By Marivir R. Montebon
Trending right now are US-born Filipino children learning fast to mimic the mother tongue of their parents. It is both a delight and pride to hear them speak Tagalog and Cebuano, a result of the conscious desire of parents for their children to be culturally rooted by spending their early years in the Philippines.
Take the case of these cuties – twins Lucas and Johannes, aged 2, and ate Pumpkin, aged 3, who speak wholeheartedly the Cebuano and Tagalog languages. They recently concluded a Linggo ng Wika (Language Week) program in their preschool. It is a nationwide campaign for languages appreciation.
In sweet voices, they speak lovely Cebuano: Ayaw suko nako (don’t get mad at me), Katkat (climb), Ako ni (this is mine), Ayaw diha (don’t go there), Hulog ka (You will fall). Their favorite expression which has no English translation – Hala, patay! It is almost like saying transliterally, ah oh, you be dead.
The de Fiesta children are being repatriated in Mindanao about two years ago, under the loving care of grandparents Orland and Nenet while their parents Doi and Maye work as a government employee and nurse, respectively, in New York. It is a tough life having to work conscientiously in the US and raise three children at the same time.
So, the kids are better raised tenderly by granny and gramp with a retinue of babysitters and uncles and aunts and cousins. For sure they have already imbibed the warmth of Filipino life in the Philippines.
The magnificent three will reunite with their parents when they reach their grade school age, when off their diaper days. That will be another exciting story to tell.
Five-year-old Lily Rose was a toddler when her mom Merly Barlaan decided to return to the Philippines for a mission work. Growing up mostly in Manila, she specifically asks people, even Americans, to speak to her in Tagalog. Her older siblings speak in English at home, which puts her in bilingual conflict. But the amazing girl has decided – pakisalita ng Tagalog.
Lily Rose is much too mature for her age, her doting mom says. When in confrontation with her older brothers Hywon and Shinwon and sister Neneng, she would blurt out, “huwag mo akong sisihin, bata pa ako.” (Do not blame me, I am still a child).
The youngest child who speaks Tagalog in full and could only understand (but not speak) English and Cebuano is her mother’s wonder kid. She loves to do laundry and clean the house. “Ang kalat naman dito. Maglinis na nga ako.” (What a mess. I will clean up now). She would speak to herself, to her mother’s delight.
Merly’s brood of four will reunite with their dad Mar in New Jersey in about five years, when they are big enough to take care of themselves. In the meantime, it is Papa and Mama who fly across the oceans to be with them.