UNESCO's International Year of Languages
INSIDE CEBU By Bobit S. Avila
Monday, January 7, 2008
No doubt, when the US TV series "Desperate Housewives" featured actress Teri Hatcher making an offensive remark against Philippine medical schools, an indignant Filipino nation came up with a united stand to ensure that this insult didn't go unanswered. To think that that TV episode insulted only Filipinos in the medical field. So when the movie "Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo" of Star Cinema showed actress Judy Ann Santos, in a conversation with Gloria Diaz, complaining that her child was learning to speak "Bisaya" from her yaya, saying, "Dapat Tagalog para Pinoy!" where she was practically saying, "You should speak to the child in Tagalog, otherwise, it's not Filipino!"
That movie no doubt insulted the Visayan-speaking people and we hope that our Cebuano congressmen would issue a statement condemning that movie. That's what we wrote in this corner last Friday, which apparently elicited a barrage of angry e-mails both here and abroad.
Call it a coincidence that last December, the director-general of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, issued a message that 2008 is the International Year of Languages, where he wholeheartedly encourages taking measures for the promotion and protection of all the world's languages, particularly those in danger of vanishing. In this country, there are a lot of vanishing languages due to the pro-Tagalog policies of previous administrations. In fairness to the GMA administration, Buwan ng Wika last October had the theme "Maraming Wika, Matatag na Bansa." That's why she's popular here.
UNESCO is the world organization responsible for coordinating all the activities that will be carried out this year, under the slogan "Languages matter!" If you didn't know, Cebuano is a separate and distinct language distant from Tagalog. On the other hand, Pilipino, as it is spoken, is 99.9 percent taken or derived from the Tagalog language, hence it is right to say that Pilipino is a dialect of Tagalog, while Cebuano, Ilonggo and Waray are not dialects of Tagalog. Anyway, allow me to reprint some of the e-mails I got on this issue.
"Re: your article today. I'm not amused, too, of the dialogue from that movie you had watched. Good that I'm not fond of watching Tagalog movies after some bad experience way back in my college days with similar dialogues which put down non-Tagalog-speaking citizens of this country. My whole family had just spent the New Year's break in Cebu where my in-laws are settled (actually the home is in Marigondon, Mactan Island, a 100-meter walk from the gates of Plantation Bay Resort).
"It was a relief from the chaotic life in Manila and we were grateful for it. It had been seven long years since we last visited the matriarch and it was worth spending a vacation. It was also an educational tour of our two teeners who do not know a single Cebuano word (our fault, my wife Marilyn grew up in Labangon and I, a full-blooded Davaweño and Cebuano speaker, too, has not taught them the language). I made it clear to their happy and excited Cebuano cousins the moment we arrived that they must speak Bisaya and teach their Tagalog cousins or they would become proficient in Tagalog instead.
"I believe if we have Visayan TV and radio program/news in the Manila airwaves, the Tagalogs would appreciate the beautiful language. It would also encourage Bisayans whose tongues had loosened and who had 'forgotten' the language they had woken up to in this world (due to long residency, work environment or simply to be 'in'? Ay sus, ginoo!!).
"Thanks, Bobit for this article. Bisayan speakers must raise this concern and tell Judy Ann and her scriptwriters to refrain from these slurs. Paul R. Fabiaña, San Antonio Valley I, Parañaque City.
Here's another e-mail from an indignant Bisaya living in Manila:
"Dear Bobit, I was shocked reading your today's column about the movie 'Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo' where the conversation between Gloria Diaz and Judy Ann Santos insulted the Visayan-speaking Filipinos – the real Pinoy. The director and the writer of said movie not only lack delicadeza but they also have no knowledge of history. They are blinded to the premise that when you are speaking Tagalog you belong to the upper class of the society.
"What a poor state of mind! I suggest that the director and writer and all those who want Tagalog as the national language must go back to the elementary grades so that they will learn that while Manila was yet a swamp, Cebu already had a university. Cebuanos were already living in the lowland and developed a better language than the apes. Jose B. Nacilla."
Indeed, languages are the source of pride and culture of the people who speak them.