Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Romblon Sun columnists: eagle-eyed

I will write this week in praise and comment of the columnists of Romblon Sun.

I have been raring to do this because if the news are the soul and spine of a newspaper, the columnists—call them opinion writers—are its conscience. I have long wanted to highlight the conscience of the Romblon Sun, the only newspaper which has one.

Columnists are a noisy lot. They have opinion about everything and anything, and Romblon Sun’s opinion writers are not exempted. Indeed, they are noisier than the politicians themselves, one of the subjects they often write about. They also have eagle eyes. They see the relevant issues and write about these fearlessly.

To inform is one of the functions of a columnist. A columnist who fails in this function has no business writing opinion pieces. Columnists write opinion so that readers, informed of events around them, could make informed decisions. In this manner, columnists also teach.

If you will ask me if I read the other columnists of Romblon Sun, my answer would be yes. I read them because I want to learn from them, and so I could also be informed about what’s happening in the province. This is why I always make it a point to request Tony Macalisang and Awe Eranes to send me copies of my favorite provincial newspaper.

A few issues ago, Jun Fiedacan, the man behind Agrikultura at Teknolohiya wrote a full piece about the non-implementation of Romblon’s ten-year master development program.

He posited that because of frequent elections, we have not really gone far as a province because the comprehensive master plan has remained just that, a plan.

Jun says that frequent leadership changes are the culprit why no one bothers to carry out the plan. I say it is our divisive politics that hinder the implementation of such a plan.

“Sa kabila ng magagandang plano ng ating ibang kababayan na sumusuporta sa mga proyekto ng mamamayan, kapag hindi kapartido, hindi na sinusunod ang mga plano,” Jun wrote.

“Sana, kapag nagawa na ang master development plan, sino man ang nakaupo sa iba’t-ibang lokal na pamahalaan, dapat sundan ang plano dahil serbisyo ang ipinangako natin sa bayan,” he added.

I agree with Jun. Indeed, our leaders do not have the political will to implement a plan which they themselves crafted. I am even surprised that Romblon has such as plan. Where is it? Why isn’t it uploaded in the Internet for every Romblomanon to see?
The View From Here columnist Mario Fradejas, in his previous piece, took a dig at illegal gambling in Romblon, Romblon during the capital town’s feast day in early January.

“With information . . . from other reliable sources coming to our attention persistently, we are now inclined to give credence that indeed, there was illegal gambling during the week-long fiesta celebration of the capital town and that evidently, it was tolerated by the authorities,” Mario wrote.

One of the authorities he referred to was Romblon mayor Gerard Montojo, a lawyer and, according to Mario, was a former seminarian. Saying that Montojo’s being a lawyer and a former seminarian, as well as his being a believer in the patron saint of the town are compelling restraints against tolerating “a vicious and immoral activity as illegal gambling”, Mario expressed disbelief that illegal gambling could occur in Romblon, Romblon.

Well, Mario, I get your point. However, I can’t agree with your observation. Our very own Rep. Budoy Madrona is also a lawyer and a former seminarian and just take a look where we are now. On the balance, I think I will lay my fortunes with writers such as the late Manong Julius Fortuna.

Elmina F. Fallar’s take on the “Ills of our Educational System” is an excellent piece and a relevant examination of the Philippine educational system. I recommend this to all Romblomanon teachers if only to remind them that Manang Elmina is one of their own. She is a former teacher.

“We boast of a nation built around a foreign language, but we are indulging in pretense and hypocrisy. An independent nation that educate(s) its citizenry through the use of an alien tongue thrives on false pride and exaggerated self-esteem,” she wrote.

“In Asia, perhaps, the Philippines alone uses a foreign language as the principal medium of instruction in educational institutions; she alone uses an alien tongue to inculcate love of country, nationalism, and patriotism,” she said.

Not true, Manang Elmina. The Philippine Constitution of 1987 has done away with English alone as a medium of instruction in our schools. It has now a twin, the national language we call Filipino.

However, you are correct that English as a foreign language holds sway in many aspects of our life. It is the language of business and government, of many newspapers and books and literature, so much so that Filipinos are “forced” to learn and think in the language of the Anglo-Saxons and the Americans.

There are many issues that you have raised in your column, but I will comment about only one of those, and that is, language.

I am for developing and embracing a national language called Filipino, or whatever it will be called. But I don’t believe a national language should be imposed. It should be developed over time, according to use and the flow—the rise and ebb—of cultural and socio-economic development.

I am for our people to learn how to speak and write in English, the modern-day lingua franca of business and commerce and technology. We cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the world without learning how to communicate with them in some universally-accepted medium. English is this language.

But over and above the national language and English, I am for my native Asi. I believe our educational institutions, at least from kindergarten to Grade One to Six, should be taught how to speak, write, and think in their native languages. Culture and history—and love of country, honesty, integrity, and patriotism—could better be imbibed by our children if they learn them first in their original native tongue.

Studies after studies have shown that secondary languages are easier to learn—easier to teach—if the learner is already very familiar and fluent in his or her native language.

My two daughters are good examples. I have taught them—and they have learned—how to speak my native Asi, which we use at home to communicate. They speak and write Tagalog, too, and English, and now, a scatter of Japanese, but it was easier to teach them something new because they understand the nuances and primary tools of the language I originally think in.

“The Philippine educational system, the system that never was, is not beyond redemption. This system that subscribes to the costly trappings of education, yet neglects its true essence and significance, is not the kind you and I would like to bequeath to future generations. What we need is an educational system that meets the demands of Philippine culture and society, regardless of foreign infiltration,” Manang Elmina concluded.

Those are strong words, Manang, and I agree. Perhaps, one of these days, I can write my observations on what constitute those demands and also about the ills of the educational system as I observe it from the other side of the fence.

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