Horseplay-A A +A
Monday, February 4, 2013
I’M NOW in that stage of fatherhood where I need to decide if the first words my child speaks must be in English or Cebuano. My boy turns 2 in April, and he now has a decent collection of syllables that can be woven into complete words the moment he’s ready, like “ba,” “ga,” “ta,” “a” and the occasional “duh,” which I suspect he uses when he’s being sarcastic.
Me: “Hey, kid, tiwasa nang imong gatas.” Boy: “Ba-ba-ta-ta-a-ga-ta-ta.” Me: “Swerte kang bataa ka. Ang ubang bata intawn ron walay gatas nga mainom.” Boy: “Duh!”
I speak to my boy in Cebuano. I love the Cebuano language. I was born into it, like a fish is born into water. I want to share this passion for the language with my son. I want him to grow up expressing his thoughts and feelings in the language where he is most sincere. English can wait.
But it’s not easy in this “English” world we live in. While inside the house I tell my son to eat his saging, the neighbors outside tell him to eat his banana. While I tell him to wear his tsinelas to protect himself from kagaw, the world outside tells him to wear his slippers because, you know, germs.
I can imagine how confusing the experience is for my boy, even more confusing than the tsoko na gatas-gatas na tsoko dilemma that his yaya always present to him to keep him still.
The wife and I are planning to enroll the boy in a playgroup when he turns 2. We have reasons for this, most important of which is that he has started to run out of things to break in the house. He has smashed everything to pieces – from my transistor radio to the wife’s cell phone, to the yaya’s make-up kit. Before he turns his attention to our plumbing system, we have to act fast.
We’ve heard that playgroup centers have an endless supply of things that toddlers love to break and throw at each other. Our boy will love this table-thrashing kind of environment. There’s one problem, though: all kids’ centers that we’ve checked so far seem to have a “No Cebuano/English Only” policy.
But an incident over the weekend made me realize that the English-Cebuano dilemma I have with my kid must be settled first not outside but within the household. Last Saturday, we bought this piece of board that people use for ironing clothes. It’s one of those purchases you make when you just moved in to a new house to start a family.
At home, I placed the thing in the middle of the living room and made a declaration in front of everybody: “Henceforth, this thing will be called utawanan.” The wife, born and raised in Manila, said, “Should we not call it kabayo? It is Tagalog and Cebuano at the same time.”
“Yes, in some parts of Cebu, it is also called kabayo,” I said, sounding defensive because she’s right. “But utawanan is more Cebuano.”
Not the type who easily gives up an argument, the wife said kabayo is a more colorful word that can help in the development of our boy’s linguistic creativity. I said no, I don’t want the boy to grow up believing this piece of wood is the real kabayo and the ones in Sanciangko are fake kabayo.
Things were starting to get serious when someone blurted out, “Kuya, ironing board. Mas nindot paminawon ang ironing board.” It was the yaya, our boy in her arms.
The wife and I looked at each other. Then we burst out laughing. I swear the little boy said, “Duh!”
(@insoymada on Twitter)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 05, 2013.