Dish out the Pinoy accent, but taste it carefully
by Sophia Katherine Sarmiento
From the aroma of freshly served food to the words spoken on the tips of our tongue, anyone would undoubtedly recognize the Filipino blood just by the way we speak. Is this true ‘Dyosep?’
If you’ve never seen stand-up comedians doing imitations of the hard Filipino accent, then that might change your mind about things. This kind of accent is definitely peculiar yet so mainstream.
“Hab you olso trayd Adobo, my prend?”
This sort of accent being portrayed in the media from this day and age is almost likely an overstatement, with the possible intention of wanting to be cognizant that these people are actually waving the flag of the Filipinos.
I noticed how prevalent this became on social media; from day-to-day impersonations, the TikTok videos, to upscale stages in front of an audience. To be frank, most of them were really trying their hardest efforts to be compelling enough. It just became too repetitive that my smile wore off because everything looked too forced.
It’s not just this preconceived notion. Pre-pandemic times already manifested these imitating (or mocking) behaviors that entrenched Filipino culture today. Fellow people hindered achingly by geographical barriers would be the main targets because of their uncommon accent, making them victims of an unimposed rule when speaking even our own language and theirs.
Sometimes it’s not about being accurate anymore, but rather being convincing enough to instigate a laugh out from the willing audience.
The Pinoy accent isn’t simply just an exaggerated trill of the letter ‘r’, or a change in pronunciation involving the letter ‘f’ to ‘p’ (french fries, anyone?), and ‘v’ to ‘b’. It’s obviously what we’ve been accustomed to, but it feels as if the accent transformed into something shallow and restricted rather than being remembered for its inherent depth.
Let’s have some food for thought then.
The delicacy has its own sweet flavor
Our Filipino accents are presumably mixed. Despite its sweetness and its ability to cling to anyone’s palate, the Filipino language itself is not the only language being used in the country.
That’s why the accent is sweeter in its own way. It can be diverse, adapted from different cultures and circumstances.
There are a huge number of languages (and dialects) being used in the country, such as Tagalog, Cebuano, Kapampangan, and Chavacano. Each language has its own accent — something profound that a native uses to express themselves and their culture.
Notably, we learned how to enunciate words through our parents and familiar environments. We tend to forget the remnants of the past, how our forefathers adopted the style of speaking in Spanish and passed this down upon generations, even as we transitioned to the use of our national language. This is possibly one of the main reasons why it has become a habit for older generations to speak the way they speak, and inadvertently influence their familial surroundings.
It’s also highly plausible why foreigners have this kind of impression of the Filipino accent.
I wouldn’t ostracize these people for imitating the hard Pinoy or boomer accent (either for clout or for comedy), but I’d rather hold them accountable for being inaccurate and possibly satirical on so many levels.
Filipinos do speak relatively that way, but not the general public. It’s a bummer that the international audience thinks so because of this kind of misrepresentation and generalization.
A slight dose of bitterness might overpower the sweetness
Regardless of its pleasant taste, there is a slight discomfort on the topic of imitation and mocking. Yep, this can be quite stressful.
Notice how comedians on local television depict humor by laughing or mimicking mispronounced words because they were native Bisayan speakers. Even then, I’ve seen noon-time shows that always included audience interactions as part of their segments. This became a tolerable kind of humor in which the audience generally participated in, despite the banter already being kind of offensive. I guess more laughs from the audience could mean more screen time and traction for the hosts and producers of the show. Sigh.
I also feel the need to include the prevalence of how these native speakers are being portrayed in the limelight of Philippine television as servants or maids because of their accents and native origin.
If anyone could remember of the popular daytime show, Be Careful With My Heart, aired back in 2012 that initially featured Maya as a housemaid to the wife of ‘Sir Chief’, then we’ve been here long enough to realize that there have been such a huge amount of characterizations of kasambahays in Philippine media that subtly emphasizes them always coming from the provinces. Another notable addition to this is the Singaporean drama film titled Iloilo, which discussed so many themes and even the struggles of a Filipino domestic worker overseas coming straight from their home provinces.
Due to its stereotypical nature, fellow Filipinos are now much inclined to ignore the misrepresentation exhibited by the media instead of addressing it.
This might sound comical, but we’re missing the deep dive here of the superiority and inferiority complex that it brings about in certain languages — especially when it comes to speaking in English.
While some others find it funny, the rest can also feel offended. No matter how common this issue could be, it’s still an issue that needs to be addressed at the very least.
That’s why there is a mighty fine line between it being a joke, and justifying racism.
People mock accents because of superiority, or maybe just for humor. They adhere to standards (i.e. Western standards for English) of an accent that they feel is much superior, when in fact these victims are most likely in the midst of issues between fluency and adjustment.
Nuances like these don’t only apply on a global scale. Locally, the mainstream way of mocking other people was through mispronunciation and mimicking their uncommon accent in the area. It’s almost as if it’s predetermined that when one mispronounces a word, they would become victims with undervalued identities after a single snicker from a random stranger.
I admit that I had my moments of impersonating accents just to look funny. But it’s also these kinds of moments that granted me the understanding of delving deeper into our own accents and having great respect for it, and the people who speak them. We don’t want others to feel as if they’re carrying a smudge on themselves for staying true to their identity, right?
Accents aren’t just part of the language we speak, nor could they be something that is instantly learned. It’s inherent, an abstract part of our collective identity as Filipinos and the groups we belong in. Mocking it and using the same jokes over and over again is excessive, painstakingly tiring to hear, and an obvious attempt to chase clout.
And I hope we don’t just wash this down our throats and say that everything is normal. This pungent bitterness will never go away if we keep on ignoring it and succumbing to its awful relentlessness.