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Monthly Archives: August 2011

James Soriano and Tagalog

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Today’s wired world has given a voice to the once voiceless. Not a long time ago, public opinion was lorded over by the fortunate thinkers and sociologists in print. Bejewelled celebrities had their share of those precious pages writing nonsense. But thanks to social networking tools, even beetle collectors now have their say — not to mention a huge fanbase. Almost everyone with an internet account can stir up a hornet’s nest in just a couple of posts and clicks.

But not all become online celebrities due to keyboard wit. Take flood victim Christopher Lao, for example. His “miscalculations” of flood depth and his subsequent rants against people waiting to laugh at other people’s misfortunes (or so he thought) became a magnet for cyber bullies and other smart alecks. And if Willie Revillamé’s antics were done in the 1980s, it would surely have remained mere barber shop talk.

Indeed, visual artist Andy Warhol’s 1968 tongue-in-cheek prophecy is now transpiring: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”.

Some remain famous for fifteen days, though. Even more.

Very recently, local netizens are abuzz and fuming mad over Atenista James Soriano’s Manila Bulletin article that came off the online press. The bone of contention? That English is the language of the learned, and that Tagalog (masking behind the term “Filipino” to project authority over other Filipino languages) is nothing but a contact vernacular to enable him to talk to Erap Estrada’s beloved masa. Lest Manila Bulletin is compelled to take down the controversial article again (it did so just a few days ago), I print the Soriano article in full:

Language, learning, identity, privilege
Ithink
By JAMES SORIANO

August 24, 2011, 4:06am

♪ Ow, parey kow. Merown akowng prowbleymah... ♫

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.

At first reading, the first impression that one gets from the author is sheer cayabañgan (braggadocio). Here comes a son of the hated minority, the elitists, telling everybody that his language (which is, in effect a foreign language, the invader’s language) is the language of the learned. Filipino/Tagalog is fit only as a communicative tool for household help and the manongs of the street. But take a peaceful moment to flesh out the details of what he wrote, and you will realize that he is, in fact, merely stating his observations, but a veritable one. And then read the title of his essay once more: Language, learning, identity, privilege. And later on he admits that he was able “to grasp Filipino as the language of identity”. He is, after all, still a Filipino (although it can be said that his parents made him a foreigner in his own land by teaching him exclusively in the invader’s tongue).

The tone of Soriano’s article may be condescending to some, especially coming from an elitist like him. Regretfully, most of what he said holds water. His commentary was just a reaction to a stark reality — that Tagalog is already a clinically dead language. When we say so, it means that Tagalog is not used as a medium for the cultural and economic development of the country (except, maybe, during the month of August), nor is it used in the Courts and in Legislative and Executive proceedings. Worse, nobody actually speaks it anymore. Tagalog was already replaced by a vile pidgin called Taglish together with its horrible bastards: gay speak and jejem0n/bekimon. We have no less than P-Noy’s showbiz sister and her loudmouth, gossip-loving gay friends to thank for.

Perhaps the only viable question we should ask is “WHY?”. Why did Soriano write that article? What were his motives in doing so? And how timely (or how untimely, depending on how you view the situation) that he had it published on the month that is reserved for the commemoration of Tagalog.

In the essay, wittingly or unwittingly, Soriano was able to determine the ruts on what was thought to be as smooth ground. In this age of speed and real-time delivery of information, he was able to raise the problem of language and identity, making us all stop and wonder and complain and cry foul. In doing so, did he offer any solution to the “social cancer” he just exacerbated? Because that is, in the first place, the duty of a responsible writer dealing with social issues (language is a social phenomenon). A genuine essayist worth his salt tries to find the root of the problem, then offers viable solutions to end that problem. With this in mind, Soriano is at fault here. No solutions were offered on how to quell the stink of rotting fish that he made us all aware was in our midst all these decades. What remained, still, is the braggadocio that all of us non-Atenistas have noticed. So what was his point? That he’s privileged, and we’re not?

Then again, we complain. We complain that he insulted Tagalog. Oh, we continue to complain. But in English still.

We Filipinos are masochists. We wallow in mud that hurts our onion skin.

Bye bye, anklets

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A farewell to youth?

Bye bye, everdearest beach anklets, you whom I have gathered from various beaches: from family-friendly R-18 Laíya all the way to Bora — I really hate to see you guys go but recently you’ve started to become a sore, giving me itchy irritations and occasional skin abrations and it’s probably due to an ecosystem of greenish-blue (or is it bluish-green?) microbes that have grown on each once-lively strand which has grown stiff, colorless, meaningless over the years, no thanks to daily soap suds and sudden urban inundations that have shocked the wits out of a catatonically wage-enslaved public —not to mention inducing 748-wpm squawks from a hypochondriac wife— who couldn’t care less about the fancy connection between beach fanaticism and wishy-washy anklet dreamin’. But I had fun. So there. Adiós, mis cadenitas…

Ocampo: Rizal did not write Sa Aking Mga Kabata

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Finally.

Two years ago, I contended that Rizal never wrote Sa Aking Mga Kabata which reeked of Tagalista fervor as well as dubious, “unRizalistic” entries in almost each line. Early this morning, no less than the country’s foremost historian today, Ambeth R. Ocampo, finally ended the issue.

Isn’t the most quoted line from Rizal’s many poems that from “Sa Aking Mga Kabata” that goes, “Ang hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika/masahol pa sa hayop at malansang isda.” (He who loves not his own language/is worse than a beast and a stinking fish.)

Did Rizal write this poem at eight years old? Did Rizal write this poem at all?

No original manuscript, in Rizal’s own hand, exists for “Sa Aking Mga Kabata,” traditionally believed to be his first poem.

I heard a few years ago that Ocampo already disagreed that Rizal authored this poem. He may have written something about the same topic already. But this is just the first time that I read an article from him about the same. And of course, his contentions about this poem attributed to Rizal is far more better, highly informative, and exceptional compared to my arguments.

Happy language month?

Click here for the full article.

WWE Superstar vows to destroy Pacquiáo!

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A few days ago, I mentioned an ABS-CBN report about John Cena acknowledging our very own Manny “Pacman” Pacquiáo’s toughness (“Manny Pacquiáo will knock me out in the 1st round.”). Now, even more WWE Superstars are talking about the Philippines’ hottest commodity!

“I think Manny is one of the toughest men in the planet. Pound-for-pound, maybe the toughest.”
Randy Orton (current WWE World Heavyweight Champion)—

“Manny Pacquiáo, I’m a big fan of his. He fought Ricky Hatton and he destroyed him.”
Wade Barrett

“I am friends with the most famous Filipino ever!”
Christian

“I would love to meet him. I’ve seen him knock a couple of people out. Pacquiáo’s really good”.
R-Truth

But right after praising Pacquiáo, Barrett has this to say: “If Manny Pacquiáo thinks he’s tough enough to step in the ring with Wade Barrett, make the challenge,” adding that he will “destroy” Pacman.

This “threat” may not be an empty one. Remember that two years ago, Pacquiáo embarrassed Englishman Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas. Hatton happens to be a cababayan of Barrett. “Ricky Hatton is from Manchester, where I’m from, so I was disappointed,” lamented the former WWE Intercontinental Champion and first ever WWE NXT winner. His disappointment, of course, was directed towards Hatton’s second-round KO loss to the Filipino boxing superstar.

Barrett could be out for vengeance to redeem national pride, albeit kayfabe (actually, Barrett’s from Preston).

This match, whether it be wrestling or boxing, will be a certified hit compared to the dud that was the match between The Big Show and Floyd Maycoward, Jr. in WrestleMania XXIV. For one: it is not widely known that Barrett was once a bare-knuckled boxer in Liverpool. And with his height and massive built, he could give Pacquiáo a run for his money. But to his discredit, Barrett has chosen sports entertainment and has been doing it for quite sometime. If ever he gets the opportunity to fight Pacman in a boxing match (WWE has had a couple of boxing matches in its history), he will need a lot of catching up to do. Pacquiáo’s lightning-speed and granite-hard punches are yet to be matched and conquered.

If it’s going to be a wrestling match, Pacquiáo could be on a disadvantage. Nevertheless, ever since his rise to superstardom, Pacquiáo has not been known to be a quitter. Though smaller compared to Barrett, he will prove to be a tough and stubborn opponent to beat.

The chances of Pacquiáo joining WWE, however, are quite slim given the fact that aside from boxing, the southpaw from Mindanáo is also a legislator. So when not busy with his boxing commitments, he has his hands full in representing the province of Sarangani to the House of Representatives.

Wade Barrett about to perform his signature finishing move, "Wasteland" (forward fireman's carry slam), on Daniel Bryan. Will he be able to do the same to Pacman? Only time will tell.

But Pacquiáo has proven everything there is to prove in the rough world of boxing. The fact is, there is no more need for him and his group to hound Maycoward. just to prove a point. Floyd’s a yellow has-been; there’s really no need to beat someone who can be easily beat.

It’s time, therefore, for Pacman to move to a more glitzy realm, and that is sports entertainment, i.e., professional wrestling. And when one speaks of professional wrestling, naturally only the WWE first comes to mind. The company has a huge fanbase not only in the US but all over the world. Pacquiáo showing up in that company even for just a few minutes will further catapult him —and our country— into the limelight, at least in the hodge-podge but swanky world of pop culture.

If ever, Pacman will be the first full-blooded Filipino to enter a WWE ring. And it’s not even Batista; he’s half-Greek. And whatever Filipino in him that is left, it was already far removed ever since his Filipino grandfather left the Philippines for good.

Anyway, Barrett has spoken. We await Pacman’s response. Poor Wade, though. He should never challenge a Filipino warrior to a bloodmatch. Ever.

Click here for the full article!

The perfect words to describe Mideo Cruz’s garbage

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For his somewhat immature and juvenile views regarding Philippine History, I don’t have a liking for F. Sionil José even if he’s one of the late, great Nick Joaquín‘s dearest friends. I may have a preference for José’s prose. I bought his famous Rosales novels as well as his other books, and I think they’re OK. But like I always say to other like-minded people, he’d better stick to fiction where he’s good at. Just like Ms. Bárbara González should stick to writing about the comforts of life.

But another thing that Mr. José may be good at aside from moulding fictitious characters and circumstances from his mind is art criticism. And this is what he has to say to describe Mideo Cruz’s controversial works

Sionil José calls Mideo Cruz immature, juvenile
By: Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net
2:01 pm | Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—National Artist for Literature Francisco Sionil José lambasted on Tuesday the controversial artwork of Mideo Cruz, who put a wooden penis on the image of Jesus Christ, saying it was not an art but an illustration that the artist was “immature” and “juvenile”

“I saw the pictures, which too many people object and I said this is not art. These pictures illustrate that the artist is immature and juvenile in his attempt to express his views,” José said in mixed English and Tagalog when he faced the Senate investigation on the controversial artwork.

“This artist is not all that good because we do it when we were kids, where you put a mustache in people… anó ba yan,” he added.

But José defended art in general, saying there was nothing “obscene” in it compared to the obscenities of corrupt officials in government.

“The obscenities in this country are the powerful Filipinos who do not do their duties, the corrupt officials, who are not responsible. These are the obscenities in our nation. There are only bad artists and bad writers,” he said, which elicited cheers and applause from the people in the hearing room.

José then called on the Cultural Center of the Philippines to be more sensitive to the definition of the art itself.

Good point. For future exhibits, how should art be defined? What are the parameters and benchmarks? Who should criticize art? These and other related questions should be answered so that in the future no more garbage will infiltrate our Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Mideo Cruz, probably mighty proud by now that he's up against Everybody's Favorite Whipping Boy (formally known as the Roman Catholic Church). But now he has earned the ire of a secular heavyweight... and a National Artist at that.

Immature. Juvenile. Probably the best, the most precise choice of words —without honestly resorting to insults— to describe Mideo Cruz’s Poleteísmo garbage.

For his age, Mr. José still has a good eye for aesthetics. So again: he’d better stick to fiction and the arts. So please, stay away from Philippine History. That would also be honoring a dearly departed friend in Nick.

Cena vs. Pacquiáo: let’s get it on!

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Below is an interesting report from ABS-CBN News’ Gretchen Fullido regarding WWE Superstar John Cena’s comments about a possible Cena-Pacquiáo match.

‘Pacquiao will knock me out’ – WWE star
abs-cbnNEWS.com
Posted at 08/15/2011 1:00 PM | Updated as of 08/16/2011 10:54 AM
Tweet

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Nine-time World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) champion John Cena is known for his toughness inside the ring, but he admits that he won’t last against Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiáo.

“I think it would be very quick, and the decision would be obvious,” Cena said. “Manny Pacquiáo will knock me out in the 1st round.”

Cena also said that if Pacquiáo ever enters the wrestling ring, then the WWE champion will have to work on his quickness.

“If Manny will enter the WWE, I would have to work a lot on my quickness. He is lightning quick,” Cena said. “So just give me a little bit of warning if he decides to (enter the WWE).”

Cena admitted that he was a big fan of the pound-for pound king.

“I have a lot of respect (for Pacquiáo). He’s done so much, not only for the Philippines. His popularity has transcended,” Cena said.

Cena was attending the WWE’s “Be A Star” red carpet event for their Summer Slam pay-per-view.

He will be fighting CM Punk in a match that will decide who will be the Undisputed WWE champion.

— Report from Gretchen Fullido, ABS-CBN News

Super Cena. Also known as Mr. "Fruity Pebbles".

That’s one thing I like about John “Super” Cena: he’s damn honest.

Yeah, I call him Super. Because WWE Creative always favors him in major matches despite the endless boos he gets through the years, thus disrespecting wrestling fans in the process. They still think that he’s the best. But I hate this idea that he’s the best… because he’s not. CM Punk’s the best… he’s the best in the world!

But that’s another story.

Let it happen: Cena vs. Pacquiáo! ASAP!

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. stepped in the ring against the Big Show in WrestleMania XXIV. Why not Pacquiáo, too?

Ms. González’s “petty” remark

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Last Sunday, me and my wife Yeyette visited Señor Gómez in Rockwell Center (Ciudad de Macati) where he teaches flamenco. Aside from consoling him for the demise of his daughter, Yeyette was also planning of resuming her flamenco lessons.

At the building where the Great Old Man of Filipinismo teaches, I chanced upon a copy of The Philippine Star’s Modern Living section and saw the name of one of Literatura Filipina‘s most reverred figures: Mª Soledad Lacson vda. de Locsín (who happens to be an auntie of Señor Gómez). It was written by Star columnist Bárbara González, a granddaughter of María Rizal, one of the national hero’s sisters.

Below is the article which appeared last Sunday:

Locsín’s ‘Noli Me Tangere
SECOND WIND By Bárbara C. González (The Philippine Star)

I have just finished reading José Rizal’s novel, Noli Me Tangere, translated by Soledad Lacson-Locsín, the late, great mother of one of my late, great friends, Raul Locsín, once publisher of the newspaper Business World. Doña Soledad was a dignified, well-educated lady who grew up speaking beautiful Spanish and therefore translated the novel masterfully. On the first page of her Notes or the book’s glossary, it reads: The title, Noli Me Tangere, is Latin for “Touch Me Not,” and comes from the Gospel of St. John, XX: 17, where Jesus says to Mary Magdalene: “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father…” The author relates this to a social cancer “of a breed so malignant that the least contact exacerbates it and stirs in it the sharpest of pains” in his dedication: “To My Motherland (A mi patria). On March 5, 1887, Rizal wrote to the painter Resurrección Hidalgo: “The book (Noli) has matters which no one among ourselves has spoken of until now — so delicate that they cannot be touched by anybody…”

I have had this book for many years but never read it. It was not very easy to read, not because of the content but because of the book’s size and weight, being thick and hardbound, difficult to read in bed where I do most of my reading. I know I have read parts of the Noli before, in English, when I was much younger, but no translation is as good as this one. I know I also read a few chapters in Pilipino — even acted them out for my eldest daughter so she would understand and pass her school year — but nothing was as beautiful or comprehensible as this translation. It is also obvious to me that Doña Soledad Locsín respected the writer and sought to translate exactly what it is he wanted to say.

Rizal wrote each chapter as a piece of a large puzzle, randomly handed to the reader so that in the end we would see not quite the whole picture. In the end we know what happened to everyone, from Capitán Tiago to Padre Dámaso, Doña Victorina to Linares, who became María Clara’s jilted fiancé. We even know that María Clara became a somewhat crazy nun. But we do not know what happened to Crisóstomo Ibarra, except that he was lying at the bottom of a banca that floated away, while the pursuing Spanish police called the Guardia Civil shot at Elias as he jumped out of the banca that he had shared with Ibarra to distract the guards.

If you are over 60, I recommend you read this translation of Noli Me Tangere. You will see fully what life was like when we were under the friars. How petty they were! You will question: what happened to our country? You will see how little has changed or that whatever has changed is very superficial. Filipinos stepped into the shoes of their colonizers and now act exactly the same way as the friars. And you will want to weep like Rizal did. He was executed at Bagumbayan, now the Luneta, in 1896, 115 years ago. Ninoy Aquino was shot at the airport in 1986, just a scrambling of the very same numbers. That was 25 years ago. Two executions. Two heroes. Each one followed by its own brand of uprising and still nothing much has changed.

Last Friday, Aug. 5, I was at the Little Theater watching the musical of Noli Me Tangere, tickets compliments of the National Historical Commission, who gave them to Rizal descendants. I would give the Noli production an “A” for effort. The libretto, if you could understand the words — because the orchestrated minus one was too loud so you couldn’t understand what they were singing — was written by National Artist Bien Lumbera, who was there. The performance, I thought, was too level. I am not sure I can explain it well. Usually you can draw a stage performance in waves, there are high, medium and low points, which shadow the plot. In this case it was like a straight line. Many of the descendants fell asleep. A few developed crushes on Gian Magdangal, who made a very good-looking Crisóstomo Ibarra.

Ryan Cayabyab composed the music but there was no real standout piece. I thought that Sisa’s song, as she was singing it, was the best but I could not even attempt to hum it afterwards, meaning the melody was not compelling enough to stick in the audience’s mind. I was just glad that I was still reading the Noli when I watched the show because, I guess, I understood it more. While the cast and crew deserve congratulations for their work — an A for effort, as I said — it still needs a lot of polishing to make the audience truly understand the Noli. I think that is the point of a stage performance — to enlighten an audience. You perform to make the audience understand the story. That night nobody understood what was going on except that Crisóstomo Ibarra and María Clara were in love and had to say goodbye because Padre Salvi was in love with her. But that was not all of the Noli.

I finished the book last night before going to sleep. I shut the book, put it on the floor beside my bed, and said aloud to no one in particular, “That was beautiful.” It really and truly was.

* * *

Send your comments to 0917-815-5570.

After reading her article, the only words that struck me was her elementary anti-friar remark: “How petty they were!” Since she left her cellphone number out in the open for comments, that is what I did. Below I print our brief SMS exchanges:

ME: RE: Locsín’s Noli Me Tangere’. Please don’t rely solely on Rizal regarding the friars of his time. By saying “how petty they were”, you tend to generalize.
ME: Remember: when Rizal wrote his novels, he was a Freemason. He had his biases and committed a lot of doctrinal errors.
ME: Thank you for your time. PEPE ALAS (https://filipinoscribbles.wordpress.com)
GONZÁLEZ: Thank you.
GONZÁLEZ: You moust (sic) be a priest or a pastor. Don’t read my columns. We will always disagree.
ME: Neither. I’m just an ordinary kid. I’m not a follower of your column. It just so happened that I saw you used Soledad’s name who happens to be one of my
ME: favorite writers. There were bad friars, then as now. But as a journalist, be careful not to generalize. Reassess Philippine History. Thanks.

I tried to be diplomatic with my comment. But what did I get? A “taray” reply a la Maricel Soriano.

Anyway.

Please, ma’am, get your historical facts straight. If you can’t, then please don’t comment on Philippine History anymore. Stay true to the title of the section in which your column belongs: MODERN LIVING.

And speaking of straightening up historical facts — Ninoy was assassinated in 1983, not 1986.

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