I KNOW when to use ng and when to use nang. I also know the difference between pinto and pintuan. But is it spelled anu-ano, or is it ano-ano? And is “although” bagaman? Bagamat? Are they both correct? Beats me.

But I do know that hyphens are used for repeated words and that repetition necessitates likeness. So technically it should be sino-sino, not sinu-sino; taon-taon, not taun-taon. This rule, however, also implies that halo-halo (a combination of unlike objects) is different from haluhalo (our favorite dessert).

It reads wrong, and it looks wrong — who spells it haluhalo anyway? But experts insist that this isn’t a matter of preference. “Paano ka magtuturo ng language kung lahat ay tama?” asks national artist Virgilio Almario in a Wasak interview with Lourd de Veyra. Everyone, including the media, must follow the rules. So it should be ni’yo, not n’yo (rule on contraction); imahen, not imahe (rule on etymology); siyokoy, not syokoy (rule on diphthongs).

Other experts dismiss this so-called “purism.” Language is dynamic, after all, and rules change as our society evolves. Diyaryo is now dyaryo, and that should be fine. Departamento should be okay too, just as correct as Kagawaran.

Conversations about these distinctions are important because they encourage us to raise questions and seek answers about the influences that affect our culture. English, for example, has been so pervasive that most writers employ its grammar and syntax rules when writing in Filipino. We often use “sa pagitan ng” to translate the word “between” even when a simple “ng” can suffice (e.g. kasunduan sa pagitan ng Pilipinas at Tsina). We also use “kung saan” in place of “where,” even when we’re not referring to a place (e.g. matatagpuan ang ebidensya sa dokumento kung saan…).

Learning and investigating these linguistic nuances are, to me, the reasons why Filipino and panitikan should remain mandatory in Philippine tertiary education. The debate goes beyond stirring some token patriotism. Knowing when to use the right Filipino word is one thing, but we should also learn the value of appreciating the diversity of our own language and of understanding why we speak and why we write a certain way.

The rules we can learn in high school, sure, but the practice of critical thinking? I doubt it.

In his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, educator and philosopher Paulo Freire likens the standard education system to banking. According to Freire’s metaphor, teachers are the depositors of knowledge and “the [students are limited to] receiving, filing, and storing the deposits.” We simply parrot whatever DepEd decides to teach us, but at some point we must also learn how to question the rules and to understand why they’re there to begin with.

“Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry,” writes Freire. And in the context of our language, nobody will enrich this knowledge for Filipinos but Filipinos themselves.

Still, I write this post in English. Fluency in English makes you more globally competitive, apparently. And per our skewed standards, English also makes you sound smarter and more worthy of undivided attention. “It’s absoluuuutely ridiculous,” says the Tinio poem. Read it. It’s a damn beautiful diss track.

Rolando S. Tinio

w/ all
your star-spangled ideas
Ginago mo kaming
Walang kalaban-laban
         I get so furious
      kaming me pinag-aralan
ang lumalabas ngayong hangal
Because we’re out of touch (chua chua)
Because we’re out of touch (chua chua)
It’s all a matter of pointofview
& ar poinuview’s sulipat
Think lang of all the
finals and seminars na pinagsusunugan
ng highbrow
jusso we won’t be
nakakahiya naman sa aming mga
KANONG classmates na andami
namang     ay Dios ko      tanga yata
D’ya know I wrote a heaven-knows-how-many-pages-paper-on
have y’eva he’d of some’ing entitled
Ver-gi-di-ma-rium by Marston ba or Hall?
& for 8125
na-eyestrain sa kasisilip
sa Regla ni San Beda sa microfilm
para maevalyuweyt kung Madame Ovaltine was landi o saint?
And what kind of iskolarsip daw na putangna?
Buti pang magkamot ng bayag / Bakâ nilabasan pa
I mean it’s absoluuuutely ridiculous
endeavuh so precieuse to stuff
yu’head w/ headnotes footnotes marginalnotes
until your soul’s one big fat variorum edition
of pure unmitigated pedantic nonsense

S* A* P* A* G* K* A* T*

walang  walang
sa sarili mong


& then you godda nerve to think
you’re shuperiah to the restadapipol
juz becuz you speak English w/the twang of angels
from Talahasee, Salinas, or Catona
Abá’y talagang anak ng garapata ng áso ni San Roque!
May talino ‘yung di marunong mag-englis akala n’yo ba
May sariling estruktura ang pangangatwirang
hango sa hinuha’t higher form of algebra
ang ma’no bang patancha-tancha’t pakarku-karkula
I mean to say
St James
St Eliot
St Warren & Wellek
St Shakespeare & Johnson
St Donne & Miltonberle
St Thomasite
St Peace Corps.

Pagbalikwas ninyo sa kani-kanilang libingan
ladya kami sa istetsayd na dunong-dunungan.

The poem was grabbed from Meredith Ramirez Talusan’s post in Stanford University’s Arcade. The featured image is Jose T. Joya’s East Meets West grabbed from the auction site Christie’s


    1. Jolens

      Technically, Doc, ‘yan ang tama. Pero depende pa rin po kung prescriptivist o descriptivist kayo o ang kausap ninyo. Para kasi sa ilan, dahil widely used naman na ang “syokoy,” tama na rin ito hehe.

      Liked by 1 person

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