Of Language and Beauty Pageants: Life in the Philippines

I’m certainly no fan of beauty pageants and no, I don’t hate it either.

I remember it very well when I sat dazed for a moment when my friends at facebook wrote something on my status about how I forgot my password for my email account. They said it’s a major major problem and I should seek a major major solution.

I was out of touch with the world for quite some time when the hullabaloo over what majority of us called as a major disaster took place. My mind was too busy trying to organize my thoughts for the training that I was about to conduct and it was only two days later that I managed to read the news and I found out what the major problem was.

The most recent experience I had as a judge on one beauty contest confirmed the truth albeit not as grandiose and prestigious as The Miss Universe Beauty Pageant. I was actually amused by some of the questions I had contemplated on asking the contestants. Such as, ” If you only have one eyebrow left, where will you put it? Left or right? Why?” Or maybe I could also ask something like, “If you have three hairs left on your head, what do you want to do with it? Will you have it together or separate from each other? Why?”

Of course, that’s just the funny side of me. No,I didn’t ask them that.

Venus Raj landed 4th among the 80 candidates and all we could harp for was that she failed to bring home the bacon. Fact is, you’re not a candidate for Ms. Universe.


It was too prejudicial for us to hinge our reactions solely on the basis of how she repeatedly used the word “major”. Are we reacting like this because we deem to see it as a major blow to our reputation as good English speakers? Are we afraid that Koreans would stop coming to the Philippines to learn the English language lest we produced major major English speaking Koreans? I guess as Filipinos we always pride ourselves as proficient in the English language. One of the best in this part of Asia, perhaps.

However, my major impression is that we are not so observant with the fact that in this part of the world, the Philippines, we have honed the language so as to suit our own purpose.

I’m no self-proclaimed linguist. I have lucid moments wherein sometimes, I can’t even spell the simplest and easiest words anymore. Believe me, we all have moments like these. No sleep, information overload and intellectual indigestion. Put them together and they are a perfect combination for my lucid moments. These are the times that I have to correct myself because my nouns and adjectives don’t agree with each other. My verbs and adverbs are in a state of proverbial love-hate relationship. And I have to check my written work so as not to commit a major laughing stock of myself.

Okay, let’s be bloody about this. If we want to be really strict with it, we are all liable to commit major blunders in the English language.

Case in point. What is a bloodletting activity?

Bloodletting was a historically practiced medical procedure which involved removing a set amount of blood from the veins of a patient for therapeutic purposes. Historically, physicians believed that many illnesses were caused by an excess of blood, and bloodletting was a frequent prescription for a wide range of conditions. It was the most common medical practice performed by doctors from antiquity up to the late 19th century.

This was based on two key concepts: one if blood could not circulate, it could stagnate at the extremities, thus the need for a bloodletting, second, the concept of humoralism. The theory of Humorism goes back to the concept of Hippocratic medicine. It believes that the body is made up of four basic substances, called humors, which are in balance when a person is healthy. All diseases and disabilities resulted from an excess or deficit of one of these four humors. . The four humors were black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. The blood was believed to be the dominant humor. When a patient was suffering from a surplus or imbalance of one fluid, then his or her personality and physical health would be affected.

Thus bloodletting during those times emerged as an answer to a plethora of medical problems. It is good for asthma, acne, leprosy, tuberculosis, herpes, indigestion and yes, insanity, just to name a few. If this is the case then I think I may need to enlist many of my friends for a bloodletting activity for they have periodic cases of insanity one time or another on their lifetimes. I’m sure they could keep the blood banks in the Philippines busy the whole month or so.

In blood donation, people can get a sense of what therapeutic bloodletting might have been like. However, most blood donors donate less blood than bloodletting would have removed. In the Philippines, donating blood is known to be a bloodletting activity.

At this point, let me ask you. Which one do you prefer? Bloodletting or blood donation?

A lot of factors come in when we try to contextualize everything. Language changes. It’s fluid and is never stagnant. The fact also remains that nobody has a monopoly of the English language. And if you don’t agree with me, that’s your major major reaction and it’s your prerogative to do so.

Someone used to tell me that the type of English language that evolved in the Philippines is that of the Americans. That’s why our English is flawed. He said Americans can’t speak good English unlike the British. He comes from a continent that has a long history of British colonization and therefore I can surely understand his reaction. So I bluntly told him, the British are snobs that’s why. He laughed. He got my point.

Venus Raj was attempting to clarify a point. She was trying to emphasize something. We may not be aware of it but some of us may have been unconsciously using the same expression in our everyday conversations. It goes to say that as non-native English speakers, we Filipinos have certain nuances when it comes to speaking the language, a type of language that may not be considered acceptable in the greater English speaking world. If there’s such a world called as greater English speaking world that is.

Venus Raj’s answer in totality is maybe, yes, off tangent. She had a chance to correct her mistake but I don’t know why, in the end, she faltered. But the criticism was not even on that aspect. Her major major speech caught the world by storm. Well, maybe you can say I am not a perfectionist when it comes to beauty pageants. That’s not my forte. But I have to lord it over her. I have every reason to believe that being fourth among the 80 candidates was no easy feat I guess.

We glorify our victories as one nation but in times of mistakes we are least forgiving to our own kind. I guess we too often remember the mistakes more than the victories.

The follies of human nature.

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About Joyce Christine Colon

Nature godess. Tree hugger. Filipina historian. ..........I am interested in things associated with cultures, history, animals and yes, cinnamon rolls.