English as a foreign langauge
- We have had discussions about a national language, and
some have rejected English as "foreign" - not "native"
to the Philippines and Filipinos.
In such debates about language, the final test of the
expressiveness of a language for a people are the
nation's poets and writers. And, this is the test
Linda Maria Nietes did, very eloquently, in a post to
HispanoFilipino where she discusses the thesis of
poet-scholar G�mino H. Abad, which I've provided
The Abad thesis, which I share, is that English has
been "colonized" by Filipinos and made their own.
Unlike others who concentrate on the foreign
influences, I find a more prevailing and persistent
influence arising the peoples of the Philippines that
adapts and hews the jetsome that drafts up on the
shores, including visitors who masquade as colonial
masters before the winds of change and world
circumstances carry them away again.
If you are not familar with Linda Maria Nietes, it is
no exaggeration to say that she is the Philippine's
own muse in residence in the Unitied States. Before
coming to the United States, she operated the Casa
Linda Bookstore in Manila that served as a center for
writers and intellectuals, and for nearly two decades,
Philippine Expressions in Los Angeles where she
singlehandedly brought the rich Philippine
intellectual life to the American public in the dark
ages before Web access.
Linda's statement is one of the best, most compelling
I've read so I'm inclined to include it at the DILA
site as the representational statement on this topic.
[hispanofilipino] Digest Number 185
Bravo Linda! How eloquently put.
It is wonderful to see such evidence of a "Filipino
spirit" that comes from within and transcends foreign
languages and influences. Leave it to the poets and
writers to raise this veil.
English. . . we (Filipinos) have already
"colonized " it, and it is now OURS.
Indeed it is! I couldn't agree more. And, to English,
I would add Spanish as well. Both are fast becoming
hollowed out rinds, nourishment long consumed and
discarded along a journey through the darkness towards
a unique and enduring light, a Filipino light.
Thank you Linda.
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 18:07:31 -0700
From: Linda Nietes <lindanietes@...>
Subject: Re: LINDA'S GRAMMAR SENSIBILITY
Do you know that English is not really a foreign
language in the Philippines anymore? Why? Because we
(Filipinos) have already "colonized" it, and it is now
OURS. Perhaps this is the reason why Filipinos have
taken a lot of liberty in changing it, not only in
usage but also in pronunciation! And also turn it
around, spike it with Spanish and English words and
totally change it, that nobody will ever recognize
it as the King's language...which was perhaps only
spoken during the two-year English Occupation of the
Philippines in 1762-63.
This is the pet thesis of Filipino poet-scholar G�mino
H. Abad, and the claim has gone around the globe, even
gaining exact quotation in a recent article in the New
York Times titled "Nations in Asia Give English their
His general thesis regarding our (Filipinos) writing
in English over the last century is that
". . . it seeks to recover a country we have lost, but
that also, our country now is within ourselves, as it
were, a spiritual homeland." Our poets, most
especially use an adopted tongue (English) into a fit
instrument for their poetic representations beyond
what the English vocabulary and syntax might by their
own cultural subscript tend to disfigure. At first our
writers wrote in English, but later they wrought from
it. All along, over the past century, our writers have
colonized English, by which it has been remodeled to
our own image."
In 1941, another Filipino poet, Amador T. Daguio
wrote, "To Those of Other Lands,"
"Though I may speak the English language,
Let me tell you: I am a Filipino,
I stand for that which make my nation,
The virtues of the country where I was born.
I may have traces of the American,
Be deceived not: Spain has, too, her traces in me,
But my songs are those of my race...
... Our fathers gave the graces,
Our hearts pure as the hills, clear as the seas,
I tell you not of greed nor of accumulation.
We have washed off these stains of the West.
Look through us then, beyond what you think,
Know us, understand us; we, too, have our pride.
If you give us flowers, we exchange pearls;
We greet you sincerely; acclaim what we have."
Amador T. Daguio was only 20 when he wrote "Man of
Earth" in 1932, but the translated voice in Fernando
M. Maramag�s "Cagayano Peasant Songs" in 1912 seems to
have already found an English tongue that does not
falsify it. The word translation is from the Latin
transferre, translates, meaning, to carry or ferry
across. "Man of Earth" is translation in that
deeper sense: the poet ferries across the (English)
words his soul�s native cargo; no sea-change is
suffered because the words have rather been found
again or reinvented so that, in the poem�s own usage,
they establish a native idiom. We must quote Daguio�s
poem in full because it marks a turning-point in
Filipino verses from English.
Another poem, originally called "Land of Our Desire,"
is quintessential Daguio: the verse or medium is
English but the poetry or matter is Filipino.
Another poem, "Mountain People" of 1934, is remarkable
for its prescience in the predominant use of imagined
dialogue, which has become a contemporary poetic
Further, Abad points out, "It is very interesting to
note how the poet Daguio forged a new path through
English under the New Critical influence in the 1950s.
His poem, "Off the Aleutian Islands," which the
American New Critic, Leonard Casper, included in his
anthology, "Six Filipino Poets," in 1954, is as it
were the New Critical version of "Man of Earth." It
"I have reaped the sickle edge of rain,
Rain harvests that had no grass:
In youth I let, instead, lusty mushrooms
Also have I known
The craving blade of rainwash, clean
To my clean bones. But overnight I rose
Upright in marsh ground, naked
Looming with rain.
Now, I do not cry, here, because I am bigger
Than a sea gull. A sea gull screams,
Ungently leaps into the wind
Following the concave shine of water.
Does it break, irrevocably,
The all-pathos of mirrors,
To look back at rain memories, unvexed?
A gull now cries to the other
Sea gulls: follow me.
What a beautiful phrase, that "craving blade of
rainwash." As well "the concave shine of water." How
imagistically 90s, how millennial and universal. How
far-seeing it must have been for Daguio�s time.
We salute Amador T. Daguio, as we salute G�mino H.
Abad on his excellent exegesis, as finely and
charmingly delivered before a lectern as it has been
wrought, from English, on paper, as wondrous part and
parcel of our "soul�s native cargo."
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