Good thing heaven is not a Call Center. Or else, I would have kicked myself headlong to hell.

Recently, one of my "angels" at the magazine I work for came barging in, hissing as she shared her baptism of fire as trainee in one of the city's Call Centers. She sounded as though the devil's pitchfork was prying her mouth open so she could swallow frogs made of sulfur. All the while she thought her English would do the Sesame muppets proud, until she was told--- at the risk of falling from grace--- that she ought to do better and must speak like her tongue was bleached in the colors of the American flag. Stands to reason, I thought. You dealin' with dem Americans, gotta stretch your tongue's muscles deep into Uncle Sam's sphincter, honey! What if the voice from the other end of the line came all the way from Aerk-ein-sow ? No, darlin', Arkansas ain't rhyme like satanas.

If my life depended on speaking English like I didn't grow up in Sitio Itom-Yuta in barangay Lorega, I'd be fit to be feed to the wailing pigs at the slaughterhouse. And if they'd be raining dollars on anybody whose diction is atrocious enough to make the devil chuckle his gums out, damn, I'd be filthy rich. Christ's passion, that's something any grammar teacher would know out of my pronanshiasyeon! As if that's not enough, I'm a lauriate in the art of slurring. Find a furnace and shove an embering hammer into my mouth, and I would still, st-sta-stammer-mer. It cannot be tamed, this tongue so utterly Bisdak (Bisayang daku, or largely Visayan). Tough luck, even my wife-- an English teacher-- is on the verge of giving up.

I've been asked, or tasked, ad nauseam to lecture about aspects of journalism or creative writing, and after each session I wished there was a strip of Salonpas made solely for traumatized tongues. Could have been simpler if I had an inkling of sign language and I had to deal only with deaf-mutes.

Then again, if a black man or an Italian or a Carribean could speak an English so distinctly theirs, why squirm with an English spoken a la Bisdak? After delivering a lecture in a recent creative writing workshop in Samar, I joked and told Cora--- a fellow Bisdak poet--- who railed against imperialist hegemony in mindset and manner of percieving things, that my way of speaking could be a subversion of a colonized manner of articulation.

Go sneer, tongue in cheek. I would rather hear, with all heart, Lapu-Lapu's triumphant laughter.

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