Genevieve Asenjo

Genevieve Asenjo, Hiligaynon consultant writes a series of fun articles on her native language. Have fun with these words.

Wondrous Mushroom in Alice’s Wonderland

This is not a review of Tim Burton’s 2010 take on Lewis Caroll’s 1860s sugidanon of Alice’s adventures. Much had been said. Everything. So sugid. So let this be a sugidanon too. As the title suggests, of that wondrous mushroom.

Remember that scene, before fat boys and Red Queen and White Queen, there were wondrous mushrooms and tweedledee and white rabbit. That is, if I remember it right. The movie in 3D, I mean. This is sugid, after all. Not your sci-fi, palangga, beloved; nevertheless, will allow you to teleport and morph into some sort of avatar.

So okay, sugid, that Kinaray-a word for tell or narrate, as in a story, a tale, that is also Hiligaynon. Bisaya gyud. That is why sugidanon, sugilanon. Storytelling. Kuwentuhan in Tagalog. Fiction, my foot.

But first: Kinaray-a, that mother tongue of Panay, the island in Western Visayas in the south of Philippines, which in the academic imaginarium of our own Dr. Parnassus, is as old as Sanskrit. As for me, it sounds like German. Hiligaynon, understandably its offspring, is a rebel in its sing-song that appeals to me as Italian. Never mind if its mutation, or should I say evolution, is attributed to the migrants Chinese, the mestizo breed. The manggaran, palangga. Yes, the elites. Ah, the glorious days of molo pancit and stores in downtown Iloilo before your supermalls.

But again, this is about the wondrous, edible mushroom. Makul in Kinaray-a, uhong in Hiligaynon, and what’s this in Tagalog? What a shame, makahuluya, my own Mad Hatter exclaimed, as I’m based in Manila and claim to be a writer in Filipino. Also never mind even if it’s different from Tagalog, as our Red Queen government would like us to believe. But really, I only recalled it’s kabute when I was already eating it in a Korean restaurant after the movie. Yum-yum. Namit. Delicious. Namets! This one is the 2008 Ilonggo movie on food and food culture of Negros.

Six months in Seoul and 200 hours of studying Korean and wala man ‘ko kabalo. Pleading ignoramus. Te kay nalipat ‘ko mamangkot. Forgot to ask. Kag ano ang bulong sa lipat? What’s the cure for forgetfulness? My apoy – your abuela in Spanish, that could also mean ancestor – would had reminded me “guripat.” Now that’s “ouch.” As in it hurts. Your kurot. That damn fine pinch on the epidermis that curses you for being maldita (bitch), labaw (snob), anga (stupid). So teleport I did, during those childhood days. Aren’t we all Alice?

This is not a rah-rah on child abuse ‘coz we all know, our Spanish-cursing paryentes (relatives) only knew it as pagpalangga. Love in its broadest sense. That’s why almost all families in the island have nickname for their daughter as Pangga. Next to Inday, if not second to Nene. But palangga becomes paghigugma in romantic sphere. Like that of a forlorn lover. Note though that lovers call each other “pangga.” In our customized box and limited word count accorded by our electronic gadget, “ga.” Not “gu” or “gug” from its rootword “gugma.” Otherwise, that’s like “buang” (crazy). I don’t know why, but that’s the way it is, palangga.

Enough of this palabor-labor. Delay, circuitous – but which is, actually, the nature of sugilanon. Action’s in movies, and for most of us, that’s Hollywood. We are, trite as our world-known hospitality, sweet-loving people: afraid to offend, patient to a fault. You know, whether we are ashamed of it or proud, we have the Ati/Aeta/Agta as our tumandok. Natives. Although some researchers/scholars refer to tumandok as primarily you and me – baptized bastards in lowlands; the Ati in separate category: Indigeneous People (IP), like this Political Correctness attracts more international fundings in the name of heritage, preservation, blah-blah-blah. Linti! That’s a cuss-word. Reminds me of lightning, which is kilat. Kidlat in Tagalog. Near as your Boracay, huh.


Text-books describe Ati as “shy, peace-loving people.” I have to agree, for even we Bisaya, Tagalog, Ilocano, Bicol, the list goes on, allow our government to sell our lands and people to foreigners. Ugut. Anger. We are angry. We get angry. “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” That’s the riddle Mad Hatter asked of Alice. We got plenty for ourselves. Damo. Nonsensical, mostly, that we can also afford to do more sugid.

Let me make sugid then that the Ati of Panay believes that when lightning strikes, mushroom sprouts. There in your haystack. So I, your little Alice, in that farm of Ati neighbourhood, searched for that wondrous, edible mushroom, like eating it would transform me into a diyosa. Goddess, palangga, and I believe, all women are, in her pinasahi way: peculiar, particular. Isn’t this great, two English words that start with P for its synonym. All because of this wondrous makul, mushroom. And so excuse me, pardon – pasensya, pasaylo, I have to go now and order one, that shitake that is also spelled as shiitake. Ay, ay, ay, sounds like “tae sang Ati” (shit of Ati).

Welcome! Tuloy po kayo.
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