Saturday, August 27, 2011

Filipino: Language of the Learned

Because I did not want to promote the article itself, I attribute this blog post to a link I found posted by a Facebook friend: AdMU student's essay on Filipino language raises online firestorm

Here's my two-cents on the issue:
For while Filipino may be the language of identity, it is the language of the streets. It might have the capacity to be the language of learning, but it is not the language of the learned.
In the same way that there's cockney English and pidgin Latin, there's Filipino spoken on the streets: salitang balbal. This is far removed from beautifully spoken Filipino, the Filipino language of the learned. Mr. Soriano has probably never read great literary masterpieces written in Filipino. His knowledge of the Filipino language is a slap in the face for Amado V. Hernandez, Lualhati Bautista and all of us who appreciate the beauty of Filipino as our native language.

Filipino was not merely a peculiar variety of language, derived and continuously borrowing from the English and Spanish alphabets; it was its own system, with its own grammar, semantics, sounds, even symbols.
Filipino doesn't even make it to top languages that are hard to learn. His difficulty in learning Filipino could be attributed not to a fault of the language, but to his own fault. People who've never gone to Russia, or had Chinese ancestors, learned those difficult languages. Modern people learn to speak Latin, a dead language. There is no excuse for not learning Filipino in its native land, save for carelessness and lack of talent.
Only recently have I begun to grasp Filipino as the language of identity: the language of emotion, experience, and even of learning. And with this comes the realization that I do, in fact, smell worse than a malansang isda. 
Yes, indeedy.
It is neither the language of the classroom and the laboratory, nor the language of the boardroom, the court room, or the operating room. It is not the language of privilege. I may be disconnected from my being Filipino, but with a tongue of privilege I will always have my connections.
Filipino may not be spoken  in the classroom or the laboratory, the board room or the court room: this is not because it is not the language of privilege. This is for reasons of practicality. 

I do feel sorry for Mr. Soriano. He will always be a second-class citizen in a foreign country, a Filipino in foreign clothing, speaking a foreign language and perpetuating foreign culture. He may live and have children and prosper in a different land, but he will never rid of his Filipino DNA. Denying it, he will always be an eagle thinking he is a chicken, a swan in a family of ducklings, never realizing his true identity.

For what it's worth, I am proud of being Filipino and of all (good) things Filipino. All those Filipino things that set us apart from other citizens - Arnel Pineda, Charice, eating bagoong, riding jeepneys, saying po and opo,  OFWs - barely tough the tip of the iceberg. One cannot judge the totality of being a Filipino using these few things as basis. While there are negative Filipino traits: crab mentality, Filipino time, etc., in the same way as there are German Nazis or the US has Bush who invaded Iraq, or Afghanistan had Bin Laden, there is a lot going for being a Filipino. While I myself use the English language quite extensively, nothing beats calling my husband "Mahal", saying "salamat", using po and opo and referring to my elders in the third person.