16 February 2017

Revisiting the Batangueño Accent in ABS-CBN’s “A Love to Last” Series

Image captured from Iwantv.ph.

I had heard of the phony Batangueño accent used in the ABS-CBN series “A Love to Last” from a friend soon after it premiered on primetime; but last Friday was the first time I got a glimpse while channel-hopping of what he was talking about. He was right. The use by some of the series’ characters of the famous “punto” or accent is as phony as a three dollar bill.

I could bear to watch for only a few minutes and soon hopped to another channel. Annoyed, I posted a complaint about the dreadful simulation on social media. That short post drew a flood of reactions mostly from fellow Batangueños among my social media friends, all agreeing with me that the simulation is dreadful. A couple of females did say that they continue to watch, anyway, because Ian Veneracion is “so good-looking.”

We Batangueños can be a funny lot. Many of us go to great lengths to ditch the accent especially when in the company of Filipinos of other ethnicities. That said, the ethnocentrism automatically kicks in and we feel affronted when there is a perceived attempt to make a parody of the famous accent.

Two among those who replied to my social media post mentioned being asked if Batangueños really speak as some characters do in the series. The truth probably is that other ethnicities will not recognize that the accent used in “A Love to Last” is overcooked; and neither will they really care. After all, there are an estimated 150 languages in these islands of ours. Everyone has an accent.

But just what is it about the accent that some characters in the series are just not doing right? To be able to write this at all, I had to do an “A Love to Last” marathon on IWANTV even if romance is so not my favorite genre.

The series is not the first nor will it be the last to “murder” the accent. However, now that I have seen more of it, to be perfectly fair, the misuse of not just the accent but the Batangueño dialect is not half as bad as I had seen in other projects in the past.

The series obviously has Batangueños among its writers or a Batangueño consultant. There is a commendable attempt to portray Batangas dialect with some accuracy in the dialogues such as in the use of the “gay-on” instead of “ganoon;” “laang” instead of “lang;” “dine” instead of “dito;” and “parine” instead of “parito.” The trademark “ga” is also correctly used instead of the “ba” preferred by native Tagalog speakers north of Batangas.

Xian Lim’s pronunciation of “lola” as “loola” is in many instances in this province correct, particularly among the older generations. It is indicative of the 0-U imprecision that is actually also endemic to other Philippine languages the same way there is also an I-E imprecision. Inconsistency in the pronunciation is where “A Love to Last” can often be found wanting. If Lim can say “loola,” then his character’s nickname ought to be pronounced as “Tootoy” instead of Totoy, or even “Utoy.”

The way Bea Alonzo as “Andeng” switches accents from Manila to Batangas and vice-versa depending on who is with her is also a very Batangueño thing. There used to be this old saying “pag sampa ng BLTBCo,” which was descriptive of the Manila-based Batangueño whose accent snapped back on the moment he got onto a Batangas-bound BLTBCo bus.

To answer the question what is it about the actors’ use of the accent that stings Batangueño ears, however, the answer is probably in the over use of the “eh” and the exaggerated intonation. As I had written before, although the “ala eh” is universally known as a stereotype of the Batangueño, in truth we rather tend to use the “ala” more than the “eh.”

As for the intonation, the only real ways to achieve authenticity are to use native Batangueños for Batangueño characters or immerse non-Batangueño actors in Batangas for a few months to catch the accent. God knows it is contagious enough. Just to point out a bit of irony in the series, former PBB housemate Pamu Pamurado is from Lipa but is cast in an apparently Manileña role. A sharp Batangueño ear will catch a trace of the Batangas accent even if she tries to speak neutrally.

Among the top-billed stars with Batangueño characters, Alonzo tries but ultimately fails with the accent. Lim does a reasonably better job even if he also overdoes the intonation; but give him a couple of months in Batangas and he will speak like a native. Enchong Dee is an abject failure with the accent and it is probably better that he seldom does it.

The most passable accent in my opinion is that of Irma Adlawan, who plays Andeng’s mother “Baby.” Wikipedia says she is from Cavite which is right next door to Batangas. I am told that Perla Bautista was originally from San Juan in Batangas. She does a good job, too; albeit she can unconsciously slip into a more neutral accent when delivering her lines.

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