Accent judger
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - May 5, 2019 - 12:00am

Filipinos have one of the world's sexiest accents?

That's the supposed good news we are given by a survey conducted by Big 7 Travel, an outfit that has tasked itself with the looking for the Top 50 sexiest accents in the world. Although Filipinos didn't actually top the survey --we were only ranked 21st-- that “achievement” makes one wonder who and how Big 7 Travel surveyed. And for those surveyed, which kind of Filipino did they speak to prior to reaching their conclusion?

You got to admit it; we Filipinos are particularly cruel about accents. Accents demarcate a speaker and his class, educational, and geographical background. Many a local comedy show has survived on just making fun of accents. And nothing and nobody is sacred in comedy clubs: a paying customer comes in, he speaks, and he immediately gets slayed.

Whether it's an upper-middle class, Jesuit-educated accent, a coño mestizo sneer, or a bolo-wielding, fishwife intonation, we pick up immediately on the slight emphasis on certain syllables and the way words are pronounced. And then we judge. (I plead guilty, although I must say I have considerably improved over the years).

We judge on breeding. We judge on whether international school or public school. We peg on lowbrow or highbrow. We classify. We judge, period.

Not that we are unique about it; the toffs, the Parisians, the northern Italians, all of those cultures have sought to differentiate themselves from the rest by listening to speech.

Some of us (me included) immediately place a speaker, if they're trying to speak with an American accent, on whether they're first- or second-generation American. First-generation Americans are the easiest targets, especially if they refuse to speak Tagalog or any other Philippine language while in the Philippines, and persist in conversing with a fake twang. I confess to resisting homicidal urges whenever confronted with fellow Filipinos who want to impress me that they're from Calipornya.

Now, was that the accent that the survey respondents considered as sexy?

I immediately tune in to conversations being held around me by Negrenses, or those from Negros Island, a.k.a. Bacolod. Now that for me is sexy, the lilting, mellifluous and gentle caress of the sounds of Ilonggo being spoken. It seems like all the sugar that was unsold from their extensive haciendas was poured back into their bones and then distilled into their voices. Such a pleasure to listen to! If the Ilonggo accent was the basis for the survey, we should be in the top ten!

And the folks from Batangas could also give the Negrenses a run for their money. Even if they're speaking Tagalog, their brand of Tagalog carries a laidback burr to it, making one want to do just that; lay back and...okay, let's not finish that sentence.

Batangueños are another winner in my own world survey. Which brings me back to my same point; we have hundreds of languages and dialects and variations, which one was judged?

Would Cebuanos speaking the Visayan language be considered sexy? I could start a survey and then sit back with popcorn and watch the resulting catfights. Much like the recent brouhaha on the Netflix feature on Cebu street food, the Cebuanos are particularly prickly about defending Cebu. I could earn web traffic just by stirring a hornet's nest on regionalistic pride.

When I taught in the University of San Carlos law school, I don't think I ever focused on how sexy my students sounded (good teacher!), but just how smart they were. (As proven by their dominance of the just-released Bar exam results.). But would they consider themselves sexy-sounding? Moving on from that potential landmine...

Gihigugma ko nimo. Uyab. Ga. Harsh-sounding to some, but real sexy. Shall we wax poetic about Cebuano terms of endearment? (Ok, perhaps the judge is biased.)

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