To the expelled Laoag students: ‘Agilocano kay latta’


SAN FRANCISCO―Speaking Tagalog was a potentially costly offense when I was growing up in Quezon City in the 1970s.

At my elementary school in Cubao, one got fined five centavos for speaking it on campus and breaking a speak-English-only policy.

It was a silly rule.

And during a recent visit to my old school a sign suggested it was still being imposed. “This is an English Speaking Campus,” the sign said.

That was disappointing. But that was nothing compared to the case of the three Ilocos Norte students who were kicked out of school for speaking Ilokano and violating a Laoag school’s speak-English-only rule.

Well, actually, Saviour’s Christian Academy now says the students, Kleinee Bautista, Carl Abadilla, and Samuel Respicio, were not really “expelled.”

They were “advised to transfer,” though, the school’s legal counsel told Rappler.

The parents were “too hasty” in taking that advice, he added, for they could have simply protested so that the “matter could’ve been resolved at the earlier stage,” he told Rappler.

In other words, the students and their parents overreacted, although based in the account by Ilocos journalist Herdy Yumul, it was the school’s principal who was guilty of an over-the-top and stunningly cruel reaction to the students’ offense.

As Yumul reported on his blog, the principal acted like he was going to smash his cell phone on one of the students, yelling, “You are not respecting my school! You want me throw my cell phone at you?”

Now, the school’s legal counsel argues that the English-only rule is aimed at helping “globally-prepare” students, and preserve the “reputation that Filipinos are good at English.”

Anya’t im-bagbagana?

English is important. I join others in wanting to see it grow and thrive in the Philippines, in hoping to see young Filipinos not only learn it together with other languages.

But it’s frustrating to realize that some still hope to achieve this with inane policies. And speak-English-Only rules are so 70s!

The intention may be good, but as the Laoag experience shows, they can be counter-productive, even harmful, especially in the hands of administrators with fascist tendencies.

They send the wrong message to students about the importance of language and education, a message that says: ‘Forget Ilocano. Your future depends on English.’

Language has long been a touchy subject in the Philippines. But I’ve been happy to see positive changes. In social media, young Filipinos are more comfortable communicating in Pilipino.

Most newscasts are now in Pilipino. There are fairly successful efforts to revive literature and theater in other Philippine languages beyond Tagalog.

I myself wish I learned to speak and write in Ilokano, my mother’s native language. But I never did. So I envy those three Laoag students.

On the other hand, I also was more fortunate, in a way.  Looking back a five centavo fine was nothing to get too agitated about. I was never threatened with expulsion or with being hit in the head with a cell phone for violating my school’s speak-English-only rule.

So to the three Laoag students kicked out for defying their former school’s speak-English-only rule, I say: “Haan kay’ maawanan namnama. Adu’t kadwa ‘yo. Ituloy yo latta’t agsarita ‘ti Ilocano.

(Huwag kayong mawalan ng pag asa. Maraming kampi sa inyo. At wag kayong titigil magsalita ng Ilokano. Thanks to my friend Edgar Aguinaldo for the translation.)

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  • opinyonlangpo

    Colonial mentality. The students are being prepared to serve outside the country, subservient to English speaking people- their future masters. At best, nationalism down the drain. It should be a choice. Same like the Spanish language in college, useless. One’s native language is his own identity, love it, cherish it, preserve it and be proud of it. It is in Laoag City, they don’t even have Ilocano subject. Other countries translate everything into their own language, very nationalistic.

    • nick

      the reality is, if you wanna earn big, even at home, Business English is required.

      • opinyonlangpo

        Even the Russian president doesn’t speak English, so as the Japanese president, so as the Chinese president, the S. Korean president and so many more. In Asia, only the Philippines is going for the English language more than their native language. It is called colonial mentality.

  • bluestar777

    I think what the principal did is right, ( though, I won't comment on the 'smashing a cell phone part of that), LOL. Learning and being able to speak the English language fluently, on the spot has nothing to do with how smart you are nor how high your IQ is.
    But it's more about of actual practice, practice and more practice

    The art of speaking or talking a language is nothing more than simply REMEMBERING and split second RECOLLECTION of the words that you know and retrieve that from your brain, as AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN as possible.

    Otherwise, your listeners or the one you've engaged a conversation with ( which by the way, happens to have only 500 word vocabulary as compared with yours of let's say 5,000 words or more) would seem and appear much more intelligent than you do. It's because they can spit out these 500 words in machine-gun fire like fashion.
    Then there, in the meantime, in the middle of conversation, you are still stuttering and thinking about the most precise words to use out of your 5,000+ words vocabulary. Looking confused and staring blankly all over groping for the right words to say.

    Now, in this scenario: who would look Stupid and Dumb in the eyes or ears of the other people listening? There and then, you are still stammering incoherently for the right words to speak unintelligibly, due to of nervousness and embarrassment. And even more so frightening, when the individual alluded here is a shy person. He would seem and appear as dumb, though unfairly vis- à-vis the one who spits out words in a machine gun fire like fashion, although in reality he's got a limited vocabulary of mere 500 words.

    We cannot learn and communicate with ease a language, or any language for that matter— not just English, well enough; if we DON'T ACTUALLY USE it, by way of speaking it verbally all the time.

    The brain just forgets everything you don't use habitually, and selectively remembers everything you constantly use every time.
    Not just mentally but physically as well. Even the use of muscles our brain requires a re-learning process, if for some reason somehow our brain forgets how to use it.

    If the principal was somewhat strict for implementing the rules:
    It's for the good of the student, and has nothing to do of being not nationalistic.

  • Danny Garcia

    If any, I think we should also start teaching Chinese/Mandarin to our students.

    For intelligence gathering in the future and for business.

  • Edgar Lores

    1. There is no little irony in the fact that the writer has been forced to translate his Ilocano advices into English.

    2. There is a reason for the rule of communicating only in English within the campus. And, no, it is not colonial mentality.
    2.1. When you enroll, you are consenting to abide by the rules.

    3. What may be said of this contretemps is that the punishment may not fit the crime.
    3.1. Punishment must often be graduated by the nature and frequency of the offence.
    3.2. Was this the first time these students broke the rule? If so, an admonition by, and a first warning from, the principal would have sufficed. If it was a second time, a second admonition, a second warning and a detention might have been in order. If it was a third time, a final warning and a longer detention or suspension might have been considered.
    3.3. The ultimate penalty of expulsion should only be resorted to after obvious disregard of the previous reasonable warnings and penalties.

    4. Not to have applied a punishment would have given encouragement to the furtherance of a culture of impunity.

  • albert13

    it is ironic for the author enjoying the comfort of an English speaking country to comment on the issue of the use of the English language in the Philippines.

  • magkaisa

    The principal is so wrong. Para bagang pinaparusahan mo ang isang Pilipino dahil siya ay Pilipino. At sa sariling niyang bayan pa!
    Strengthen english usage, am all for it, but not this way. Maraming paraan.

  • Guest

    San Agustin or Ateneo wannabe. From the boondocks. Stupid.

  • yew_tan

    Are the Americans less patriotic than the Flips because they speak English as their first language? Does anybody ever thought of that? Well, I guess Flips can’t think…. my mistake asking that question.

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