Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ikaw ba si Margie?

The end of August is near and no thanks to the typhoons we've had and Habagat, we missed out on celebrating Buwan ng Wika and Buwan ng Bayani. As my way of taking part in spreading the love for my country I'm sharing this article. Taken and adapted from the book Tagalog for Beginners by Joi Barrios (2011).

Here is a part of Joi's Appendix 6 article called “Understanding Margie: The Filipino Heritage Learner”:


Who is the heritage learner (HL)? In my opinion, almost all heritage learners are “activists” in the broadest sense of the world... Through observations, three in-depth interviews and a focused group discussion, I have come up with a composite character whom I will call Margarita Louella, with the nickname Margie. Why was she named Margarita Louella? Well, she was born in 1973, the year that Margarita Moran was crowned Miss Universe. Her mother’s name is Lourdes and her father’s name is Joel, thus the name Louella. In our attempt to understand the activist Filipino Heritage Learners (FHL), let us turn to Margie Louella, our composite character based on my interviews with six FHL learners.

Margie was born in the U.S. She grew up in either nuclear household with parents and siblings or in a single-parent household. Her mother speaks to her grandmother in Visayan, her parents speak to each other in Filipino, but they speak to Margie in English and the code-switching Taglish (or Tagalog English). There are three possible reasons for this use for Taglish : the neo-colonial relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines resulting in a colonial way of thinking among many Filipinos; the hegemony of the English language in the Philippines underlining disparities in class and status; and discrimination in the site of migration because of Filipino accents that mark the person’s ethnic identity and otherness. At four, Margie’s mother will speak to her saying, “Let ninang make subo you”. Ninang is the Filipino word for “godmother” and “subo”, the verb for “hand-feed,” is made English by attaching the English word “make”. Her mother Lourdes code-switches because of the following: she is the product of bilingual education; as a child, she was fined for speaking Filipino in School; and in speech classes, she had to repeat over and over. “This is an apple. This is an apple...” to get the perfect American accent.

In contrast, Margie’s father struggled with the language because he attended a public school in Cagayan twelve hours from Manila. He can read and write, but hesitates when he speaks because he is afraid of pronouncing words incorrectly. When Margie was growing up, he took English classes. One time, he got angry at Margie’s brother and said, “Lintik kang bata ka...” Years later, Margie would ask her Filipino teacher, “Why did my father call my brother lightning?”

Margie grows up knowing the Filipino words for objects, a few body parts, and people: kalamansi, adobo, lola. She also knows that the prefix mag- when accompanied by a verb in English renders the verb Filipino- “mag-toothbrush ka na” – especially when commands are given. She knows basic greetings like “Kumusta” and “Magandang Umaga” and “Salamat”. She watches a few Filipino movies but her household does not subscribe to the Filipino channel so she is not familiar with “Wowowee” (a Philippine variety show broadcast on ABS-CBN) nor addicted to any Filipino soap operas. Her mother tells her “Mahal Kita”.

It is in college that life changes for Margie Louella. To learn more about her identity, she enrols in a Filipino/Tagalog class. She watches Filipino plays on identity by Teatro ng Tanan; one is entitled "Tunggalian” (Conflict); and the other is based on Freddie Aguilar’s song “Anak.” As she dances the Tinikling at the Philippine Cultural Night (PCN) at her university, she also learns the favourite PCN word- diwa or “spirit.” She becomes fascinated with the word saing... sinaing (cooked rice), magsaing (to cook rice)- ah, there is a Filipino word for cooking rice, and many words about rice. She tries to learn the baybayin and considers getting a tattoo word “Malaya” (“Free”). She becomes aware of student issues and joins the campaign for Filipino American Studies and American Studies. She learns about the Filipino American history and the struggle of the farm workers. She becomes more involved in community organizing. At the Filipino Community Center, she greets the older people with “Kamusta po kayo?”

Margie Louella joins a Filipino American Political group. As her Political consciousness grows, she learns the word “hustisya,” and in political rallies can shout: “Makibaka, huwag matakot” (Struggle, Do not be Afraid!) and “Ibagsak!” (Down!). However, when one speaks to her in Filipino, her conversational ability is limited to five minutes. Margie Louella travels to the Philippines three times: First, to visit family, during the Christmas holiday season. She notices her relatives straining to speak to her in English. Second, she returns for three weeks, spending half the time with her family and the other half volunteering with Karapatan (literally “Rights”), a human rights organization.

However, when she attends a celebration hosted by the Amando V. Hernandez foundation (a non-government organization that gives writing workshops to workers and peasants) and listens to Filipino poetry, she realizes one thing - she does not know Filipino. She says to herself, “I do not want to end up like this... a person who does not know Inang Wika (Mother language).” On her third visit, she stays for five months, spending most of her time with peasant communities in the countryside. She learns more about the struggle of the Filipino people ----and calls it “paglalamay sa dilim” (“to work in the darkness of night”). She learns to sing songs such as “Rosas ng Digma” (the rose of war). She is touched as she leaves the community when they give her a despedida for her maligayang paglalakbay (Happy travels). Back in the United States, she corresponds with people in the Philippines. Through numerous exchanges of letters and e-mails, she learns more about written Filipino.


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