Understanding James Soriano beyond his terrible mistake
This post is not in defense of James Soriano.
Three or four weeks ago, the Filipino sensitivity has been put to test with Mideo Cruz’ blasphemous (that’s according to many) work of art called Poleteismo. A part of the Kulo exhibit, it divided our society between freedom of expression and respect for one’s belief.
When the senate inquiry on the Kulo exhibit sort of ended the public discussion on such topic, a certain James Soriano tickled that sensitive part of the Filipino pride and challenged our national stand of what the Filipino language truly represents in our country.
As part of the celebration of the Buwan ng Wika (National Language Month), Soriano wrote an essay that tackled the role that the Filipino language plays in Philippine society and in global commerce. This was published in Manila Bulletin, but after it received many negative reactions, the news agency thought that it might be better to remove the article.
Thanks to Google cache, it will forever exist in the world wide web.
If you have not read the essay, click here.
James Soriano made an awful mistake
I deferred my reaction on this issue because I was looking for the right reason why his essay was bollocks.
Facebookers, tweeps, and other netizens noted that James Soriano totally missed the point of having Filipino as a national identity, that he’s just a coño kid from La Salle with colonial mentality. (Coño is a Filipino slang term for rich kids who usually speak in English with a certain accent. The term is generally used as an insult rather than a compliment. On the other hand, De La Salle University arguably has the reputation of having rich and the most coñotic of students in the Philippines.)
Soriano argued against the use of Filipino as a language of trade, progress, technology, and global identity. He wrote with all arrogance (yes, arrogance) how he was raised to speak in English, how he grew up learning mathematics and science in English, how he prayed in English, and how he talked in Filipino only to speak with the manongs (referring to his driver/s), the tinderas (vendors), and the “katulongs (house maids) of this world”.
But then a certain Migs Bassig tried to analyze the grammar, word usage, etc. of James Soriano and found more than 30 errors.
The way James Soriano wrote his preference for English over Filipino as the language of the learned and how proud he was that English was his mother tongue were his greatest mistakes.
Click here to see the editing.
You see, if you truly believe that you are very good at something and you tell the world that you were born with that skill, make sure that you have truly mastered it.
When you say you can play piano since you were a very little kid and in fact learned to play some or all pieces only by ear, you have to make certain that when you play the first piece that you ever learned in front of a large audience, you should never hit any wrong key.
Now I don’t profess to be very, very proficient in English. In fact, every article I post in my blogs undergoes a lot of proofreading even after it has already been published. No one else checks my grammar, so there really are chances that I miss on something. Anyone may proofread my articles and I’d be glad to accept your comments.
(By the way Migs Bassig, in your proofreading of James Soriano’s essay, you indicated that instead of “on the jeepney”, it should be “in the jeepney”. I believe that when we are referring to a public vehicle, we should use the word “on” and “in” if a private vehicle; as in “get in the car” and “get on the bus.” Correct me if I’m wrong.)
Let’s not be hypocrites
Yes, that statement came from me – The Hypocrite.
Once again, let me come to the rescue of the persecuted as I did with Mideo Cruz.
First, this is another case of respecting one’s freedom of speech. We may not agree with James Soriano, but we must respect his thoughts on the Filipino language.
Let him show his disgust of it. He has the right to do so. Let us argue with his opinions, not defame his name and his person.
And for all purposes and intent, if we publish his essay, we stand by it; not because we agree with him, but because we defend his right to say his opinion. Especially if we are a news agency. Right, Manila Bulletin?
Now let me go to the substance of the essay.
While I am not emotionally affected by his message, I do think that the essay has been distastefully written.
But then, I truly believe that his arguments are perfectly valid. That is, of course, disregarding the way he badly conveyed his thoughts.
He did say some good points about Filipino, but that was after he insulted it and its users many times and before he finally spat on it by the end of his essay.
In my opinion, these were the points that James Soriano would like us to understand:
1. We were taught to learn English from kindergarten, even nursery (some even from infancy) so we could be globally competitive.
2. Isn’t it true that all the major subjects were taught in English? (Well, in the University of the Philippines, Filipino is the medium of instructions. That means that, except English and music that are under the same academic department, all subjects are taught in Filipino. That didn’t make UP students less globally competitive. But that’s a different topic.)
I just remembered: to those who studied in UP Integrated School, do you remember the Filipino terms we used in our sex education class to refer to “vas deferens” or to “fallopian tube”? Do you remember the time that we were asked what changes had been happening to us during puberty and we had to recite them in Filipino? I perfectly remember them and everytime I do, I smile.
3. Isn’t it true that Filipino is not generally used in the board room, operating room, court room, etc.? (FYI: The Philippine Constitution was originally written in English, but was mandated to be translated to Filipino, Arabic, Spanish, and other dialects and that in case of confusion, the English version shall prevail.)
4. Isn’t it true that in the outside world, that is, after college or when we start making our own living, the English language is an edge in the business world, while the Filipino language is a practical tool in the streets? Isn’t it true that English is a language of privilege?
Do we write reports in Filipino? Do we speak with the CEOs, the presidents, and the corporate directors in Filipino during meetings? No, but we do create casual and friendly relationships with them using the Filipino language. We speak with them in Filipino outside the board room, over lunch or snack or dinner, in the corridors talking about life or celebrities, in the elevators. If we ever speak in Filipino during meetings, it’s usually because we can’t think of appropriate English words for our thoughts.
Do you think you can be promoted to supervisory, managerial, and executive positions if your English sucks? Do you think it matters to JAZA, MVP, EL3, or OML if your mastery in Filipino is immaculate?
You perfectly know the answers to those questions.
5. Isn’t it true that we highly regard those who can speak very fluent English?
In fact, we even look down on those who can’t speak English very well and even insult those who try so hard to have an American accent, which I am personally guilty of. (I just hate Regine Velasquez and Jericho Rosales and their annoying twang. Can’t they speak English with a better diction?)
Can you easily accuse someone who speaks in perfect English with petty and poverty-driven crimes? We do equate non-proficiency in English with poverty and fluency of it with wealth. (I’ve already discussed this point in my previous post where I was almost accused of theft or robbery on a jeepney. Click here.)
6. James Soriano wanted us to realize that while we needed English to become globally competitive, we cannot erase the fact that the Filipino language –
– is a language of identity (It makes us truly Filipino, especially with the words bayanihan, tagay, kilig, or diskarte; which don’t have exact translations in other languages.);
– is a language of emotions and experience (“Mahal kita” is more romantic than “I love you” and “putang ina mo” is more disturbing than “you, son of a bitch”.);
– is a living language (It is a system on its own and it continues to evolve.); and
– most importantly, is a language that can be further develop to become a language of science, trade, business, politics, law, economics, progress, etc. (because we do know for a fact that it is currently not).
Then why are we offended by James Soriano’s essay?
I can think of only one reason: we, subconsciously,
prefer admire the English language over the Filipino language and give the highest respects to proficient English speakers and insult to English suckers, but we expressly deny that fact, and that observation had to come from a coño kid, who we truly hate in this society where, although English is a primary an official language, only a few could write and speak in fluent English.
We hate the idea that a La Sallista represented us in our adoration of everything foreign, especially American.
Ang hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika ay higit pa sa mabaho at malansang isda.” – Jose Rizal, Philippine national hero
(A man who does’t love his own language is worse than a stinking fish.)
In conclusion, let me use James Soriano’s own words: we are in a society of rotten beef and stinking fish. If you don’t accept that, you’re a hypocrite.
We have been thinking that James Soriano insulted us personally by attacking the Filipino language. But did we even notice his acknowledgement of his being rotten himself?
I guess not. Because we, ourselves, cannot grasp the thought that we are just as rotten as James Soriano. Or maybe we do, but accepting it is really hard.
And we hate to be compared with a coño.