Aginleska Nakkong!

Mayatman daytoy opinion ni Max Soliven kadaytoy sinuratna. Agpayso ngatan a bumabbaba ti kalidad ti panagilisen ti Filipino? Basol kadi ni Cory?

Basaen tay man biit... bareng adda mapidot tayo nga adal.

If we only spoke English we could earn billions more
By Max V. SolivenThe Philippine Star

A foreign "resident" representative of the International Monetary Fund who has spent some years here told me yesterday that the Philippines is doing very well, economically and financially, and that if our politicians would just "take a break" from savaging each other and concentrated on the economy this nation would leap forward.

Owing to the fact that anybody who praises the Filipinos and the Philippines gets immediately savaged by noisy local critics, political infighters, rightwing and leftwing nuisances, inquisitorial media persons, and professional doomsayers as having been "bought" by La Glorietta’s propagandists, or accused of being naive and starry-eyed, I withhold his name. But he’s right.

In spite of the awful murder rate – of journalists, militants, activists or simply plain victims – we’re still doing well, if we only stopped squabbling and bad-mouthing each other. Our OFWs send home billions of dollars, euros, and what-have-you. Our underground economy – dare I mention it? – is barreling along.

We’re the ones, it’s obvious, seeking to derail the Pinoy locomotive, for motives which are loco-loco. If we’re feeling good, the conventional local wisdom goes, there must be something wrong.

Consider the hotel situation in Metro Manila, where the gripers are the greatest in number. Our hotels are full. I’m not speaking of the 5-star, de luxe hostelries alone. Look at the 4-star, 3-star, 1-star and No-star hotels, inns, and appartels. Believe you me, not only foreign visitors, but out-of-town locals have virtually to fight for a reservation. Tourists? Businessmen? Potential investors? Curiosity-seekers? Carpetbaggers? Adventurers or excitement-hunters? They’re streaming in. As for our southern resorts, beautiful Boracay would be packed to the gills, if you could only get to it. And if they had better political leadership. Nonetheless, investors are building resorts there like there is no tomorrow, despite a radical labor union trying to assert itself in the place, or permits being issued willy-nilly to bums and pickpockets. Thank God there’s a fairly new police chief, a High Noon type sheriff just come to town, who’ll brook no nonsense, and energetically zips around apprehending malefactors, no matter how hysterical or "powerful" their political backers.

That’s all we need. A period of political truce, in which everybody pulls together, not tear at each other's eyes. A strong dose of law and order. Punishment for crime. By golly, we’ll really be on our way. Is this doable? You bet. Will we do it? That’s what is in question.

At a point like this, I remember one of the most popular radio programs of my youth (aside from the great Lina Flor’s immortal Gulong ng Palad — i.e. "Wheel of Fortune").

It was Kuwentong Kutsero (rig-driver tales), featuring the daily life of Mang Teban, his family and friends – all sounding like Everyman and their down-to-earth philosophies. It was written by the late Father Horacio "Skeezix" de la Costa, S.J. Among my favorite characters was Mister Diskurso, a bombastic type like you see being interviewed daily on our TV channels. Mister "Speech," literally, had one unforgettable line: "There are two kinds of pipuls (people) in dis world. The fools – and the ones who fool the fools."

That describes the political scene today.

If we only got our act together, one is tempted to say. But that’s the big IF.

* * *
Never mind the controversial cover story which was slugged, "Beyond the ‘Da Vinci Code’: The Mystery of Mary Magdalene." The latest NEWSWEEK Magazine, on page 34, has a timely article, "LOST IN TRANSLATION" by their correspondent Marites Vitug. This is the May 29th issue.

The subtitle of the article says it all: "Poor English skills threatens the Philippines’ dream of becoming a new call-center magnet in Asia."

You bet.

Vitug starts out with the premise: "With one out of 10 citizens unemployed, many of the country’s best and brightest go off to work elsewhere in Asia, and the Middle East, and millions still living in poverty, the Philippines can boast few economic bright spots. One that the government has touted for years is outsourcing: officially at least half of all Filipinos speak English, and low labor costs have given a boost to the so-called business-process-outsourcing (BPO) industry."

As the magazine points out, "Five years ago there were 10 call centers in the Philippines; today there are 108 employing 200,000 Filipinos, mostly in their mid-20s. Last year the industry generated $2.3 billion in revenues – up $1 billion over 2004 – and analysts expect an additional $1 billion jump in sales this year. Call centers account for about 80 percent of the players in the BPO industry."

The article reports that in a recent speech, La Presidenta – while inaugurating a Dell call center in Manila – predicted that up to 2 million Filipinos will be employed in such places by 2010. That’s speculating that there will be a tenfold increase over the present numbers, Ms. Vitug noted. Such a development would employ 2 percent of the entire population.

But whoa! as a cowboy might say.

NEWSWEEK stresses that "down in the trenches, the burgeoning BPO industry is already encountering growing pains – serious ones." It pinpoints the problem: "Many call centers can’t keep up with demand because they can’t find enough employees who speak ‘proper’ English."

"For every 100 people who apply in the call centers, only three to five are accepted," says Mitch Locsin, executive director of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines. Most are rejected because of poor English communication skills – "a sad situation for a country that was an American colony for 50 years and is a bastion of English in Asia."

It can be argued by cynics that English isn’t spoken in America anymore, either – but that would be misleading and facetious. Indeed, it’s true, that my daughter’s Cuban-born father-in-law lived in the United States since the 1960s, having fled the depredations of Fidel Castro’s regime, but up to now speaks only Spanish. The Hispanic population is burgeoning (to use the same word) in the Estados Unidos, it might be noted.

But that doesn’t get us out of our predicament. Millions of jobs are available for Filipinos, if most of us spoke enough "proper" English to fill the hungry demand of mushrooming Call Centers!

Vitug quotes Rainerio Borja, who heads PeopleSupport, "one of the country’s largest and most profitable call-center operations," as pointing to "a burst of nationalism 20 years ago as the cause of the problem." He said there was "a push to institutionalize Tagalog as the medium of learning in all schools . . . Rightly or wrongly, our leaders were doing this to get away from our long colonial past and establish our country’s own identity."

He was very kind, methinks. Why didn’t he just say that Tita Cory, former President Corazon C. Aquino, and her bunch killed both English – and (already dying) Spanish!

Spanish used to be a required subject for two years in college, but La Corazon abolished this.

Admittedly, Spanish-instruction was fading on the vine, because too many of the teachers were only three chapters ahead of their bored students. The last Spanish daily, "Voz de Manila" (Voice of Manila) had already died. There used to be two excellent Spanish dailies, the pre-war La Vanguardia by the Roces TVT group (Manila Times, Vanguardia, Taliba) and El Debate by the DMHM (Debate-Manila Herald-Mabuhay). Dad and Mama subscribed to them and perused them daily, since Papa’s languages were Ilocano, Spanish and, very late, in the UP College of Law, he learned English.

But Cory axed the already staggering tongue of Madre EspaƱa and Cervantes! Que lastima!

Then, she rejected English. The Palace in 1986 decreed that henceforth all government communications and declarations be in Tagalog (Wikang Pambansa). It further decreed that the language of instruction in all schools be Tagalog. No ma’am and No sir. English ain’t spoken in this archipelago any more. What was wrong with speaking and using both English and Tagalog? "Nationalism"? More likely, chauvinism had reared its head.

As a Saluyot from northernmost Ilocoslovakia, where we speak Ilocano, there was a time when every Ilocano and everyone in the Mountain provinces spoke excellent English. In Vigan, where the founder of the trade union movement was born, labor leaders in their conventions insisted on speaking English and delivering their speeches in English. (They didn’t have to prove that they spoke Ilocano in their everyday lives). They had no "crisis of identity."

The most populous language group (out of our 87 languages and dialects), the Cebuano-speaking millions of Visayas and Mindanao, accepted English as their lingua franca.

Of course, Tagalog is great. The language of Balagtas, of our musical classics, of the river-people, the Taga-ilog, was selected to be our National Language. That’s fine. Many Tagalogs like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, M.H. del Pilar – led the movement towards freedom, but this was true of all Filipinos from north to south.

Yet, sad was the day when we abandoned English. Language is power, and we had stripped ourselves of two of our "powers," the English and Spanish languages.

Taglish? Neither fish nor fowl. To give her credit, GMA in her first term declared that our schools must go back to English. This, she discovered, was easier said than done. We were the bastion of English in Asia. Now, our neighbors – learning English desperately (even the Chinese) – are passing us by.

Malaysia’s former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Muhammad had led the charge to make Bahasa Melayu the official tongue in Malaysia’s schools. He had the wisdom, the guts, and the clout, to reverse the trend and mandate a posthaste return to English, even as he was the champion of the Bumiputra cause.

How will we do it here? Our 8.5 million OFWs got their overseas jobs by speaking English, even, in some places, passably good English of sorts. Let’s bring that language home.


isu nakkong agadalka. aginleska ta saan daytoy a kinapanagpa-social. maysanto daytoy a gayangmo ditoy lubong a napili iti kalidad dagiti agtrabaho. ngem kas konakon diam koma met liplipatan ti ILOKANO wen!
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