Sincerely yours, Mister Phathupats | Inquirer Opinion

Sincerely yours, Mister Phathupats

As a Kapampangan, Juan Crisostomo Soto’s “Y Miss Phathupats” feels more than just required reading. Over a century old yet the story’s core message remains painfully true—a division of identity between the colonial West and one’s local heritage, a conflict between identity.

Yeyeng, the protagonist, embodies this conflict. Embracing English after encountering American soldiers, she abandons her native Kapampangan language, being nicknamed “Miss Phathupats.” The townspeople see through her facade, exposing the hypocrisy that often accompanies cultural alienation.

“Y Miss Phathupats” serves as a cautionary tale and an opportunity for reflection. The story reflects a historical pressure to assimilate, a pressure I can identify with on a personal level. It’s a source of shame—sure, I know the history, the culture, the spirit of the people, but I can barely string two words together in the native tongue. Google Translate is my best friend. It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

My background is a blend: My father is a Tarlaqueño with Ilocano roots and my mother is a Kapampangan-American. You can imagine the raised eyebrows and dismissive scoffs when English comes out of my mouth. The jab—“Kapampangan ka pero ’di ka marunong mag-Kapampangan”—is almost like a shot to the heart. It leaves me feeling like an impostor, a “Kapampangan with an asterisk” or a “fake Kapampangan” as professor Ambeth Ocampo once playfully described himself. Born and raised, a native son, yet I can’t even manage a simple greeting in Kapampangan.


Soto captures this disconnect perfectly: “Do not wonder that the Miss does not know Kapampangan … she is no longer Kapampangan.”

The shame deepens when even my Tagalog stalls just shy of the finish line. A simple greeting, a basic phrase—all fumbled and lost in translation. That’s when they pull out the branding iron: “conyo kid.” That’s even worse than “Mister Phathupats.” It’s not even wrong—actually, it almost hits the mark. Almost. I was raised comfortably with English as my primary language. It’s the insult behind the words, the implication that I don’t truly belong that burns me. It implies a colonial mentality, a fawning admiration for the West that borders on arrogance. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t hate my heritage; in fact, I want to learn more about it.

The problem is the pressure to speak in English. It’s seen as a gateway to success, a product of our increasingly globalized world. The irony is suffocating—a system that pushes “English only” then mocks you for being just that. It leaves you feeling like a paradox, a product of their creation they now scorn.My whole life has been dodging stereotypes—speak English and you’re either an arrogant conyo or a genius. The reality is far less dramatic: English was simply the language I grew up with, not a mark of genius. Am I privileged? Yes, but is that a privilege when it severs you from your own heritage?

Like I said, it’s pathetic. If I had a peso for every time I had to tell someone that I can understand both Tagalog and Kapampangan, I’d afford this month’s water bill with some change to spare.


Miss Phathupats used the excuse that Kapampangan “was hard to pronounce and twisted the tongue.” There’s some truth to that—the sounds can be tricky for those unfamiliar with the language. But here’s the difference: her excuse reeked of hypocrisy. Even though Miss Phathupats can speak Kapampangan fluently, she pretended not to. My accent shows that I didn’t grow up speaking it.

Soto’s words sting. “There are many Miss Phathupats nowadays that cannot speak Kapampangan,” he writes, the echo of her name a constant reminder of the cultural disconnect. And, as much as I fight it, I can’t deny the truth—I am a Mister Phathupats in this story.


Whether well-intentioned or not, calling me Mister Phathupats does make it feel like I have to choose. English or Tagalog, Tagalog or Kapampangan. Even then, it’s amusing for some when they hear me, someone who spoke predominantly in English, try my hand in Tagalog. It’s even funnier in Kapampangan.

It feeds this internal disconnect, a fear, and disquiet that can only be brought about by learning the language—but how many people are willing to accommodate someone trying to reconnect with something they’ve long been disconnected from?

Perhaps, one day, I can actively learn and practice with confidence instead of hiding my shame with “Kapampangan Champurao” and “Conyo Tagalog.” For now, though, I’ll keep it only at home.

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Ethan Mosuela, 24, is from Angeles City.


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