Is diskarte more important than good English as Marian Rivera says?

Don’t look now but Marian Rivera’s come out swinging at her detractors, presumably over the subject of her famous English language skills (or lack of it). I’ve always found Marian fascinating. Her face and physical stature does not match her style of speech. Perhaps this is what endears her to her fans — she physically looks sosyal but, once she opens her mouth, suddenly comes down to a level the masses can relate with. I suppose it’s sort of like how Pinoys are so fascinated with “foreigners” who speak Tagalog.

So I wonder why the sudden need to reaffirm herself now. According to Marian, how well someone speaks English is not good basis for judging a person’s intelligence.

“Sabi ko nga, ‘yon ba ang basehan ng mga tao sa pagiging matalino?” wika ni Marian sa umereng episode ng “Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho” nitong kamakalawa nang bisitahin niya ang pinagtapusang De La Salle University sa Dasmarinas, Cavite.

Marian Rivera's looks allow her to get away with palengke English.
Marian Rivera’s looks allow her to get away with palengke English.
I would’ve thought she owed nobody any explanations or apologies for a quirk of hers that made her famous and endeared her to her fans.

What she says is true, of course. Some of the smartest people I knew in college did not speak good English. In fact, a lot of them came from prestigious science high schools like Philippine Science and Manila Science. They were top-notch at science and math subjects and pretty much humbled us private school snobs who came out of high school thinking we were a cut above the rest. See, we pretty much dominated the social scene in college because of our private school swagger and loud and twanged English speaking. But engineering school is not kind to “social” people. It rewards the quiet achievers. And many of these achievers stayed quiet because they couldn’t speak English well. So while us “bratpackers” loudly took up space at prime campus tambayans, the non-English “underclass” on campus beavered away at libraries and second-tier hangouts.

That said, I still have a problem with the sort of message Marian is bringing across to the Filipino masses by downplaying the role of English skills. The thing is, Marian can afford to speak palengke because she is beautiful. When you are beautiful and fair-skinned in the Philippines, you can pretty much get away with anything. That, as a matter of fact, is what “Nasty” is saying in his famous tirade; that the elite-looking “but uneducated, aquiline-nosed and light-skinned ******** picked up from some gutter somewhere” could “just flash their capped-tooth smiles and policemen let them get away with traffic violations” or “bat their false eyelashes and customs officers impose no duty on their suspicious balikbayan boxes.”

But the majority of Filipinos do not look like Marian Rivera or, for that matter, her hubby DingDong Dantes. Most Filipinos are short and dark skinned. Even the most English-proficient folks of this sort have to work doubly hard to get noticed in a room of tall, fair-skinned people. So you can imagine what it would be like for short dark-skinned people who don’t speak English well. Story of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s life, right? Thing is, not everyone is as smart and politcally-savvy as the Vice President too.

All things being equal then, Filipinos who could speak English well have an edge. Only 1% of Filipinos look like Marian Rivera. So for a person who counts in the 99+ percentile of the elite in terms of looks to tell average Filipinos that not being good in English is “ok”, is borderline irresponsible, I dare say.

Not surprising then that you will see a lot of people who take perverse pride in speaking baroque English — which is why people like Erap Estrada win presidential elections. Beautiful and idolized celebs telling their fans that bad English is good give validation to a majority who were unfortunate enough not to have been raised to speak great English. It enforces an anti-intellectual attitude in Filipinos, because it stigmatizes English rather than make it a skill to aspire to master.

Inggles Inggles ka pa diyan, Tagalogin mo na lang.

That familiar admonition from Filipinos to demonize people who prefer to express themselves in English is really a symptom of that unsavory psyche of Filipinos that probably keeps them poor. Most books on science and math are written in English. Maybe there are some written in Filipino, but they are very rare. And even among those rare ones, most of them will probably just be translations from original English texts.

As far as I’ve also observed, in the corporate world, people who could speak and write English well are also looked upon favorably by employers. In the old days, it was even common for job ads to include warnings like “non-grads of Ateneo, La Salle, Assumption, and UP need not apply”. Sometimes they even leave out UP! Lol!

But people like Marian Rivera don’t need to speak great English to get ahead. In fact, she need not even speak.

But for the millions of average Filipinos, communication skills are important. Look no further than the armies of unseen and invisible call center and BPO workers whose only puhunan is their language faculties.


Post Author: Kate Natividad

Frustrated artist doing geek for a living.

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64 Comments on "Is diskarte more important than good English as Marian Rivera says?"

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I wonder how Lucio Tan or Henry Sy speak English. Probably like Shakespeare? I doubt it but for sure they are smarter in one finger than 10,000+ English schoolteachers combined.


This expression:

“Spokening dollars ka na naman?”


I’d say she’s wrong on that point. Skill in English denotes intelligence for language. And skill in English is our ticket to becoming world-class. Without this skill, how could have Lea Salonga have fared in Miss Saigon?

Anti-English sentiment is also hypocritical. Filipinos rail at fellow Filipinos who speak English well, but are “proud” of someone with Filipino blood who sings English songs in shows like American Idol.


Kaya nga kilala sya sa masa lalo na sa mga mahihirap kasi mas naiintindihan sya..di maarte, di sosyal at hindi hipokrita. Ano ba ang magagawa ninyo kung lumaki syang totoo at masaya..Di namna niya sinabi na hindi sya nakakapagsalita or di nya naiintindihan ang english sinabi lang nya may kahinaan sa english….Get real! Parang ang laki ng problema ninyo kay marian, lol..Ang english natututunan pero ang mukha at ugali mahirap po baguhin…kaya grow up!


she’s an actress. it’s all an act to endear her to the masses.=)


[…] article in entitled “Is diskarte more important that good english as marian rivera says?”  points out that if a person has good looks they are treated better, in reality, sad to say that […]


My name is not Pallacertus and I agree with the gist of this article.

Thing is, learning English has relevance beyond just looking for a job in the BPO industry or the like or abroad — vast reserves of great intellectual value lie locked within the English language. Whether or not someone who has to learn it wants to tap into said reserves and thereby enrich his perspective is his decision to make, pero kung ayaw nila e huwag nilang ipasa ang ayaw nila sa iba. Baka kasi may makuhang makabuluhan para sa kanila.

I’m on the same page with the writer on the general idea of the article. I just missed the ‘diskarte’ part of the story. Anyway, it would be boring just to agree and not share some ideas to liven up the discussion. So here goes. I think speaking in English is not a matter that you can categorize as a serious problem in the country like the perennial gov’t corruption does. We all know that we’re better off in that category than other countries if we’re going to base on the demand for Filipino workers abroad based on our skills… Read more »

Chinese, Koreans and Japanese are known to be nationalists and do not speak the English language well and their economies are thriving. Europeans and Americans are considered classy and first-world, but guess what is happening to their educational system and economy right now.. read the papers from time to time. So yea I agree with Mrs. Marian Dantes.

“The ability to speak English is not a measure of your knowledge, breeding, values, character, self-worth and intellect”. I cannot understand why these bunch of hypocrites and pretentious Filipinos are so obsessed with people who can speak “senseless English”, especially those with the “twang” and look down upon those who are not good with the language; worse, they laugh at these people and mock them, as if they themselves have a perfect command of the language. After living in a country, which developed very rapidly despite the difficulty of the people to speak English, or even to pronounce and enunciate… Read more »

Sad to say na pinagtatawanan ng mga Filipinos ang kapwa nila kapag wrong grammar. Heck even they make fun in other country’s english accents.

Vice Ganda

“I am Psychology.” – Marian Rivera.


mga Pilipino nga naman. Mahilig mangcriticize ng kapwa Pilipino.

Dick S O' Rosary
You know, I hate that word “diskarte”, it always seems to imply that you are getting away with something wrong or law breaking. Or that you have to step on someone’s foot to get ahead. To me it means, cheating in exams, ‘landian’ to get your way, beating red lights, illegal U-turns, speeding, cutting lines, stealing, “mangang(c)arolling” (i saw this in an episode of investigative documentaries some streetkids trying to “diskarte” a few coins), not giving of exact change by public utility drivers. The list of “diskarte” goes on and on. And thats the reason why the justice system in… Read more »

Marian can say what she did because she doesn’t work in a call center. Kawawa naman mga nag ca-call center if they apply what she said to themselves.

Also (with a little repost), I don’t mind people being a bit bad in language if they can get their message across, like this one: ‘we filipinos are so hypocrete. we live on lies and half truth. when I was a kid (am now 40 [years old]) our elders never give us straight answer. one day while playing to my female friend, we were both taking a bath (nude and I was 5 [years old]) I shout “ay pepe” [and] my aunt scolded me for saying bad words. another was, when I ask my aunt again how did I come… Read more »
Mr. Palengke
The Medium is the Massage! The purpose of any language as a tool of communication is best used to express and not to impress! Just as those visiting foreigners struggling to communicate with their broken Filipino as a gesture of amity and respect! Is Kate Natividad angry, confused, frustrated or just plain mayabang and more palengkera than Marian Rivera?! Kate in her own words: “…I still have a problem with the sort of message Marian is bringing across to the Filipino masses by downplaying the role of English skills. The thing is, Marian can afford to speak palengke because she… Read more »
There is a point here. I grew up during the Martial Law era when “free TV” would air programmes from the US and the UK in the English language. Upon reaching high school, it was imperative that I had to brush up on my Filipino skills, so I watched old Sampaguita/LVN movies as well as John & Marsha to catch up. I had no regrets speaking and expressing myself in English owing to my early exposure; this had led me to a flourishing career in the BPO industry. What I am concerned though about are current generations’ ability to pick… Read more »
First of all, she didn’t have to explain nor offer any apologies for not speaking in english. Yon ang tinanong sa kanya eh di yon ang sinasagot niya. Bakit hindi si jessica soho ang topic mo? She was the one who asked that question. Totoo naman yong sinabi ni marian. It’s not fair na pag hindi ka nag-e-english, hindi ka na matalino. Start talking to me, you can speak english and i’ll speak tagalog. But you can’t claim na mas matalino ka sa kin. I just like to speak in tagalog. Period. End of story. Hindi sa pagsasalita ng english… Read more »
Willyn T Trabajador

“Is diskarte more important than good english as Marian Rivera says?”

Just one question, Ms. Natividad:
How do you define a ‘good english’?