by Edgar Belando, Kimberly Anne Mista and Derico Jabaybay

Languages are vital for the people and the world as an instrument to preserve identity development, education and integration.” -Saleem Samad.

On the 21st of February 2023, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, San Juan (PUPSJ), through the efforts and undertaking of the Bachelor of Secondary Education Major in English 2-2 class, expressed their solidarity in celebrating International Mother Language Day (IMLD) promoting the preservation and protection of all languages in the world.

The BSEDEN 2-2 class under the supervision of our dearest professor Dr. Genevieve Balance Kupang conducted a webinar themed   “Multilingualism : Expands Opportunity, Bridges Education Gap, and Navigates Diversity.”  It was hosted by Miguel Antonio Pojanes and John Jayzel Balatbat.

The event began with a sincere and meaningful prayer “Wala’y Makalabaw Nimo” and was translated into English. The prayer in Bisaya evoked the true meaning and beauty of diversity through cultural expressions, beliefs, and linguistic differences which were unique for Manileños and other Luzonians.

Bea Allondra Germina (top), and Edielen Llorrera (below), the BSEDEN 2-2’s treasurer and vice president respectively, welcome and acknowledge participants and guests.

Bea Germina formally took the spotlight to acknowledge the presence of the guest speaker who accepted the merit of being part of the event, Sir Saleem Samad, our associate professor Dr. Genevieve Balance Kupang, the class representative Miguel Pojanes, and her fellow educators of the class of BSEDEN 2-2.

Edielen Llorera expressed her warm welcome to participants and accorded her gratitude to the University administrators, Sir Edgardo Delmo, our University Director, Sir Alfredo Pangilawan, our Academic Program Head, and Sir Peter Biason, Head of the OSAS. She highlighted the importance of multilingualism in bridging the education gap, expanding opportunity, and navigating diversity which can be used in their future endeavors as Education students.

Ella Mae Brolagda and Roanlyn Zapata facilitate engaging and interactive games. Audreylhynn Sierra (1st picture on the left) sings ‘The Greatest Love of all” and Dela Soledad Shaina (2nd picture on the left) sings the Kapampangan folksong ‘Atin Cu Pung Singsing’.

Another delightful part of the event was the engaging and challenging games facilitated by Ella Mae Brolagda and Roanlyn Zapata which presented varieties of Mother languages worldwide through movie clips, and a stimulating word translation. This was followed by the symphonious voices of Ms. Audreylhynn Sierra singing ‘The Greatest Love of all’ by the iconic singer Whitney Houston, and Shaina Dela Soledad singing ‘Atin Cu Pung Singsing’ a Kapampangan (one of the vernaculars in the Philippines) folk song.

Kimberly Mista (Lower Left) introducing the speaker, Sir. Saleem Samad, delivering his silver-tongued speech about the History of Bangladesh and its relation to the celebration of IMLD.

Kimberly Mista formally turned over the spotlight to Sir Saleem Samad, a journalist by training and freedom of expression defender, to deliver his keynote speech. Mr. Samad posited that “the IMLD on the 21st of February is observed worldwide to promote cultural and linguistic diversity and multilingualism, promoted by UNESCO on the 17th of January 1999, officially recognized in 2008 under the United Nations General Assembly resolution. Languages are vital for people and the world as an instrument to preserve identity development, education, and integration.

Unfortunately, due to globalization, 40% of the 6,000 or so languages spoken in the world today are endangered, and only a few hundred languages have a place in the educational system. Every 2 weeks, a language disappears, taking with it the entire cultural and intellectual heritage. We are all aware that a language movement began in Bangladesh in 1952 and the Bangladesh proposal was adopted in the U.N as IMLD. Rafiqul Islam who lived in Vancouver Canada wrote a letter to Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, on the 9th of January 1998, urging him to take steps to save the world’s languages from extinction while declaring an International Mother’s Language Day. Rafiqul Islam proposed the 21st of February as the date to commemorate the language matters of 1752 in Dhaka…The rest is history.”

He also shared the controversy of the language movement in 1948 upon selecting the state language of Bangladesh– Urdu and Bangla. It was later resolved as the new constitution was established in 1972, guaranteeing democracy, secularism, social justice, pluralism, and plural expression. These made a visible impact in Bangladesh and fifty different Adivasis ethnic communities which are now able to study the language in schools. The high court awarded in favor of the Urdu-speaking community in 2007 after the Muslim community who migrated to east Bengal from India in 1970. Pakistanis now can read, speak, and write in Urdu without fear of humiliation.

He concluded by saying that “Language is the most powerful instrument in preserving than developing the tangible and intangible heritage, all moves to promote the preservation of mother language that will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and cultural tradition throughout the world, and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance, and dialogue…mother tongue-based multilingual education and the growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling and more commitment to its development in public life. My appeal to all, besides the preservation of your proud language, also extends support to preserve another mother tongue, a rich heritage for a community…I appreciate your patience, thank you!”.  (See full message here ).

Awarding of the certificate of appreciation to Sir Saleem Samad photo opportunity. The Certificate of Appreciation was prepared by Audreylhynn Sierra and signed by the class representative, Miguel Antonio Pojanes, and Dr. Balance Kupang.

Dr. Genevieve Balance- Kupang (top) gives her Closing Remarks, followed by the photo opportunity of the BSEDEN 2-2 class with the Speaker Sir Saleem Samad.

Our beloved professor, Dr. Balance-Kupang, expressed her gratitude to Miguel Antonio Pojanes, the director of the program, and all the BSEDEN 2-2. After this, Renalyn Zapanta facilitated the photo opportunity to commemorate this momentous IMLD celebration.

Indeed, languages are a vital part of every community; languages convey the beliefs, culture, uniqueness, and identity of a nation. Having a mother language serves as a bridge to a successful multilingual education. Multilingualism contributes to expanding opportunity, bridging the education gap, and navigating the diversity of a people’s culture. The world, God’s masterpiece is diverse. Raising awareness of the beauty of its variety while promoting harmonious co-existence will open the door for opportunities not only for the learners of today but also for future citizens towards cross-cultural, intercultural engagement which can enrich lives.

From our class at PUPSH, we extend our greetings to the world, wishing you all a meaningful International Mother Language Month!

About the Authors:

Edgar Belando Jr. is a sophomore student at the PUPSJ taking the Bachelor of Secondary Education Major in English. He writes poems, short stories and flash fiction in three languages: Bikol, Filipino, and English.

Derico Jabaybay is an English major second-year student at the PUPSJ. He is a great bilingual speaker who can speak English and Filipino. His interests include reading novels, stories, and other books.

Kimberly Anne Mista is a sophomore university student and is currently a taking up Bachelor of Secondary Education Major in English at PUPSJ. She is the Class Secretary and an aspiring motivational speaker.