Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Books of manners

Books of manners
First posted 01:10am (Mla time) Mar 10, 2006
By Ambeth Ocampo

OLD people often bewail the morals of young ones as if they were not young once. I often hear folks of pre-war vintage waxing nostalgic about an age ("pistaym," or peace time) when schools taught not only reading, writing and arithmetic but also "good manners and right conduct." I have yet to see the textbook or teacher's guide to this subject, but I'm sure it will be quite refreshing for me and, of course, my favorite, bratty, 2-year-old nephew who is slowly testing the patience of the adults to see how far he can go without reprimand or being asked to sit in the "quiet chair."

While some people have heard of the 19th-century Tagalog book of manners by Modesto de Castro, written in epistolary form as "Pagsusulatan ni Urbana at ni Felisa," not many are familiar with a similar Visayan work, "Lagda," by the Jesuit Pedro de Estrada, first printed in 1734. Ten years ago I came across a typescript copy in the San Beda College library and doubted its provenance, but the whole text is reproduced in Volume 5 of Gregorio Zaide's "Documentary Sources of Philippine History." Zaide also worked on a typescript English translation. Although I cannot read Visayan, I will dig up an original copy someday just to convince myself this is not another elaborate hoax like the Code of Kalantiaw.

Zaide says the original book is a guide to living a Christian life and comes complete with prayers and other devotional material. But what should interest historians are the words of advice given in the 18th century that don't quite match our code of conduct in the 21st century. The opening chapter alone reflects how different our world is from theirs:

"When you wake up in the morning, do not roll on yourself like an earthworm, do not wiggle like a snake that is crawling on the ground, but get up right away, make the Sign of the Cross and thank God that He has saved you from the danger that night.

"Fold your blanket, roll your pillow in your mat, and put them aside or in a corner so that they will not bother or disturb.

"Change your dress so that you will not appear as if you have just come out of a pigsty, and at the same time pray the Act of Faith. Your dress, even if it is old or torn, should be smooth and clean because it is not proper that you should appear before other people scrubbing yourself as if you had lice. You should wash your face so that you will not look dirty or smell as if you have just come out from bed."

Urban people will find the animal descriptions quite quaint, and our metrosexuals will probably object to one of the rules that state, "If you are a man, do not let your hair grow long because it is not proper for a man to knot his hair like a woman or to have it falling on his back. It is ugly to see a man who is effeminate."

It was perhaps beyond his comprehension to see women with a shaved head, masculine women, or even men with earrings -- not to mention navel, nipple and penis rings.

Then there is a question of good taste or restraint in design. Manila Mayor Lito Atienza's loud Hawaiian shirts would have been frowned upon in the 18th century, for "Lagda" dictates: "It is good that your dress should be like a flower, but remember that too many ornaments will make you look like a blooming 'gumamela' [hibiscus]. Therefore you should be moderate and should be in harmony with others."

Some rules do not change: "Do not let your nails grow long like the nails of a haw. Do not blow your nose with your dress, and do not wipe your mucus with your hands, with your sleeves, your pants or your skirts, and that is why you should carry a piece of cloth or a handkerchief. Do not spit too much, and when you do so, do not face the wind so that you will not spray your saliva on others."

Even posture and manner of walking are not spared: "Walk sedately, your body neither very stiff and erect nor your hips swaying -- do not sway yourself like a banana leaf. Do not walk with mincing steps as if treading on glowing embers; do not walk too slow like a worm. Neither walk on the tips of your toes nor drag your feet as if they were legs being hauled along. Do not swing your arms but put your hand beneath your cloth; if you cannot do this, fold them on your breast.

"Your head should be neither bowed nor held high like that of a chicken when drinking; do not look up at the windows of houses as if you were searching for bees; do not bend your head to one side or another as if a glowworm has entered it; do not open your eyes wide to look around or keep turning your head like a weather cock."

There is simply so much that would be out of date today, thus "Lagda" is read as history and helps us appreciate the world we live in at present.

History is often mistaken to be a look into the past for its own sake. But history only becomes relevant when we see ourselves in relation to the past.

What is it this thing we call "good manners"? In relation to what?

Books of manners are historical documents that tell us what life was like then, and when we compare this to manners in our time we gain perspective, which is a gift much needed in these noisy times.

* * *

Freedom in chains

Freedom in chains
First posted 03:04am (Mla time) Mar 12, 2006
By Isagani Cruz

MY article last Sunday discussed Proclamation No. 1017 as if it were still in effect although I had written about it in the past tense the day before. I had e-mailed my articles for last weekend the other Thursday but had revised them when GMA lifted her edict on March 3. Nevertheless, it was my original unedited version and not its revision that was published on March 5 as a result of some mix-up.

Except for the tense lapse, the views I expressed there in defense of freedom of expression remain unchanged. The eloquent statements I quoted are eternal verities that did not become irrelevant because of the formal withdrawal of Proclamation No. 1017. With or without that questionable decree, freedom of expression continues to be the paramount safeguard of liberty in democratic societies.

Neither the issuance nor the subsequent withdrawal of Proclamation No. 1017 has diminished freedom of expression as "the instrument and the guaranty and the bright consummate flower of all liberty."

I repeat Justice Holmes' opinion that this freedom exists not so much for the thought that agrees with us as for the thought that we abhor. Otherwise, there would be no need at all for such a toadying license. If all it would guarantee was to sing panegyrics in favor of those in power, freedom of expression would be a vicious weapon to muzzle peaceful opposition. Justice Jackson would call it "a teasing illusion, like a munificent bequest in a pauper's will."

President Arroyo has herself made it threateningly clear that she would not relent in the arrest and prosecution of those elements plotting against her government. Her soldiers and policemen are still determined to hound and punish all those who would sabotage her regime and oust her from her imperiled perch in the Palace of the People. My mention last Sunday of that proclamation still in the present tense may not really have been a mistake after all.

The continued threat of Proclamation No. 1017 is the reason why the petitioners against it are asking the Supreme Court to squarely rule on the constitutionality of the order as against the claim that its formal withdrawal by President Arroyo has rendered it moot and academic. They feel that their challenge should not be conveniently dismissed as no longer viable because that ruling, while technically correct, would nevertheless ignore the realities of the present situation.

This brings to mind my own experience on a similar question that was raised in Evelio Javier vs. Commission on Elections, 144 SCRA 194, which was raffled to me in 1987. After making an initial study of the case, which the old Supreme Court had purposely sat on, I recommended that we grant the Solicitor General's motion to dismiss it on the ground that it had become moot and academic.

Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee thought differently, however. He felt that the new Supreme Court should take a categorical stand on the important issues raised in the petition and its historic significance on the subsequent downfall of the Marcos dictatorship. We should, he suggested, "give a message" to the nation of the mission and methods of the new Judiciary. I saw his point and so began my ponencia with the following justification:

"The Supreme Court is not only the highest arbiter of legal questions but also the conscience of the government. The citizen comes to us in quest of law but we must also give him justice. The two are not always the same. There are times when we cannot grant the latter because the issue has been settled and decision is no longer possible according to the law. But there are also times when although the issue has disappeared, as in this case, it nevertheless cries out to be resolved. Justice demands that we act then, not for the vindication of the outraged right, though gone, but also for the guidance of and as a restraint upon the future."

The Supreme Court has every right to ignore the above observations as mere obiter, considering the many serious questions awaiting its decision. The challenge to Executive Order No. 464, for example, is still unresolved since it was filed five months ago to seek the intervention of the high tribunal in the serious constitutional dispute between President Arroyo and the Senate.

The usual ploy of the military when sued in habeas corpus proceedings is to simply release the detainees and then move to dismiss the petition for having become moot and academic. The motion is usually granted. This might also be the practice of President Arroyo in trying to get off the hook where the cards appear to be stacked against her, as in that pending case.

Such a solution would also be welcome to the 14 incumbent justices of the Supreme Court, 12 of whom are appointees of President Arroyo. These beneficiaries would naturally avoid annoying and embarrassing the person who is the principal reason they are sitting on the highest court in the land. Hopefully, however, they are stalwart justices whose first loyalty is to the rule of law and will boldly vote, for or against GMA, only as their conscience bids them.

Let's wait and see-soon.

Ideals and betrayals

Ideals and betrayals
First posted 02:53am (Mla time) Mar 12, 2006
By Randy David

ALMOST everyone will probably agree that our national life today is pervaded by a sense of exhaustion. This is best indicated by the weariness we exhale at seeing the faces of the same persons who have dominated the political stage in the last 40 years. Instead of finding in them traces of the values we once fought for, we see only reminders of ideals betrayed. Instead of drawing strength from our past, we burden ourselves with its disappointments.

When the history of our country in the last four decades is finally written, I am sure it will be filled with references to four individuals: Ferdinand Marcos, Cory Aquino, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Each one of them represents a powerful impulse and the promise of a decisive break from all that came before. Each one of them also symbolizes a point of decadence. If we desire to rise from the corruption and move forward, we must patiently retrieve the sources of vitality in our national life. A good way to start is to clarify the ideals we have fought for, using as guides the discontinuities in the nation's recent past.

Here I examine four such moments of discontinuity: 1972, 1986, 1998 and 2001. They correspond, respectively, to the rise of Marcos, Cory, Erap and GMA.

We mostly associate the Marcos regime today with tyranny and corruption. We forget that this government rose and was initially supported by the people precisely on its promise of a modern dynamic economy run by entrepreneurs and industrialists and freed from the grip of a parasitic land-based oligarchy. At great costs to human rights, Marcos partly delivered on this promise. It was during his time, for example, that the infrastructure for sustained development was first laid down. Indeed Marcos buried the country in debt-partly because of corruption, but partly also because of the massive financial resources that a state-led development program required. None of this, however, should dim the vision of economic development that, at one point, the Marcos regime represented for our people. It remains a vital goal.

The message that Cory Aquino symbolized in 1986 was that basic political freedoms and human rights must never be sacrificed at the altar of economic development. That message-the message of liberal democracy-became the driving force of Edsa I. The program of re-democratization that Edsa I jump-started was unfortunately hijacked early by the impresarios of traditional politics. Instead of building the foundations of a liberal constitutional order on an empowered polity and on new and expanded forms of democratic expression, the Edsa State paved the way for the return of oligarchic politics. The nation found itself mindlessly returning to the security offered by the familiar.

The excesses of a rentier economy driven by elite politics not only constrained economic growth, it also aggravated mass poverty. More and more poor people were excluded from the circuits of the nation's life. The accumulation of the grievances of the poor in the mid-'90s prepared the way for the emergence of Joseph Estrada, the movie actor who championed the cause of the underprivileged in countless movie roles.

The presidential election of 1998 became the battleground for the revolt of the poor. Instead of feeding the underground communist insurgency, the resentments bred by mass poverty were harvested by a movie icon who felt comfortable in the world of patronage politics. The election of Estrada on the basis of the campaign line "Erap para sa mahirap" (Erap for the poor) drove home the powerful message of social solidarity: That we cannot have a country that consigns the majority of its citizens to a life of degradation and hopelessness.

Soon enough, however, Erap's presidency became synonymous with corruption, profligacy, and misgovernance. While these sins were nothing new in the nation's political life, the revulsion they generated reinforced the modernist impulse of good governance. A young and better educated middle class thought they deserved better and more competent leaders. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's rise to the presidency in 2001, as a result of Edsa II, was fueled by this ideal. She exuded intelligence, youthful exuberance and a modern grasp of the challenges of a global age.

As it turned out, all of that was a veneer for what was still basically a pre-modern presidency. Rather than strengthen governmental institutions and insulate them from vested interests, Ms Arroyo methodically corrupted and made them the instruments of her own personal ambition. What she has done to the Armed Forces of the Philippines probably best exemplifies this. The partisan role that key officers of the AFP were made to play in the 2004 election is unprecedented in its magnitude. Instead of overseeing the orderliness and fairness of the election, these military and police officials were deployed to make sure the election returns would go Ms Arroyo's way. This is fairly well known within AFP circles. This is also what the Garci tapes reveal. All the key players have been abundantly rewarded with promotions and cushy positions.

Development, freedom, social justice, and good governance-together, these four ideals constitute our modern utopia. That our past leaders have routinely betrayed them does not diminish their brilliance. The light they cast may yet help us find our way through these confusing times.

* * *

In touch

In touch
First posted 01:14am (Mla time) Mar 10, 2006

I WAS in California when Proclamation 1017 was issued. That was the time I got to appreciate both the potentials and limitations of high-tech communications.

Thanks to the international cell phone roaming facility, I got word about 1017 by text messages from friends in the Philippines and Belgium! I rushed to a computer to try to get news from the Inquirer site on the Internet, but it looked like a million other Filipinos were of the same mind. Traffic was very bad and all I could get were the headlines.

I then turned to cable TV, switching from one channel to another. ABC, CBS, NBC were featuring reality shows and talk shows. Fox was busy attacking American liberals. CNN was featuring a hostage incident in Arizona. The smaller stations had televangelists and telemarketers on screen.

When the dust settled, I got connected to the BBC through the Internet. CNN eventually picked up on the Philippines, showing footage of what looked like street riots, interspersed with videos of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo proclaiming 1017, without her voice. Text messages that continued to come in from friends and periodic checks with's Breaking News -- as in every three or four hours -- actually kept me more updated than if I had been at home.

We are fortunate, indeed, to live in an age of instant communications. The technology is especially important when you're constantly on the road. So let me share some of what I've learned.

'Fong kah'

Cell phones have become indispensable for travel. For overseas trips, it's important to bring your own cell phone with your Philippine SIM. Make sure to have this activated for international roaming. This allows your friends to send you text messages at P1 each, the regular local rate. Sending messages out is another matter, because you get charged by your Philippine service provider, as well as by that of the country you're visiting. Each text message costs P10 to P20, after taxes. But be careful with calls. If someone calls you from the Philippines and you answer, the call is charged to you, and at very high rates. If you call out, you get charged with the rates of the country you're visiting, and again, that can come up quite high. Once I had to pay something like P250 per minute.

Remember that this applies as well to local calls, meaning if you're in the United States and calling a US number, you will be charged the American mobile phone rates, something like P25 to P50 a minute.

If you're going to be in another country for an extended period of time, it may be more cost-effective to just buy a prepaid SIM card there. You would then pay the local rates and could avail of discounts and other special deals. Get help, though, from a local because information materials are rarely in English.

An even cheaper alternative is to buy prepaid phone cards. You can get this in different denominations and they give you a local number to call, with a PIN number that you input. In the United States, prepaid cards allow you to call home for as low as 15 cents (P7.50) a minute. You save as well on calls within North America, at something like one cent a minute. Again, check with local residents or Filipino expats for the cards with the best deals and on how to buy them. In Thailand, walk into any one of the thousands of 7-11 stores and sing out "fong kah" if you're looking to buy a phone card.


Cell phones are wonderful -- there's something exciting about being able to be in touch from anywhere you are. And I mean anywhere. I've sent text messages out while sitting in the ruins of the Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Borobodur in Indonesia. But while cell phones are convenient, the cheapest way to communicate in this high-tech age is still through computers. There is, of course, the e-mail, which keeps you in touch with family, friends and officemates. (Did I hear you groan?)

The most exciting development with the Internet has been the voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), better known simply as Internet phones. With this system, you use the Web to make phone calls, using a headset plugged into the computer. I can't go into details here in the column, but go into for the best system yet. If you have Skype in your laptop, or in the computers at home or in the office, you can make Skype to Skype calls for free!

If you are trying to contact someone who still doesn't have Skype installed, GlobeQuest announced last week a web-based phone service, called Innove, which allows calls from the Philippines to Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States at 8.6 cents (US) per minute. That's about P4.50, even cheaper than a local cell call.

There's more, of course, to the Internet than e-mail and VoIP. When overseas, I use the Internet to check the Inquirer and other papers. Here in the Philippines, I use the Internet even more intensively, regularly browsing -- when Yna allows me -- through international newspapers and science journals, in between getting information on Yna's teething, vaccinations, language development.

Should you bring your own computer when you travel? Even a small laptop can be cumbersome, so you might want to just leave it at home. Fortunately, you'll now find Internet cafés everywhere, from Kathmandu to Timbuktu. Some offer VoIP. Ask around. In Indonesia, look for signs that read "Warnet," which means Warung Internet or an Internet Hut (kubo)!

Boon or bane?

There's still so much waiting to be discovered out there. BBC, for example, allows you to download earlier programs of music, literature and poetry readings and debates, which you can then play back on your computer or an MP3 player.

Our need to keep in touch spurred us to make all these technological advances in communications. But we need to pause at times and think about what it means to be wired, to be connected. My experience with American TV helps me to understand how, in the midst of such sophisticated information technology, Americans still end up so misinformed, so totally ignorant of the world.

The other wonders of information technology have their own allure. Easily, with wireless and satellite connections, one can eventually read the Inquirer on a laptop, while sitting in the ruins of the Angkor Wat. Or send text messages endlessly to friends back home that we're in Borobodur. We can, but do we want to?

Lester, an Indian friend, has declared Sundays as no-email day. I'm inclined to extend that into a no-computer, no-cellphone day.

Table manners

Table manners
First posted 11:32pm (Mla time) Mar 15, 2006
By Ambeth Ocampo

AS I mentioned in my last column, I have yet to verify if there is an extant copy of "Lagda" available in nearby libraries, and I am hoping it is not another hoax like the Code of Kalantiaw. Gregorio Zaide listed down a number of years when the book saw print and the only reference I found was this: "Lagda sa pagca maligdon sa tauong Bisaya, sa nagacalain lain nga mga cahimtang ug pagcabutang sa iang quinabuhi. Hinusay sa usa ca Pareng Agustino Calzado sa provincia sa Sugbu. Guilaqip-an sa mga pagtolonan sa pagcompisal ug pagcomulga, ingon man sa mga pagpahimatngon ni Sta.Teresa de Jesus. Segunda edicion. Binondo 1865. Imprenta de M. Sanchez y Cia. Anloague 6."

The book is in Visayan, but the author is not the Jesuit Pedro de Estrada, but an Augustinian who was so modest he didn't even sign his name. When you go on a bibliographical search, you discover that you find more questions than answers.

Readers who want to read the text as translated from the original Visayan can check out Volume 5 of Zaide's 12-volume "Documentary Sources of Philippine History." Those who want to compare "Lagda" with the more famous Tagalog book of manners "Urbana at Felisa" will have to visit the National Library, the Lopez Museum or a university library because this once-popular book is currently out of print. From the epistolary form of the book, we note that Urbana lives in the city and she writes letters to Felisa who lives in the country giving advice on good manners particularly for a boy named Modesto. One of my favorite parts of "Urbana and Felisa" concerns conduct during meals, thus I looked up the separate section on meals in "Lagda" and was not disappointed. While many of these rules are still practiced today and many are common sense norms, it is funny when spelled out in black and white like:

"If something is to be served which needs to be peeled, peel it before the meal begins.

"Wash your hands well before you go to the table because it is unpleasant and loathsome to see dirty hands handling food.

"Do not leave on the table or give to others what you have already touched.

"Do not gargle when others are still eating.

"Do not stick out your tongue to take food into your mouth.

"Do not keep your mouth full like a hungry wave, or swallow the food like a sawa. Do not feed yourself too fast like a monkey that knows it is to be trapped or driven away."

What I find fascinating here is the change from our "kamayan" [eating with the fingers] culture to that which requires a table, spoon, fork, knife and napkin. We are not even talking here of the elaborate Victorian times when various implements were made to be used for specific foods and purposes: fish knives, tongs to hold escargot, strawberry spoon with strainer, watermelon spoons, long drink spoons for stirring liquid in a glass that also doubles as a straw. For many Filipinos then as now, the "basic" things require more than a banana leaf on a low table and your hands:

"It is a proper thing for the well-educated man to prepare clean cloth for wiping the hands because it is shameful to remove dirt from one's hands on his dress.

"The plates to be used should have been washed well, both inside and outside so that they may not repel those who will see and hold them and expose their owner to embarrassment and shame.

"Do not stir the food with your fingers but cut it out with the knife or with the spoon.

"Do not bite into any bone as if you were a dog and do not suck at it because this is a sign of greed.

"Do not use your bare hands for transferring food from one place to another, but use the fork or spoon, or else jerk it off from your plate to the other one.

"Do not gather the food with both hands but take it bit by bit with your left hand.

"Do not lick the fingers with your lips, do not smell the food before putting it in your mouth and do not blow it to cool it off."

The last needs some comment because Kentucky Fried Chicken encourages us to do otherwise since the colonel's chicken is "finger-lickin' good." Then look around you at table and you will notice people blowing into their soup to cool it before ingesting.

There are social norms that are more complicated:

"Do not be asking for food like a hungry dog barking for its food and shouting so that you should be served. If you are told to eat with your parents at a table, eat standing, but if you are asked to sit down, choose the lowest seat.

"Do not eat ahead of the others, and not be the last one to finish.

"If you are eating with other people, serve them first.

"Do not look around to see how people are eating or what food is being served to them.

"If many kinds of food are served, it is a sign of courtesy to take a little of everything, but do not eat them too hurriedly because it is a sign of greediness to finish them right away.

"Do not empty your plate completely but leave a little on it so that it will not look as if a hermit crab has been eating from it."

I don't know how a hermit crab eats, but we often see people leaving one morsel on the plate, the so-called 'pedazo de verguenza' [literally, piece of shame], because to consume everything was a sign of greed. Times have changed because parents today order their children to finish everything on their plates.

Why do the rules change? That is a question better posed to an anthropologist than a historian.

* * *

Why Filipino

Why Filipino
First posted 11:35pm (Mla time) Mar 15, 2006

FOR some time now, we've been hearing educators and government officials -- all the way up to the President herself -- lamenting the deterioration of English in the Philippines and how this will affect our international competitiveness. All kinds of solutions have been proposed, from the exclusive use of English as a medium of instruction to "English-only" zones in schools.

Last week, the Department of Education released results of the latest National Achievement Test (NAT) administered to high school seniors, and reported that proficiency in Filipino had deteriorated. Specifically, average scores decreased from 61.3 percent (meaning "near mastery") in 2001 to 42.5 percent ("below mastery") in 2005.

What has been the public's response to these latest test results? In stark contrast to the frequent expressions of dismay over alleged deterioration in English proficiency, there has been silence over the NAT findings for Filipino. Many of my fellow professors at the University of the Philippines even missed the story, which appeared in the Inquirer albeit on the upper left hand corner. Several shook their heads in slight dismay; others shrugged their shoulders.

I have different interpretations of these responses. With so many pressing problems of leadership and governance in the country, proficiency in Filipino seems almost like a trivial problem. I suspect many Filipinos actually think it's a language that doesn't even have to be taught because we are, after all, Filipinos. We think all Filipinos will pick up the language almost instinctively, at home, in the streets, through mass media. And if that doesn't happen, it doesn't really matter since we think we don't need Filipino to achieve the Filipino dream, which is to live abroad.

Ice cream slips

I agree that English is important -- I've certainly benefited from a fairly good command of the language in terms of international consultancies. But I also know what it means to lack proficiency in a national language.

I belong to a generation, and class, of Filipinos where Filipino was actually prohibited in school. We alternated between an English and Mandarin Chinese week, when we would be punished if we didn't speak the prescribed language. That meant being punished for speaking in Tagalog (the term "Filipino" was almost never used). Not only that, we were rewarded for squealing on classmates who dared speak the unspeakable -- the stool pigeons given ice cream slips that they could accumulate to get popsicles and ice cream sandwiches.

Did that system work? No. I have classmates who went through that ice cream slip system but didn't get to master English or Mandarin Chinese. Languages can't be forced. But neither can they be learned through classrooms alone. We had Filipino classes in high school, but it consisted of boring lectures on grammar. I eventually learned Filipino when I entered the University of the Philippines; in my junior college year and even today, while fairly comfortable with spoken Filipino, I still have problems with reading and writing.

And I am ashamed about being a Filipino who is not so comfortable with Filipino. And yet, I know I am not alone, and sometimes it isn't just a matter of class. Filipinos in general have suffered from the neglect of a language policy, with tremendous losses in all spheres of public and private life, economically, politically, culturally. I will even argue that we lose international competitiveness because of lack of mastery of our national language.


We've suffered a kind of linguistic schizophrenia. The Department of Education, as well as individual schools, kept vacillating about the language to use for teaching, lacking clarity and consistency. We've tried an English-only policy, then Filipino-only, then bilingualism.

It didn't help that Filipino itself, decreed by President Manuel L. Quezon in 1935 as a Tagalog-based national language, developed in fitful spurts. An Institute of National Language was supposed to enrich this language by bringing in words from all our languages, but did this with mixed success, hobbled by disagreements among linguists. In the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, riding on a wave of nationalism, purists tried to create "indigenous" words. If the purists had their way, a school dean would now be called "gatguro," and department chairpersons, well, that would have been problematic because "chair" had been translated as "salumpuwit," the holder of the ass.

After 60 years of a Tagalog-based Filipino, we're not quite sure yet about what we have. The other week at a meeting of department "salumpuwits" in the University of the Philippines, we grappled with the theme for our college recognition ceremonies. A committee had proposed "Patuloy na paglinang ng kahusayan para sa kaunlaran ng bayan." It was promptly torn apart, word by word, as grammatically imprecise, and now reads: "Pagpapatuloy na paglinang sa kahusayan para sa kaunlaran ng bayan."

But that only shows how difficult it is to craft a national language. Tagalog uses a lot of duplication of syllables, which the Visayan languages don't. Note though that grammar doesn't always correspond to colloquial use. Even a native Tagalog speaker like news anchor Mike Enriquez of GMA Network 7 was once criticized for thanking viewers, at the end of each newscast, for their "pagtiwala" [trust]. He has since changed that to "pagtitiwala."

Inferiority complex

But the quibbling is all too often over form, rather than substance. We've lagged behind our neighbors in developing a national language. After Indonesia declared independence in 1945, a wise Sukarno chose Malay, a language spoken by a small minority, as the basis for their national language, Bahasa Indonesia. He could have chosen Javanese, which like Tagalog was spoken by the political elite, but this would have created resentment among hundreds of other ethnicities. Today, Bahasa Indonesia is a true national language, used in homes, schools, offices.

I'm afraid we've never really taken our languages seriously. We still call them dialects, the "vernacular," sometimes with an almost derisive tone. When Filipinos migrate, they drop Tagalog or the other "dialects," almost as if the language reminds them of the poverty and deprivation they left behind. The inferiority complex we have with our languages reflects a broader national inferiority complex.

And we're paying the price for that. A group of graduate students in my linguistic anthropology class reported the other day on the Metro Manila Development Authority's Filipino traffic signs, and said that non-Tagalogs, as well as some Tagalogs, actually could not understand some of the signs.

Now if our Filipino is inadequate for communicating with each other on traffic rules, how can we even begin to talk about national values and concepts like nationhood and nationalism?

On Friday, I'll explain why our lack of nationalism, in language and all other spheres of public life, actually makes us less competitive in this age of globalism.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Magwawagi ka rin

Magwawagi ka rin
by Bella Angeles Abangan

Let those who have failed take courage,

Though the enemy seems to have won,

Though his ranks are strong;

If he be in the won,

The battle is not won.

Far as the morning follows,

The darkest hour of the night,

No question is every settled

Until it is settled right.

Keep on with weary battle,

Against triumphant might,

No question is every settled.

Until it is settled right.

Ang tula sa itaas ay sinulat ni Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Ang mensahe niya sa mga aping-api ay darating din ang katarungan ng Diyos at ang mga dukha ay magtatagumpay.

Kailangan ay magtiis, magtiis at magtiis ang mga nasa ilalim. Darating din ang panahong magtatagumpay ang tama. May paraan ang Diyos.

Narito ang isang istorya tungkol sa aking kaklase sa Graduate School sa UST.

Magkasama kami ni Jenny nang siya makasal kay Victor na simpl. May sampu lamang kaming inanyayahan sa kanyang kasal.

Palaging nagkukuwento si Jenny sa akin kapag kumakain kami sa kantina. Bumukod na sila at isang kuwarto ang kanilang inuupahan.

Si Victor ay nagpapa-aral pa ng dalawang kapatid sa high school. Kapus sila lagi pagka’t nasa bahay lamang si Jenny. Laging lutong ulam ang kanilang binibili.

Wala silang badget para mamasyal o manood ng sine. Hindi pa sila makabili ng telebisyon. Ang libangan nila ay magbasa.

Nanghihiram na lamang ng mga aklat si Jenny pagka’t naging kaibigan niya ang librarian ng malaking aklatan sa UST.

"Alam mo Belle, kahit panty at brief ay hindi kami makabili…"

Inaliw ko si Jenny na kapag nilimot niya ang mga hirap at hindi na siya magdadaing ay darating din ang biyaya ng Diyos.

Isang gabi ay dalawang lalaki raw ang naghanap kay Jenny. Noong una ay ayaw nitong sumama sa dalawang lalaki na hindi nila kilala.

Doon na sila pinatulog sa malaking bahay. Ipinaliwanag ng dalawang abogadong sumundo na may hahatiing malaking kayamanan. Ang yaman ay hahatiin sa tatlong bahagi. Ang isang bahagi ay mapupunta kay Jenny.

Dumating ang kapatid ni Jenny mula sa Amerika. Pilit na nagbayad ng detektib ito upang ang nag-iisang anak ni Marlon ay mabigyan ng mana. Ang yaman ay galing sa kanilang lola na matandang dalaga.

Patay na ang mga magulang nina Marlon, Manuel (galing sa Amerika) at Mark na nasa Marikina.

Namatay si Marlon sa sakit sa puso. Noon ay isang taon si Jenny. Minsan lamang dinala ni Marlon ang ina ni Jenny sa Lola nito. Namatay din ang ina ni Jenny.

Parang hindi makapaniwala nang kinabukasan ay pirma lamang ang ginawa ni Jenny. Hindi na pumasok sa trabaho si Victor.

Mayamang-mayaman na si Jenny. Ang malaking lupa sa Marikina ay ipagagawa raw na subdivision sang-ayon sa nakabili nito.

Mahaba ang kuwento ni Jenny sa akin. Sinunod daw ako ni Jenny. Hindi na negatibo ang lumalabas sa kanyang bibig. Iyan ang dahilan kung bakit nagwagi rin siya laban sa kahirapan. Pawang dasal ang ipinalit niya sa kanyang mga daing.

Sa kasalukuyan ay nasa Amerika si Jenny at maligayang-maligaya sila ni Victor kasama ang kambal nilang anak.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Biyaya ang makipag-ugnayan

Biyaya ang makipag-ugnayan
by Bella Angeles Abangan

A love of reconciliation is not weakness or cowardice. It demands courage, nobility, generosity, an overcoming of oneself rather than of one’s adversary. In reality, it is the patient, wise art of peace, of loving, of living with one’s fellow, after the example of Christ, with a strength of heart and mind modeled on Him.

Ang sumulat ng talata sa itaas ay si Anthony P. Castle. Sinasabi sa itaas na ang unang bumati ay may grasya. Ito ay sinulat ni Edmund Burke:

"It takes two sides to make a lasting peace, but it only takes one to make the first step."

Narito ang isang istorya tungkol sa isang mayamang lalaki na biyudo, si Don Pepe.

Nang malaman niyang nagdadalang-tao ang kanilang kusinera anak ng kanilang labandera ay dinala niya agad ang kanyang nag-iisang anak sa Amerika. Iniwan niya si Bobb sa kanyang kapatid na panganay. Hindi muna niya ito pinag-aral. Iyong mag-ina ay pinalayas niya.

Iisa ang naiwan sa kanyang katulong. Si Edgar, ang kanyang tsuper. Hindi makaalis si Edgar pagkat maraming utang ang ama nito.

Isang hatinggabi ay nakatanggap ng long distance si Don Pepe. Kailangang pumunta siya agad sa America. Nagpakamatay si Bobby. Halos himatayin si Don Pepe.

Naroon siya at nagsisisi. Hindi niya akalaing mahal na mahal ni Bobby si Nene, ang dalagitang kusinera nila, anak ni Salud, kanilang labandera.

Tinawagan ni Don Pepe si Concita, bunso niyang kapatid na babae. Kukunin niya ang bangkay ni Bobby. Ipasusunog niya ang bangkay nito upang maiuwi niya agad.

Naroon ang matinding pagsisisi sa puso ni Don Pepe, pagkat maaari naman niyang tanggapin si Nene. Mabait ang dalagitang ito.

Ipinagluluto pa siya nito ng special na ulam pagkat may sakit siyang diabetes.

Sa pagbabalik ni Don Pepe ay hinarap niya ang paghahanap kay Nene at sa ina nito. Nang magtungo si Don Pepe sa pook na tinitirhan ng mag-ina ay wala na roon sila. Ginibang lahat ang mga barung-barong doon.

Walang makapagturo kung saan lumipat ang mag-iina. May lumapit kay Don Pepe at sinabi kung saan matatagpuan si Nene at ang ina nito. Sila ay umuwi na sa Cebu City. Magtitinda daw muli ang ina ni Nene sa palengke ng Carbon. Ang dating tinitinda nito ay isda.

Umupa ng detektib si Don Pepe. Sinabi pa ng kausap ni Don Pepe na kasama raw ng mag-ina si Sonny Boy.

Lalong naging masidhi ang pagnanais ni Don Pepe na kunin ang mag-iina lalo na ng kanyang apo. Dugo ni Sonny Boy.

Iyon lamang ang paraan upang matuwa ang kanyang anak saan-man siya naroon. Kailangang tangkilikin niya ang mag-ina.

Hindi na hinihintay ang ulat ng kanyang detektib. Pinapunta niya muli si Conchita upang magbantay sa bahay. Nagtungo si Don Pepe sa Cebu. Kasama niya si Edgar at hinanap nila Carbon market. Inisa-isa ni Edgar ang mga tindera ng isda. Sa dulo ay naroon si Salud, ang ina ni Nene.

Noon din ay isinama si Don Pepe sa bahay na tinutuluyan nilang mag-ina. Kinarga agad ni Don Pepe si Sonny Boy.

Umiyak si Nene nang malamang patay na si Bobby. Noong hapong iyon ay sakay lahat sila ng eroplano. Masayang-masaya si Don Pepe. Sinasabi niya na si Sonny Boy ang kapalit ng anak niyang si Bobby, ang kanyang tagapagmana.

Isinumpa ni Don Pepe sa Diyos na magbabagong-buhay na siya. Hindi na siya magiging mapagmataas. Nagpapasalamat siya sapagkat binigyan pa siya ng Panginoon ng isa pang pagkakataon.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Walang katumbas ang buhay

Walang katumbas ang buhay
by Bella Angeles Abangan

Life is a gift to be used everyday,

Not to be smothered and hidden away,

It is not a thing to stored in the chest,

Where you gather your keepsakes

And treasure your best

Get out and live each hour of the day,

Wear it and use it as much as you may,

Don’t keep it in niches and corners and grooves,

You will find that in service its beauty improves.

Ang tula ay sinulat ni Edgar A. Guest. Ang tanyag na makata ay sumusulat ng tungkol sa buhay, sa ating nadarama sa puso, tungkol sa ating mga pangarap at iba pa.

Itong buhay ay mahalin at gamitin nang wasto. Iyan ang payo ni Edgar.

Narito ang isang dalaga, masisinag sa kanyang mukha ang matinding problema.

Naroon sa kabilang bangko sa Luneta o Rizal Park ang isan ring dalaga na punung-puno ng buhay.

Hinihintay niya ang kanyang dating kaklase sa haiskul. Dadalawin nila ang kanilang kaibigan sa haiskul na nagtangkang magpakamatay, si Beth.

Nilapitan ni Alona ang payat na payat na dalaga sa kabilang bangko.

Nagpakilala si Alona at nagpakilala rin ang dalagang umiiyak – si Jasmin.

Ipinagtapat ni Jasmin na ibig niyang tapusin ang kanyang buhay pagka’t niloko siya ng kanyang boyfriend. Pagkatapos siyang "isahan" ay nagpakasal sa iba. May isang linggo na siyang hindi kumakain at hindi natutulog. May isang linggo na rin siyang hindi pumapasok sa klase.

Ito ang paliwanag ni Alona.

"Maaari pala tayong magtatag ng club – "Samahan ng mga Nagbabagong Buhay" sa halip na "Samahan ng mga Sawi."

"Ganoon din kami ni Susan, ang aking kasamang dadalaw kay Lagring. Si Susan ay dalagang ina. Ang nobyo niya ay umalis nang walang paalam. Naroon na siya sa States. Itong si Lagring na aming dadalawin ay uminom ng muriatic acid. Mabuti at nakita siya ng kanyang Mommy. Kakaunti ang kanyang nainom. Itinakbo siya agad sa ospital. Mabuti naman at naagapan. Alam mo kaming tatlo ay nagsisisi kung bakit tatapusin namin ang aming buhay dahil lamang sa lalaki. Lumaban tayo sa ating kapalaran. Maari naman nating ibahin ang takbo ng ating buhay. Iisa ang ating buhay. Hindi na tayo muling isisilang. Isa pa kung nagkamali tayo ay bumangon at magpatulong tayo sa Diyos."

Maraming napangaral si Alona kay Jasmin. "Maganda na tanggap tayo ng tanggap ng dumarating. Nariyan si Lord at tayo ay tutulungan. Ang Panginoon ang nagbigay ng buhay. Wala tayong karapatang kunin ang ating buhay."

Dumating si Susan na magandang-maganda. Higit na maganda siya ngayon kahit siya ay may anak sa lalaking walang puso.

Dumalaw ang tatlo kay Lagring at nagkasundo na magkikita sa pook na iyon minsan sa isang buwan at kasama na si Lagring.

Ang kanilang motto ay ito:

"Pagandahin ang buhay sa lahat ng anggulo…"

Tuwang-tuwa ang mga magulang ni Lagring pagka’t noon din ay ibig na ni Lagring lumabas. Gagawin daw nilang consultant si Lord para walang sabit. At bago sila nagkahiwa-hiwalay ay ginawa nila ang unang motto:

"Diyos muna bago ang lahat."

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Kay Kristo natagpuan

Kay Kristo natagpuan
by Bella Angeles Abangan

I never knew a night so black,

Light failed to follow in the track,

I never knew a storm so gray,

It failed to have its clearing day.

I never knew such bleak despair

That there was a rift somewhere,

I never knew an hour so dear,

Love could not fill it full of cheer.

Ang walong linyang tula ay sinulat ni John Kendrick Bang. Nagpapaliwanag ang tula na kahit na anong lagim ng problema ay malulunasan din ito ng mahiwagang ilaw mula sa Kanya.

Narito ang isang istorya na umiikot sa isang Russong nobelista. Siya ay si Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Ang nobelistang ito ay anak ng isang army doctor. Ang kanyang ina ay namatay noong siya ay 16 na taon lamang. Noong siya ay 18 taon na ang kanyang ama ay pinatay at hindi na nahuli ang kriminal.

Mula noon siya ay naging lasenggo. Ang dakilang nobelista ay naging pusakal at sugalero. Nagkaroon siya ng malaking utang sa iba’t ibang tao dahil sa sugal.

Napasama siya sa mga aktibista. Sumulat si Dostoevsky laban sa pamahalaan. Tinuligsa niya ang puno ng Russia, ang TSAR.

Isa siya sa mga hinuli. Nakasama niya sa bilang-guan ang mga kaibigan niyang pawang rebelde.

Ang pataw sa kanila ay kamatayan. Nang malaman ito ng TSAR na mahilig sa drama ay ganito ang kanyang pinagawa:

Kapag nakahanda na silang barilin at bumilang na ay darating ang isang government official na babasahin na hindi matutuloy ang pagbaril. Ang petsa noon ay Disyembre 22, 1849.

Ang parusa sa halip na kamatayan ay walong taon na hard labor sa Siberia. Sobra ang pag-ulan doon ng yelo.

Bawat isa sa kanila ay may bolang bakal na naka-tali sa paa na may tanikala. Hihilahin sila ng isang malaking kariton o open sleigh.

Habang hinihila sila ay maririnig ang tunog ng mga batingaw. Inihuhudyat na PASKO na.

Tumigil sila sa isang kampo. Sinalubong sila ng mga babae na may regalo na maliliit na kahon. Ang laman ay tsokolate’t kendi, ngunit ang natapat kay Dostoevsky ay isang maliit na Biblia ng New Testament.

Ang librong iyon ang kapiling ni Dostoevsky sa loob ng walong taon. Ang maliit na aklat, ang Biblia, ang nagbigay buhay sa bilanggong ito.

Sa bawat pahina ay naiisip ni Dostoevsky ang buhay ni Jesus at ang mga taong ginamot at tinuruan Niya.

Ang munting aklat ay tumutulong sa kanya upang pagtiisan ang matinding lamig, ang hirap ng trabaho, at kaunting lugaw na rasyon.

Nang lumaya na si Dostoevsky ay kasama niya lagi ang Biblia saan man siya pumunta. Noong huling sandali niya sa mundo ay iniabot niya ito sa kanyang anak, si Fedya na isang bata, at binulungang: "Mahalin mo at gamitin…"

Ito ang pagtatapat ni Dostoevsky, nabuhay ng animnapung taon sa mundo:

"I believe that there is nothing more beautiful, more profound, more sympathetic, more reasonable, more manly and more perfect that Christ."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Mapagtatagumpayan ang takot

Mapagtatagumpayan ang takot
By Bella Angeles Abangan

The greatest obstacle of human progress is FEAR and the various forms it takes in human lives are countless. Fear has all the imagine obstacles or difficulty that weakens purposes; the dread of impending failure that paralyzes efforts, the poor comprehensions of the troubles that tomorrow may bring; the haunting anxiety that depresses the heart, disturbs digestion and poisons blood, the worry that may (thay which never yet have happened) destroy the joy of living in the present, every thought of possible disappointment, accident, sickness, death - all these represent all the fear thought that take possession of men and women thus defeat life's true purpose.

Ang siniping-sabi ay mula sa panulat ni Dr. Orison Marden. Ang dapat katakutan ay ang takot. Ito ay sumisira ng isip at katawan kasama ang damdamin.
Bakit maraming pasyente sa Mental Hospital sa lahat ng bansa. Ang mga pasyente ay isip nang isip at hindi naman nila kayang lutasin ang kanilang problema.
Marami sa kanilang iniisip ay hindi naman nangyayari.
Isang mister na umuwi nang gabing-gabi pagkat siya'y naglasing. Nagyaya siya ng mga kainuman at siya ang taya sa okasyong iyon. Bakit siya naglasing?
Nagsimulang mag-alis ang may-ari ng kompanya ng mga tauhan. Natatakot siya na siya na ang susunod. Hindi na siya pumasok. Nagpasabi ang manager na anim lamang silang ititira.
Inunahan niya ang kanyang sarili ng takot. Hindi niya alam dahil sa ganda ng kanyang performance ay napasama siya sa hindi tatanggalin.
Narito ang isang istorya tungkol kay Alice. Nagsabi si Eden, ina ni Alice sa asawa na naglilihi ang kanilang kaisa-isang babae. Apat ang kuya ni Alice.
Ibinalita ni Eden kay Pete na suka nang suka si Alice tuwing umaga. Nagpabili ito ng gatas sa ina bilang almusal.

Magtatapos na si Alice ng medisina. Kaklase niya si Manny. Sa Marso ay doktor na sila pareho.
Malimit kumain si Alice ng mga merienda. Ngunit gatas lamang at biskuwit ang kinakain nito sa halip na kanin at ulam.

Nagpipigil ang mga magulang ni Alice na kausapin ang anak. Abala ito sa pag-aaral. Malapit na ang kanilang finals. Malimit ay sa sala nagrereview ang magnobyo. Nagpapahanda ang kanilang anak na masarap na hapunan at merienda sa hatinggabi. Masarap na almusal ang kanilang kinakain sa umaga.

Noong matapos na ang eksamen ay kinausap ni Alice ang kanyang ina. Inabot nito sa ina ang dalawang prescriptions sa ulcer.
"Hindi ko po masabi sa inyo, Mommy, na malala na ang aking ulcer dahil lagi akong nagmamadali noon. Hindi po ako kumakain ng almusal. Tinitipid ko po ang aking baon. Hindi na po ako bumibili ng sandwich. Mabait po si Manny. Siya po ang nagdadala sa akin ng tinapay…"
Inabutan ng malaking alawans si Alice na talon nang talon dahil sa dinoble ang kanyang alawans.
Nagpasalamat sa Diyos si Eden. Nagdasal siya nang buong taimtim.
"Salamat po, Poon. Makapagsusuot din ang anak ko ng trahe sa kanyang kasal. Iyan po ang pangarap ko na hindi natupad. Tiyak na matutuwa si Pete sa ibabalita ko sa kanya."

Friday, November 11, 2005

Manalig kesa matakot

Manalig kesa matakot

by Bella Angeles Abangan

My mind is torn by questions deep,
But while I rest my Father takes,
And mends my weary soul with sleep.
Noong tumakbo na ang mag-ama pagka’t parating na ang lahar sa kanilang pook ay nagtanong ang ama sa anak:
"Natatakot ka ba, Allan?"
"Hindi po kasi nakakapit po ako sa inyo."

Iyan ang tugon ng limang taong gulang na anak. Hindi siya makarga pagka’t dalawang kapatid niyang maliliit ang kilik sa magkabila ng ama. At dala ng ina ay balutan ng mga damit at pagkain.
Hindi tayo dapat matakot sa anumang problemang dumating sa ating buhay kung nakahawak tayo sa Panginoon.
"Mahal, hindi ka ba natatakot na wala ako sa piling ninyong mag-iina sa pagtungo ko sa Dubai?"
"Ano ‘Ling ang ikatatakot ko? Nasa atin naman ang Diyos. Nakaugnay tayo lagi sa Kanya."
Narito ang maikling kasabihan:
Fear knocked on the door.
Faith answered,
"No one is here."
Ganyan kalakas ang pananalig. Biglang nawala ang takot sa puso nang buksan siya ng pananalig.
Narito ang isang tanawin noong February 1945. Naroon ang mag-anak na Torres sa tabi ng dagat sa Bataan. Ang kanilang gamit ay nakabalot sa kumot. Naroon lahat ang mga dala nilang mangga.
Kumalat sa Bataan ang balita na darating ang mga Hapon para sa ikalawang sona. At lalo raw silang mabagsik kaysa noong una. Ang pinatay nila noon ay may 46 biktima na pinagbintangang mga gerilya.
Madaling-araw noon. Naroon ang takot sa puso ng ina. Nakita nila sa malayo ang huling bangkang aalis na punung-puno rin ng mga tao.
"Hindi na yata tayo makakaalis. Hindi ka ba natatakot?" Iyan ang tanong ng babae sa kanyang asawa.
"Anong ikatatakot ko? Iniligtas ng Diyos sina Jasmin at Ernie sa tiyak na kamatayan sa unang sona. Ililigtas Niya rin tayo."
Maya-maya ay lumapit ang bangkero ng paalis na bangka at nagsabi:
"Tiyo Lito halina kayo, maisisingit namin kayo at ang tatlo ninyong mga anak. Huwag na lamang ninyong dalhin ang mga balutan ninyo, sa ilalim ng puno na lang ninyo muna ilagay."
Noong nasa gitna na sila ng dagat pagkatapos ng ilang oras na paglalayag ay nakita nila naglalagablab ang Kamaynilaan. Ito ang bulong ng ama sa sarili na kalung-kalong ang bunsong si Ernie:
"Salamat Panginoon matatapos na rin ang giyerang ito. Salamat sa mga biyaya Ninyo."
Ang ama lamang ang nakakaalam ng mga biyayang iyon. Umiiyak ang batang puso ng bunso noon. Isa sa mga balutan na nasa ilalim ng puno ay ang album ng kanilang pamilya at ang kanyang luma at pinakaiingatang manika na si Dolly.
Ngayon niya natuklasan na walang halaga ang mga materyal na bagay. Ang importante ay buhay at ang kanilang kaluluwa.
Huwag nating paiiralin ang takot sa ating puso, basta manalig lang tayo sa Kanya. ‘Di niya tayo pababayaan sa oras na takot tayo.