Sunday, September 24, 2006


Passing by a newsstand can sometimes evoke a certain childhood memory — the time I made public yet another ambition; an added entry to my ever growing to-do list once grown up.

It was early Saturday morning. My father was reading his paper as he usually did before going to the office. Leaning against the arm rest of his chair, told him that I wanted to become a radio announcer someday.
As was often the case, my father silently pondered upon what I had just told him for a couple of minutes and then asked, “And what would you announce?” He probably assumed I was aspiring to join the genre that Kuya Eddie and Tiya Dely popularized during that period that glued my mother to her Sony transistor radio in the afternoons.

“The time and news update!” I exclaimed.

Upon hearing my response, my father slowly folded his paper and handed it to me. “Go ahead, read me the news.”

“But this is in English.” I objected.

“But it’s still the news?” he calmly retorted.

He has got to be kidding me! But when he reached for his pipe to fill it with some Prince Albert tobacco, I knew I’d better do some reading to show him I had what it took to someday actualize my dream. However, typical of early grade school pupils, I struggled quite pathetically with those English words printed in the Manila Times. Although I proceeded as if I knew what I was doing, I was actually oblivious to all those printed words; absolutely without any idea what they meant or how they were supposed to be pronounced.

Not once did my father interrupt to correct me; he just sat comfortably on his chair as he smoked his pipe. I’d often glance up from my reading to search his face for any sign of annoyance, but he seemed undisturbed by my tediously slow attempt, interspersed with “aaahh...” However, if asked, he would patiently show me how a word is pronounced and give its meaning.

And from that time on, whenever he saw me idly sitting by the window watching cars passed by, or without anything better to do, he would ask me to read him the news.

A couple of months later on, he brought home a copy of Reader’s Digest. He didn’t tell me to read it; just nonchalantly put it where the other magazines were. Its size — being smaller than the usual magazines of my older siblings — was supposed to connote it was intended for me. Yet, he wanted me to develop the interest to explore it on my own without his direct suggestion. I did.

When he saw me going through its pages, he started to bring home Reader’s Digest on a regular basis. I would ask my eldest brother (Junior, second to Fraulein) to read an article for me while my eyes focused on every word as he read it. He would stop every now and then to translate a certain passage in Tagalog so I would get the gist of it. Fraulein was not one to waste an opportunity. As she teased her hair to a bouffant and depleted the ozone layer with excessive application of hair spray, she’d make me read some articles and horoscope predictions from her magazines. She could be harshly critical of my English sometimes so I’d feign sudden illness (death if I could) just to avoid reading to her. I rejoiced when she left for the States — not because I wanted to get rid of her, but now she could make good on her promise to buy me a Lionel train set.

And so from then on, whenever my father took me to the movies, I started paying more attention to the English dialogue -- no longer on just the swashbuckling scenes as before. I would even try to visualize some spoken words. Later on, coming across those words in the newspaper or magazine, I would pronounce them the way I had heard them spoken in the movies. Consequently, I developed the habit of reading aloud every banner and billboard I saw along Manila’s streets or along the highway on our way to the province.

Now, the tough part:

Being the youngest, I was delegated to hang the mosquito net over my parent’s bed. But before doing so, I would sit on the bed and chat with my father while my mother was busily making sure everything was in order before going to bed. It was during those times that my father would ask me to recount the scenes he had missed from the movie we saw. I should mention that whenever my father took me to the cinema on those Saturdays after lunch, for the most part, he didn’t watch it along with me; he took a nap instead. I would just nudge him whenever he started snoring.

So now, besides reading him the news from the Manila Times, I would have to narrate the scenes he missed from those movies we went to see. And if I objected, he would say he’d never again take me to the movies on Saturdays — just with the entire family on some Sundays. So there I was, a young boy pitifully telling a story in English.

By the time I reached the fifth grade, I became quite comfortable with English — reading the news to my father with more confidence while my storytelling became bearably coherent. I was also tasked with the duty to read to the visiting relatives the letters and postcards from Fraulein and Napoleon (the third child next to Junior who enlisted in the U.S. Navy) about their sightseeing adventures.

Reading the news to my father continued until high school whenever I had no school in the mornings, as well as the evenings of narrations of scenes from the movies my father and I saw together or those just with my high school friends or brothers. By this time, my narrations had become more animated and extended; replete with paraphrased dialogues, but alas — my father would oftentimes be fast asleep and snoring before I got to the end.

When my father’s health turned for the worse — becoming comatose during his final months — I continued reading him the news even though unsure if he was even listening. Nonetheless, I thought it was the least thing I could do for my father who never once discouraged me from dreaming those grandiose dreams.

Bronze statue of former Manila mayor Arsenio Lacson at Baywalk in Roxas Boulevard


posted by Señor Enrique at 7:17 AM


Blogger PhilippinesPhil said...

Good stuff! You should send THAT one into the Reader's Digest. Your dad was a cool guy. I would never guess that English was your second language. Goes without saying, but you've more than mastered it. Like your dad, I never correct anyone's spoken English; instead, I'll try to find an opportunity to say a mispronounced word myself sometime later on in the class or in conversation.

September 24, 2006 7:55 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nostalgic Eric. Yes, I do agree with Philippine Phil that you should send that one into the Reader's Digest. It's good to hear your story and it reminds me of my childhood days whereby my Mom would just put some books on the coffee table hoping that I'd take up reading as a habit; which eventually I did. And now, I'm a certified bookworm. Heehee.

Ah, the good old days, eh?


Have a great Sunday ahead Eric.

September 24, 2006 9:37 AM  

Blogger Unknown said...

i agree one way to practice or learn how to speak a certain language is to read. marami pa namang natititrang magagndang newspaper sa atin na oks talagang basahin. you are fortunate you have a good father who guided you well.

pamangkin kong 8 yrs old daig ako sa pag-i-ingles dahil lang sa pagbabasa at panonood ng tv ;)

September 24, 2006 1:26 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

Lovely story! That's a good way to practise oral English. I saw myself there for a while. I used to read newspaper aloud in the bedroom. My inspiration then was my English teacher who was so kind.

September 24, 2006 1:29 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks, Phil, but this may not be up their league; however, I will consider it :)

Yes, he was very subtle about the whole thing; supportive but not pushy.

Hi Kyels!

I really thought it was nice of my father to just leave it there and allow me to pick it up on my own.

Your mom is just as cool :)

Ayun na nga Cruise. Kung hindi sa pagbabasa talaga atang mahihirapan akong matutunan ang ingles. Swerte naman ng pamangkin mo :)

Wasn't reading aloud a big help, Ipanema? Had I not done it, I would have never truly gained the confidence to speak that foreign language. Know what helps, too? Singing.

September 24, 2006 7:53 PM  

Blogger Analyse said...

that was quite a sad end. but your father was a good guide, he taught you the language without forcing you, which is more agreable. my parents, who were both teachers in a little barrio, never really taught us at home, but the fact that we are children of teachers, it's like we were obliged to be models to other children. with that, i guess we learned the language earlier than other kids in our barrio.

with my daughter, im submerging her to the english language by letting her watch dora at home. she's 10 months old now.

September 24, 2006 10:28 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

A good topic especially for us who are not native-born members of globally-dominant ethnic groups, because then we are quite bound to learn non-primary languages to make do or get by.

And this can be quite a daunting task. For example, ask a Japanese speaker whose language is noted to be guttural and has difficulty pronouncing the L sound. Or ask a Hispanic whose English speech tends to drop the g sound in infinitives (like changin’ for changing). Or even us, Filipinos, with our already confusing dialects numbering now over a 100 (including some recently discovered obscure dialects in the hinterlands of Bukidnon), whose speech typically is said to be either nasal or sounds typically forming in our mouths, rather than deeper, say, from the diaphragm.

Thus, personally and to this day, though I have lived here in the US for over a quarter of a century, I continue to practice daily with my loud reading of English text.

I bet you most of us bloggers now living or have lived in foreign adopted lands have written about the languages of our hosts. I know I did, as a matter of fact, at least about half a dozen times.

Yet not one, for the dialect I was born with, Bisaya (with its many versions), and the languages learned at school and other venues, like Tagalog or Pilipino (Baralira?), Latin (taught for 4 years in HS), and Spanish (required 8 courses in college). And yes, even Maranao, since we had to interact with the neighboring Moslem provinces in Mindanao.

September 25, 2006 12:55 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post! It takes courage to declare your ambitions so publicly; I'm glad your father was supportive. Thanks for sharing.

September 25, 2006 3:12 AM  

Blogger ipanema said...

It was a great help indeed Eric. Foreign employers used to tell me "You don't have Filipino English", whatever they mean by that.

Amadeo has a good explanation on the way we pronounce.

Even neighbouring SEAsian countries taunt us for the way we pronounce some words (they must listen to themselves too, before judging us). And if you're in a British colonised nation it's not helping either. I'm in one and even my spelling is affected. I have to adapt or I can't work with them.

There was one very observant poster in another blog who ask me nicely why I'm fond of additional 'u' as in colourful, etc. and other spellings. I thought for a while, OMG, h/she was stalking I told the person it's not intentional, that's British spelling and we use that everyday.

Arriving in foreign land with different Englishes spoken is a challenge to your beliefs and your tongue. I have to change some pronunciation and again, I had to practise. Up to now, I still slip to American pronunciation sometimes. Words like schedule - which i used to pronounce as sKedyul and now it's sHedyul. Lieutenant we pronounced as is but now I have to pronounce it as LeFtenant.

I used to be an Oral Examiner for English Language(GCE'O' Level - University of Cambridge Examinations)here and it's amusing to listen to different regional accents.

September 25, 2006 3:51 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another heart-warming post, Eric. I enjoyed reading this. And I saw Fraulein's name again. I don't know but it makes me smile every time I see her name in your stories. Napoleon sounds like an interesting person too. Is that his real name or did you name him after a certain Napoleon?

I think it was very touching that you continued reading to your father even after he was comatose. I read or heard somewhere that people in coma somehow hears the people around them.

Great story! Yeah, consider submitting it to Reader's Digest. You'll never know if it's up their league unless you submit it right? Don't worry about rejection, I've had many of those too. But sometimes magazines will tell you what they don't like about your story and then you can revise and polish it according to their needs.

September 25, 2006 6:13 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I remember that lively discussion on your site about your daughter's eventual language studies, Analyse :)

Yes, I can imagine the expectations because of your parents' profession. But then again, you did good!

September 25, 2006 7:13 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

My God, that is quite a collection of languages and dialects you had to contend with, Amadeo. However, your exposure to such had resulted to your admirable writing style, which I, for one, enjoy reading. Speaking of which, I will dig up your archives because I'm sure I will learn something from your previous posts about the English language.

Like you, to this day, I still make time to read aloud.

September 25, 2006 7:20 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks, Aurea. Yes, it does take some guts to declare publicly one's ambition ... hehehe. However, I did it only with my father.

September 25, 2006 7:22 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Wow! That was some position you held, Ipanema. And what a challenge indeed to adjust one's way of speaking just to adopt locally, though your's is the right way. But then again, I'm reminded of a Brazilian friend who works for Petrobras and fluent in seven languages. He told me that he attributes his language skills to his sensitivity to sound -- that language is nothing more than sound.

BTW, just the other night I was listening to Rck Wakeman's live performance recording of "Journey to the Center" with the London Symphony. Great music, but what I appreciate more than anything is the narration by David Hemmings. He is a superb reader/speaker -- simply mellifluous -- but then again he had classical training in theater; His English accent is absolutely a far cry from those newscasters of BBC and CNN.

September 25, 2006 7:40 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Fraulein might have been a force to reckon with -- a figure to be feared -- but believe it or not, Irene, and I must admit this, she was a kind-hearted soul :) But being the eldest, she had to help keep the rest of the children in line. Also, whenever my other brothers got too annoying, I would seek refuge in her bedroom, in which the other brothers were not allowed to go in.

It was only later on, Irene, that I was made aware that those who were in a coma are sometimes able to hear.

Okay, I'll contact an editor of Reader's Digest. I have nothing to lose anyway. Thanks!

BTW, Junior is very much like your Reggie -- very quiet. The one born after him was Napoleon (I call him that because of the complex he suffers from). Napoleon was the same guy dressed as the Maria Elena in my previous post. I will introduce the others as I go along with future entries.

September 25, 2006 7:54 AM  

Blogger ipanema said...

Your friend is right that listening is a good way to acquire good pronunciation. I listen to BBC radio to improve and funny just recently there was a discussion in BBC about one of their units. You know they employ linguists and other language experts BUT as the commenters say, why is it that some of their presenters still mispronounce, what's the use of the unit? lol.

There were several of us appointed by the Ministry of Education as Oral Examiners but I'm always happy that every year they send me appointment letter because not everyone gets it. There are less than 5 Filipinos on the list.

Know what I do here if there are foreign sounding names? I call the embassies and they are so helpful. My colleagues used to laugh at how I do things. I said I want it pronounced the right way, so we go to the

September 25, 2006 8:19 AM  

Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

I hope your style of news delivery is far from Mike Enriquez's style. :)

September 25, 2006 9:55 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That's quite resourceful of you, Ipanema.

Those BBC guys better do a better job in choosing their on air personalities. Maybe they ought to hire you as their consultant :)

September 25, 2006 11:13 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Lol ... know what you just reminded me of, S.A.? It's quite a game among local kids to imitate Mike Fernandez' unique delivery style. But these kids are quite good and hilarious with their imitations.

When I was a kid, it was Rafael Yabut that ruled the Pilipino news. There was also a radio announcer, Roger Night -- my brother nicknamed me Roger since I've gone public with my ambition ... hehehe.

September 25, 2006 11:17 AM  

Blogger Wil said...

Nice story, ERic. you're lucky to have had such an encouraging father. he sounds like he was a great guy.

September 25, 2006 11:37 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks, Wil. He was, but a very quiet man which most people mistook as aloofness.

September 25, 2006 12:31 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

lol Eric, I'm not a linguist. If they want my Bisaya English, I can do it well. When I do this, my siblings will be teary-eyed laughing. Sometimes I mimick my mother's whose New York residency will NEVER cure her Bisaya English tone.

They have a lot of experts from that part of the globe. There's this author who came and had a public seminar which I attended. She was very good.

September 25, 2006 7:50 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Pardon me, Ipanema, but the Visayan have always been very good English speakers. As a kid, I remember the host, Bobby Ledesma.

September 26, 2006 6:05 AM  

Blogger ipanema said...

That's true. Mag Ingles na lang kami kesa mag Tagalog. Nawawala mga accent namin...hahahha. Pero si Mother ko talaga, iba. :)

When I say Bisayan English (in my previous post)I'm referring to my family. I didn't mean ALL That's presumptuous of me. I think I should use Cebuano to be specific. That's why I use B for Bisaya.

Yes, Bobby Ledesma is. :)

Among the Filipino diplomats/government officials who's articulate in the English language is Raul Manglapus (correct surname?), one time Foreign Affairs Secretary. I was proud listening to him when he was interviewed once and it was shown on international channel.

September 26, 2006 4:18 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Glad we got that squared away, Ipanema ... hahaha!

September 26, 2006 6:26 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very heart-warming story indeed.

September 28, 2006 4:04 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wasn't much of a reader when i was young eric. In high school while my classmates were reading mills and boons and harlequin romance i was reading Komiks (tagalog pa) I couldn't read novels but i appreciated the short stories in Philippine Literature books like How my brother brought home a wife or the New Yorker in Tondo and those stuff(i couldn't remember their titles but i remember the stories)... ahh i wish i could find an old PhilLit book i enjoyed them! :-)

October 02, 2006 6:54 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Had I not opened my big mouth, I'd probably would have beeen reading more komiks, Beth :)

Nonetheless, those were some titles you ended up reading later on.

October 03, 2006 1:04 PM  

Blogger Reynald Ramirez said...

Dear Señor Enrique,

I am Reynald Ramirez of Investigative Documentaries a primetime program of GMA News TV Channel 11.

We are currently doing a story on Manila Street Names to be aired on April 12, 2012. We hope to find out if we are still interested to know the contribution and works of people to whom we named our streets after. This documentary also hope to educate the public on the contribution of these people to our history and heritage.

One segment will tackle A.H. Lacson St. in Sampaloc Manila. in line with this, may we request for your assistance by granting us permission to use the Lacson Monument in Roxas Boulevard photo posted in your blog last September 24, 2006 ( The photo will be used as video insert in discussing the historical background of Arsenio Lacson former Mayor of Manila.

Rest assured that due courtesy and acknowledgement will be given.

Should you have any queries you can contact me through my mobile no. 09069507430 and or telephone no. 982 7777 loc 1455.

We are hoping for your positive response.

Truly yours,

Reynald Ramirez

April 10, 2012 8:19 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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