Dis 18, 2001

In US of A, the formula for the societal power-wielders is WASP. The acronym stands for "White," "Anglo-Saxon," and "Protestant." Skin-color, Race, Religion. These people basically get less harassment, better job openings, benefits, etc. And definitely more political clout. Everybody else is a minority, an unknown quantity, a supporting actress, a staff-member, exotica.

With notable exceptions, of course (I don't subscribe to the idea that globalization necessarily entails homogenization), but undeniably, this is the general case there.

I've been trying to find out if we have a Filipino equivalent of the acronym. I'm trying to soup one out too, in case there isn't. It may be very unpantayong pananaw to do so, but small and snappy formulations gets attention and, if properly executed and contextualized, achieves staying power. Ask those advertisers and PR people!

Here in the Philippines, the favored people are "Tagalog" and "Catholic." I should add maleness too. I admit that I am all of the above. "Tagalog" denotes both language and ethnicity. It also says that you are much closer to the Greater Manila Area, both in terms of physical distance and access to key institutions.

As a language, the message is loud and clear. Some Cebuanos refer to Tagalogs as "mga anak ng Diyos". With something much, much less than a worshipful tone. They are right though. Tagalog claims to be "language" and all the other languages are subjected to being called "dialects." I heard somewhere that a language is just a dialect with an army. That is correct in our case too.

They are right when they say that more Filipinos are born with Cebuano as a mother tongue. The Tagalog retort is that more Filipinos know Tagalog either as a mother tongue or as a second (sibling?) tongue. Of course, the brawl doesn't end there. Cebuano representatives say that it's that way because of the educational system which of course points back to the fact that Filipino, the constitutional language, was based on Tagalog.

That's just one of the debated points in the Cebuano-Tagalog discourse. And we haven't gone up to the Northlanders' Ilocano and English yet.

I tried learning Cebuano. I had this petty crush on a Cebuana. I took Filipino 10.1 and I went on to 10.2 even when my affections for the girl faded. The affection now, belonged to language. It's still there. Although, I fear I'll just hear another Cebuana tell me "pakiramdam mo anak ka ng Diyos" in her mother tongue.

They say you only need three languages to get around the archipelago (besides our heritage of English). Ilocano for the North, Tagalog down here, and Cebuano everywhere else. Down South, our state's bias toward Catholicism is being constantly challenged.

Pres. GMA just declared December 17 as a national holiday because it marked the end of Ramadan. That was certainly long overdue. Now, it just looks like a tactic. Funny that there was a call to a ceasefire when the whole December 17 concept showed that war will now also be waged on the cultural front.

We can just wait and see, and just hope that when the smoke clears, we will have a better understanding of our political composition and much, much better treatment of those people we call "minority" and their speech which we call "dialect." They are, in truth, better known as "marginalized" brothers and sisters with their own rich language and heritage.

But when the smoke clears, if it ever does during our lifetimes, we will only see the product of our neglect. Of our "waiting" and "seeing." And the true Filipinos are called, in our own fields, in our own ways, to do something else. Something better. Something.