Language, Learning, Identity, Privilege by James Soriano

This essay was posted early Friday morning but has since been removed. Google cache proves the article was there.

Why did the article disappear?

Language, learning, identity, privilege
August 24, 2011, 4:06am

MANILA, Philippines — English is the language of learning. I’ve known this since before I could go to school. As a toddler, my first study materials were a set of flash cards that my mother used to teach me the English alphabet.

My mother made home conducive to learning English: all my storybooks and coloring books were in English, and so were the cartoons I watched and the music I listened to. She required me to speak English at home. She even hired tutors to help me learn to read and write in English.

In school I learned to think in English. We used English to learn about numbers, equations and variables. With it we learned about observation and inference, the moon and the stars, monsoons and photosynthesis. With it we learned about shapes and colors, about meter and rhythm. I learned about God in English, and I prayed to Him in English.

Filipino, on the other hand, was always the ‘other’ subject — almost a special subject like PE or Home Economics, except that it was graded the same way as Science, Math, Religion, and English. My classmates and I used to complain about Filipino all the time. Filipino was a chore, like washing the dishes; it was not the language of learning. It was the language we used to speak to the people who washed our dishes.

We used to think learning Filipino was important because it was practical: Filipino was the language of the world outside the classroom. It was the language of the streets: it was how you spoke to the tindera when you went to the tindahan, what you used to tell your katulong that you had an utos, and how you texted manong when you needed “sundo na.”

These skills were required to survive in the outside world, because we are forced to relate with the tinderas and the manongs and the katulongs of this world. If we wanted to communicate to these people — or otherwise avoid being mugged on the jeepney — we needed to learn Filipino.

That being said though, I was proud of my proficiency with the language. Filipino was the language I used to speak with my cousins and uncles and grandparents in the province, so I never had much trouble reciting.

It was the reading and writing that was tedious and difficult. I spoke Filipino, but only when I was in a different world like the streets or the province; it did not come naturally to me. English was more natural; I read, wrote and thought in English. And so, in much of the same way that I learned German later on, I learned Filipino in terms of English. In this way I survived Filipino in high school, albeit with too many sentences that had the preposition ‘ay.’

It was really only in university that I began to grasp Filipino in terms of language and not just dialect. Filipino was not merely a peculiar variety of language, derived and continuously borrowing from the English and Spanish alphabets; it was its own system, with its own grammar, semantics, sounds, even symbols.

But more significantly, it was its own way of reading, writing, and thinking. There are ideas and concepts unique to Filipino that can never be translated into another. Try translating bayanihan, tagay, kilig or diskarte.

Only recently have I begun to grasp Filipino as the language of identity: the language of emotion, experience, and even of learning. And with this comes the realization that I do, in fact, smell worse than a malansang isda. My own language is foreign to me: I speak, think, read and write primarily in English. To borrow the terminology of Fr. Bulatao, I am a split-level Filipino.

But perhaps this is not so bad in a society of rotten beef and stinking fish. For while Filipino may be the language of identity, it is the language of the streets. It might have the capacity to be the language of learning, but it is not the language of the learned.

It is neither the language of the classroom and the laboratory, nor the language of the boardroom, the court room, or the operating room. It is not the language of privilege. I may be disconnected from my being Filipino, but with a tongue of privilege I will always have my connections.

So I have my education to thank for making English my mother language.

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado is a Content Strategist with over 11 years experience in blogging, content management, citizen advocacy and online media publishing and over 21 years in web development. Otherwise known as @MomBlogger on social media, she believes in making a difference in the lives of her children by advocating social change for social good.

She is a co-founder and a member of the editorial board of Blog Watch . She is a resource speaker on social media , blogging, digital citizenship, good governance, transparency, parenting, women’s rights and wellness, and cyber safety.

Her personal blogs such as (parenting) , (recipes), (gadgets) and (lifestyle) keep her busy outside of Blog Watch.


She was a Senior Consultant for ALL media engagements for the PCOO-led Committee on Media Affairs & Strategic Communications (CMASC) under the ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Council from January 4 -July 5, 2017. Having been an ASEAN advocate since 2011, she has written extensively about the benefits of the ASEAN community and as a region of opportunities on Blog Watch and

Organization affiliation includes Scrap Pork Network. I do not support or belong to any political party . Family friends with House Representative Pia Cayetano and Former Senator Alan P. Cayetano. I did not vote for any presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.

Updated July 30, 2017

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  • anna kristina nievera

    Is that what they teach in Ateneo nowadays how to be elitista and to look down on people who do not have the same social status and education.
    Tandaan mo 80% ng mga Filipino ay mahihirap at walang oportunista na katulad mo.  Kung ganyan kababa ang tingin mo sa sariling lingwahe mo umalis ka na at mag-iba ng bansa.  Yang naghuhugas ng pingan mo baka balang araw maging ina ni Manny Pacqiao.  And by the way the woman who was linked to him while he was married came from the same school as YOU.  So superior!

    • Hey, please do not lump all ateneans together just because you don’t agree with the opinion of one. because you insulted ateneans who most likely don’t agree with the author’s opinions anyway, you’re no better than him, you st**** *ss.

      • so bad for your side…just because of one morally lacked person, all of you are in sea of judgement……………….

    • corkescrews

      Ok, you can’t really fault the school (and just so you know, I’m from UP). Marami akong kilalang Atenista na matatas magsulat at magbigkas ng Filipino.

      James Soriano has a point, really, that English is so ingrained in the Philippine education system, but he makes his point so badly. What’s more, he seems to have gotten the notion that because he speaks English, he’s a better person. Napaka arogante namang pag-iisip ‘nun. Marami rin kayang tao sa Amerika, Canada, Inglatera, atbp., na bobo at walang patutunguhan. Hindi porke’t nag-iingles sila ay mas magaling sila.

      Ang problema sa kanya, nakapag-aral siya, pero wala siyang pinag-aralan.

  • Pingback: The Language that is Filipino « Cerebral Insights()

  • I think this article was rather being sarcastic on the English language and was not intended to put the Filipino language down. Or is it just me thinking this way? But still I think there’s sarcasm here.

    • lonelygirl_at_pearl

      I think you are right.  If this article is to be taken literally, then it is incredibly rude.  However, it feels more like an ironic commentary: he writes as “one of them” to critique that mindset that English is the lingua franca of the privileged, and therefore why bother with Filipino?   Especially in the ninth and tenth paragraphs, and the first line of the eleventh, there’s a voice there that sounds like someone who does actually think the Filipino language is important.  The last line, especially, sounded more sarcastic than honestly elitist to me: “So I have my education to thank for making English my mother language.”  I don’t think the Manila Bulletin would have allowed the article to be posted on their site in the first place if it was really meant in the context that we’re taking it.

  • It was actually brave of him to speak out his mind, kahit alam niya na madaming magagalit at manghuhusga sa kanya. At some point tama naman siya kahit masakit aminin but we should be proud of our language and be do our best to make it better. 

  • It was actually brave of him to speak out his mind, kahit alam niya na madaming magagalit at manghuhusga sa kanya. At some point tama naman siya kahit masakit aminin but we should be proud of our language and be do our best to make it better. 

  • aj

    meron syang puntong pinapahiwatig sa ating lahat…buksan ang ating kaisipan at pang-unawa sa kanyang tinatahak..marahil sa isang banda, may tama sxa!
    …wag lang tayong mapanghusga kaagad-agad…kung ating susuriin, inaamin naman nyang kulang sxa sa pang-unawa at pagtanggap sa ating sariling wika, sa puntong yan, di ko sxa masisisi dahil pinalaki sxa ng mga magulang nya sa kulturang(lingwaheng)  banyaga (English) kung ating babalikan, kusa rin nyang tinanggap ang pagkukulang na yan…dapat din nating unawain na ito’y isang essay..hindi isang talumpati sa radio o tv o kahit saang entablado man…wag natin sxang batikusin o husgahan…bagkos, imulat natin ang ating mga mata sa katutuhanan sa ating lipunan.

    • first off, masaket sa mata yung pagsingit mo ng “x” sa sinasabi mo. it doesn’t make any sense nor does it help you convey your message. it’s an eyesore, really.

      moving on… while elitists try to separate themselves by speaking a language not native to us, keep in mind that it is “just” a skill. skill can be learned.

      having said that, i don’t quite agree that english is the language of the learned. it is only one of the many skills that can be added to your skill set. being proficient in english does not separate one from those who speak only filipino.

      as said in the article, the process the author went through to learn english as his first language is quite tedious, therefore, it is really not native to him as opposed to what he has said.

  • lonelygirl_at_pearl

    If he meant this literally, then it’s awfully rude, unpatriotic, and elitist.  But it feels like ironic commentary to me: a jibe at people who make an excuse not to learn Filipino anyway because it is not “the language of the privileged.”  He seems to be writing as “one of them” to critique that mindset.  That’s what it feels like to me, though I’m not sure at all if what my gut feel is telling me is right.

    Whatever the truth is, it is a rude awakening for me as a fellow “split-level Filipino,” who can neither speak Filipino nor my other blood-language, Chinese, properly.  I am proud of my English, but all the same, I wish I spoke better Filipino.

  • Pingback: james soriano on language and identity — gogirl cafe()

  • honestly its true. in reality, english subject is a lot easier to teach in a child than the filipino language. read the article again and not in a literal way, though some parts of it are offending but its true. english language is promoted more than the filipino language. 



  • kung magaling talaga syang magsulat at hindi lang isang malaking a$$hole, sana na iconvey nia ng maayos ang gusto niang sabihin ng hindi nakakaoffend like what mr. isagani cruz have done (see link:

    maganda ang pagkakasulat. direct to the point ang mga argumento at higit sa lahat walang bahid na pagmamayabang at pangungutya sa sariling wika.

  • odd

    Nakakaawa ang batang ito sa kakitiran ng isip. And he considers himself as one of the ‘learned’ n ‘privileged’ on the basis that English is his mother tongue?? Ergo, all English-speaking people are learned, just because….?? I didn’t think it was brave of him to write the essay, or that he had a point. He was simply very arrogant. At sa Tagalog me tawag dyan – MAL-EDUKADO.

  • KuyaDikongMakabayan

    james, di kita huhusgahan.nakakaawa ka. sa tanda mo ng yan. confused ka pa. kawawa ang magulang mo, di nila nasabi sa iyo kung ano ka. na ikaw ay hindi pilipino. isa kang nakakaawang tao na na trap sa katawan ng pilipino. go out and change your nationality pre. masahol ka pa sa malansang isda. nabubulok kang isda!
    mula ngayon, babaguhin ko na ang bokabularyo ko>
    ingrato/walang utang na loob/ambisyosong kaawa awa/lost/matayog/mayabang…madami pa siguro. isipin ko muna.
    lahat ng yan, mula ngayon, sa bokabularyo ko, james soriano.
    salamat. pinaga alab mo muli ang pagmamahal ko sa bayan…

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