Word Power (Not People Power) is the Cure to Filipino Dysfunction


Language is one of the most basic elements that define a culture or nation. For many countries, it is the unifying factor of their people and the key distinctive that sets them apart from other societies around them.

Much has been discussed and even debated on the Philippine’s pursuit and cultivation of a national language. Some say it is a waste of time; others say we need it for national identity (another way of saying “to feed Pinoy pride”). It is enshrined in the constitution, and our institutions, mainly education and media, have gone to great lengths to establish Tagalog (a.k.a. Filipino) as the common denominator of every Filipino who resides in this vast archipelago of many tribes and tongues. Great – we’re united, but at what cost?

Vocabulary = Power

We all know that Tagalog is a very limited language, particularly in the area of vocabulary. One word in English will have at times up to a dozen synonyms, each giving a diversifying inflection or slightly different flavor to the main word. On the other hand, Tagalog not only lacks a lot of equivalents of English words in its vocabulary, it also has very few synonyms for each word.

What arsenal (array of weapons) is to a soldier in a battlefield vocabulary is to a person reasoning or arguing in a discussion or debate. The reason many Filipinos are intellectually bankrupt, lose in a duel of words, and just end up resorting to expletive-loaded ad hominem attacks is because they limit themselves to a very weak language, a tool that is no match to an ever advancing world around it. Filipinos act as if they are the proverbial hare in the race with the turtle, when in fact they do not have the luxury to stay lethargic about their own level amidst the exponential increase in knowledge in this fast-evolving modern age?

Each word in the dictionary corresponds to a different world or dimension. The reason why some people are very powerful is that they have access to more worlds than many of us. Just think for example of how some article or book writers are able to articulate a lot of concepts, paradigms, and ways of looking at a situation. The key is in possessing an enhanced and rich selection of words that empower the proponent of an argument or idea to take readers on a journey that transcends the average Pinoy mentality and worldview.

Three Powerful Nation-Altering Words

To further illustrate the power of vocabulary, let’s touch on just three words I believe Filipinos should add into their collection.

  1. Convenience

Much of the dysfunction we see in our basic services is rooted in the lack of this key word in people’s basic way of thinking. Convenience is a choice that one can create. For example, if I were a bank manager, how should I set up the system of making customers queue for their turn to be accommodated by the teller? Should I have them line up standing for hours, or should I install an automated sequential number system so they can take a seat while waiting for their number to flash up front?

People who lack this word in their vocabulary are relegated to a counter-productive mentality that goes: “this is the way we’ve been doing it; so this is the best way it can be done.” Take for example riding a jeepney: why do we have to ask other passengers to pass our payment over to the driver, have the driver look for change while driving (illegal in many first world countries), and then have those same people pass the change back to us? Why not create some convenient way of payment like an RFID card system that automatically deducts the fare upon riding the jeepney? And why do we have to shout “Para” amidst the bustling noise, when push buttons can be installed onto the jeepney ceiling to signal to the driver way up front that a passenger wants to get off at the next “authorized stop”?

  1. Efficiency

Many Filipinos do not have the slightest idea of this word. They think that working hard is the same as working smart. Take for example an ax that is dull. Would it be better to spend 10 minutes sharpening it first in order to complete a wood cutting job in 15 minutes (total 25 minutes), than to force the poor dull ax blade to do the same job in 2 hours?  (Pinoy scratching his head now) In the end, the lifetime of the ax’s handle is greatly reduced due to the amount of excessive force it had to absorb in an inefficient process.

Efficiency even has an equation: amount of work done per unit time. Do Filipinos even wonder why some people like Steve Jobs can do more in 24 hours than a dozen Filipinos can in a week? Is it any wonder why in terms of productivity (per capita GDP), 1 Singaporean is equivalent to 20 Filipinos?

Instead of thinking up new ways to make a task less time consuming, Filipinos try to look busy just to get their meager day’s wage to survive.

  1. Precision

Aha, this is a good one. If you look at the workmanship of many “skilled” Filipinos, you will wonder if it was the product of your 6 year-old or if the guy who worked on it had a hangover from last night. The margin for deviation is so large in the Philippines at times, that it’s appalling that kid’s toys like Lego blocks are far better than the building blocks used in industries/products that are a matter of life and death for end-users.

Related to precision are words like “accuracy” and “standard.” If you stopped a random Filipino walking on the road and asked him to explain the difference between “precision” and “accuracy”, how many do you think will get it right? These are two different paradigms; and failure to understand these concepts can be devastating to a project or endeavor.

If the Philippines started a space program to launch rockets, failing to have a good grasp of these concepts can spell multi-billion pesos in losses and wasted man-hours if the payload ends up crashing into the open sea.

The Choice

We can go on and on discussing more words one at a time, but the simple point is this: the reality is that Filipinos are weak and prone to failure and dysfunction because they fail to empower themselves. They are happy to spend most of their free time chilling out or watching their useless crappy TV shows that bring nothing of productive value. Yes, Filipinos are having fun, and get to laugh a lot. Ultimately it’s a choice – dysfunction can be stamped out of our society; but are Filipinos willing to work at it at the cost of those bellowing echoes of “halakhakan”.

Forget the sham “People Power” guys. It’s “Word Power” that counts. Mabuhay ang wikang Ingles! Long live the empowered Filipino!


Post Author: zaxx

Zealous revolutionary advocate of bringing back common sense for the common good in a land of dysfunctional and delusional zombies.

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24 Comments on "Word Power (Not People Power) is the Cure to Filipino Dysfunction"

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The author does not know anything about linguistics: words like convenience, precission, dysfunction, language, development, education, society, publish, simple, point and so many others in English are borrowings from other languages, mainly French. Now try to say English is shortin terms of vocabulary…


So Tagalog or any other Filipino language can do the same. End of the problem.


I agree.
Tagalog is for poetry.
But even there, it’s still stifling when compared to the English language.
For a developing country, I say we would do well with less poetry in our daily transactions.

Tagalog can absorve any foreign word, as the English did with French without being “swallowed”. The question here ut is the Filipinos who consider their languages are inferior, when that’s not true. In Hungary, there is Hungarian; in Iceland there is Icelandic; in the Netherlands there is Dutch, and so on. You can not survive with English in those countries without speaking those languages. The fact that English is so important here and in the US does not mean it is the same elsewhere. Otherwise all languages in the world would be dissapearing, and that’s not the case at least… Read more »
Gryphon Hall
The whole problem is not with Tagalog itself but those who presume to be its guardians. Too many believe that borrowing words from other languages is “colonial mentality” and that Tagalog vocabulary can only be increased by coining new words. I used to have lively discussions with a fellow teacher who taught “Filipino” who thought that ONLY those nations with their “own” language became successful. When I told him that the USA did not have its own language but instead borrowed and repurposed the language of England, he said I was lying. Even when I said “Well, that’s why it’s… Read more »

>> When I told him that the USA did not have its own language but instead borrowed and repurposed the language of England, he said I was lying.

The poor quality of teaching in the Philippines never ceases to amaze me.

Honestly, the kids who don’t go to school are probably smarter.

Walter P. Komarnicki

Laurie Anderson had a great take on this language kerfuffle with her hit: ‘Language is a Virus’:


Words are powerful…as a way of communication; as a way of describing things; and as a way to transfer information.

Unfortunately, our Filipino language lacks, highly technical terms. It is English, that we can use. In the Old world,it was Latin, or Greek.

As the technological advances of a country grows; so its languages/words. New words and terms are added. Our country, is two(2) centuries, behind in technology, compared to an advanced country.

So, we have no recourse, than to use English , as our language. It is good also to learn other foreign languages. It opens your world.

English is the most spoken Language in the world , if you want to be successful in Philippines learn good English and you would get a job anywhere with good pay, not saying give up your traditional language, The longer my wife lives with me the better her English has become, I correct her all the time. I built a house here what a disaster, Govt. needs to bring in Plumbing courses , and you should have to pass an exam and get a certificate,(not a false one)Also electricians Certificate , do a course, and not be allowed to work… Read more »
Kate Roces Koo
James, I am afraid your ‘people from the West are best’ attitude, in this, or any other non-western country is at its best misplaced, and at it’s worst arrogant. There are also rogue traders in the USA, Australia, England.Not all of the practising tradesmen from those places have certificates. We have had Technical Colleges here for years, but just like in those countries, you have some people who work who have learned on the job. Some are excellent, some are crap.It is always good to take correct and up-to-date advice from the relevant resources. I suggest therefore, that if you… Read more »

If you don’t stand sincere by your words
how sincere can the people be?
Take great care over words, treasure them.