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Balitang Tagalog Bilang Walo
April 05, 2011

Insights on Filipino and Tagalog, Trivia on Language and Culture

(Think Tagalog)

Most Filipinos may not be aware of how they appreciate their surroundings, but our Pinoy worldview regarding scope and distance (physical or natural), is one of those factors which makes us unique.

If you’re a Filipino, can you see something uniquely Pinoy in how we fill our physical / non-physical space? How we resist boundaries? How we fill our walls and cabinets with knicknacks and decors? How we love to congregate in parks and malls? How we avoid isolation like a plague? How we say "Tatlong sakay" (three rides) when asked, "How [near or] far?" How we measure scope and distance?

Filipino expressions defining distance and space are relative to how the speaker perceives them. So if you're lost in some remote but friendly island in this archipelago, don’t fret, but just be creative when you ask for direction:

    “Can you tell us where we can find the albularyo (faith healer)?” a visitor asks a local.

    Doon po (There),” the local points north using his hands and head.

    “But how far yet from here?” the visitor probes.

    Malayo-layo pa po (still quite far),” says the local.

    The visitor is quite lost, and impatient but does not give up, “Should we take the pedicab or the jeepney?”

    Kayo po, pero kaya naman pong lakarin (Up to you , but it’s actually walking distance),” the local answers.

    “Ah,” says the visitor, “do you think we can reach it in an hour if we walk non-stop?”

    Siguro naman po (Maybe).”

    The visitor scratches his head.

    The local smiles, “Hindi na po kayo aabutin ng dilim kung mabilis kayong maglakad,” (You’ll probably reach it before dark, if you walk fast enough).

    The visitor sighs, “Can you just take us there?”

    Sige po, kung gusto po ninyo, sunod na lang po kayo sa akin. (Ok, if you wish, just follow me.)”

(Speak Tagalog)

Do you know the meaning of the following words? Note that in many Tagalog areas, these words are still very much in use.

Ginaygay - nilakad (pinagtiyagaang lakarin) - (walked all the way)
magkansusuling - makandatuto (to look / move / act this way and that) Tinahak - nilakad (followed the way, walked the way)
Pangkat - grupo (team / group)
Landas - daan (way)
Himpilan - istasyon (station)
Limang sigarilyo - mga limang kilometro (five kilometers)
Gulod - sa dulo ng talampas/ dulong malapit sa bangin/ dulo ng isang mataas na lugar kung saan ay tanaw ang dagat (ridge)

Writers keep the language dynamic when they faithfully record the speech and expressions of their milieu and the words used and popularized by other forms of media. While journalists can accomplish such task instantly, novelists need to have a keen sense of which works best with target readers.

Recommended Reads

Novels and stories in Tagalog compete with Pinoy Tabloids, Pinoy formula films, and Pinoy colonial mentality. Nevertheless, all these should not stop us from reading and enjoying Tagalog books.

In the novel Ang Aso, Ang Pulgas ang Bonsai at ang Kolorum (First prize, National Centennial Literary Contest, 1998), the literary language is somewhat formal.

Here's a quote from page 3:

    “Ginaygay ng pangkat ni Kapitan Ento ang landas na patungo sa kanilang punong himpilan sa may Balingkupang. Uubos rin ng limang sigarilyo bago marating ang punong himpilan ng kanilang pangkat, bukod doon, daraan ka pa sa mga gulod at ilog bago marating ang kanilang punong himpilan.” Ang Aso, Ang Pulgas ang Bonsai at ang Kolorum,Jose Rey Munsayac, 1998

[This quote shows how in the old days, people measured distances in terms of the number of cigarettes they consumed on their way.]

The novel Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog (Winner 2005 NCCA Prize for the Novel) reflects the same level of language, but the vocabulary also echoes the expressions of this generation.

In the quote below, note the use of "di magkansusuling," "landas ng alaala," and "tatahakin" with the italized words (italics ours).

    Hindi ako magkansusuling sa mga binubuksang landas ng alaala, himutok ni Daniel samantalang hinihintay maluto ang cup noodles. Halos hatinggabi na noon at nag-iisip pa rin siya ng posibilidad sa kanyang nobela. At gusto lang niyang magsenti. Iyon ang hobby ng mga writer, at feeling writer na siya dahil na-publish na ang unang kuwento n'ya. Puwede na siyang magsenti.... Alin ang muling tatahakin?" Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog, Edgar Calabia Samar, 2009

Try to read a Tagalog novel and note how language is used. Tagalog, like other Asian languages, seems different when spoken and different when written. But when you read, and you hear the language as you yourself will speak it, often, it makes you say, "I like this novel very much."

(Filipino Files)

As in other cultures, we show our unique traits as a people in our language. Past and present influences have molded our tongues and fueled the dynamics of our day to day relations. Today, we feature some of our personal discoveries:


    As we process words and language, linguistic problems occur. Fortunately, there are a number of sources we find extremely helpful. We would like to share some of the lessons we learned through the articles below.

    Clearly, a tested guide to a faithful and accurate translation is a sensitivity to the nuances of the language. If the linguists know the technical rationale for their choices, they can defend their choices objectively. But love and passion for the language will also drive the linguists toward the best sources for applied linguistics.

    "Ang hindi magmahal sa sariling wika, higit pa sa hayop at malansang isda." Jose Rizal

    Till Next Wordhouse Update


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