Sunday, October 15, 2006

Language Barrier, a microdocumentary on Cebuano

During these past few years, I've been dreaming of having my own TV show on PBS in the distance future, after having established myself in the field of linguistics. The show I have in mind would be about languages of the world but in a Rick Steves-esque kind of format - just basically bringing awareness of the different kinds of languages. I even have a "The Languages of Bicol" section already planned out in my head - I'd demonstrate how words for a particular object differ whenever I cross a river in Bicolandia. Or I could cover the revival of say, Occitan, in France, the horrid state of the Ryukyuan languages in Japan, the sole living native speakers of various languages, the life of a translator/interpreter, etc. The possibilities are just endless!

Whether or not the show would garner a substantial audience is another matter altogether, but a guy can dream, can't he?

But I digress.

I did, however, find a video that's along the lines of what I want to do. While in the land of viral videos that is YouTube, I discovered a video titled Language Barrier, produced in Cebu City & Lapu-Lapu City by IAFT film student Ian Allen Lim. It is a "microdocumentary" (I think I just invented this word) which gives a sociolinguistic perspective by interviewing three native Cebuanos: writer/poet Michael U. Obenieta, UP student Roxy Jane Kaka, and media law professor Alfredo Buenaventura.

Each of these three have differing attitudes concerning their native language vis-à-vis Tagalog. Mr. Obenieta and Ms. Kaka seem to have diplomatic attitudes toward people speaking Tagalog in Cebu but at the same address the way that Cebuanos and their language have been mistreated. Atty. Buenaventura, on the other hand, passionately argues that Tagalogs should learn Cebuano when they come to Cebu if he has to speak Tagalog while in Manila.

Despite these different opinions, there seems to be a common thread among the three of them. They have their own rich language with its long-standing history and they are damn proud of it. It's also a matter of fairness. Until the late 20th century, there were more native Cebuano speakers than native Tagalog ones. Despite that, it was Tagalog that went on to be national and official language of the country and the only language to be officially taught in schools. Even today the mass media is by and large in Tagalog and English, though Cebuano seems to making ground, albeit slowly.

The point is that it puts a more meaningful background of how Cebuanos feel about the marginalization of their language in the face of Tagalog domination. It's very easy for Tagalogs to discard Cebuanos' feelings and quickly labeling it irrational and divisive regionalism and such.

I do support Atty. Buenaventura's idea of reciprocity to a certain extent, however it's not a Tagalog-speaker's fault they can't learn the language (Cebuano resources are difficult to obtain, and I speak from experience, as a Tagalog speaker). It should be up to the Philippine educational system to implement such a program. More on this can be found in my blog entry titled My Ideal Language Policy.

In any case, you can view the video at the end of this blog entry. You can also access it directly (as well as leaving the author a comment) by clicking here.


Kalani said...

Did you mean a show for linguists? Or for the general public who don't comprehend a lot of what you preach? :)

murrayjames said...

hey chris, that video was interesting--thanks for posting it. I thought Buenaventura was very well-spoken. But I wonder, why does the government of the Philippines oppose incorporating other Filipino languages in the schools and media? Wouldn't this unite the country across linguistic/tribal lines?

Also, please get your own TV show on PBS. I will watch faithfully

arsikoy said...

hey, ive been checking out your blog just recently. maybe 3 months ago. I've learned so much here and ive read most of the entries even the older ones.

I live in NYC since 04' but I am originally from cebu. The Filipino immigrant community here is also representative of the language diversity of our country. So I always use tagalog to engage a filipino i meet in the street but most of the time when 2 cebuano speakers talk in tagalog then later on find that theyre both cebuanos, a conversation about tagalog follows mostly commenting about how tagalog feels really hard to the cebuano tongue.

Being cebuano myself, I think the video really shows how the cebuano's think about the politics in our country as expressed in the language issue. I got all my formal education in cebu and its true that we are contemptuous to tagalog in places where the lingua franca is cebuano. We take our language as an important aspect of our visayan ethnic identity which is threatened by the imposition of this preposterous "filipino language". Its as if this "filipino" language (which we know is just tagalog) was arrogantly forced down to our throats despite of our numbers and the scope of the regions were cebuano is primarily used. hence unlike other filipinos who feel comfortable incorporating tagalog language in their day to day conversations, cebuano speakers tend to be purists, using tagalog only to non cebuano speaking filipinos.

Tamsilog said...

Some of my non Cenuano Bisaya friends don't like to call their language "Cebuano".. they call it "Bisaya"(usually from Bohol and Leyte) and from my observation, they have some grudges against those from Cebu(the "Cebuanos")

Anonymous said...

I think Boholanos treat Cebuanos the same way Cebuanos treat the Tagalogs. Must be because the Cebuanos treat the Boholanos the same way the Tagalogs allegedly treat the Cebuanos.

It's a vicious cycle.

Anonymous said...

Not really my family both sides from Bohol actually respect Cebuanos more than Tagalogs. Many Boholanos go to college in Cebu since its an easy transition. Of course many Filipinos have pride of their island, but there's always a grudge against Tagalog and Bisaya. Its annoying when the Filipino language is just really Tagalog in disguise. I hope Philippines changes this.

josefina said...

I'm glad I came across this blog. I'm not a linguist so I'm learning a lot here. But my present trade is translation. My team is composed of A Cebuano, an Ilocano, a Waray, and a Bicolano translator (and me Tagalog). The website is Hope to link you to my website. I hope also that you can also link me to this blog. Thank you for caring about the Philippine languages.

Garuda00 said...

most tagalogs actually are against the teaching of tagalog in schools of the philippines actually filipino is the most hated subject in CALABARZON area.

Christopher Sundita said...

Hah, it reminds me. I don't like English class at school. But it's necessary... learning how to use one's language in writing effectively.

Anonymous said...

Hi there..I am interested in languages and I find your blog very informative and enlightening! As a media student, I think you have the resources on hand to produce and make your own tv show and broadcast it on Youtube and such. I'll definitely watch them! Mainstream media is disappearing anyway..when people want to watch/read/see something, they'd go looking for it. Now it's more of a pull rather than a push of media. That's why Youtube will be the perfect place to broadcast your material. As for monetary purposes..who knows where that will lead to right? Perhaps you can get discovered! Youtube is a great way to put your foot in the door, and with quality content you can also pitch your show idea to a big broadcasting network.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

I read your blog about the language barrier and I appreciate the fact that you are making a discussion out of it. The first time that I showed this in public it was a screening back at film school. I was surprised with the Cebuano audience after they watched it, well, they seemed not to be very interested at all. Then I posted it in youtube and that's when I found out people were affected by it. It's good to hear that people are identifying with the doc on whatever side they maybe on.

Ian Allen Lim -language barrier, director/writer