Tagalog Plus


I learned much about the underworld right here in our province from a conversation between my brother and his former high school classmate. The two of them were sharing high school memories and exchanging anecdotes about their respective day jobs. I found one dated story particularly current.

Many years ago, seven young men who worked as bodyguards of the underworld "patrons" here in our town were summarily killed. In the recent news about “rub-outs” and "tokhang" nothing compared to how these seven died. Their leader suffered more than a hundred stabs. One icepick stab straight into his toenail was one of the many nameable violence he experienced. His coffin couldn't be opened because his face blew up to unrecognizable proportions.

His enemies took him by force from his house, wrapped him tightly like a mummy using a packaging tape. There was a "commando" force which passed his body in an assembly-line kind of torture. This unfortunate gang leader did have a room full of guns, but at the time he was abducted, he wasn’t able to fire a single gun. His 59 inch-TV was completely destroyed, and all the millions he stored in his vault, including those that he had set up for his family were taken away. He was 32 years old.

Earlier, his boss, the power behind their gang, called him to say that he should run for his life because the police was on their way. But with all the guns he possessed, he thought he was untouchable. He was so sure that he would be able to handle their enemies as he did in the past -- with bribery. But he was wrong this time. Although he was able to call for support, those who responded to him were ambushed on their way. The rest of the gang members whose names he was forced to squeal were summarily killed in various iterations of unimaginable torture. Ironically, there wasn’t even a howl of protest from families.

During their conversation, my brother’s friend was recounting his boyhood memory about this gang. These hoodlums lived and ate their bread by killing people. Certain top politicians in our province and influential rich families had at one point in their political career, benefited from these professional killers.

"When I was about eight," my brother's friend recalled, "I saw one member of this killer-brothers aim a Thomson (did I spell that correctly?) at a line man."

What happened was that with his huge gun, he threatened the line man to come down or he would shoot him down. As a field electrician my brother's job involves checking on those people who are stealing electricity.

"Hah," said my brother, " I think every lineman is aware of this tale. You can say, we've been warned. Yes, the line man attempted to cut his electric supply, because he wasn’t paying the electric cooperative at all."

"You would think that with all the laws against violence in this land, that they would be all in prison by now, but once the bribing stops, it's the lawmaker's turn to shoot and kill."

Maybe they were already drunk because with this summary, they both laughed uncontrollably.

While they were merrily chatting about all the misfortunes in this country, somebody knocked on our door – a former neighbor who used to fire his gun every time there was a celebration. Especially during New Year, his peers used to drink their gung-ho-way, disturbing people and preventing them from celebrating New Year peacefully. Apparently, he has not been paying his electric bills, and now, the company is going to cut his supply. Instead of paying, he looked for my brother and was now wielding a "pakiusap" with benefits. He was banking on our former relationship as neighbors.

He was extremely irritating. But my brother talked to him in a way that could sound a wait-and-see patronage. The nearest translation to this summary response: titingnan ko po ang magagawa ko - I will see what I can do.

This is one very hard aspect of Filipino culture. No Filipino should be proud of this patronage culture. The gang members in the story above had all been dead by now. They all died a violent death. From the time of the summary execution. Police trails resulted in splits among these feuding gangs. They had had it so bad since then. They had been eliminating of each other since way back when we were still girls and boys.  

Some Tagalog expressions of the Filipino violent culture.

Makisama ka naman (literally: do as we do)
Walang pakisama (somebody who goes his own way)
Pa-usap naman (“Please” in asking for a favor)
Pakilakad (Can you help me cut through the red tape, short cut the SOP through your influence)

Malakas (as in Malakas sa mayor [he/she can influence the Mayor])
Palakasan ‘yan (whoever is influential wins or gets the merit orfavor)
Tirahin mo na (street lingo for either “kill” or “torture”)
Sinalvage (ambushed, killed, and probably the body is thrown in some place dark and far)
Kinuyog A gang attacked one man)
Nakalusot (was spared)
Wais/ Nakaisa (got one step ahead of his enemy)
Magulang (street smart)
Surot (somebody who leaked information)
Paihi (stealing from oil pipes)
Kaban (vault)
Sukib (somebody who keeps things to himself and studies the right time to attack)
Balwarte (territory)
Pandiinan (tight/ acute)
Inipit (frame up)
Kapulisan (police force)
Kumando (gang of attackers)
Bata ni meyor (an underground sidekick)

Only in the Philippines! (Share your Pinoy encounters)

Mabuhay! Pinoy, Pilipinas. Balikbayan. OFW. Fil-AM. Foreigner or a carefree travel bug -- have you been to the Philippine Islands lately? (including all 7101 of them low tide) We'd like to hear about your anecdotes: you can call it "My Pinoy Experience." Funny, irreverent, bland, cute, different, interesting, religious, smorgasboard - we welcome your stories here. Or if you have an interesting photograph, you may want to share the story behind it.

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