Broadcasters in their 60s should not try to be cute. It's like watching your grandmother do aerobics while wearing neon pink tights. Or your father having a Friendster account. When it happens, it makes every little hair on your skin stand on end.
Which is what happened on Harapan, President's Aquino's panel interview with three of the country's top TV networks. "Major major question lang po, ser," one of the news anchors chirped. "Ano po 'yung major major na problemang kinahantungan ng hostage crisis na ito. . ." This, on live television, at the symbolic seat of the country's authority, in a panel discussion of a deathly serious issue that has swelled into a diplomatic crisis of sorts and one that has affected even the airline and tourism industry, not to mention place several political institutions into question. Maybe on her part it seemed charming and appropriate, an attempt to defuse whatever tension there was hanging in the air (but hers was the very first question). From all angles, it did not look like the kind of situation that called for levity. Then again, for all we know, maybe she was being ironic or trying to show us she wasn't the type to take herself seriously. But of what use would that be? To show she was in on the zeitgeist? But she's on primetime news every day. Or maybe it is indicative of an absolute lack of seriousness, of gravitas, that cannot be conjured even by one thousand Kinoflo lights and a lifetime's supply of Hirudoid and metathione pills. Or maybe it just shows how she regards the current President of the Republic of the Philippines.
That's when I realized things were getting out of hand.
I could understand hearing it on gossip programs and variety shows where everyone has to yell and look chirpy. But during the "serious"news? By "serious"anchors? What is "serious" anyway? There's a big difference between "serious"and "solemn." The Simpsons and Woody Allen are the epitome of seriousness. It wasn't Miss Tiangco's attempt at being flippant that irritated me, but those two goddamned words themselves.
Now it is no fault of Miss Maria Venus Raj that "major, major" has suddenly taken on absurd proportions. But for the sake of our national sanity--not to mention the risk of Miss Raj being forever reduced into a one-dimensional character with a silly catchphrase--"major major" has got to die.
"National sanity" sounds so bloated and pretentious. The phrase has become so murderously annoying that the next time someone says that in front of me I swear to God some mouth is going to bleed. Government ought to pass a law criminalizing those two words. Look, it was funny the first time. Well, funny and cringe-inducing. The following day--and next couple of days thereafter--saw every DJ, radio commentator and TV host strategically inserting "major, major" into every available opportunity, each one thinking himself special, cute, and witty by doing so.
By the end of the first two hours of the day, it had become nauseating.
But there will be its defenders. Of course, I'm pretty sure among them--aside from those four hyperventilating badings on You Tube--will be those UP professors who have their PhDs in Literature and who are also equally, frighteningly knowledgeable on Beauty Pageant History (these people can re-enact any finals question-and-answer portion from any given year, replete with the accents). But what is truly is scary is how naturally it can be slipped into any casual conversation. It's a truly "Filipinized" phrase, and its equivalent is said to be "bonggang-bongga." It's the natural tendency of the language, that element of repetition to insist on the essence of something: "nagkanda leche-leche,""sukang suka,""bobong bobo,""baliw na baliw,""gandang ganda,""trip-trip tayo,""weather-weather lang,"etc. Placed in an international context, how far behind can "major major"be? Poet-critic Gemino H. Abad--who advocated writing not in English but from English to co-opt the ghosts of the colonial tongue--would have been proud. And while we're in literary territory, Major Major is also the name of a character in Joseph Heller's classic Catch 22.