Time and again I say we Filipinos are a miseducated people. Our education works for the interest, glory and honor of foreigners, most especially the Americans. (Lost racial pride)
Because of colonialism ours has been an educational system imported from America, in which we are shaped into the mold of miseducated Filipinos. We imbibe a foreign culture that has made of ourselves strangers to our own traditions, culture and history. The foreign culture infused into our soul makes us proud to be look-alikes—of Americans primarily, or of Spaniards, or of any Caucasian, for that matter.
And of course—and I’ll never get tired of repeating this—educated or schooled Filipinos love and always speak the language not their own. Even if they have not completed secondary or tertiary education, they still love to speak in English. Given the slightest opportunity to speak their mind, they will try hard to speak in English in the most affected manner they can. Bisag mahimo pang kataw-anan (No matter how hilarious they sound)!
And the malleable ones—those gifted with linguistic adaptability—swagger around, thinking they are the most blest and most empowered among their peers. Yes, English-speaking Filipinos carry with a certain hubris their skill of the English language. In our society, English is the language of the powerful!
And our artists, most especially the literary artists—the poets, the fictionists, the essayists? They who make use of language to transport their art from the realm of their souls to the eyes and ears of the world? What has miseducation made of their artistic sensibilities?
First and foremost, they write in English. They frown upon the literary craft rendered in the Indigenous tongue. To most of them, English is the most exquisite language in the world. And woe to those who cannot express their art in this medium, for they would be the “least” among equals. If they use a Filipino language in their writings, they will be deemed queer and become part of a species of deviants.
Not immune from the virus
But, to be writing in one’s own tongue is not exactly a saving grace. Even among those who write in Indigenous languages, many are not immune from the virus of colonial mentality! Yes, they may love their own tongue and have attained mastery over its employ in their literature. Yes, their craft may be expressed and dressed in the vernacular idioms or local modes of expression. But what about the themes, the models and paradigms, the formal patterns and standards, and the elements of poetics that they adopt? Above all, what world outlook governs their craft?
A stark example of colonial-mindedness among Filipino writers is the use of mythical allusions in their work. Whether in English or Cebuano or Tagalog, many Filipino writers adhere to western, particularly Greek or Roman, mythology as references in the themes and/or messages of their obra maestra. And where do they derive this habit and practice? Where else but from English or western poetry and artists?
We are so conversant with western myths, and yet are utterly ignorant of our own myths and legends. The names Zeus, Apollo and Athena, Cupid and Venus, and so forth readily tumble from our lips. But our very own Tudbulul, Tuwaang, Mebuyan, Magbabaya, Mannama, Mandalangan and other names in Indigenous myths and legends are strange to us, so remote to our minds!
We know very well and are even thrilled—“kilig to the bones”—by the love story of Paris and Helen in Greek mythology, but have never heard of the loves and adventures of Tuwaang, the epic hero of the Manobo. Or of Banna in Cordillera folk literature.
Why are we not educated on the epics and legends of our very own folklore? Why are these significant treasures about our own racial and historical roots not made “musts” in our school curricula? Why are subjects of utmost importance to the recognition and understanding of our own culture and traditions absent in classroom lessons? To the point that these folktales and local lore are absent in our consciousness and perspective, yet we are very knowledgeable about “Cinderella” and “Rapunzel”?
Start with Mindanao myths
Just as we are familiar with the taste of ginamos or buwad in our daily meals and panga sa barilis in our occasional special meals, it is imperative that we become familiar with our very own mythology. We can start with the Mindanao myths and legends, and climb up to the Visayan shores, then upper still to the Luzon hills and Cordillera mountains.
Here in Mindanao, if we have such intriguing tales about Tuwaang and the Mo’nawon maiden of the Manobo, Tudbulol and Kepawan of the T’boli, then in the Cordillera there are stories of Banna and Lagunawa of the Kalinga waiting to be heard and retold.
Such classroom learnings as these would make us aware and conscious always of our links to our remote past. Through Lumad folklore, we will have a way of glimpsing the long-forgotten society of our pre-conquest forebears, and from there, strive to gain the necessary knowledge of our own identity and history.
Then shall we become truly proud to be Filipino, not on account of our being half-American and half-Pinoy, or half-German and half-Pinoy, or half-alien and half-Pinoy, but because we are certain about our racial roots and can trace our blood and birthright to our ancestral beginnings, irrespective of whether our skin is the color of earth or the texture of the durian peeling.
And our writers and poets and other artists will not have to search for legendary figures in foreign lands as allusions and references to celebrate their prose and poetry and other forms of art. Right here in our own backyards are marvelous tales and lore spilled over through times past. And we will be veritable “gleaners” of the lost treasures of our own myths—precious stuff that we can cherish and pass on to our children and their children’s children.
Nganong molakbay pa man ta ngadto sa langyawng yuta aron lang mangalap og panagway sa mga tawong ikasaulog sa atong mga alampat nga dinhi sa atong kaugalingong tugkaran nay daghang nangigdal nga mga lugas sa mga sugilanon sa atong katigulangan?
(“Why do we have to go to foreign lands just to look for images to celebrate the themes of our art when right here in our own courtyards are scattered grains of tales and stories of our forebears?”)