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‘Budots’ and Filipino

/ 05:20 AM August 23, 2019

A common complaint I get from parents and teachers is the disconnect between classroom learning of Filipino and the practical living aspects of our national language.

Classroom lectures, and textbooks, tend to be tedious, even painful, especially when Tagalog, which is still the main basis for Filipino, is not the mother language, which is the case for middle and upper classes who may be Tagalog but are more comfortable with English.

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I am at times puzzled by the difficulties young people have with their Filipino classes, because we are definitely shifting toward bilingualism. Even upper classes converse in Filipino, if peppered with English.

Home from work, we will turn on the TV and surf channels for entertainment (for example, movies, teleseryes) in various languages—English, yes, but also Filipino and, on cable channels, a diversity of languages including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Bahasa Indonesia, even Swedish and Russian.

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My point is that we, young and old, are picking up languages, including Filipino, in colloquial or conversational forms. Yet in classrooms, our students are still getting a much too formal, to the point of being stilted, version of Filipino and other languages.

We need to make our teaching of Filipino, in home and in schools, more alive, more linked to what’s being used in mass media and out in the streets. I’m referring to our different Philippine languages and not just Filipino, which is evolving very differently depending on what the mother language is in the area.

Some of you might be reacting—but street language is so vulgar, and can’t be useful. Ah, but that is being elitist. Street language is evolving in fascinating ways, and is rich and colorful, developing its own art forms.

Look at fliptop, the verbal tournaments that require wit and quick thinking as protagonists debate each other in Filipino and sometimes on very complex issues, including politics. One review of fliptop master BLKD (Balakid) describes him as a wordsmith.

Last week, I attended a symposium organized by the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman’s Sentro ng Wikang Filipino on “mga susing salita,” or keywords. One of the speakers, Dr. Karlo Mongaya, gave a fascinating lecture on “budots,” which is Cebuano (or, more specifically, Davao Cebuano) for the dances of “tambay” (bugoy in Cebuano) in Davao City. (Karlo is Cebuano and teaches Filipino in UP Diliman.)

Budots’ choreography, Karlo explained, is a combination of Badjaw dances and bistik. To understand bistik, he offered a genealogy of words with the “bis” attachment, bis meaning Bisaya. Here’s his family tree of bistik: bisrak (bisaya rock), bispop (bisaya pop) and bistik (not beefsteak as in Tagalog but bisaya tikno, as in techno rock). I wanted to interrupt him, but didn’t, to point out that there’s an older term, too, called bishop, for bisaya hip-hop, referring not just to music but to a way of dressing up. Then there’s the master of all bis words: bisdak, bisaya dako, a way of boasting of Bisaya (Cebuano)-ness.

President Duterte first popularized budots in a video performing with the Camusboyz, a group of, well, tambay based in Camus, an area in Davao City. Mr. Duterte at that time was still denying presidential ambitions, but the video was a clever way of showing he was in touch with the masses, being able to perform the budots.

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Budots was appropriated by Ramon Revilla Jr. when he ran for senator in the last elections. Just released from prison where he faced plunder charges, Revilla’s budots video performance received criticism. An example, and this is a translation: Does he think he can just budots his way to the Senate? (Well, he did, actually.)

Note that when I asked young people who were not Cebuano if they knew of budots, they were quick to answer yes, because of the Revilla video and controversy.

Budots could well become a Filipino word, but it’s also interesting that when I asked upper-class Cebuano speakers about the word, they were mostly clueless, then amused as I shared a summary of Karlo’s presentation.

Teachers and parents must connect more with popular Filipino, which is alive and evolving out in the streets.

Think, too, of bringing young people to watch Filipino plays, which is what I did with my kids the other week. We watched Peta’s “Rak of Aegis” for the second time, all of us enjoying every minute of the rock play. It was a good way for the kids to attune themselves to Filipino in a way that beats 4D and the sensurround of movies, or VR (virtual reality) videos on the phone or computer. Don’t limit yourself to Buwan ng Wikang Filipino! The show runs until Sept. 29, tickets available from Ticketworld and from Peta.

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TAGS: ‘Budots’, Classroom lectures, education, Filipino
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