The Filipinos – Some Information

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     I was asked to interpret for a client a few days ago. My profile at work has it that I was fluent in the Philippine language. I have other languages that I know, but they are not considered my proficient ones. So we go to the client’s house. The client’s granddaughter came. She is third generation born here. Fully American in thought and language. Grandma, the client, was at the hospital. I thought to ask, since it would be helpful, if Grandma spoke Tagalog – the ubiquitous Philippine language that everyone knew of. However, Grandma didn’t. She spoke Ilongo.
     I have met people who spoke Visayan and not a lick of Tagalog. I have met Ilocanos who could not speak Tagalog one whit. But at least, they spoke some English. Ilongo, I have not countered yet.
     This is apparently a little known fact about the Philippines. That there are so many dialects and languages that sometimes communication is difficult. Tagalog is the language of Manilenos. People who are living in Manila. Tagalog is taught throughout the entire country’s school system along with English, that is, if you are able to afford school. But the older generation of Filipinos in America sometimes require some interpretation skills beyond just Tagalog.
     The country had too many tribes with their own influences and cultural mores. The Ilocanos, to which, thankfully, my own family has relations, are more influenced by Malay tongue. Their words are closer to Indonesian than the heavily Spanish influenced Tagalog. Tagalog is infused in Visayan so I can understand some of that dialect and infer some of the lost words. I learned some Gaddang, but not enough to converse. I only know “Mallabbat Kepay!” which means “It’s freezing cold!”
     Even among the Ilocanos, there are those that ‘sing’ the language. Their lilting sing song voices, soft and gentle. The Ilocano I know is hard and drops like hail. It’s like Mexican Spanish to Spain Spanish, if you get what I mean. Tagalog, on the other hand, is smooth, even.  Visayan, is a little of both. Sometimes, though, I have this feeling that it’s a bit…unrefined. There is a certain brashness to Visayan. Tagalog, for the most part, is polite. Well, there is a certain diction that render it an air of politeness. It seems to me, that when Visayans speak, the politeness is discarded. I’m sure there are more dialects than these. We have the Itnegs, Ibanags, Kapangpangan, Negritos, Tauseg, Igorots… Let me stop there.
     Which brings me to the point of this rant. Just because they are Filipino does not mean they all speak the same tongue. It’s probably good to know which one they speak. Ask next time! They might surprise you.
Now then, when someone asks you, “Do you speak Pilipino?” You can counter, “Yes, which dialect do you speak?”

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