Bisaya, why not some Filipino?

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Monday, August 18, 2014


“ Sinturong pangkaligtasan."

It’s amusing, and at times, equally perplexing. These are some of the words uttered in a recorded audio track, giving out safety instructions that requires passengers the use of a seatbelt on an airplane.

For us Bisaya when aboard a flight, simple logic and reasoning would encourage us to cut to the chase and look for the seatbelt. No need to translate it word for word, because that’s what those words seem to imply anyway.

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But looking upon the Filipino language—with utmost respect as one of the more detailed, romantic and poetic languages in the world—it can’t be helped that the words sinturong pangkaligtasan when loosely translated, seems a bit too majestic for a mere device. If just for fun, it sounds more of like “the belt of salvation” or something in English rather than seatbelt or safety belt.

It’s like watching a Filipino-dubbed re-run of Conan the Barbarian on a weekday morning when most kids are out attending classes. The protaganist Conan would flex his abs, raising his fist in the air and scream, “Sinturong pangkaligtasan!”

And yes, strictly speaking, Filipino is not the same as Tagalog—but it sure does sound close. Although there is a good and reasonable explanation to this. On Dec. 13, 1937, then-president Manuel L. Quezon issued executive order 134, that approved Tagalog (a dialect) to be the basis of the national language, which is Filipino. Several reasons were cited then, that would range from practical and cultural factors.

In fairness, four paragraphs dedicated to dissecting the definition of a seatbelt might be too much of a fuss; almost juvenile. But it is what is. Here’s a good estimate of the truth: most Bisaya locals are not that good in Filipino. Some when speaking Filipino sound as if they’re reading pages from a dictionary while treading on a tight rope—with piranhas waiting at the bottom pool.

But despite this inability to cope with the national language (a situation more born out primarily out of circumstance), it’s a fantastic thing that regional discrimination due to one’s dialect is not a prevalent issue in the country today.

But still, if only Cebuanos (who predominantly speak in Cebuano and English) may sharpen their Filipino tongue, then that would obviously be an asset.

Annually in the country, the month of August is celebrated as the Buwan ng Wika (National Language Month). This coincides with the birthday of former head of state Manuel L. Quezon who is regarded as the Ama ng Wikang Pambansa (Father of the National Language), who was born on Aug. 19, 1878.

So that said, this month marks a fairly tough time for peoples situated in provinces that rarely speak, if not, entirely eliminate Filipino from their daily dealings and conversations. It’s tongue-twister month for students—well, mostly elementary and high school pupils who, under the mighty rule of the principal, must heed the memo encouraging everyone to converse in a language they only hear in telenovelas (and maybe overdubbed cartoons)

Here are some likely barriers to why the Bisaya (particularly for this story) may have a hard time speaking in Filipino; reasons mostly rooted from common sense.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 19, 2014.

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