When all is said and done, Janina San Miguel, Miss Philippines 2008, is an unadulterated product of the Philippine bilingual education system. Janina’s issues with expressing her thoughts in a second language–English–are not rare nor an isolated case. In fact, I have experienced it myself, though not as glaringly English-challenged.
I hear Filipino politicians, pastors and priests, television broadcast professionals, ordinary folks from all walks of life experience similar English-challenged situations and I sympathize with them. It’s not their fault. The folks who are responsible for evolving our language policies are to blame. The folks responsible for educating our would-be mothers and helping them with the quality and quantity of nutrition they need to be able to impart to their unborn children to ensure proper physical and brain development are to blame. The government folks responsible for our economic policies, those who are responsible for mitigating or eradicating poverty and malnutrition, especially with the young from when they are born, are to blame. The religion that prohibits artificial means of birth control and which fosters the “Bahala na ang Diyos” attitude is to blame.
DepEd Order No. 74 signed by Secretary Jesli A. Lapus on July 14, 2009 institutionalizing mother tongue-based Multilingual Education (MLE) is intended to ameliorate the situation. We wait and see. We’re optimistic that the use of the mother tongue as the early medium of instruction in our children’s education will deliver the expected outcome, although the road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions.
Here’s a look from another angle:
In the end, the Pacman won with a controversial split-decision but by barely one razor-thin point. In the post-fight press conference, Pacquiao commented about the fight in English without an interpreter: “The first knockdown, I was very happy. I think I controlled the fight already. In the next rounds, I had a bad cut on my eye and I didn’t see his punches. It was hard to punch back to him.”
With a Spanish interpreter, Marquez said: “Yes, I thought I won this fight and I still think I won this fight. Maybe the judges were thinking I was the challenger, but I connected with the most powerful punches and the most accurate punches.” In previous press interviews where the Pacman spoke, always without an interpreter, he would find himself grammatically challenged and his fight assessments always appeared simple-minded as though the English words that would articulate his actual deep insights were beyond his reach. In contrast, whenever the Mexican fighters spoke, with interpreters, they seemed to express more depth in their analysis.
I always wondered why the Pacman didn’t just speak in Tagalog and have an interpreter translate his words. That way, he can also appear to be articulate and intelligent. That same question came up at the 2008 Bb. Pilipinas beauty pageant that was held recently at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on March 9. Janina San Miguel, a 17-year-old freshman at the University of the East, made it to the finals after winning awards for Best Swimsuit and Best in Long Gown. And then came the interview.
One of the judges, Vivian Tan, asked her: “What role did your family play to you as candidate to Binibining Pilipinas?” Janina’s answer, on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKwmseoKFCo (above), has already drawn more than two million hits (combining all versions). Here it is:
Janina: “Well, my family’s role for me is so important b’coz there was the wa- they’re, they was the one who’s… very… hahahaha… Oh I’m so sorry, ahhmm… My pamily… My family… Oh my god… I’m… Ok, I’m so sorry… I… I told you that I’m so confident… Eto, ahhmm, Wait… hahahaha, ahmmm, Sorry guys because this was really my first pageant ever b’coz I’m only 17 years old and hahaha I, I did not expect that I came from, I came from one of the tuff ten. Hmmm, so… but I said that my family is the most important persons in my life. Thank you.”
In the youtube video, the sounds of audience laughter and guffaws were as audible as the looks of consternation and amusement by the judges. Despite this gaffe, Janina won the contest and will represent the Philippines in the Miss World competition that will be held in the Ukraine.
Why couldn’t the question to Janina have been posed to her in Tagalog and her answer delivered in Tagalog and then translated into English? The contest that used to be “Miss Philippines” is now called “Binibining Pilipinas” to emphasize its nationalist character. Hello?
The online web portal, philnews.com, observed that “the use of English is not an issue for some contestants who can speak it fluently. There are a few young girls however, who did not have the luxury of attending an expensive private school where English is taught, or who do not belong to that social stratum of Philippine society where proficiency in English is the norm.”
Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo asked his readers to “Give the young girl a break! If she speaks ungrammatical English, blame it on the country’s educational system… You expect Janina to speak fluent English when our former president, Joseph “Erap” Estrada, speaks carabao English? C’mon, guys, you expect too much from a 17-year-old girl!”