I have never learned how to speak Bisaya.
Not surprising; since 99% of my life was spent in Luzon. There are over 150 languages spoken in this country that I call home. And I only know 2 of them! Shame on me.
We did have a culture before King Philip of Spain and Uncle Sam invaded our land. We were a hodge podge of many tribes, not so different from the different Scottish clans before the English invasion. One of those tribes were the Tagalogs; and this was their ancient language called alibata. Blame the Spanish friars for eradicating it from modern society. How’s that, Pope Francis! Another historical fact the Catholic Church should say mea culpa for?
Once upon a time, when I was a student, the topic of National Language was an emotional and personal pet crusade. I would debate someone, anyone who would dare to malign Filipino and insist on English’s superiority as a medium of expression. Blame it on the university where I graduated. It insisted on equating “love of country” to “love of national language”.
I was (and still am) an expert Filipino speaker. My first articles and stories were in Filipino. The stories I love passionately (Edgardo M. Reyes and Lualhati Bautista’s novels; Gerardo Sicat and Genoveva Edroza Matute’s short stories, to name a few) and the poems that I used to emulate (Francisco Balagtas’s “Florante at Laura”, Jose Corazon de Jesus’s “Ang Pamana”, Teodoro Agoncillo’s “Republikang Basahan” etc.) were all in Filipino.
It was Mr. F. Sionil Jose that made me realize that the Filipino language (much as the Philippine’s official Language Commission would try to deny it) is actually the Tagalog language with some variations.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the Tagalog language. Half of my genes are Tagalog; that must be a reason for my affinity with it. However, I have been traveling to the southern parts of my country for several years now; and I found that a lot of people that I would consider my own, do not even understand me when I speak this language that the academics call “Filipino”.
I first read this book, the life story of a Manila high class prostitute when I was 19 y/o. Re-reading it for the 2nd time last week was an enlightening experience. I learned: 1. This book’s values are terribly old-fashioned and Mr. Jose is probably a male chauvinist pig (but I love him anyway!); 2. This book’s heroine should have been introduced to Anabel Chong, the pornographic performer who once held the record for the most men fucked in a gang bang; then this book’s heroine would have learned something like she doesn’t have “the corner on suffering in this world”; 3. Virginity is overrated.
Traveling to Cebu, a city in the Visayas, I realized how woefully inadequate my so-called education was because I couldn’t adequately converse in Bisaya! I had to speak to taxi drivers and fishermen in Oslob beach in English!
(Nothing terrible with English … my blog is in English, for one. It is the world’s lingua franca at the moment, true. Scientific and medical journals are written mostly in this language. My favorite writers write in English!
But the roots of this language has nothing to do with my geography. And it is useful and fun and I love it but …
Tumalog Falls. a very charming, very pretty waterfall, also in the town of Oslob.
.. but it is not … entirely mine.
And there is something heartbreakingly sad when a person from Kansas cannot converse with a fellow American from New York because they don’t have the same language, and they have to talk using German to understand each other.)
So these are just words.
And someday, if I’m really bad, they will be forgotten.
By the way, the term “I love you” in Bisaya is “Ginihugma ako ha nimo.”
Okay, Cebuanos and other Bisaya-speakers can shoot me now.