Saturday, August 27, 2011

a few days before buwan ng wika ends, james soriano wrote a 'pahabol' commentary on the filipino language in his column ithink in manila bulletin that easily became the hot topic following mideo cruz's painting and chris lao's flood incident. i honestly don't know what to make of it because i can't be so sure what his original intention was; was it to poke fun at the filipino language by relegating it as the language of the streets? was it to glorify his upbringing as a child coming probably from an urban middle class household that uses english as the first language? was it meant as a form of irony on how widespread the use of english language is and how little filipinos use our national language?

regardless of his intention, he was able to create an excuse for readers to talk about filipino as a language. had it not been for him, facebook/twitter news feeds would be swarmed by 'what i ate today' statuses. with that, congratulations are due to this certain james soriano. good job on creating the article that reminded us of this long-standing debate on the relationship between language and identity.

i can't blame soriano for reflecting that the filipino language is a chore, after all, how many of us as students ourselves hated filipino as a subject back in elementary and high school? how many of us hated how long filipino words are and how difficult they are to shorten compared to english that when we text we type in 'bye' instead of 'paalam' or 'tnx' instead of 'salamat'. however, i almost choked on my coffee in the way he related the language to a society that is almost uncivilized by way of saying these;

"We used to think learning Filipino was important because it was practical: Filipino was the language of the world outside the classroom. It was the language of the streets: it was how you spoke to the tindera when you went to the tindahan, what you used to tell your katulong that you had an utos, and how you texted manong when you needed “sundo na.”


These skills were required to survive in the outside world, because we are forced to relate with the tinderas and the manongs and the katulongs of this world. If we wanted to communicate to these people — or otherwise avoid being mugged on the jeepney — we needed to learn Filipino."

seriously, i expected better from someone who was given a space in manila bulletin (or any newspaper for that matter). the way he formulated the sentences was too insensitive not only to the language that helped him 'survive' in this world but also to the 'tinderas and the manongs and the katulongs of the world'. i'm sure he won't mind being labelled a jerk and shit-faced by netizens for it.

forced is such a strong word to use to describe his interaction with the tinderas, manongs, and the katulongs of the world. it leaves a bitter aftertaste to the mouth when used altogether to talk about relating to these people. wala man lang ba pa-thank you kay manong na sumusundo sa kanya araw-araw, kahit anong oras basta 'sang text niya lang kahit na pagod na si manong? wala man lang ba recognition sa katulong nila sa bahay na linggu-linggong nililinis ang kwarto niya at nilalabhan ang mga damit niya? those small things though they do it in exchange for money, isn't he even grateful enough that those people are there to make his life easier? sana, before choosing the words he took all these into consideration. but whatever. his article is a testament of our sosyal problem - filipino as the language of juan, the common man while english belonged to john, the privileged few. ain't that view already too old to still be widely held? with that, i must say that there really is something wrong with the way we view our national language.

tonyo cruz made a good point by commenting that he might have been just a victim of this convoluted belief that the use, conventional pronunciation, and mastery (yes, the three are requisite adjectives) of the english language is a sign of sophistication and intellect (at least here in the philippines) - the learned john as compared to the common juan.

this guy is to be pitied really, for after so many years of education his view on the dynamics of the two languages remained the same. why after so much experience his approach to language and his views of its function is very limited.

but more than pitying this guy, it should also make us wary of what his article is telling us - the unequal value placed on the two languages and on a macro level, how and where the language is used becomes some sort of a cue card to know which class a person belongs to and where he/she is doing that exchange and with whom.

as a final note, a huge thank you to james soriano for his article that spoke volumes of how little progress the country has made over the years. hundreds of years have passed since the colonial rule and yet the belief that one language is better than the other still reigns. the article, on the very least, underscored the challenge to level both languages - neither putting them above nor below each other.

p.s. the article has been taken by mb but nothing really disappears permanently over the internet so here's a link of the article soriano wrote for ithink, http://rodmagaru.com/2011/08/26/james-sorianos-ithink/

Friday, August 12, 2011

Being poor in UP

A semester from now and I can finally call myself a UP graduate. I held on to the beautiful promise a UP education could give me; a good job that would allow me to help my parents put my brothers (I have 2) through college, a distinguished name for myself in our barrio (as most of my kababarrio find it hard to go to college because of economic realities), and a chance to learn from the people whose names I only read in textbooks and newspapers or watch on tv. The assurance of a life much better than the one I've always known has pushed me (and is still pushing me) to endure all the challenges that comes alongside choosing to study in an expensive school (in my family's capacity).

After all, what would I, a girl from an unheard of barrio, be had I not taken the risk and defied the laws of gravity by coming to Manila to study? I was even mistaken for a bisaya househelp by an airport security guard who helpfully showed me the way to the queue for a cheap, non-airport taxi. Five years after, I can still recall that incident. A lot has happened since then. I learned how to fix myself in a way that would make me not stand out so much in a crowd. I learned to at least "belong". 

Much of my stay in college is marred by days when I didn't have much money in my pocket except for that candy wrapper. I always had to work. I jokingly tell my friends that I am the founder of private English teaching to Koreans. I was 16 when I braved the yet unknown to me Commonwealth Avenue to look for people who would take a chance on a public-schooled girl who was never able to read any high school classic readings like Beowulf or never had the chance to read Harry Potter in the comfort of her room until the pirated e-book versions came. There were times when getting a reading was hard I always had to borrow photocopies from my friend. There also were countless times when I had to borrow my friend's laptop just so I can type an essay due since going to a computer shop would mean I have to spend more than Php 20 just to type it out. My computer skills then was really bad. With a Bachelor of Arts undergrad, scholarships are hard to come by too. 

I cannot complain because I chose UP. So instead of crying (though I drop a tear or two in the safety of the comfort room as I defecate), I had to put on this "all is well" look. And though I have really understanding friends, it is hard to explain poverty to them who don't find it hard to photocopy a bunch of readings or buy a required book. In my first few years in UP, I sometimes asked why I had to be poor. At times when I am hormonal I even give in to tears. I wondered why did I choose to study in UP Diliman when I can go to an affordable state university in Davao City. The answer to that is still unknown to me and can only be determined by what happens to me in the next few years. 

Hardships here has tempered my otherwise emotional tendencies. Instead of wanting an ear to share my pains with, I kept mum and worked hard for the things that I need in school. When I see another UP student who does not find it hard to get copies of required readings, I learned to shrug it off. If this is a good thing or not, I don't know. But it has kept me sane throughout the years. 

I have no aversion directed to rich people studying in UP. It's just sad that the number of poor students studying here is not proportional to the actual number of poor people in the Philippines. I feel that the poor are outnumbered by the rich here when in reality, the poor outnumbers the rich. This is not to deny those who can afford a quality education; this is to bemoan the unequal access to quality education. 

It's still an honor to graduate in this institution that prioritizes honor and excellence more than anything else. To all those poor kids like me who want to study here (should there be any poor kid left dreaming of a UP education), prepare yourself to four years or more of paid work while in college. At times you would want to surrender but the world still turns and you can't be left behind. 

(note: I'm a bit busy right now so I'll write more about survival tips in a few days)

Rizal is such a versatile personality that anyone, for any purpose, reinterpret his life, decisions, and writings based on intended effects. I am subject to that now. I haven't done 'reinterpretations' yet but I'm afraid I'm being utilitarian by reading him (or things about him) like a lifeline.

I am aware that a lot of people have it worse than I do, like those kids from Norway scarred by that crazy man who gunned down everyone that he saw or those children in conflict-affected areas who are not sure if they can see the light of day by tomorrow (I doubt if they want morning to ever come). Reading Rizal is therapeutic. It gives me a great sense of relief that great people like him were in a way or another just like me.

It's really great that Rizal kept his diaries, letters, etc. for the world to see. If not for that, we will be left to speculate about his life. But then, even if we have it, we still speculate and spin away so many theories about how he is as a son, friend, lover. All that he has left were really helpful to craft an image of a Rizal that we like to imagine.

Looking at him now through the eyes of my professor make my Saturdays easily the best and the only day I look forward for in the week. Things aren't going so well for me these days that I am comforted to be transported into Rizal's world, at least for a couple of hours.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Game over

Prrt!

I'm done crying hurrah! :)