People

‘Pa more’ and other swardspeak

Juicy chatter from folks behind you as you wait in line toward the counter usually is a temporary distraction especially when there’s nothing occupying your mind. Once, I overheard two women dissecting the character of the mistress of their mutual friend’s husband. I cringed at the picture they painted of her. At another time, I overheard a couple arguing in furious whispers. I wanted to laugh at what they were fighting over. But because your brain is wired to empty itself of memories that have no meaningful connection in your life, you forget such talk as soon as you leave the line. But, there was this time when the statement spoken behind me stayed. In fact, on hearing it, the words irritated me so much that I turned my head to the woman who uttered the statement and scowled at her. She was too surprised to react to my reaction. I was too irritated to care.

This was what happened: Behind me, two teenaged boys were laughing and giggling at a mistake a woman had made. It had something to do with her choice of product they were buying. And then the woman spoke: “Sige, laugh pa more.” This made the boys laughed some more. That was when I turned toward her. She was the boys’ mother. Maybe in her early 50s.

You see, I loathe the words ‘pa more’. They make my blood boil. And I’m usually tolerant. Aware that the words are already all over the place, I’ve told my kids beforehand not to mention them in front of me. They’re not using it but just a precaution.

Why this reaction? I’m still trying to understand where it’s coming from.

‘Pa more’ and some more other like phrases e.g. ‘ganern’, ‘ang bet’, ‘pa-bebe’, ‘anyare’, etc. have emanated from local show business and adopted by Filipinos through popular media (TV, cinema, radio). Perhaps as with the 50-something woman we do so because as Danton Remoto writing for ABS-CBN on gay lingo puts it, “it has the “capacity to disrupt” because of its colorful associations, its elements of parody and spirit of play, its sheer jouissance.”

To me however automatic adoption of such speaks of mindlessness. “A grand burlesque” of the Filipino identity.

I came across this 2011 article at Philippine Inquirer which aptly describes our attitude toward our national language:

Filipino was a chore, like washing the dishes; it was not the language of learning. It was the language we used to speak to the people who washed our dishes.

We used to think learning Filipino was important because it was practical: Filipino was the language of the world outside the classroom. It was the language of the streets: it was how you spoke to the tindera when you went to the tindahan, what you used to tell your katulong that you had an utos, and how you texted manong when you needed “sundo na.”

These skills were required to survive in the outside world, because we are forced to relate with the tinderas and the manongs and the katulongs of this world. If we wanted to communicate to these people – or otherwise avoid being mugged on the jeepney – we needed to learn Filipino.

But perhaps this is not so bad in a society of rotten beef and stinking fish. For while Filipino may be the language of identity, it is the language of the streets. It might have the capacity to be the language of learning, but it is not the language of the learned.

It is neither the language of the classroom and the laboratory, nor the language of the boardroom, the court room, or the operating room. It is not the language of privilege.

Plus now we pepper this language with swardspeak. In the schools, the young are being taught Filipino as we’ve always known it but when they get in front of the TV such lessons take a backseat. What we then have are confused school children.

Or, perhaps I’m over-reacting. Maybe this is who we are – our culture and language – at this point in time. And our language is in the process of adjusting to new influence i.e. the emerging LGBT community which has it’s own language. Culture is after all of and for the people.

But still I really see red when hearing ‘pa more’.

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