Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Beginning

Those infuriating words. Those infuriating words have been parading in front of me for years, blurring my vision, scuttling here and there with tiny little feet that screamed to be acknowledged. And they succeed every time. They drummed my ears with silence when I begged them to appear but waged war when I sought for peace, caught me unaware more often than I can possibly hope for and earned me a whole set of detractors who curse and spit at my back for allowing unkempt thoughts to roll out of my tongue carelessly. It was inevitable. I can see those words just as much as I can taste them, like the taste of repulsive heaving after seeing a rotting corpse in a laboratory. Now is the most opportune time to tie them down with the same noose that claimed her life, with the hope that maybe this time, they will be tamed for my sanity’s sake.

This is her love story.

I met her when I was 8 years old at the compound where our family lived. I was then running away from my cousins who were tormenting my puppy named Chowder who was mercilessly being hammered with sticks. Children can be cruel when they want to be. Their sense of curiosity can be a powerful weapon that can make or break someone. And like older people, they too have the privilege to use age as an excuse for their cruelty. I can still remember, how Chowder felt like in my hands. I dared not hug her, in fear of getting blood on my shirt. I simply held her with my outstretched hands while looking back at where my cousins were, who have fortunately turned their attention to my grandmother’s chicken after I snatched their initial target. She was still yelping when I unknowingly swung her body side to side and probably broke a rib while I ran as fast as my short legs can master. For lack of a better place to go, I ended up at the front gate. That was how she found me. Bloodied hands and crying alongside my beloved Chowder.


I looked up then and saw her face. I could not remember if I saw her before but I was surprised that the stranger knew my name. I also did not recognize her voice but what I could remember on that day was her eyes. Her eyes were highlighted by the letter bars on our gate and they were sad. She smiled then and told me to stop crying, assured me that Chowder will live through the day while patting my head to console me.

(to be continued...)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

She's Back

Have you heard? The bitch is back...banging on his gate like a lunatic. Spitting all kinds of threats. That suits him I guess. It was largely his fault. He could have just avoided her in the first place.

But he did not so that is something he is living with now. Why do you judge him woman when you have secrets up in your sleeves as well? We do not have the privilege to lay judgment. Let us just hope that the wife will not wake despite the racket outside their house.

Oh, I am sure she is awake every time that nutcase comes howling. She just pretends to sleep and prays that the authorities will drag the stupid woman away, secured in a straight jacket, into an asylum.

Does he answer the calls?

He did in the past, to ward her off but that proved to be useless as the woman is even peskier than a fly. He tried all sorts of excuses too, even the silliest ones. You should have been there. It got hysterical at one point.

What now?

He plays deaf, like his wife. He pretends to sleep and prays that the authorities will drag the stupid woman away, secured in a straight jacket, into an asylum.

And what of the neighbors?

Oh they suffer as well but it's not so bad for them. At least they have something to talk about in the morning, makes their lives less boring.

That's ridiculous.

Yes, it is ridiculous. As ridiculous as the affair that was supposed to fly to Paris but never quite got there.

Did he ever love her?

Who, the wife?

No, the other woman.

Ah. No. It was just a momentary dose of insanity.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

It's Called Whatever

Question to ponder: Is your sh*t hole having problems right now? If you have nothing important to say then please shut up or you'll make a bigger fool of your already foolish self. A friendly advice from a concerned friend.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Supposed Good and Bad Speaker of English

I. Introduction:

Speaking good English is one of those relative notions that are largely dependent on each individual’s perception of what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’. Our referential tools support this by publishing various definitions of the word ‘good’ or ‘bad’. For example, the Encarta World Dictionary, mentions that the word ‘good’ can mean the best, genuine or suitable whichever is applicable to the scenario to which the word is applied in. If I was asked last semester to give my opinion on the matter, I would have, without as much as batting an eyelash, immediately define what composed a good speaker and a bad speaker. However, with a little enlightenment, I have learned to avoid labeling the different types of English as good or bad since the more important concept to take note of is whether that type of English is appropriate or useful to the person. Let us take the growing reputation and acceptance of World Englishes as an example. If we were going to strictly comply with the rules of grammar or enunciation then several World Englishes will be categorized as ‘bad’ Englishes and one perfect example will be Singapore English. Singapore English or Singlish obviously does not follow the conservative rule since its standards are social constucts that were created by the society of Singapore (with a bigger bearing for those who hold important positions in the educational or socio-economic structures of the community) based on their accessibility and utilization of the language. So to put it in layman’s terms, if Singaporeans opted to say “Why you so like that lah?” or “I don’t understand your question, what?” over the “Why are you acting like this?” or “I don’t understand what your question was?” then they are not reprimanded as these are acceptable ways of communicating using the English language. In fact, other nearby Asian countries are mimicking this type of English since it is now recognized as another type of English that is aggressively making its mark in the global economy.

When we think of English, we are generally referring to language and language is well known as a medium to communicate using words with the prime objective of being understood. Anything that achieves its objective is always considered good so if we go back to the example, Singlish, cited in the previous paragraph where the speakers were still understood despite the awkward sentence construction then it should follow that Singlish is ‘good’ English, right? The answer – it does not always necessarily follow because the objective is not the only factor to take into account. In order to appropriately describe good English or identify good English speakers, it is necessary to consider the variables that affect how the language was used or applied. These variables can range from the individual’s upbringing all the way to his social status.

To put this to a test, a series of interviews were conducted alongside the survey sheets that were distributed. Instead of interviewing 2 respondents only (as instructed by the Professor), I have taken the liberty to interview 17 respondents and requested all of them to fill out the survey sheets for comparison and reference purposes. Please see the next page for the data gathered. (Note: I chose to show 2 results only)

II. Findings and Observations:

The survey sheet shows the answers given by 2 out of 17 respondents interviewed. They were asked to provide answers to questions which were generally assumed to have influenced how they speak English now. The data inquired about their educational background, hobbies, movie or t.v. show preferences, their exposure to the English language, manners of using English in their everyday activities and experiences that resulted to their continuous usage or non-usage of the said language.

Subject 1 was tagged as the Bad Speaker. The respondent works as a Facilities and Maintenance Personnel at a BPO Industry in Cebu. He earned his education (from Elementary to College) at public institutions and only has 9 units of English courses. His hobbies include eating, watching movies, playing basketball and volleyball and he often preferred to watch shows in the local channels such as the local news (often narrated in Cebuano or Tagalog) and Wowowi. He can speak Tagalog, Ilonggo, Bisaya but mixes his English with the said dialects. His exposure to English was limited to his classes in school and he opts not to talk at work (practices EOP or English Only Policy) for fear of being laughed at if he made a grammatical or pronunciation error. It was observed that he merely uses English when required.

Subject 2 was tagged as the Good Speaker. The respondent works as a Team Leader at a Call Center Industry in Cebu. He graduated elementary in a public school but earned his high school and college diploma in private institutions as well as earned 24 units of English courses. Like Subject 1, his hobbies were almost similar but he prefers to watch English shows like Glee, Lost and House. He can also speak Tagalog, Ilonggo, Bisaya but unlike Subject 1, can speak and write straight English comfortably. His exposure to English has a wider coverage than Subject 1 since he uses it more, not just at work but also at his home.

III. Conclusion and Recommendations:

As mentioned in the introduction, there are several variables to consider and it is important to discuss the variables one by one in order to understand why such variables contributed to the current level of English speaking skills of the respondent.

Variable 1: Educational Background
Whether we admit it or not, there is some truth to the notion that children get better education in private institutions than in public schools. This particular notion is founded on numerous factors such as erroneous textbooks, lack of proper equipment or facilities that would have been conducive to learning, low expectations for students’ performance and un-enforced standards for teachers. Let me cite the results of the 2007 NAT or National Achievement Test among public school children which showed an alarming downward trend and in the year before that, more elementary school children failed to make the passing mark of 75%, averaging a score of only 57% (Cathy Ruiz, Cebu Daily News). Further adding that in 2005, elementary students got a failing average of 59% in English. This poor performance, according to the writer, has been linked to poor English comprehension of students and lack of mastery of English among public school teachers. In a self-assessment test conducted by the Department of Education in 2004, only one out of every five public school teachers is proficient in the English language. More than half of the teachers have little or no training in English, according to a senior Dep Ed official.
This observation was not mentioned to encourage parents to enroll their children in private schools but merely to point our current concerns that have affected the type of education our public school children are getting and to hope that these concerns will be addressed accordingly as soon as possible.

Variable 2: Habit Forming Preferences
If our goal is to speak English well then it will be best if we surround ourselves with everything in English. Read papers and magazines written in English and browse Internet sites that utilize the English language. In fact, reading is an excellent way of improving our English speaking skills. Even watching English movies or television shows can come quite handy since we will be exposed to how they say the words and how the said words were used. Hence, it is like reading all over again.

Going to an English speaking country is an ideal option, but if going abroad is truly not practical then reading and speaking with friends will help just as much to practice your English. Introducing yourself in an environment that requires us to speak the language 95% of the time is a cheaper version of going abroad, however, I think that it is still very good to visit some English speaking country and test our knowledge of the language since we will feel the everyday usage of language in its natural environment. There, our level of English will improve even faster. Subconsciously, we will sense everything and our instinctive knowledge will emerge.

Variable 3: Exposure to English
Everyone can probably own up to saying that we know how to speak English. This is true as almost everyone can speak the language. The question is not on our capacity to speak English but our capacity to speak it well. Like all other known skills, practice is essential in speaking the language well. Like what I mentioned in last semester’s term paper, it takes a lot of effort, time and will to master it in all possible ways. I will directly quote what I have mentioned in the term paper for clarification.

“Learning or speaking the language is not a talent that only a few privileged individuals are gifted with. In fact, it is a skill that is taught and one requires constant practice and determination; thus, something that can be improved through time. Anyone can achieve the native speaker’s accent if they would only try harder. I will cite an acquaintance as an example to make my point more convincing. Michelle, who I met overseas, used to work as a waitress at a restaurant in Bahrain. Her ultimate goal was to be a Flight Attendant so she always asked to be tutored on her English usage and accent. I was able to observe and monitor her improvement. Her English then was what we commonly refer to as ‘Philippine English’ (or what foreigners referred to as Carabao English) but with practice and sheer dedication, her English improved. On her third attempt of application at Gulf Air, she finally got the job. When I went to Dubai last year, I set up a meeting with her and guess what, her English was even better. If not for her Filipino features, she will probably be mistaken as an American. In addition to that, when I arrived at Costa Cafe, she was talking to a fellow Flight Attendant and they were talking in French! I can’t claim that I know the French language that well to say that her French was also excellent but judging from how fast and how confident she was in using the language to a Native French Speaker, I will assume that she has mastered that language too.

And the best thing about growing old is you are not caged within one environment only. As you grow older, you move from one environment to another and your network of connections expand. You don’t just rely on your family for information and knowledge anymore, you also have the schools that you attend to, friends and teachers to learn from and subsequently co-workers as well as acquaintances to compare, learn and re-learn facts and data with. The area for improvement is without bounds and we have the option to save and discard whatever knowledge we prefer. Likened to my friend Michelle, we too can move out of our old shell so we can transfer to a better one which will provide us a bigger room to grow. It just boils down to one word - choice. Do you choose Intelligibility or do you choose Perfection?”

That is why it is important not to stop at some level of acquiring knowledge and avoid getting stuck in a rut. When one has graduated from the foundations of English, he/she must continue learning the language. There are so many possibilities.

The concern now is: Why still insist on aiming for 'perfection' when the growing trend on World Englishes is now globally acknowledged? The answer is quite simple, sadly, our economy is unlike the other countries that are breaking out in the market. Or in simpler terms, the Philippines is not Singapore and while we are still at a phase where we partner with other English speaking countries, we do not have the supremacy to contend that our type of English be recognized. For the time being, we have to comply and follow the standards of our supposed partners since they have the stronger economy. This is not to wallow in self-pity but simply, to accept the rules of economic engagement and globalization. Our economy is not yet stable or aggressive enough and this is why we still follow the standards of American or British language as well as their definition of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ English. This is why Subject 1 was categorized as a Bad English Speaker and Subject 2 as the Good English Speaker. This is why we cannot simply be contented with getting the message across but also ensure that we get the message across as eloquently as possible.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Random Things

I like to wear socks when I go to sleep (for fear that rats might gnaw my toes while I'm dozing off in dreamland).

I have plans (of all sorts) and they are labeled A-Z.

I am fickle, fickle, fickle and it's not because I can't help it, I just don't want to.

The bathroom is my sanctuary. I can spend hours and hours inside doing nothing but sitting on the toilet or playing with running water.

I am scared that I might not get pregnant (although I do not want to put that fear to the test right now).

I worry about everything because I am a control freak.

I always buy floss for my teeth but rarely used it because flossing takes too much time and effort.

I am addicted to social networking.

I think I have adopted some of Daffy Duck's traits after watching too much of Bugs and Daffy shows when I was little.

I love saving money in the bank because it gives me that 'safe' feeling.

I rock when I teach.

For me, everything has a place so there is no reason for me to leave things hanging around.

I dreamed of becoming a maid when I was 6 years old (because I always saw our maid not doing anything).

I had my first crush when I was in Grade 2 and to get his attention I always punched his face (made him cry every time).

I have a long list of people who I want to apologize to (I [promise to do something about that this year).

I like to eat ripe mangoes dipped in soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Yummy!

I like to hold my boyfriend's hands and demand for kisses or pecks on my cheeks now and then. PDA is my middle name.

I hate hair on my bathroom floor.

I am Pro-Jinky P. and Pro-Jennifer A. So I guess that plainly notes how much I hate homewreckers.

I can pop a big Mac in my mouth like a pill.

I love daisies, daisies, daisies. When I get married, I want daisies everywhere.

I am anxious to start the renovations for my house but, sadly, I still have not saved enough money for the type of renovations I have in mind.

I love laughing and giggling. This year, I have decided not to take myself too seriously.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Look by Sara Teasdale

Strephon kissed me in the spring,
Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me
And never kissed at all.

Strephon's kiss was lost in jest,
Robin's lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin's eyes
Hauunts me night and day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

At Daybreak

Maybe you can still do it. Maybe your toes can still withstand being bloodied for a few seconds while you cast your spell again. Maybe your body can reclaim its glory and command the music it once owned. Maybe the dance of the seven veils did not stop on the seventh, nor on the eighth but on the eighteenth. Maybe your tongue still holds its power to lash at unknowing foes. Maybe your hand, without its ring, can still draw whiskers of desire on any man's cheek whilst the other aim for the throat.

Maybe you have rested too soon, too long. Maybe, maybe.


It's time to wake up, Salome, and collect the bounty you have denied yourself with after centuries of shame. Your lovers were fools clad in fake gold and you need not to consort with their kind. You are ageless after all. Who are they to brandish their feats at your face when all are nothing compared to what the king rewarded you with. Go on...I am certain there is another John in this time, you can ask for his head.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

All About Change

Someone asked me - "Den, how can we reconcile the facts that you hate government agencies and that (now) you plan to get into one?" Further adding an uncalled for snide that I am a walking contradiction.

My answer is simple. I WANT TO MAKE A CHANGE. How else will I be able to change the system if I am outside of it in the first place? I can't change the rules of the game if I am sitting in the sideline and playing the role of a spectator. I have to be in the game. Play by their rules now then change them later.

When this 'change' happens, I want this certain someone's head in a platter!