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Six Months After in Cebu March 25, 2008

Posted by Janjan in cebuano, Seriously now….

This is reposted from my friend Jeneen’s Multiply blog: http://neenerish.multiply.com/reviews/item/12. Jeneen used to live in Cebu and wrote for one of our local dailies. This is one of her best pieces, which I’ve always loved the first time I’ve read it.


I should have known moving to Cebu would be anything but normal.

Twenty minutes into my six-month stay here, I found myself standing by a grassy embankment a few hundred meters from the Mactan airport, dumped by an irate taxi driver when I refused to pay the P150-fixed charge to my boarding house in Gorordo. I tried to keep my righteously disdainful look on, but it was hard with rain dripping from my hair. It seemed the city hated me at first sight.

Cebu, I soon found out, had a secret language all its own—I was doomed to getting dumped on some nameless road unless I learned it. No way was I standing on that embankment ever again.

I resolved that my first lesson in the language was to find my way around. I’ve never seen a map of the city, but I paid attention when my Cebuano friends toured me those first few weeks. Despite my poor sense of direction, I began to notice that Cebu’s streets make no sense at all.

Driving down the twisting streets that defied planning logic, we would end up back where we started by going in the direction away from it. On the other hand, supposedly parallel streets would lead to opposite sides of town.

Traffic flows in at least 10 different directions at the Gorordo and Mango intersection. Only one traffic light acts as referee. In any other city in the world, it would be a pedestrian’s nightmare. But not in Cebu where jaywalking is a foreign word.

At least four streets are named Osmeña in this city alone—Osmeña Boulevard at the Capitol, S. Osmeña along the pier, E. Osmeña in Banawa, J. Osmeña near Mango—even a Fuente Osmeña rotunda where the traffic routes are crazier than at the aforementioned intersection. Curiously enough, I’ve never met a Cebuano who confuses any of the streets.

Having a car is one matter, commuting another.

My first weekend, I decided I wanted house supplies from SM. I asked my neighbor for directions since all my Cebuano friends were out. “Take the 13C to Ayala,” she said, “You’ll find the right jeep from there.”

Not knowing what a 13C was, I took the first jeep I saw and said I wanted to go to Ayala. All the passengers vainly tried to hide their laughter. A kind soul said Ayala was “duol na”, and pointed to some vague, opposite direction. This jeep would take me to Colon, he said, where I could get a ride to SM. Who would have thought even Cebu’s jeeps had an alienating code?

It wasn’t long, though, before these oddities began to fascinate instead of baffle me. The crazy streets to me now are like secret passageways that somehow all lead to my street. It delights me that every road is connected to every other road, no matter how inconceivable it seems. I relish giving out jeepney codes like a natural when a stranger asks for directions.

And it didn’t surprise me to see bars and restaurants popping up everywhere when the national economy was supposedly at its worst—Cebu is a city you accept, not attempt to understand. Until you know this, you can never fully appreciate its charm.

I should have known it from the way I got out of that first sticky situation.

There I was, alone on the highway, with nothing but my staunch principles, a suitcase, and a box of worldly possessions at my feet. I was getting wetter by the minute and no passing car seemed to care.

Suddenly, rounding the bend was an empty taxi that stopped in front of me. The driver agreed that I pay by the meter. Exhausted, I exchanged only a few words with him, who thankfully did not force a conversation.

When we got to the boarding house, the driver even helped me carry my things! I couldn’t believe my change of fortune. I made a mental note to thank him profusely after paying my fare. As I opened my mouth to say “Salamat”, he stopped me with a barely audible yet definite “I love you”.

I couldn’t say anything, and he didn’t wait for my reaction. He simply rode off in his white taxi, never to be seen again.

No matter that my knight in armor looked like a cross between the April Boys and the Reycards, complete with longish hair, an earring, and oversized shades. He is ultimate proof that Cebu does love me—in its own unpredictable, often irrational, but always, always endearing way.


Walking on Water March 9, 2008

Posted by Janjan in All, cebuano, I, Lawyer, maniniyot, Seriously now….

In one of my previous picture posts, I talked about the symbolic significance of water in my life and how during times that I am stressed, troubled or in despair, I dream of being near bodies of water.

I am going through one of those times now.  A lot of times I think about how much simpler life was when I wasn’t an adult, where I didn’t have to deal with choices, responsibilities, relationships, or be worried about the state of the nation and the rising costs of basic commodities and goods.

Sometimes I find myself wanting a quiet and uncomplicated life, much like the subject of this series of pictures lead, the Badjao children.

How much simpler it is to be Badjao.  A lot of people look down on the Badjao, because it seems that they live a life spent begging.  It didn’t used to be like this.  My bestfriend Danny C. told me that the Badjao are really a peaceful tribe of indigenous people from the Southern parts of Mindanao who had spent a simple life of subsistence fishing.  They are a peaceful tribe, unused to conflict and warfare, getting along well with each other and always smiling.

It’s a pity that these Badjao have been displaced back in the 1970’s during the time of the political upheaval in Muslim Mindanao.  These poor non-violent people were forced out from their ancestral homelands by their more warlike neighbors, and in order to escape the massacres of that era, the Badjao were made to flee to various parts of the Philippines.

Unused to a life of toil and hardwork, it is now common for us to see the Badjao here in Cebu, in Cagayan de Oro, in Davao, and yes, even in the wharves of Tagbilaran, Bohol, where I took these shots.

Growing up in a family where I was raised to value the dignity of work, I had come to look down on the Badjao.  All you ever see them doing is beg, beg, beg.  They’re dirty, unmannered, and rude.  However, after I heard the story from Danny, I grew to see the Badjao in a different light.  These people have never known better because all their life, they had always known simplicity and living off the sea.  To force them to adapt to the complicated rules and values of the big city is asking too much of these simple people, who now adapt to it the best way they know how… through begging.

I am older now.  I have adapted to the city.  I have work that keeps me facing my laptop the whole day long.  My life has definitely become complicated, and sometimes, it is too complicated.  I’m always exposed to pressure and expectations and a lot of times, it takes everything I have in me just to keep up with my job.  Unused to running, I trip on my feet and land hard on my face.  To quote a toy figure that my other bestfriend Johndi gave me back in high school, “Getting older sucks.

And now, these times, I envy these Badjao children.  Instead of looking down on them, I envy their simple uncomplicated lives.  I envy their freedom, their ability to laugh at their hardships, the close bond that they have with the sea and with each other.  Yes, their lives are tough and it borders on day-to-day survival.  But then again, can we really say our lives are much better?  True, we have more resources and wealth than these little beggars, but in exchange for these, we are saddled with burdens such as taxes, responsibilities, and for us lawyers, an exacting code of professional ethics.

Tell me now, are our lives really any better than theirs?

We are still beggars, living off grace and looking to God to provide us with our daily bread, regardless of whether we are Badjao children, Philippine presidents, or struggling CPA-lawyer-photographers.  Each of our lives are hard on one way or the other, frought with hardships, sacrifice and tears.  As that song by REM goes, “Everybody hurts.

It is times like these that the Badjao children remind me that each and everytime a question of love, faith and hope arises with Jesus, it somehow always involved the water.

We see it when the apostles were trapped out at sea during the height of a mighty storm, and Peter called out to a soundly sleeping Jesus to save them.  “Oh ye of little faith,” Jesus said, as he brought the squall to subside and the boat back to safety.

We see it again when the apostles were out at sea and encountered Jesus walking on water.  Calling out to him, Peter got out and started walking on the waves towards Jesus.  But he looked at the tides, got scared and started to sink to the depths.  Again, calling out to Jesus, he came by and saved him.

Finally, I’m reminded of the time after the resurrection that Jesus told the apostles to cast their nets to the other side of the boat, and came back with a catch of fish overflowing to the brim.

We all experience the storms.  We all have questions of faith, and look within only to find ourselves sorely lacking.  And we cry out calling to the Lord for succour and He tells us, “Oh ye of little faith.”

Like the Badjao, we need to believe that despite all our troubles, tomorrow will be another day.  The sun will be shining and the tides will subside.  Like them, we are all beggars of faith, wholly dependent on our Father to get us through another long night.  And with this trust in Him, we lean back and smile.

The storms will not last forever.

It takes one step then another, holding Jesus’ hand, for us to find out to our disbelief, that yes, through the certainty of faith, we CAN walk on water.

Cleaning Up October 14, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, cebuano, clean and green, Legally Opinionated and Jurisprudent.
Tags: , , ,
1 comment so far

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

I am rousing myself from my self-imposed intellectual slumber to take part in a movement around the world calling one and all to care about the environment. It’s a movement called Blog Action Day, where bloggers like me are endeavored to raise ecological awareness.

As a Filipino living in the second most heavily-populated metropolis in the country, my ecological concern is about sanitation and garbage management, one of the biggest offshoots and problems arising from the rise of urban living.

As children, we were brought up to believe that “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” And although I was not the tidiest and most fastidious child in the planet, I was however very conscientious about putting my trash straight into the garbage can. It makes sense. We cannot abide clutter in our houses, right? We don’t like to see torn plastic packets, dust, fallen leaves, refuse, bottles, and food wastes lying around where rats, cockroaches and other vermin may scurry about and infest our well-kept homes and tidied apartments.

What doesn’t make sense to me is why our cleanliness and sanitation practices are left behind when we leave our houses. We are supposed to be a well-educated and highly-disciplined nation, and yet, when we go outside, it’s a common sight to see people throwing their waste and refuse just about anywhere. Back when I was still a student, I was distressed to see my fellow schoolmates throwing their barbecue sticks, puso wrappers, and candy packets on the floor, not caring enough to find a nearby trash can to throw their wastes.

I wish the practice stopped as I got older where people are supposed to be more mature and disciplined, but I fear that the older people get, the more callous they were of their surroundings. In fact, I often witnessed one of my classmates in law school, a professional, repeatedly throwing his candy wrappers inside our own classroom, when a garbage can was only a few meters away from where he was eating. I wanted so much to point out to him that this practice was offensive to me because I shared a classroom with him and as students of a prestigious university, a higher caliber of discipline and cleanliness is expected of us. I don’t know which is more disturbing to me, the fact that my highly educated classmate could callously live like a pig or the fact that I who knew better could not bring myself to scold him about his littering in the premises.

The fact is that our littering must stop. It’s the cause of so much of our problems as urban dwellers. Indiscriminate littering has clogged up our sewers and esteros so that come rainy season, we find our streets flooded with dirty rain water and the ghosts of our unsanitary practices coming back to haunt us. Our littering is then washed up to the rivers and seas, causing the pollution of our waters and the poisoning of our precious reefs and fishes.

But even these serious ecological problems aside, doesn’t the sight of trash and refuse disturb anyone anymore? I’ve had the privilege of living in great urban metropolises abroad, from Los Angeles, to San Francisco, to New Jersey and New York. I’ve been to Hong Kong and Toronto and seen cities that are much more heavily populated than Cebu or Manila, and yet walking along their busy causeways and streets, you would find nary a candy wrapper, biscuit packet, or broken bottle lying for all to see or walk on. In fact, it would be very rare to find ANYONE throwing their trash and refuse just about anywhere on the street.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, we Filipinos are PIGS. Our sanitation and littering practices are atrocious. Whether you’re walking along the highly urban streets of Ayala Ave. in Makati City or the sub-urban paths along Cardinal Rosales Ave. in Cebu City, you’re likely to find trash, refuse and the leavings of insensitive urban dwellers so callously left behind on our public streets and avenues.

In fact, one little anecdote sticks to my mind pointing out how unhygienic we Filipinos are. During my first time in the U.S., my American uncle treated the whole family out to a snack at MacDonald’s. I was the first to finish eating, and like most Filipinos, I just left my burger wrapper and plastic cup on my tray, lying on the table for the MacDonald’s busboy to clean up. My uncle called my attention and pointed out that in the U.S., after the customers finish eating, it was expected of them to put their own litter in the trashcan. And true to form, I saw the American patrons cleaning up after themselves, leaving the table ready for the next customer to use them.

We Filipinos pride ourselves in being thoughtful, educated and cultured as a race, and yet, why can’t we emulate something as simple and efficient as that? It’s just a simple matter of cleaning up after ourselves.

Whenever I confront the notorious litterers among my friends, they always give me the excuse, “Well, what are we paying the janitor for then?” Having a janitor or a busboy or a metro-aide to clean up after you is no excuse for us to practice good sanitation and hygiene in our premises, regardless of whether it is in the comfort of our own homes or in public areas of common use. The fact is that as supposedly highly-educated people, we owe it to ourselves to be responsible of where we throw our garbage.

As urban dwellers, you and I are no longer carefree citizens whose domain stops at the perimeter of our fences. We are very closely inter-connected that the practices of one will have a domino effect on the life of another. Every time you play your music too loud, or callously throw your refuse on the street, or even breathe out your cigarette smoke where other people breathe, you are already polluting the environment and affecting the people who live in the city with you.

We all have to be responsible because we do not live in a vacuum where we alone are affected by our own actions. The misdeeds of callousness of one can lead to the degradation of the quality of life of another.

I still believe that cleanliness is next to godliness and we Filipinos, who profess ourselves to be the only dominantly-Christian country in Asia, owe it to ourselves to reflect the Christ within us by living clean and pure even in the most little of practices.

Please… help ease our country’s garbage management problems by simply putting your garbage where it belongs… inside a trashcan. It’s really just as simple as that.

Calling All Bloggers! October 13, 2007

Posted by Janjan in cebuano, Lawyer Jokes Make the World Go Round.
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On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind – the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

Blog Action Day is about MASS participation. That means we need you! Here are 3 ways to participate:

Magnificent in Moalboal September 30, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, cebuano, I, Lawyer, Idiocy.
Tags: , , ,

Compared to Manila lawyers, Cebuano lawyers make a fraction of the amount that lawyers based in our nation’s capital earn.


You can’t beat the perks of practicing in Cebu, such as being thrown off to hearings in far-flung rural areas, especially if it’s a seaside one. Yes folks, I’m talking about the opportunity of getting to sleep with bit–, errr, I mean, getting to sleep at beaches.

Today is September 28, 2007, and yours truly, the Magnificent Atty. Perez, is having a quiet Friday morning by the poolside of Marcosas Cottage, owned by the gracious Spouses Herzenstiel, Michael and Marcosa, who are both clients of the firm that I represent. Normally, I try to avoid talking about my clients to respect their privacy, but considering that I am *cough cough* a minor Internet celebrity and in the interests of promoting the tourism industry of my beloved Cebu, I am humbly lending the gravity of my esteemed munificence (somewhere in the world, one of my bestfriends is gagging) in order to bring to fore the beauty of Moalboal and the warmth of Marcosas Cottages. Of course, this is written with the blessings and permission of Herr Michael.

For the record, I am not a Boracay type of tourist. The weight of my Magnificence is such that it must be used responsibly and not flaunted so openly in public, as the very sight of my very superstardom is known to cause sudden heart palpitations, the inexplicable urge to worship the ground that I walk on, and the acute need to burst into the dancing and singing of musical scores of love and adoration. (If I only had a dollar every time someone serenaded me with “In my life, he has burst like the music of angels, the light of the sun….”, I would probably already have… hmm… ten centavos.) Hence being the selfless and humble soul that I am, (I hear the Pope is still mulling over my application for living sainthood), I have instead made it a point to have my vacations over at out-of-the-way areas that nobody has ever heard about, much less frequent. I guess I just prefer having my peace and quiet.

At any rate, I have already spent 2 paragraphs on self-aggrandizement and senseless exposition, so I better go ahead to promoting my clients’ resort while my bispren DK has not yet thrown a rock at my direction.

Marcosas Cottages is a charming little out-of-the-way resort villa located in the town of Moalboal, located at the southern part of Cebu. It’s a true mom-and-pop operation run and operated by the smiling and friendly staff employed by Michael and Marcosas Herzenstiel. I guess this is what my friend Tina would call a “boutique resort”, or a “bed-and-breakfast,” or simply, something that’s too small to compete with the likes of top-notch beach resorts, without the modern and up-scale amenities offered by the latter.

But then again, not everybody can afford going to top-notch beach resorts. Or for that matter, even if they could afford to go to a top-notch beach resort, not everybody would want to go one. It could be filled with so many strangers, or it’s too loud, or there are too many events scheduled which detracts from the sense of “getting away from it all.”


The charm of Marcosas Cottages is that it is the anti-commercialized beach resort. The operation is being actively run by the owners themselves, and in fact, if you drop by over at the bar for a nightcap, you will find Michael himself mixing your drinks and engaging you in conversation over a cool bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen. (My favorite question to ask him has always been, “How does Filipino beer compare to German lagers?” The answer: It’s so light and refreshing, it’s like drinking mineral water.)

Forget about the plastic smiles and forced friendliness of big resorts, the staff here is made up of local and winsome barrio lasses who give you genuine mirth and warmth behind their smiles. The food here is delicious and has all the comforts of home cooking, but with a twist. Since the owner is German, the resort features meals that a Deutsch hausfrau would be serving back in the motherland. Just last night, a decade of juvenile green jokes were shattered as I ordered a weiner schnitzel and discovered to my disillusion that the dish is actually just a plain old breaded porkchop. Oh well. Damn good porkchop though.

(And to my good friend Muerte from high school, let me just say that our friend who roleplays the Cavalier Aurelius Stark could not therefore suck your schnitzel no matter how many times you goad him, on account of the medical impossibility of the act. The breadcrumbs would stick to his teeth. Ich gut, ya? Ya?)

Owing to the fact that the resort is small, you can expect more attention and a more personalized service. But if you are expecting some kind of Disneyland or Boracay level of fun, this is not the place to go. The only attractions that the resort has are its swimming pool and massage sauna. Other than that, this is just somewhere to go if you want to get away from it all, without sacrificing personal amenities like cable TV (the rooms also have their own DVD players), good airconditioning (you can choose between the powerful airconditioner and/or the ceiling fan, or both), clean and beautiful-looking rooms (check out my pictures), hot and cold showers.

If you really feel like going on an adventure, the resort is only a 3-minute walk away from a diving shop (Blue Abyss), a 5-minute walk from a public beach. If fresh water and waterfalls are more of your thing, for a small fee, you could charter the resort’s van and have it transport you to the nearby Kawasan Falls for a cool dip.

Moalboal is more known as a diving spot though, as it is found near one of the reefs outlying Cebu. There are numerous diving shops nearby where you could charter boat trips or rent diving equipment. The one I mentioned, Blue Abyss, is run by a German national who has decided to settle down here in the Philippines.

Curiously, I am the only Filipino guest in Marcosas. All the other guests are German. I just learned last night that Michael is affiliated with a diving club in Germany whose members make periodic trips to the Philippines. That’s not a big deal for me since Germans are okay by my book. They keep to themselves and don’t put on any airs unlike some other tourists who think their culture and gene pool is God’s gift to the rest of the heathen and uncivilized world. And judging from the reception given by the staff of Marcosas, the Germans are good and friendly guests as well.

Although I wouldn’t outright say that the rates are cheap, I could honestly say that the price of both the lodging and the food is reasonable and worth its price in value-added service and attention to detail. Room rates range from P1,450 to P2,000 a night, with in-house provisions like tea, coffee, snacks and the like charged surprisingly at retail prices. Food prices ranges somewhere from around P100 to P300, depending on the item ordered, which is not bad, if you think about it.

Well, I guess if you’re up for the adventure, I’ll be seeing you at Marcosas Cottage every now and then. Till next time, guten tag!

Ispokening Bisaya August 1, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, cebuano.

Taken from the blogs of my good friends, Antonio Java, an editor and columnist of Cebu Daily News (a local subsidiary of the Philippine Daily Inquirer), and Mia Borja, a linguistics specialist, call center trainer and proud promdi school teacher from Iligan.

I hereby adopt their entries by ratification and append my concurring opinion to theirs.

For the record, I am not opposed to learning Tagalog, except when it is used as the medium of instruction for Social Studies. I believe English should also be continuously taught, and used as the medium of instruction for subjects like Math, Music, Social Studies, Science, etc.

However, I am all for teaching Bisaya in Bisaya-speaking regions, Waray for Waray-speaking regions, so on and so forth.

I don’t believe in language superiority and I maintain that there is NO SUCH THING as an official “Filipino” language, if we are talking about one overriding language to be imposed by one region over the others.

There are many Filipino languages however, and we should take care to protect and preserve the continued education of all these languages into the curriculum of their respective regions.


by Antonio Java

I was reading a friend’s blog last week where she made quite an interesting point about the Visayan language: It is a language spoken by a great majority in the country, yet it has become relegated to a sort of second-class tongue.

I’ve stressed in previous columns that the Visayan language or Binisaya is, as languages go, more evolved than most major languages in existence, according to language scholars. The fact that Binisaya is a couple of hundred words larger than, say, Tagalog or English is proof enough of its age and flexibility (just the other day, my barkada was wracking our brains trying to translate the Visayan word “hata” to English. Finding no direct translation, the closest we got was “feint,” though we had to note that to feint is more of a movement meant to mislead or to deceive, while hata is a movement more related to indecisiveness rather than deception).

Some would argue that there is no such thing as a “superior” language. I’d actually tend to agree, since the idea of a language is to communicate ideas. Though one has to admit that certain languages make the transfer of ideas easier and faster than other languages. However, for the transfer of ideas to work, one particular language has to be common between two or more people. So, logically, if a language is spoken by more people, then more people can share ideas, and an idea can spread faster. Right?

Well then, here’s the premise in the Philippines: Tagalog is taught in school. English is taught in school. But when it comes to sheer population, there are more natural Visayan speakers in the country than there are natural Tagalog speakers or English speakers.

So then why, oh why, isn’t Visayan – one of the most beautiful, most evolved, most ancient, and most widely spoken languages in the Philippines – NOT taught in school?

In fact, over the past few decades, Visayan has, unfortunately, been given a stigma or sorts as something inferior. Even some of us Visayan natives refer to something as “Bisaya kaayo” to derogate something. In fact, in many schools, speaking Visayan is practically banned, sometimes with a fine imposed on every instance a student speaks Binisaya.

Can someone please tell me when Binisaya or being Bisaya became something so “wrong” that we have to be fined for it?

It would be easy to blame “imperialist Manila” for the state of Visayan today. Tagalog is spoken in the capital city of Manila, hence, the capital city’s language should be the language of the entire country. I could also easily blame the influences of those who sought to colonize us: The Spanish and the Americans. In attempting to establish a colony here, they had to impose their own culture and language on the natives. No doubt, these things are partly to blame.

But I also blame the Visayans themselves, among whose number I am included, for slipping over the past few decades. I would hardly say that we Visayans were quick to abandon our own in lieu of something new and foreign. If that were so, Binisaya would have been lost to history generations ago. But neither have I seen any major effort for us to retain and educate ourselves of our own native culture. Not Asian culture, not Filipino culture, but Visayan culture.

Now I’m not saying we all start tattooing ourselves and make like our Pintados ancestors; for a culture to survive, it must also evolve. But at the very least, we should teach ourselves our own history, and we should especially teach ourselves our own language. But in this aspect, we are slipping. We’re slipping so much, in fact, that Cebuano, a dialect of the Visayan language, is already so full of words from other languages that while native Cebuano speakers can still understand pure Binisaya, most Cebuanos can’t speak Binisaya fluently.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we should stop teaching English in school. English is already the widely accepted “global” language and without it, we miss out on the world. I’m not even saying we stop teaching Tagalog (or what some would like to call “Filipino,” though any Filipino worth his tongue knows that the Filipino language is just what they call Tagalog in an attempt to make it more nationally appealing… emphasis on “attempt”).

What I’m saying is that we Bisayas should not leave out our own native tongue when it comes to the languages we teach our children in school. I’m not merely proposing to allow, or even standardize the use of Bisaya as a language of instruction wherever Bisaya is natively spoken. I say we should have Bisaya classes, where students are TAUGHT proper Binisaya in all its native glory. It’s the most widely used language in the country. WHY NOT?!

And by extension, along with teaching ourselves the proper way to SPEAK Binisaya, perhaps we should even teach ourselves the proper way to WRITE Binisaya. That’s right: Alibata classes, which is applicable to both Binisaya and Tagalog. From my meager experience with Alibata (or Baybayin as it was called in olden times), I’ve discovered that one is actually able to preserve intonations and stress points in the written words through visual representations where it would otherwise be lost if Bisaya words were written in the Roman alphabet (compensated only by a reader’s actual knowledge in Binisaya).

But as it is, no schools I know of teach Binisaya. And I suspect only the most specialized of libraries have literature that teaches a person Alibata.

Well, here’s a factoid for you all: UNESCO estimates that half of the world’s languages are endangered because they are no longer taught or spoken.

When was the last time anyone remembers having Bisaya classes?




By Mia Borja

Looking back at my profession as a call center trainer and boybeater (haha), I realized that I wrongly regarded English (and the oftentimes annoying accent) as higher than Visayan and other languages. I was guilty of allocating Visayan and other “dialects” as second only to English, and that it was the English-way or the highway. I had no idea how misinformed I was, or how misguided. There are 6800 languages in the world, of which English is only one of them.

Don’t get me wrong, we do need English to transact business in and to instruct in on a regular basis; and I am still an avid supporter of the call center industry. I lab Cumberjis, and I always will.

However, it is the tendency to alleviate English so much at the expense of our native tongue that I am not comfortable with. I don’t know about you, but to be honest, I get irked when agents still speak in the “twang” outside of work (Mah-nang, pwede iza ka-tahkus na batih-cowlown?). Give it up mate, and please speak in Bisaya.

It was only last year, when I decided to take my MA in language, that I realized how narrow-minded I was as a trainer and “language specialist”, and how shallow my foundation for teaching language really was. Five things particularly struck me:

1. There is no such thing as language superiority.

While some languages are spoken by more people than others, each language is innately beautiful and unique. There is no basis for saying English is “better” than Visayan, or Tagalog is “higher” than Visayan. Even Ainu (a language spoken by only 15 people in Japan, and is no longer being taught to young Japanese) is equal in rank to Chinese, whose dialects are spoken by more than a billion people.

2. Visayan is NOT a dialect. It is a language.

This is not a radical leftist idea. It is a language fact.

I used to think that the difference between languages and dialects was the number of people who spoke it. In fact, dialects are a political misnomer. The real measure of language is mutual intellegibility. If I speak Visayan to a Tagalog person who cannot understand what I am saying, I am no longer intelligible to him. This fact makes Visayan a language. Now the Visayan speakers of Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, and Iligan can still understand each other even with regional variations, so we are all dialects of Visayan. The number of speakers have nothing to do with it, which means Higa-onon, Tausug, and other lumad languages, as well as gay languages, are real LANGUAGES, and not dialects because they are no longer easily understood by speakers of other, more “mainstream” languages like Visayan and Tagalog.

3. English should not be considered the pinnacle of language learning in the Philippines, because English is not “superior” in any way.

In fact, schools should integrate and emphasize learning different Philippine languages in the curriculum. I am all for teaching subjects in the Visayan or in Arabic, complimenting subjects taught in English. Hawaiian universities have managed to save their original Hawaiian language by teaching it in schools. Even New Zealand has saved the Maori language and culture by teaching it with pride to their students.

4. The fourth most widely “spoken” language is not spoken at all.

Sign language is fast becoming one of the five most popular languages in the world. There are different sign languages too; there’s the American standard (usually with one hand), the British sign language (usually with two hands), Nicaraguan sign, and Canadian sign language, among the many. Scholars predict that sign language will be achieve lingua franca importance in the next twenty years, and may soon be considered a necessary job skill, like speaking English.

5. When one teaches or speaks a language, one is preserving a culture.

The last filament of any group or tribe is the language. When you are the last speaker of your language and you die, there is no more of your culture to speak of. UNESCO estimates that half of the world’s languages are endangered because they are no longer taught or spoken.

That being said, I am memorizing the Lord’s Prayer in its original Aramaic language. Nothing beats the real thing.

Thriller at the Jail! July 26, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, cebuano, Idiocy, Legally Opinionated and Jurisprudent.

Here’s a very entertaining video of Cebuano inmates from the Cebu Provincial jail giving Michael Jackson some thrilling justice. The very source of the video is the provincial consultant of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), Mr. Byron Garcia (who is also the son of former Cebu governor and now contestant for the Speakership position of the Lower House, Hon. Pablo Garcia).

Mr. Garcia also wrote an interesting article on the provincial penal system, which I am reposting below:


Speak out: The CPDRC experience
By Byron F. Garcia
Consultant on Security, Cebu Provincial Government

Penology in the country has always been equated with crime and punishment. Or crime plus punishment equals rehabilitation and reformation. But it can also mean crime plus punishment plus rehabilitation equals prison management.

Gray areas and loopholes abound in jail management, as there are many ways to circumvent rehabilitation. At the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), the approach to rehabilitation is discipline, physical fitness, dismantling of the culture of corruption and preemptive decongestion.

It is a concept that views behavioral change and culture in the microcosm of a sick society, which is, the jail.

It is actually inside jails or rehabilitation centers that societal decadence is magnified. Drug trafficking and smuggling, addiction, politics and corruption prevail and proliferate because the jail environment provides fertile grounds for these to spread and transmit rapidly.

No matter how restrictive regulations may be, inmates and even jail guards can find loopholes in an already flawed system, making corruption a never-ending cycle.

Security, too, looks beyond the physical aspect. While padlocks and sophisticated gadgetry may physically shut off and isolate inmates from the world, it does not assure security.

Cultural, behavioral

Security must be approached not only physically but also from the cultural and behavioral context.

Inmates at the CPDRC are required to go through a workout regimen. While the goal is to keep the body fit in order to keep the mind fit, such may not actually happen if it is not done in a manner deemed pleasurable. Music, being the language of the soul, is added to that regimen.

Decadent cultures in jails are only spillovers of the culture outside. In approaching behavioral and cultural change, one has to look at the decadence of society to change the culture in the jail.

To do away with inmate and jail guard politics, rehabilitation must employ divide and rule. This is meant to discourage organization among inmates, where inherently gang culture exists.

Here lies the blunder. Penology or jail management in this country has never looked at gang culture in jails as one that actually propagates corruption and decadent culture. In most cases, jail authorities support and tolerate gang culture without considering that it actually impedes rehabilitation.

Gangs breed corruption and corruption breeds enmity and animosity between inmates or between inmates and guards.

Four components

To prevent familiarity between inmates and guards, security is done in four component forces: the Capitol Civil Security Forces, which conducts surprise greyhound operations and is tasked to inspect visitors during visiting days; the jail guards, who have direct contact with the inmates; the Provincial Security Group, which escorts inmates to and from court hearings; and the blue guards that check on the three security components at the entrance of the facility.

While the old practice of using jail guards won’t vanish, a four-tiered check-and-balance approach is used to plug the gaps for corruption.

To do away with corruption in jail finances, budgets are allocated and released directly from the Capitol treasury. Fund management, especially on food, is taken away from jail authorities.

Inmates, too, are not allowed to hold cash. Money is considered illegal. A system is provided where inmates can entrust their cash to jail authorities and have these converted to purchase orders. This is to ensure that money won’t be used for the purchase of contraband and to discourage gambling.

Jail capacity

While Jail authorities in this country continue to find ways to solve jail congestion or over-crowding, CPDRC has taken the very simple approach, which is by shutting its doors once it reaches full capacity.

What seems to be contemptuous and arrogant would prove to be admirable and humbling in the end, for it gives utmost consideration to the general welfare and security of the occupants inside the jail. Jails in our country are congested because penology chose it to be.

True rehabilitation may need revolutionary change in policies and approaches. At the CPDRC, the experience in responsive rehabilitation has proven that revolutionary change can be done from within.

This Blog Entry is brought to you by the Letter “B” July 12, 2007

Posted by Janjan in All, cebuano, I, Lawyer, Seriously now….

“B” as in Bery Bery Busy!

Even if I didn’t have any hearings this week, nevertheless, I’m surprised at how busy things have been. My corporate law practice came to fore as I was made to draft, review and revise on numerous contracts, agreements, memorandums and other corporate communiques. I also took this time out to focus on cases which I shall be filing or be made to work on in the coming days. God is glorified by the industry of our hands, so all praise to Him who has blessed you and I with a lot of interesting things to do.

It is for this reason that I apologize to my loyal readers who have been asking me for an update to this blog. Believe me, I have so many things planned in the next coming entries, it’s just that I lack the length of appreciable time it takes to draft an entry.

As much as I enjoy indulging in my absurd attacks on logic (which passes for what is questionably my bizarre sense of humor), I am planning however to go back to writing some serious articles. Fear not, I have another funny entry also in the works. I enjoy writing the funny entries but my original purpose for this blog was for it to contain discussions on law, economics and my take on politics.

In the works are a discussion on the national development of the Small to Medium Enterprise business organizations, as capped off by the opening of the SME Industrial Park in Naga, Cebu. Following that, I want to post my observations as a lawyer on the salient provisions of the highly controversial Human Securities Act of 2007.

Then after that, I will answer a letter written by Marife, the cousin of everybody’s beloved Maritess of the Superfriends.

“B” as in Blogging on a Newspaper of General Publication!

On other matters, one of my friends working for one of Cebu’s daily newspapers toyed around with the idea of me being a columnist in their lifestyle section. At first I was hesitant, because what I really want is to write the kind of articles I am writing in this blog, namely, articles connected to the practice of law. But I’m reconsidering the offer because there is something I would have fun writing about… vignettes, anecdotes and articles about living in Cebu. One of the things I want to write about are restaurant reviews ranging from class “A” to class “X” establishments.

(They’re called Class “X” establishments because “X” is the mathematical variable for the unknown, or, in other words, “What the hell am I eating???!!!)

But before I do that, I would like to first save up and buy myself a digital camera, something lightweight that I can carry around wherever I go. I’d like to take pictures to complement my articles. (How could anyone write about Cebu and NOT show pictures about the topic is something beyond my comprehension)

“B” as in Binugoy!

I’m someone blessed with a lot of good and pleasant friends and I make it a point to catch up periodically with the ones close to me and those who are worth having long discussions with. Will someone please give me a discount card or gift certificates for coffeeshops?? I’m practically keeping Bo’s Coffee, Brown Cup and Starbucks alive with my hard earned salary.

I just had a Thursday Group lunch earlier with Jan #1. We were originally planning to eat sizzling shawarma at a roadside snack bar but upon arriving at the place, we found out that it was closed. Apparently, they only open during nighttime. So, we just hot-footed it over to Binugoy’s, a nearby upscale carinderia (is there such an animal??), found in F. Cabahug St. It’s located at that junction between the road from Ayala leading to Paseo Mall, and that road from Mabolo leading to Lahug. Deceived by the carinderia ambiance, I started ordering a lot of viands… chicharon bulaklak, sabaw nga linat-ang baka, and baby shark stew (cooked in tuno and peppers)… thinking that the total bill would be at carinderia prices. I was surprised when the bill came to around P212.00. Ah well, considering that the food was actually quite good and the servings were huge, I guess the price was pretty fair, but had I known that my bill would reach that amount, I would not have ordered that much. The baby shark dish was pretty good though… I’m definitely coming back because I’m eyeing their spicy tuna bicol express.

Unfortunately, the bill wiped out all the cash in my wallet, and with nary an ATM machine in sight, that didn’t leave me with enough cash to check out Ethiopia Cafe 88, a really nice coffeeshop endorsed by thecapricornbeartakeshi. That will have to be the agenda for next Thursday’s meeting.

“B” as in Batch ’06 Basketball Team!

It’s IBP Cebu Basketball Tournament Season again! In behalf of my teammates in team Batch ’06, I would like to say GO GO GO BATCHOY!

Hopefully we won’t be defeated AGAIN by lawyers who are twice our age. Hehehe. It’s not fair… they lord it over in the courtroom. We should have some advantage in the basketball courts. I guess the referee’s are intimidated by players who can legally threaten them with direct contempt of court. Hahahaha!