I watched Round 2 of the presidential debates (dubbed #PilipinasDebates2016) last night. It was really entertaining! Mar Roxas was clearly on the run, chased by the disarming wit and articulateness of Rodrigo Duterte and Grace Poe. Vice President Jojo Binay was also pretty sharp and, for a guy who prepared notes but wasn’t allowed to use them, he was able to come back with facts and put lawyerly order in the exchange of arguments.
Bottom line, I think, is that Roxas being some sort of conyo kid (even if he doesn’t look like he smells like one) was no match for the snappy street-style comebacks of streetsmart Binay and Duterte and was out-charmed by the showbiz aura of Grace Poe.
But that was the entertainment bit. I have to say, I struggled when I took stock of what real insights on the issues I actually gained from this debate. And then I saw Teddy Boy Locsin’s tweet…
Tagalog should be discouraged. So long, so bullshitty, so useless a tongue for debate.
…and then it hit me. There was so much time and verbage that was sunk into the intellectual blackhole that is the Tagalog dialect. I mean, hey, Tagalog is nice when you are watching a Vice Ganda standup act or a Kris Aquino kiriring talk-fest. But when you are doing a debate on important issues, Tagalog is not really an intellectualized enough dialect to do justice to such topics.
(As a side note, I’d also lose those idiotic theme songs that screech in every commercial break. What is this, a debate or a teleserye??)
I kinda found it ironic actually. Here is Wharton “grad” Roxas fixated on speaking in Tagalog trying to look maka-masa, while Duterte and Binay masterfully laced their rhetoric with English whenever the message became technical. What’s funny is that nobody really buys Roxas’s local-speaking pretensions. Not only does him speaking in Tagalog come across as fake, he has a track record of dumb displays of actually physically pandering to pang-masa sensibilities, what with photo ops of him carrying a sack of onions, directing traffic, and driving a nail into a public school desk.
What makes it doubly-difficult as well is that Roxas, like Duterte, is bisaya — which means he is as predisposed to coming across as bastos (rude) when speaking in Tagalog as most Bisaya people are wont to be. Maybe this is the reason why Roxas comes across as mayabang and condescending — because (1) he insists on speaking in Tagalog and (2) he is a Bisaya speaking in Tagalog.
That’s actually another credit to Duterte. He is also Bisaya, but he manages to piece together Tagalog sentences and deliver them with a bit more class. Of course, I don’t mean class in the sense of refinement. I mean class in that Duterte’s Tagalog is endearing rather than offensive like Roxas’s. You can see it in the audience’s warm response whenever Duterte speaks. When it is Roxas and his half-assed Tagalog, he tends to attract a chilly tentative reception.
As Locsin observed, this whole layer of Tagalog that weighs down our country’s political discourse like a sticky layer of lard is plain bullshittery. All the use of the Tagalog dialect by Filipino politicians achieves is wrap unnecessary overhead and noise around the already faint signal of substance political discourse in the Philippines delivers. Furthermore, Tagalog is a stark reminder to the conquered peoples of the Visayas and Mindanao of the shadow cast upon them by Imperial Manila and their Tagalog-speaking overlords. It is a divisive dialect that, as is becoming more evident as our politics evolves more diversity, no longer should have a place in polite and intelligent discussion.
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