It's late in the evening, and news about Robin(hood) Padilla got me wondering: His proposal to give the Filipino language more weight in laws and government pronouncements actually makes sense, and is, in fact, already long overdue.
This is not to say that he's a saint. He ain't. He's a Wonderful Tonight-singin', self-proclaimed "summa cum laude of cutting classes" action star who was, apparently, elected as senator by 26.6 million Filipinos.
Pero sa ayaw at sa gusto natin, marami sa masa ang hindi naiintindihan ang mga pinagsasasabi ng mga politiko sa kanilang mga speech, media interview, o press release. Maging ang mga panukala o batas ay hirap ma-gets ng karamihan. It's all Greek (English?) to them.
For instance, try watching a Congress committee budget deliberation or a Senate hearing on the Pharmally scandal. Try reading the Supreme Court decision on Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno's ouster via a quo warranto petition or the implementing rules and regulations of the Universal Healthcare Law. While welcome to a certain few in the form of law students, beat reporters, and political analysts, I doubt that the general public—magtataho, magsasaka, delivery rider, even the self-styled “corporate slaves”—would progress the first few minutes of the livestream or pages of the document.
Make no mistake, the average Noypi has a grasp of English especially that they've reached elementary or high school at the very least. I definitely remember the eloquence of our tour guide in Roxas City during a media junket, as well as a number of restaurant staff or store personnel. But public officials ought to do away with the curse of knowledge. While it’s comforting that there are a certain few who are well-informed about the law and other concepts, they should always keep in mind who's on the other end of the line, who they’re actually working for.
Language is being used as a marker of class divide, according to Oscar Serquiña Jr., assistant professor of speech communication at the University of the Philippines Diliman. It's been evident during President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s first State of the Nation Address last July 25.
3. Marcos speaking in Filipino on the subject of agriculture, after a long spiel in English about the economy. What do we make of this? English for drivers of the economy, investors, businessmen; Filipino for farmers, fishermen, peasants. Language use as marker of class divide.— Oscar T. Serquiña, Jr. (@otserquina) July 25, 2022
Marcos Jr. began with a laundry list of numbers and figures about the Philippine economy in straight English. Nosebleed. Pero noong agrikultura na ang pinag-uusapan, tila contestant siya sa Pilipinas Got Talent kung saan “efas” siya mula sa “Mag-Tagalog ka, iho” na pananaway ni Binoy.
Ganito rin ang sistema 'pag nangangampanya, at kung bakit ganoon, your guess is as good as mine.
As Serquiña said, it’s English for drivers of the economy, investors, businessmen, but Filipino for farmers, fishermen, peasants.
Sa totoo lang, lagpas na rin sa mga dingding ng burukrasya ang problema sa wika at matagal nang pinasok ang mga paaralan. Tila ginagamit ang English para makapag-manufacture ng mga estudyante na may taglay na "global competitiveness," na magiging mabenta sa foreign companies. Marahil isa rin ito sa mga dahilan kung bakit ang (maling) mindset ng karamihan ay sukatan ng talino ang pagiging English-spokening. Naaalala ko pa nga noong may "English only policy" sa elementary, at ang lalabag ay kailangan magbigay ng barya sa titser. Awit, 'di ba?
According to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, using English as primary medium of instruction in school "further deteriorates" the quality of Philippine education. Pinagbasehan nila ang pagiging kulelat natin sa Program for International Student Assessment noong 2018 at Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study noong 2020.
ACT noted that countries leading the rankings are using their native language as a medium of instruction, and the Philippines must follow suit not only with Filipino, but also the likes of Cebuano, Ilocano, and Kapampangan, among others.
But it's worth noting that using the mother tongue as a medium of instruction doesn't equate to outright literal translation of concepts. It isn't goodbye "Square root of X raise to the power of 10" and hello "Parisukat ugat ng ekis itaas sa kapangyarihan ng sampu" moving forward, FYI.
Renato Constantino wrote in his essay dubbed "The Miseducation of the Filipino" that education is directionless if the only goal is to have students who know how to read and write. On the contrary, "Education should first of all assure national survival. No amount of economic and political policy can be successful if the educational programme does not imbue prospective citizens with the proper attitudes that will ensure the implementation of these goals and policies."
Tingnan na lang natin ang China, France, Japan, South Korea, o Spain bilang halimbawa. Oks na oks naman ang sitwasyon nila kahit 'di sila magkumahog na mag-English, 'di ba?
Isang tulog na lang at August na, meaning, Buwan ng Wika na naman. Heto na naman tayo sa faux nationalism, sa tokenistic na pagpupugay sa kapwa't kultura natin sa loob ng tatlumpung araw.
Bakit kaya 'di ito araw-arawin, lalo na iyong mga nagpapalakad sa gobyerno't mga paaralan? Baka sakaling we'll feel alright and wonderful tonight, tomorrow, and forever.