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In defense of “Bulbul”

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“Bulbul” which is popularly known by our indigenous inhabitants as the ethnic name of an avian endangered species claimed by our local environment and wild life scientists to be unique to Zamboanga City, is both exotically appealing and attracting and may indeed be the phonemic element that could really beef up our fledging tourism industry. If properly packaged and promoted like the Tarsiers of Bohol, if might even attract more foreign visitors not because of its uniqueness and rarity as an endemic bird species, but principally because of its ecologically intriguing and intellectually stimulating name..

“Bulbul” takes on a malice-loaded connotation only if a very fertile and highly imaginative mind links it to some protective part of the human anatomy. But so what if it is really means pubic hair in English? Without attaching any malice to it, it simply is a part of our physique. If one mentions “Bulbul” matter-of-factly and purely as a biological or zoological species, it will not create any ripple of malice in anyone’s mind, most especially to a foreign tourist who does not even have any slightest idea as to the meaning of “Bulbul” in our native dialect.

If any body moves for the change of “Bulbul” to a Latin-sounding name, you will not only corrupt its endemic uniqueness and identity, but will also tend to erase its indigenous character and history. This colonial habit of ours in changing names of our historical, cultural, and ecological wonders and attractions is the primary reason why we are not improving our tourism industry at all. So do not be surprised that if this trend continuous for generations more, we will one day wake up in dismay that our children won’t recognize us anymore. And the “tower of Babel” scenario again will grip us all.

This is what tragically happened to our very beautiful Chabacano which could have stood out by itself as a major tourism attraction being a quaint and beguiling ethnic dialect not found anywhere else in the world. Now, it is polluted by a graveyard-smelling Latin language. It would have been more linguistically appropriate if Zamboanga City was dubbed as “ Asia’s Chabacano City.” We could have preserved its uniqueness and endemic dialectal identity. But who I am to make this suggestion? Just a plain brown monkey without a tail in Zamboanga City!

By Clem M. Bascar




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