Marian Rivera was officially announced last Dec. 3 as a judge for the upcoming Miss Universe, set this year in Israel. The coronation night takes place on Dec. 12.
“Napakalaking karangalan ’yun para sa akin, pati na rin sa bansa natin. At nakakataba talaga ng puso na magkakaroon tayo ng chance na maging part ng isang napakalaking event na mapapanood sa buong mundo,” she said at a press conference, joking that she was excited to meet the Israeli-born Gal Gadot.
While we’re very stoked to see Rivera take her place on the seven-member panel (makeup vlogger Patrick Starrr, who is Filipino-American, is also a member), unfortunately not everyone is as excited.
Many netizens unfortunately questioned her ability to judge the pageant, with the chief criticism being her English skills.
Rivera herself took to her Facebook page to address the comments. “Aaminin ko na hindi naman talaga English ang first language ko kung hindi Filipino at kinuha pa rin nila ako siguro hindi lang dahil doon, kung hindi dahil sa aking body of work bilang isang Filipina,” she said. “Basta ang masasabi ko lang, hindi naman ako mapagpanggap. I-e-express ko ang sarili ko na naaayon sa nararamdaman ko sa araw na ’yon.”
She also noted that this was a huge opportunity for her, and it made no sense not to take it. “Minsan lang ’to dumating eh, so bakit ’di ko siya tatanggapin? Para sa ’kin, isang malaking karangalan ito.”
We’re very much in agreement with Rivera here. How well you speak English shouldn’t be the basis of your worth as a judge—or anything else, really.
If you listen to her interviews, you’ll notice that she’s an articulate speaker. The way she speaks shows a clarity of thought and substance. It’s unfortunate that people can’t see that because they’re still stuck on the old way of thinking that intelligence is measured by your English skills.
This mindset is elitist. English speakers are praised because speaking English well betrays your place in the higher echelon of society—it’s a privilege to speak English well here. It means you probably were exposed to foreign media through cable, not just local TV. It means you probably went to a good private school that had a great English program. It might mean that you’ve spent time abroad. This isn’t to say that all of these are true for all English speakers here, but it is for an overwhelming majority. Most of the time, you need to be at least middle class to be a fluent English speaker that spoke with a “good” accent.
It’s also a holdover from colonialism. It’s the language of our American colonizers, who taught us to privilege their language over our own. TBQH, it’s more than a little bit upsetting that what we think of as smart is speaking like our colonizers.
It’s weird how much social cachet we’ve attached to speaking English. If we’re just talking about the ability to speak fluently in a language, most Filipinos speak two to three languages: English, Filipino, and their mother tongue. That’s a hell of a bigger achievement than just speaking one language well, IMO.