drive out foreigners from the country during the late 19th century; and Francisco Balagtas, a poet who penned classics like "Florante at Laura."
16. Other languages have benefited from Tagalog as well. For example, the English word "boondocks" was derived from "bundok," which originally meant "mountain."
17. Some Filipino words can't be easily translated into English. For example, "kilig" refers to that rush of excitement one feels around a lover (or potential lover).
18. Many Filipinos speak in a combination of Tagalog and English, which is known as "Taglish" or "Engalog." This is because some English words can't easily be translated to Filipino, and vice versa.
19. There's a variant of Taglish known as "conyo," so-named because only upper-class Filipinos speak it. To get a feel for this variant, see The 10 Conyomandments.
20. Aside from Filipino, English is also considered a national language in the Philippines. Unlike other English-speaking countries in the world, however, Filipinos speak the American version of English.
21. Tagalog uses gender-neutral pronouns. For example, "siya" — pronounced as "sha" — can refer to a man or a woman.
22. However, because of three centuries of Spanish rule, Tagalog adopted the practice of using the "-a" suffix to denote feminine words, and "-o" to denote masculine words. For example, Filipino women are often referred to as "Filipina."
23. Some Filipino words are also gender-specific. For example, "bayaw" refers to a brother-in-law, while "hipag" refers to a sister-in-law.
24. Usually, Filipinos end their sentences with the word "po" as a sign of respect when addressing elders. When used to address equals, however, "po" can come across as joking or sarcastic.
25. Nowadays, it's difficult to find someone who speaks purely in Filipino. Most of these people are either in the academia, writers/poets or die-hard nationalists.
Like most languages, Filipino is ever-evolving. As long as the people of the Philippines assimilate foreign cultures into their own, what makes Filipino "Filipino" — as opposed to just "Tagalog" — will change as well. Even though any English speaker can get by in the Philippines just fine, learning basic Filipino phrases will get you a long way in this country.