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The Curious Case of the Conceited James Soriano

Friday, August 26, 2011 comments powered by disqus

While it is true that CHED and DepEd taught us to use the English language, our values and perspective on things are decided by the self alone. We can speak english, french, or german.. or do karate or cook the most delicious foods in the international scene, or be famous in singing or whatever talent and skills,.. but boastfulness, just like in the case of Soriano, is a shame.

By this time, I think we all read the Manila Bulletin (MB) article written by James Soriano. And sorry for those saying that it was an attempt on satire. Year 2008, he also wrote a similar essay lambasting the use of Filipino language. Actually, the piece for the MB was a rehash of that 2008 blog post.

Here is the essay of Mr. Soriano, "Language, Learning, Identity, Privelege" but was removed from MB's website. I am not sure if it saw print. After the article is his year 2008's blog post, "Filipino as a Second Language".

Language, learning, identity, privilege

August 24, 2011, 4:06am
MANILA, Philippines

English is the language of learning. I’ve known this since before I could go to school. As a toddler, my first study materials were a set of flash cards that my mother used to teach me the English alphabet.

My mother made home conducive to learning English: all my storybooks and coloring books were in English, and so were the cartoons I watched and the music I listened to. She required me to speak English at home. She even hired tutors to help me learn to read and write in English.

In school I learned to think in English. We used English to learn about numbers, equations and variables. With it we learned about observation and inference, the moon and the stars, monsoons and photosynthesis. With it we learned about shapes and colors, about meter and rhythm. I learned about God in English, and I prayed to Him in English.

Filipino, on the other hand, was always the ‘other’ subject — almost a special subject like PE or Home Economics, except that it was graded the same way as Science, Math, Religion, and English. My classmates and I used to complain about Filipino all the time. Filipino was a chore, like washing the dishes; it was not the language of learning. It was the language we used to speak to the people who washed our dishes.

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.

That being said though, I was proud of my proficiency with the language. Filipino was the language I used to speak with my cousins and uncles and grandparents in the province, so I never had much trouble reciting.
It was the reading and writing that was tedious and difficult. I spoke Filipino, but only when I was in a different world like the streets or the province; it did not come naturally to me. English was more natural; I read, wrote and thought in English. And so, in much of the same way that I learned German later on, I learned Filipino in terms of English. In this way I survived Filipino in high school, albeit with too many sentences that had the preposition ‘ay.’

It was really only in university that I began to grasp Filipino in terms of language and not just dialect. 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.
But more significantly, it was its own way of reading, writing, and thinking. There are ideas and concepts unique to Filipino that can never be translated into another. Try translating bayanihan, tagay, kilig or diskarte.
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.

My own language is foreign to me: I speak, think, read and write primarily in English. To borrow the terminology of Fr. Bulatao, I am a split-level Filipino.

But perhaps this is not so bad in a society of rotten beef and stinking fish. 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.

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.

So I have my education to thank for making English my mother language.


By James Soriano


The eve of Bonifacio Day brings back memories of my first days as a freshman in high school, particularly the one where I was sitting in Filipino class listening to my then-teacher, Mr. Pioquid, give an introduction to the course.
I especially remember that the reason it wasn’t boring was because he made a lot of noise by dropping his empty tin can onto the cement floor, and then proceeded to liken our young minds to tin cans which must be empty in order to be capable of receiving new and valuable knowledge. Back then, it struck me as very profound.
But there is one other thing that I remember from that first Filipino session, and that is a small parenthetical remark he made while glossing over the more boring (and unfortunately, the more important) parts of the syllabus.
He mentioned something about us taking an Honors course in Filipino by the time we got to sophomore year. I remember that this struck me as very strange: I could understand taking an Honors course in Math or Science or English, like most other gifted students would in other schools. But why would we have an advanced course in Filipino?
Looking back, maybe I was asking the wrong question. What I ask now is: why don’t most other schools have advanced courses in Filipino?
Oops, dumb question. There are a number of good reasons why we don’t.
For one thing, what is the Filipino language in the first place? Is it Tagalog? Is it Tagalog with tidbits of regional dialects? Or is it a genuine halo-halo of all of our major tongues?
As for me, I really don’t know. Members of the academe are still debating these questions as we speak. Therefore, maybe Filipino is just our cop-out: it allows us to say that we have a national language, even if in reality, we don’t.
Besides, it’s not very wise to master a language that isn’t utilized very often in politics or trade. Our laws, for example, aren’t written in Filipino, and neither are our court rulings and executive orders. They are all written in English. That’s why our lawyers take the bar examinations in English, and those who come out on top, more often than not, are people who are very well-versed in the English language.
The same is true with the language of education. In what language are we taught Science, Math, and Religion? Heck, we can even go beyond that: what is the language of the educated and the elite?
It really isn’t a surprise, then, that people who belong on the upper limits of society, like many of the people I come into contact with everyday, like to laugh at people who don’t speak English very well. English is the language of the man in the mansion, while Filipino is the language of the man on the street.
Besides, English is the language of the professional. It is the key to getting employed. This is especially true nowadays, when the trend is to go abroad where all the lucrative jobs are. If your employers can’t understand you, how can you expect them to hire you? In fact, this is also true with jobs here at home. Do you think call center agents are paid to speak in Filipino?
Hence, maybe I should be thankful that I’ve been trained to value the English language ever since I was a young boy. I should be thankful that I was exposed early to English cartoons and stories, for without them I don’t think I would have developed affection for the language. I should also be grateful that I was sent to schools that put a premium on being able to express yourself effectively in English; otherwise my skills as a student would never have been recognized.
Finally, I should be grateful that I was born in a society that never fails to remind me why that’s important.
After all, you don’t need to love your language to be able to love your country. Right?

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