Prints and Traces

Maybe, the deplorable circumstance of history, making us enslaved to a foreign language and culture, would hold sway for many generations yet to come.  And this certainly constitutes one of the fundamental elements that hold back our movement forward to progress, especially to freedom from poverty.

By DON J. PAGUSARA
Davao Today

“Wow!  He speaks handsome English!”

“Haha!  Beautiful English, you mean.”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter whether handsome or beautiful!

The fact is he talks admirably well in an exquisite language!  Right?”

Right.  Everybody loves the English language.  We have gone a long long way learning it.  Shed sweat and blood to preserve it.

But can we say we have perfected our skill in the language?

Some would readily aver in the affirmative, not without a tinge of boastfulness.  Others, not so confident or just being plain honest about their skills, would say “O, I have much to learn.  It’s not our native tongue, you know.  My grammar perhaps is healthy.  But one needs to have a felicitous command of the idioms!”

Whether one or the other, we are all entrapped in this state of cultural slavery.  And we love it.  It’s a crime to even think of finding a way out of this sweet enslavement.

Revisiting our past history, this basic element of our culture came soon after the Americans trickily grabbed the Victory of the 1896 Revolution against Spain by the Filipino revolutionaries.

But the process of the political hoodwink had its beginnings with the secret talks between an American consul and Emilio Aguinaldo in Hongkong where the revolutionary leader was  then exiled after the so called Pact of Biak-na-Bato.

And it culminated with the sham battle at the Manila Bay between Admiral Dewey’s naval force and the Spanish soldados holed in at the Walled City or Intramuros.

Soon the Filipinos were made to undergo a colonial experience different from what they went through under Spain.  “Benevolent Assimilation” was a pleasant experiment and proved to be a comforting success for the Americans.  And gladsomely welcomed by the Filipinos, most particularly by the elite in Philippine society.

“America” became a catchword even a Filipino toddler would love to babble as a dreamland paradise devoutly to be reached.  And English became a magic wand whose touch  can  reshape  the  anatomy of the Filipino’s tongue  into a versatile gadget for Americanized verbalizing and expression.

But who can speak the language as skillfully as the Americans?  Naturally, the well-to-do who can afford the price of education.  In short, the educated ones or the schooled.

Yes, only the educated sections of the population are proficient with the English language.  And because in our society, education comes in varied levels of affordability, among the educated ones the country’s economic elite would be the most privileged to be called experts or masters of the language.  They can easily be called the cream of the crop.

What about the “great unwashed,” so called?  Oh, they can twaddle with a smattering of English words.  Or twiddle with this and that phrase which the more fortunate Filipino would describe as some way a little above the quack-quack of the duck.

To miss education is to be underprivileged, something akin to a social outcast.

“You can’t speak English, stay at the end of the queue before you can be served.”

Well, the clerk at the service window might say it more nicely than that.  But you cannot miss the essential import or intended signal of the discriminatory instruction.

But, the uneducated non-English speaking masses do not rebel against this injustice!  They seem to lounge, as in a Boracay beach, in the comfort of being citizens of a country whose educational system would allow the opportunity for anyone to become educated and be able to speak English.  Or the thought that one can even go to America as a care giver and be able to speak affectedly with American nasal twang.

Implicitly or expressly, every Filipino nurtures the Filipino dream of becoming like an American, speaking like an American and oh, God willing, marry an American!  And beget children who look like Americans!

The slavish trait nurtured by the Spanish colonialism within an infinite period of 300 years has become ingrained in the Filipino soul.  It has killed their sense of dignity as a noble race of humans who are gifted with the talent of a Jose Rizal, a Andres Bonifacio, a Emilio Jacinto, a Apolinario Mabini, a Juan Luna, a Marcelo del Pilar, a Amado Hernandez and legions of other unknown gems of Filipino geniuses.

And the grand deception masterfully implemented by American imperialism on our lands for decades until today has warped our sense of nationalism and cultural integrity.  Our own leaders, as a matter of fact, have manifested more concern and solicitude and privilege to foreign nationals than to their own constituencies or the Filipino people.

Maybe, the deplorable circumstance of history, making us enslaved to a foreign language and culture, would hold sway for many generations yet to come.  And this certainly constitutes one of the fundamental elements that hold back our movement forward to progress, especially to freedom from poverty.

Once upon a summer time, a colleague professor in UP authoritatively said, “English is essential to us as a developing country!  How can we progress if we do away with English?  It is the language of Science!”

Well, Japan, China, Korea – – many other countries – – do not know and do not speak English.  Are they not among the most prosperous countries in the world?  They come to the Philippines as tourists.  We go to their countries as slaves workers!

Don J. Pagusara is a native of Mindanao, a multi-awarded author and a Palanca-awardee.

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