Here’s a certain reaction I heard about English-Speaking Filipinos: “Ha? Bakit tayo nag-i-Ingles? Mayaman ba tayo? (Why should we be speaking English? Are we rich?)”
When I also noticed that people always assume I was rich and moneyed, I asked my mom about it and she said, “How could they not? You look white and you’re English-speaking.”
From these, I surmised this form of dysfunctional thinking by Filipinos: that only rich people can speak English. So if you’re poor, but you speak English, you’re violating some sacred social tenet. But if one is rich, yet doesn’t speak English, there is no problem.
But the other observation I’ve had of Filipinos reacting to English speakers, as my mom said: if you speak English, then you should have lots of money… and you should give that money. Give it to us, specifically. And so if you refuse to give… we hate you. This is the complaint of some foreigners in the country; local Filipinos see them as walking ATMs.
I believe something similar happens in some family dynamics, wherein some members of the family (and I’m talking about adults) believe that they have the right to not work, and want only one member to provide for them. For example, if one sibling is already working (sometimes, the one who knows more English, like workers in call centers, although the more fitting example is the OFW), the other siblings will not look for work. They will instead insist that this working sibling will do all the work and will feed them and give them money. Then if the working person chides the others and tells them to work, they would recoil and retort, “Tumahimik ka! Magtrabaho na nalang para mapakain mo kami (Shut up! Just work so you can feed us)!” Thus, if charity starts in the family, so does mendicancy and the abuse of charity (though I’ll get into more of that in another article).
And thus, we go back to the problem of the nation that Get Real Philippines enshrines in its logo. Some Filipinos, instead of acting to improve their own situation, still believe they should receive things without work. And they will get it from those who work, or those they perceive as rich. This is why there are Filipinos willing to join rallies for pay. Instead of working to firm up the small business sector and present need competition for existing business, they would prefer to just play sycophant to the politicos and big business and receive some dole-outs. And instead of being upholders of truth, they would rather be paid hacks. Thus, a Filipino who overcomes all these and becomes an independent person, competent in work and fluent in English, a symbol of true working achievement, is the one they want money from. Otherwise, this person earns the Filipinos’ ire.
This is also evident in the sea region being squabbled over by several countries. Instead of being resupplied by their own people, the beached Sierra Madre is awaiting aid and supplies from the Americans. It’s as if, we are waiting for rich countries to save us rather than work to claim our own piece in the island group.
Of course, there are other myths about English-speaking to consider. For example, that other myth that contempt for English is considered “nationalism” and is a manifestation of appreciation for one’s culture, which I raised in a previous article. Sadly, there are even some foreigners who say this. But, as I maintain from that article, disdain for the English language helps keep the Philippines backward.
Thus, myths needs to be shattered and attitudes need to be changed. The Filipinos must collectively learn that resistance to English is analogous to unwillingness to accept responsibility and accountability, and improve themselves and work to improve their situation. Juan Tamad mendicancy in our backward culture is protected by this resistance to English.
I write this in English because there are still some ordinary people who are able to read English. Even some poorer Filipinos are likely to know some English – because it’s really needed for survival. Some people with anti-English attitudes also come from the middle and upper classes. They are in the position to influence attitudes of people, yet sadly, the influence they put out is the self-deprecating, self-defeating, harmful kind.
There was also a recent article where President B.S. Aquino’s choice of Tagalog for his speeches was slammed as a lame attempt at maintaining popularity. Instead of maintaining it in English, making it neutral to all tribes and factions in the country, he decided to enforce one tribe’s language on others. So if he speaks to the Cebuano crowd, he alienates them. If he spoke English, then that would actually mean that he is serious about unity. Opposition to English causes division.
Thus, I reiterate, condemnation of English and pushing of Tagalog only (and not Filipino, as shoehorned by Tagalog-dominated government) to all Filipinos keeps Philippine society backward. Since local mass media and popular culture would not cooperate with us, it is up to us “last-stand” English speakers to keep the language alive and keep it as a tool that empowers our fellow Filipinos to bring themselves out of the dysfunctions that hog their country. The ones who struggle to keep English competence a part of Philippine society are the ones who keep the good faith and fight the good fight.