Yes, I know, this is a case of (incredibly) delayed reaction. But, well, better late than never.
So everyone was in stitches over Janina an Miguel’s question and answer portion at the recently-concluded Binibining Pilipinas competition and not a few raised a howl when she made it as one of the winners, despite barely being able to construct a simple english sentence. I was already disconcerted when people were watching it over and over in youtube and making fun of her attempts to answer Vivian Tan’s question in english. As far as I was concerned, what we should be making a mockery of is a culture that insists on english as the accepted language of success and whatnot, and views a person’s capacity to speak english fluently as a barometer of her intellect (not even background or social status, but intellect.)
And then, about two weeks ago, I saw a Jessica Soho report featuring contestants that flubbed question and answer portions. Jessica interviewed the tatay of Janina and on my TV screen was the image of a man visibly distressed. It turned out that Mr. San Miguel is a jeepney driver. Yes, folks, Janina comes from a poor family — not just poor in the sense that we all are getting poorer and poorer by the day because of the rising prices, but poor as in barely-able-to-eat-thrice-a-day poor. According to Mr. San Miguel, they were all mighty proud of Janina (as indeed they should) but were deeply hurt when all the news reports on TV focused on her question and answer portion and made her a national laughingstock. He was crying during the interview. No father deserves to hear that shit about his daughter, especially since the only thing they can throw at her is a fumbled sentence or two.
And then this excerpt from Metro magazine. I’m probably a month late, but I just read it this morning. This is what actually prompted this blog entry:
It will be a first — imagine, dahling, a Miss Philippines, a citizen of a former American colony, asking for an english interpreter! — and it will speak volumes about how bad the educational system has gotten in our country, and how such beauty and brains combination are quickly becoming extinct. xxx
First, I take major issue with the notion that just because we used to be a former colony, we are somewhat expected to speak the language of our colonizers fluently. As though colonization should impose obligations on the post-colony states. As though colonization wasn’t bad enough for the colony as it is. In truth, we must be lamenting the fact that so much of our rich and beautiful heritage has been diluted, if not lost altogether, because of an overeagerness for all things Western.
Second, jesus christ, deficiency in the english language is considered a lack of brains?! Only in the Philippines, indeed, is there such a diminution of the national language that we doubt the intellectual capacity of our countrymen who only speak the mother tongue. I speak with people regularly who don’t know a whit of english but who continue to astound me with their depth and understanding of issues, and with the integrity of their vision. Way, way smarter than those kids speaking Starbucks english and drinking Starbucks coffee.
Go Janina! Sock it at ’em Starbucks kids. I’m rooting for you.