The Coños and their Taglish

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My friend Emma showed me the article of her beloved son, Ariel Llanto who passed away last December, 9 2005. Ariel had hepatosplenic gamma delta T-cell lymphoma, a rare and particularly aggressive disease and lived barely one month after the diagnosis. His April 27 article on the Inquirer’s Young Blood was about Leaving Manila. As a Cebuana who studied college in Manila during the mid seventies, Ariel ‘s observations was evident during my time.

I started to uncover social nuances at school. I have vivid memories of roaming around the campus, trawling for evidence of the disparities, in particular, between the way Cebuanos and Manileños spoke. I winced at the sound of the Tagalog accent and words finding their way to English statements. Many girls — and, to my horror, guys — spoke like Kris Aquino.

An amusing breed, known as ““coños,” acted as if they didn’t know how to speak straight Tagalog, opting to communicate in a mangled mish-mash of Tagalog and English (““Taglish”).

Although Kris Aquino wasn’t around during my college days, I was in for a culture shock at the way Manileños spoke in Taglish with a distinct Tagalog Accent. How come Cebuanos didn’t mix Cebuano and English in one sentence? There is no such thing as “Cebualish“. People would gush with admiration at how we, Cebuanos didn’t have Cebuano accents whenever we spoke English. The Cebuanos from UP or Ateneo studied from top-notch high schools in Cebu with the same high standards as those of exclusive schools in Manila. So what made the difference? It was only much later that I found out that the taglish originated from the “yayas” (caregivers).

I resolved that if ever I had kids, they should speak straight English and or speak in pure Tagalog. No Taglish.

I grew up with parents who spoke Tagalog to each other but spoke to us in English. (Mom was an English teacher who taught English Literature and Speech.) The maids spoke to us in Cebuano. We siblings understood Tagalog and Cebuano but preferred to communicate in English. Cebuano was spoken in its pure form whenever we communicated with our helpers. Not that we were being elitist but how else could we talk to them. Our school was also strict in the use of the English Language. We were fined or penalized if a single dialect word was interspersed with our conversation. This rule started since I was in first grade and I just learned to speak English in its pure form.

When the girls were born, I decided that they should be both fluent in English and Tagalog. My husband and I spoke to the kids in English . I instructed the maids to speak in Tagalog without any English words mingled with the dialect. It worked quite well because the maids were more fluent in Tagalog. Inspite of the bilingual language at home, my eldest daughter struggled with Pilipino during her Grade school years. She thought in English but couldn’t express it in Pilipino. Sometimes I don’t know where I went wrong. The second daughter didn’t face that problem though. My son had the unfortunate or was it fortunate luck to have a “yaya” that spoke perfect English with the right diction and grammar. She’s an Igorot native and I was told that English is taught by the missionaries in her hometown in Benguet. My son never really knew how to speak Tagalog . He would get upset if I spoke in Tagalog . How strange.

Ariel studied in the same college as my daughter. Thank goodness my daughters don’t speak like Kris Aquino. I know that English is spoken differently in every country but I believe that the Tagalog and English should not be mixed in one sentence. I also understand that ““coños,” can speak in straight English but that the taglish is just a social norm among themselves. However, it also isolates them from the rest of their schoolmates who come from the provinces.

Is there hope for the English language in the Philippines?