DepEd and SIL Philippines host joint press conference

During his address, DepEd Secretary Br. Armin Luistro stressed the importance of language development for the nation’s well-being and urged the audience to get involved.

(May 2013) On 30 April the Philippines’ Department of Education (DepEd) and SIL Philippines hosted a joint press conference at the DepEd Central Office in Manila. In cooperation with DepEd and other partners, SIL has been involved with linguistic research and language development efforts in the Philippines since 1953.

A main focus of the event was the renewal of a memorandum of agreement between DepEd and SIL. The agreement, formally signed by DepEd Secretary Br. Armin A. Luistro, FSC, and SIL Philippines Director Glenn Stallsmith, renews the two organizations’ commitment to partnership in service with the diverse ethnolinguistic communities of the Philippines.

In honor of the rich cultural heritage of Philippine language communities, the event began with an invocation by Father Oscar Alunday, sung in the traditional chant style of the Itneg people. In addition to the current DepEd Secretary, Br. Armin Luistro, several past DepEd Secretaries were also in attendance: Dra. Erlinda Perfianco, Hon. Jesli Lapus and Dr. Edilberto C. de Jesus.

Leaders of DepEd and SIL Philippines sign renewed cooperative agreement  a man signs a question or comment during the Q&A time  displays providing information on 181 languages of the Philippines were placed around the perimeter of the room

Above: Secretary Luistro and Director Stallsmith sign the new MOA between DepEd and SIL Philippines (photo courtesy of Lynne De Guzman Pina); an audience member signs a question during the Q&A session; participants interact with the displays featuring information about 181 known languages of the Philippines (177 currently spoken, four extinct) which were placed around the perimeter of the room.

In his address to the press conference attendees, Secretary Luistro reflected on the value of mother-tongue education as a factor in the country’s overall well-being and urged attendees to support language development efforts in the nation’s communities, particularly those facing language endangerment.

[In the beginning], I thought pursuing MTB-MLE was just about language. Only when I began to understand what it required and visited a few classes did I realize it was about the Filipino soul. It is about young people speaking from the heart. It is about dreams being expressed in the learning environment. It is about teachers trying to contextualize their lessons in communities where they serve. It is about a nation in search of its own identity…I dream that you will not leave this room until you commit to being intensely involved in supporting at least one of the 177 [still living] languages, [some of which] are in ICU and need help urgently…This is not just a celebration. It is an invitation to all of you to join in our search for the Filipino soul.

Director Stallsmith remarked, “SIL has never worked alone in the Philippines and we want to strengthen partnerships and networks even further.” In addition to DepEd, SIL has worked in partnership with Translators Association of the Philippines (TAP), in the Kapit Bisig partnership with Wycliffe Philippines (along with TAP), University of the Philippines Dilliman, the Linguistic Society of the Philippines, Philippine Bible Society and the Alliance of Christian Development Organizations.

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