HAVING lived in Charlotte, North Carolina for several years now, I am reminded of my country of birth celebrating Independence Day on June 12 by listening to an American speaking my native tongue quite eloquently.
It happened during last Saturday’s summer picnic sponsored by the Filipino-Americans Community of the Carolinas (FACC). I heard an American fluently speaking the Philippine national language “Tagalog” fluently.
He is 21-year-old Newel Palmer Cobb, who was invited to the picnic along with his group by Cindy Germaine, a Filipino-American living in Charlotte and a longtime family friend.
Born and raised in Charlotte, Cobb was 19 years old when he went to the Philippines as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons).
He speaks Tagalog well that I thought he was a Filipino too. No question about it, it means I can forget about playing with him. Cobb never gets caught flatfooted speaking Tagalog.
Not only does he know the word Kamusta (hello) but he can complete Tagalog sentences for native-born Filipinos at that. Listening to him speak made me miss my country of birth more even if I have embraced my second citizenship already.
Cobb said one learns a new language through embarrassing mistakes, good laughs and a love for the people.
“Kahit mahirap na matuto ang bagong salita, worth it naman dahil sa pagmamahal ng mga tao (Even if it’s hard to learn a new language, it’s worth it because you are loved by the people),” Newel said.
“Maraming beses na nakakamali ako pero kahit mensan, nakakahiya ang Tagalog ko, walang problema dahil walang masungit sa Pilipinas (There are lots of times that I commit mistakes but not even once when my Tagalog was embarrassing, there’s no problem because there’s no one grouchy in the Philippines),” Cobb said.
He said the first Tagalog words he learned were mabuti (good) and pananampalataya (faith). Cobb said the Filipino people were “sobrang maganda (too beautiful).”
When I asked if he referred to physical beauty, Cobb said both but it’s more on the inside. “Beautiful inside.” Cobb said. He also said in Tagalog that ”kahit naghihirap maligaya pa rin sila (even if they’re suffering, they are still happy).”
The young missionary recounted to me that he was assigned in Alaminos, Pangasinan province, Sta. Cruz, Zambales province and also in Bataan. It’s touching to hear him say “opo” which is a Tagalog term of respect to elders.
Aside from Japan, I don’t know if there are other countries that have similar words of respect to elders. Cobb stayed in the Philippines for two years and he would be going to Utah to study soon.
Cobb also likes Filipino food and told me that he learned Tagalog from the streets and constant conversations with the natives in the course of his missionary work.
Dr. Malette Aquino–Oliveros, FACC incumbent president, said she’s proud to have guests like Cobb and his mother. Cobb said he plans to visit the Philippines in the near future “pag naka-graduate na ako sa college (when I graduate from college).”
“Gusto ko sana na magamit ang Tagalog ko sa trabaho pag tapos na ang aking pag-aaral. Puro mabait talaga! Nami-miss ko ang Philippines, lalo ng pagkain (Mas masarap pug magkamay) (I want to use my Tagalog in work after I finish my studies. They’re all good. I miss the Philippines especially the food. I find it better eating with my bare hands) ! Hehe jowk (joke)!,” Cobb said.
Maraming salamat (Thank you very much) Cobb.
(Susan Palmes-Dennis is a veteran journalist from Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, Northern Mindanao in the Philippines who works as a nanny in North Carolina. This page will serve as a venue for news and discussion on Filipino communities in the Carolinas. Visit and read her website at www.susanpalmes-dennis.simplesite.com. Read her blogs on susanpalmesstraightfrom the Carolinas.com. These and other articles also appear at http://www.sunstar.com.ph/author/2582/susan-palmes-dennis.
You can also connect with her through her Pinterest account at http://www.pinterest.com/pin/41025046580074350/) and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Straight-from-the-Carolinas-/49415695067…)
More from living