15 June 2013

Where the Younghusbands Can Learn to Speak Tagalog

This morning, I was watching a YouTube video of a GMA-7 Unang Chika interview with Phil and James Younghusband regarding the post-match controversy surrounding the recent Philippine Azkals international friendly at the Mong Kok Stadium in Hong Kong.

After the interviewer introduced the brothers, Phil gracefully greeted the viewing audience, “Magandang umaga pô!” James did likewise.

The surprised interviewer remarked, “So your Tagalog is getting better!”

“Getting better,” Phil agreed. “Gumagaling.”

The interview was reminscent of the live interview conducted by Korina Sanchez with Phil on TV Patrol soon after the national team arrived back from Hanoi after its historic qualification for the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals.


If you heard him speak before you saw him, then you would have been shocked to see that the guy with the punto straight out of the bukir was actually a white Caucasian-mestizo. Either that or you would have suspected that there was a ventriloquist nearby.
Sanchez started to ask Phil something in English, as would only have been proper talking to a Fil-Brit. She nearly doubled over when Phil spoke back to her in Tagalog, albeit with a thick Brit accent.

Two and a half years later and Phil still tries, bless him. Even James does, bless him too!

But getting better? Uhrm...

I have never met Phil let alone spoken to him. But whatever interviews I see are similar to that YouTube video that I saw earlier. That is, primarily in English with a Tagalog word inserted here and there and with a decidedly Brit accent.

The problem basically is no different from why native English language speakers who live in this country make no real attempt to learn the local language. Because anyone who can will always attempt to speak to them in English.

In the circles that the Younghusbands move around in, there is also probably no real need to learn Tagalog from a practical standpoint because most everyone – even on the football pitch – will be conversant to some degree or the other in English.

But if the brothers ever express a real desire to learn proper Tagalog, then I know exactly the place where they can. Right here in Batangas!

Oh, we speak English! But the preferred language is still by and large Tagalog. This place, after all, is sometimes thought of by linguists as Tagalog heartland.

Let me tell you about this time when I was still in high school and the son of an American Peace Corps volunteer came to study at our school. I cannot recall his first name and at any rate we all called him by his surname – Johnson.

He joined us in our freshman year, all of 6’ 2”, blond, blue-eyed and shiny white skin straight from the woods of Minnesota. We could all converse with him in English if it came down to it; but the only way for him to really know what was going on around him was for him to learn the language. It helped, of course, that his father was with the Peace Corps and also had to learn Tagalog.

Towards the end of junior high school, his father was being reassigned back to the States and, thus, he had to bid us all goodbye. We all asked him to deliver a speech in front of class on his last day in school. I do not remember much about what he said, but what I do remember was that he delivered his speech in Tagalog.

With a shocking Batangueňo accent.

More recently, I had a Fil-Jordanian player in my college team who first arrived in the country in time to enrol in a school outside of the city for his fourth year in high school. By the time he came to my school to play in the college team one year later, he was fluent in Tagalog; but with a catch.

If you heard him speak before you saw him, then you would have been shocked to see that the guy with the punto straight out of the bukir was actually a white Caucasian-mestizo. Either that or you would have suspected that there was a ventriloquist nearby.

Then, of course, there are the Koreans who come over to learn English.

I am always amused whenever I watch ‘It’s Showtime’ by how Ryan Bang tries so hard to speak Tagalog but has not fully learned to ditch his Korean phonetics when doing so. It’s in stark contrast to the Koreans who come to study in the school where I used to work.

The irony always was that they invariably learned to speak Tagalog first. Not only that; the younger ones who went to our Integrated School inevitably became assimilated so much that if you heard them speak, you would have thought they were locals.

And by local, I mean with the punto as thick as someone Batangas born and bred.

Nagmamano pa ngâ. Imagine that! Koreano nagmamano...

So Phil’s Tagalog getting better? Bless the boy for trying; but he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Coach Gil Talavera, you know where to bring the two!











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