Category Archives: rant

A Parliamentary form of government is the “best” option for the Philippines…the only question is “When?” [Part 1 of 3]

I think it’s been awhile (heck, probably years) since I got to write a political piece once again. Admittedly, most of what I’ve written in the past sound more like rants than an intelligently, well-researched commentary. So, I guess let me begin by begging for your forgiveness in behalf of my ‘young, dumb and broke’ self.

Second, I can’t claim sage-like wisdom and political maturity with this article. I’m simply a typical working girl from a middle-class family who spends so much time sitting on her ass going through the hellish Manila traffic everyday, thus giving her ridiculously large amount of time to think of silly stuff….like the circus that is Philippine politics, I must say.

I know you’re probably getting annoyed that it’s already the third paragraph and I haven’t written any substantial yet, but please let me state this plainly. I am not a rabid Duterte supporter, nor am I a rabid Duterte critic. Sure, I admit I didn’t come as far as to think it was the end of the world when he got elected. Honestly, I found it funny how his critics reacted on social media feeds. But looking back now, I guess I can say their fears are not without foundation. Like, their reasons are terrifyingly real and they are unfolding right in front of us.

Now you might ask, how all of this leads me to talk about, in my opinion, the best form of government in the Philippines. If I’m wary and guarded of Duterte administration, why am I supporting a form of government that moves all focus of power to one institution in a political scene where most legislators are so balimbing to the incumbent president so they can carry out their own ambitions?

Simple. Because the present form of unitary democracy is failing us.

Not that the practice is failing. Theoretically, it’s actually effective in some countries with healthy democracy. The thing is, our Philippine-version of democracy is far from that.

Allow me to discuss what the setup will be if the Philippines adopted a parliamentary form of government. I’m no political analyst nor I claim to be an expert I’m just a temperamental brat, but I’ve observed and researched that this setup is common to democratic countries with a duly-elected Parliament.

I’d like to demonstrate the difference between the two systems with three scenarios: Electing the Head of State, Passing a law into practice and the Party-System. Bear in mind that the government is beyond this three but for the sake of simplicity, let’s focus on these.

First, the election.

Presidential

Why the Parliamentary form is better? 

Face it. Election in the Philippines is a circus. One’s platform is always second to popularity. These past presidential elections show us how emotional we can be. I think the reason why Duterte won is because Filipinos are simply fed up with Noynoy’s ‘softness’ and seemingly bias towards the rich. Never mind that Duterte is a tough-talking, gun-loving, vigilante justice advocate. He gets things done anyway. Screw foreign policy and common decency. They ain’t gonna feed us anyway.

And this problem is not only evident with presidential elections. From the local office to the Senate, campaigning is simply selling yourself to the people. Emphasize the ‘yourself’ here. Never mind if your family is waddling through corruption and graft cases, never mind that you received suspicious funds for questionable government projects in your last term in office, never mind that you did not attend a single assembly in Congress for the whole year, never mind that you are once an action star and found yourself wearing Senatorial robes without any degree in public governance or a college diploma.

With a Parliamentary style of government, anyone who wants to serve as Head of Government has to work him/herself up to the ladder. You just don’t get elected in a snap. With hard work, commitment and good credentials under your belt, your political party has to believe in you and your platform enough to elect you as their Chairman. The other members of the Parliament has to believe in your party and its platform enough to elect it as the ruling party for that term.

As Prime Minister, you are accountable to the Parliament and the Parliament is accountable to the People.

A Parliamentary style of government does not divide the people, just as what we are witnessing right now. There’s so much mud-slinging and ad hominem going on between the pro-admin and the critics that the more pressing national issues and the present situation of the country are set aside just to prove to the opposition that they are right (vice versa). In a Parliamentary setup, if the Prime Minister and the Parliament did not do their job properly, the People can rally together because essentially, each and everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is affected. There won’t be any blame games among the people.

Why the Parliamentary form won’t work right now?

With a parliamentary style of government, the Upper and Lower house will be fused into one. In short, the Senate will be dissolved. And c’mon, can you see that happening in our lifetime? Hardly. There are too many trapos in our current legislature to let that happen.

With the Congress voting to give the Commission on Human Rights a measly budget of Php1,000 (20 USD) on year 2018, there’s no way in hell I would let these people decide how my country will run. On top of that, most people in office are the living proof that political dynasties are still rampant in the government while most are elected because they are simply popular. No, the current government is still infested with turncoats and snakes, backed by oligarchs and the rich. The only thing they care about is furthering their own political ambitions.

I can understand why some youth groups and activists are so wary of Charter Change and Constitutional Reform. The people elected in office are too untrustworthy, too greedy. With how the past administrations have failed us, we have every right and reason to be.

 

Still, I would continue to fight for better governance and accountability. My idealistic self may be gone after college but that doesn’t mean I have to give up. I still have trust on people in my generation of leading this country to a better future. What I can do right now is to do my part in helping people understand that this current system is failing us and the current government is not that different to the ones before. That the few good ones in the government are often ignored and discouraged to give the service we Filipinos deserve. That we deserve better than this, but we can only get what we think we deserve.

And we deserve better. Gosh, we should start thinking, no…demanding that we do.

 

***

This post is the first part of the series: A Parliamentary form of government is the “best” option for the Philippines…the only question is when? For the 2nd part, I’ll be comparing how policies and laws are implemented between the Presidential and the Parliamentary government. Why are we experiencing so many delays in implementing laws and why the Supreme Court has the power to hold it off, sometimes for an indefinite period of time? Is the Parliamentary government more prone to an authoritarian regime and dictatorship? 

For further reading, please check out the links below:

 

All thanks to www.canva.com  for allowing me to create the infographic 🙂

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Election Musings: “Judge me for my candidate” 

As election time draws near, never have I felt political tension and drama in my Facebook and Twitter feed than  what is happening right now. Yes, it is actually happening. We are judging the intellect, ethics and sanity of one another simply because of one’s choice of a presidential candidate. 
A sign of a vibrant democracy? Maybe. This goes to show that we aren’t at least operating under a mob rule and we give each other different perspectives on viewing a certain issue or a candidate. At least, it shows our maturity in how we value and practice democracy. 

But some of us may have taken it a little overboard. As election draws near, social media increasingly becomes toxic, dare I say, a frightening place in expressing one’s political opinion. 

Recently, I’ve read an article of how a climate change advocate received cyber threats simply because she criticized Mayor Duterte, the candidate I believe to be one of the masses’ favorite choices due to his tough-talking stance against crime. 

I sympathized with her plight and I admired the way she never backed down on her political opinion. Some of the so-called threats are even amusing to read, some are really pathetic, and some…well let’s just say they shouldn’t have been introduced to Facebook in the first place. The comments of each photo are understandably unkind: “Dutertard” “Dudirty” etc. 

There is no excuse in the way how a certain candidate’s followers are acting. Who wouldn’t be angry if someone, a complete stranger at best, wishes you to be raped? Who wouldn’t be frightened if someone pushes a candidate in your face and calls you a complete moron just because you don’t want to vote for the same person? 

And then we generalized. How we Filipinos just love to generalize! Like how a certain group of supporters generalized all UP students for being disrespectful all because one of its students cut in one candidate’s speech because “they are running out of time” in an academic forum. We generalize Binay supporters as “Binayarans”, Mar suppprters as “Yellow Zombies” and Poe supporters as “un-Filipino enough for supporting a candidate with American citizenship” 

We never thought for a moment the reason why. Provided of course that vote-buying, personality-over-platform mentality and “hakot” crowd are still rampant, I believe (desperately hoping so) that for this coming elections, most of us will be more conscious with our votes. Most of us are aware that the leader we will choose on May will be a defining moment of what our future is going to be. 

Filipinos are emotional voters, but for this 2016 elections, our emotions will be closely intertwined with our priorities. Some of us wanted the Tuwid na Daan continuity, we vote for Mar. Some of us wanted a fresh beginning and an advocate of a transparent government, we vote for Grace. Some of us wanted a system overhaul through Federalism and ease the crime rate in our country, we go for Duterte.

These priorities have different factors in them and you cannot simplify that these people don’t think as well as you do just because they don’t share the same views. It’s a matter of how these people think differently from you. It may be that they came from this particular social class, or they live on a certain region, or this candidate did something in their lives on the past and the experience still has an ability to affect their choices now. 

We can campaign for our presidential candidate all we want, in Facebook, Twitter, heck even on the streets, but we can do it without stooping down to the level of our critics who would resort to petty name-calling, threats or pathetic insults. At the very least, what we can do is to engage them in a conversation on who they are voting for and why. We can discuss platforms and compare the priorities of our candidates. We can still debate and argue without disrespecting one another. This is the heart of a healthy discussion. We can make statements attacking the issue, not the moral code or the intellect of a person who do not believe the same things we do. 

To top it all of, I’m just going to leave this status of my friend here for you to think about. 

   
   “Me waiting for the presidential elections to be over”

BALAng Araw…

Nitong mga nakaraang buwan, medyo nag lay-low na din ako sa pagiging critical sa gobyerno, tutal two months na lang naman si PNoy. He’ll be out of our hair soon and we’ll be out of his hair na din (pardon the pun) Na-realize ko, nakaka-stressed lang maging reklamador. Balewala din naman sa mga taong tinitira mo.

Medyo positive na nga ako ngayon. Nageeffort na ako maging optimistic at hopeful sa magiging future ng ating bansa. Alam kong mapupunta din tayo doon. BALAng araw…

Pero pagbigyan ninyo na ako. Tutal two months na lang. Pagbigyan ninyo ako, kahit isang hirit lang.

Isa lang naman ang  masasabi ko tungkol sa administrasyong ito: BALA.

Nitong huling taon ng 2015, Nobyembre. Lumantad ang isyu sa publiko na may nagtatanim ng BALA sa NAIA. BALA sa NAIA. Only in the Philippines! Sadyang may mapaglaro lang talagang engkanto sa airport na nagtatanim ng bala sa bagahe mo. Ang nakakatuwa pa, malalaman mo lang yun pagkalabas ng bagahe mo sa X-ray machine. MAGIC! May bala ka palang souvenir mula sa pinanggalingan mo?!

Hindi lang ikaw ang biktima e. Pati mga turista galing pang ibang bansa, hindi sinasanto. Na-feature na din tayo sa CNN, Fox news at iba pang international news dahil dito. May Amerikano pa ngang nag-publish ng blog post on “4 Effective Tips to Curb Laglag Bala in NAIA”

Collective shame natin ‘to. Kahit Ninoy Aquino International Airport ang pangalan niyan in honor of our president’s late father na namatay dahil sa bala sa ulo, pero para sa ibang bansa, ito pa din ay kilala bilang airport na nasa Pilipinas.

Ano’ng nangyari? Pakinggan mo na lang ang mga salitang ang sarap pakinggan. Probe. Investigate. “Watch the Watchers”. Pero hanggang doon lang tayo. Di na siya mainit. Di na siya trending. Siguro dahil lagi tayong sawi sa ating mga lovelife at madalas nating pinipilit ang sarili na mag-move on, mas mabilis na din tayong mag move-on mula sa mga isyung pa-tungkol sa lipunan.

April 01, 2016. Kidapawan. Nag-protesta ang mga magsasaka, ang mga magtatanim ng ating bigas, dahil wala na silang pangkain sa kanilang mga pamilya. Ano ba ang laban nila sa Kalikasan? Ano ba ang naging paghahanda natin sa El Nino? Sa halip na pakinggan ang kanilang hinaing, BALA at dahas ang sumalubong sa kanila.

April 01. Nakakalokong isipin. Ang mga “nagtatanim” ng BALA sa NAIA, sindikato o opisyales, hindi man lang nakasuhan. Walang nasibak. Wala man lang pray-over kung engkanto ba yan o ano.

Pero ang mga totoong nagtatanim ng bigas na nagiging kanin na kinakain mo ngayon,  pinaulanan naman ng BALA.

Kidapawan. Hacienda Luisita. Lupao. Mendiola.

Ani ng iba, komunista ang nasa likod ng mga yan. Etong mga NPA na ‘to. Mga balakid sa pagbabago. Hindi ninyo sana sila makukumbinse magprotesta kung wala silang hinaing at pangangailangan sa simula pa lang. Hindi ninyo sana sila ‘maloloko’ na ibuwis ang kanilang buhay sa pagpoprotesta kung sila ay ‘kuntento’ na sa kanilang pamumuhay. Bakit ba kasi kayo mga sawsawero’t sawsawera?

Anim na taon. Simula pa lang daw ang Tuwid na Daan. Madami pa tayong kakaining bigas para makamit ang tunay na ginhawa. Sana hindi lang pinagpapapatay ang ating mga magsasaka.

Mr. President, narerecognize ko naman na mabuti ang iyong intensyon *hindi na ako sarcastic at this point on* Pinilit ka nilang tumakbo, kahit ayaw mo naman sa simula, at ginawa mo naman ang iyong makakaya. Na-appreciate ko yun at kinikilala ko naman ang iba sa mga magaganda mong ginawa, ang pagiging masipag at mahusay ng ibang kawani ng iyong gobyerno.

Nakakalungkot isipin na nabalewala ang competence nila dahil sa gross incompetence ng iba. Dahil malambot ang iyong puso, kahit alam mong may pagkukulang sila, hinahayaan mo lang na sila na ang bumitiw. One More Chance, nga diba?

BALAng araw, sana ma-realize mo…hindi lahat makakamove-on sa mga isyu na ‘to. BALAng araw, sana hindi maabutan ng mga magiging anak ko ang ganitong klase ng pamumuno.

hindi bala

How to build a training ground for rebels: #StopLumadKillings

How can you build a training ground for rebels so that the strife in Mindanao will continue and the rest of the Filipinos will be convinced that military presence is necessary in the area?

Simple. Just follow this simple solution devised by the Philippine military.

  1. Occupy their communities. After all, what do they know? They are just illiterate, ignorant Lumad. Indigenous people with a different language and culture of their own, alien to yours and to the civilized world. If operatives have informed you a rebel sighting near a Lumad community, immediately presume that these rebel scums are just manipulating their little minds and you must put an end to this. By occupying their communities and imposing military rule, you are preventing them from being influenced by rebel scums. After all, what do these poor indigenous people know?
  2. Shut down their schools. Knowledge and education is a powerful thing. Education opens their eyes and makes them aware of the situation, their ancestral land, their rights as a citizen of this nation and their inherent human rights. It is in your best interest that they go on without knowing anything. Those rebel scums and communists are enough. If they are uneducated, they will bow and submit without question. If they uneducated, they are powerless.
  3. Incite fear through summary executions of their tribal leaders and educators. This is how you make it known to them that you mean business. By killing their own kind and their leaders without due process of law, you are making it clear that their lives don’t mean anything, that they remain an insignificant sector of the society in an island that has always been riddled with strife, violence and exploitation. After all, they are nothing but pawns and supporters to those rebel scums. Better silence them off before they become a threat to society.
  4. Displace them. Let them live like homeless nomads they are. They will only get in the way in your mission to eradicate all the rebel scums. Who cares if their properties and their means of livelihood are destroyed? Who cares if their children cannot go to school? Make them feel that that their lives aren’t worth anything.
  5. Watch the world forget. The media will later feature their stories and condemn the killings anyway, especially with the advent of social media, news will spread everywhere, to Luzon, to the Visayas and to the world. But the spotlight will not focus on them forever.  People will forget as easily as they know. Let their stories be buried under the piles of showbiz news, variety shows, election campaigns and the mere trivialities in the life of an average Filipino. They will soon forget and move on with their lives. After all, what can the Filipino people do? What can the whole world do?

Those rebel scums don’t have to do anything to incite people to join to their cause. With just these transgressions, you are now effectively turning them into the enemies you want them to be. The Lumad boy whose father and relatives were killed before his eyes will be the young man who will stalk you in the belly of the jungle of Caraga, eyes leveled on the gun pointing at the camouflaged uniform that is supposed to be a symbol of safety and security for the citizens of this country.

Under the shadow of the forests of war-torn Mindanao, let the dance of violence and death continue.

BACKGROUND: Last September 2015, uniformed men occupied and shut down ALCADEV, or Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development built by an international NGO for the indigent Lumad youth in Surigao, Mindanao. They soon executed tribal chairman Dionel Campos and his cousin, Bello Sinzon, around dawn. The executions are witnessed by the teachers and students of ALCADEV. 

The school’s executive director, Emerito Samarca (Tatay Emok for the students) was found dead in his room, his throat slit open, his hands and feet bounded with rope. 

The ongoing military presence and the string of murders by unknown gunmen forced some 300 Manobos to leave their villages for fear of their lives. Among the incidents are the brutal massacre of five Manobo clansmen in Bukidnon, including a blind 72-year-old man and his grandson, a 14-year-old boy. 

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“Anong nagawa mo sa bansa mo? Buti pa ang Presidente meron.” Why I’m tired of hearing these arguments

Until now, I still can’t believe how time flies so fast. I mean, (nearly) six years have passed! I can remember it was only yesterday when most people in my circle were aghast to find that the people elected a president whose victory was partly owned to Cory Magic. (Well if he didn’t make the decision to run, it would probably be Erap doing the address right now, provided he hasn’t embroiled himself in a scandal or if COMELEC hasn’t disqualified him upon his victory)

So I was just browsing through the social media on the reaction of the people to PNoy’s last SONA. I remembered thinking that Malacanang should have scheduled on Thursday just in time for the #ThrowbackThursday posts, you know…for sentimental reasons! But what really caught my attention is this tweet that struck like a boot to my (perhaps, butthurt) gut

I'm sorry but what?

I’m sorry but what?

From the beginning, I can say I’m no fan of His Excellency, Mr. President, but most of my sentiments about him are lukewarm. There are times I rub my temple and stare in frustration at his face whenever he’s trying to defend an obviously competent official. There are times I would jokingly say to my mom that “Hey, you voted for him” when he did something my mom herself doesn’t agree with. There are times when I thought that six years is such a pretty long time and I can’t wait for 2016 to come.

But there are times that I acknowledge his milestones and applaud him on his breakthroughs. There are times I understand where he’s getting at. There are times that I’m thankful he still managed to stand by his principles and vision. There are times that I admire his inherent quality as a person, not as the president: Single-minded, well-meaning and fiercely loyal.

I don’t classify myself as pro-PNoy nor an anti-PNoy. The president or his critics doesn’t irk me, but what really irked me to no end is how people can label one another as pro-PNoy or anti-PNoy just because of their political opinion, their criticism, their praises and everything they say in the new media. I especially love how one criticism would instantly mark you as anti-this-president or anti-progress.

We, Filipinos, hated every president who served us yet we’ve done nothing to contribute for the betterment of our country.

Please allow me to deconstruct this tweet from the perspective who is (1) A Filipino (2) Doesn’t ”hate” the president and (3) who is curious about the author’s phrasing ‘Betterment of our country’ because she’s really dying to know what it takes to contribute for ‘nation-building’

  • “We, Filipinos, hated every president” — (My goodness, this sounds like a preamble) Now, hate is such a strong word. How do you define ‘hate’ in this context? Is this the same as “I hate Racism”? Kind of like “Augh, how I hate it when plans get cancelled on the last minute”? Or maybe the way you used ‘Hate’ in scenarios like ‘I hate wearing black on a hot day’ but you don’t really hate wearing black at all. You just don’t like wearing it under certain circumstances. For the most part of PNoy’s, or any other president’s term, “Filipinos” really didn’t ‘hate’ their president  in person. Rather, the things they didn’t like is what that president did or what he did not do (but is expected to do so).
  • “who served us” — He’s a public servant. He’s always on the public eye, and whether he likes or not, it is the consequence he must bear for running. He’s the father of the country. Like it or not, his stand and opinion matters than mine or yours. He has the executive authority and the influence to implement major changes in the country. He can actually address all the problems of the Philippines if he wants to, regardless of political or moral consequences. Whether his image is good or bad, people will say something about him because he is the FREAKIN’ President of the Democratic, sometimes Democrazy, Republic of the Philippines and there’s nothing we can do about it. Never single out Philippines in this one. This is the gift and the curse of all nations with this type of leadership. The only difference we had in other more progressive, democratic countries is that their population is more educated and they can give more constructive assessment about their leaders.
  • “Yet we’ve done nothing to contribute for the betterment of our country” — A country is supposed to be a well-oiled machine, right? Because in my book, regardless whether you’re a small-time employee or a big-shot businessman, government worker or a private one, stay-in-parent or a working one, if you’re working abroad or in here, you are still giving something. If you are working , if you are creating, if you are studying hard, if you are earning your keep, if you are paying your dues, you are contributing. You don’t need to be internationally famous, or you don’t need to set up a foundation, or you don’t need to have newspaper stories and online stories about you, or you don’t need to run for public service (though all those things are well and good if you aspire and work hard to be that kind of citizen) to say you are contributing. Sadly in our culture, having an unpopular opinion is perceived as equivalent to something as contra-productive. “You are not helping”. “You only make things more complicated.” In short, you are not contributing something, which is a distorted view of one’s role for the development of his society. What he/she says doesn’t justify what he/she has done for the society as a whole.

Now let me relate this whole ‘Contributing my part’ with that of the president. The President has good intentions. His Tuwid na Daan platform is promising and offers a good avenue to introduce better reforms for this country. Yet there are situations where he, despite his executive authority and influence, could do nothing to deliver what the people want. Unable to defend the Tausugs in Laha Datu, he could do nothing but to call the Tausug warriors back or else, risk Malaysia’s ill-favor. He wasn’t able to offer his full sympathies and accolades to the brave policemen who died in Mamasapano because his words may have an effect to the delicate birthing of Bangsamoro Basic Law. All of this I was able to understood and accept in a hard way. He is not perfect, but so are we. For a country like the Philippines, six years is a mere fraction of the time it will take to change it for the better.

Just like in PNoy’s case, It’s the current situation, or the current system, that restricts us to offer our best for the country.

Most wanted to serve the country. Most wanted to be doctors and help the poor. Most wanted to teach the underprivileged. Most wanted to serve the country and give back.  But most are deprived of basic rights to education and food security. Most are unemployed despite having degrees and certificates. Most just lose hope and settle for less than they deserve, less than they dreamed to have.

We, Filipinos are contributing for the betterment of this country but we are often disappointed on the lack of progress. No, we do not ‘hate’ anything or anyone. We are just frustrated and tired about everything and if not for the occasional glimmer of hope from our public servants or stories of inspiration from our fellow hardworking Filipinos, we will fall apart. We want to believe anything is still possible. We want to believe it is possible.

We Filipinos ‘hated’ the system because despite everything we’ve done to contribute for the betterment of the country, we’re still here.

And sadly, we will keep on ‘hating’ anyone serving us because of this.

Why we need more engineers, architects, urban planners in the government

Seriously, just look at this picture.

To Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Legazpi, Bacolod, GenSan, Zamboanga, this is not how you Metro. (Photo grabbed from the Facebook of Daphne Osena Paez)

To Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Legazpi, Bacolod, GenSan, Zamboanga, this is NOT how you Metro. (Photo grabbed from the Facebook of Daphne Osena Paez)

For the past decades or so, the Philippines (or dare we say, Metro Manila) has suffered a great deal of mismanagement in urban planning. Ironically, I’m writing this in a small apartment caught in the urban gridlock where people are just free to live whenever they want (it’s a free country)

I guess this has gone far more than decentralization. I’ve repeatedly called on decentralization of Metro Manila in my other blog posts but hey, if other cities in the Philippines would turn out like this someday, might as well leave Metro Manila alone in its decaying urban state and let it die a natural death. Let its bones serve as a warning to other regions, maybe.

Let’s face it. Any city in this country is destined to be a Metro Manila, without proper management and cooperation of the people. For heaven’s sake, I don’t think we need any lawyers, economists or military men in the government anymore. What we need are planners. Visionaries. I’m not saying the next president or your next mayor should be an engineer; what I like to see is that this next leader will listen to sound planning and adhere to the practicalities of urban management. That he/she has a great respect on public space, urban greenery or to Nature’s territory.

Lest of all, I want him/her to stand by these principles no matter how much big-time corporations or conglomerates shine their flashy cheques to get him/her on their side.

It’s so sad that in this country, our planners are confined (made to think) to confine themselves in the field of research and corporate world only. Provided that we need good scientists and game-changers for engineering (still waiting for PHL to make its own big break on technology someday, or a decent internet connection at least), but we also need more brains on public policies. We need more rational, practical voices like yours in policy-making and law-making, and to be frank we are already tired of all the hot air coming from the government.

This would probably take a long while to be solved, since Metro Manila is the busiest and most commercially-industrialized city in the country, and having it to undergo a massive urban and industrial overhaul may be an expensive and lengthy investment. Yet bear in mind, it won’t be the same way forever. The shadow of the West Valley Fault, the threat of stronger typhoons to come, and the tendency of everything in this city to get caught in a fire that can kill dozens of families living on shanties loom just over the horizon (and don’t forget, zombie apocalypse!)

It may be too late for Metro Manila, but it’s never too late for other regions and cities. We don’t have to wait for a picture showing the devastation of the Big One to make this point. This picture is clear enough.

To be fair to New York City, they have the Central Park to make it tolerable. But here....nah

To be fair to New York City, they have the Central Park to make it tolerable. But here….nah

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Image grabbed from Bisayaball

“Ma, bakit hindi mo ko tinuruan mag-Bisaya?”

bisaya

I grew up surrounded by the sound of three languages in our house: the native Filipino, English, and the language I know nothing about: Visaya.

My mom was born and raised in a tiny island of Romblon at the southern tip of Luzon island but its inhabitants consider themselves as Visayans. Childhood is having to go to Romblon and taste the sweet, salty taste of the sea, or running alongside the beach, or listening to this fascinating, fast language coming out of my mother’s mouth.

Visaya is an endearingly familiar language, yet it also acts like a distant stranger with no face. My tongue very seldom tastes its hard and thick words and accent. My vocabulary is mediocre at its best, but no language holds so much interest for me. I felt like if I can speak Visaya, I can understand this country more and more, with it being the 2nd most widely spoken native language in the Philippines.

“Why didn’t you teach me to speak Visaya?” I often ask my mom. My brothers and I were only taught of just plain  Filipino (which is heavily Tagalized) and cliche English.  My mom just smiled and said, “I don’t want you to have any problems with your Filipino and English pronunciations. It would be too embarrassing.”

My mom’s answer didn’t make any sense that time. How can you pass up the chance to raise your kid as multilingual? But growing up, I grew to realize what she means. Watching the TV, we are conditioned to laugh at the silly English pronunciation of Visayan maids. When a family friend mispronounced an English or Filipino word, my dad and uncles would be quick to laugh at him and say “Ay may Bisaya dito!” as if being a Visaya is equivalent of being dumb and ignorant. Overtime, the language of my childhood grew to have a connotation of ”baduy” or out-of-trend. Visayans in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon have to disguise their accent with broken Tagalog words and English code-switching. Growing up, my Visayan relatives and cousins are always make fun of because of their thick accents and mispronunciation of Filipino words.

In fact, I’m very much envious of my Visayan cousins who can speak and write in English as well as I do (or even more so). They have three languages ready in their arsenal, while I only have two. It’s quite disconcerting, especially if some proud Visayans (Cebuanos, for instance) would prefer to talk to you in English than in Filipino with a silent mocking reproach on their faces as if saying, ‘You’re in our place. When we’re in Manila, we speak the vernacular Tagalog. Why can’t you do the same thing when you’re here?’

One of the random thoughts that comes out during my stuck-in-the-traffic musings is how the diverse variety of language affected our national psyche as Filipinos. You round up 7,000+ islands, with different languages or dialects on its own, each with different culture and way of life, and call it a country. While forced colonialism may be a factor to what have become of us in the present time, a lack of unifying, acceptable language that is of our own plays a large part to our maturity as a people.  And the fact that we make fun of a language and an accent (one of our own languages, mind you); the way we degrade it, the way we tolerate the ethnic slur in mass media and everyday interactions, shows how immature we really are (or most of our people are)

There is unity in diversity and with respect comes harmony. I’m not saying we should be fluent in all languages that exist in this beautiful country of ours, but that we should embrace (or at least, respect) the diversity that makes us what we are. No culture is greater than the other. Just as no language or accent is inferior to another.

And to my Visaya-speaking friends who have experienced being discriminated mercilessly or made fun endlessly because of your accent by non-Visaya speakers, just smile and say the most colorful cuss words you can think of in your native language. They have no way of understanding you anyway.

 

 

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