It is August. And as products of our wonderful education system, we all know what to do during this time of the year: don our Filipino hats, giving us +20 to our nationalism and Pinoy pride. Yes, it is Buwan ng Wika yet again. And yes, the irony of this article being in English does not escape me.

Now, what better subject to talk about during this auspicious month than the recent debacle involving Condé Nast Traveler magazine? One of our staff members did not know about this so I suppose it needs a bit of prefacing.  Condé Nast is an international travel magazine that has been in circulation since 1987. And since, you know, we all have to appeal to the hip and young crowd, they’ve started a series of videos on their Facebook page called “Many People, Many Faces” where they ask people from different countries to say things in their native language. It’s a well-meaning series, really. Short but educational. However, everything went downhill when the Filipina representative appeared.

People have already compiled snippets of the Filipina representative—whose name, fortunately for her, has not been dropped—and honestly, once you get past the headache and all the internal screaming, there is really so much to unpack here about us and our relationship with language.



For the most part, this lady is getting dragged through the mud because she kept on using the bastardized English versions of things when there are proper Filipino translations for them. For example, “wan, tu, tri” instead of “isa, dalawa, tatlo” or her rendition of “Happy Birthday” when she could have easily sung “Maligayang bati”. Have you no childhood, lady? Have your children never learned the rhythmic percussions of “Nanay, Tatay”? Have you never heard a karaoke machine echoing through a cold, starless night?!

Netizens have addressed this all over media stating that Condé Nast should have chosen a representative with strong Filipino roots. People have also made videos of other Filipinos answering the same questions from the accursed video—without much difficulty. This begs the question, what in Lorde’s name is up with the Filipina representative?

Later in the video, the lady says “since it’s Americanized” and I’m just sitting there going, “Whoa, hold your horses. This is Privilege”. Pulling the “Americanized” card betrays having access to cable TV, private schools, social circles ranging from the petit bourgeois to the bourgeoisie, and quite possibly, travel and/or immigration. Although one can say that Filipinos are, in general, Americanized to some extent, a decent and continuous amount of exposure is needed to assimilate the culture to a point that one forgets their own. Of course, this is highly dependent on a person’s environment. Par exemple:

I hail from the province. A full-blooded promdi. When I was young, my relationship with English began and ended in the classroom and my only exposure in terms of culture came from movies and music. We didn’t have cable TV; whatever English shows I could see were already translated even before they reached my ears. One could say that I had enough exposure to know of it but not enough for it to fully consume me. The moment I stepped foot on the big, bad city, my degree required me to conduct everything in English: reading, writing, answering questions. Everything. The first few years were difficult. The words fell out of me with a loud thud. I met people from exclusive schools who spoke with an ease that intimidated me. I honest to god have not spoken more than ten words to them for the four years we were together. I rode elevators with iPad-toting seven year olds whose accents sound like they were pulled straight out of Hollywood. I wouldn’t know if they knew any Filipino tongue twisters (although I am highly doubtful) though I did know that these were kids whose level of comfort with a foreign language was greater than mine.



Anyway, these kids, right? I hear them talking and they sound like they’ve never spoken a word of Filipino in their life. I was—still am—perplexed. I am bamboozled. Is this your first language, child? Is Filipino going to be your second language? Is your family so far up the “English is the superior language” ladder that they turned you into this tiny foreigner in your own land?

On one hand, Filipinos have equated the ability to speak English with superiority, lambasting those who are unable or have trouble to do so (see the Lyca Gairanod fiasco). On the other hand, Filipinos are also quick to point out when one fails the Pinoy Pride Checklist—as is the current case. On a third mutated hand, Filipinos also tend to… ”ridicule” is too strong a word… mildly ridicule? OH, POKE FUN! Filipinos tend to poke fun at those who have noticeable local accents, e.g. Visayan or in my case, Batangueño.

I have since grown accustomed to it but time and again, people have pointed out how my accent comes out when I get excited or how I speak some words they do not understand. A wave of diaspora washes over me for a good five seconds before I translate whatever it was that I have spoken. That being said, narito ang ilang katagang umani ng titig mula sa aking mga kakilala:

  • maalin: either (of the two)
  • ipod: not to be mistaken from the famous brand; to move aside; isod, I think, is the…mainland equivalent
  • nalimot:  different from nalimot (to forget); it means to pick up; nilimot, limutin, nakalimot
  • nakain: is eating. So “Nakain si Jose” means that Jose is eating, like, right now. Not that Jose has been eaten.
  • I have gotten confused looks from people after using the word “pumatak/magpatak” for a solid object.
  • I have also been informed that using “maalam” instead of “marunong” is too deep.
  • lilom: what city dwellers refer to as “lilim”; shade (e.g. shade of a tree); “Doon tayo sa malilom.”
  • Although technically not a Batangas exclusive, I have un-ironically used “pasubali”, “kabalintunaan”, and, just recently,“hungkag”  to everyone’s chagrin.

These are just words at the top of my head but there’s probably more. It’s pretty wild.



Long story short, the Filipino’s relationship with language—both foreign and their own—is pretty complicated. The short, possibly well-intentioned video series turned into a circus of societal critique as it put up a rather harsh mirror of our social and lingual realities. It raises the discourse of what being a Filipino is yet again (“I loooove sinigang”), and questions our stances on our language. It highlights the, I suppose for lack of a better and milder term, hypocrisy we all possess as a people and our ability to switch sides just like that.

Now, I’m going to be honest with you: I don’t know how to end this. Although unlike our unlucky protagonist, I do know the Filipino expression for goodbye so…hanggang sa muli. Paalam!





Photo by Nathaniel Shuman on Unsplash