Should Filipino thought leaders communicate in ‘maka-masa’ style or in proper English?

What is the goal of the Philippines’ elite communicators and thought leaders? We are told many times by the Philippines’ so-called “social media experts” that there is a huge responsibility on our shoulders to produce and publish high-quality content that could help uplift the Philipines’ public discourse. The quality of this discourse is important because it is an essential input into the exercise of one’s democratic duties. Thus it is easy to see that the outcome of the practice of democracy in the Philippines today mirrors the quality of the public discourse to a tee — intellectually-bankrupt and bereft of substance.

The question therefore is how this substance in both thinking and discussion could be achieved. The overwhelming majority of Filipino voters have already been shown to be lacking in the skills needed to contribute intelligently to Philippine democracy. This disconnect has long been a source of frustration to “activists” and their so-called “thought leaders” alike. Calls to “vote wisely” have not yielded much outcome and even the quality of the “opposition” delivered by the Philippine Opposition remains wanting in vision and strategic foresight not to mention intellectual substance and even a bit of imagination.

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We therefore need to re-evaluate the notion of trying to reach th masa by talking and writing in masaspeak. The notion of communicating in masaspeak is premised on the idea that messages and ideas need to be sufficiently dumbed down to be accessible to the simplistic thinking of the Filipino masses. But does dumbing down information really help or encourage Filipinos to uplift their thinking faculties? Perhaps we should re-think this through carefully.

One of the notable features that changed in the media landscape in the 1980s when the Yellowtards (members of partisan camps rabidly loyal to the Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan) came to power was the increased use of Tagalog in national television programming. What was once a dialect confined to noontime variety shows and low-brow Filipino sitcoms and telenovelas started to infest public affairs broadcasting like newscasting and political talk shows. The format of many news, as a result, degenerated into tacky shout-out style spectacles where news readers ditched the once-dignified manner with which they presented the news in favour of the jeepney-themed shrill manner we see today. News reporting was no longer regarded as a public service and instead became a competitive sport played between the big corporate media organisations. The prize was the eyeballs of an enormous and still-rapidly growing population of Filipinos. The race was to exploit the progressively declining English-language skills of this population as Tagalog increasingly trumped English as the lingua franca of public discourse.

Tagalog versus English, dumbing down versus uplifting thinking skills

The trouble with Tagalog is that it is woefully incompatible with the needs of a society that aspires to at least ape and parrot Western liberal ideals convincingly and acquire their scientific and technological prowess. Thus, what was once a key to accessing the vast knowledge of advanced societies has been supplanted by a dialect that lacks the intellectual depth in vocabulary and nuance to capture this vital input into social progress. Filipino Tagalog speakers, in effect, have been locked out from a vast pool of intellectual capital that the tiny minority of private-school-educated elites of Philippine society have increasingly monopolised.

So, guess what: Filipino communicators who “dumb down” their ideas for masa consumption are, get this, dumbing down the masa. Filipinos don’t need more Tagalog. The supply of content delivered using Tagalog imprisons Filipino minds in the “ideas” dished out by Eat Bulaga and Vice Ganda. It is only through a mastery of English that the really big ideas could be grasped by the Filipino mind. More importantly, proficiency in English makes Filipinos more self confident and more assertive and less of the pipichi-pichi and pabebe style we see in those of the lower classes.

It’s high time Filipinos step up to a real challenge, which is to get themselves re-acquainted with the language that delivers real results. Tagalog is a primitive relic of a society long characterised by its Heritage of Smallness. It is a dialect that keeps languages small and minds even smaller.

30 Replies to “Should Filipino thought leaders communicate in ‘maka-masa’ style or in proper English?”

  1. The problem in our country are our educational system are very week & obsolete plus the Philippines is a multi-lingual nation (120-187 languages in our country as estimated):

    So its very difficult that we could use the English language as our “de facto” languages for entertainment, politics, schools, communities, business, tourism, military, etc. And heck, even the big 3 TV media companies in our country namely ABS-CBN, GMA & TV5 are showing Tagalog dubs on all of American movies & TV shows besides Koreanovela & Japanese anime and that’s freakingly sucks!!! WTF!?!?! ???????????? And not to mention, their Pinoy telenovelas are also sucks as well, BIG TIME and I’d really missed the 80s & 90s era at that time when they’d showed many best American TV shows in an original English dub & some Japanese anime like Voltes V, Voltron, Transformers, Dragon Ball, Daimos, etc. was dubbed in English, not Tagalog.

    Shame, I wish that the Filipino English should had been as good as our neighbor & ASEAN brother, Singapore where their English version (known as Singlish) are as good as British & American ones because the English language in their country is a mandatory in all of public places & works like schools, politics, media, business, etc.:

    1. By the way, speaking of media/entertainment, the REAL reason why the media companies like ABS-CBN, TV5, GMA, etc. are becoming more sucks and lack of a World Class TV shows (i.e. Hollywood shows without Tagalog dubbing) in their program line up is because most of our media companies are 100% Filipino owned & none coming foreign owned media companies which is mandated to our current & Yellow stained Constitution.

      No wonder this is what encountering to CRAPpler right now which they’re facing a legal lawsuit from our government. Is that what you call a “Freedom of the Press/Media” if our current constitution forbids to operate a foreign owned media in our land unlike in Singapore, South Korea & Japan?

      I hope the proposed Federal style Constitution should correct on this one.

  2. It’s a tough one. It’s true that a language does shape one’s thoughts – there has been a lot of experimental work on that subject. But then again, languages do adapt to changing needs. The underlying problem, surely, is that nobody is interested in such adaptation. Filipino society is organised at the lowest possible level: eating, drinking, making babies, and fighting with the tribe next door.

    There is no demand for anything more. Philosophy, as a discipline, is studied so rarely here that it’s barely even a thing. I doubt not one person in a million has even heard of the country’s most well-known philosophers (there are some), most of whom actually studied their subject abroad because there is simply no home-grown tradition of such thought.

    This is unlikely to change anytime this century, and certainly isn’t going to change under the current administration, which is as firmly anti-intellectual as the rabble that elected it.

  3. Well said. The Philippines will go nowhere as long as Tagalog prevails. As always the elite want a bunch of dumb slaves who can follow blindly

    1. The Filipino elites want us to degrade our intelligence & educational ability. They give us greed & power rather than information & development. Too bad unlike in North Korea, the North Korean elites allow their people to go & study abroad in spite that their country is well isolated to the outside world & a huge pressure on economic embargo from the international communities brought about on building their own nuclear weapons:

      God! Where now behind on North Korea!!! ????

  4. The problem lies not only in mind numbing mass media programs (“Eat Bulaga”, “Vice Ganda”, etc.), but more so in the educational system, including higher education. Philippine education does not encourage creative or critical thinking — practices that involve deep and reflective thinking which can lead to innovation and originality. Instead, there is strong emphasis on memorization, regurgitation and parroting. So the end result is students who don’t comprehend on a deep level the subject matters that they “study” in school. Their minds have not been trained to ponder, question and think beyond what is presented to them. So this problem of intellectual bankruptcy and/or inability to communicate and articulate ideas and concepts via English can be solved on an educational level. Of course, this would entail changing the mindsets of teachers and professors, because they, too lack training in critical and creative thinking.

  5. There are reasons that explains the excellence divide and the command disparity between the better and the not-so-better English speakers among Filipinos.

    The common reason that hinders common Filipino folks in their natural pursuit of excellence in spoken English is the feeling of nervousness of committing mistakes often associated with the fear of being subjects of ridicule by grammar nazis.

    Another is the inadequate window of opportunity of using/practicing the language more naturally in their homes, communities, circle of friends wherein the mode of dominant communication is Filipino or other dialects. It would not, sort of, work out without being sounding annoyingly ridiculous. The school is an outlet by which it gives them this opportunity, though with limitations, for learning and practice.

    (I read a comment from Robert Haighton somewhere here that although they know how to speak English, the Dutch prefer speaking to a Dutch in their own language because its more natural that way. It’s a same reason for common Filipino folks.)

    The Filipino elites have more of this opportunity, starting from the very beginning, having been born in an environment within the sphere of influence of English speakers. The advantage gets more clearer there.

    Also, the issue of educational deprivation is not uncommon.

    And so there comes the need of the function of the State to ensure greater access to a free public high quality education for its citizens, which is a good investment for the country!

    Duterte also needs to better initiate, to up his ante, with a more high caliber English speeches to communicate and do away with his usual balasubas ways, if we ought to inspire some people and apply the intent of this article.

    1. Stella,
      “(I read a comment from Robert Haighton somewhere here that although they know how to speak English, the Dutch prefer speaking to a Dutch in their own language because its more natural that way. It’s a same reason for common Filipino folks.)”

      (this is not to be read as criticism but to clearify)
      Not even prefer, we only do speak Dutch among friends, family and other Dutch people we dont know (dutch strangers). Only when we do know you are a foreigner we will try to speak your language or at least english. Although there are people who will say: “you are here in the Netherlands, so you speak Dutch. Why should/must I speak your language?”

      1. Back in the past, when I had more interaction with Dutch people, I was always impressed not only by the number who spoke English, but the fluency and quality with which they spoke it.

        In a conversation with two guys who looked like they could have been plumbers,electricians or tram-drivers, I mentioned this. One said ‘we are a small country , nobody else speaks Dutch.’ The other said that a lot of English language television shows were shown in the original English but with Dutch sub=titles, so that even after formal teaching of English, they were still exposed to it, with the back-up of sub-titles.

        1. Niall,
          I will be very honest with you. I still need a traditional (in book form) dictionary (or google translate) to know the meaning/definition of an English word.
          What I see/hear around me – by listening to Dutch people speaking English – it is very often lousy (pronounciation).

          Every non-Dutch TV program aired on Dutch TV is shown with Dutch subtitles. Same with (non-Dutch) movies shown in Dutch cinemas.

          It goes even that far that a simple and short interview done in English is translated by subtitles or translated by the host.

          The best and fastest way to learn a foreign language is to be in that country and preferably alone, so that the pressure is completely on the individual. To mingle, socialize and to adapt to the ‘new’ country, he/she really has to speak that language. He/she cant hide anymore.

          “we are a small country , nobody else speaks Dutch.’
          In the northern part of Belgium (Flanders), people speak Dutch; in South Africa there are people that speak ‘Dutch’ and in the overseas territories (the ABC countries and Surinam. ABC = Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao) and maybe a few people in Indonesia.

  6. Here is my view:
    As long as the PH culture does not change (oh sorry, I should have said REFORM), nothing will change in PH. A good example of this is the obsessive use of the word respect (and the term “golden rule”) in PH. Here is a real life event example that happened this morning:

    I was talking with a pinay and said to her that I am okay if she told me: “Robert, you are stupid because …..” Her response was: There goes my respect.

    As long as people cant say the word stupid in PH (used as an encouragement/motivation to not do stupid things anymore), it is really useless to fight for change/reform. Probably, it will only work if she can only use nice words, like “Dear Robert, will you please not do that anymore” (and while saying such lines, not showing any anger, frustration, madness or whatever).

    The way I look at the Philippines is that it is build on fake respect. Especially the stupid Mano and use of words like ate, dong, dai etc., etc.

    1. You are right about that, Robert. It’s not really a language problem, but a culture of settling for something mediocre and an inability to do introspection.

  7. I think mas maganda kung Filipino para lahat ng tao nakaka intindi. Eto nga rin ung hindi ko maintindihan eh bakit sila nag eenglish, para magandang pakinggan? eh ang major audience o ang subject ay para sa mga Pinoy. Diba mas ok kung Filipno ang gagamitin?

    Bakit sa Japan, sobrang prinepreserve nila ang culture nila lalo na sa dialect nila. Hindi sila gumagamit ng foreign language pero maulad sila. Dito ako sa point na, ung hindi lang basta kailangan mag adapt sa ibang bansa para umasenso, meron tayong sariling yaman na halos ibang bansa na nga lang ang nakikinabang.

    Bakit? kasi wla tayong pag mamahal sa sariling atin, di natin binibigyang halaga ang nasa atin mas sinusuportahan natin ang sa ibang bansa ewan ko ba kung bakit. Kaya kung ultimate salita natin wla tayong pakialalam kung mainpluwensyahan na ng iba.. ano pa ang mga isla at kayamanan ng bansa na piliti inaangkin.

    1. Tell that Tagalog thing so someone from Visayas and Mindanao. They’ll call you imperialista. And they won’t listen to you. Nice try.

      1. So that’s why we must evolve & use heavily on the Philippine/Filipino English in our land & become the mandatory language standard for our country just like the Singaporean English or also known as Singlish, as this is what it had mandated by the former Singaporean PM Lee Kuan Yew and during at his rule, English is not only the language for the development in his country, it is also a language that could unite all of the races/ethnics in Singapore particularly Malays, Chinese & Indians and that’s why Singaporean English have a mixture of British English, Malays, Tamil & 3 Chinese languages that’s unique for that country as what I’d posted in here on a URL link above.

        Now if we could do that as what the country of Singapore did for the English language, why don’t we do that for our own English language and imagine if we could combine the American English with Tagalog (ex: the word BOONDOCKS which it means mountain), Cebuano, Ilokano, Tausug, Waray, Illonggo, etc., etc. to bring the uniqueness of Philippine/Filipino English, then we could unite the entire country not only we could modernize/globalize our country if we could mandate the English language as a tool for education, development, politics, defense, entertainment, etc., etc. Imagine if we could hear the Philippine/Filipino English in all of Pinoy shows on national TV like Eat Bulaga, Showtime, Ang Probinsyano, etc. instead of Tagalog.

        1. Some don’t realize indeed that there are some people in the provinces who are hostile to being made to speak Tagalog, and consider this an unfair move of Tagalog politicians who had gained power back then (Quezon era). So Filipino as a language doesn’t really exist, and is mostly Tagalog. Efforts to mix it from the different languages of the country didn’t work at all. So saying “we should all speak Filipino” is not going to unite the country since it is actually “we should all speak Tagalog.” Some people in other provinces sometimes have no choice because it was an imposition of the educational system. But that could be undone with focusing on English as the neutral language. That would be better for unity.

      2. ChinoF could have chosen to it explain better but rather not. Instead he prefer the crude and ungentlemanly confrontational approach to an uninitiated.

        1. Doesn’t matter. ChinoF’s response is easily proven false especially here in Cebu. So I’m not really sure where he got his generalization. Maybe from that the few ones who rally in Colon and Plaza Independencia.

      3. Mula ako sa Capiz, 15 years sa manila 16 years dito sa Capiz. Oo nung una. inaasar ako o parang may something sa pag trato nila sa akin the way kung paano ako mag salita. Pero sa panahon ngayon, internet at TV hindi na big deal sa kanila, actually normal nalang din gimagamit dito ung Filipino/Tagalog.

        may mga nakikilala ako dito tagalog mag salita hindi na ganon nila tratuhin the way kung anong approach nila sa akin dati. Nag eevolve din sila siguro isang katangian talaga ng wika iyon o magaling lang talagang mag adjust ang Pinoy.

  8. It is good to be multilingual. The world of knowledge opens to you, when you speak two languages or more. Our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, spoke many languages, and was exposed to many cultures.

    English is the language where we can communicate, with anybody thruout the world. Our OFWs are preferably hired, because most of them speak English.

    I don’t want to bring down , Tagalog. However, it was the language, where the Aquino Cojuangco political axis dumbed down the “Filipino masa”. It was first prioritized, by Benigno Aquino, Sr., the KALIBAPI leader, during the Japanese military occupation, to promote nationalism of KALIBAPI members. And to promote the Asia Co Prosperity Sphere program of the Japanese militarists.

    We cannot improve the mindsets of the “Filipino masa”, unless they are willing to improve themselves. No language, or anything can do it.

    They can come at GRP, and write in Pilipino/Tagalog, if they want. We can discuss issues in : English, Taglish or Pilipino. Most of the bloggers can write in Pilipino.

  9. “… a Philippine characteristic: the tendency to petrify in isolation instead of consolidating, or to split smaller instead of growing.” – from ‘Nick Joaquin’s A Heritage of Smallness’

    @benign0, doesn’t the above statement reminds you of the proposed Federalism of the Government as a modern day continuation of this legacy in our Heritage of Smallness? What are your thoughts?

    Would you agree that the purpose of Federalism, aside from the good intention of democratizing wealth and power, is really intended in unifying separate weak states into a whole rather than in subdividing an already united country?

    1. Not really sure what the long-term effect will be, but the thing about federalism is that it assumes that, once individual states are left to their devices given more autonomy, each will be accountable for their own success. Autonomy and freedom provides a more transparent framework to observe who really deserves or is ready to be treated like an adult. And like most adult populations, some will succeed and some will fail.

        1. Filipinos believe they are accountable to God – who graciously forgives no matter how many times they transgress and who understands their every weakness. Unlimited Kumpisal sa Pare is the Pinoy’s ticket to living like a demon from hell all their lives yet having the assurance of heavenly paradise in the afterlife. Scam, steal, swindle, lie, bribe, extort and deceive pa more! It’s “your best life now”… and forever

      1. I find benign0’s response to the query above as quite strange, even rather inconsistent (with a previously held position on the issue he submits to), if you have to fathom there the high degree of conviction he applied to it with his statements:

        “But Philippines provinces are microscopic compared to an American state like, say, Texas, where the local government isn’t heard complaining it can’t efficiently handle so vast an area. We, on the other hand, make a confession of character whenever we split up a town or province to avoid having of cope, admitting that, on that scale, we can’t be efficient; we are capable only of the small.”

  10. There is no point in discussing ideas when it cannot be “dumbed down”.

    To pass an idea, someone MUST TEACH IT TO ANOTHER. And when the idea is learned, it is successfully passed on, thus spreading the idea.

    A local dialect or a national language helps the propagation of ideas among the locals.

  11. Maybe I’ll give it away by making that point some might have missed. PAB/Laurio’s Tagalog posts are attempts to stoke the masses into revolting against the Duterte administration. It’s like something from the commie playbook, stir the masses and they’ll do everything. But that doesn’t work anymore. It’s not the age of monarchs which are easier to stir up people against. Masa people these days are also tired of uprisings and overthrows, because they realized no change occurred. Plus “revolutions” are just going to interrupt their salaries and jobs they need for feeding their families. Revolutions also have that risk of instability and thus violence against their families. Who in their right mind would want to support revolutions then?They ain’t gonna bite. So PAB’s efforts are actually an exercise in futility. Of, course, we in this blog are happy to rub that in using English. lol

  12. Filipinos measure intelligence by the English they speak.
    Filipinos measure beauty by the color of the skin.
    Filipinos measure wealth by their pot bellies.

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