Today was my first attempt at learning Spanish in Manila.
Not a proud moment though. Imagine sitting through a class, with a bunch of people who already know basic Spanish (En Serio Amigo. Tagalog and Spanish have a lot in common, if not as much as Chabakano) and some really hot Filipinas, and you show yourself up for the class with 2 black holes under your eyes. At least sleep a little before you come to class, idiot!!
But gotta take the blame. Should have planned my day better. I finished a lengthy work-shift on Friday, and the least I could have done then is to force some sleep on myself. But I didn’t. And so, when the class began, I was awake for the last 23 hours, and feeling more sleepier by the second in the bright-lit classroom in the Instituto Cervantes building in Ermita, Manila.
Luckily, the instructor woke me up. No, not by shaking of the shoulders, but just using a torrent of Spanish vocabulary. He just started off in Spanish, and kept going!! For a moment there, I thought I was in the wrong class – I mean, wasn’t this basic 101? Or was he just showing off his verbal machismo?
But after a while, it became clear that he was just setting the tone. Just trying to make people understand that Spanish was easy, since there were a lot of common words between Spanish and Tagalog. Or even English. So, here, in Instituto Cervantes, I was the black sheep. Simply because I knew as much Tagalog as I knew about Unix computing and SETI communications. Drat!
The class went on. Basic introductions. Hola! Que Tal! Muy Bien! Vale! Perfecto! Too many ‘crutches-words’ to learn in one day. Then, basic questions.
Como te llama?
Me llamo Abhi, though I know it is a girl’s name in your country. I apologize for that, but no, don’t start giving me nicknames like Abby Viduya, for god’s sake!!
Then, Marlon shot me a question. De donde eres?
Flip, flip the pages. Quick and fast. Got it. Where are you from?
Again, flip the pages, look at the blackboard, ask the neighbour. Soy De India.
Marlon stops. Then, gives me a smile, and said something that still gives me goosebumps.
‘India, is the only country that has the distinction of being addressed with ‘the’ in Spanish. So, you don’t say ‘Soy de India’. You say, ‘Soy de la India’. Answer me again. De donde eres?
Philippines was Filipinas, United States was Estados Unidos. But India – oh my Spanish gods – India was La India! I’ve never felt so patriotic even when I watched ‘border’. And I felt silly. Why would such a minor linguistic triviality make me patriotic? Maybe, it was the Idea that I found Spanish beautiful, and the beautiful language considered my country special. Hmmpph. Chest blown out, I answered: ‘Soy de la India’.
Marlon moved to ‘Come se escribe’ after that. Nothing worth writing about. Forgive my Spanish pun. Unintended. Purely.