Sa ating buhay, may mga bagay na mahirap makita. Kahit hanapin mo pa, hindi sila basta basta lalantad.
Isa na dito ang mga multo at maligno. Kahit sabihin pa nating maraming Pilipino ang naniniwala sa mga ito, hindi lahat ay nakakakita sa kanila. Sabi ng iba, kailangan mo ng pangatlong mata (third eye) para sila makita. Para sa akin, dahil hindi ako naniniwala, kaya ayoko na lang silang makita.
Isa pa sa mga hindi nagpapakita ay ang mga taong may utang sa atin. Hindi ko nga alam kung saang lupalop sila nagtatago, pero asahan mo, mahirap silang matagpuan. Buti pa minsan ‘yung multo, nagpaparamdam. Pero ang mga taong may utang sa iyo? Walang paramdam.
Siguro isama na rin natin sa mahirap makita ang mga ninong at ninang kapag panahon ng Pasko. Umeeskapo rin sila sa mga naghahanap sa kanila. Kawawang mga inaanak, nagiging maligno ang kanilang mga ninong at ninang.
Isa pa sa mahirap makita, lalo na sa mga taga Maynila, ay ang mga kalsada na sa matagal nang panahon ay nawawala. Sila ay nakukubli sa ating tanaw. Tulad ng mga kalsada sa Divisoria, Quiapo, at Sta. Cruz. Sa dami ng mga naglalako at mga paninda na nakatirik sa gitna mismo ng kalye, ay natabunan na ang kalsadang dapat sana ay daanan ng mga mamamayan.
Subalit, dahil may bagong pamunuan na ang lungsod ng Maynila, ang hindi ko akalaing makikita ay lumantad na.
Alam mo bang may maluwag palang kalsada sa Divisoria?
Hindi ko maubos maisip na may kalye pala sa Carriedo?
At may lansangan palang lagus-lagusan sa Blumentritt?
Aaminin ko, hindi ko nakilala kaagad ang mga larawan ng mga lugar na ito, dahil malinis na sila sa mga illegal vendors na naglipana at nakabalagbag sa gitna ng kalsada, at wala na rin ang mga gabundok na tambak ng basura.
Saludo po ako sa bagong alkalde ng Maynila. At kahit matagal na akong wala sa siyudad na ito, dahil sa mga magagandang pagbabagong nagaganap sa lungsod na aking pinagmulan, ay lalo kong ipagyayabang na ako ay lumaki sa lungsod ng Maynila.
Sana ay maisiwalat at mailantad na rin ang mga aswang na nagtatago sa anino ng gobyerno, na sumisipsip sa kabang yaman ng bayan.
Masigasig ko pong aantabayanan at tututukan ang mga bali-balita mula sa aking bayan.
Last week during July 4th celebration, we had an experience that reminded me of my days in the Philippines. You may say, how can be a holiday that is so American (US Independence Day) remind me of my home country, the Philippines? Please stay with me and keep on reading.
Our last 4th of July was kind of unusual as we were invited for dinner by our friend to celebrate it with their friend, whom I never met before. We celebrated the holiday in a farm about an hour drive away from our home, in the outskirt of a small town of rural Iowa. We had dinner – burgers, hotdogs, potato salad, and vegetable salad (very American meal) – in a log cabin near a small pond. Then when darkness came we sat in our camping chairs and watched the fireworks that was fired from the nearby town.
Even though the setting of the log cabin was similar to a small barrio back home, but that’s not what reminded me of the Philippines.
Earlier that day, since it’s a holiday and I wanted my wife to take a break too from the kitchen, so we went out for lunch. We chose a restaurant that is located in a large shopping complex close to our home. After we were seated and only a few minutes after our order was taken by the waitress, the power went out. A blackout!
Why do we call it blackout or brownout? Technically the lights are out so it’s black or dark. Should it be “black in?” And is there a difference between blackout and brownout? Many people, including me, think they are synonymous. But according to energy company’s definition, a blackout is a total power outage while a brownout is a partial reduction in system voltage or system capacity. Now I learned something too.
So while we were sitting in the restaurant without power, that brought me back memories of the power outages in Manila.
I was reminded of those candlelight dinners we had, not because we were creating a romantic ambience, but because there’s no electricity and yet we need some light so not to swallow the fish bones. Those sweltering heat that all you can do was to fan yourself with the abaniko made of fronds from buri palm. For your information, we don’t have air-conditioning in our Manila home, but we have a few Standard or Hitachi electric fans.
Most of the people, at least from our neighborhood, would go outside in the street and hangout in front of their houses when the power is out. No TV to watch any teleserye, and it’s too hot to relax or nap indoors. So no other recourse but to gossip with your neighbors outside while enjoying Manila’s evening breeze. Lahat istambay sa kalye.
Those blackouts most of the time, would last one to two hours. And during the 1980’s to early 90’s, we had rolling blackouts or scheduled power outages, to conserve energy as there’s not enough power supply to cope with Metro Manila’s increasing electric need. Or perhaps the government just thought it was a good fad.
Sometimes it was not just once a day that we had blackouts, as it could be twice a day or more. With the lights going on and off so often, all business becomes “patay-sindi.” Of course the real “patay-sindi” establishments or the red-light districts just gets darker. And when the power is out, Metro Manila becomes one big sauna place, with its residents sweating profusely that no amount of tawas or Rexona matters.
Even hospitals and other vital facilities were not spared from this power outages. Some of the facilities have their own power generator, but even then, their generators cannot supply all their facility’s electric need. So maybe the generators can support the power for the lights, but not the air conditioning or some other functions.
When we were 4th year medical students, one of the roles we have was to become human ventilators. One of our sign-outs was the list of all patients in the hospital on mechanical ventilator. So when the power goes out, we all would run to our assigned patients and manually ambu-bagged the patient for the next hour or so, or until the power returns. Squeezing the ambubag for an hour was a good exercise for the forearm though and it strengthens the grip. I just did not realize until then that, that was one of my duties when I signed up for medical school.
When the long-awaited electric power finally returns, you could hear a loud hurray and even applause from the whole neighborhood. As if we need to cheer the energy company for restoring the power. It’s like it was our “utang na loob” to have our electricity back. Utang na loob na buhay ‘yan!
Back to our 4th of July lunch in the restaurant, as we waited for our food, the waitress told us that our food would be ready soon. They might have gas-powered grills as they can still cook even without electricity. Though it was already starting to get hot inside as there’s no a/c. They did not have to bring out candles though as it was still bright with all the windows open. We were not given the reason for the power outage which in the first place, was a very rare occasion here.
Not too long after, our food came. The restaurants closed its doors for new customers but let those people inside finish their meals. After we were done eating, the waitress told us with a smile that we can go and don’t have to pay, as our meal was on the house. I think with their computers off, we can’t pay with credit cards anyway.
I left a generous tip on the table, both for the free lunch and for the evoked reminiscing – a sultry trip down memory lane.
Yesterday our temperature here in Iowa finally wandered above 50º F. Considering that we had snow last weekend, and even had some flurries the day before with subfreezing temperature, we’re just excited that finally spring has sprung.
I was able to come home early with the sun still way up in the horizon, so I decided to go for a run outside.
I wore my brand new cool running shoes that I bought as a birthday gift for myself. I also planned to wear my new colorful running shorts and nifty running shirt that my wife got me for my birthday, but I found out they were still in the laundry. You see, like a child I need all the enticements to keep me motivated in running.
I’m proud to say that I finished my first outdoor 5-kilometer run for this year. Though I would not deny that I was a little out of condition and I struggled to complete the run.
While I was doing my run and I was on my 4th kilometer navigating through our neighborhood, I suddenly caught a whiff of a very familiar scent. I took a deep breath and inhaled it in to confirm. It was the unmistakably glorious smell of fishballs being fried in a lake of oil on a deep frying pan.
Instantly, I was transported back to my days in Manila, as if I entered a Twilight Zone. I felt I was in Forbes Avenue (now Arsenio Lacson Avenue) in front of the UST Hospital. I could almost hear the jeepneys and buses plying that route. Most afternoons, there was a fishball vendor there with his push-stall near the entrance of the hospital.
It does not matter if health experts say that it may not be “safe” to eat street foods, like fishballs, as you can get hepatitis A and some other illness, especially if you dip the fishballs in those jars of sauces. The reason is that some people do “double dip,” that is after taking a mouthful bite of their fishballs on the stick, they would dip it again in the sauce, and that’s how a disease is spread. Could it be the tincture of slobber that makes it more tasteful?
But my courageous friends and I don’t care what the experts say.
After an exhausting day in the hospital working as medical clerks (4th year medical students), we would trek down outside the hospital in our white uniform and all, and buy those delightful fishballs. While they were still hot and floating in oil, we would make “tusok-tusok” the fishballs with the stick, then dunk them in the different dipping sauces. My favorite one was the black spicy concoction with floating onions and siling labuyo. Sometimes I would also dip in the tangy sweetish brown sauce. Sometimes I would dip in all the three jars of sauce. But I swear, I don’t do double dip.
Interesting enough, during our 25th graduation anniversary meeting and reunion held in our medical school two years ago, they served fishballs on a stick during one of the breaks. They have the authentic taste like the ones peddled on the street. It was definitely a hit!
As I reached the end of the cul-de-sac, I came back to the realization that I was on a street in Iowa, and not in Manila. I looked around to search if there’s a fishball vendor around. But there was none. Just the leafless trees, brown grass, and the empty street that I was in.
Was I hallucinating? Was it because I was huffing and puffing that my brain was oxygen deprived? Or was it because I was hungry and my blood sugar level was running low? Has my brand new running shoes have anything to do with it? Or maybe I was plainly home-sick again?
Habang ako’y nagda-drive pauwi kagabi ay aking napuna na may mga butil-butil ng niebe (snow) na lumilipad. Matagal-tagal na rin namang kaming naghihintay ng snow, kahit na hindi ko paboritong libangan ang mag-shovel nito. Sabi kasi sa aming weather forecast, maaaring magkaroon daw kami ng 1-2 inches ng snow. Yey, White Christmas!
Pagbangon ko kaninang umaga ay dumungaw ako kaagad sa labas. Kakarampot naman pala ang snow na bumagsak. Ang kuripot naman!
Dahil konting-konti lang ang aming snow (above photo), siguradong malulusaw at maglalaho na ang lahat ng ito bago pa mag-Pasko. Sang-ayon ulit sa aming weather forecast, wala na kaming snow fall bago mag-Pasko dito sa Iowa. Mapupurnada yata ang aming White Christmas!
Nainggit tuloy ako sa mga lugar dito sa Amerika na maraming snow ngayong Pasko. Noong nakaraang araw lang, ay pinadalhan ako ng aming kaibigan ng photo na kuha niya mula sa Morristown, New Jersey (photo below). Parang scene sa Frozen ang dating.
Sa Morristown, New Jersey ako unang napadpad at nanirahan dito sa Amerika. Tatlong taon din akong lumagi doon. Dito ko naranasan ang aking kauna-unahang White Christmas, na noon ay nakikita ko lamang sa mga pictures. Dito ko nasabing para akong nakatira sa loob ng Christmas card.
Nang ako’y bata pa at naninirahan sa Maynila, hindi ko inakalang ako’y makakaranas ng White Christmas. Nagkakasya na ako sa mga dekorasyon namin sa aming classroom sa paaralan ng mga Christmas tree na pinuno ng mga bulak para magmukhang may snow. Sa bulak lang masaya na ako.
Tapos sa klase kakanta kami ng “Dashing through the snow” at “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas.” Ano ba naman ang malay ko sa snow at White Christmas? Alam ko lang noon ay “dashing through the flood!” Kinakanta rin namin ‘yung “Frosty, the Snowman.” Pero ‘yung Frosty alam ko at gusto ko. Ito ay isang brand ng ice candy noong bata ako. Masarap siya!
Taong 1991 nang nakaranas ako na pumuti ang kalsada sa Maynila. Pag-gising ko isang umaga at sa pagdungaw ko sa labas, ay nakita kong medyo maputi ang aming paligid. Nag-snow sa Maynila?! Pero nang aking kilatisin, hindi ito snow, kundi abo pala! Abo mula sa pagsabog ng Mt. Pinatubo.
Taong 1994, aking nilisan ang Pilipinas. Hindi para makakita ng snow o maghukay ng yelo, pero para tugisin ang aking mga pangarap sa buhay.
Ngayon, makatapos kong maranasan ang marami ng White Christmas, iba na ang gusto ko sa Pasko. Ibang puti na ang gusto ko, hindi snow. Puti, tulad ng puting buhangin sa beach ng Zambales. Puti, tulad ng kesong puti sa loob ng bagong lutong pandesal. Puti, tulad ng bagong kaskas na niyog sa ibabaw ng puto bungbong.
Umulan na lang sana ng bagong kaskas na niyog. Samahan na rin sana ng pag-ulan ng puto bungbong at bibingka. Teka, masakit yatang mabagsakan ng bibingka!
Hay, nami-miss ko na naman ang Pilipinas.
Sa lahat ng mga Pilipino sa iba’t-ibang lupalop ng mundo, ano mang puti ang pumapaligid sa inyo – maging ito’y snow, o kaya’y abo at lahar, o puting buhangin at malinaw na dagat, o kaya’y disyerto, o mga puting semento, o kaya nama’y mga kumpol na bulak, o tambak ng puting basura, o kaya’y maging bagong kayod na niyog – kayong lahat ay aking binabati ng Maligayang Pasko!
Noong makalawang araw ay bumisita sa aming bahay ang isang kaibigan, kasama ang kanyang asawa at panganay na anak. Siya ay isa ring Pilipinong duktor dito sa Iowa. Meron lang silang dinaanan dito sa amin.
Aking napansin na bago ang sasakyan niyang dala. Sabi niya, ipinamana na raw niya ang lumang Honda sa kanyang anak. Akin siyang kinantsawan na sobrang asenso na niya. Ika ko nga, “hindi ka na ma-reach!”
Kasi, naka-Chedeng na siya.
Malugod din niyang ipinakita ang mga features ng kanyang bagong kotse. Pinindot lang niya ang kanyang cellphone at umandar na ang kanyang kotse, kahit wala siya sa loob nito. Napabilib ako. Siguro pwede pa niyang i-program na utusan lang ang kanyang smartphone: “Siri, start my car.”
Mayroon din daw itong standard safety features, gaya ng automatic braking kung sakaling aanga-anga siya at hindi nakapag-preno kaagad, at nagbibigay din ng warning kung may sasakyan sa kanyang blind spot at kung siya ay antok-antok at lumilihis sa lane. Hindi lang din daw camera sa likod ang makikita niya kung siya ay umuurong, kung hindi 360º view. Higit sa lahat, kaya nitong magself-park, kahit pa parallel parking. Sabi ko nga, kulang na lang mag-drive ‘yung kanyang Mercedes na mag-isa.
Pero sang-ayon sa mga eksperto, by year 2020 or 2021, mayroon ng mass production ng self-driving cars, at available na ito sa lahat. Kahit sino ay pwede nang maging Knight Rider!
Habang ipinagyayabang ng aking kaibigan ang kanyang Mercedes, ay para kaming mga musmos na natutuwa sa bagong jolen, o trumpo, o kaya’y matchbox. Iyon nga lang, totoo ‘yung matchbox.
Noong ako’y batang paslit pa, ang kilala ko lang na luxury car ay Chedeng o Mercedes Benz. Kilala ko rin si Aling Mercedes, pero hindi siya kotse. Hindi ko pa alam noon ang BMW, Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, Ferrari, Cadillac o Lexus. Kilalang-kilala ko naman ang Sarao. Tingin ko sa mga naka-Chedeng noon ay sobrang yaman at sobrang matagumpay sa buhay.
Sa katunayan, wala nga akong kilalang naka-Mercedes noong ako’y nasa elementarya at high school pa, maliban sa isa. Siya ay crush ng bayan sa aming eskwelahan, dahil maganda na siya tapos naka-Chedeng pa. Ang tatay niya ay duktor, at sila ay nakatira sa Dasma (Dasmariñas Village).
Noong nasa kolehiyo na, ako ay namulat sa katotohanan na kahit sa mahirap na bansa’t lipunan pala, ay marami pa rin burgis. Marami akong naging kamag-aral na naka-Chedeng. May mga kaklase pa nga ako na may sarili silang kotse at naka-tsuper pa. Buong mag-hapon naghihintay lang ang kanilang tsuper sa may parking lot ng unibersidad. Hindi lang nga Mercedes Benz, may nakita pa akong estudyante na ang dina-drive ay Porsche. Okay lang, ako naman ay “Cadillac” – kadilakad.
Balik tayo sa kaibigan kong Pilipinong duktor dito sa Iowa. Habang kami ay nagku-kwentuhan ay aming napag-usapan na parang kailan lang ay mga musmos pa ang aming mga anak. Ngunit ngayon, pareho na kaming may anak na nasa kolehiyo. Ang bilis ng panahon.
Nagawi ang aming usapan noong kami ay nasa-kolehiyo pa. Siya ay nag-aral din sa Maynila. Nabangit ko na napakarami nang nagtataasang condominum sa Maynila pati sa university belt. Sabi naman niya ay marami na rin daw masasarap na kainan sa paligid-ligid ng university belt. Sa susunod niyang uwi sa Pilipinas, gusto raw niyang pumasyal at kumain sa mga turo-turo sa tabi ng unibersidad. Simple pa rin talaga ang trip ng kaibigan kong ito, down-to-earth pa rin.
Napag-usapan din namin kung paano kaming nakikipag-habulan sa mga jeepney, at kung paano kami halos makipagbalyahan at siksikan, makasakay lamang. Pinaririnig lang din naman namin sa aming mga anak kung gaano sila kaswerte ngayon, at hindi nila naranasan ang hirap na aming dinaanan.
Chedeng na Jeepney
Hanggang sa napag-usapan noong kami ay nasa elementarya pa. Kwento ng aking kaibigan, dahil siya ay lumaki sa probinsiya, ay naglalakad lang daw siya araw-araw patungong paaralan nila. Ang pampublikong paaralan ay nasa kabilang barrio, kaya’t medyo malayo ang kanyang linalakad. Para mag-short cut, siya ay tumutulay sa pilapil ng mga palayan habang bitbit-bitbit niya ang kanyang chinelas para hindi maputikan. Minsan pa raw, binibitbit din niya ang kanyang chinelas para hindi ito maupod agad, upang makatipid.
Ako ay napangiti at napaisip. Ang batang nagbibitbit lang ng chinelas noon para hindi ito maupod, ngayon ay naka-Chedeng na.
Tignan mo nga naman talaga ang tadhana. Marunong pa rin itong ngumiti sa mga nagsisikap na umasenso sa buhay. Kahit na hindi Mercedes, ang kanilang pangalan.
Last summer, we took a long road trip that took us from the cornfields of Iowa, to the mountainous wilderness of Montana, and to the concrete jungle of Los Angeles California. As we were pulling up into a parking lot in Los Angeles, we saw this sign that said, “Please take your valuables with you.”
I think that is a fair warning, as they don’t want you to lose something that is important. Or perhaps they just don’t want to take responsibility of any theft that will happen. Or perhaps they don’t want you to tempt others of bad thoughts by displaying something valuable, or something that they would think is valuable, inside your vehicle.
I don’t think this warning applies in Los Angeles only, as it is true in many parts of America and the rest of the world.
I remember when we were still living in New York City, somebody tried to break in into our parked car, and in the process broke the door lock of our car. And there’s really nothing of value inside, except maybe the car itself. They took my tire hub caps and antenna instead. Then we had some friends whose car windows were shattered just to get some change of coins and some barely valuable things inside their car. Maybe the thief needed coins so badly for a cup of coffee or for a ride on the subway.
Same in the Philippines. When I was still living in Manila, there’s an instance that me and my dad witnessed a car theft while we were parked near Binondo. It happened in a blitz, and they acted so smoothly that we think these guys were “professionals.” Bad use of their skills and talents, I guess. With dexterity and quickness like that, they could be show-time magicians. On second thought, they were already magicians, making things disappear!
Back to the parking lot in Los Angeles, we kind of chuckled when we read the sign. Not because it was funny nor it was an unreasonable or unusual sign. To us it was just interesting that few days before that, when we were in a national park in Montana, we read several signs that contain a completely different warning.
The warning sign when we were in the wilderness of Montana states, “Please take your trash with you.”
It was just sensible that they don’t want you to litter in such a pristine place. Plus the wild creatures, like bears, can get attracted to your trash and rummage through them. This may endanger their well-being. More so, your well-being and your life may get endangered as well, if the bear cannot find what it’s looking for (a jar of honey?) and is not happy with your trash and attacks you.
It was a totally different perspective. In one, “take your valuables with you.” In the other, “take your trash with you.”
Yes, there are places in this world that they don’t care about your valuables. It does not matter whether you’re lugging a Louis Vuitton bag or a DSLR camera with an ultra zoom lens. Just don’t leave your trash too!
This made me think, in this life, there are things that we consider our valuables. Like our fancy jewelries, our expensive toys like our cars and gizmos, our pricey wardrobes, our houses and estates, our bank accounts, and other worldly treasures. And it’s not only that there are places that they will not matter, but there will come a time as well, that all of these will be deemed worthless. Rubbish. Garbage. Trash. For you cannot take them forever with you.
I do hope that we discern what really are the important things in this life. The “valuables” that no thief nor anybody can take from you.
I grew up in Manila in a time where trust is hard to get by. We were indoctrinated never to trust a stranger. But this perhaps is true in many parts of the world.
It was inculcated in our young minds that when a stranger talk to us in the streets, to make sure that we hold our bags more tightly, or check if we still have our wallets. When we are in a public or crowded places, we were told to be sure that we have our valuables close to us and never ever leave them.
When I was commuting to school, I always carry my backpack on my chest (should it be called a chestpack?), since the pickpocket can easily access my bag without me knowing if it is on my back.
We have even been instructed on the so many modus operandi of the mandurukot and snatchers. They usually have accomplices that would distract your attention, while somebody else go for your valuables. But sometimes they just seize your valuables right in front of your face.
Though on a good note, I have heard from my friends and relatives that Manila is much safer now, under the administration of President Duterte. I hope this continues.
I have personally witnessed snatching a few times in the past. I may have been a victim also, as I lost my money once while I was riding in the jeepney. Though I may have just dropped it, as I was a little burara when I was younger.
Once in college, while we were crossing the overpass in España Blvd in front of UST, a snatcher grabbed my classmate’s necklace. He was about to run after the snatcher, but I held him back, knowing that these people were armed and always have accomplices. It was better for him to just lose his necklace than his life.
In another instance when I was in high school, I was in Harrison Plaza when I was approached by somebody asking for the time. Then he stared at my watch suspiciously. It was a Citizen automatic watch, that was given to me by my father on my birthday. I suddenly sensed a bad feeling – like a “spider sense,” that I quickly ran away from him and entered a store where there was a security guard standing by.
One time we were in a food court of a mall, when a distraught lady ask around if anybody saw her bag. I was sure it was stolen perhaps when she was not paying attention.
In recent times cellphones have been the favorite object of snatchers. I even heard of horror stories that people got hurt because they won’t give their cellphones to a holdupper.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my homeland. But these things I don’t miss. For foreigners who are planning to visit Manila, I am not scaring you away, for it really is worth a visit. Just take proper precautions.
Then, I moved to Iowa.
Somehow all the years of my upbringing looking suspiciously to any stranger that comes near me, have to change. I don’t have to be hyper-vigilant all the time. I learned to trust people again.
Few days ago, I had a day off and my wife and I had a breakfast in a restaurant in Des Moines. The place was fairly busy with lots of people coming and going.
A family came and pick a table near us. When they went to the counter to get their order, they left their belongings unattended on the table. Cellphone, car keys, wallet and all!
It was so unnatural for me to see this, that I have to take a photo.
You may call it naive, but people here are still so trusting. I hope it never change.
It may take me a while to fully let my guard down and leave my cellphone and valuables unattended. Or perhaps I never will.
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.
Another possible explanation is that the name Mahoma is the Spanish form for Mohammed, which then will be referring to the long-ago era of Muslim conquest.
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 Philippinesduring 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.
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.”
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.