WASHINGTON DC, United States – Raging condemnation rained on James Soriano, the elitist college student who published an inflammatory anti-Filipino language column on the Manila Bulletin website on August 24, 2011. His column has since been taken down and the firestorm he ignited has been quieting in the last week. But his stirring and revolting perspective, choice of words and blatant honesty will be felt for some time. It’s not because of the tone; it’s because of the arrogant, uninformed and insensitive substance of the column.
James Soriano, after the internet firestorm, tried to recast his honest yet brute statements by portraying himself merely as a “Filipino disconnected to his own language”.
He is certainly disconnected. Clear as day.
But he isn’t just disconnected for he has relegated the Filipino language as “below” or “beneath” educated or learned people like him. His article wasn’t merely about his disconnect. It was mostly a denouncement or rebuke of the language itself.
Curiously, Azkal football team standouts like the British-born Younghusband brothers are learning Filipino and speaking a few sentences as much as they can. That may not be much in the eyes of some but it’s a good thing to see. British-slanged Filipino conversation is much better than none at all. It’s better than someone conceited enough to believe that English is for the learned and for learning, while Filipino is only for the uneducated and unfit for scholarship.
English is Superior, Filipino is Very Inferior
James Soriano’s initial thoughts are about the superiority of the English language. But he also adamantly asserts the uselessness of the Filipino language except to interact with the manongs and katulongs, and he likewise imparts a stern judgment on the supposedly lower caste-type of people who speak Filipino. There’s truth in the first point; the second and third are disconcerting.
His tone is condescending. The column’s content and substance are downright elitist and reeks of insecurity.
If there is racial profiling in the states, his thoughts are pure and simple language profiling and status prejudice. It’s a form of bigotry. It’s labeling.
His column was a pure denigration of the Filipino language as “the language of the streets” while pontificating English to the highest pulpit. There’s no problem with showering accolades on English as a (or the) professional, business and academic language. Maybe even the science-related language. But downgrading Filipino to street-level is really something else.
Read the James Soriano piece and you’d want to throw up. It’s like reading one of those century-old articles or court decisions belittling Filipinos as indolent natives from a degenerate race. You’d certainly want to understand him due to his elite upbringing but it doesn’t add up.
Very, very few academic and economic elites think that way. Certainly not many Ateneans (I think a very, very small minority) think of the Filipino language/Tagalog that foolishly. Rich people generally do not look down on their own mother tongue. But a few do.
At dahil katatapos lang ng Buwan ng Wika, sisikapin ng sanaysay na ito (bahagi 1 at 2) na intindihin ang pananaw–kahit mali–ni James Soriano at himayin ang mga ideyang kanyang nilathala. Susubukan rin nating alamin kung bakit mayroong ganitong perspektibo ang ilang sektor ng ating pamayanan. Layunin nating irespeto ang kanyang pananaw subali’t dapat din nating ihayag ang mga makabuluhang pagpuna sa kanyang isinulat.
Hindi maaaring palampasin ang ganitong baluktot at di makatuwirang pagtingin sa wikang Filipino. Hinding hindi. Ang pananahimik sa ganitong mahalagang usapin ay simbolo ng pagpapabaya, pagtanggap o pagtangkilik sa maling pag-iisip.
Gayunpaman, dahil ang mga mambabasa ng sanaysay na ito ay mga Pilipino at mga banyaga sa loob at labas ng Pilipinas, itutuloy natin ito sa wikang Ingles. Hindi dahil ang wikang Ingles ay ang linguahe ng marunong at aral, gaya ng sinasabi ni James Soriano. Ito ay dahil ang Ingles ang may higit na malawak ang sakop at isang pandaigdigang wika. Bahagi ng ating layunin ay mapabatid ang ating mensahe di lamang sa mga Pilipino sa loob ng bansa at mga OFW sa labas, kung di pati na rin sa mga banyagang asawa ng mga OFW, kanilang mga anak at iba pang mga taong may halong-lahi.
James Soriano’s Exact Words
In his August 24, 2011 Manila Bulletin column (has since been removed) entitled “Language, Learning, Identity, Privilege”, he categorically stated that:
• “Filipino was a chore, like washing the dishes”.
• Filipino “was not the language of learning. It was the language we used to speak to the people who washed our dishes."
• "Filipino was the language of the world outside the classroom. It was the language of the streets”.
• It “was how you spoke to the tindera”.
• It was how “you used to tell your katulong that you had an utos”.
• It was “how you texted manong when you needed sundo na.”
• “… we are forced to relate with the tinderas and the manongs and the katulongs of this world”.
• “If we wanted to communicate to these people — or otherwise avoid being mugged on the jeepney — we needed to learn Filipino."
• “English is the language of learning.”
• “My mother made home conducive to learning English.”
• “Filipino … was always the ‘other’ subject”.
• “Filipino was the language I used to speak with my cousins and uncles and grandparents in the province”.
• “I spoke Filipino, but only when I was in a different world like the streets or the province”.
• “I do, in fact, smell worse than a malansang isda. My own language is foreign to me”.
• “I am a split-level Filipino” but “this is not so bad in a society of rotten beef and stinking fish.”
• “…while Filipino may be the language of identity, it is the language of the streets. It might have the capacity to be the language of learning, but it is not the language of the learned.”
• “It is neither the language of the classroom and the laboratory”.
• “It is not the language of the privilege.”
• “I may be disconnected from my being Filipino, but with a tongue of privilege I will always have my connections.”
Now tell me, how can you not be offended by these?
What Did He Mean By These Words
By writing these words, certain things can be said about the author, James Soriano:
First, he does not respect the Filipino or Tagalog language. It seems he’s bothered that he has to speak it at certain points to certain people. Second, not only does he fail to respect the national language but he has an utter disdain for it, almost like a hatred for it.
Third, he emphatically looks down on the people who speak Filipino. If he looks down on the Filipino-speaking population, he certainly looks down on people who speak other local dialects such as Ilokano, Cebuano, Pampagueno, Hiligaynon and others.
Fourth, he is too proud of his rich, comfortable and elitist upbringing.
Fifth, he is segregating people from the streets from the folks like himself who live in large houses, go to expensive private schools, ride in chauffeured cars, and who can afford most luxuries in life. He, in fact, wrote that he only speaks Filipino whenever he’s in a different world like the streets or the province. That means his so-called “real world” is the Ateneo campus, high-end shopping districts, expensive restaurants, for-the-rich Catholic Churches, his rich friends’ mansions, and exclusive or gated communities – all of which are in Metro Manila.
Sixth, he reveals by his words that he is an uninformed, overly sheltered, misguided, insecure and unconcerned individual. Seven, although he never says it out loud, he is equating the use of Filipino with poverty and the use of English with wealth, prestige and education.
He obviously lacks real-life experiences. He would not even have the gall to think that way had he been more informed. Hindi siya mulat. Lubhang pikit ang kanyang mata sa katotohanan.
Even if he is accomplished in school, such attainments do not justify his belittling of Filipino.
By publishing those incendiary words through a newspaper’s website (not just writing them), he had the audacity to trash the language of his own country in front of the world. He visibly does not find anything wrong with his anti-Filipino language perspective. No apology is forthcoming.
That’s conceit. That’s unmistakably conceit.
To be continued (itutuloy).
This column’s author, Carlo Osi, is a lawyer & writer based in Washington, D.C. and educated by Georgetown Law, the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton (Cert.Bus.), Kyushu University, and UP. [email protected] or http://look-to-the-east.blogspot.com.