Stop Looking for Native English Speakers From the Philippines

I was doing research for an article when I stumbled upon a job posting from a company in the Philippines saying they are “looking for native English speakers.” I didn’t know what to do, really—to laugh or get angry. I laughed first because of the absurdity of the job ad and got angry because prospective job applicants were out before they can even apply.

Because guess what? Filipinos are not native English speakers, at least the majority of them.

Stop Looking for Native English Speakers From the Philippines | ArvynCerezo.com

First of all, let’s settle it once and for all by defining what makes a native speaker. Cambridge Dictionary says it’s “someone who has spoken a particular language since they were a baby, rather than having learned it as a child or adult.” It’s someone who grew up learning a particular language at home, in our case it’s English. It’s their language at infancy, and the language their parents taught them. It’s the language they use when thinking and talking in everyday life (outside of work and in the Philippine setting only).

While there are Filipinos who grew up learning English as their native tongue, majority of them did not. Hence, the Philippines is not a native English-speaking country.

But there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

Multilingualism in the Philippines

The Philippines is a multilingual country, boasting over 170 languages. Speaking two or three languages is the norm. In the capital Metro Manila, Tagalog/Filipino is the first language of most of its inhabitants. But if you venture into the provinces, regional languages like Bisaya and Tagalog/Filipino may be both spoken at home. Some only speak their regional language and not the national language. In rare cases, a regional language, Tagalog/Filipino, and English are being spoken as well. Sometimes, only Tagalog/Filipino and English are the preferred languages.

As you have noticed, it’s quite complicated in the Philippines’ case. Can one have more than one native language? And if English is one of them, do they qualify as a native English speaker? This Stack Exchange forum says so, but I’ll take it with a grain of salt.

If you ask the majority, though, they say no. This absurdity can be easily dispelled when a Filipino applies for jobs or to schools where English is the primary language. Unfortunately, the Philippines is not among the list of countries which are considered native English-speaking countries. And if you want a list, here it is. Thus, Filipinos have to take an English proficiency test like IELTS or TOEFL to prove they have a good command of the language. For a Filipino who grew up with English as their primary language, it’s quite a problem proving they are indeed a native speaker.

English as a Second Language

Don’t get me wrong. Filipinos may be very good at using the English language, but they are still not considered native English speakers. In fact, majority consider English as their second language. While some can really pass like a native speaker, the reality is most of them do not.

So, stop looking for native English speakers from the Philippines unless you’re limiting your talent search to American expats or around 3%* of the Filipino population.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if one is a native speaker or not as long as they can do the job.

Best guess

All of My Favorite Lyrics From Taylor Swift’s ‘Lover’

One month after its release, I still can’t get enough of Taylor Swift’s newest album Lover. Since last month, I don’t think there was a day I didn’t listen to it. From the shower to commute and work, songs from Lover dominate my other playlists.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going gaga over it. Swift’s previous albums from Reputation to Fearless were good as well. I remember Reputation being dark and mature. It’s perfect for me when it was first released—when I was also feeling “revengeful.” Now that Lover is out, I feel like the theme perfectly describes what and where I am in my life right now: happy and content.

I’ve been a fan of Swift since “Teardrops on My Guitar” era. That’s almost 15 years already! Until today, I still listen to some of her past albums. I don’t know about you, but I like the mystery and the story behind her songs. They are just very lyrical.

The following are my best and thought-provoking lyrics from Lover. Obviously, there are a lot of good lyrics in the album for when you have those darn feelings. But these are the ones that really spoke to me.

I Forgot That You Existed

I forgot that you existed. And I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t

 

London Boy

They say home is where the heart is. But that’s not where mine lives

 

Death by A Thousand Cuts

Paper cut stains from our paper thin plans

 

Soon You’ll Get Better

Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus too

 

Afterglow

Why’d I have to break what I love so much?

 

Daylight

My love was as cruel as the cities I lived in

 

The Man

If I was out flashin’ my dollas
I’d be a bitch, not a baller
They’d paint me out to be bad
So it’s okay that I’m mad

 

Daylight (voice over)

I wanna be defined by the things that I love
Not the things I hate
Not the things I’m afraid of, I’m afraid of
The things that haunt me in the middle of the night, I
I just think that you are what you love

If you love Lover, what are your favorite lyrics from it? Make sure you comment them below!

Hablo Español: How I Learned Conversational Spanish in 6 Months

At the start of the year when everyone promised to stay committed to their New Year’s resolutions, I decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do—to learn Spanish. If you had asked me to listen to a song in Spanish six months ago, I would have just laughed for the absurdity of it. Six months later, I am now stanning Sebastián Yatra and Morat. My fluency of Spanish even improved from ¿Cómo estás? to trash talking someone who cuts in line at a fast food restaurant.

I’ve always considered myself to be a language lover. I already speak three languages—English, Filipino, and Pangasinan. But with the limited career prospects of the last two, I decided that it’s time to up the ante. Spanish was the obvious choice as it’s the second-most spoken language in the world. But that’s not all there is to it. Embracing my cultural identity—trying not to be white—gave me the motivation I needed to start this journey.

Hablo Español: How I Learned Conversational Spanish In 6 Months | ArvynCerezo.com
Sagrada Família, Barcelona

I love Hispanic and Latin culture, and it’s nice to be able to connect to that culture I have been denied of.

If you’re starting to learn Spanish, it’s really difficult to know where to start. Should you sign up for classes? Should you just study by yourself? And if you do, what resources should you get ahold of? These are the questions that plague a first-time learner of Spanish. With the advent of modern technology, it’s really easy to find a lot of resources. The caveat is, where to start?

Language learning is a personal journey. Every learner responds to different learning styles. As for me, I don’t do well with traditional classroom-based learning. This is why I took this journey alone and selected the best resources that work for me.

Below are the resources I use every day to study Spanish. You can try all of them, but you don’t have to keep using the ones that don’t work for you.

Grammar and Vocabulary

Duolingo

I’m not a textbook kind of learner. For me, reading a textbook and doing the exercises are really boring. This app is what I use to learn the grammar and other language rules.

Perhaps Duolingo is the most popular language learning app. And it’s not difficult to see why. Its gamified learning process is engaging and rewarding. While it’s the most popular, it’s not also the most effective.

I read a lot of mixed reviews saying that it works for them and it doesn’t work for others. Well for me, it works as intended. However, I don’t rely on it alone to learn everything.

Memrise

This is a flashcard app to learn new words. However, it’s not the usual ones as the words are recorded by real humans and not robots. There are also a lot of videos of native Spanish speakers for practicing pronunciation and comprehension.

Memrise focuses on European Spanish. Thus, make sure you know at the outset what variety of Spanish you want to study.

ABC Spanish

This is actually an app for children. But as what they say, you go back being a child—learning everything from scratch—if you’re studying a new language.

ABC Spanish teaches everything you need to know at the beginner level. There’s the Spanish abecedario as well as educational games on different categories to build your vocabulary.

Reading Comprehension

Beelingua App

After getting past the elementary level, it’s time to put everything into practice.

In this innovative audiobook and e-book app, you can read and listen to children’s stories, popular stories, short essays, and even news in dual languages. So even if you don’t understand some words when reading a passage, you can look at the English translation below it.

The complexity of the texts can be filtered in three categories: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

CNN Español and BBC Mundo

These popular news outlets have Spanish counterparts of their websites. However, they are only recommended for upper intermediate to advanced learners.

I read them to get used to the real Spanish being written in formal settings. They mostly cover the state of affairs in the United States and in the rest of the world.

Listening Comprehension

News

Telemundo Noticias

Like CNN Español and BBC Mundo, this one is not for total beginners as the newscasters speak like a ametralladora (machine gun).

They focus on the state of affairs in the United States and sometimes in Latin America, too.

TV Shows and Documentaries

Alerta Aeropuerto

I got addicted to this show when I first watched the English version on National Geographic. It documents the people who were caught smuggling drugs at major airports in Latin America and Spain. The presenter speaks understandable-enough Spanish.

So far, I’ve only watched the show’s other editions that are filmed in Lima, Perú and Bogotá, Colombia.

[email protected] in Spanish

To see if TV series and/or telenovelas also work as a learning tool, I have been watching some of them.

This one’s outdated and cringe-worthy but still serves its purpose until now. It’s a Friends-like sitcom that revolves around Ana, Lola, Sam, and Pablo who live in an apartment building in Madrid.

Released in 2002, it only lasted for 13 episodes. The level of Spanish progresses from beginner up to intermediate.

Podcasts

Duolingo Spanish Podcast

This one doesn’t really teach grammar rules contrary to its app version. Instead, it focuses on true bilingual stories featuring Latino characters. It’s recommended for intermediate learners.

Coffee Break Spanish series

I think that this is the second-best Spanish podcast available. You can already notice it with their professional-sounding intro and outro. They have 200+ episodes now since their humble beginnings in 2008, and I already learned a lot from them.

They teach everything a newbie needs to know. As the seasons progress, the level of Spanish also gets harder.

Although the main presenter is based in Scotland, he has a native-like command of Spanish.

News in Slow Spanish (Spain)

Per the podcast title, the news coverage is mostly Spain and Europe where the presenters speak in slow Spanish. Not literally slow, but controlled and understandable. No more machine guns! There are two levels of this podcast: intermediate and advanced.

News in Slow Spanish (Latino)

Like its European edition, the presenters speak in slow Spanish. Their news mostly focuses on Latin America and its culture. Unlike the other one, all levels from beginner to advanced are covered.

Spanish Obsessed

This one is a podcast by a couple based in the United Kingdom. It’s a bit slow for my liking and not that comprehensive, but I have to train my ears to the sounds of the language.

The variety of Spanish being used is from Colombia.

Notes in Spanish

This is also a bit dated but still useful.

The presenters speak with an accent from Madrid. They also give tips to learners to sound like native Spanish speakers.

Spanish for Pinoys

Yes, you read it right! There’s a Spanish podcast for Filipinos—the first time ever. I’m not sure where is the presenter based, but he is really a Filipino.

He doesn’t teach grammar rules in this podcast, but he plays useful clips. It’s fine for intermediate learners. However, it can be improved.

Released in 2018, the podcast has 24 episodes only. I wish that the presenter came back to record more.

Language Transfer

This is by far the best ever Spanish podcast you have to listen to right now.

Mihalis Eleftheriou, the founder, discusses grammar rules innovatively and refreshingly in 90+ episodes. I found the lessons very enlightening because there are some grammar rules I can’t really understand no matter what I do.

And by the way, it’s all free.

Songs in Spanish

This method is the most difficult but engaging method to learn Spanish. It may not teach you the grammar rules but it will train your ears to pick up words.

For the past six months, I’ve been listening to a lot of Latin and Spanish bands/musicians. Some of my favorites are Morat, Sebastián Yatra, Alvaro Soler, and Rosalía. Although I hate its vulgar content, I also listen to reggaeton.

This method might be challenging for music lovers as well. Listening to songs in Spanish means not listening to songs in English for a long while.

Practice

HelloTalk

It’s all grammar rules until it’s time to put things in action.

Part of language learning is consistently practicing it. But what if there’s no Spanish speakers in your area? How will you be able to practice what you learned?

Enter HelloTalk, an app that facilitates language conversation exchange with native Spanish speakers. If you’re a native English speaker, there are tons of hispanohablantes willing to talk to you.

The lure of the app is the text correction feature. When you make mistakes in your posts, the community will be there to correct you.

I’ve been using this app consistently to practice with Latinos and Spaniards. So far, I’ve already talked to a lot from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Spain, and Uruguay. Well, I consider myself a shy person so this app is really golden. When I talk to the hispanohablantes, I really get fascinated by their beautiful accents. Over the course of five months, I developed friendships there that we migrated to WhatsApp.

Just a caveat for women out there. Las mujeres usually receive a lot of messages on this app, and like on other digital spaces, harassment is prevalent. Generally, it’s a safe community. But it doesn’t hurt to be careful as well.

Conclusion

Learning a language is not easy. It requires motivation, perseverance, and patience every day especially if you’re doing it alone. One of the things that I learned in this journey is that you must love the culture associated to your target language for you to easily learn it. In my case, I love Hispanic culture, and so I learned conversational Spanish in just six months.

If you’re learning Spanish, what are other resources you use?

How to Withdraw Your PayPal Funds in Real Time and without Fees

Payment

Payment

You’ve received $100.00 USD from Company X.”

Your face broke into a smile. You rushed to withdraw your PayPal funds to your bank account and realized it’s Saturday today. You felt defeated and demoralized because you can’t withdraw your hard-earned money as cold cash instantly. There’s nothing more frustrating than receiving your PayPal funds but can’t access them instantly because you withdrew them to your Philippine bank account.

Being a freelancer, the ability to access PayPal funds instantly is a life-saver. You are not a full-time employee anymore, and there’s no money waiting for you every two weeks. To receive your payments from clients, you either have to open a PayPal or Payoneer account. But since most clients use PayPal, you’re stuck with its slow process of clearing of funds to your bank account. Now, you’re just tired of how slow the banking system is in the Philippines and you want to speed things up. Luckily, this madness is going to end now.

Gone are the days when you have to wait for two to seven banking days before you can get ahold of your PayPal funds. Gone are those days when you can’t even cash out on holidays and weekends. Now, you can cash out anytime you want!

Here’s how to:

Open a GCash Account

GCash is one of the most innovative apps developed locally. Aside from the ability to send money to friends/family members, it also offers services such as buying load; paying bills; paying merchants with GCash, QR code, or GCash MasterCard; paying international merchants such as Amazon and eBay with the American Express virtual prepaid card; cashing in from variety of establishments; and sending funds to banks in real time with InstaPay. More on that later.

If you’re looking for a step-by-step instructions on how to open a GCash account, then you can find it here.

Take note that you can only do this method if you are a fully-verified user of GCash. That means you may have to snap a photo of one of your government IDs and submit it for approval.

Once registered and fully-verified, you can move on to the next step.

Link GCash to PayPal

On your GCash dashboard, tap on the toggle menu and click “My Linked Accounts.”

GCash-1

Click “PayPal” and type in your PayPal e-mail address. Then, click “Link.”

At this juncture, enter your PayPal login credentials and allow GCash (G-Xchange, Inc.) to access your account. This action will sign you up for preapproved payments plan to G-Xchange, Inc. with PayPal.

Move Funds from PayPal to GCash

At this point, you’re almost ready to withdraw your PayPal funds.

However, there’s one last thing to consider. GCash only accepts funds in PHP. If your PayPal funds are in USD or another currency, you won’t be able to withdraw them. You have to convert them first to PHP. Fortunately, doing so is very easy.

Now with your funds in PHP, click “Cash-in” on your GCash dashboard, tap “Remittance,” and click the PayPal logo.

GCash-2

GCash will show you your available PayPal balance. Enter the amount you need to withdraw (minimum is PHP500) and hit “Next.” Confirm your transaction. Usually when you withdraw funds to local banks, PayPal charges you PHP50 when the amount is less than PHP7000. However, GCash does not charge you anything as withdrawal of funds is completely free. Plus, the transfer happens real-time. You don’t need to wait for two to seven banking days.

GCash-3

There you go! Your funds are now on your GCash account. If you love GCash already and do not wish to cash out your funds, then you can perform the services aforementioned like paying bills, buying load, etc. If you have a GCash MasterCard, then you can withdraw the funds in any ATM. However, this is subjected to PHP20 per withdrawal. Details on how to order a GCash MasterCard can be found here.

You can also cash out your funds to any of these establishments: Villarica, Tambunting, RD Pawnshop, Puregold, Bayad Center, Expresspay, SM, and Robinsons.

Send Your Money to Your Bank Account with InstaPay (Recommended)

If you already have a bank account, then why bother ordering a GCash MasterCard? Why bother going to different establishments and suffer from bureaucracy when an ATM is just nearby?

With the GCash app, you can now transfer funds to your bank account with InstaPay for free!

Just in case you’re missing out, InstaPay is “an electronic fund transfer (EFT) service that allows customers to transfer PHP funds almost instantly between accounts of participating BSP-supervised banks and non-bank e-money issuers in the Philippines. The service is available 24×7, all year round.” There are currently around 30 banks enrolled in this service. Major banks such as BDO, BPI, UnionBank, RCBC, Metro Bank, etc. are included, so you can move your PayPal-GCash funds if you have accounts in these banks. You can read more about InstaPay here.

On your GCash dashboard, tap “Send Money” and then “Send to Bank.” Click on your chosen bank; enter the required fields such as name, account number, and amount; and confirm the transaction.

Conclusion

There you have it! A fast and easy way to access your PayPal funds. Say good-bye to long waiting times and hefty fees.

With the modern advancement in technology, it’s surprising that the Philippine banking system is so sluggish. Each bank has its own universe, and it’s very hard for each to collaborate. In the US, one can encash a check online or through retail stores. Can we say the same to the Philippines? I don’t think so. Thanks to some innovative apps like GCash—our lives become easier.

Disclaimer: This post doesn’t endorse GCash and PayPal. All thoughts and opinions herein are my own and not influenced by the aforementioned companies and/or their affiliates, in any way.

Free the Web: Three Ways to Access Internet for Free and Bypass Corporate Censorship

Access Denied

Access Denied

No Internet, no problem!

Internet has been a big part of our lives and we can’t imagine living without it anymore. From heavy tasks such as doing our work to simple errands like looking up for somewhere to eat, the Internet is to the rescue. In the Philippines, some would have a Wi-Fi connection at their homes. However, most Filipinos subscribe to a data plan in various forms. Even though most of us can definitely afford these data subscriptions, sometimes it can feel very expensive to pay for average services ISPs provide. Looking to save up money from Internet use? Read on.

The Internet connection that we will “take advantage of” here will not magically appear out of nowhere. It will come from the place we spend most of our time in—the office, of course! However, most IT departments of companies have draconian policies on Internet use of their employees. Some do not share the Wi-Fi passwords for your own use and even block mobile devices from connecting to their Wi-Fi network so that you won’t loiter on social media. Most companies also block social media altogether. Well, their policies make sense. They are not paying you to scroll your social media feeds at work or watch the latest Game of Thrones episode.

However, with the changing role of social media at the workplace, it has become vital for companies to use it to promote their business. Let’s say, you want to look up for prospective clients on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram but your company’s Wi-Fi doesn’t allow you to do so. Moreover, what if there’s an important industry news that you have to read but your connection doesn’t allow you to go in? Everything is basically blocked. Don’t let antiquated policies hamper you from scoring a possible client and expanding your knowledge!

In this article, I will show you how to access your office’s Internet connection if rigid policies do not allow you to do so. Note that this is for educational purposes only, and I am not encouraging you to do this to download/stream heavy content using your office’s Wi-Fi nor encourage you to loiter on social media while working. To avoid getting fired, use one of these methods for business purposes only. If it can’t be helped, use them during lunch hour breaks.

Mobile Hotspot — Easy

 

We already know that we can create a mobile hotspot with our phones so that other devices can connect. But what if we can do that on our computer as well? If your work laptop or PC allows installation of programs, you can download OSToto Hotspot to create a portable hotspot.

Upon installation, all you have to do is to key in your preferred SSID as well as password and start broadcasting. Voila! You can now enjoy your own Wi-Fi connection. As usual, connect your personal mobile phone to your hotspot to access Internet for free.

OStoto Hotspot

But what if your work laptop or PC does not allow installation of programs? Thankfully, mobile hotspot has been added as one of the features of Windows 10. If you’re using Microsoft’s flagship OS, just click the balloon on the lower right side of your desktop and hit “Mobile Hotspot.” It will automatically turn on the hotspot for you; you don’t have to do anything! To reveal the password, right-click and hit “Go to Settings.”

Windows 10 Mobile Hotspot

Remember that this hotspot is dependent on your computer’s connection. If your computer’s connection is slow, your newly created hostpot will be slow as well. If social media is blocked on your PC, it will be blocked on your new hostpot as well. If you want unrestricted access to your connection, use a VPN. More on that in the next option.

It is also worth noting that some system administrators disable this feature on your PC. In that case, there’s nothing you can do about it but try other methods.

Virtual Private Network (VPN) — Intermediate

 

This might be a little complex for you because it might be your first time to encounter this acronym. A VPN is simply a private network that provides anonymity and safety when connecting to the Internet. When you’re using a VPN, all requests that come from your PC go through the VPN first and then to the Internet. Its primary function is to act as a mediator between your PC and the world beyond. Therefore, you’re always protected because your data/activities are not accessed directly. Your IP address will be the same as your VPN’s as well.

Now, how can you use it at the office?

There are a lot of VPN programs available on the Internet. If you do a simple Google search, you will be overwhelmed by a lot of choices. For this purpose, the VPN I will recommend to you is Windscribe because it’s absolutely free and safe. In reality, VPNs are paid programs. You pay by subscription—same thing when you pay for your Spotify or Netflix subscriptions. The best thing about Windscribe is that they give free accounts 50 GB of data allocation per month! I think that’s enough already if you’re just casually browsing. It might even be enough if you’re downloading movies or TV series, too. Other VPNs only offer a paltry 500 MB and some allocate a meager 15 GB per month. I know that this might be overwhelming for you. If you are not committed to pay for a VPN subscription for now, then I suggest that you try Windscribe. Of course if you want to use more than 50 GB per month, you will have to subscribe to one of their plans.

Go to Windscribe’s website and register for an account. The free account will initially give you 10 GB free of data allocation per month but if you help them by tweeting about their product, you will be automatically given an additional 40 GB.

You don’t need to install the software to access Windscribe on your office computer. All you need to do is to download their Chrome extension and login from there. Upon installation of the Chrome extension, key in your account credentials and activate the VPN. Lo and behold, you can now access anything on the Web WITHOUT restrictions.

Windscribe Chrome

Note that if you use the Chrome extension, the VPN only works within your browser. If you happen to use different programs on your office computer (Spotify, Viber, etc.), you won’t be able to use them if they are blocked. Just download the software—if your PC allows you to—and activate the VPN from there. Your whole connection will be protected by the VPN.

Windscribe Desktop

Reverse Tethering for Android (No Root) — Difficult

 

Now, if you 1) want a faster or direct connection, 2) want a more “clandestine” way of accessing Internet for free, 3) happen to have an operating system lower than Windows 10, then you can use this Android application.

Basically when we tether, our Android phones share Internet connection to our PC. This can be done by either Wi-Fi tethering or USB tethering. But what if it’s the other way around? The PC sharing the connection to our phones? This is the technology behind the Reverse Tethering app. This method is the most complex of all because it requires some programs installed on your PC.

First of all, you have to purchase a pro license to use the Reverse Tethering app on Android. It only costs PHP 305 so it won’t cost you a lot. The free app allows you only 20 minutes of use and then it will disconnect automatically. If you’re not that desperate yet, you can try the free app first before purchasing a license for the pro version.

Reverse Tethering 3

Second, you have to make sure that USB debugging is allowed on your Android phone. If this is your first time doing this, this functionality is available on the “Developer Options” of your Android phone.

Next, install Java Runtime Environment on your work computer. If your PC doesn’t allow installing of new programs, then there are ways around it. You can ask your IT department to install it for you. After all, it’s not a harmful software.

Fourth, make sure that your work computer has the appropriate ADB drivers when your phone is connected via USB. Don’t worry as these drivers are installed automatically when you connect your phone for the first time. However, when things don’t function as usual, identify the ADB driver for your device and install it on your computer.

Then, download a small program on your PC which is found here. It’s the desktop complement of the Reverse Tethering Android app. It’s not exe file so your PC will not probably flag it.

After making sure that all is accounted for, connect your Android phone to your computer using a USB cable. After that, click the RevTet server program on your PC. Wait for a few seconds and then run the app on your Android phone by clicking “Connect.” Bingo! You can now start accessing the Internet for free, “clandestinely” and innovatively.

Reverse Tethering Settings

Reverse Tethering Settings_2

Note that this is also dependent on your Internet connection. If you want to access everything without restriction, run the VPN alongside this method.

Those are proven ways to access the Internet for free right at your desk. Because you know, who doesn’t want free? I’m sure that if your workplace has lenient or even lax Internet and computer policies, you will be able to do one of the methods above.

I used to do the Reverse Tethering trick back when I was at my previous company. It worked all the time. As a heavy Internet user, I think that I saved up some few bucks from Internet use because of this. During break times, I used to access Spotify, YouTube, Netflix, and Duolingo—a proof that these methods work.

When all is said and done, there’s only one method that might or might not work. If you really want unrestricted access to your company’s Wi-Fi, all you have to do is ask. Ask nicely and professionally. Tell them that you need it for a project or a difficult task. Though when they turn a blind eye, you know what to do.

Disclaimer: This post doesn’t endorse OSToto and Reverse Tethering (FD Mobile Inventions). All thoughts and opinions herein are my own and not influenced by the aforementioned companies and/or their affiliates, in any way.

Learning Spanish as a Filipino in the 21st Century

Palacio Del Gobernador
Palacio Del Gobernador
© Palacio Del Gobernador Condominium Corporation

It’s a Monday night at a friend’s house in Manila, a city which still has a strong Hispanic influence thanks to the three centuries of Spanish occupation. The night is warm and restless. And it’s one of those perfect nights to catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a while. Over a hot meal of quintessential Filipino dishes and American pop ballads, a friend suddenly said in jest: “I remember that you are so into music and pop culture. What kinds of songs are you into now?”

To which I answered, with pride and ardor: “I’m into Latinx music now. I’m listening to a lot of songs in Spanish.”

It might have been the bitter tuyo she’s munching that made her grimace, but my frenzied reply prompted her to comment about how I do not give a damn about OPM. That since I’m a Filipino, I should be patronizing and glorifying music from my own country.

I was sitting there mortified with my own preference in music and arts. That my not listening to Filipino music makes me not proud of my identity. That by my listening to Spanish songs makes me unpatriotic. While there’s nothing wrong with her statement, I think that she was heavily alienated by a culture that is so much our own—Hispanic culture. That the only culture she wants to embrace is “purely” Filipino. Is there such a thing? Over the Filipino favorite adobo, I thought about it for a moment and my jaw dropped with a sudden realization. It occured to me that she might be a victim of miseducation. That she and most millennials are victims of miseducation about history and their heritage.

¡Qué horror!

Despite the countless history lessons drilled into them at school, most millennials seem at disconnect with their own inherited culture. More than three hundred years of Spanish colonization and yet they are so much into everything American—music, TV series, books, films, language, and white culture. While the American way of life is also of our own, it can’t just wipe 333 years of influence with just over four decades of propaganda. However, it seems unfortunate that most millennials have already forgotten their Hispanic heritage. Needless to say, the Spaniards left imprints that even survived in the modern society. Think of the way we count (uno, dos, tres, etc.), the way we talk about months (Enero, Pebrero, Marso, etc.), the various loan words in our very own Filipino language and in regional ones (kutsara, tinidor, baso, kutsilyo, etc.), the various festivities and traditions we celebrate (fiesta, siesta, etc.), the localized names of countries (Estados Unidos, Hapon, Tsina, etc.), some names of MRT and LRT stations (Libertad and Buendia), our last names (Cruz, Diaz, Espejo, etc.), and the major religion in the country (Roman Catholic). Everything is very Hispanic.

Language is a reflection of culture, and they are very connected to each other. So why aren’t we, Filipinos, using the Spanish language today as much as English? Why didn’t Spanish survive up to this generation? What happened? Does it even matter now?

Learning about our Hispanic heritage does not mean relinquishing our nationality as Filipino. After all, part of our culture, customs, and traditions is based upon it. It does not mean that we have to abolish the Filipino language just because we have Hispanic roots. It’s just a way of us paying homage to a lost language and embracing our heritage. As I have written in my previous post, I have been religiously studying Spanish. The language that played a huge part in the independence of this country from colonizers. I dedicate roughly three hours of my time every day studying the grammar and conversing with our hermanos from the Latin America. But before I tell you why it means so much to me, let me walk you through a brief history of the Philippines under three colonizers.

A Walk Down the Memory Lane

Many historians claim that the Spaniards did not teach Filipinos the Spanish language. They insist that the Spaniards did not want Filipinos to learn it for the fear of retaliation. Various accounts, however, are in contrary to that statement. Despite their cruelty, the Spaniards made efforts to educate the Indios. One of their contributions is the introduction of the public education in the Philippines. They taught ordinary Filipinos the Spanish language with the help of the friars. It was even required by the Spanish Royal Decree to teach the language to the natives. In his speech for the Philippine Assembly at the US Congress in October 1914, former president Manuel L. Quezon acknowledged the influence of the Spaniards to the literacy of Filipinos. He even said that he was educated in one of the schools built by them.

Digging deeper, the use of the Spanish language by the Filipinos goes further than the 19th century. In 1610, Filipino printer, writer, and publisher Tomas Pinpin wrote his famous book Librong Pagaaralan nang manga Tagalog nang Uicang Castilla, that was meant to help Filipinos learn the Spanish language. I have a digital copy of the said book but the Tagalog used was very challenging.

Tomas Pinpin’s efforts must have been worth it. When the Filipinos were made aware of the atrocities of the Spaniards with the help of the Illustrados, it seems that they were already speaking Spanish. Freed from the clutch of the Spaniards, the revolutionists and Illustrados wrote ¡Viva la Republica Filipina, Viva! on our flag to finally proclaim the independence in 1898. Then, they penned the short-lived Constitución Política de Malolos (Malolos Constitution), the basic law of the First Philippine Republic, in Spanish.

Even when the Americans came in the early 1900s, the use of Spanish language even became more prevalent.

The infamous betrayal from both Spain and America made the usage of Spanish fluctuate in the early 20th century. The massive propaganda of America to wipe out the Spanish influence in us became successful. They exceeded what the Spaniards did in terms of education by bringing native English speakers to teach us a new language. The extent of the American influence was almost genocidal as it painted a bad image of the Spain. Eventually, the use of Spanish diminished over the years. Add that to the Philippine-American war that killed hundreds of thousands of Filipinos. In the end, the Americans were very successful in bastardization of our inherited culture.

Ironically, Filipino literature during the American occupation flourished. Writers like Teodoro Kalaw, Claro M. Recto, and Francisco Liongson wrote heavily in Spanish. Newspapers such as the Philippine Free Press were also written in both English and Spanish.

However, there came a movement in the late 1930s. To foster identity among the Filipinos and to unite the country, Filipino was declared the official language in 1937. Local languages such as Cebuano and Tagalog were also strengthened. Then-president Manuel L. Quezon didn’t want either Spanish or English to be the national language. This was yet another major blow for Spanish.

Nearing the middle of the century, the Philippines suffered a huge loss of its peoples. Imperial Japan came in the 1940s and slaughtered a million Filipinos including the remaining Spanish speakers in Manila. The survivors then migrated to the US or Latin American countries.

After the three periods of colonization, the Spanish language became irrelevant over the next few decades. As a matter of fact, the 1987 Constitution put the final nail in the coffin by dropping Spanish as one of the country’s official languages.

Resurgence of Spanish

The turn of the century brought a lot of changes in the way of Filipino life. One of them is the cultural awareness. The next 20 years made some Filipinos interested in their lost language—there was an interest to revive Spanish. Language schools such as the Instituto Cervantes de Manila and Berlitz were established. The Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day is also being celebrated every 30th of June to commemorate the cultural and historical ties between the Philippines and Spain.

In terms of arts and culture, various Latin American telenovelas also captured the hearts of Filipinos. Shows like Marimar, Betty La Fea, and Rosalinda were such massive hits in the Philippines that local TV networks even franchised them. Now, you’re wondering why Filipinos are so into them? That’s because Philippines and the Hispanic countries share the same culture being all children of Spain.

Don’t forget the anthem of the traditional Filipino line dance during fiestas in the barrio: Todo todo todo by Mexican singer Daniela Romo. “Esos bellos momentos, todo todo. Tus lindos ojos verdes, todo todo. El fuego de tu cuerpo, todo todo todo todo . . .” Filipinos in this generation don’t understand the lyrics but they still love the tune of the song.

In spite of these initiatives, activities, and traditions, most are still not aware of their own heritage.

I’ve written before that I am embracing my cultural identity as a Hispanic-influenced Filipino. I am studying the Spanish language because my cultural identity is very important for me. I don’t know about you but hearing Spanish being spoken by anyone makes my ears prick up. It feels natural to hear the words. I felt connected whenever I hear a Spanish song or hear someone speak it.

I’m also studying Spanish to get to know more about the rich history of the Philippines. You may be wondering why learning a foreign language makes me know more about the country. If you’ve been doing a lot of reading, Spanish was the official language in the Philipines during the Spanish régime. Our ancestors spoke it along with their native tongue. Filipino, as we speak it in this generation, was only spoken by inhabitants of Manila, Rizal, Cavite, Bulacan, and Batangas. Parts of the archipelago didn’t know Filipino/Tagalog yet, and Spanish served as a link to communicate with one another.

The Hispanic influence is both apparent and underlying. Despite hating the Spaniards, Illustrados such as Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, and Graciano Lopez Jaena spoke and wrote in Spanish. In fact, Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo were written in Spanish. Our national anthem was originally written in Spanish—Marcha Nacional Filipina/Tierra Adorada.

These are all very fascinating. These are the things I want to delve myself into: the lost connections to our Hispanic culture.

Knowing the country’s rich Hispanic history, it made me appreciate the beauty of the Spanish language. However, the same cannot be said for most Filipinos who would rather not go overboard. Learning Spanish for most Filipinos is not practical and is only a waste of time in this English-speaking country. Let’s face the reality. Most will not study for historical and cultural purposes.

Good thing that Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry acts as a bait for Filipinos. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. No wonder BPO companies are answering the demand to employ Spanish-speaking agents. Few key strokes and Google searches show that BPO companies in the Philippines pay PHP60,000 to PHP90,000 for foreign language accounts. That’s twice or even thrice the amount English-speaking call center agents earn in a month. Learning a foreign language such as Spanish won’t be a waste of time for Filipinos after all.

The Future of Spanish in the Philippines

Despite the movement to reintroduce Spanish in the Philippines, its future to be one of the national languages seems far-fetched. The loss was so deep that it will require reworking of an entire nation.

First of all, a widespdead cultural awakening among Filipinos is needed for them to be interested in it. It would be a great deal of an education reform for this to happen. Moreover, this can only be possible if the 1987 Philippine Constitution will be ammended to reinclude Spanish as one of the official languages.

In this day and age, it’s very important to know and embrace our cultural identity and heritage. Looking back and delving deeper into our rich history and inherited culture makes us feel secure of our own place in the world.

Learning Spanish and the Hispanic culture does not make us less Filipino. In fact, it makes us otherwise. It enables us to feel connected to our ancestors who fought for our freedom. It makes us appreciate what we are and what we have become. It gives us a sense of interconnectedness of all things. Lastly, knowing our history makes us prepared for the worse things we might still face in the future.

SEO Talk: How Google Provided Me a Knowledge Panel

Google

There are thousands and thousands of businesses on the Internet and owners are always on the move to stay relevant and visible. If you don’t have a brand that people trust, how can they take a chance on your product? If your business can’t be found in one Google search, how can they buy your product? How can you project your reputation and build a connection?

Good thing there’s Google’s Knowledge Panel. Just so you know, Knowledge Panel is one of the must-haves in the world of SEO. It is every business’ dream to have one. If your business or your key employees still doesn’t have one, then you’re missing a lot on marketing opportunities and click-throughs. Take a look at the Knowledge Panel of Penguin Random House.

It details all the things that are needed to know about the company in just one Google Search. It has the name of the CEO, the products it sells, its subsidiaries, its headquarters, among others. Do you think your company can afford not to have that?

The world of SEO is not new to me. Believe me, I’ve been studying the developments in this field that long that my friends encourage me to make it my career focus. And because I know the inner workings of SEO, Google granted me a prestigious Knowledge Panel in December 2017. In the world of SEO, you can say that someone or something is legit when they have been granted a Knowledge Panel. That that business or person must have something to say to past Google’s standards.

Unfortunately, Google does not make it easy to grant anyone or anything a Knowledge Panel. Even though the brand is considered famous in a specific area, it still can’t get the coveted KP. Unless, of course, it has a well-structured SEO strategy. It takes a lot of hard work, time, and patience to be granted one.

Arvyn_Knowledge Panel

Since I was given a Knowledge Panel, it kind of validated my personal branding as a professional. It gave my business a nod and a sense of legitimacy. Moreover, it boosted my relevance and visibility. One time when I was interviewing at a company, the hiring manager was impressed because they easily found me on Google. A Knowledge Panel is like a snapshot of my résumé but is cooler. I am a legit “Filipino author” in the eyes of Google LLC. You want to know how someone as unknown as I am managed to have it? I’ll walk you through the steps I took to get a Knowledge Panel for entities—book authors and artists. The first two steps might not be applicable for businesses, so you may skip them and go to number three instead.

Send Metadata

Metadata is a set of information about a book, song, movie, TV series, or other works of creation. If you distribute them on the web, Google picks them up. The keyword here is “signal.” You have to send a lot of signals to Google as much as possible.

In 2017, I self-published my very own poetry collection. You can know more about it here. Since I uploaded them to the world’s global stores like Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play Books, etc. and on the famous social media site Goodreads, I unknowingly sent out metadata to these data providers. This is one of the ways how Google scrapes data. When you send your product on these providers, you give Google some signals.

Promote Your Work

When I self-published my book, I also pitched it to a lot of book reviewers in order for it to be critiqued and talked about. Some ten reviewers were sold and agreed to honestly review my book. They posted their reviews on their respective websites along with my author bio. As a result, it increased my visibility on search engines because a lot of websites are mentioning my name. I also made a good point to link their reviews to my website. Google then picked the signals again. It did well to favor me.

Create Your Own Website

This is a must-have. If a business does not have a website or if it has a terrible SEO strategy, it should better shut its doors. Googlebots are crawling your website from time to time, so make sure you make it easier for them.

Since I control how content appears on my website, I write blog posts that apply the best SEO practices. You know the drill: backlinks, keywords, meta description, images with alt text, exclusive content, among others. It is very important that you have your own domain—particularly a .com one. It increases your conversion. My blog posts garner a lot of views, and Google notices me again.

Understand Technical SEO

Your web presence doesn’t stop by just creating a website and optimizing posts for SEO. You have to configure the non on-page SEO areas to make it SEO-friendly.

I applied tricks like writing my own Schema code (structured data) in JSON-LD format and putting it on the header. Please see my code below:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
"@context": "http://schema.org",
"@type": "Person",
"@id": "https://arvyncerezo.com/#person",
"name": "Arvyn Cerezo",
"alternateName": "Arvyn Cerézo",
"url": "https://arvyncerezo.com",
"email": "[email protected]",
"affiliation": "AudioFile Magazine",
"brand": "Anvil Publishing",
"knowsAbout": "Publishing",
"nationality": "Philippines",
"description": "Arvyn Cerezo is a freelance writer and editor. He is also a book reviewer of literary fiction, poetry, and young adult audiobooks at AudioFile Magazine.",
"worksFor": "https://arvyncerezo.com",
"jobTitle": "Freelance Writer and Editor",
"alumniOf": "http://vmuf.edu.ph",
"image": "https://arvyncerezo.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/thumbnail.jpg",
"gender": "http://schema.org/Male", 
"sameAs": ["https://twitter.com/arvyncerezo","https://www.linkedin.com/in/cerezoarvyn","https://plus.google.com/+arvyncerezo","https://www.facebook.com/cerezoarvyn","https://youtube.com/c/arvyncerezo","https://instagram.com/arvyncerezo","https://www.goodreads.com/arvyncerezoauthor","https://amazon.com/author/arvyncerezo","http://blog.anvilpublishing.com/author/arvyn","https://reedsy.com/cerezo-arvyn","https://www.anvilpublishing.com/author/arvyn"]

}
</script>
<script type="application/ld+json">
{
       "@context": "http://schema.org",
   "@id": "https://arvyncerezo.com/#webSite",
       "@type": "WebSite",
       "url": "https://arvyncerezo.com/",
       "name": "Arvyn Cerezo",
       "image": "https://arvyncerezo.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/thumbnail.jpg",
       "author":  {
           "@type": "Person",
          "name": "Arvyn Cerezo" 
       },
"description": "Arvyn Cerezo is a freelance writer and editor. He is also a book reviewer of literary fiction, poetry, and young adult audiobooks at AudioFile Magazine.",
"potentialAction": { 
"@type": "SearchAction",
"target": "https://arvyncerezo.com/?s={search_term_string}",
"query-input": "required name=search_term_string"} 
} 
</script>
<meta name="keywords" content="author, poetry, filipino, editor, professional editor, books, literature, audiobooks philippines, ebooks philippines, book publishing" />
<script language="JavaScript" type="text/javascript">

This JSON-LD code sends signals to Google what I am and what industry I am in. It also tells Google that I own the social media accounts written on the code. You can find a lot of resources online on how to write and validate your code.

Moreover, install the Yoast SEO plugin on WordPress. This is a no-brainer. This plugin takes care the SEO part on your content as well the techical one.

You can also submit a sitemap. Don’t worry as Yoast SEO generates a sitemap of your site. My website’s sitemap is arvyncerezo.com/sitemap_index.xml. Once you finally have your sitemap, all you have to do is tell Google its location. You can do so by going to this link and pasting your sitemap URL or via your Google Search Console dashboard (please see #6).

Don’t forget to also include your sitemap on your robots.txt. Yoast SEO is very handy plugin. It also lets you edit your robots.txt without going through your File Manager on your host. Just don’t make the mistake of adding the following code when you encounter it on some fake SEO sites:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

The code above tells Googlebots and other search engine bots to ignore your website. That counters our efforts to make your site visible.

Lastly, improve your site’s speed and performance to make it easier for Google to crawl it. You can do this by some advanced tricks like using a CDN (Cloudflare is a good start!) and caching plugins if you’re using WordPress; minifying your CSS and JS; optimizing your images; adding an HTTP Expires Headers; and monitoring your site with tools like GT Metrix and Pingdom. Please do a research about all of these because it’s really an extensive process.

Verify Your Site on Google Search Console

This is probably the easiest thing to do. You can accomplish it by verifying with either a meta tag, html file, or DNS records. By verifying your site on Google, you get unparalleled statistics like page views, search terms, and the number of pages indexed. It also allows you to temporarily hide your website from Google when making significant changes like website redesigning or excluding single or multiple URLs. It also spots 404 errors that can consume your crawling budget.

Claim Your Identity

Just four months after publishing my book, Google provided me a Knowledge Panel—without much info on it. It was still bare. That’s why when I found out that Google allows entities to claim and edit their Knowledge Panels, I immediately took the opportunity. After being approved as an owner of my KP, it took me sometime to suggest changes. Google needs a lot of evidences to what you’re suggesting to them, so you need to back up your claims first with URLs.

During my first tries to suggest an information, Google outright rejected me. Yes, it was really that difficult even though it’s your own Knowledge Panel. Google takes this business seriously. But after providing proofs like my website’s URL, my featured photo was approved along with a first batch of additional information. Having a website also increased my chance of getting approved.

Go Social

To tell you honestly, it was not a one-night or one-day process since Google reviews suggestions thoroughly. It may take you up to a year or so to have a detailed Knowledge Panel. It might also depend on some factors like press mentions and social media activity.

Yes, social media helps a lot with getting a Knowledge Panel. Since what I was applying is an “author,” I created profiles on Amazon Author Central and Goodreads complete with my bio and photo. I also made sure to use the same photo on my social media accounts for consistent branding.

If you have the resources, make sure to create a Wikipedia entry of your company so that Google will display a snippet on your Knowledge Panel. However, of course you have to abide by the rules of the Wiki community. Good luck with that.

Conclusion

So you see. It’s really that difficult to achieve that Knowledge Panel dream for your branding strategy. It takes a great deal of effort and patience to get your brand in the eyes of customers. You may follow all of these and yet you may not still be granted one. However, if someone like me passed Google’s standards, what’s stopping you to try it?

Now, are you ready to take control of your branding?

Visprint’s Death and How it Spurs a Chain Reaction

Visprint
Visprint
© Visprint’s Facebook page

Earlier this year, Visprint—one of the biggest players in the local publishing industry—announced that it will be closing in 2021. The company’s founders are retiring according to a released statement via their Facebook page. The sudden closure of the beloved publishing house is a major shock to the industry. But what happens after? And what does this mean to the whole publishing industry?

But before we tackle these concerns, let’s trace its literary roots. Visprint came in to the book scene in the early ’80s. However, it isn’t yet known as a book publisher but mostly a printer. Because it took some risks, it had a big break in the early 2000s by publishing an unknown author. Now, it is known for some bigwigs as well as young writers in the Philippine literary scene. Some of the names that made Visprint prominent are Bob Ong, Eros Atalia, Bebang Siy, Edgar Calabia Samar, Eliza Victoria, Manix Abrera, Budjette Tan, among others. It has largely contributed to the growth and development of the contemporary Philippine literarure. So what happens once Visprint shuts down its doors come 2021? What happens to its beloved authors and artists?

First of all, once Visprint closes shop next year, the rights of its books will automatically revert back to the authors and/or creatives. The founders can’t take the rights with them unless they plan to reopen in the future or sell the business altogether. This leaves the books of the authors and creatives “homeless.” Now, authors and creatives have to scramble to find a new home for their books. With only several players available, it’s very interesting where will they go.

But knowing the authors’ decisions is trivial as Visprint’s closure poses a bigger problem to the book industry as a whole. Simply put, Visprint’s death triggered a chain reaction to the book industry.

This starts off with finding a new home to the “homeless” books. Since Visprint is shuttering its doors, players such as Anvil Publishing will probably court these “homeless” books with their authors to their houses. Whether authors decide to be adopted is another thing. Another trade publisher, The Bookmark, might try to win some. However, they aren’t publishing new trade books now so they might be out of the picture. University presses won’t probably enter the field to swoop in rights since Visprint’s catalog is mostly commercial and is not fitting to their scholarly catalogs.

Publishers are not the only ones who might get entangled with this. Even the bookstores, too. Another reaction that will be triggered is the lost of sales for the bookstores’ part. Some of Visprint’s titles are really best-selling that they are often being asked on most bookstore chains. Now that they won’t be here anymore, a significant share will be lost. Fully Booked takes the brunt of the force as it majorly stocks Visprint’s titles. Anvil Publishing does not distribute to Fully Booked, and the bookstore needs a bigger player such as Visprint to keep itself afloat. I’m not saying that it can’t survive with some titles from the university presses, but trade books are probably more appealing to the general audience. Now that Visprint’s Trese is being adapted for a Netflix series, the demand for the Trese series is going to be higher than ever. Who will probably produce/print future copies? TV series tie-in, anyone? Even though Anvil Publishing miraculously swoops in the rights to Trese series, it still can’t distribute to Fully Booked. Unless, of course, the authors have some kind of funding to print the books themselves.

A Bird’s Eye View

Visprint cited the retirement of its founders as the reason for its closure. There might be some truth in that but the economy (read: capitalist forces) and the company’s current market position might have also upended it.

The impending death of Visprint gave us a sense of the industry as a whole. It says a lot about the local book publishing industry. Even though armed with best-selling titles and the support from the local book community, the publishing house still didn’t make it. It says a lot about how the local book industry is struggling. Even though there are festivals and book fairs focused on Filipino literature yearly, apparently those are not enough to promote local books.

I think the whole problem here is with the publishers themselves. Having worked in the industry before, I have made my own research. And even though I recently left, I still keep track of the developments and progress. The problem is publishers can’t keep up with the technological changes. No matter what your opinion is, e-books and audiobooks are two of the hottest trends in the international arena now. Even the NBDB 2017 Readership Survey says so. And still, Philippine publishers are very print-centric. They don’t apparently have the investment for the digital revolution. And when I say digital revolution, it’s not the full-house production team of e-book developers and audiobook producers with their teams. Simple stuff like application of best SEO (read: content marketing) practices, marketing, and PR investment can do wonders! To sum it up, the model that Philippine publishing companies adopt is very very outdated.

What We Lack

I can tell you a lot of things international publishers do that Philippine book publishers do not. First of all, the country does not have a vibrant publishing culture unlike in other countries. We do not have literary agents here to vouch for the authors. Usually, first-time authors sign contracts with publishers without knowing their rights first. Should they give all versions of print rights? How about e-book or audiobook rights? And how about world rights? These stuff are very confusing and should be handled by the literary agents. Authors can probably do it themselves but they do not have the time. Literary agents also take care of negotiating for deals—royalties and payments—with publishers. Without literary agents, authors are stripped of first-line defense. Without literary agents, most authors do not know how to pitch their works to, say for example, big studios for TV, film, or stage rights. They can’t see the value of their works in a different perspective. Oftentimes, their great books lose a fighting chance to stay relevant and visible in the market after a year of publication.

International publishers also give “advance against royalties” to their prospective authors. This is the payment made in advance to the authors for selling the rights of their works. Publishers gauge or calculate how much the title will earn in a period and that is what they will give as advance. Aside from the advance, authors and their literary agents earn royalty shares when the publisher recoups its investment for the production. Oftentimes, the advance for authors reaches for up to six figures in the US. However, Philippine publishers do not mostly employ this model except for some literary bigwigs. They only give most authors a paltry amount. This does not give the author the motivation to write better and produce more stuff.

International publishers also assign a publication date as early as one year to the books they are going to publish. This is to give enough PR and marketing magic to the titles. In this period, publishers print Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) six months before the publication date to solicit reviews, generate buzz, and see if the title works for the targeted audience. When did you see a Philippine book have this kind of treatment? Did we have some cover reveals with local publications? Have you ever held an ARC edition of a Filipino book? The truth is, local publishers do not have enough budget for this kind of tricks—leaving a lot of marketing buzz and selling opportunities in the door.

I have extensively written about how the Philippine publishers’ lack of e-book and audiobook content affects their efforts to survive and stay relevant. You can read it here.

There are still a lot of stuff the players are not following. Even though some are not applicable in the Philippine market, it’s still worth taking the risks. After all, publishing is about taking risks anyway. You gamble for these newbie authors and praying they might be the next JK Rowling or Stephen King. To sum it up, I can see that most Philippine publishers are not learning from their mistakes. They keep employing old strategies as if they are working.

Underlying Effects

The impending death of Visprint is also the death of the Filipino story. Visprint has been a go-to medium for young and platform-less writers. Without it, there won’t be new spawn of ideas that cater to the Filipino culture and psyche. The death of Visprint also impedes our move to push diversity in the publishing industry. With few players competing in the arena, chances are, inclusion and representation might as well be gone. More and more foreign books will be read by the market. It’s an effect that is underlying in nature, and will probably have lasting effects in culture and identity preservation. Sure, it might not happen now, but in the next hundred years? It might be. Unless, there’s an innovative, culturally sensitive, and ambitious local publishing company that will make us all fall in love deeply with modern Philippine literature soon.

Until then, let’s support indies and the few ones that remain.

Embracing My Cultural Identity

Cultural Identity

Arvyn

Kumusta ka ey? Kumusta? Hello, how are you? ¡Hola! ¿Qué tal?

The world is getting smaller thanks to the advent of modern technology. Definitely, one of its advantages is bringing different world cultures closer than ever before. Learning different languages has never been easier. Culture mixing has never been more prevalent. But, at what expense?

Throughout my teenage years, I struggled a lot with my cultural and regional identity. I didn’t know where to belong and how to belong. Growing up with a Pangasinan-speaking family, I experienced a major culture clash within me. Growing up learning and speaking Filipino at school, I became confused even more. Growing up consuming media in the English language—books, music, and movies—I became a different person altogether. Growing up in a society and a community with a strong colonial mentality wherein everything American or white is venerated, it made my situation even worse. I didn’t know how to identify myself.

Identity Crisis

Learning all these languages at a young age, I became trilingual. This however, came with some underlying effects that will scar me later in life. Back then, I was young and naïve. I didn’t know how to respond to the “bastardization” of my cultural and regional identity. I was unfortunate for not having someone to explain the cultures and histories of these languages before learning them.

Cultural identity, as defined by this paper by Nina Martin, is “the extent to which each individual person attributes certain views and beliefs to him or herself, and to the feeling of affinity this person has towards a distinct cultural group of people.” The paper also discusses how “bilingualism consequently affect a child’s cultural identity development.”

When I was in my primary and secondary years, my classmates used to ask me where I was born. I have always answered Manila to some and San Carlos to others. I was afraid to identify myself as a native Pangasinense for the fear of being frowned upon. That being a native is inferior compared to being born in urban places like imperialist Metro Manila. Some also mistook me for a “foreigner,” a dialectal term, because of my Caucasian features. What’s so unacceptable is that I didn’t let them know what I really am. Remember, this is in the early 2000’s wherein colonial mentality is strong among the provinces. During those years, I was responding in a way that I can and I know. This led me to be confused of my own cultural and regional identity. Who am I and where do I belong? What language should I speak? Am I a true-blue native? Does it even matter?

My cultural turmoil followed me even in my 20’s. Recently, when I was speaking to a friend in my native tongue, I was horrified that I have already forgotten some of the words. I was floored. I wanted to pull my hair out to puke out the words. I was experiencing what linguists call a language attrition. Wikipedia defines language attrition as “the process of losing a native, or first language.” I think that this was brought by my moving to Metro Manila after graduating from college. Because I didn’t know someone who speaks in my native tongue, I learned to survive with speaking in Filipino/Tagalog or English. I also patronized consuming media in a foreign language that is English. My situation became even worse than before. I was becoming a lost cause.

A Wake-up Call

Due to my mission to improve every aspect of myself, I started learning Spanish this year. A month passed and I started noticing something incredible. It felt a bit of a cultural awakening in me. Like a veil is being lifted. Learning a foreign language makes me appreciate more my native tongue and my culture. I was not afraid to identify myself anymore. Since then, when I’m elsewhere but Pangasinan, I often steal opportunities to speak to my family members and relatives in the native tongue. Since I’ve read in the news that Pangasinan as a language is dying, I felt committed to save and preserve it.

You wonder why I’m writing about owning my identity but I am learning a Spanish. I have always known that my family is of Spanish descent by genealogy—that we have a pint of Spanish blood running in our veins. And what a shame it would be if no one stands up to own that culture? If no one in this lifetime embraces our “otherness”? This is my way of paying homage to my roots. I am owning everything that I am made of. Besides, Spanish is part of our culture as Filipinos.

The Importance of Cultural Identity

The importance of cultural identity has never been stressed enough. Simply put, it makes one feel belonged. It makes him know his place in the world. That’s why it’s very important that we push diversity in various forms of media—books, TV series, movies, songs, etc. When a person sees or reads about a character who looks like him, he may not feel alone in the world. He will feel represented and included. There will be a sense of belongingness and security. More importantly, it will break toxic social norms that bound individuals in the society.

My upbringing, education, and experiences led me to question and embrace what I really am. Now that I am acknowledging my Hispanic influence and learning a language that colonized my ancestors, I won’t let it shroud my true identity. No matter where I go or no matter what language I speak, I will always identify myself as a Hispanic-influenced Filipino—specifically Pangasinense. I will always bring with me the native language, tradition, and customs my ancestors fought to survive. I won’t deny myself anymore.