Bukol is a Metaphor

    Evelyn Miranda-Feliciano
    Bukol -- Number 3 in a series of articles about Tagalog Words and everything Tagalog.


Bukol became a byword in 2008 when ZTE-NBN whistle-blower, Rolando Noel “Jun” Lozada, Jr. used this word to tell on a secret corrupt deal between a top COMELEC (Commission on Election) official and China's ZTE Corp.

“Bubukol po ito” (It’s going to show), Lozada told the Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, referring to the $130 million alleged “kickbacks” in the government’s $329 million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corp at the time. In spite of the evidences, it took some time to burst this bukol because at first, all those who alledgedly had anything to do with it refused to attend the senate hearing.

Eventually, the ZTE-NBN deal was cancelled because the bukol was discovered. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s men could not keep the "bukol" from growing! Finally PGMA admitted in a radio interview that the hideous lump in her administration’s economic dealings was actually ananomalya (a corruption). The confession stirred further outrage among the Filipino people.

The story of those who tried to protect the bribe echoed that of Gehazi, servant of Elisha, an Old Testament prophet. In the book of 2 Kings, a story is told of Elisha's intervention in the life of a powerful man. Naaman, a Syrian commander, was suffering from leprosy and had exhausted all means to free himself from the curse of this dreaded disease. Finally, Elisha showed him a way to be clean, and as he obeyed the prophet, Naaman was miraculously healed. As a token of his gratitude he offered the prophet some valuable rewards(2 Kings 4:1-27), but Elisha refused his gifts. At this turn of events Gehazi was terribly disappointed. He thought that he could use the gifts himself and it was such a waste to let them go.

So Gehazi ran after Naaman. Next, he lied to the commander about two poor prophets needing support. In response to his tale, the officer handed Gehazi two bags of silver and sets of clothes. Fearing his master, Gehazi hid the gifts in his house. When Elisha called him, Gehazi acted as if nothing happened. But the prophet knew. The bukol was evident in the hungry glint of his servant's eye, in his shifty moves, in his constant backward look towards his house.

“Gehazi,” Elisha said, “you have no right to accept money or clothes, olive orchards or vineyards, sheep or cattle, or servants. Because of what you’ve done, Naaman’s leprosy will now be on you and your descendants forever!” At these words, Gehazi’s skin became white with leprosy(vv. 26-27).

Idiomatic and Literal Use in Tagalog

  • corruption or anomaly - metaphorical
  • not meant to be - in the sawikain (saying) 'kung hindi ukol, hindi bubukol' 
  • referring to girls beginning to grow breasts - Pinamumukulan
  • literal unwanted growth symptomatic of cancer or other dreaded disease

Bukol may be due to 'pakikisama'