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Column: Ulila sa Wika

Column: Ulila sa Wika

Writing in Filipino language while in disapora

Poet and writer Karessa Ramos examines our longing for speaking and hearing our mother-tongue while living abroad, our speechless way of communicating with one another, and how our Filipino identity is connected to our language. Are we orphans of the Filipino language in diaspora or have we orphaned our mother in tongue in exchange for the local language?

Ang hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika ay higit pa sa hayop at malansang isda”- Jose P. Rizal

Sa Pilipinas, tuwing Agosto ipinagdiriwang ang Buwan ng Wika. At least sa mga paaralan, kinagawian na ang love-bombing sa Filipino sa napakaraming paraan, mula pagtatanghal ng beauty contests hanggang sa Balagtasan. Na para namang iyon lang ang kaisa-isang wika sa 7,107 na mga pulo, mula Aparri hanggang Jolo.

Kaya naman ang puyat ko nitong mga nakaraang araw ay sanhi ng kaka-isip: para sa mga Pilipinong nangibang-bansa, tayo ba ay ulila (at nangungulila) sa wika o tayo na rin ang nang-ulila sa sarili nating salita? 

Ano’ng hapdi ang ramdam natin sa tuwing ibang tunog ang naririnig, iba ang galaw ng bibig o iba ang liko ng dila mula umaga hanggang gabi? At ano’ng ginhawa naman kapag magvi-video call na sa mga kaanak at kaibigan?

Dumating ako sa España na tatlo ang sinasalita ko: Tagalog, Bisaya (Camiguin, Bohol, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro versions, ha!) at Ingles. Idinagdag na ang Kastila upang nga ako sila’y mauunawaan. Ngunit higit sa lahat, UPANG SILA AKO’Y MAUUNAWAAN. 

Ang sakit na nadarama ko dati, maiibsan tuwing kinakausap ko ang sarili ko sa harap ng salamin. At ang ginhawa naman, dumarating tuwing may nakakasalubong akong kababayan at biglang tatango, sabay sabi, “Pilipino/a ka?”. Sa isip ko, “Waaa! Tiyak, kahit maikling sandali lang, makakapag-Tagalog o Bisaya kami”. Nakaka-gaan lang ng loob. 

Para sa mga Pilipinong nangibang-bansa, tayo ba ay ulila at nangungulila sa wika o tayo na rin ang nang-ulila sa sarili nating salita? Photo: Susana Vallejo

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Ano’ng itataya ninyong lagi rin kayong tinatanong kung paano tayo bumati? At itataya ko ang nunal ko mukha, na as a reflex, marami sa inyo ay sasabihing “Hello”, at mayroon ding matagal sumagot at napapa-isip na “Hmmm… Hello is English”… At, mayroon ding mga taong lulusot gamit ang sagot na, “We greet according to the time of the day. So it’s magandang umaga, magandang tanghali, magandang hapon or magandang gabi”.

Sa isang inuman na kasama ang iba pang expats, napagtanto ko, “Hala, tumatango lang kami”. At doon ko na rin sila ginawan ng demo noong pambating pinasikat ng mga Pinoy. Manghang-mangha ang mga kaasama ko! Kasi nga, no doubt, no mistake: kapag tumango ka at tumango rin si Ate o Kuya, alam na this! Kababayan! 

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Mahirap nga rin naman kung walang isang lingua franca sa Pilipinas. At kontrobersiya man kung bakit batay sa Tagalog ang wikang pambansa, tayong mga “nangibayo”, hindi natin maitatanggi na masayang makatagpo ng mga kababayang pagkatapos kang tanguan, babatiin ka, sabay chichismisan at papatawanin ka pa. 

Subalit, kung gaano naman kababaw itong kaligayang ito, sya namang kalaliman ng lungkot na ating itinatago. Dahil…

… gaano ba kahirap matuto ng ibang salita?

… ilang salita na ba ang natutunan nating mga migrante mula nang umalis tayo sa atin?

… ilang uri ng punto sa bawat salitang natutunan ang kinilala natin para mas mabilis tayong makibagay at maging mas madali ang pakikipag-sapalaran? 

At sa kabila nang lahat ng ito, pagkatapos nating magsikap upang mapakinggan, makausap sila at maunawaan… Eh, ano naman ang sukli nila? 

Minsan mo na bang naitanong kung napapakinggan ka ba nila? kung totoong kinakausap ka nila at nauunawaan ka nila? kahit man lang isang kapurit na pagtatangkang matalos ang nasa puso at isipan mo…

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Writing in Filipino language while in disapora
Karessa believes that we migrants are orphans of language and at the same time are responsible for leaving it orphaned. Photo: Susan Vallejo

Perhaps there is another way we could return to our language as its user and steward… to honor it better, beyond love-bombing every August? 

I’ve been living in Madrid for more than two decades now and I’ve observed that on the one hand, some second and third generation members of the diaspora wish their parents had taught them Filipino (or the language they spoke before migrating). On the other hand, I’ve also met those (usually younger ones) who would admit finding it hard to see the value of learning a “una lengua que no lo habla nadie fuera del país” (a tongue which nobody speaks outside of the country… as if migrants are nobodies… ouch!). 

What they do have in common, is the tendency to gaslight themselves for not speaking the language “enough”, to the point that they painfully meet the internal and, of course, the very external and externalized question: How Filipino are you?

Yes, we migrants are orphans of language and at the same time are responsible for leaving it orphaned. Its usage ebbs as we adapt to the demands of our new context, gradually forcing us to leave it almost inert in our day to day life, to be better adapted to the constant challenges of this different life.

That’s why it’s so understandable if we don’t consider the continuity of our spoken language as a priority. It’s not even a matter of not being proud of it, let alone not loving it. After all, it doesn’t and (for the time being) wouldn’t solve the survival issues we have at hand. And I emphasize the term “spoken” because when you think about it, the Filipino language is embedded in us. It lives within us, having shaped us, ergo determining how we think, feel, act, dream, love, make love, communicate, laugh, fight, cry, curse, rest, ask, respond…

There’s “the nod”. That one amazing body language used to greet that is almost purely and exclusively Pinoy. And then there’s our trademark smile, a gesture that transmits comfort, calm and peace…

So, “How Filipino are we, members of the diaspora?”

Perhaps we can set the former bar aside and claim that we are Filipino enough to allow ourselves to be heard and be understood. A most honoring act to our identity and to our origins by affirming our thoughts, feelings, ideas, questions and answers that have been defined, colored and cut by our native languages, spoken or otherwise. 

Ganito yata ang tanda ng tunay na pagmamahal, kapag hinihigitan ng gawa ang anumang salita. 

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