Life in the Fast Lane


Coming Home to the Filipino Language

By 8:26 PM , , , , ,

A Response to "Language, Learning, Identity, Privilege" by James Soriano
(Those who haven't read the article yet can find it here.)

English was my first language. My childhood wasn't filled with memories of Batibot, Shaider, Voltes V or other Filipino-adapted cartoons. Instead, I was a Rainbow Brite, Carebears and Peanuts kid. I spoke with an accent (heavily influenced by the likes of Lucy Van Pelt) and didn't understand the "isa, dalawa, tatlo" of Pong Pagong.

My parents were of the mindset that we would learn and embrace the Filipino language at some point, so they wanted me (and my siblings) to learn English first. And that was how it went. I was a full-fledged English speaker until the first grade, when Filipino finally became a subject at school. Eventually, Filipino started entering my consciousness — slowly at first, but through time, it became a vital part of who I was.

The way I choose to use "Bwisit!" when I'm aggravated, because a simple "Darn it" won't do it justice.

Or the way "Salamat" rolls off my tongue not only to connote the act of thanksgiving, but to coat it with a feeling of indebtedness.

Or the way I feel horrible when I hear that someone's "nagtatampo" with me because I did or said something I shouldn't have. It is not so much that he or she is holding a grudge against me or is disappointed with me. It's the feeling that I really let down that person, the gravity of which can only be determined contextually.

Or the moments where "pagmemeron" or “pagtatahak ng landas” holds much more weight than "being" or “finding one’s direction” in a philosophical context. Just ask any of the Philosophy professors who choose to teach the subject in Filipino rather than in English.

Or the way I can't help but marvel at the almost onomatopoeic tonality that so many Filipino words have: the poetry of "maginhawa", "mahalimuyak", "kumukutikutitap" vis-a-vis the imagery that "mapanghi" or "madusing" or "karumal-dumal" presents.

While my Filipino has improved significantly through the years, I am, by no means, a makata. And as a copywriter, I envy those who can express themselves fluently both in Filipino and in English. I admire my writing mentors back when I was still a student and when I was new in the advertising business; their command of both languages challenged me to better myself as a writer. Really, I welcome the day when I can come up with scripts or body copy without sounding contrived or too academic.

I know with all my heart that being able to express oneself not only in English, but in the mother tongue, would ground him or her. It would allow that person to encapsulate what being Filipino is all about.

In fact, I am frustrated because I had to resort to writing this in English.

Ngunit ako'y may pagkukulang sa wikang Filipino. Aaminin ko talaga. Gustuhin ko man nang buong-buo o hindi, hindi sapat ang kakayahan ko para maibahagi ang gusto kong iparating. Marahil ay may mawawala kung susubukan kong managalog nang tuluy-tuloy. Pero balang araw, sana'y magkaroon ako ng lakas ng loob na magsulat sa aking wika.

Dahil, kung tutuusin, iba talaga ang dating ng wikang Filipino. 'Di maikukumpara.

I can’t imagine Parisians not being able to engage in discourses in French. Or Japanese not conducting business in Nihongo. Or the Spanish not cheering for their football teams in Castillan. Because their language is crucial to who they are as a people, as a society.

While a number of us are privileged to be able to speak and think in the global language, I believe that we should embrace our own, love it, and be proud of it.

After all, it is what makes us us.

English may bring you to different places, but Filipino will always welcome you Home.

You Might Also Like


  1. Well, I was going to write a post of my own but this pretty much nailed everything. Well said and welcome home.

  2. Maraming salamat. Talagang walang kapalit ang pagmamahal ng sariling atin. :)


© tinaaraneta 2016. Powered by Blogger.