Monday, February 29, 2016

A Brief Lesson on Linguistics and the Mar Roxas Chant

“Oras Na, Roxas Na” is the battle cry of Mar Roxas for his presidential bid for the May 2016 elections. “Oras” is the Filipino word for “time”. The Liberal Party bet’s catchword is not only rhythmic (hence catchy) but also connectable to few lessons on linguistics. My main reference for this entry is the book Elements of Filipino Philosophy; (1974) written by Leonardo N. Mercado, SVD. Father Mercado asserts that the Filipino concept of time is maturation or evolutionary. Mercado, by the way, is the former dean of the now padlocked Saint Joseph College Seminary (SJCS) though his stint did not last long.  

In Roxas’ slogan (or was it chant?), the particle “na” is repeated. The nearest English equivalent of “na” is “already’, “now” or in the case of negative statements “anymore” or “any longer” like Cory Aquino’s, “Sobra Na, Tama Na, Palitan Na” when she squared off against strongman Ferdinand Marcos 30 years ago. According to Mercado, “na” can be utilized to say a perfect tense or a fixed condition like in this sentence: “Handa na si Rody”. But if “na” is used as “now” or “already” for instance this way, “Sa Mayo mananalo na si Miriam,” the past (as expressed in “na”) and the future (Sa Mayo..) co-exist in the same thought which is strange in English grammar where the past and the present does not co-exist. When we play chess or billiards, we often tell our opponent, “Ikaw na (“It’s your turn”). This sentence cannot be understood in English structure for it shows our pre-occupation of mode over tense. Needless to say, while the English language, particularly its verbs, has a well-defined tense system which refers to the time of action, we, Filipinos, are more concerned with modality or aspect of time than its tenses.

In Mar Roxas’ chant, greatly considered is the element of time as well understood by Filipino voters. By mere reading that four-worded line, it leaves mental imprint to the reader that it is now time for Roxas to occupy the highest public position in the country which is the presidency, thus it is now the time to vote for him. Since this is a mere campaign slogan, when the election season is finally over, the slogan or chant would eventually go with the wind after the polls.

Our concept of time or oras is measured by existence or experience, collectively or individually. It is not linear but spiral unlike the concept of the Westerners. It is linear because it is conditioned by the spaced linearity of past present or future. That is why when field enumerators and researchers using survey tools patterned from Westerners are deployed say, in Mangyan communities or in the barrios ask this question, “Kailan ka ipinanganak?” the common answer is “Tag-mais noon.” or, “Gaano kayo katagal na nanonood ng telebisyon sa gabi?” is commonly replied with, “Tuwing naka-bukas.” That is how peculiar the Filipino language is. The language used by the nation with equally peculiar political system and culture.

Philippine politics as ever, is based on personal attributes and not on ideological institutions and affiliations. The Daang Matuwid campaigners must realize that in politics, nothing is transferable. Even in party politics, some distancing is essential. I am not saying that Roxas should place himself too far away from the bonfire for he will be frozen to numbness or die from the cold. In his case, Roxas was too close to the fire brought about by numerous negative issues hurled against the present administration that’s why he is at the verge of burning.

I am not sure if indeed the time has come for Mar Roxas. Only two things I am certain: Coritha crooned the song of the 70’s “OrasNa” and Korina Sanchez is Roxas na…

(Photo grabbed from Gov MGm At Work)

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