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Malay is spoken by a minority of Filipinos, particularly in the Palawan, Sulu Archipelago and parts of Mindanao, mostly in the form of trade and creole languages. Historically, Malay was spoken as a lingua franca prior to the Spanish colonization of the Philippines and Malay was the language spoken by the aristocracy. Ferdinand Magellan used a Malay servant Enrique of Malacca to converse with the Visayans. This variant is known as Old Malay.
Even in non-Malay speaking communities, mostly in the Muslim communities, titles of nobility such as datu or rajah (which themselves originate from Sanskrit) are retained.
The other predominant, and the proper dialect of Malay spoken in the Philippines is Indonesian, which is spoken by Indonesians who have either settled or do business in the Philippines. It is also learned as a foreign language, by students and members of the armed forces.
The use of Malay was a result of extensive interactions between the native kingdoms in the Philippines and the various ancient Malay civilizations that existed in modern-day Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia as it was the trade language of the entire Maritime Southeast Asian region. The Laguna Copperplate Inscription, the earliest-known document found in the Philippines was written in a mix of Old Malay, Classical Tagalog and Old Javanese and in the Kawi alphabet which recorded interactions between the classical civilizations in Luzon with the Javanese kingdom of Majapahit and the Malay Srivijaya Empire.
The Old Malay spoken in the archipelago also reflected the religious nature of the region - the archipelago was inhabited by a mix of Buddhist, Animists and Hindus. Upon the arrival of Portuguese conquistador Ferdinand Magellan in Cebu, his slave, Enrique, a Malaccan-native had to speak on his behalf since he was a native-Malay speaker who acted as a translator between Spanish, Portuguese and Malay. Enrique likely perished in Mactan Island during the battle that killed Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. The name of Visayas itself originated from Srivijaya, an ancient Malay empire that ruled Sumatra and parts of the Malay Peninsula.
The use of Malay reached the height of its speak with the introduction of Islam by Malay Muslims, Arab, Chinese Muslim and Indian Muslim preachers to the islands. However, this was in the form of Classical Malay, a dialect which originated from the Riau-Malacca region. Along with that, Arabic was also introduced as well as the introduction of the Jawi script, an Arabic-based alphabet for Malay. The dynasties of the Islamic sultanates in Mindanao were themselves of ethnic Malay descent with sprinkles of Arab ancestry such as those of the Sultanate of Maguindanao.
With progress of Spanish conquest in the 1500s, the use of Malay among the Philippine natives quickly deteriorated and diminished as it was replaced by Spanish. It became non-existent among the Christian Filipinos. Malay remained much confined to the Muslim population of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, who actively resisted Spanish rule and attempts by missionaries to convert them to Christianity.
During the late 1800s, with the deterioration of Spanish rule, a Pan-Malayan movement began in the Philippines, spearheaded by national hero José Rizal, who had a vision of "uniting the Malayan race" from the bondage of separation by colonial powers. He had actually tried learning the Malay language, having believed it to be an original of Tagalog.
Politicians in the Philippines had actually contemplated on renaming the country to "Malaysia", before the actual federation was named so. Some maps had also referred to the area now comprising Philippines, Indonesia and East Malaysia as "Malaysia" as a whole.
Although the history of Malay influence in Philippine history is a subject of conversation, no attempts have been made to ever promote Malay or even Spanish. The number of Malay-speakers in the Philippines are unknown, as a result of the 300-year Spanish rule most of them are very confined to the southern parts of Mindanao (specifically in the Zamboanga Peninsula) and the Sulu Archipelago in a region known as Bangsamoro. This region, derives from the Malay word bangsa and the Spanish moro, the Muslim peoples of the Philippines refer to themselves Moro which comes from a Spanish word meaning "moor". These people more-less do not consider themselves Filipino.
The treatment of the Muslim peoples of Mindanao by the Christian-dominated government in the Philippines during the 1970s also worsened any hopes of Malay ever being revived into nationwide use again. Today Filipino and English are the official languages of the Philippines.
There are also misconceptions in the Philippines between Ethnic Malays and Malay race. While it is true that certain Filipino ethnic groups (namely the Visayans and Maguindanao) contain Malay ancestors; the ethnic Malays themselves are focused around Malay peninsular, eastern Sumatra, coastal Borneo and southern Thailand. The Malay race compasses a larger class of Austronesian ethnic groups in the entire Malay Archipelago. This results in false labels to pre-occupation rulers such as Lapu-Lapu, the famous native chief who killed Magellan as a Malay and a Muslim although he was ethnically Visayan who spoke old Cebuano and whose religious background is obscure.
The Indonesian language, which is the official dialect of Malay spoken in the Philippines' southern neighbor Indonesia, has a notable presence of speakers in Davao City since the city is home to the Indonesian School which caters to expatriates in Mindanao and aims to protect Indonesian language and culture among the expatriate community. Indonesian is also taught as a foreign language in the University of the Philippines.
Since 2013, the Indonesian Embassy in the Philippines has given basic Indonesian language courses to 16 batches of Filipino students, as well as training to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Due to increasing demand among students, the Embassy will open an intermediate Indonesian language course later in the year. The Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C., USA also began offering free Indonesian language courses at the beginner and intermediate level.
In an interview, Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro said that the country's government should promote Indonesian or Malaysian, which are related to Filipino and other regional languages. Thus, the possibility of offering it as an optional subject in public schools is being studied. Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia is also spoken as a third or fourth language by native Filipinos of the Maguindanao and Tausug tribes, especially those who have studied in Malaysia, Indonesia as religious students, migrant laborers or long time residents in Sabah, Malaysia. The dissemination of the Malay language was also through the usage of Malay books in the study of Islam.