Oh My Gulay!

The Filipino language is rich in interesting idioms and expressions, that make our conversations more colorful. Like the expression, “isang bulate na lang ang hindi pumipirma,” which means near-death condition. It definitely sounds light-hearted on an otherwise grave predicament.

Anyways, since it’s summer here where I live, and we have planted some vegetables, I would like to showcase our use of vegetables (gulay) in our idioms and expressions, and their respective meaning.

1. Nagmumurang kamias.

This means an “old” individual acting like “young.” For instance, a grandma trying to dress-up like a teenager, perhaps with a hanging shirt and short mini-skirt. In other words, it is used to describe people who are not acting appropriately their age.

Example: Pare, ‘yung lolo mo nagmumurang kamyas, niyaya ba namang i-date niya ‘yung pinsan kong kolehiyala.

2. Pulis Patola

The term means a good-for-nothing cop. I think the term is use, as policeman usually carry a baton (batuta). But here it is described as the police carrying a patola instead of a baton. There’s even an action-comedy movie with that title in the 1990’s.

The expression of “sundalong-kanin” have a similar connotation, a useless soldier whose only contribution in the battle is to consume the rice ration.

Example: Sabi ni General Bato, ititiwalag niya lahat ng mga Pulis Patola.

3. Nangangamatis

This term is used to describe something that is swelled up and inflamed, like a tomato that is plump and red. But mostly the term is reserved for a complication after a boy’s circumcision. Definitely you don’t want that term to describe the you-know-what after being circumcised.

Example: Hijo, pagkatapus mong tuliin, langgasin mo araw-araw, para hindi mangamatis.

4. Nangangamote

Nangangamote means having difficulty or failing to do well. We also use the term kamote to describe somebody who is dim-wit or unintelligent. For sure, you don’t want to be called anak ng kamote. You don’t want to receive the kalabasa award either.

I am not sure why we use kamote as a derogatory term. Kamote for all I know is a highly nutritious food and don’t deserve to be treated with disdain.

Example: Nangamote ka naman sa exam, mas bobo ka pa sa row 4.

5. Mani-mani lang

This term is the opposite of nangangamote. Mani-mani lang means it was so easy that you breezed through it whatever it was. Again, I don’t know why we favor mani (peanut), but hate kamote.

Mani is also used as a slang term for a female’s anatomy. Yes, the counterpart of that thing I mentioned above that can become nangangamatis.

Example: Mana sa akin sa pagka-genius ‘yung pamangkin ko, kasi minani-mani lang niya ang Quantum Physics.

6. Giyera Patani

This is an old expression that means a fight or an argument without causing serious harm or consequences. As you know, a patani (lima bean), is a pod vegetable that has lightweight seeds. And even if you hit somebody with these seeds, it will not cause grave injury.

Example: Hanggang giyera patani lang naman ang away namin ng misis ko.

7. Pupulutin sa kangkungan

This term means a summary execution without having a trial. In other words it is extra judicial killing (EJK), which nowadays is a very hot topic of contention. The origin of the expression is that one way of hiding a “salvage” victim’s body is to dump it in the swamps or where there’s a heavy growth of kangkong (swamp cabbage).

Example: Kung hindi ka tumigil sa pagiging addict, baka pupulutin ka na lang sa kangkungan balang araw.

8. Mala-labanos ang kutis

This expression is comparing the complexion of someone’s skin to be like labanos (horse-radish), which is white and smooth. I am not sure though why we who are supposed to be proud to be lahing kayumanggi are so pre-occupied and trying so hard to be “white.” Just look around and we are so inundated with all those advertisements of whitening products.

Example: Gumagamit kasi ako ng mga Belo products kaya’t mala-labanos na ang kutis ko ngayon.

9. Parang luya

Unlike the expression mala-labanos which is mostly deemed as a compliment, the expression parang luya is far from being one. In fact it is an insult. The term is usually used to describe an ugly feet. This is due to the fact that luya (ginger) has crooked and contorted branching fingers.

Example: Kahit anong pa-pedicure mo, parang luya pa rin ang mga paa mo.

10. Balat-sibuyas

This term is used to describe a person that is easily hurt or sensitive to criticisms. This idiom is due to the fact that the onion has very thin skin. I am not sure if the added fact that peeling and cutting onion makes one cry, contributes to the meaning of the term.

Example: Balat-sibuyas naman itong si Dagul, sinabihan lang na malakas pa siya sa balyena kung kumain, ay umiyak na.

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That’s all for now folks. I know there’s still a lot of vegetables mentioned in the song Bahay Kubo that we have not covered here. So if you know more vegetable expressions, please drop me a comment. Thank you for reading.

 

Pilipino Idioms of Nineteen Kopong-kopong

Recently a friend of ours has been posting article links in his Facebook about expressions that we grew up with. I find it quite interesting.

Our vernacular is rich with idiomatic expressions that would confuse the uninitiated to our native language. Or maybe even us who grew up speaking Pilipino, have no idea where these expressions came from.

Here are some of them.

1. Pahanon pa ni Limahong. Or pahanon pa ni Mahoma. Or since Nineteen Kopong-kopong.

All those expressions mean that they are from such a long time ago. Example: Iyong mga damit mo, old-style na, panahon pa ‘yan ni Mahoma. 

But who is Limahong? Or Mahoma? Or who or what is Kopong-kopong?

Limahong or Lim Ah Hong is a Chinese pirate who invaded the northern part of the Philippines and tried to seize the city of Manila from the Spaniard in 1574. So he was a real person from such a long time ago. Definitely before our time.

While Mahoma is actually Masaharu Homma, a Japanese Imperial Army general.  He was well-remembered for his role in the invasion and occupation of the Philippines during World War II. What may endeared General Homma to our people is that he ordered his troops to treat the Filipinos not as enemies but as friends, and respect their customs and religion. Thus we still say his name in our idioms.

What about Kopong-kopong? Is that a person?

Kopong is actually an old Tagalog word and also an Indonesian word that means empty, or nothing, or zero. So kopong-kopong is coined from the year 1900 which has two zero (00), thus Nineteen kopong-kopong.

2. Pagputi ng uwak

Literal translation means “when the crow turns white.” This just expresses something that will never happen. The idiom is similar to English expressions like “when pigs fly,” or “when hell freezes over.”

To use this expression in a sentence: Babayaran ko ang utang ko sa iyo pagputi ng uwak.

By the way, there’s a film that was entitled, “Pagputi ng uwak, pag-itim ng tagak” release in 1978, starring now governor of Batangas, Vilma Santos, and Bembol Roco. I did not see that film nor do I know the story plot of the movie. But during that time who knew that Vilma Santos will someday be a governor? So can we say “pumuti ang uwak?”

3. Aabutin ng siyam-siyam

Siyam-siyam (or literally nine-nine) is a term used for the annual prolonged rains brought about by the southwest monsoon or “habagat” weather system in the Philippines during the months of May to September.

The old folks believe that this rain system takes nine days and nine nights and is what they are waiting for. Especially farmers, as it makes the fields soft, and therefore easier to plow and to plant rice.

It also used to mean a long wait.

To use this idiom in a sentence: Inabot ako ng siyam-siyam sa kakahintay para makasakay ng jeep.

4. Mabilis pa sa alas quatro

This means to leave in a mad rush.

In the old Manila, in Lawton at the foot of Quezon bridge, there was a huge factory, the Insular Ice Plant. It had an imposing 10-storey chimney. It also had a loud siren. The siren goes off at 7 AM to indicate start of work, at 12 noon to indicate lunch break, and at 4 PM to indicate end of work.

insular-ice-plant

Insular Ice Plant

So at the sound of the siren at 4 PM, you can just imagine the dash of the workers too eager to leave work.

To use in a sentence: Nang dumating ‘yung naniningil ng utang, umalis siyang mabilis pa sa alas quatro.

5. Wala kahit sinkong duling

This has something to do with the 5-centavo coin, which is the lowest value coin besides the 1-centavo. The 5-centavo coin back in the days was much larger (20 mm in diameter in the 1960’s) and can buy you something, unlike today, it is much smaller (15.5 mm) and practically has no value.

Singkong duling literally means a “cross-eyed 5-centavo.” A person who is cross-eyed sees a double image of the 5-centavo coin. One image is real, but the other image is not. Thus sinkong duling is a non-existent 5-centavo coin. It’s a mirage.

So if a 5-centavo has very little value, how much less is an imaginary image of it.

Use in a sentence: Hindi man lang ako binigyan ng balato, kahit sinkong duling.

6. Magsunog ng kilay

This means to study hard or staying late up night studying.

This idiom came from the fact that during the olden times, when there’s no electricity yet, people use only gas lamp (gasera), oil lamps, or candles to read when it is dark. It is then understandable that when a person is reading for a long time near an open flame, there’s a possibility that his/her eyebrows will be singed or get burned. Thus “nagsusunog ng kilay.”

I can just envision that the most studious students during those times have no eyebrows left. Whoever invented the eyebrow pencil must be a very good student!

7. Kalapating mababa ang lipad

The term is a euphemism for a prostitute.

During the American occupation, there is a place in Tondo Manila, which is a red-light district called Palomar. So before Malate, Ermita, P. Burgos, and EDSA of today came about, there was Palomar in Tondo.

The word paloma means dove or pigeon in Spanish, while Palomar means a pigeon-house. So the women offering their leisure service were called palomas de bajo vuelo or low-class birds. Thus the expression “kalapating mababa ang lipad.”

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So there you have it folks. I hope you have learned something, as I did, looking up these interesting history and facts of our colorful language.

(*photo from Pinterest.com)