Meet the first-ever instructor for inaugural Filipino language course at Harvard

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 6) — Harvard University has welcomed its first-ever Filipino language instructor, Lady Aileen Orsal, who will teach beginning September.

"Dear Friends of the Asia Center, the Harvard University Asia Center and the Department of South Asian Studies are pleased to announce the hire of Lady Aileen Orsal as Preceptor in Filipino Languages (Tagalog)," Harvard University Asia Center (HUAC) Faculty Director James Robson said in his statement last Aug. 25.

"Beginning in Fall 2023, Elementary and Intermediate Filipino (Tagalog) courses will be offered for the first time in Harvard's nearly four-hundred-year history. Filipino (Tagalog) is currently the fourth most spoken language in the U.S. (after English, Spanish, and Chinese)," he added.

The HUAC said Orsal taught Filipino at Cavite State University in the Philippines where she also received her B.A. in Mass Communications in 2012, and MA in Philippine Studies in 2017.

She began her teaching career as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University in 2018.

She is completing both an M.A. in Communication from Northern Illinois University and a Ph.D. in Philippine Studies from De La Salle University in the Philippines.

"Lady Aileen is a dedicated, creative, and effective teacher who is committed to being a leader in Filipino language pedagogy. She also has an impressive background in Philippine Studies, including Philippine culture, history, and politics," the HUAC said.

"She has conducted research and published on traditional tattoo art, the coffee culture of the Philippines, and the use of music in political campaign jingles," it added.

Harvard's Filipino courses supported by fundraising efforts

The HUAC said it secured financial support for the Filipino courses through fundraising efforts.

"Thanks to a generous gift, this new Preceptor position is funded through an endowment that ensures that Filipino languages will always be taught at Harvard," it added.

According to the Department of South Asian Studies, Harvard is set to look out for three preceptors to teach Filipino, Bahasa Indonesian, and Thai for academic year 2023-2024.

The Harvard Crimson, a student-run nonprofit newspaper of Harvard University on March 24 reported that Eleanor V. Wikstrom '24, co-president of the Harvard Philippine Forum (HPF) and a Crimson Editorial chair, said getting a Filipino course offered has been one of the goals for "as long as HPF has been in existence."

"HPF has petitioned Harvard administrators to offer courses in Tagalog, according to Wikstrom. In 2021, Wikstrom wrote an op-ed in The Crimson criticizing the lack of offerings in the Tagalog language at Harvard. She said she received pushback for her advocacy efforts and questions about the value of learning Tagalog," Harvard Crimson said.

Romuladez's alleged funding

Meanwhile on Sunday, took down its story on Martin Romualdez's alleged $1 million funding for a Filipino course at Harvard University.

The article was based on the content of's partner US magazine The FilAm in New York. It released an exclusive story titled "Imelda Marcos's nephew funds Harvard's new Tagalog language course" on Aug. 29.

"When asked for comment on the donation, Romualdez's office sent The FilAm a press release from last April that confirmed the dinner gathering but did not comment on the donation," the magazine reported.

"After being posted on the, this article was deactivated by order of the owners, who are related to House Speaker Martin Romualdez," an update on The FilAm page read.