eK! is electronic Kabalen, a web-exclusive Kapampangan journal of ideas

jason paul c. laxamana
jason paul c laxamana KAPAMPANGAN centers, museums, libraries, scholars, organizations, artists, and performers have been springing forth in the past few years, all acting for the same goal: to stop the deterioration of Kapampangan culture, heritage, and language and, hence, make the Kapampangan people love their Indung Balayan and Amanung Sisuan.

However, we still've got a long way to go before seeing our vision come to reality. I've often been tagged a perfectionist or an extreme idealist, but I believe that, while there are developments, there are still things that can be done to greatly accelerate our progress.

For people who are not aware of the issue I'm talking about, let me orient you first. For people who already know what I'm blabbering of, you can skip the next six paragraphs.

As seen in statistics, there is a clear decline in the number of non-Tagalog speakers in the Philippines every passing year (due to different stuff that would take papers to elaborate). Through arithmetic progression, it is logical to claim that the Kapampangan language, together with other non-Tagalog tongues, is bound to be an archaic one like Sanskrit and Latin, or a boring dialect of Filipino/Tagalog—if nothing is done.

Not a believer in statistics? Just look around. In Kapampangan lands, children are speaking in either mutated Kapampangan, Tagalog (Filipino), or English, and are singing only Tagalog and English songs, while knowing only "Atin Ku Pung Singsing" as the sole Kapampangan folk song. During Linggo Ng Wika , schools hold singing contests, poetry writing tilts, and poster making competitions celebrating the Tagalog language instead of Kapampangan. I dare one to use the words saluak and kulayit casually in Angeles City; I'm certain that his peers would claim that he speaks "deep Kapampangan." Do they know the Kapampangan word for cloud (biga)? I doubt. Ask them to read or write in grammatically correct Kapampangan and they would react as if they were asked to solve a calculus problem.

"Just because we don't speak Kapampangan doesn't mean we are not Kapampangan anymore and do not value our culture!" others would protest. The webmaster of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts website said it himself: "Language is a critical part of culture." I couldn't agree more, being a beluan of communication theories myself.

It is through language that a human being expresses his physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual life experiences. Through these expressions, meanings and symbols are made, shared, and passed down from generation to generation. In one word, we call this collection "culture." Can you translate in English or Tagalog the expression "Atne pa mo karok laue kanaku; 'ta e ke mo timbuk ing mamulang," without losing the exact emotion the message carries?

Even words suggest something about a nation's history or culture. Eskimos have a number of words for snow. One tribe in Africa has no concept of the color blue, and thus, has no term for it. Westerners have several classifications of pornography and have specific terms for them: soft porn, hardcore, sex-dom, bestial, homosexual, BDSM, CFNM, etc. Word similarities in French, Italian, and English tell a part of the histories of each of the nations speaking them. The abundance of Kapampangan words for rice says something too.

The Filipino language being developed by the government is said to be composed of a throng of words from all the major languages in Philippines, especially Tagalog, some from Castillian, some from English, and some from gay lingo, with grammar based on Tagalog. The Filipino language is also represented in the Audibles of Yahoo! Messenger by the following Taglish expressions: "Korek ka diyan!", "Hello, ok ka lang?", "Sori, strik ang parents ko!", and only one using pure Philippine language, Tagalog: "Salamat po! Mabuhay po kayo!" Even the tagline of McDonald's for the Philippines is in pidgin: "Love ko 'to!", while those of other countries enjoy linguistic originality. As said, language says something about culture and the people; what does the aforementioned say about the Filipino culture?

I guess I've oriented you enough. Now, rowing back to the topic, what can still be done to add more fuel to the ongoing efforts in promoting the Kapampangan culture, especially language, and saving the Kapampangan region from Tagalization?

I believe one way of fending off colonial mentality is providing better or more attractive venues that employ the use of the native language. For example: the award-winning Kapampangan musical theater group ArtiSta.Rita. In the coming years, as long as the group keeps on doing and improving its craft, it will be bigger and it will gain name. It will absorb Kapampangan children who are music and theater enthusiasts. It, being a renowned Kapampangan group in and outside the balen, will give its young members a sense of pride in and preference for their own skin and tongue.

Let me share something about the so-called Original Pilipino Music (OPM). During the late 90s and in early 2000, my generation preferred to patronize international western music—songs and music videos from Westlife, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Spice Girls, Jennifer Lopez, and Ricky Martin in the pop genre. While names such as Usher, Destiny's Child, Janet Jackson, Nelly, Eminem, and Ja Rule were favorites in hip-hop and RnB.

Recording industries in Manila, being the colonial-minded people there generally are, would seek foreign-sounding talents or Philippine versions of international recording stars. To express in harsher terms: copycats.

Then, local independent rock and alternative bands that composed original songs started to rise. Their music used to serve only the underground teenagers who rebelled against popular and mainstream music. However, due to constant production of independent songs and due to the sprouting of many bands, bit by bit, more young ones started to patronize local music. Hitlists in FM radio stations in Manila, formerly dominated by foreign records, got flooded with songs by local talents, a number of which in Tagalog. Bamboo, Kitchie Nadal, Rivermaya, Imago, Barbie's Cradle, Sugarfree, and a lot more.

For the more mass-oriented radio stations, where "My Heart Goes Sha-la-la" used to be the favorite dance track, Tagalog novelty songs like "Bulaklak" and "Otso-Otso," even though nonsensical and sexually suggestive sometimes, had Filipinos singing and dancing to them.

Evidently, we now see OPM bands and their music seeing light in noontime variety shows. Local bands like Mojofly and 6 Cycle Mind and vocalists such as Kitchie Nadal and Bamboo started endorsing commercial products. Their talent in making music has also been used by giant TV stations and advertising agencies. Check out the theme songs of defunct primetime shows like Mulawin, Panday, and Majika.

Personally, even though I support and join groups that fight the Imperialism of Tagalog through rational objection and rallies, my prioritized strategy has always been defensive. If you find your crush preferring your rival over you and you want it the other way, either you tell your rival to buzz off or you do better moves to impress your crush and make her like you more.

Now, if we increased the magnetic pull of Kapampangan—by establishing organizations and institutions that require Kapampangan literacy, by providing venues where Kapampangan appears cool and hip to the current generation, and by showing to children that Kapampangan is not only appropriate to use in farms, churches, fishponds, and rural areas but also in the urban and industrialized life—I believe we'd see more hope.

While I personally pay high respect to rural workers like fishermen and farmers, most children these days see more job prestige in corporations, show business, and technologically modern firms. No one can blame them. What mass media brings to them are the wonders of urban life and good opportunities available only in the capital. Since they can't find what they are looking for in their homeland, they fantasize about flying away to foreign lands, like husbands justifying their adultery due to sexual dissatisfaction with their legal wives.

For example, I want to be an actor. Since there are no film or TV production houses in my homeland that can send me to stardom or financial improvement, I'll set my eyes on Metro Manila where giants like ABS-CBN and GMA-7 stand. To fit in, I will adopt their culture and language. If I won't do that, I will be regarded as inferior. I will be discriminated against. So, I will dress like the celebrities I see on TV, sing the songs they belt out, dance to the tunes they groove to in musical variety shows.

Behold: The nativity of colonial mentality.

I am thankful that we have ArtiSta.Rita. Theater dreamers need not trek distant lands because a competent musical theater group already exists in the balen. But theater alone cannot save Kapampangan from corrosion. If a clique of Kapampangan boys had a rock band ("combo" for oldies) and they wanted to make it big like Hale and Sponge Cola, would that be possible if they played original music and stayed in Pampanga? No. Not even locally big. Well-attended gigs, rock concerts, and record labels are all in the capital. Being a Tagalog and English-patronizing land, why would the band compose Kapampangan songs when they can compose in Tagalog and English and try their luck by bringing their craft to the Metro?

It's the same saguin for youngsters wanting to be renowned in fields employing the use of verbal and written language: comic book writing, recording, filmmaking, mass media, and others. I actually dream to be a filmmaker. It is true I have produced, written, and directed a short digital film in full Kapampangan, the story of which is set in Cangatba, Porac. I submitted my work to NCCA for Cinemalaya 2007. If it gets picked, it will be screened at alternative cinemas in Metro Manila. I can also have it screened at small show houses in Quezon City like Cinekatipunan.

However, it would be extremely greater if it was my kabalen who would watch it. But how? Digital and independent movies don't even reach Jenra Mall and Nepo Mall. In Robinson's Galleria in Ortigas, they already have a huge cinema dedicated to independent movies where Kapampangan films like Kaleldo, Masahista, and Manoro have been screened a number of times. I have no choice but distribute VCD or DVD copies to interested people, as long as financially possible, and take advantage of certain cultural events with LCD projectors. It's more difficult than staging a theater piece because theater has lower technical requirements than cinema—film or digital. Cable TV, on the other hand, is too regulated and commercialized.

Plus, non-Kapampangans won't be able to appreciate or understand Kapampangan films the way true Kapampangans are able to. First, English or Tagalog subtitles don't really suffice in delivering the exact connotation of some words and lines. Second, films are usually better appreciated by an audience familiar with what is shown and heard. What audience will most likely appreciate a movie, for example, set in Candaba featuring the life of a psychic ortelanu or a superhero called Anak Sundang seeking to vanquish the Taung Dapu pestering the people? Only a Kapampangan audience.

I believe there is an audience waiting to see stuff I've mentioned. Artists, content makers, and equipment owners—we have them already, although not yet flourishing. What we don't have are venues that will distribute such crafts.

Therefore, in my opinion, that is what we need to advance cultural development: industries. But before an industry can be erected, we need first individuals or groups that will compose that industry. We call them cultural entrepreneurs.

A person from the London School of Economics and Political Science wrote:
"What is cultural entrepreneurship? One way of theorizing the distinction between artists and cultural entrepreneurs is that whereas artists are concerned primarily with cultural production, cultural entrepreneurs are more likely to extend their activities along the value chain into cultural distribution as well. According to this argument, the cultural entrepreneur rejects the idea that art is an inherently self-fulfilling and self-sufficient sphere. Cultural entrepreneurs are not satisfied with generating content, they also want to get involved in the process of marketing and exploiting the content they create."
We have few, if not zero, patriotic cultural entrepreneurs here in our balen. Where are the book and magazine publishers, film producers and distributors, digital cinemas, music lounges, radio stations, etc.? We have cultural entrepreneurs in the field of mass media already—local cable channels, local newspapers, and local radio stations. The apulung pesus question is: what culture do they promote? Is it Kapampangan culture? Or do we see "Bawal mag-Kapampangan" signs in their offices?

Non-arts-related establishments can make little contributions. For instance, a restaurant can place a map of Pampanga on its walls, like Razon's. They can also post Kapampangan signboards, prayers, or songs on their doors. Even the name of establishments can provide a sense of modernity in the Kapampangan language.

Cheers to Aslag Internet Cafe, Ambula food house, Mekeni Corporation, Mabiga resort, Mamasuk: Pamangan Kapampangan, and Bingut baby wardrobe. I personally called my film production team Kalalangan Kamaru and got the username sisigman for my YouTube account. I also wear and sell Kapampangan statement shirts. These are little ways that entrepreneurs can do to make a contribution. Hurrah to the "Salangi ko pu" shed of Camalig restaurant. We appreciate Lakeshore's traffic signboards, but they should really research on their spelling, diction, and grammar. Maulaga ini.

To our political aspirants, even though I am uncomfortable with your manic publicity drives, I appreciate banners and posters with Kapampangan messages. I might just vote for you. I just hope your preference for Kapampangan is not limited to political campaigns only.

When we say we want to promote culture, it doesn't mean we have to go back to the days of using boats for transportation and calling Zambals and Aetas "pugut." Let's get rid of the bad and inappropriate practices and then maintain, honor, and modernize that which was passed on to us. We all honor our parents, but we don't exactly aim to live the same life they had. What we do is we appreciate them, carry with us the things they passed on, and work on developing those which they handed down. It's the same for our Indung Balayan.

Kapampangans should all work—agnan-agnan—to make our balen a progressive member of the global village without having to sacrifice our tongue and spirit as a nation.

Miluid ya sa ing Bangsang Kapampangan!

[About the author. Jason Paul C. Laxamana, 19, graduated Best Leader in pre-school at the School of the Holy Child, studied for two years in the Holy Family Academy, graduated with distinction at the School of the Holy Child, won in Division and Regional Schools Press Conferences during high school in the Feature Writing category (Filipino as a junior, English as a senior), and graduated high school at Chevalier School with a Campus Journalist of the Year award. From BA Psychology in UP Pampanga, he transferred to UP Diliman and took up Broadcast Communication. He is a delayed undergraduate student and is currently on leave from college to pursue independent studies and internship, free from the cages of formal education. He plans to shift to Anthropology despite already being in fourth year. He became one of Monster Radio RX 93.1's student DJs last summer but realized it was not his dream. He currently works freelance in production (currently Script Supervisor in one of Star Cinema's upcoming movies) and voice acting. He maintains a Kapampangan discovery blog http://kamaru.blogspot.com. He is also trying to establish KAMARU, a Kapampangan heritage and language proficiency organization, at UP. A member of the UP Association of Economics Students (UP Pampanga) and the UP Broadcasting Association (UP Diliman). He recently presented at the Ateneo De Manila University Feast for the Eyes: Culture and Media, Visual Anthropology; his talk was entitled The Current State of the Kapampangan Culture and Language. Last year, he wrote and directed Donated By Charo Cuneta, a successful alternative/pop stage musical in the Dalisay Aldaba Hall of UP Diliman. He will one day translate it to Kapampangan and make it Crissotan style.]

-Posted: 1:43 AM 3/2/07 | More of this author on eK!

Noemi M Pamintuan-Jara (of Pasig City, Philippines) writes...

Congrats to your great article! I am a true blue Kapampangan– both my parents are from Angeles City (Miranda on my mom's side and Pamintuan on my dad's side). I share similar observations with you. Though I grew up in Pasig, Angeles City is like a second home to me. I can understand Kapampangan very well though it's a challenge to understand it in written form.

Growing up, I remember my cousins talking to me in Kapampangan during our visits to Angeles. This is one way I got to understand the language, plus, of course, my parents speak the language at home (especially when there's a topic they don't want us kids or visitors and househelps to understand!). They spoke the language often that even one of our long-time trusted househelp eventually understood kapampangan.

Now grown up, I observed that the children of my relatives don't speak Kapampangan anymore. Wanting to initially build rapport with little kids I meet for the first time, I try to talk to them in Kapampangan by asking, 'Nanung lagyu mu?'. They reply but continue the discussion using Tagalog. I am even quite surprised that they don't understand Kapampangan very well.

I miss the singsong tones of the Kapampangan language, the loud way the language is spoken that gives other people the impression that we are always angry. I remember a Kapampangan schoolmate in DLSU who, after observing me rant to a group about a non-performing groupmate, approached me and told me in Kapampangan (giggling at the same time) that though I was speaking in Tagalog, she could smell my Kapampangan roots ten feet away!

I love the eK! site. I already posted a link in our family egroup PamintuanConnection. I also posted your wonderful piece in our group.

-Posted/Via Email: Sun, 26 Aug 2007 04:04:25 -0700

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