Saturday, January 27, 2007

Why in the world is my first language English??? (I'm all Filipino! Don't judge me right away as not being patriotic!)

BAGUIO ENGLISH: TWO GENERATIONS Many may take a first language for granted. As having a first language could be like a person’s second skin, many may not bother to delve into why’s and how’s of their first language. However, as I have looked into the intricacies of this study, here are statements that have arisen as insights: 1. A person’s first language is as important as a person’s name. 2. A person’s first language is part of a cultural heritage, a family inheritance. 3. A person’s first language is intertwined in the person’s identity. It is one’s source of pride and affinity. 4. A first language may directly and indirectly affect the socio-cultural experiences of a person. 5. Finally, a person’s first language is deeply influenced by one’s educational history. While the first, second, and third statements spring from a more personal opinion, the fourth and the fifth statements were a result of this study. Two generations of similar first languages are deeply rooted in the similarities also of socio-cultural and education factors. From the understanding that if two seemingly similar socio-cultural and education factors are present in even two different generations, what could possibly be different in terms of first language differences? This paper looks into this question and seeks to point out language features that prove a difference in linguistic features as affected by the two factors mentioned. If one were to ask where I have come from, I would immediately identify Baguio City as my hometown. In many instances, where people asked this question, a confusing, mixed, and near-doubtful response is given. Why such reactions? One reason could be because of the language I use- English. I am more than honored to be given this chance to probe into not only my identity but more so, to understand the formation of my first language and ultimately, to discover its unique linguistic features in comparison to an older generation’s. In any Asian country, it may seemingly be bizarre to hear that my first language is English. This English is not the American or British variety of English. Rather, it is the Philippine Variety of English. While Baguio has a unique history in its inclusion of having English as a widely used language, the Philippines itself has its own overriding history with the English language: “Although the first experience to English was in 1762-1764, when the British invaded Manila, English from that time never had any lasting influence. English was assimilated when the United States took over the government. In 1898, Spain ceded control of the Philippines to the United States under the Treaty of Paris, and thereafter the Americans controlled the Philippines until it gained its independence in 1945. The Americans established a system of public education wherein English was used as the main language of instruction. After independence, the Philippine government continued education in English . . .”[1] In terms of Baguio’s history, the late 1890s till the early 1900s marked a period of American intervention in the establishment of the city. Driven by the will to look for a healthier environment for the Americans, secretary of Interior and first Philippine commission Dear Worchester, was a key actor in presenting Baguio as a place full of potential for a city. Following a series of plans and negotiations, Benguet Road, known now as Kennon Road was a catalytic bridge as it ushered the coming of not only the Americans but Filipino migrants like my grandparents.[2] Both parents have studied here in Baguio. During that time in Baguio’s history, many foreign missionaries, Belgian and American (example: founders of Saint Louis University came in 1911, Brent School Missionaries came in 1909) have established schools. English was mostly the medium of instruction. Both parents were educated in these schools until at least high school. For university studies, my father studied in Manila, while the researcher’s mother studied in Belgium for her masters’ degree. Both sets of grandparents were early Baguio migrants – 1930s. My grandparents were in a milieu when there was the transition of the Spanish Rule to the American Rule, therefore, they were in a cultural and linguistic mix of Spanish and English. Both sets of grandparents have been educated in vocational schools and universities in Manila, Pampanga, and Batangas before migrating to Baguio. Therefore, English was a language they could speak. While in Baguio, from my Mother’s side, my grandfather was an accountant working for the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) while my grandmother owned a dressmaking and knitting business, transient business and pharmacy business in Baguio City. On my Father’s side, my grandfather was a writer, journalist and teacher at old Baguio schools including Brent School and University of Baguio (formerly Baguio Tech) . My grandmother was a professional nurse. My ancestors were set in an environment where foreign languages (particularly English), aside from Filipino, were abundantly used. This has had a direct influence to my first language. My mother had English for a first language while my father was bilingual in English and Ilocano. English was a language taught and used at home. In a family of five (father, mother, the researcher, brother, sister), English (with little Filipino- Englog) was always used extensively in all social aspects. The particular context of Baguio City itself has markedly influenced both the languages of my mother and myself. While it may be that English is not the first language of both grandparents, socio-economic, cultural and education context shaped the primary languages of the following generations. To date, my daughter (4 years old) is also being exposed to English as language used at home and in school. However, the Filipino and Ilocano languages are also secondary languages that I make sure my daughter will get accustomed to. To end, the most influential factor that shaped English as a primary or a secondary language to many old-time Baguio residents springs from the early intervention of the Americans. The “Baguio English” as I would like to call it a fruit of a love affair between this place that offered a cool and healthy respite for the many Americans who have either had missions for business, education or religion. But all the more, these early missions have affected a certain population of Baguio inhabitants—English as a first language. English as a first language in the Philippines could either be lauded or frowned upon in terms of identity and heritage. Nevertheless, it is a language that I have accepted and resented less. I recognize the dreams and sacrifices my grandparents have done to migrate here in Baguio. I no longer feel rootless. There is a language called, Baguio English. V. Bibliography Who’s Who Among the Pioneers, Builders and Contributors of Baguio and Mountain Province’s Progress. Ayson-Guitierrez Publishing House. Baguio City. 1951 Brown, Douglas. Principles of Language, Learning, and Teaching. Third Edition. Prentice Hall Regents . Philippine English. September 24, 2005 [1] Philippine English. September 24, 2005 [2] Who’s Who Among the Pioneers, Builders and Contributors of Baguio and Mountain Province’s Progress. Ayson-Guitierrez Publishing House. Baguio City. 1951 [3] Brown, Douglas. Principles of Language, Learning, and Teaching. Third Edition. Prentice Hall Regents . p 41 [4] ibid [5] Philippine English. September 24, 2005 [6] Brown, 42

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