Today’s View: More on the Language Question

Jun. 10, 2013

It is good and salutary that there are cultural guardians among us. We have people who have built fortifications to protect our language from being ripped off and blown away, demolished and trampled upon by ruffians and scoundrels among us.

Davao Today

LANGUAGE is said to be the “soul of a people or a culture.”  It is not just a category of culture.  It is the very core of one’s cultural identity.  If you lose or forget your language — the language of your birth, the language you were born into, the language of your parents, the language of your ancestors — then you are a “lost soul.”  Or to put it more bluntly, “you have no soul.”

This is fundamental principle that we should not lose sight of.

It is good and salutary that there are cultural guardians among us.  We have people who have built fortifications to protect our language from being ripped off and blown away, demolished and trampled upon by ruffians and scoundrels among us.

The foreign imperialists — the policy-makers of imperialist USA — have done a great wrong to the Filipino nation.  It has, in a figurative manner of speaking, raped our culture!  The outcome is a kind of bastard culture whereby we make “monkey Americans” of ourselves — imitating the lifeways of the Americans — the worst part of  it is the way we “try hard” to adopt and claim English as our own, calling it “my first language at home.”

There is this little story. . .

A group of very young pupils in an exclusive kindergarten school were merrily chatting during their break from classroom activity.  A little while later, in the street, dirty-looking kids tugging a little cart half-full of stuffs collected from garbage heaps happened to pass by.  And the kinder pupils seeing them, exclaimed “Oh, look at dem, unggoys, o?  Eeooh!  How dirdy!”

But innocent as they are, these kinder pupils, will sure grow to be “monkey Americans,” perfecting the swerswers and the nasal twang of the Americans, rubbing hard with whitening lotions the skin to be white like the Americans, wearing the scantiest bikini like the Americans, eating foods American, singing songs and dancing dance wiggles American, adoring the American idol, and oh! whenever possible, marrying an American to beget children that look like Americans.

Where is the Filipino soul?  Gone with the wind.

It is a tribute to the tenacity of commitment of some of our artists in the literary field that they have safeguarded the mother tongue — the language of their ancestors.  In their poetry and narratives they have wielded the native language as weapon for social transformation and protest against the enemies of change.  By the potent sway of their quill, they are like legislators that legislate, not laws of oppression and obscurantism, but values that invigorate the minds and hearts of the people to struggle for the nobler and higher republics of life.

And for those who have been alienated because of loving and adopting foreign language and foreign culture, ponder on this protest song a Cebuano cultural worker:

Alyenasyon                                                                        Alienation


Dili ko mahikap ang akong kaugalingon                        I can’t touch myself
Dili ko matandog ang akong kasingkasing                     I can’t move my heart
Dili ko masabtan ang akong mga damgo                        I can’t understand my dreams

1  Ang akong mga kamot dili akoy nagabuot                 My hands  do not follow the decision
Kun unsay gusto kong pagahimoon                On what I want to do
Ulipon ako sa kapritso sa mga hari-hari                     I am a slave to the overlords
Sa kahimtang nga nabilanggoan ko                 Of the situation that imprisons me

Milayas ako, milayas ako                                               I flee, I flee
Pahilayo sa akong kaugalingon                                    Away from my self
Dili na akoy tag-iya sa akong kinabuhi                       I’m no longer the master of my life
Ang katilingban maoy nag-angkon kanako   It’s society that owns me
Nagtudlo kanako, nagmatuto kanako             Shaping me, instilling in me
Sa mga pagtulun-ang nag-umol kanakong                The teachings that mould me to be
Estranghero sa kultura sa kaliwat ko!                        A Stranger to the culture of my race


2  Ang akong sinugdanan ako nang nakalimtan           My origins, I have already forgotten
Wala ako makaila sa akong mga kagikan                   I do not know who are my ancestors
Ulipon ako sa kapritso sa mga diyos-diyos    I ‘m slave to the whims of the gods
Sa kahimtang nga nabilanggoan ko                  Of the situation that imprisons me

Nasalaag ako, nasalaag ako                                            I’m led astray, I’m led astray
Ug naglisod ko sa pagpauli                                             And I don’t know my way home
Di na ko katultol sa akong gigikanan                          I cannot trace the paths to my roots
Gibanlas ako ngadto sa layong baybayon                   I’m stranded in a faraway shore
Sama sa gapnod nga walay gamot                    Like a driftwood without roots
Nalarot ako sa kaugalingong yuta !                 I am uprooted from my native soil
Paraiso ang kultura sa mga langyaw                      It’s paradise to be in an alien culture

KODA:    Apan angay lang Oh!                              But it’s alright Oh!
Nga hatagan ako!                                                That I be granted!
Og daghang pribilehiyo Oh!                 Many privileges Oh!
Kay espesyal ang kinabuhi ko!             Because my life is special!
Kuno!  Ambot lang!                               They say so!  I dunno!


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

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