Explainer: What is All the Fuss About ‘Filipinx’?


Explainer: What’s All the Fuss About ‘Filipinx’?

In September 2020, Dictionary.com released its “biggest update ever” with over 15,000 entries touching on topics such as race, sexual orientation, climate, and internet culture. Among them were the terms “Filipinx” and “Pinxy,” which aim to be a gender-neutral alternative to “Filipino” and fellow newly added dictionary entries “Filipina,” “Pinoy,” and “Pinay.”

As various foreign media started to adopt the term “Filipinx,” its usage has sparked heated discussions. Most recent was this controversial tweet from the San Diego Comic-Con back in July, where the convention (or whoever is handling its Twitter account) used “Filipinx” to refer to Filipino voice actors. Social media users trooped to the reply section to voice their disgust over the term, saying nobody in the Philippines even uses it.

Similar to the hotly debated Latinx (from Latino), “Filipinx” aims to represent an inclusive Filipino identity. But as seen in the recent controversy, not all seem to be happy with it. Some argue that the Filipino language is already gender-neutral, while others say the use of “Filipinx” is the product of Filipino-Americans whitewashing our culture. If you are curious about the “Filipinx” brouhaha (the debate has dragged for years tbh), here are some of the arguments raised by many Filipinos (or Filipinx, if you prefer to be called that).

Argument #1: The Filipino Language is Already Gender-Neutral

“Akin siya. Akin lang ang asawa ko!”

Sounds familiar? The hashtag for this iconic television series (or what we call teleserye) line trended on Twitter worldwide in 2014, sparking memes that gave a lot of us a good laugh. We’ll take this as an example of how gender-neutral the Filipino language is.

The line literally translates to “[He/she]’s mine. My [husband/wife] is mine alone!” If you’ve seen the teleserye or are aware of its characters, you would immediately translate the line as “He’s mine! My husband is mine alone!” in your head. Then again, if you show this line without context to someone who knows Tagalog but has never seen the series, they’ll probably struggle with who “siya” (a third person) and “asawa” (spouse) are referring to.

Let’s say you’re not married but have a “syota” instead. This slang can mean a “short-time” boyfriend or girlfriend, so unless you specify the gender (or preferred gender) of your “syota,” nobody will know.

Other gender-neutral terms in Filipino are kapatid (sibling), pinsan (cousin), inaanak (godfather), kaibigan (friend), anak (child), and kasintahan (lover). The list goes on.

Argument #2: O is Masculine, A is Feminine? We Think Not

Filipino is “masculine” because it ends with -o, and Filipina is “feminine” because it ends with -a. These gendered terms of Spanish origin make it seem like we have a permanent set of words for male and female when in fact “Filipino” isn’t exclusively for males.

While the Filipino language has traces of Spanish and other languages due to colonization, many argue that the idea of making the term “Filipino” gender-neutral just because it ends with -o is unnecessary. Why make it gender-neutral when it’s already gender-neutral?

Argument #3: There’s No ‘X’ in the Filipino Alphabet

Is it Filipineeks or Filipin-eks? Many can’t read Filipinx without asking for the right pronunciation or consulting a dictionary because there’s no letter -x in the Filipino alphabet, or the ABAKADA to be exact.

Before the signing of the 1987 Constitution, the Filipino alphabet was pronounced differently. You read A as Ah, B as Ba, K as Ka, D as Da, and so on. Ang Balarila ng Wikang Pambansa or The Grammar of the National Language developed by Lope K. Santos in 1939 noted that the ABAKADA only has 20 letters, and -x wasn’t part of it. (READ: Go to Page 57 of 541 if you want to check out the book.)

In addition, former University of the Philippines (UP) professor Nanette Caspillo said in a VICE interview that Filipinx is an unnatural term because the -x doesn’t exist in our linguistic system.

“Morphology is influenced by phonetics so if it is problematic morphologically speaking, it is also difficult for it to stand phonetically speaking,” Caspillo, who studies morphology or how words are formed and arranged, was quoted as saying.

Argument #4: Trying to Be Inclusive? Or Actually a Divide?

According to Dictionary.com, Filipinx is “a person of Philippine origin or descent, especially one living in the United States (used to indicate gender-neutrality in place of Filipino or Filipina).” While the term aims to include all Filipinos regardless of gender, many question why it leans toward the people who don’t live in the Philippines. 

So, is it going to be “Filipinos” for those living in the Philippines, and “Filipinx” for those living outside the Philippines (or what we call the Filipino diaspora)?

Some Filipinos also pointed out that the West is at it again for pushing its own version when the existing term is already appropriate.

The debate between the usage of "Filipino" and "Filipinx" has yet to see an end, but if you want to be called mamser (for fun) instead, we won’t stop you from channeling that energy.

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