MANILA, Philippines – Breaking a language barrier, the Vatican junked the previous plan to use Latin in Pope Francis’ Masses in the Philippines, and decided that the Pope will say these Masses in English.
“The Pope wants to reach as many and be understood by many more,” Villegas told Rappler. “English is not the Pope’s mother tongue, but he is trying very hard to speak our language.”
[His mass in Manila Cathedral, mainly for cleics, will still be celebrated in Latin.]
The original plan was for the Pope to say his public Masses in Latin and have the public respond in English.
Francis, the son of Italian immigrants in a Spanish-speaking country, can speak Latin, Italian, and Spanish. He can also speak the so-called universal language, but admitted in South Korea that he has “poor English.”
I know one of the criticisms of the last translation was that the Vatican sees the English-speaking countries as speaking the same English. I come from the UK and I know it took me an awful long time to get used to US English. At least the spoken kind.
But you’re right about the aesthetics of responding English to Latin. It seems not so much so the other way around.
I think you are right that Tagalog is the most common street language, depending on where you are in the country. However, a Filipino told me that in most of the cities he’s been to, masses are typically in English, with most parishes offering only a token mass or two in other languages.
Perhaps thistle will share his experience in this matter.
We have two official languages: Filipino (the Tagalog-based national language) and English. Your ordinary Filipino can manage to speak at least understandably in both languages. The “street language” here is a mixture of both Tagalog (one of the many native languages we have) and English.
Most, if not all, Filipinos don’t know how to speak Spanish. Most of our fluent Spanish speakers come from families who were part of the elite during the Spanish colonial era - which means they make up 1-2% of the population. The Spanish you heard are just borrowed words since Spanish had a huge impact on our language. The reason for Spanish’s lack of influence is because the missionaries made it an effort to learn the native languages when they conducted their mission here during the colonial era. On the positive it preserved our native tongues; on the negative we didn’t have the chance to be closer to our heritage, and most of us would view Spanish as a language of the oppressors.
The language used in Masses in the Philippines varies in where the parish is in - not geographically, but socio-economically. Most English Masses are held in parishes which are near city centers, or areas where the people who live near them are upper or middle class people. Most Filipino Masses are held near where lower classes live.
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I’ve been in the Philippines a few times and that was my experience also. Very little Spanish, they left words behind that made it into Tagalog and possibly other languages, but that is it. I never ran into anyone who spoke it. There’s some history behind Tagalog becoming an official language along with English, I won’t recount it here, but just know that it’s not the only native language in the Philippines, there are a fair number of others.
One can always find an English Mass in any of the major cities and it seems to be the most common language across the country though Tagalog has to be right there because it’s on TV everywhere. So you’ll find a lot of people outside of Luzon speaking at least three languages: some English, some Tagalog and their own in which they are fluent. Will also add that English as spoken among the lower classes is not that fluent though it is understandable. For instance, call center employees do not come from the lower classes, there is a minimum degree of fluency required in order to work for a call center that takes calls from any of the other English speaking countries.
So it’s an excellent idea for the Pope to say his Masses in English there as he is going to reach the most Filipinos that way. One last remark: just as the spoken English differs between the US, the UK, Australia, etc., so it also differs in the Philippines from the rest. Every country has its differences in slang and colloquialisms.
If it were me, I’d prefer to participate in an English-spoken mass! Even if I wasn’t very good at English, at least I’d have a chance at understanding what was going on, as opposed to it being a Latin mass in which case very few would understand! I would guess that those who know Latin are those in ecclesiastically related studies or in classics. Since Latin is under the humanities, I would guess that very few would know it in The Philippines because it would not be a practical thing to study, whereas in North America and the UK, some may dare to study it because our standard of living is different.
I have no objections to it being in English. If the Holy Father came to Canada (which is where I’m from), I would say the same thing; English over Latin. Of course, if the Holy Father were to go to Spain, I’d say Spanish over English.
Well, it isn’t just the language but the culture as well. I just went to a Spanish Mass on Saturday. They routinely skip the Creed, substitute for the Gloria, ad lib a lot of the Penitential prayers, have non-Spanish deacon trying to read the Gospel, and hand-clap to the music. Something the Anglophones in the same parish abhor. Yet in spite of the differences, I can understand the Mass even though I don’t speak Spanish. You just have to get used to the “vibes” and tones, that’s all.
I’ve heard just now from local media here that the songs were in the different languages of the Philippines (Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilonggo, Ilocano, Kapangpangan, Bisaya, etc.). Probably I thought I hear Tagalog because, even though my parents speak Ilonggo, from all of the native languages in the Philippines that’s the only language I speak fluently…