GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 07 February) — Hala (Come on)! Magbinisaya (Let’s speak Bisaya). This is the order of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to the members of his cabinet. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 03, 2018: Duterte wants meetings in Cebuano; The Philippine Star, February 3, 2018: Cabinet told: Learn Visayan dialect).
The President has spoken. His words are like orders of a king. “The order of the king cannot be broken” so goes the saying. In Tagalog (Pilipino): Ang utos ng hari, hindi mababali. In Visayan-Ilonggo: Ang sugo sang hari indi mabali . We are unsure of its Visayan-Cebuano version: Ang sugo sa hari dili mobali. Is it?
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The PDI said Duterte wanted to use “Cebuano” in cabinet meetings; The Star, it was “Visayan”, quoting the President, “Talk in Bisaya. Because I’d speak in the vernacular in the meetings.” He announced his order during a meeting with tribal leaders in Davao City last February 1.
As quoted, Duterte was specific of “Bisaya” as “his native tongue”. The PDI interpreted it as “Cebuano”; The Star, as “Visayan”. Are the editors of the two papers aware that there are several Visayan dialects or “Bisaya”?
Spoken in the Visayas, “Bisaya” or “Visayan dialects” are Cebuano, Waray-Waray, Boholano and the Mindanao variants of Cebuano among which is the “Davao-Cebuano”; Ilonggo with its variants (official Ilonggo or Hiligaynon, Iniray-a. Antiqueño, Capizeño and Aklan) . There are a lot of variations among these dialects – vocabulary, intonation, idiom, et cetera.
Some may think that “Bisaya” means “Cebuano” and its variants only. Among the people of Panay and Negros Occidental, they would say “Magbinisaya na lang kita” to shift conversations in English or any foreign language to their native tongue.
We believe the President, by “Bisaya” means “Cebuano”, used in most parts of Eastern Visayas including Negros Oriental and a greater part of Mindanao where it is functionally understood even if it is not actually used as the principal dialect.
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While said in a “joke”, Duterte complained of not understanding many of his cabinet members speaking in English (mentioning then Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay’s American accent), in Pilipino (Tagalog), in mixed Pilipino-Bisaya, in mixed Tagalog-English (Taglish), or in mixed Tagalog-Bisaya-English (Tagbilish).
Did he ask how many of his cabinet members understood his own “mix-mix” or “mishmash” or “gibberish” in his ad libs, extemporaneous and impromptu remarks and speeches? That should have completed the “Babel” he was “joking” about in his cabinet.
To clear the “Babel”, he told his Cabinet members to just speak in Cebuano. “You can’t understand? OK, learn it. It’s not my problem anymore. I am not a member. I am your chief in the Cabinet. Listen to what I say. If you don’t understand, learn Bisaya or Cebuano language.”
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This is a de facto amendment of Sections 6 and 7, Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution. Our “national language … is Filipino (6) … (and) … the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English (7).”
By Duterte’s order, “Bisaya or Cebuano” will be the official language in Cabinet meetings. This also implies non-Bisaya or Cebuano speakers have to use interpreters until they have efficiently learned Duterte’s native tongue. Will the Cabinet official records also be in Bisaya or Cebuano?
With their use of Tagalog, our national media has contributed much to the evolution of the Filipino as our national language. Will they shift to Bisaya-Cebuano to redirect the evolution? Will medium of instruction in our schools follow?
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Are we not making a mountain of a molehill? The mountain that Duterte’s defense corps can dismiss as a molehill is the self-centeredness which he has emphasized, namely: “I am the President, the chief, not merely the subordinate. What I say and do must be understood and followed. It is not for me to understand and follow the critics and change.”
By this what does he and his Palace defenders want?
Understand and accept his use of the language of the gutter unfit for the presidency; his disregard for human rights in his “drug war” and disdain for all those who remind him to observe human rights laws; his hostility towards just criticism from the media, et cetera, et cetera.
“Self-centeredness” has defined Mr. Duterte’s presidency and its direction.
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In Maguindanao, the location of the capitol building changes with the change of governor. Will official language in the Philippines also change according to the President’s native tongue?
Not only the non-Bisaya-Cebuano cabinet members have to learn Bisaya-Cebuano. The non-Bisaya-Cebuano members of the Congress and of the entire country may as well. Will the next state of the nation address of Mr. Duterte be in Bisaya-Cebuano? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Patriicio P. Diaz was editor in chief of the Mindanao Cross in Cotabato City and later the Mindanao Kris. He is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his ‘commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator, and Peace Advocate. You may e-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org)