Sunday, November 28, 2021

Velez: Losing language, losing voices


WITH the news that the Supreme Court ruled that Filipino would no longer be taught in college, I wonder how non-Filipino speaking people like us should react.

I remember my secondary and college years, it was a challenge to grasp the Filipino language. It’s all the more challenging on my part as Mandarin Chinese is my first language, English is second because of TV, Bisaya is third through my interaction with classmates and community.

Learning to write and speak Filipino, or Tagalog, as we call it, was a challenge because only a few converse in this language and exposure to this language is through media and TV. Other factors are the competence of teachers to mold our tongues.

But even with such challenge, I accomplished reading Noli Me Tangere in its Filipino text on my third year high school, and felt the words of Rizal breathe awareness and anger on Spanish rule.

In college, I read on my spare time the poetry of Jose Lacaba and Joi Barrios, and listened to lyrics from progressive artists like Joey Ayala, Gary Granada, Chickoy Pura and Buklod to rockers like Dong Abay, Eraserheads and The Wuds. I learned the beauty and power of Filipino in raising consciousness.

In this debate, we need to understand that as a nation, learning Filipino language and literature helps us know who we are as a people and a nation.

We also need to learn one’s local language, its richness, its connectivity to one’s culture, history.

For instance, we need everyone to know that Cebuano or Bisaya is more than the cussing, misogynist and lumpenic language of the President. There is a rich literature of Bisaya from Visayas and Mindanao in the harana and balak of fisherfolk and farmers, in radio and theater drama on the lives of the masa, in poems and short stories of Don Pagusara, Merle Alburo, etc.

It is alarming if learning our languages is shelved for an education system that is dictated by the market and Malacañang. When a president apologist said one needs to learn Chinese because of the influx of Chinese businessmen and tourists, when DepEd incorporates Korean because of K-pop mania. When ROTC is touted as patriotism when the language is simply that of “Sir, yes sir” and “goddammit cadet”. When young people speak “Davao conyo” that shows our poor grasp of two languages, we have to worry our young generation is losing their voice and their connection to our nation.


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