in the vernacular

i’m terribly disappointed by the fact that i can no longer speak even colloquial filipino with as much confidence as i when i speak in casual english. i do not consider it a badge of honor that i cannot convey my thoughts in an acceptable vernacular, and i find it odd, if not outright stupid, that many filipinos believe that it is not necessary to master a foreign language (which i think english is not by the way), when they can barely utter a sentence in filipino competently. if bad english grammar is a problem, mastery of filipino balarila is even unthinkable. the same guys who can never tell the difference between “it’s” and “its” or “you’re” and “your” are also the same people who do not know when to use “nang” and “ng”.

that is why i developed a profound respect for farmers and leaders of the urban poor when they spoke to me in unpretentious filipino, just a rung below the matalinghagang language i’ve employed in the insignificant body of poems in filipino i’ve collected, but certainly many leagues beyond the regular pidgin filipino i use in everyday life. this week, i had to make a presentation on housing laws to a group of urban poor leaders, and many times, i’ve had to grapple with my sentences, taking many long pauses to locate the most appropriate word to express a complete thought. just today, i met with representatives of the farmers sector, and i found myself stuttering. i chose to speak in filipino in those instances, not because i felt they weren’t as educated as i and could not speak english as good as i can (they are intelligent people who can very well understand even the most latinate word in my vocabulary), but because i wanted to return the respect they had for the language. and i find it disconcerting that my grasp of filipino is nearly as poor as my grasp of cebuano.

* * *

this evening, i went to UP to attend the christmas party of the institute of international legal studies. i was never part of this institute but i know almost everyone there, and they invited me to join them. with marwil in tow, we provided enough entertainment to rescue the rather staid atmosphere in IILS from the pits of boredom. despite having opened myself to ridicule and embarrassment, dean magallona still treated me like a dignified alumnus of the college, and spoke to me with sincere interest about the work i now do for the department. he discussed an issue with me that affects my work, and even suggested that i may want to write about it.

before he left, he asked me to write something for the world bulletin. “we’re the only journal that pays,” he said, and i replied, “i know sir. i’m already thinking of a topic.” later, his equally learned wife spoke to me about human rights because she found out about the fact that i used to be with the institute downstairs. and i casually mentioned that the concept of universal may be problematic because some concepts within the human rights framework fail to consider, or even disregard, the idea of culture and identity. i’d made some inroads into this topic when i was thinking what to write for my senior paper. dean magi was apparently impressed by the concept i broached and he suggested that i write a proposal on the subject so the institute could appoint me research fellow. “why don’t you pass by the office early next year so we can discuss this. it’s high time someone write on that subject.”

i actually miss being the long-winded, verbose, circuitous academic i used to be when i was still concerned with whipping up scholarly legal dissertations. i’m still long-winded, verbose and circuitous, but certainly not academic, much less scholarly. i recently read one of the papers i wrote on equal protection and university admission, and i was almost shocked i was able to write such convoluted sentences which actually made sense. these days, i’m just convoluted, and hardly make sense. academic discourses are almost always discombobulating by nature. i think it’s time that i get reacquainted with some of my roots.
It's good to keep in touch with one's roots. But I, for one, very much enjoy your sesquipedalian English.

thanks. i enjoy it too. :D

sesquipedalian: tending to use very long words (collins english dictionary). for someone with a predilection for latinate words, i'm surprised i was not aware of this word earlier on!

where do you get such interesting words? i encountered the word coprophilia when i was taking up gay lit and then when i took up medical jurisprudence. i remember when i was in elementary school, i'd read through the dictionary so i could impress my classmates with my new verbal acquisitions. imagine at third grade, none of my peers knew what "fragile" was. haha.