Constructing Identity Through Language and Superstition

by Colleen Calizo, Matthew Palabrica, and Angeline Tupas

Identity can be defined as a social process constructed in and through communication. In terms of the collective, it is based on social organization and shared group memberships (Hecht & Choi, 2012). Since identity thus draws from a certain community’s culture, it shares culture’s attributes of being fluid rather than fixed. In other words, it is not something static but is constantly changing or dynamic. One aspect under the body of collective identity is national identity. National identity is socially constructed and conveyed in language rather than blood ( Wodak et. al, 2009). Drawing from this notion, aspects of Filipino identity that inspired the memes we made are rooted in modes of communication: language and superstition. 

According to the Komisyon sa Wikang Pilipino, there are approximately 130 Filipino languages. It is furthermore stated in the 1967 Constitution the evolution of Filipino, which is the national language of the Philippines, shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing languages in the country. Since language is used as a means for communication and constructing identity, the existence of numerous languages in the Philippines therefore corresponds to these characteristics of the communities which speak them.

Superstitious beliefs or pamahiin in the Philippines are rooted in the idea of the afterlife, which is a belief that developed during the pre-colonial era. Religious customs such as burial rites, for example, are known to be practiced and observed by communities across the country. Despite the urbanization and modernization of society, the reality that certain superstitious beliefs are still embedded in Filipinos’ way of life shows how this aspect of culture is held in common by groups. In other words, pamahiin reflects the communal frame of Filipino identity.

The first meme shows the common act of knowing how to speak Filipino and English among the other Philippine languages, most probably because we were accustomed to those two languages growing up due to their use in the education. By presenting this relatable content, the meme pokes fun at the notion that the construction of national identity is only limited to communicating in Filipino and English. It also implies how this Luzon-centric view erases representation of other languages in the country.

The second meme reflects a common pamahiin in Philippine society, which is that a butterfly is the spirit of one’s dead relative that has come to visit them. It points to the lasting continuity of superstitions on life after death, and also uses humor to portray how it has become a common belief even in today’s times. To conclude, the construction of Filipino identity in the memes are based on the ways and means in which people communicate.

References:

Hecht, M., & Choi, H. (2014). Communication Theory of Identity. In Encyclopedia of Health Communication. (Vol. 1, pp. 137-152). California, U.S.A. SAGE Reference.

Pelagio, E. Philippine Languages and Dialects [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://unstats.un.org/unsd/geoinfo/UNGEGN/docs/Training/Manila/day%202/03_PELAGIO_Philippine%20Languages%20and%20Dialects_KWF.pdf

Wodak, R., Reisigl, M., De Cillia, R., & Liebhart, K. (1998). The Discursive Construction of National Identity. Edinburg, UK: Edinburg University Press.

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