By Daniel Llanto

The Filipinas Institute of Translation (FIT) picked the word “pandemya” as word of the year in the Philippines, much like Merriam-Webster and online which earlier chose the English equivalent “pandemic” as universal word of the year 2020. 

The word “pandemya” bested the other nominees “ayuda,” “contact-tracing,” “blended learning,” “quarantine,” “social distancing,” “testing,” “virus,” “webinar,” and “2020.”

“Social distancing” was chosen as the second word of the year, and “contact tracing” as the third, FTI said.

Other important words of the year like “frontliner” and “mañanita” were either not chosen or not nominated, but it does not mean these words are any less significant, the institute said during the virtual awarding ceremony on December 18..

University of the Philippines Diliman Professor Zarina Joy Santos, the presenter of the word “pandemya,” said she was able to defend the reach of the word by using Google Trends to show that netizens looked the word up only after March when quarantine restrictions were declared in the country.

It seems the word pandemic was relatively new in the Filipino public’s consciousness based on internet trends, Santos added. News reports in Filipino often quoted the word “pandemya” to refer to the global virus threat.

She said she wanted to educate the public about the importance of preparing for a pandemic, which is bound to happen in our lifetimes.

“There is a need to talk about the pandemic for the concept to sink in, that this word is that significant, and that it is important to prepare for the future,” Santos said. 

“We have to realize that word is there, it has entered our consciousness, and we need to prepare for it,” she added.

Professor Eilene Antoinette Narvaez of FIT said while the winning word of the year encompassed other entries, all the nominated words could still be considered this year’s most significant as the world reels from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Narvaez collaborated with Google to launch the COVID-19 Filipino  which also features Cebuano translations.

Professor Galileo Zafra touted the work of the institute to document select words annually to instill awareness among the speaking public about the development of language in people’s consciousness.

“This is not to pit words against each other but to instill a vital awareness among the public about the effect of language, of words, on us, how language is changing and how we are also changed by language,” Zafra, who was chosen by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino last year as one of four “Kampeon ng Wika.”

On the COVID-19 front, the Department of Health reported 1,721 new coronavirus infections on Monday, pushing the country’s caseload to 461,505.

The government has been urging the public to remain vigilant and continue observing health protocols as health authorities were already seeing indications of possible surge. 

At present, there are 23,341 active cases in the Philippines or 5.1 percent of the total recorded infections. Of these, 82.2 percent exhibit mild symptoms, 8.5 percent are asymptomatic, 5.9 percent are in critical condition, 3 percent are severe cases and 0.34 percent have moderate symptoms.

Monday’s count did not include submissions from five testing laboratories that failed to submit their data on time.