by Kiko Matsing
Update on the James Soriano Linggo ng Wika article: This article precipitated a vigorous discussion in our e-group. Nothing gets Filipinos into a frenzy than a debate about language and identity. It’s not surprising from a highly verbal culture of 171 languages.
I naturally jumped right into the fray, being a sucker for verbal sparring. Here, I was reacting to the claim that the article was actually a satirical take on Filipino attitudes about language. Op kors, tumaas ang kilay ko:
Ang kinaiinisan ko sa isinulat ni Soriano ay ang pangmamaliit niya sa wikang Filipino, at lalo na sa mga nagsasalita sa wikang ito. Ipinalalabas niya na ang wikang Filipino ay hindi maaring magsaad ng mataas na antas ng kaalaman. Mag-pilosopiya kaya siya sa ilalim ni Padre Ferriols sa Ateneo, at baka mangamote siya.
Although the ostensible subject of his essay is language, it’s subtext is class. In the Philippines, the proficiency in English is not only a signal of education, but of class. But this is more a product of our colonial history than a “superiority” inherent in the English language. That Soriano clings to this emblem of elitism makes him as pitiful as Capitán Tiago. Magugulat siya kapag lumabas siya ng Pilipinas sapagkat ang Ingles na alam niya ay isang dialect lang ng Ingles. Maraming uri ng Ingles–merong ginagamit sa mataas na diskurso at meron ding ginagamit sa lansangan. Siya ang nagmumukhang probinsiyano.
My position on language is ambivalent. I have previously written on the rigid nationalism of Freddie Aguilar, as well as defended the jejemons. The more multilingual we become the better! It intensifies the pleasure of communication. I think this is a more global, cosmopolitan outlook. Let’s move on from our postcolonial anxieties about language and identity.
Finally, satire is all about tone. There is only a very thin line that separates a stand-up comic from being funny and being crass. The ability to manipulate tone involves an exquisite fluency in language, which Soriano obviously lacks, as otherwise, his article would not have blown up in his face. Marami pa siyang bigas na kakainin bago pa siya makapag-sa-satire sa Ingles.
James Soriano’s “English as the language of (coño) privilege”, properly belongs to Joey Gosiengfiao’s 1980 camp classic, Temptation Island:
Update: James Soriano published a more “earnest” follow-up article, get this, in Filipino. (Warning: his Filipino is painfully clumsy.) Sounds like the whimpering of a dog with its tail between its legs.