Proverbial Filipino

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News from my country have been hugging the headlines lately and has been reverberating even to foreign and distant shores. Are you amused how interesting our nation is? Or you’re bemused and shaking your head that we’re just a bunch of clowns.

But perhaps if I present some of the old Filipino sayings or proverbs that are unique to our culture, and explain their meaning, hopefully this can help demystify us as a people.

For my non-Filipino readers out there, these proverbs may let you sneak at the Filipino psyche and understand our people better. For Filipinos like me, this will affirm what you already know and perhaps make more sense with regards to the current happenings in our country, especially in our political circus arena.

1.  Matalino man ang matsing, ay naiisahan din.

Loosely translated, “cunning may be the monkey, but it still can be tricked.”

This may give you an idea, why we fight cunning with cunning. Some even resort to trickery.  We even praise people with their “abilidad” of getting things done even if this does not follow the prevailing rules.

But there’s also a popular saying taken from the above proverb: Matalino man ang matsing, unggoy pa rin. Meaning, cunning or wise may be the monkey, it is still a monkey.

2.  Ang taong nagigipit, sa patalim kumakapit.

“A person in desperate need, will cling to the knife/sword.”

I understand that there are lots of circumstances that may be beyond our control that placed us in desperate situations. And desperate situations may need desperate measures. Even resorting to dangerous liaisons and means.

Though there are also circumstances that we are in, that is due to our own doing. Take the instance of the huge drug problem in our country, that no one can deny. People hooked on these illegal substances will do whatever means, even how dangerous they are, to feed their addiction. Sadly to say, those who live by the sword, die by the sword.

3. Walang naninira sa bakal kundi sariling kalawang.

“Nothing destroys iron but its own corrosion.”

We may have been colonized by other nations before, but we cannot blame all our ills to them. Hard to admit, it is our own fraudulence and corruption that send us where we are now. It is deeply ingrained in our systems and government, that it will be very hard to purge them out.

Though I still believe that we are a strong and resilient people. Yes, as strong as iron. But I guess we are not stainless or rust-proof.

4. Sa lahat ng gubat, may ahas.

“In every forest, there’s snake.”

This again reflects our long history and past experiences of being abused and betrayed. It is then understandable that it is hard for us to trust so easily, nor give our confidence freely. Because we believe, somewhere a snake is lurking.

5.  Ang punong maraming bunga, binabato.

A tree with many fruits, is being stoned.

Maybe this is peculiar to our culture. That is we have many tall fruit-bearing trees that are difficult to climb. So to get the fruit, we try to throw stones to it, so the fruits would fall.

So when people criticize or try to put you down, maybe because you have something that they don’t have. Maybe you should console yourself that when people try to throw stones at you, figuratively, it is because you have lots of fruits.

6.  Kung sinong unang pumutak, siya ang nangitlog.

“The one who cackle first, is the one who laid egg.”

If you go to a poultry house, you would observe that the chicken that cackles and is noisy, is the one who laid egg. This means that people who usually are complaining and accusing, are the ones who are guilty.

But there are also instances that people who are loud and noisy are the ones who don’t accomplish much.  They are sometimes the ones that have no guts to do things. So I believe the opposite can also be true:

“Ang putak nang putak, walang itlog.”

That I’ll leave for you to figure out.

7.  Ang araw bago sumikat nakikita muna’y banaag.

Loosely translated, “early dawn precedes sunrise.”

Meaning that before we see the light, we may experience some darkness first. Yet even with the faintest of light, this still promises that surely the sun will rise.

The Filipinos are very patient people. We have experienced centuries of subjugation and oppression from other countries, and also decades upon decades of exploitation and injustice even from own people. Yet the Filipinos are still hopeful, that soon the sun will rise.

Now that we are seeing a little light, please give us the time and the opportunity, as well as the benefit of the doubt, that we can rise from our darkest nights.




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