This article by Kate Natividad has been around for a while but it seems that, as of late, it is once again gaining it’s fair share of viewers as the division between the haves and have-nots continues to rise with the current issues of the country. One one side, you have the rich elites in their “ivory towers”, their way of mashing up English and Tagalog together into “Taglish” and their preference for Starbucks coffee. On the other, you have your common Filipinos who usually only know Tagalog or their particular dialect and usually prefer Karinderia (or mix-it-yourself) coffee which I myself actually enjoy more. Then, somewhere between both parties, is everyone else in between. Where I actually fit in there is, I suppose, actually dependent on how you see me.
Anyway, the question is: Should English-language books, films, TV series and video games take a backseat to local Filipino-language media?
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Well, from my own perspective, Tagalog has its own sense of beauty and I have seen good Filipino-language programs every now and again. Problem is, the operative words are “now and again” and not “usually”. I’m willing to state that there might be something in the Tagalog language and I will agree that Marian Rivera might be right that speaking English might not at all be necessary if we had programs or media with great quality.
Unfortunately, with the way things are, most of what we have have little quality to speak of. Here are three examples of non-English-language media worthy of note that I can only wish we had:
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Country of Origin: Japan
Central Theme: Self-Improvement and Progress
“Go Beyond the Impossible, and kick reason to the curb! That’s how Team Gurren rolls!”
Story and Background:
Now, I’ve already talked about this in a previous article however I think it bears mentioning again. The story of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann revolves around a young man named Simon who has spent much of his childhood digging holes, keeping his head down (both literally and metaphorically) and doing what others tell him to do. That is, until he meets a man named Kamina who changes his life forever!
Through Kamina, his antics and influence, Simon learns to make something of himself and become a better person despite the overwhelming odds stacked against him. Even with all the giant robots, obstructive politics and extra-dimensional horrors, Simon puts his all into fighting for a brighter tomorrow not just for himself but all mankind.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I’ve said before, this is actually a Saturday-Morning Cartoon in Japan. This is the kind of show that many Japanese children watch and carry its mark into their adulthood. I don’t know if the creators meant it to be so, but if there’s anything I learned from this show, it’s that one shouldn’t simply give up on their dreams just because it’s hard. That there’s more to life than being forced to do what society wants you to do. That there’s more out there if you have the courage to look and brave the odds.
Country of Origin: Poland
Central Theme: The battle between good and evil
“Evil is evil. Lesser, greater, middling… makes no difference. The degree is arbitrary. The definitions blurred. If I’m to choose between one evil and another, I’d rather not choose at all.”
~Geralt of Rivia
Story and Background:
Now, just like the above, I’ve already talked about this before, I’m just going to mention it again for those who haven’t heard it before. The Witcher is a series of books written by Polish sci-fi/fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski that centers on Geralt of Rivia, the titular “witcher” of the story, a human augmented through science and magic to become the ultimate monster hunter. A video game series was later created to cash up on the popularity of the books which led to the franchise going global with fans all across the world now.
Do note that while The Witcher seems like your typical fantasy series, it is anything but. The world of The Witcher is both dark and oppressive what with monsters preying on an unwary humanity and the nobility often being selfish and cruel tyrants. As Geralt himself comes to discover, the difference between humans and monsters is often a trivial one.
I found The Witcher to be an interesting story asides from its well-built and generally original setting. While it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to imagery and ideas, it also poses many questions to readers and gamers alike such as the nature of morality and the weight of one’s choices. Most of all though, based on Geralt’s quote alone, make one consider one’s actions carefully and encourages the best of choices no matter how hard it may seem instead of otherwise less moral but easier alternatives.
Country of Origin: Russia
Central Theme: Being humane in times of crisis
“He’ll live…so that’s what forgiveness is…thank you, I will remember this.”
~Dark One Child
Story and Background:
The Metro series begun as set of post-apocalyptic novels by Russian author Dmitry A. Glukhovsky. In this setting, the world has been devastated by a nuclear war, leaving behind few, frightened and desperate survivors. In Moscow, people retreat to their underground railway or subway to survive the radioactive fallout that follows. Like The Witcher above, the books were soon adopted into video games and the rest history.
The Metro series is often compared to the American Fallout series (the games anyway) although I myself would call it an unfair comparison. Metro is more of a survival horror story and also contains supernatural and spiritual elements that are otherwise absent in the Fallout series. After all, Metro is definitely far more pessimistic with the implication that the afterlife (meaning Heaven and Hell) have also been destroyed along with the innumerable souls that were annihilated during the events of the war.
Now, given the culture and media of Russians, it’s not surprising that the Metro series is very dark and cynical. However, it stands out since, instead of encouraging random violence and dark emotions, the ultimate message of the franchise seems to be humane even when times are hard. Indeed, considering the mindset of the common Filipino, this would seem perplexing and possibly even alien but it nonetheless pulls on one’s heartstrings when Artyom, the hero of the story, spares his enemies instead of killing them and thus sets a good example to the child that accompanies him in Last Light.
So where am I going with the three examples I just mentioned?
Well, here’s the thing: None of them were in English when they first came out. They came out in Japanese, Polish and Russian respectively.
So is English really that necessary in our media?
I will answer a resounding yes if our shows, books and other media were more like the above rather than the constant fornicating, slapping and hair-pulling that is inherent in just about anything on TV in local channels. If our shows were actually more “original” than rip-offs of foreign media, then yes, maybe English wouldn’t be that necessary. If our shows encouraged self-improvement, self-reflection and a sense of empathy then yes, “diskarte” would be more important.
I feel hopeful in the fact that nonsense films have finally been barred from the upcoming MMFF but I can’t help but be somewhat dubious as I have been disappointed before. Nonetheless, I bid good luck to indie film directors, producers, crew and casts and hope that your works of art may impress many. If it’s true that the media is indeed changing for the better, then I really hope that Filipinos will finally learn the true meaning of being “world class”.
I HAVE RETURNED TO LAY WASTE TO OUR ENEMIES!