Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Another viral video is now taking the world wide web by storm. Guess what, it's Mikey Bustos' Filipino Tutorial Video; a Filipino who shares his observations why Filipino speaks English, differently.

Believe it or not, I interviewed Mikey Bustos back in 2006 when I was assigned to do a segment on Filipinos who got into American Idol. I was part of the Philippine Idol team then which was aired in ABC5, now TV5. 

For your information, Mikey Bustos placed seventh runner-up in the finals of Canadian Idol Season One in August 2003. 

Apart from Mikey, I also had the chance to interview Jose "Sway" Penala (Season 5). And based on the short interview and some off-cam chit chat, I found them humble and easy going.

Audition Footage:

On Stage Performance

I'm just surprised to see Bustos' Filipino Language Video Tutorial. First, I thought the video is an instructional video on how to speak Filipino. To my dismay, the video is made in the umbrella of pure entertainment. What's more irritating, the video focuses on mispronunciations.

Bustos played around how we Filipinos speak the English Language. Bustos made his point in reiterating how Filipinos speak the "F" and "P," "V" and "B" and "Th" and "D." More than Bustos' wit in delivery, the rhetorics are just discriminating as the video on youtube has now been shared by many and would probably become a laughing stock online.

With an undergraduate degree which exposed me to Philippine Language and culture, I've made a little review on Philippine Phonology.

In reference to Phonology (Philippine English - Wikipedia):

Most of the native Malayo-Polynesian languages of the Philippines do not contain the [f] phoneme. Thus, some Filipinos substitute [p] for [f] when they pronounce English words containing [f]. Some even pronounce English words that normally do begin with [p] with an [f] through hypercorrection due to confusion over which pronunciation is required.

Like [f], the [v] sound is also virtually non-existent in most major native languages of the Philippines. Partly because the [v] and [b] sounds in Castilian Spanish (specifically the Iberian dialect, the basis for teaching the Spanish language and its pronunciation in the Philippines) are not distinguished and both are pronounced as [b]. Some of the older generation of Filipinos would pronounce the letter [v] in all English words as [b].

Languages of indigenous minorities that had limited contact with the Spanish colonial government often retain the [v] sound. The [f] sounds also occurs in some of them. Examples are the Ivatan language, Ibanag language, and languages of the Lumad tribes in Mindanao and Visayas. All of them are minor indigenous languages of the Philippines. The Ibaloi tongue in the Baguio-Benguet area of Northern Luzon also has naturally occurring [f] and [v] sounds, as in sifa (interrogative who) and divit (a traditional wrap-around skirt). The modern spelling of the name of one of the most numerous ethnic groups of the Philippines, the Manobo tribes of Mindanao, is actually the hispanized spelling of the original Manobo word Manuvu.[

An interesting phenomenon among the older generation of Filipinos is their pronunciation of all the English words starting with "ST" such as star, stampede, stigma, statue, stable, strict and stew. These words are pronounced by some of them as "istar/estar", "istampede/estampede", "istigma/estigma", "istatue/estatue", "istable/estable", "istrict/estrict" and "istew/estew" because these older people were exposed to the Spanish language and were used to the Spanish system wherein there are virtually no words starting with "ST", but instead "EST". Thus, estrella (star), estampida (stampede), estigma (stigma), estatua (statue), estable (stable), estricto (strict) and estofado (stew).

What Bustos did is a discriminating act among Filipinos, especially for those Filipinos who didn't imbibe the 'twang' of the English language. He may explain that he's just sharing his observations on how Filipinos speak English, which is referred above as Philippine English. But little did he know, the mockery of the Filipino accent speaks a thousand interpretations on our identity and culture as Filipinos. 

Language has always carried an ideology, a belief system. In the Philippines alone, language dictates class and status in a society. During the Spanish Era, only a few elites were able to learn the Spanish language. However, it was during the American Colonization when English was made as medium of instruction in the Philippines. In this regard, the Americans has planted the most powerful and invincible colonizing seed among the Filipinos - the English language. 

To date, while Filipino is considered as the official National language of the Philippines, the usage of the English Language has become a status symbol of high education, an essential tool for everyone to communicate globally. As many argue, most concepts are in English and so the subjects must be taught in English; of course except for Filipino, SIBIKA, or Kasaysayan.

On the side, according to, there are over 170 dialects of which about twelve belong to the Malayo-Polynesian language family, are of regional importance.The twelve major regional languages are the auxiliary official languages of their respective regions, each with over one million speakers: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray, Kapampangan, Bicol, Pangasinan. Kinaray-a, Maranao, Maguindanao and Tausug.

I am not against the use of the English Language.  I myself, use it every day- from work to school (even in this blog entry). However, I have to use the language to communicate with people outside of my country; it is for those foreigners who may want to listen or hear my insights.

Language use defines and re-defines identity. No one wants to be branded as "PROMDI," a person who went out of the province and tried one's luck in Manila. Everyone wants to live the 'twang' as what call centers have been implementing to slowly eradicate the Filipino accent. Most teens would prefer to watch foreign series or consume foreign titled products. These are all the faces on how globalization impacts on the long history of neo-colonization through the hidden and zipped ideologies of language use. Indeed, language is the key to not only access information, but an instrument to penetrate the high status of society.

Bustos video is a perfect example of a reiteration of kept ideologies seeped through the use of the English language by the Filipinos. As a hybrid (being Filipino-Canadian), Bustos represents those Filipinos who are enriched with an Education pampered with the American language and culture. He may be the exact opposite of a Filipino living in Manila or in other provinces of the Philippines who is poor and uneducated. As Bustos delivered his "informative" lines, he "consciously" shared an essential point: Filipinos speak English differently; the "unconscious" part is it is FUNNY. Bottom line, whatever his objectives are, he critiqued the Filipino accent on using the English language without referring to the possible impacts or references on his "entertaining" act.

There are ways in looking at the video.

First, the video represents a shallow and generic representation of the Filipino who uses the English language. The video enables a foreigner to understand "now" why Filipinos speak that way. Apparently, the understanding may be refracted and half-baked. Bustos is just there throwing funny pronunciations of some English words without thinking how foreigners would comprehend.  There's a lack of further reference to Phonology or even some correction on words which may better explain things; this action would not be possible for it will break the snappy allure of the video.

Second, the video discriminates. How many of us have reacted when the word Filipina was once defined as "Housemaid" in a popular dictionary? How many of us have reacted so bad when a Korean Celebrity made fun on how we teach English in the Philippines? Or for the longest time, are we just numbed by the jokes that are thrown among Bisaya people who speak Tagalog? Be it on a small or grand scale, mimicry sometimes lambasts cultures and people. And Bustos video is no exemption.

Third, the video adheres to neo-colonial ideologies. Neo-colonial means, even without the presence of the colonizers, we are still imprisoned through influences like language, education, dependence on global trade, and even as simple as consuming fashion or Facebook. In Bustos video, we have embraced the language that is dubbed as the symbol of progress and competitiveness. In a deeper analysis, the usage of the language is not only a form of subjugation. What's enslaving is the unconscious threat on putting someone to be in seat of laughter without obedience on the right use of the neo-colonial instruments like the English language.

Fourth, the video compliments the comfortable life of the elites. By watching the video, Bustos initially and clearly refers to the Filipinos in general ( no rich, no poor). However, he might have (unconsciously) missed the fact that difficulties in pronunciation is experienced by most Filipinos, especially among those who are uneducated and could only communicate with their dialects. By showcasing the pronunciations, Bustos is able to compliment the wonderful life of the rich and powerful who are well educated and grew up with a natural 'Twang.'In Bustos case, he may perhaps be one of the elites, or the middle class who affirms a good foundation of the English language and who would not experience mispronunciations.

Lastly, the video somehow represents the smorgasbord culture of the Philippines. We may identify the video as a reflection of Philippine society; with all our rich dialects in the country, a multilingual communication has been institutionalized. Apparently, more than the diversity, there is divide. As education fees rises and globalization sets in, more Filipinos are being denied of their right to education. According to the 2008 Functional Literacy and Mass Media Survey (Flemms) of the National Statistics Office, one out of 10 Filipinos is functionally illiterate, meaning he cannot read, compute, or comprehend. With this figure, mispronunciations of words could be a simple sign to identify where a Filipino or our country could possibly be in the future.

Nevertheless, Bustos' video is just another online fad that banks on misplaced wit. It is a pastiche of generalizations that makes fun of a Filipino without considering the historical, cultural and even economic context why mispronunciations could possibly be somehow valid to compliment or even counter a reigning and neo-colonial society.



Traditional Filipino Courting Tutorial by Mikey Bustos

No comments:

Post a Comment