Sunday, June 23, 2013

Oh English, How Do We Mangle Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

hat follows is a verbatim transcription of the Reading Text beginning on Page 3 of an instruction module handed out to University of Makati Grade 11 students this past week identified as ENGLISH FOR GRADE 11 WITH FILIPINO LEGACY INTEGRATION. I have taken the liberty however, of marking in red passages that, in my opinion, represent erroneous, deficient or unsatisfactory English instruction--for being negative examples.  
[My own interspersed comments are in aqua. --DJB]

By Roger Don S.J. Cerda

How do we describe today's Filipino? What are the qualities or physical attributes that make us stand out among all the races in the world?  What distinguishing marks do we have? Is it our nose that is as big and wide as the gorilla's? Is it our fair skin? Is it our round brown eyes?  Is it our moderate height? Is it our unique black hair?  Is it our proficiency in the Filipino language?  Is it our conservative way of dressing or the barely naked one?  Is it because we live in the 7,107 islands of the Philippines whether it's low tide or high tide? Is it because we  eat street food like fish ball, squid ball, and chicken feet? Or none of the above? 

["Conservative" dressing and "barely naked" dressing seem to belong in the same category to me though I'm mystified by the second term, which maybe should read "almost naked"]

Even before the intrusion of the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese, we Filipinos already have atypical and unexplainable personalities that set us apart from other races. Aside from our physical attributes, we unveil an individuality that depicts a Filipino today.  But honestly, we show a lot of ironies and paradoxes in our lifestyles that at times, we, ourselves, are confused about our true identity, as if we do not know who we truly are.

[Above should say, "Even before the intrusion...we Filipinos already HAD..." Also the writer doesn't seem to appreciate the difference, subtle though it be, between being different and being unique.]

Because of rapid technological advancement and the unstable conditions of our lives, we have evolved making ourselves famous in one way or another -- good or bad.
[Preceding is an utterly senseless statement]  

At this juncture, I may say that we typify the following traits:    

[A shy person does not typify shyness. Such a person is typified by shyness. Adjectives modify nouns--not vice versa. Defining traits apply to those that possess those traits--not vice versa.]

First, We Filipinos have a Remarkable Sense of Humor. [inline capitalized words are in the original.] Where in this world (aside from the mental hospital), do we see people laughing for no reason at all?  Where do you see people smiling even in the most disheartening situation? Where do we see people making fun of their own mistakes?  Where do we see people discussing trivia at the height of a clear and present danger?

[I'd say every country in the world displays these traits that the author suggests is unique to Filipinos.]

When I saw the television footage of typhoon Reming in Bicol, I felt sad for the people who lost their houses and other important properties. However, I felt slightly appeased when those typhoon victims smiled and waved as if nothing cataclysmic happened when they saw the lights of roving cameras.  Well, it's only in the Philippines where people do not take serious matters seriously.

[First the author feels sad for the people's loss then claims to be "slightly appeased" by their smiles and waves. Better would be to use the word "glad"as the opposite of "sad" to make the contrast sensible.]

I remember the president of the Philippine Normal University when he narrated his childhood experience with his English teacher during my week-long seminar in English Language Teaching and Testing in April of 2007. His teacher brought apples, oranges, and mangoes to make their lesson on nouns understandable and memorable, and so the teacher started teaching..."This is an apple and this is a noun, use nouns in a sentence?"  His classmate seated at the back raised his hand to answer, soothe [typo?] teacher called him and said, "Ok, use nouns in a sentence."His classmate stood straight and confidently said, Ï want to eat those nouns."  And everyone burst into laughter.  I realized that laughter is indeed the best medicine because you feel good every time someone makes you titter.

Still others, because of technological advancement, are contented to express their whimsical hilarity through through text messaging. A friend of mine sent the following messages: [Three inane text messages follow labelled Message 1, Message 3, and Message 5. Some are erroneous but that isn't the author's fault so I'll skip these.]

We Filipinos never run out of jokes. We are very resourceful in creating shaggy dog stories despite the burden we carry on our shoulders and the preoccupations that we have. We always find time to make other people chuckle, as the saying goes, "The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer other people up." It's ironic because we appreciate and desire funny and sometimes ribald text messages than the inspirational and religious ones. Well, it's only in the Philippines.

Second, we Filipinos Have Incomparable Sense of Hospitality. We always offer the best we have to our visitors without any reservation.  Even with foreigners, when they visit the Philippines for a vacation, we still speak their language to accomodate them because we regard them so much; on the contrary, when we go to a foreign land as tourists, they do not speak our language, so, we do not have a choice but to speak their language to facilitate effective communication. We do not always find this incredible trait from other people herein the Philippines. 

Third, We Filipinos are very Creative and Inventive most especially during the most unthinkable situation.
[Latter should be plural: situations and the double "most" is well, too much. The use of the adjective unthinkable is well, unthinkable!]
Nobody can deny that we are ingenious especially when the situation calls for it. 
[Which nonsensically suggests that we are ingenious even when the situation does not call for it?] 

Whenever Metro Manila is flooded, people make small wooden bridges for the stranded pedestrians to cross the flooded part of the street so as not to get wet.  In exchange, the "owners" of the wooden bridges ask for "voluntary contribution." Instant money, isn't it?  It's only in the Philippines. 

[The use of small wooden bridges during a flood for a small fee is considered ingenious by the author and asserted to be unique to the Philippines.]

In the provinces, when there is a big flood, they take it to their advantage to go up on the roofs of their houses to fish tilapia for their dinner.  Others would row boats filled with the things they would like to sell to other flood victims.  It's only in the Philippines.

[It seems to me people run up to their roofs in a big flood to save their lives, not catch tilapia for their dinner!]

These do not imply, however, that we are so puerile; it only shows that we have the knack for turning something bad into something good for we believe that there is light in total darkness. 

[Come again...!? He must mean "light at the end of the tunnel" or some such cliche which was ill-advisedly avoided and replaced with a senseless claim. Next, that making the best of difficult situations is childish or puerile is nowhere implied.  Thus, it is needlessly denied. It's use is apparently for sheer value in vocabulary enrichment. This penchant for the superfluous or illogical use of certain nice-sounding words is often resorted to in the rest of the reading.]

Our creativity is revealed when we are able to generate something from seemingly useless things.  Some Filipinos became popular because they were able to make an artwork, a bag, or an apparel from the disposables and sold them for thousands of pesos. It proves that there is money in garbage for people who have the right mental attitude.

Fourth,  we Filipinos are Great Violators.  In Metro Manila, it's typical to see big warning signs saying, "Walang Tawiran, Nakamamatay."  But still, we don't follow the city ordinance even though there is an overpass or underpass nearby for safe street crossing.  Maybe we are either tired of going up and down or we are just too lazy that we would rather take the risk of and sometimes enjoy, crossing the highway.
In the same way, we throw our garbage in places where there are signs: "Bawal Magtapon ng Basura Dito." The same is true with "Bawal Umihi Dito" for we are like dogs urinating anywhere we please.  We are repulsive at times for we spit almost anywhere. We even abuse ourselves by eating foods that are forbidden by the doctors for we imbibe the idea: "Life is short, so make the most of it."  We also patronize pirated cassette discs in Quiapo and Greenhills  for practical reasons.  It is ironic that we do uncivilized things for we are civilized people.  As Manuel L. Quezon said,  "Our greatest fear is not that of doing wrong, but that of being caught doing wrong." That's why we always get  in trouble. Walang ganyan sa States. It's only in the Philippines.

[Another false claim of uniqueness, this time thoroughly insulting to the Filipino. That these traits (unsanitary habits and garbage disposal, buying of pirated goods, eating unhealthy foods, etc.) are not exhibited in America is a false claim and a useless comparison worthy of the old term "colonial mentality."]

Fifth, We Filipinos are Professional Crammers.  In the antediluvian story of Juan Tamad, he waited for the guava fruit to fall down from the tree to his mouth.  There was also an instance when he bought crabs and asked them to go home on their own. Since then, Juan has been used to name an idle Filipino. 

[How "cramming" relates to indolence  is difficult to fathom, unless you need to insert the fancy term antediluvian instead of using the simple word OLD.]

Based on my personal experience both as high school and college literature teacher, I notice that when I give a requirement a month or so before the deadline, students do not mind at all.  They procrastinate. They do it a day or two before the deadline. Well that's the type of students that we have today, whether we admit it or not. 

Sixth, We Filipinos are so Superficial.  When a person is confronted with the question, "how do you define beauty?"  Common answer is "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"or "beauty is not seen by the eyes, it is felt by the heart"for the most imporant things in life are then things that we do not see. Bravo! I'm impressed!

We always underscore that the true beauty of a person is what 's inside, for the physical beauty fades but virtue lasts. Am I right or left? So why is it that we are still so superficial? When we ask: "Who would you choose:  a beautiful but dull girl or an intelligent but ugly girl?"  We will certainly take the first option because we believe that the intellectual inferiority of a person can still be improved, isn't it? Although the physical look of a person can be enhanced nowadays, through modern technology and with the help fo Dr. Vicky Bello and Dr. Manny Calayan, we would still opt for natural beauty.  Do you honestly want to be with someone who looks like Bakekang for the rest of your life?  Who could endure to be with someone who looks like a living monster? 

[I feel like kicking this author in the teeth! The mentions of Bello and Calayan are entirely superfluous, and unprofessional in this context, as is the entirely baduy attempt to inject Erap-like humor with: "Am I right or left? In the end he simply insists that we ARE superficial by suggesting Filipino men only fall in love with dumb, beautiful women over smart, ugly and possibly kind women. I find this utterly insulting. Honestly! ]

There are very few men who would subscribe to the idea of Andrew E's song, "Humanap Ka ng Panget" to be certain that they would not be left by their partners.  We really want someone whom we can display in public, someone who exudes an angelic face with a flawless body.  On the contrary, most women would subscribe to DJ Alvaro's song: "Ang Tipo KOng Lalake ay Maginoo Pero Medyo Bastos" someone decent, but passionate and sexually aggressive. 

[Okay, okay, a double kick in the teeth--for stereotyping BOTH Filipino men and women, possibly according to his own puerile prejudices.] 

Seventh, We Filipinos are so Judgmental. We constantly see the flaws in other people whether we  accept it or not.  It becomes automatic that we criticize them without examining ourselves first. When we see a good-looking foreigner with a not so good-looking Pinay, we always conclude that foreigners are fond of Pinays who look like "kasambahay" (housemaid)...that they are continuously searching for Pinays with exotic beauty not present in other Asians.  No wonder because Pinay is an "endangered species!" Well it's only in the Philippines.

[This illogical use of "endangered species" is again apparently intended merely for its inclusion as  vocabulary enrichment. The example does not prove to me that Filipinos are "judgmental" either. ]

Eight, We Filipinos do not Provide an Exact Answer.  We may not be sensitive about it, but when someone inquires, we do not give a precise answer.  For example, if someone asks:

"Kumain ka na ba?" we usually say "busog pa ako" instead of saying oo or hindi; 

"Anong oras na?" we usually say, "maaga pa!" instead of giving the exact time;

"San ka na?" we usually say, "malapit na"  instead of saying our exact location.

or "Maganda ba GF nya?" or "Guwapo ba BF nya?"  we usually say "mabait" or "okay naman" instead of telling the truth because we do not want to offend anyone.  

This manner has become part of our consciousness. Well, it's only in the Philippines.

Ninth,  We Filipinos have a Strong Sense of Volunteerism."  Have you celebrated your birthday and you came across attendees or visitors that you are not personally acquainted with or never have met before?  Have you felt alienated while asking yourself, ïs this my birthday?" Have you formed any suspicion wondering where those people are coming from?

If your answer is yes, the [typo] you should not wonder why.  It's because we Filipinos have as [typo] strong sense of "volunteerism," We attend birthdays, weddings, town fiestas, baptisms, anniversaries, victory parties, and the likes, even though we are not invited at all.  Well, that's Filipino Courage!  So when someone congratulates you on your wedding with matching embrace even to the groom instead of just holding hands, you know that they are "volunteers" which make your budget collapse. 

[Clearly trying to be humorous with the tongue-in-cheek use of "volunteerism"  and "volunteers" the author only succeeds at degrading the socially useful real meaning of volunteerism and loses the opportunity to illustrate "gate-crashing" or even "gregariousness". 

However, even though we have unexpected visitors, it is our hospitality that prevails to accomodate them.  Just think that you are helping our less fortunate brothers and sisters! (Just kidding!) So the next time you celebrate an important decision, remember what the Boy Scouts say, "prepared". 

[The Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared". But I wonder what would prepare the students for the superfluous flippancy of "Just kidding!"? I mean, is he, or isn't he? How do they decide without running into a conundrum of comprehension? ]
Tenth, We Filipinos are so Complaining.  I just noticed that we become so cranky.  We have not started doing what is expected of us and we are already dissenting.  We often try to bargain and meet halfway.  We are disinclined to carry on an arduous task because we want everything spic and span.

[To use context as a means of teaching a special vocabulary word like "arduous" one could write "We are disinclined to carry on an arduous task because we want everything EASY." In this way, if the student doesn't already know "arduous" he can infer that it is the opposite of "easy". But that technique fails with "spic and span" which really means "neat and clean" -- which is NOT the opposite of arduous.]

We seldom appreciate the good intention of our superiors or elders.  I personally experience this is [typo] school when I give a requirement or project to my students.  Even in government, we are known worldwide for overthrowing our President through mass rallies or demonstrations. We create our own policy,  Military officers say, "Obey first before you complain." We say, "Complain first before you obey."

[Triple kick in the teeth for portraying the Edsa Revolutions as  mere "complaining"!]
Eleventh, We Filipinos are so Pretentious.  Where there is a conflagration, for example, we show our sense of "bayanihan" by helping our neighbors put out the fire, but in reality, we take this as an opportunity to rob them.  We make it appear that we are saving their properties, but we are actually stealing them.  We become so insensitive that we don't bother what our neighbors go through during that depressing incident. So sad...Walang ganyan sa States. It's only in the Philippines.

[This is not an example that illustrates PRETENTIOUSNESS at all, but CHICANERY and DUPLICITOUSNESS. It insults the real bayanihan spirit that still exists in many Filipino hearts and denies that all these traits, including our claimed insensitivity to others, exist even in "the States" and other places.]

Twelfth, we Filipinos are so Resilient. We have endured all the tragedies in life from Herculean typhoons such as Milenyo, Ondoy, and Pepeng to civil war, crimes, hunger, scarcity of rice, mounting prices of commodities, corruption,climate change, global warming, name it, we all have it, but have surpassed them all. We are true Survivors.  Wherever we go, whatever the situation, it is never excessively alarming or disorienting.  We can always adapt to the fast-changing environment to make the difference. Hurray! 

[The author says we "have endured all the tragedies...but have surpassed them all"  which is a curious kind of redundancy that I'm not so sure how to take. He probably meant "suffered" rather than "endured"  Then there is the very curious use of the word Herculean as an adjective for typhoon. Only in da Pilipins! --  as the author is fond of saying throughout.]

This is the moment when we need to acknowledge our own imperfections and insecurities.  The challenge now is to create a portrait that is worth praising and emulating -- a portrait that is truly inspiring. 

[This English Module is full of problems in form and content.  it is worth criticizing and not emulating for it is utterly depressing as an example of the supposedly new and improved Senior High School curriculum instruction material. The exercises that surround the essay have their own grammatical and other language flaws, for a subsequent article here.]