Young Blood: Sorry Philippines

Young Blood: Sorry Philippines

by UA&P News Desk on October 21, 2010 - 4:16 pm

From the Philippine Daily Inquirerby Alexia Adizon, UA&P student

“MAHAL KO ang bayan ko, ipinagmamalaki ko na ako’y Pilipino.” At the beginning of every Filipino class, our high school teacher would make us recite this line. But despite its clarity and brevity, it took me a while to realize that I was not living the lesson behind it.

Filipino is my first language. I spent the early part of my childhood in Cavite City, surrounded by people who spoke Filipino. However, first grade came and my parents insisted on sending me to an all-girls private school in Alabang, where I would spend the rest of my elementary and high school education. On my first day in this thoroughly new environment, I found myself surrounded by people speaking an alien language, English. I felt extremely out of place, since I only knew a few words in English, and I was afraid I’d look like a total idiot if I spoke in Filipino. So I just kept silent.

As the years passed, I learned the predominant language in this school. There seemed to be an unspoken rule that it was uncool to speak Filipino. I grew to believe this, so I sought to stamp out any hint of barok in my spoken English. I was introduced to cable television and English television shows on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, which I watched religiously every weekend. I shunned local television, movies and music, regarding them as baduy. Soon I found myself thinking in English. By the fifth grade, I had developed my own “accent,” and I was secretly proud of it, as I felt so sophisticated and intelligent speaking English.

Outside of our school, I flaunted the fact that I could speak straight English. In malls or on trips, I made sure I spoke loudly so others would hear me. At such a young age, I was already aware of the fact that those who could speak fluently in the “universal language” were looked up to. When I went home to visit the province, my relatives would wonder, “Mga balikbayan ba ’to?” as my siblings and I jabbered away.

Looking back now, I realize I was afflicted by a severe case of colonial mentality which didn’t only manifest itself when I spoke. Whenever I’d receive gifts from our balikbayan relatives, I’d jump at the opportunity to flaunt the imported merchandise to my classmates. When I’d read the newspaper, I’d flip right away to the world news section. I harbored silly fantasies of auditioning for “American Idol” or getting discovered as “America’s Next Top Model.”

Last 2008, I went to World Youth Day in Sydney, a gathering of Christian youth from all over the world to celebrate the faith. I went with a group of Filipina girls, mostly school mates. It was truly a life-changing experience, for aside from rekindling my faith, I noticed something that disillusioned me.

There were different groups from different nations who came to this event. They spoke their own language among themselves. Koreans spoke Korean to other Koreans. The Spaniards spoke Spanish to their countrymen. However, our group didn’t speak Filipino; we spoke English to one another. These tan, Asian girls chattered in fluent English. The foreigners we interacted with had to ask what country we were from.

If you look at me, I’m unmistakably Filipino. I don’t know if there is one drop of foreign blood in me. I never spent a significant part of my life overseas. All of which leaves me with no excuse for having lost the ability to speak fluently in the mother tongue, except that I had deliberately done so, because I thought speaking English would make me cooler and better. It took me a while to realize the truth in the saying that you can take the Filipino out of Pilipinas, but you can’t take Pilipinas out of the Filipino. No matter how high my proficiency in English is, how often I use whitening products to make my skin fairer, how long I live in the States, or how high end the labels of my clothes are, I will always be unmistakably Filipino. So why should I be ashamed to be one? I could go into discussing the heroes who have died for our country, the amount of blood they shed so that we could attain its independence. But the simple truth is that this is the country I was born in and where I was raised.

Recently some Filipino young men and women have been trying to rekindle patriotism by wearing and promoting Philippine-made products and advertising merchandise bearing the lable “Proud to be Pinoy.” I jumped into this bandwagon, hoping to atone for my past apathy and total lack of nationalism. But then I realized building love for my country should go beyond wearing “Team Manila” shirts.

I’m sorry, Philippines, my country. How can I say I’m “Proud to be Pinoy” when the thoughts that occupy my head are those of a foreign tongue? How dare I express disgust over the foreigners who belittle our countrymen abroad, when I kiss their ass when they are here on our soil? How is it possible that I seriously read and study Dostoyevsky when I hardly even know the works of Rizal? Why is it that I consistently get high grades in English but have Filipino essays full of red marks?

I’m in college now. I’ve been exposed to different kinds of people from different walks of life, and most of them speak Filipino. I have realized it is useless to keep speaking English when everybody else is speaking in Filipino. I would just come across as a haughty know-it-all, and so with great difficulty, I am learning again to use the mother tongue. But more than the need to be understood by others, I hope the time will come when I can finally say truthfully, “Mahal ko ang bayan ko, ipinagmamalaki ko na ako’y Pilipino.”

Alexia Adizon, 18, is a student at the University of Asia and the Pacific.
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