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,


plaridel said...

in fairness to mr. soriano, he probably meant well. unfortunately, his good intention was lost in translation because of his condescending style. he should have chosen his words very carefully.