Thursday, December 26, 2013
Little Brown Americans (so Passé)
As I was looking for a Christmas gift for my godson, I had great difficultly finding a good children's storybook that is originally written by a Filipino writer. That difficulty was further increase when I started looking for Filipino language base children's book aside from being originally written by a Filipino. Majority of the books on the shelves and on display were books of mostly foreign writers promoting western ideas. While I am not against positive western influence, I have reservation in raising Filipino kids exclusively on western ideologies. And before someone calls me out on bordering on the idea of espousing "reclusive communist philosophies", what I am merely saying is that we have to raise Filipino kids that are first and foremost think Filipino, act Filipino and speak Filipino. Having said that, Filipino who are globally aware and have highly level of world cultural quotient (not merely American history and American pop culture), will be a more ideal set up than nurturing Filipino kids who are overwhelmingly westernized in their thoughts and actions.
Colonial mentality is something that is very difficult to eradicate. I also don't believe that in today's globalization status quo that it is to any nation's best interest to shut out overseas’ culture and way of life. We have to strike appropriate balance with stronger preference towards educating Filipino kids to have Filipino mentality first then positive global mentality second. But if all our children's book in National Bookstore and PowerBooks (free advertisement) are 99% written by foreign writers and are mostly in English, what then do we expect from these kids to develop in their mentality? (Not to mention the potential benefits of supporting our own talents and local writer's industry). Although, most of the foreign children books promote universal sense of positive values, the general sense of psyche remains external. While Filipino writers can also write books in Filipino, it can nevertheless have colonial mentality imbibe into their stories. What I am hoping for is that we develop more Filipino children's storybooks written by Filipinos that promote progressive yet authentic Filipino values.
Being fortunate enough to meet "Filipino families" abroad, its unfortunate to meet children from Filipino ancestry born outside the Philippines that are unable to speak our language and unable to identify as Filipinos even though their genes and genotype (and phenotype) are clearly Filipino (not to mention the half Filipinos, they must learn both their parent's language equally). These kids are forever lost as possible good contributors to the country's development and progress (Okay, I might be overbearing it in claiming that they will not be contributing to the country’s progress, but it will be harder to re-establish connection if at the language level, a person cannot identify with the country's local language at the first place). Filipino kids who grew up not knowing the language and our way of life, our culture, our literature will never feel the full sense of patriotism and sense of being truly Filipino, while they might recognize their roots, Filipino parents cannot expect anymore that their kids born outside the Philippines to develop the love for their motherland. This love should start as early as developmental years and continue as we raise "Pinoy" kids the Filipino way.
We need to raise Filipino kids regardless of where they are born, to have Filipino positive mentality first before being swooped into by the world influence. For lack of better words, we have to raise "brown" and "non-brown" Filipinos to love, promote and use Filipino language, culture, literature and values. Having said this, nothing is stopping us to educate our kids with global ideas but this should come as a second priority. (Look at South Korea and Japan, at least on the surface level, we see the way they actively use their language and promote their way of life and look at the progress that they have achieved). If we keep on insisting that we are "Little Brown Americans" we loose our sense of identity and character. We loose the opportunities to stand out and be ourselves and have are own personality. We then just become "second rate" trying hard "copy cats!!!"
The unfortunate problems of Filipinos kids having no sense of true Filipino identity, not having a good command of the mother tongue language leads to elitism. The situation at the ground level is that if someone knows how to speak English then that person is assume to be educated and automatically others presume him or her as smart. If you speak Filipino even if someone has good command of English (and other foreign languages), you might be viewed as less educated (or even economically disadvantage). This was the situation too during the Spanish colonization and occupation of 333 years, that if a person speak Spanish, then he/she is perceive to be more educated compared if that person speak the mother tongue. Unfortunately, we have not come so far as a race; we are still stuck into that colonial mentality. The ideal situation at the ground is that it should be instinctively perceive "cool" if an individual speaks his/her own mother tongue language, and if someone knows other foreign languages, that’s to his/her advantage (and this is applicable in other nationalities too, in fact this is the situation in many proud and progressive countries using their own local languages).
Today, foreign language is promoting elitism behaviors here at home. This is really sad. Again, not because someone speaks a foreign language, doesn't make someone certainly smart and having monopolistic sense of being right. We should change our psyche about this, if someone is Filipino and of Filipino roots and that if he/she cannot speaks proper Filipino language (regardless whether it is Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray, Kapampangan, Bicolano, Chavacano, Tausug, Ibanag, etc.) then that situation should be perceive "not cool" and we (other proud Filipinos) should call them out on this.
On the pragmatic point of view, look at the economic benefits of focusing on our mother tongue (again, before someone rush to judgment, I am not saying we should forget to learn Foreign languages). Reinforcing our own local language will result to championing more Filipino writers; it will generate more jobs for Filipino language teachers (and interpreters). Imagine it can generate opportunities for Filipino interpreters during the beauty pageants (and also in other world meetings and conferences). Filipino beauty queens (a good and bountiful harvest of crowns and titles this year) should be able to have an option to speak our own language during the question and answer portion. As we all know it, (as an example) speaking fluent Spanish doesn't make any of those Spanish speaking contestants less likely to win the crown, it is even to their advantage that they can focus on delivering their actual message that comes directly from their hearts without the fear or apprehension that they won't be able to express fully their thoughts and ideas.
As I was talking to a friend working in a call centre, he said, it's not the topmost priority to have "American accent" anymore in the customer service sector (not all companies) what’s the topmost priority is to make the message across and to communicate properly and clearly. This can be achieve even though one doesn't have a perfect "foreign" sounding accent. In fact, sounding with faux-accent is a bit annoying.
If we want less colonial mentality and more Filipino mentality, we can start with increasing the publications of our own Filipino children's books today.