A woman solicitously asks a sobbing child: 'Why you are crying?' When I overhear this at an airport departure gate, I immediately know that the woman is a Filipina. You see, there are several ways of using English: the right way, the wrong way - and the Filipino way. Once, Filipinos liked to say theirs was the third-largest English-speaking country in the world, after the US and Britain. I do not know if it was ever true, but any claim to English dominance would have to be prefaced with 'sort of'. 'Terror attack eminent', reads one headline in the country's biggest daily newspaper. 'President Arroyo halts of military offensive', says the newsbar of a local TV channel. And a radio announcer confides that the police are watching out for 'destabilisers'. You could argue that usage such as this contributes to the enrichment of English. Or, given that media people are supposed to be skilled in language, you could say usage such as this shows plain stupidity. A schizophrenic education system is partly to blame. Caught in debates about whether students should learn English or Pilipino, schools are turning out products proficient in neither. Spain ruled these islands for more than 300 years, doing its best not to teach the natives Spanish ('can't have the lesser breeds getting ahead of themselves'). Then along came the Americans and, in 50 years, set up an educational system democratically teaching everyone English. I remember my own grade-school torment, an archaic grammar book called Voyages in English, with my own voyage approximating that of the Titanic. Until now, I could not identify a gerund (a verb ending in 'ing' when used as a noun) if it was standing alone in a police lineup leering at me. Anyway, there was a backlash, with 'nationalists' claiming that English was imperialist baggage, and everyone should speak only Pilipino. Perhaps they had their own nightmares with Voyages in English. However, holding up Pilipino as a badge of nationalism has its problems. First, many people could not manage pure Pilipino even if you threatened them with a vicious gerund. Second, many excellent Filipino speakers are all in the US, where they have un-nationalistically become Americans. Then there is reverse snobbery, taking pride in bad English and putting down precise usage. You know that a country is in trouble when its inhabitants pride themselves on their stupidity. So, what is left for everyday use is a patois, Taglish, which has interesting colloquial uses, such as a sign warning of restricted access: 'none ID nothing entry.' Or, as a sign in a passenger jeepney, which says: 'Before pay tell where get the on before get the off.' Why you are laughing?