Friday, September 2, 2011
James Soriano Would Love These Alabang Moms
Barely a week ago from the time that James Soriano unleashed a firestorm over social media with his, uhm, thought-provoking column/discourse on Filipino (the language), I have the distinct (dis)pleasure of seeing his very, er, analysis in action. (For those who need a refresher, please click on this link: http://mb.com.ph/articles/331851/language-learning-identity-privilege)
At 7AM in the morning.
There are days when you wish you didn't get up so early.
I made an early start going to Alabang (for work) so as to avoid the hideous traffic that usually adorns the routes to and from Alabang during mid-mornings. That also meant skipping breakfast at home in order to beat the traffic, so I was famished when I got to Alabang and immediately looked for a place to have a meal and a much-needed caffeine fix.
I settled for an established local coffee shop chain that had wifi access.
When I got in, I noticed a pair of moms (the only customers in the shop), yapping loudly over some domestic problem one of them had to contain. In English. More specifically, colegiala English - when they pepper their English statements with "yeah nga, eh" (First red flag.) This was the statement that initially got my attention: "I told nga yaya why naman did you use that detergent, eh I already told her that si ___________ (name of hubby) hated the smell and yung mga bata, they itch all over when that brand is used. Kakainis talaga our yaya."
She sounded like one of those pa-English starlets on local TV.
I thought that would be the extent of my unpleasant jolt. Oh, no. Not quite yet.
They then began discussing the grades of one of their kids (from their conversation, I deduced that they sent their kids to the same school, since familiar teachers' names kept cropping up without introduction.) The central point in their discussion was that ____________ (name of child) was flunking in Filipino.
"So, what did you say?"
"Hay, naku. I just wrote another letter to that teacher no. I said, what's this? 1 over 10 in the short quizzes, tapos 4 out of 25 lang sa periodic exams! And she is obviously disregarding my letters! I have sent her at least 3 other letters, I keep noticing him (the child) flunking only in one subject, Filipino! Of all the things naman, of all the subjects, yun pa?"
"What was in the letter that you wrote ba?"
"I said, what's happening? Why are you not paying attention to my son? And why didn't you come to me with a stronger notice? Eh bumabagsak na pala ang hijo ko! I told her that I expected his grades to be up next quarter, dapat may special attention to my son kasi Filipino isn't spoken at home, how can you blame the child?"
"And what did she say?"
"Wala! As in, wala!"
:"What will you be doing now, mare?"
"I'm asking my unica hija to write a letter. Maybe that teacher needs a letter that's written better, with better sounding words."
(Right on cue, her cellular phone rings.)
Mommy Dearest to Unica Hija: "Finally! Help me, hija! Your brother is flunking Filipino....no! That's not the tutor's fault...Regardless!....Yes! Yes!...I already sent her letters....No, use the big words you like using, I think that will be more impressive...Yes! Just like that! OK, I'll see you later, hija."
(Mommy Dearest hangs up and talks to her friend once again.)
"Hay, naku. That letter better do the trick. I don't know what else to do!"
"And to think, in Filipino."
"Exactly! I mean, who needs that? I'm very sure when he works abroad, he won't be needing it naman! Tapos this will be the reason that he flunks a year in school? Hindi pwede no! I am so inis! I would understand if he flunked Math, or something else, the hard things, pero this?!"
"I guess wait and see pala to, mare."
I'm having difficulty believing this conversation really took place just now. I'm assuming these moms were blissfully unaware (maybe they imbibed the "ignorance is bliss" statement too much?) of Mr. Soriano's current brouhaha. Or, like Mr. Soriano, they envisioned themselves as "learned". After all, they don't speak Filipino, the "language of the streets". Only when in colegiala mode.
Lady, first thing: It is not the teacher's responsibility to keep your son's grades up. You are responsible for that and he is also responsible for that. What is this, another McDonald's-coffee-so-hot-I-burned-myself-I'll-sue-you moment?!? Grow a pair, take THE responsibility!
And if he is flunking in Filipino, are you really amazed? Really? Your assessment that "he'll never use it anyway" tells me so much about how you view our language. Mind you, you don't have Caucasian or other foreign lineages in your physical makeup. You're purong Pinoy - light brown skin, wide eyes, flat nose, thick lips - so your appearance alone makes your statements sound so much more baffling than they already are. Maybe you married a foreigner, hence, the deep seated assurance that your son will be working abroad. Maybe it's because you're rich.
Whatever it is, you should NOT be surprised that your son is flunking Filipino. Your disdain for it makes it clear to your son that he should assign no importance whatsoever in learning it. What for, to be ridiculed by you? To be looked down by you - and your (limited, in more ways than one) circle of friends? What possible incentive does he have to do better in it? (I suppose you're the type who would dangle the possiblity of not getting his trust fund to get better grades.) Your very attitude signals to him that it is perfectly okay to overlook Filipino as a subject, and sadly, you are also giving him permission to turn his back on his culture, his history, and our future as a nation.
For what nation can exist if its' citizens cannot even identify itself through its' own language? Or are ashamed at how it stacks up against the rest of the world's languages?
We had no choice in being born in the Philippines. But it is a choice to shun our culture and our heritage.
And for your son, and for our country, I feel nothing but pity and shame that this is how we've come to view our very own language.
(And just as I was about to leave, a pair of older women come in, with one of them saying, "I have to send some money to Samar". And her emphasis is on the last syllable in Samar, reminding me of basketball commentators saying "ag-wire" when reading Aguirre while locally we say "a-gi-re". Is there something in the water in Alabang that makes its' residents feel that they are in a foreign country, far, far away from the "madness" (in their book) that is the Philippines?!?)