Goodbye ‘Filipino’?

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

“The times they are a changing” and the best example of this is the fact that the Supreme Court decided to uphold the legality of the K to 12 education program which in turn leads up to making Filipino an “optional” subject in college. As expected, the affected teachers and mentors of Filipino in college have raised the specter of 10,000 teachers losing their jobs and the eventual death of programs that promote Filipino as our national language.

Sadly, for all the years that Filipino was taught in Elementary, High School and College, it did not instill a nationwide love for the language. I would even suggest that it highlighted the fact that it was a “dialect” or language imposed by the Tagalogs and Imperial Manila on non-Tagalogs. After decades of being taught in all schools, the problems or complexity of teaching and learning Tagalog or Filipino as it is now called did not improve and in fact got worse as teachers insisted on a “purist,” impractical, and difficult teaching method. Ironically, more non-Tagalogs in the Visayas and Mindanao learned bits and pieces of Filipino from watching “Kardo” on TV. I also realized that the same problems or difficulty I encountered learning Tagalog (Filipino) in the 1960s are much the same problems experienced by my daughter who belongs to the “centennial generation.”

I for one can understand the wisdom of the Supreme Court magistrates who’ve limited the teaching of Filipino to K to 12. Honestly, if you can’t make Filipinos learn, love and embrace Filipino as their language in a span of 13 years, then there is something seriously wrong with your teaching method and adding two more years in college won’t make much of a difference. Beyond that, there is also the possibility that Filipino as a “national” language only lasted this far because it was an imposition of the prevailing culture or class in society. But as I quoted from Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changing” and Filipino may have fallen into the realm of those cultural icons or jewels that no longer shines or holds value and relevance.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court decision effectively making Filipino optional in college may just be the sacrifice needed to give the language a rebirth. Like the seed that falls into the ground and springs up new life, this near death experience may actually awaken the teachers and lovers of Filipino to come to terms with the problems and criticisms that have long been hurled at how we teach Filipino and the fact that very little effort has been devoted to making the language relevant, necessary or valuable in our day to day transactions and living. It is not enough that you teach the language; it must have application or usefulness beyond being a “requirement.”

How can we have a “National Language” that does not have formal and official use or application? Most documents with government are bi-lingual at best; representations, debates and discussions of the official kind are mostly done in English. So if you don’t use it you lose it. In the case of Filipino if you can’t use it – you lose it as well. Of course, not all is lost as there is still secondary level or K-12 and there lies the last chance for the lovers of Filipino to redeem the language and themselves. Just like in business, now would be a good time to ask the students, listen to the students, work with the students on how we can save what people want to retain as our mother tongue.

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If you have ever spent sometime as a commuter or bus rider, chances are you’re familiar with the term “ALAS PUNO” or “Whenever,” meaning that the bus will leave the terminal “whenever” it gets filled with passengers. Last weekend, I made plans to take the bus to and from Lipa City partly to study the current state of affairs of buses, terminals and the lives of commuters. Much as I have long wanted to do the Lipa run, stories of hour-long delays due to the “Alas Puno” system made the prospects unattractive if not daunting.

Then there was the problem of finding out which bus companies or bus lines actually pass along EDSA crossing and goes directly to the bus terminal at SM Lipa. Coming from the Pasig/Shaw boulevard area I learned that I would either have to take a grab cab or bus to a bus terminal in the Cubao area to catch a ride to Lipa. The other option was to take a Grab car toward the Alabang Town Center bus terminal and take a bus from there. The problem with both options was they involved some amount of waiting due to the “ALAS PUNO” practice. The third option was to stand along EDSA at “Crossing” and based on my luck hope to catch a bus there. The problem was, any bus you catch on EDSA to Lipa will be stopping at several other bus stops. It won’t be waiting to fill up passengers at the terminal but he will stop for every passenger on EDSA. Even worse, they don’t stop at the SM Lipa bus terminal but simply drop off passengers at the STAR Toll Exit on the far end of Lipa City where the traffic will make your trip just as long as an “ALAS PUNO” at the terminal.

On the other hand, my staff member from our TV show AGENDA visited the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange or PITX and she informed me that dispatchers at the PITX did not allow the “ALAS PUNO” practice in their facility. Buses would be sent out as per schedule full or even with just a handful of passengers. I sincerely pray that those who regulate bus lines and bus companies will start clamping down on the ALAS PUNO or K2K (Kanto to Kanto passenger pick-up) practice. Delays in traffic are bad enough without drivers making the ride 3 times longer. In the end, I hitched to Alabang, took Grab car back to Pasig from Lipa, cost a fortune but saved time.

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Email: [email protected]

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