“Pilipino” and “Filipino” are official nomenclature for variations of the Tagalog language;
these terms were adopted primarily for political reasons. “Pilipino” is also the official
adjective, meaning “from, of or for the Philippines”, for which “Filipino” is commonly
used outside of the Philippines. The latter is erroneously spelled, by some, as
“Philippino”.
In 1936, the National Language Institute (Surian ng Wikang Pambansa) recommended
Tagalog be adopted as an official language and the Philippine national language, from
among the 9-17 primary regional languages (depending on who’s counting) of the
Philippines. The recommendation was based on Tagalog’s more extensive
publications, and, because it is the language that has to be learned by a large segment
of the population when they stay in Manila, the political, economic and education
capital. However, the other regions opposed a bill that would select one language over
the others, and the recommendation was never enacted.
In 1959, the proposed national language was renamed “Pilipino” in order to dissociate it
from Tagalog, but the motive was too transparent, and the other regions continued to
opposed the selection.
Provisions of the new constitutions of 1973 and 1986 designated “Filipino” to be used
for a national language to be developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine
and other languages. In 1991, the National Assembly created the Commission on the
Filipino Language (Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino or KWF), to develop and propagate the
use of Filipino. In 1992, the KWF developed an elegant solution to the deadlock by
adopting the lingua franca of the Manila region; it specified Filipino as the “indigenous
written and spoken language of Metro Manila and other urban centers in the Philippines
used as the language of communication of ethnic groups.”
The KWF’s policy was explained in 2004, in a letter from the then-Commission
Chairman, Dr. N.P. Buenaobra:
“… magalang na ipinababatid na pinanatili ang English technical terms kung
ang mga ito ay isinasalin sa wikang Filipino (we respectfully inform [you] that
English technical terms are preserved when these are translated in the
Filipino language).
“Ang preperensya ay ang maisalin sa wikang Filipino na mauunawaan sa
Luzon, Visayas at Mindanao [the three geographical sub-divisions of the
Philippines] (The preference is that these are translated to a Filipino language
that is understood in Luzon, Visayas and Mindano). Isang uri ng wikang
Filipino na hindi purista, manapay nauunawaan sa labing-anim (16) na
rehiyon (A kind of Filipino language that is not purist, rather understood in 16
regions).

“At this point, we would like to emphasize that a trilingual policy of languages
must be pursued or implemented by our office …. We translate from the
dialect or vernacular of the region which is the symbol of instruction and
communication, Filipino language for unity and understanding, and the
English language is the symbol of international language, diplomacy and
business.”
Filipino was presented and registered with the International Organization for
Standardization (ISO), and was added to the ISO registry of languages on September
21, 2004 with it receiving the ISO 639-2 code fil.
Are “Tagalog,” “Pilipino” and “Filipino” different languages? No, they are mutually
intelligible varieties, and therefore belong to one language. According to the
KWF, Filipino is that speech variety spoken in Metro Manila and other urban
centers where different ethnic groups meet. It is the most prestigious variety of
Tagalog and the language