Sunday, December 12, 2010

One Day, Isang Araw

I overheard a conversation the other day in a subway train on my way to work in Toronto.

"You speak English well," he said. "How come?"

"English is the medium of instruction in our country," she answered. "We are a bilingual bunch of people."

The lady's accent was unmistakably Filipino. It takes one to know one, and she was partly correct.  As it stands now, Filipino based in Tagalog is the medium of instruction in the Philippines except for mathematics, science and technical subjects which are still taught in English.

And yes, she was totally correct in declaring that the Philippines is officially a bilingual country. However, I believe that it fails to live up to its other official language in the daily lives of Filipinos besides education in the public schools. 

Try cruising along the highways of Manila and you will be bombarded with billboards advertising chicken inasal to Vicki Belo, in English. That is even though statistics reveal that 84% of the total population can speak Tagalog.  It is like the only people who matter are those who can speak English. Well, who else will they sell to? The affluent and middle class Filipinos prefer to deal in English.

Which brings me to my suggestion, following the example set by the Canadians. Here in Toronto, various businesses and government agencies offer services and information materials in both English and French. It not only serves practical purposes like making sure both English and French speaking people understand what they are dealing with. It also helps instill political correctness in the daily lives of Canadians. Psychologically it helps unify an otherwise separate groups of people.

For the same reason, why not implement a law requiring bilingual labels for products sold in the Philippines to start? Where the government failed to implement its campaign for a national language in Filipino, practical applications like the labels placed on products that people buy everyday might work. That is in ridding the country of its colonial mentality, the root of all evil.

It is time that our country learn to be inclusive, one step at a time. Besides, Tagalog words like "Purong Taba....100%" in the nutritional fact label would sound more emphatic. 

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