Speaking in tongues–Pilipino-style
Comic-book author Carlo J. Caparas and National Language Commission chairman Ricardo Nolasco celebrate Buwan ng Wika
By Rome Jorge
Manila Times Internet Edition
August 13, 2006
IT is not Linggo ng Wika; it’s Buwan ng Wika. It’s not Abakada and Tagalog; it’s ABCD and Pilipino. It’s no longer Taglish as a language borrowed and corrupted; it’s now translation and code switching as proof of comprehension and multilingual mastery. It’s more than just stodgy textbooks and formal oratorical balagtasan; it’s also a celebration of comic-book lore and street corner kwentuhan. It’s no longer Isang Bansa, Isang Diwa; it’s now Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa ay Buwan ng mga Wika sa Pilipinas.
Our languages are growing and changing. Beyond barely spoken formal-textbook examples, they are alive and screaming. And there’s no better proof than how 2006’s Buwan ng Wika brings together a man of immense academic credentials and invigorating ideas, National Language Commission (Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino or KWF) chairman and Doctor in Linguistics Ricardo Nolasco; and a man often underestimated by the intelligentsia: pop culture icon, author of 800 novels of which 200 were translated into films, and comic-book creator most noted for the modern mythology of Panday, Carlo J. Caparas. Poles apart, they are both speaking as one and celebrating diversity. So should we.
From August 1 to 31 we celebrate Philippine Languages Month in a way unheard of. From poetry competitions in panggalatok at the Pangasinan State University to the Gantimpalang Carlo J. Caparas Storytelling Competitions at the Marikina River Banks Center, events across the nation celebrate the 170 languages across the 7,100 islands of the nation, as well as the true champions of linguistic dissemination long derided by purist academicians: comic books, movies and television.
Nolasco explains, “Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa ay Buwan ng mga Wika sa Pilipinas is a pitch for linguistic diversity. Isang Bansa, Isang Diwa was the slogan during the martial-law regime and that promoted dangerous ideas such as that having many languages was disadvantageous to the country—and that’s not correct.”
A word for everyone
“We are 10th in linguistic diversity in the world,” Nolasco notes. “There are 7,000 languages among 200 nation states. Majority of people across the globe, even those from the most progressive countries, are neither monocultural nor monolingual.” Nolasco declares, “To be multilingual is the norm—in the world and in the Philippines. We should not be ashamed of it; we should promote it.”
He elaborates, “Many think we have only one language and that is Pilipino and that the rest of the speech varieties are just dialects—and we know that belittles these languages. The difference between a dialect and a language is mutual intelligibility. Example: if a Cebuano speaks his or her language to an Ilocano speaker, they won’t understand each other. Tagalog has many dialects: Tagalog Bulacan, Tagalog Quezon, Tagalog Batangas etc.—they all have their own accents but they all understand each other.
“I’m all for teaching English. But we should also teach Japanese, Chinese and Spanish. You cannot put all your eggs in one basket. It is true that you cannot survive the world without English. But you cannot survive if you know only English. To speak only one language is to be selected for extinction,” he opines.
As for Taglish (Tagalog-English fusion), he counters purists, contending, “The aim of literacy is a functional language.” He notes, “Whether Taglish is acceptable is not the point. If this is happening at the University of the Philippines [UP], what more in other places?” A study of Barbara Garland for the University of California documented UP students reading lessons in English, discussing them with teachers in Pilipino and Taglish, then answering exams and assignments in English again. “This is phenomenal. There is no better proof of understanding than translation,” cites Nolasco.
“If you talk about Taglish as a corrupted and borrowed language, then English is the most corrupted language,” Nolasco says. The etymology of the word “soldier” is French, “assassin” is Arabic and “boondocks” is Tagalog. “How did they modernize English? Why deny themselves the same strategy?” Nolasco reasons.
“Each of the languages a person speaks plays a different role in his or her life,” he notes. He explains that “nanay,” “mommy” and “ermats” all mean the same thing, but that there are some situations where one usage is more appropriate than the other. “Why worry? Kids know when to use it,” he says.
Instead, the forward-thinking linguist castigates conservative language czars: “Akala nila alam nila. Pero sa totoo lang hindi nila gets.”
He is even more unforgiving of self-proclaimed foreign experts on Pilipino language. “They thing they know,” he says of them. He illustrates that “hinalikan ko siya” and “humalik ako sa kanya” both translate as “I kissed her” in English. The difference is indistinguishable to a foreigner, but to a Filipino the former connotes brutish and the later respectful behavior.
He concedes, “Many students have been turned-off with the way the national language has been taught. Pilipino was taught using English categories with too much emphasis on grammar.” He explains that unlike English, any word in Pilipino can become a noun, a verb or an adjective with the proper affixes and suffixes.
Instead Nolasco likes to use metaphors we can identify with. The “pinakbet hypothesis” notes that just as this dish is comprised of various vegetables that have foreign origins (okra and eggplant are native species of Africa) yet still identifiably Ilocano in the way it is cooked, so too is our language made richer by foreign and regional ingredients used in our own unique way. The “sapinsapin hypothesis” replaces categorization of Filipino words as nouns, verbs or adjectives and instead teaches the language by stripping down a word of its suffixes and prefixes step by step to arrive at the root word, much like the layers of the sweet rice cake.
This fresh approach to our language is already being implemented in the latest textbooks from the KWF and now sees its fruition in Buwan ng Wika.
The mythology of Carlo J. Caparas
A poster for the Philippine Languages Month illustrated in comic book-style with cartoon balloons in various regional languages celebrates not only our diversity but also pays tribute to the effectiveness of pop culture in promoting the usage of the national language.
“Remember that that usage of the national language spread because of komiks, movies and TV. It is a medium that has been belittled in the past. This is our way of recognizing the role of komiks. Remember that each copy was often read not by one but as many as ten people,” says Nolasco.
It makes perfect sense that Nolasco has enlisted the talent of Carlo J. Caparas, comic-book creator, novelist and movie director of some of the most indelible pulp fiction. The at the Marikina River Gantimpalang Carlo J. Caparas Storytelling Competitions Banks Center was made possible by the local government of Marikina and the KWF.
“Ibang klase. It heartens to know the new generation of kwentistas [storytellers],” says Caparas, given the participation of so many youths with no remuneration in the continuing competition bearing his name. “You know it’s real when appreciation comes before compensation.” “I’m also glad someone from academe like Nolasco has given me this opportunity.”
Caparas, who has always captured the imagination of the masses with his stories and who will always be known as the creator of mythical folk hero Panday [The Blacksmith], reveals the secret to his appeal: “I want to further the past. I don’t want to let go of our folklore. I always want to be around our tikbalangs, kapres and lamang lupas [mythical beings].”
He narrates with all the color and detail you would expect from a master storyteller of how long ago by the Pasig River, Barangay Ugong, now the place for mansions of the exclusive Valle Verde subdivisions, was once truly a verdant valley tilled by men whose fair skin grew pink with sun—the illegitimate children of Spanish friars to whom land once sequestered by the Church now belonged. “They looked like movie stars,” Caparas recalls. It was in that valley for four years that the young Caparas, a poor boy who could not continue his studies because the school for the fourth grade lay on the other side of the river—a costly banka and jeepney ride twice daily his family could ill afford—was educated in the art of storytelling by these same farmers.
As their errand boy for such items as fish sauce, he was compensated by stories of how these men trapped and slew a vicious aswang or of how they spotted a tikbalang ambling among the trees at night. Caparas learned of our oral tradition from its source—from the very men who were its protagonists.
It was fantasy fulfillment when years later, his story for Atlas Comics of a poor blacksmith who forges a magical sword to rid a land beset by oppressors would be enacted by National Artist Fernando Poe Jr., a mestizo not unlike the fair-skinned farming friends of his youth.
“My revenge was with my novels. As with Lumuhod Ka sa Lupa [Grovel on Dirt], the story is of a pauper rising to power, making rich women plead for his love,” Caparas explains.
The veteran scores today’s storytellers of being too high-minded and faddish with their expensive glossy, Japanese manga derived comic books that only more affluent children can now afford. “I can talk to anyone, be they farmers or communist rebels,” he says.
“My first responsibility is to entertain,” declares Caparas. Education will only follow when people are listening and watching. And it takes a storyteller to capture people’s imagination.
Lore and linguistics come together now as folk storytellers such as Carlo J. Caparas and policy makers such as Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino Ricardo Nolasco come together to make the Philippine languages come alive. Mabuhay ang mga pambansang wika, gets?
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Linggo errr Buwan Ng Mga Wika
habang naghahanap ako ng isusulat para sa entry ko, napansin ko itong article from Manila Times, last year pa sya pero mukhang akmang akma sya doon sa theme ng Buwan ng Wika ngayon...