This is from a Commission on Filipino Language awardee

Just so because they deleted the link. Luckily we have back up. Read on and cringe. Yes, you might not help cringing over this.


Language, learning, identity, privilege
August 24, 2011, 4:06am
The Manila Bulletin

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.


Again this has caused another social media uproar. It seems that we have this kind of things regularly. This one is a blow below the hips though. I can agree with almost all of James’ points except for one – this has me cringing everytime I read and remember. And this came, ironically, from a newspaper which just won a Best in Journalism award from the Commission of Filipino Language. WAGAS!

It might have the capacity to be the language of learning, but it is not the language of the learned.

It doesn’t really matter what language we are using – even the dialect. The primary use of language is communication and not some elitist tool to set a social ranking system on the face of the Earth. Setting English as a higher form of language is irrelevant because, really, who does that? And apart from that, this statement coming from a privileged Filipino makes it sound all the worse.

Though I really find this as a showoff from the Ateneo fresh graduate. Well, you got your exposure. I hope you enjoyed the ride. As for degrading the Filipino language, I hope you realize soon enough that what you wrote is nasty – even worse getting that nasty phrase on print and online. I hope you also realize that it is still Buwan ng Wika, so I really can’t decipher if this is planned or it’s just a coincidence. On top of all that, I hope you learn your lesson.

For all of us, let’s love our language.


4 responses to “This is from a Commission on Filipino Language awardee

  1. I believe the article’s a satire, albeit a poorly-written one. He wasn’t able to clearly get his point across, hence the immediate negative backlash. :)

    I think my friend Patty captured everything I wanna say in one of her posts a few days ago. Here it is:

    “His tone ruined it and he could’ve ended it better, possibly with a challenge. It wasn’t a very well-written article because instead of inciting debate on what he says, he incited debate on what his article meant.

    It’s a subtle blow to our system as using English profusely in learning and in teaching, never giving importance to the mother tongue. He has a good point. English is the language of the elite and Filipino is looked down upon as inferior and “kalye.” We all have to admit that. The very fact that I’m typing this in English shows how society has instilled in students the importance of English as the language that the “world” speaks.

    You have to wonder whether people are insulted because he said that Filipino is not the language of the learned or are they insulted because they feel, as learned Filipinos, that their nationalism is insulted. Even if they themselves do not use Filipino as an everyday means of communication.”

    It’s just like the RH Bill satire from a few months back, only this time a lot of people REALLY got offended and failed to see it as satire. The fact that Manila Bulletin allowed themselves to publish this during Buwan ng Wika is testament to that. However, it’s also a questionable move on their part to publish a poorly-written (and poorly-concluded) column.

    (Pero oo nga, paano kung on purpose din na mukha siyang poorly-written? Kunwari hindi talaga sapat yung edukasyon niya sa English?)

    And yes, the irony here is that we’re writing in English as well. We’re using the “superior” language to defend our nationalism, but also to try to prove that we’re an educated bunch. Haha. :D

    Sayang lang at hindi pa natin sobrang nagagamay ang Filipino, ang sarap siguro pag-usapan kung ganito tayo mag-usap. :))

    • A satire? Yes maybe, but it is a VERY poorly-written one. And I don’t think that using English as a mode of communication kills our own mother language. And I believe also that there’s no such thing as a superior language. What James failed to mention, I think, is the goal of writing the article. Or at the least fixing the tone he is using and make it more sympathetic to our language rather stepping on it. He has plenty of good realizations, but his article just went down on using the terms “language of learning” and “language of the learned.” Because there is no such thing. If you see it in another angle, it’s just another social classification – and I think this country has seen so much of that.

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