Have A Way With Words


by  Oliver Geronilla


The power to communicate effectively and wisely sets us apart from our primitive roots, but it’s the ability to understand and respond pragmatically and strategically that clearly makes us truly civilized.

Last year, BO readers were exposed to all sorts of communicators. Some were glib if not voluble; others were taciturn and even curt. You could easily tell it from the way they communicated their ideas using logos, pathos, and ethos which all got entwined all in the name of being heard and read. This only tells us one thing: there’s a need for us to have a “reliable” platform like BO where people can freely express their innermost thoughts and even simple observations without the fear of being censured.

Ceteris paribus, it’s simply beyond me when I see or read BO contributors turning in articles or comments decrying politicking when in fact they themselves engage in it verbally or otherwise. That’s the pot calling the kettle black!

This is quite contagious; and we can see this form of verbal malady all over the country. Unfortunately, the incumbent Mayor did not spare herself from being a victim of this political disease which GMA was a victim too. In Mayor De Castro’s 2009 Year-End Report to the People of Bulan, she did not mince (her) words in telling her constituents about how she felt being “criticized” by her political rivals.

That should have been stricken off the report as it did not help bolster her sense of leadership; nor did it help her exude her favorite catch-phrase “Ina san bungto.” In fact, it weakened the almost linguistically well-polished speech she (and perhaps her speech writer) prepared. That destroyed the spirit of Christmas which, according to Christopher Dilts, is all about “seeing the goodness in others, recognizing, acknowledging and reflecting this goodness back to them. This can be done with a loving look, a kind gesture, a warm embrace, a few words of encouragement, or an expression that is as rich and elaborate as you wish.”

Well, she somehow saw the goodness in it by saying that “naging danun ini para maging inspirasyon na lalo namo pakay-adon an pag-administrar nan paglingkod sa iyo.” That and only that. The other elements were missing which I believe would have made her a better ‘mother” had she gone further by hinting at the possibility of working together despite the ugly past that has put them at a very awkward position in being role-models of goodwill and statesmanship.

A doting mother, as we all know, welcomes back to her arms all her children, prodigal or not, without conditions. But that’s far from the gist of her accomplishment report which reeked of angst and frustration. As such, the glaring paradox in her annual accomplishment report has made me wonder how she could continue being a good mother of our beloved town when she still harbors ill-feelings towards those “people who might have gone astray.”

Had she not used the word “ina’ in her report only to bash her critics around prosodically, I wouldn’t  have any qualms about her sincerity in leading Bulan towards a united, progressive, and God-fearing community.

Alas, she’s not properly coached to use language more skillfully to unite her constituents.

Still, I tip my hat to the present corps of leaders of Bulan for continually communicating with us (and hopefully continuously next time)–a step more important than the political junkets that most candidates would be busy undertaking these coming local and national elections.

My (desired) present for everyone this year: the gift of the gab minus the roar of the tiger.

Happy New Year!


13 thoughts on “Have A Way With Words

  1. Correction:

    …this coming local and national elections” SHOULD be ….”THESE coming local and national elections.

    oliver geronilla

    • “The power to communicate effectively and wisely sets us apart from our primitive roots, but it’s the ability to understand and respond pragmatically and strategically that clearly makes us truly civilized.” Oliver Geronilla

      Beautiful lines coming from a Bulaneño.

      This or These? In connection with our dynastic and patronage political system, it’s usually in plural form when we talk about election, the time when people elect the governor behind the mayor, the councillor beside the mayor, etc. Yes, demonstrative pronoun in plural form when these clan members will be demonstrating in words before the people why they deserve to be re-elected and not the opposition who- in their view- have nothing to offer but noise. Verbal warfare is alright, hence, it is noisy during elections- both the incumbent and the opposition- but is tolerable as long as it serves democracy and is carried out with a minimum trace of civility.

      “The power to communicate effectively and wisely sets us apart from our primitive roots,… ”

      This is true for the election candidates. It’s better that they Have A Way With Words to achieve their political goals for this would set them apart from the primitive Ampatuans.

      To continue with Oliver’s argument:

      “but it’s the ability to understand and respond pragmatically and strategically that clearly makes us truly civilized.”

      This means: To Have A Way With Words is important not only for politicians but most especially for the people so they understand behind the lines these array of election rhetorics and verbal warfares before they cast their votes. Hence, it is the ability of the people to understand and make a wise choice upon which higher civilization depends, upon which the future of Bulan civilization depends.

      Going back to Bulan political arena, it seems that the opposition candidates are not wise or strong enough to challenge the incumbent administration at least in Having A Way With Words. This time I mean the printed words through the use of the internet or other medium. We never know who they are, their serious political agenda which includes their vision and mission for the municipality and people of Bulan. What are their own arguments aside from relying on the findings of the Commission On Audit?

      I’m not suggesing that they are behind this Bulaneño Blog for a serious political candidate or a group of opposition candidates would not hide behind such anonymity. And I think the people of Bulan are wise enough not to elect a mayor who prefers to hide or doesn’t like to communicate with them.

      That’s the edge of Mayor Helen De Castro’s camp because they make use of every opportunity and all available audio-visual media to reach the people and make known their programs. Politics is about active and effective communication- before and after the election.

      This is really the small difference (small yet big in effect) between the De Castro and the Guyala Camps. The De Castros are communicative, whereas the Guyalas are, as of now, less eloguent and incommunicado- Having A Way Of Words perhaps only within the confines of the courtroom.

      However, election is not a court trial, but it is of getting in touch with the people of Bulan who are home and away from home- and to talk with them about their political visions and concrete plans as to how they can contribute to solving the problems facing Bulan and help in the advancement of Bulan community.

      To oppose is not automatically to be better than the opposed. This needs explanation. Election time is the right time to offer such explanation.

      Opposition is not limited to finger-pointing but is about defining their own plans and communicating these plans to the people.

      It is the right of the people to be informed- before, during and after election.

      The gift of the gab? Is this what Oliver wants to present as a gift also to the opposition?

      I mean you can avoid mistakes or typographical errors such as This or These if you choose to remain silent.

      I respect silence and take it as an integral part of communication. But in politics you simply need to communicate.

      The roar of the tiger?

      At the moment, Tiger Woods is hiding in the woods, has enough of the media rumors, doesn’t like to roar but to have his peace of mind. It’s right for him to do so because he is not a political candidate.

      A roaring De Castro tiger?

      Bioacoustics researchers have found out that a tiger roar has a very terrifying and paralyzing effect on the other animals that hear it and it travels long distances because of its low frequency- at less than 20 hertz. It is no longer audible to human ear yet through subliminal perception, human beings “hear” such a roar by “feeling” it, a kind of sensing danger and fear.

      Election time in the Philippines has always been associated with danger and fear. The Maguindanao pre-election related massacre says it all.

      We just hope that in Bulan the people and the opposition are not preceiving and being paralyzed by such a tiger roar, that political debate is carried on with Having A Way With Words.

      jun asuncion

      • Jun,

        One more thing that MUST be corrected:

        “…I won’t have any qualms about her sincerity in leading Bulan …..”

        not WON’T….. Please change it to WOULDN’T….

        won’t = contraction of will not

        wouldn’t= contraction of would not

  2. It’s corrected, Oliver. Your computer keyboard also makes minor errors. But if you would check my writings, I tell you, you would have all the qualms editing them!

    We need a volunteer to do this job- somebody who loves Bulan Observer! (Is there anyone out there?!?)

    But I guess people never worry too much about these minor imperfections and they seem to enjoy them. As a matter of fact your article is the most viewed one today.

    In any case, this is our life here in BO, free and spontaneous, we see our own little mistakes and correct them without blaming anybody, and we help one another like good neighbors do.

  3. Note from the Public Information Officer:
    This message was delivered by the Honorable Mayor Helen C. De Castro during the the New Year’s Eve Mass on December 31, 2009. The Mayor delivers a traditional message during this Holy Mass which the LGU sponsors. The Bulan officials, Vice-mayor and the Municipal Councilors, in a show of solidarity, stand behind the mayor as she delivers the message at the podium of the altar This tradition was started by then Mayor Guiming de Castro in 1996. It is during this time that thousands of Catholic Bulanenos from all walks of life attend the Mass.

    By: Mayor Helen C. De Castro

    Sa ato Kura Paroko, Reverendo Father Ernie Mendina,
    Sa ato mga Ginagalangan na Kapadean,
    Sa iyo tabi Entero na huyaa niyan sa Misa na ini,
    Sa mga Pinapadaba ko na mga Kabubungto:

    Sa kada pagtindog ko didi sa altar, nan sa kada paghatod ko san tradisyunal na New Year’s message para sa bungto ta bilang ina nan mayor san Bulan, dire ko tabi inlilimutan an sinabi ni Saint Therese of Lisieux, na ngaya, “ Everything is Grace, Everything is Gift!”. Sabi ni Santa Teresita, an entero na bagay biyaya, an entero na bagay regalo.

    Kun an entero na bagay sa kinab-an nan sa buhay ta biyaya nan regalo hale sa mahal na Dios, kun sugad, wara tabi kita sin puwede akoon sa sadire ta, wara kita sin puwede ikahambog. Inpadumdum baga tabi kita ni St. Paul, na ngaya, “Without God, we are nothing”; Kun wara an Dios wara man kita.

    Kun an entero na bagay sa kinab-an nan sa buhay ta biyaya nan regalo, an pinakamagayon man na puwede i-uli ta sa Kaglalang mao an pagpakumbaba, pagpasalamat nan pag-ataman san regalo na hatag Niya.

    Sini na nakaagi na taon 2009, daghanun na eksperiensya an saato inagihan, sa personal man nato na mga buhay,o sa ato komunidad. Daghanun an mamundo na karanasan an nagtanyog sa ato mga dughan nan pagkatawo, pareho baga didi sa bungto ta, san Mayo, naranasan nato an sayo sa pinakahararum na baha na dara san Bagyong Dante. Nungka sa kasaysayan san henerasyun ta sa Bulan, may baha na irog sadto kahararum. Nan ini na pagka-ambush san mga Pulis ta sa Calomagon. Hadok nan kamunduan an dara sa kada sayo sa ato. Nan sa taon na ini, pinangaratan kita san destroso nira Bagyong Ondoy nan Pepeng didto sa Metro Manila nan Luzon. Nan ini na nakaagi na Nobyembre, sa Maguindanao, an makangengerhat na pagMasaker sin mga inosente na sibilyan.

    Daghanun pa an mga pangyayari nan mga balita na nagpigri sa puso ta sa kamunduan o kaya nagpalukso sa ato sa kaogmahan. Sa entero na mga pangyayari na ini, dara man san kalikasan o himo-himo sin tawo, kisyera may leksiyon na dara sa kada sayo sa ato, o kaya sa komunidad ta, na dapat nato maging basehan sa padagus na pag-unhan sa ato mga pagkatawo nan sa pagpromotir sa dignidad san kapuwa nato. I think we should always realize that Our God is a God of History and Experience, who out of our nothingness and weaknesses, teaches us, and molds us, as He leads and guides us to goodness.

    Daghanun an tiyempo na nakabati kita sin ngaya, “Wara na kirita Pag-asa”, na ngaya, “Wara na kirita mayad na Pakadtuan”, o kaya, ngaya, “Lubong na kirita sa Kamutangan na ini”o kaya “Malomlomon daw an Puturo ta”. Pero, sa paniwala nan isip ko man tabi, na an importantehon na aspeto san Paglaom mao an Pagtubod. An nakapasarig sa Paglaom mao an Pagtubod ta, Pagtubod sa Mahal na Dios nan Pagtubod sa kakayahan ta . Our Faith strengthens our Hope. Mao ini na mga birtud sin Pagtubod nan Paglaom an nagbabangon sa ato entero sa panahon sin mga kalamidad nan kaluyahan. Calamities and disasters bring the worst in us, but they, more than anything else, also bring out the best in us, our kindness, our charity, our compassion, our love. It is because THAT is who we are, THAT is why and how we are made by God. Faith, Hope and Love are the reasons for our existence. But we should not simply exist – we must live. Nan sa mga tawo na naiimod ta na maluya, tikapo, nawawaraan sin paglaom dahil sa malaen na situasyun sa buhay, mao yuon an rason kun nano kay an kadaghanan na tawo biniyayaan sin baskog, kusog, nan kakayahan magdanun. Therefore, we can preach Peace in the midst of Violence; we can work and show our Love and Charity in the midst of poverty and hopelessness, we can teach Goodness in the midst of Ignorance. And we can do MUCH in spite of our Nothingness.

    Sini na nakaagi na taon, daghanun an puwede ta ipasalamat sa Mahal na Dios. An buhay ta, an Pamilya ta, an Komunidad ta, an Kada Sayo sa ato.

    Nan didi sa Komunidad ta, kadaghan sin mga tawo nan mga grupo an dire nagsasawa maghimo sin kaayadan para sa kapuwa. San panahun sin pagbaha, huyoon an mga Volunteers nato nan mga organisasyun na nag-rescue sin mga bata nan mga gurang, nan nagdanun sa Evacuation and Relief efforts, pareho baga san Rescue Team, Uswag-Bulan, BEAT, BANWA, Kabalikat, Bulan Lions Club, Fil-Chinese Fire Brigade, TOFY, nan AKRHO. Sa pagsalbar san Kapalibutan ta, sa kada pagpurot basura, paglimpiya san baybayon o kada pagtanum kahoy nakasikop kita sa mga Kabatan-an ta sin Pag-asa nan Pagkamoot, pareho san grupo san Sagip-Dagat Volunteers, Earth Greeners, Yes-O, nan daghanun pa na mga organisasyun, nan sa kada estudyante, maestro, maestra, Boy Scout, Girls Scout , kada magurang na yadto sa Pista sa Kabubudlan.

    Didi sa Bulan, we have everything to thank for. Sa kada Opisyal san Gobierno lokal o san kada barangay, kada empleyado, kada pulis, kada teacher, kada driver, baggage boy, paraoma, paraisda; kada senior citizen, kada magurang nan pamilya nan bata, sa kada ciudadano – na may bulawan, mayad, malinig na puso nan boot. Despite the evil things and bad experiences of the past year, we have everything good to thank God for, because we have a lot of good people around us.

    Sa pagtuntong san Bag-ong Taon 2010, malakaw nan matan-aw kita sa puturo na nasa puso nato an masarig na Pagtubod nan Paglaom. Ini dahil sa Mahal na Dios nan kada sayo sa ato na hinatagan suon na pambihira na Kalayaan o Freedom to do what is right and good.

    Ini na presente na panahon nato niyan, nan an maabot na mga adlaw nan taon, kisyera maging sayo na Kairos, o panahon sin pambihira na engkuentro san Mahal na Dios nan Tawo. Let 2010 be a Kairos, a supreme moment of encounter between us and our God. Let it be a Kairos, o momento na kun haen an mga krises sa buhay ta maging panahon sin oportunidad. Let this year be a Kairos of Grace.

    May aayuon gihapon ako na duwang bagay sa iyo entero na mga taga-Bulan.

    Una, kami na mga lideres niyo, nagpapakumbaba tabi, nag-aayo sa iyo sin tawad, pagpasensiya, dispensa sa mga kakulangan mi, sa mga kasal-anan mi, sa mga kaluyahan mi bilang mga magurang san komunidad ta. Dire kami irog sini kun dire dahil sa iyo. Kaya, inpapanibag-o mi sa oras na ini, sa hampang san mahal na Altar, an sa amo commitment nan dedikasyun sa mga misyon na inpapapas-an niyo sa amo para sa komunidad ta.

    Ikaduwa, inaayo mi tabi an saiyo mga pangadyion na kami na mga lideres niyo, ialabar po niyo sa Mahal na Dios nan sa Mahal na Inang Maria na hatagan kami sin Pagkapusuanon nan Korahe (courage) pareho ni Haring David, Kadunungan o wisdom pareho kan Solomon, Kahigosan pareho ni Senyor San Jose, nan an Kapakumbabaan pareho san Mahal na Inang Maria. Magiging sarig namo an pangadyi niyo. Please pray that we shall be servant-leaders instead of being masters. Pray for us that we become philosopher-governors instead of being rulers. Help us pray that we leaders must realize that we are nothing, and that from God emanates everything, especially this gift of leadership.

    Sa iyo po entero, Merry Christmas and a Grace-filled New Year 2010. Salamat. Dios Mabalos!

      • Dear Oliver,

        Happy New Year!

        The message is ecumenical. Except that it was delivered in a catholic church, the message dwells into the very experience of every man, and that man’s God, be He Yahweh, Allah or the Unnamed Supreme Being of other peoples is a God of History and Experience, and that from Him man can draw the strengths and virtues of faith, hope and love, and make these essences work for the good of others.

        The Mayor drew examples of and from certain Church and biblical personalities to emphasize on other concerns. But I think the message is addressed to all. It is within and in between those lines. One of the Municipal Councilors was a Protestant. He was in church and joined the mayor during her delivery of the message.

        Thank you tabi.

        Tonyboy Gilana

  4. mr. geronilla,

    i know you are a language instructor. i noticed you’re so conscious about gramatical blunder even if said error is so minor, and could not even be detected by x-ray/scanning machine. You are very particular in grammar ( i mean perfect english grammar)… never mind those blunders or errors… because we are not perfect and nobody is perfect in this world. Mind you, I’ve talked to a lot of Englishmen (briton accent) and you would notice that their grammar are terribly wrong and, also many, if not most of the americans, (new yorker accent) are speaking wrong grammar. Take note, sarili nilang wika, mali-mali pa, tayo pa kaya na hindi natin sariling wika ang English…. I bet you, we, bikolanos and bikolanos could not even properly communicate in the local dialect which is (bikol naga/legaspi)… subukan mo magsulat ng bikol dito sa blog ni Mr. Asuncion, at sasabihin ko sayo, mali mali ang bikol grammar mo. pati sa tagalog subukan mo mag sulat at sasabihin ko sayo na mali mali ang grammar/balarila mo….. thats’ a challenge to you..

    minor mistakes can be ignored or maybe disregarded. even major blunder can be forgiven, so long as you are talking with substance… ok na yun… what is important is that we are trying our best to communicate in a very cultured manner.

    • Mr. Bulan,

      Thank you for the reminder/s.

      Writing is a form of art that requires discipline; and serious writers should always bear in mind that their outputs—whether they like it or not—can become an integral part of the linguistic corpus that young minds can read and learn from. Hence, as much as possible, writers need to strive for excellence.

      Whether I write for dailies or for (and with) political columnists like Dr. W. Scott Thompson, or even for BO, excellence is always what I have in my mind, not perfection.

      Yes, you are right in saying that “minor mistakes can be ignored or may be disregarded. even major blunder(s) can be forgiven, so long as you are talking with substance.” But there’s absolutely nothing wrong when we recognize our own mistakes and (we) correct them. If my memory serves me right, I think Mr. Jun Asuncion made it clear that doing so is perfectly fine.

      As we all know, language is primarily spoken, not written. In spoken form, mistakes are usually permissible, but not in writing. That’s simply because in writing, we can always revise and edit our own work. In speaking, we can’t. Remember Janina San Miguel?

      Gene Navera, my classmate at UPLB who is now doing his dissertation at the National University of Singapore, made a very good observation about Janina’s blunder during the Q&A portion of the Bb. Pilipinas Beauty Pageant. Here’s what he wrote about her answer:

      “Well, Janina San Miguel’s utterance is what some applied linguists would call ‘living English’. I’d say it is an example of English in use by ‘subalterns’ or ‘postcolonial subjects’. At best, it is a modest form of resistance against the colonial tongue (I kind of loved it when she maintained her poise and exuded that annoying smugness – or should I call it chutzpah? – after her last clause, ‘…but I said dot (with emphasis) my pamily is the most important persons (very alliterative!) in my (with matching prolonged diphthong [ai]) life’). Janina has disturbingly ‘recontextualized’ English – has ‘colonized’ it so to speak – to the consternation of those who adhere to the unstable notion that there is only one way of speaking English, and that is, by using the Standard World English (which is a very contentious construct anyway.)” ***

      Regarding the challenge which you posed, I have to tell you as early as now that I CANNOT rise up to it; I need more time to study the ins and outs of the Filipino language and my native language/dialect. It’s not just grammar that I worry about; in fact, I worry more about their lexical and semantic nuances.

      1. I might lose my job as a ghostwriter and a freelance columnist if I allow these mistakes in my articles remain uncorrected. 🙂
      2. The “errors” that I asked to be corrected here at BO are/were my own.

      Oliver Geronilla

      *** http://genres5.multiply.com/journal/item/6/Binibining_Janina_and_her_majestys_Living_English

  5. mr. geronilla, pls. try to review the texts ng “the year-end report” ni mayora at yung “new year’s message” niya sa mga kabungto na nailathala dito sa blog ni mr. asuncion, ang lalim ng bikol na ginamit niya, bikol na bulan na may kahalong waray-bisaya-albay/naga and a little bit of espanyol, maganda ang pagkagawa ng speechwriter niya, parang matalinhaga ang mga salita, sa tingin ko pari o pastor o obispo ang speechwriter niya, kasi kung hihimay-himayin mo ang mga salita, minsan maypagka-historical, biblical, theological ang dating, hindi yan kaya ni meyora sabihon o isulat… una -una maypagka-intsik an accent ni mayora though ang asawa niya de castro.. pero himay-himayin mo rin madaming mga clerical/typographical errors ang texts ng report pero hindi na mahalaga yun, ang mahalaga ay ang naipaabot niya ang mensahe sa kabungto with sincerity, humility, from the heart, or otherwise, hehehe!

    • To Oliver and Mr. Bulan,

      I have written a short reply to your discussion here and posted it in front. It’s a rough draft actually, needs editing, and I will come back to review it when I get time.


      jun asuncion

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