Issue of July 19, 2015

Courier Anniversary Issue
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‘Ininom ko ang isbo ko; makapal kasi ang pitak’

Tagalog is now generally regarded as the third most spoken language in some parts of Canada after English and French, thanks to a large Filipino migrant community that includes at least 2,000 expatriates from Baguio City and Benguet alone.

So that explains partly why Jogin Tamayo, this paper’s resident cartoonist who is based in Canada, is not homesick. Besides, he has his family with him and like the boxer Alvin Tam, he is now geared to establishing his roots “in the rockies far away.”

Decades back, it was mostly English for the media establishments in Baguio. Today, Tagalog has taken over and while the print establishments like the Baguio Midland Courier stuck to the King’s language, it is Tagalog for most TV and radio outfits.

Methinks hint of what was to come came in the aftermath of the July 16, 1990 earthquake when the last survivor of the collapsed Hyatt Terraces Hotel, Pedrito Dy, was hauled out from the basement by rescuers after 14 days of entombment.

I was there when security guard Arnel Calabia and chambermaid Luisa Mallorca were rescued after 11 days inside an elevator shaft. At the Baguio Geneal Hospital where she was recovering, I discovered Mallorca spoke Ilongo and it was in this language that I managed to pry the story out straight from the horse’s mouth so-called, while the local boys like Victor Luacan wondered what the two of us were talking all along.

Calabia and Mallorca survived by drinking rain water and their urine.

Three days after in the basement of the twisted wreck, Dy, then 27, a cook and gym instructor, was rescued with only slight bruises and dehydration to show for his ordeal.

When he was asked on TV how he managed to survive, Dy replied in mixed Tagalog and Ilocano: “Ininom ko po ang isbo ko.” Like Calabia and Mallorca, he survived by drinking his urine and rain water.

Years later on February 2006, a team of miners from Benguet had to be flown all the way to Leyte to help rescue villagers swept by a giant landslide that buried the village of Guinsaugon in St. Bernard town. The landslide killed more than a thousand residents and displaced at least 19,000 people.

The presence of the miners attracted both print and TV reporters. Caught on TV was a miner who was asked in Tagalog why his team was not literally in the thick of the mud to search for victims. His reply, while pointing to the thick mud that must be more than four feet deep, was brief and to the point: “Makapal kasi ang pitak.”

Now why is it that locals seemed to hesitate some or tend to look upwards every time a TV reporter thrust a mike in their front in the hope of soliciting an answer in Tagalog?

Maybe it has to do with unfamiliarity considering that the answer is not often spontaneous. Sometimes the answer would come slowly which gives me the impression that the informant was taking some time to phrase the answer in Tagalog.

Now supposing the questions were phrased in Ilocano as spoken hereabouts?

Still and all I think that ‘bakikaw’ as we speak Tagalog in these parts, we are proceeding in the direction that Indonesia and Malaysia took some time ago when they incorporated terms from their regional languages and came up with what are now Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia. Now, look where they are now?

Ngayon, sino ang nangyari?

* * * * * * * * * *

Has Baguio ever learned from the 1990 earthquake? Over development characterized by building frenzy even on earthquake faults, danger zones and protected areas says the city does not give a hoot.

Nor is it bothered that it continues to register deficit in water supply; the capacity to erect tall buildings not matched by effort to protect water and to sustain water sources (and to prosecute those who are responsible for their destruction).

If anything, the non-stop rains over the past two weeks bared the fragility of Baguio’s environment (sans its pine grooves) and the abuse brought about by mining, decimation of forest covers, and the lack of preparation to address the effects of climate change.

In fact, the rains were occasion to abuse Mother Nature and fellowmen when septic tanks were unsealed and their contents released to the streets as people would attest to very often not only in the city but also in La Trinidad. What the eyes do not see, the heart cannot be sorry for.

Good governance indeed. Ay ambot sa langaw.

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