Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Proud to be Bisaya

Discrimination and bigotry exists in various forms. I have been at the receiving end of it many times. No, I have not been denied entry into some country because of the color of my skin, although I do have this nagging suspicion that every single time I line up in front of an immigration counter in some country, the immigration guy subjects me to more critical appraisal. This is why I do bother to dress up when going abroad.

The kind of discrimination I get subjected to every once in a while is courtesy of my Visayan accent. Yup, I am from the Visayas; stamped, certified, authentic Bisaya. Thanks to a grandmother who forced me to speak English at a very young age, my accent is not as pronounced as some of my friends who get most of their long e's and their short e's confused. But sometimes, it does slip out unconsciously since I do think in my mother tongue.

But I don't get it why Tagalogs find this funny. I mean, we don't find it funny when European people speak English with their distinct accent. Maybe it is true, we Filipinos are harder on each other. We are a tough people to please.

I used to find it embarrassing when someone begins to snicker at my accent. Today, I find it utterly uncouth. And yes, I have on many times put to task some people for making fun of the Bisayan accent. I do it because quite frankly, I am sick of being criticized for my accent by someone who can not even distinguish a verb from an adverb and who can't get through five sentences without committing atrocious grammatical mistakes. I have put my repartee down pat - and my close friends have even gotten some of them memorized and have on many occasions beaten me to the draw.

"I suppose that makes you feel you are a better person" is one of the icy remarks I make when someone begins to mimic my accent. "I can speak English and Bisaya and Tagalog - can you?" is another. Believe me, many have learned their lesson and have since stopped making fun of the Bisayan accent.

What people do not get is that many Bisaya are far more conversant in English than in Tagalog. Our mother tongues have certain peculiarities that have conditioned our tongues to pronounce certain vowels a particular way. Why is that funny?

I was in Cebu recently to give a lecture to a group of highly accomplished and highly intelligent people. The interaction was truly stimulating and the participants were highly articulate even if yes, their long e's and short e's got seriously entwined many times. But we were among ourselves and we understood each other perfectly. Many of them have proved intellectual superiority over other races, and yes, they too have been at the receiving end of patronizing and disparaging comments on account of their accents. Go figure.

Anyway, I just wanted to put it on record that yes I speak with an accent and I am proud of it. It is no reason to be embarrassed and I do think that anyone who thinks otherwise has more reason to be embarrased.

1 comment:

Accented said...

Hello.

I found this blog by accident today but I am now thinking that maybe this was not so. You see, some people came up to me and asked if I was from a Bisayan province. No, I am not but they all thought I was because of my accent. I was dismayed at first because I am an Ilokano and prided myself in speaking in indistinguishable English accent. But after reading this, I realized I got it all wrong. It doesn't matter what my words sound like, it's what I say. So thank you for that uplifting defense.