Linggo ng Wika
Jul 29,2011 1 Comment
The first week of August marks the annual commemoration of the Philippines’ Linggo ng Wika, a week-long national celebration of the country’s official national language: Filipino.
The Linggo ng Wika, or “language week,” is a tradition initiated in March 1946 by former president Sergio Osmeña. Its celebration was ultimately moved to August to honor of the birth date of former president Manuel L. Quezon, hailed as the Father of the Filipino language.
During the Linggo ng Wika celebration, educational institutions and government agencies carry out programs, presentations, as well as language and patriotism-related competitions to promote the proper use of the Filipino language among Filipinos.
The Filipino language is deemed to be one of the most colorful and easiest to learn languages in the world. Foreigners and tourists learn to speak the basic Filipino tongue without too much difficulty. Easy and smooth expressions such as “Kumusta?” and “Mabuhay!” are easily mastered by foreign tongues after just a day of staying in the Philippines. In two days, they will be saying “Salamat po,” “Maganda ka,” and “Mahal kita” as well.
Uniquely Pinoy words and lines also contribute to the general allure of the language. Whose ears aren’t tickled upon hearing a common assonant Pinoy conversation that goes “Bababa ba?” – “Bababa.”
And we all know that in times of deepest emotion, not even the foulest of foreign curses can be as deeply expressive (and emotionally satisfying) as the Filipino cuss words, with their hard, explosive consonant sounds.
The vibrancy of the Filipino language stems from the Philippines’s equally colorful culture.
What makes Filipino culture extraordinary? In line with this year’s observation of Linggo ng Wika, let us uncover and examine Filipino-ness with this rundown of all the other products of the unique Pinoy culture:
Dance. Philippine folk dances are an artistic outlet of the creative Filipino mind. Through rhythmic narrative dances such as the Carinosa, Tinikling, Pandanggo sa Ilaw, Rigodon, and Maglalatik, Filipinos impart the stories of their lives through elaborate movements, colorful costumes, and meaningful props.
While most of the dances are either Western-influenced or patterned after ancient European dances, Filipinos have taken the dances and customized them to relay Filipino stories and emotions, as well as to suit Filipino purposes. Today, these dances play a pivotal role in some traditional Filipino practices, rituals, sacrifices and celebrations.
One classic example is the Fertility Dance performed yearly in Obando by couples seeking to have children. Although the steps are very much like the basic Western waltz (“one-two-three, one-two-three”), the spirit is completely Filipino – simple and down-to-earth. And the philosophy behind the dance is certainly not European, for it is a dance that asks for children, something that Filipinos so rightly value. In essence, the Obando dance is a dance of life.
Filipinos have also used dance for self-defense. During the time of Spanish colonialist in the Philippines, martial arts were banned in the country. To be able to practice their self-defense skills, Filipinos ingeniously hid their martial arts in native dances, so the Spanish colonialists thought they were practicing their dance when, in fact, they were learning fighting skills.
These “dances” are now known as eskrima, estocada, and arnis, and are internationally recognized as some of the deadliest fighting arts in the world.
Music. Philippine songs are very reflective of the Filipino’s sentimental nature. Traditional Filipino songs – specifically, the kundiman and the harana – center on the theme of love: unrequited love, lost love, sacrificial love, or pained love. The songs are often tragic.
But one outstanding thing about popular Filipino songs is that they are not just about erotic love. They are also often about patriotic love. In addition to Bayan Ko and Ako ay Pilipino, we also have the EDSA 1 themes Magkaisa, and Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo. The ’80s kids have all been fans of the late Francis M’s Mga Kababayan Ko.
And in recent days, we have learned and loved Pinoy Ako, the Pinoy Big Brother theme (“Pinoy ako, Pinoy tayo / Ipakita sa mundo / kung ano ang kaya mo…”) and that optimistic call to national progress, Posible (“Sulong, laban, ’wag uurong / pakinggan sa ’yong puso / ang sigaw na dati’y bulong / Posible!”)
Indeed, when the Filipino sings, he puts all his heart and soul, dreams and aspirations, into his song.
Games. Filipino resourcefulness and creativity is also seen in Philippine games. Pinoys have managed to develop fun games with sophisticated rules, while using very simple and common materials such as wooden sticks (for siato), candy wrappers and steel washers (sipa), rubber bands (Chinese garter), tin cans (tumbang preso), or broken pottery (piko).
But if you don’t even have any of these things and all you’ve got is a playmate and some open space, you can still enjoy Filipino games such as luksong tinik, luksong baka, Jack en Poy, Doctor QuackQuack, Monkey Monkey Annabel, habulan taya, habulan upo, langit-lupa, pitik-bulag, taguan, ubusan lahi / agawan base, and the ever famous patintero.
All this goes to prove that scarcity of supplies will never be a reason for Pinoys to stop having fun.
Food. Eating is undoubtedly the Filipino’s favorite activity. Food is such a pleasure to this gastronomical society, many of us simply cannot go without having at least five meals in a day: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack (popularly known as merienda) and dinner.
There are, of course, international favorites such as the adobo, sinigang sa sampaloc, lechon, bulalo, menudo, caldereta, and kare-kare – all strong-flavored dishes that blend perfectly with rice, without which no Filipino meal is ever considered complete.
But more than these mainstream dishes, it is the Filipino street food that best shows our national spirit. We are a people who do not like to waste anything and, at the same time, thoroughly enjoy the strange and the quirky. Thus we come up with dishes such as the adidas (chicken feet), helmet (chicken head), betamax (small blocks of pig’s blood), isaw or IUD (chicken intestines), walkman (pig’s ears), and one day-old chicks. Of course, there is the legendary balut (duck fetus).
Our less scary street food, on the other hand, usually caters to the Filipino sweet tooth. Some favorites include banana cue (deep-fried caramelized bananas), turon (sugary banana fritters), bibingka (sweet and sticky rice cake), taho (soft tofu with sugar syrup), and sago gulaman (caramel water with gelatin bits).
While many countries claim that their people are hospitable to visitors, Filipinos have no need for making this claim. Hospitability is integral and synonymous to our very being.
Whenever we have something to eat, we never fail to invite everyone else around us to share our food, no matter if there is hardly enough for one person. While it is customary for us, like in many Asian countries, to remove our slippers when entering our own homes, we Filipinos do not impose on our guests to do the same; instead, we ask them to “Please, keep your shoes on!” We do not mind the extra cleaning up we will need to do later, if only to ensure the comfort of our guests.
Should a guest stay over for lunch, we prepare not a meal but a feast. Should the guest stay overnight, we offer not a couch in the living room but the best room in the house – never mind if that should be the master’s bedroom. The father and mother would then sleep with the kids.
Another thing we Filipinos are proud of is our close family ties. Perhaps, that is one reason why we are now the only country in the world that has not legalized divorce: our wisdom tells us that there are more important things than “marital satisfaction” – that philosophy of selfishness so popularly touted in the modern world.
Instead, we embrace the virtue of maturity and self-sacrifice, forgoing our own marital happiness to safeguard the well-being of our kids, for it is a well-documented and proven fact that the biggest casualties of divorce are always the children.
Often, this maturity and self-sacrifice proves to be its own reward, for it allows marriage fulfill its originally intended purpose: It keeps couples together when they fall out of love so that they will still be together when the time comes that they fall in love again. And should that day never come, they will still have learned to find their joy in things more permanent than another human being, and they will have prevented the emotional damage that inevitably befalls children whose families have been torn apart.
The Pinoy is known for his heroic spirit. We call the action that accompanies this spirit bayanihan.
In the Philippines, a person in dire need would always find willing hands to help him. If your car stalls in the middle of the highway, a signal for help would send half a dozen men your way to help you push your car to the side, for free. If someone in a family passes away, family members, neighbors and friends all chip in to help cover the cost of burial. Should you need to bring a child to the hospital in the middle of the night, you need not think twice about borrowing a neighbor’s car or leaving the other child in the neighbor’s care.
In return, the Pinoy who has benefited from another’s assistance shall cling to this as an utang na loob, or debt of gratitude, which he will try to repay again and again, trying to exceed the magnitude of the assistance that the other person has given him.
Filipinos make it a point to abide by the rules of assigned social standards so as not to disrupt public harmony. We call this pakikisama.
Hiya, or shame, plays a major part in deciding one’s actions and controlling one’s social behavior. The Filipino takes care to make sure he does not stain his public image as well as those of his family and ancestors. In connection with this, Pinoys closely guard their delicadeza (honorability) and palabra de honor (trustworthiness, or word of honor) in accordance to their personal amor propio (concern for self-image).
But above all these things, the one greatest defining characteristic of the Filipino is his sense of humor and his optimism. Despite all things, all misfortunes and calamities that befall him, the Filipino somehow finds a funny side and a ray of sun behind the dark cloud. Laughter is the oxygen of the Filipino society. In fact, the Pinoys were ranked as the14th happiest people on by the Happy Planet Index in 2009.
If you want proof of this, recall that in the Kuwait war in the early 1990s, while everyone else in Kuwait was running for cover, the Pinoys there were fabled to be on the rooftops applauding the scud missiles.
And in times of suffering, like the recent spate of floods in the country, where else can you find calamity-stricken people smiling and waving at the camera behind the reporter doing a standupper for a news program?
Only in the Philippines. Only the Pinoy.