Sunday, December 17, 2017

10 English Words That Have Alternative Meanings in the Philippines

     Every language has its own special quirks. Take for example Tuyuca,  an indigenous language spoken by merely 1,000 people in Colombia and Northwestern Brazil. One noteworthy quirk of this language is that it has up to 140 genders! Talk about gender confusion. In the Philippines, we do have peculiar ways of messing up with our mother tongue and other languages such as, in this particular list, the English language. This is a must-read for those who want to vacation in the country and, please, make a special note of the last word because it could mean life or death for you. Serious.

10. Napkin
      In the Philippines, this word is associated with the feminine hygiene pad. So if you're in a restaurant, it is better to specifically request for a "table napkin" or a "tissue" from your waitress.

9. Double Deck
      A double deck is not a bus in the Philippines but a bunk bed.

8. High Blood
     This term must not necessarily be taken as a medical emergency when you're in the Philippines.  Filipinos use this both as an adjective and a verb, which could mean "super irritated or angry" or "going ballistic".

7. Racket
     This word refers to a sports implement or "ruckus" in English, but we Pinoys use it to refer to a "sideline" or a scheme/plan to earn extra income.

6. Bedspace
     Bedspace is defined as "a portion of a shared bed where one person sleeps" or "a space in which an individual bed is or is intended to be placed".  In the Philippines, it means a single room rented out to at least two people. A bedspacer usually occupies and/or shares a bunk bed for cheaper rent.

5. Adidas/Betamax/Helmet
     If your Filipino host tells you that he's going to buy you Adidas, it doesn't necessarily mean he's  buying you a new pair of kicks.  He'd probably take you down the street to treat you with a fave Filipino street food called "adidas" which is actually chicken feet BBQ. And usually alongside adidas are betamax (curdled and cubed chicken blood) and helmet (chicken head), both are also barbecued then dunk by customers in a soy sauce + vinegar dip. Palamig (coconut juice) is optional.

Pinoys' helmets offer no protection at all for your head.
(Image source:

Adidas: These shoes are not fit for your feet.

(Image source:

The blood-curdling Betamax: You beta watch out!
(Image source:

4. Dirty Ice Cream
    Please, don't take this literally. This doesn't mean that you're licking on a really dirty ice cream when you try to cool down in the Philippines.  What you're actually eating is not the commercial ice cream that you get from the supermarkets or groceries but the homemade kind peddled by the sorbetero on the streets.

(Image source:

3. Comfort Room (CR)
    When you're in the Philippines and you really, really need to use the toilet, just ask for the comfort room or (better yet) the CR. Do not use "bathroom" or "washroom" to avoid confusion and to prevent you from dumping something (yikes!) in inappropriate places.

2. Chancing
    Chance means "by accident", but in the Philippine context "chancing" means quite the opposite. It means one (usually a guy) has the intent to touch someone playfully or inappropriately. This could be a play on the phrase "grabbing the chance" to touch a girl. This term  (this is just my theory) could be a blend word for chance and dancing. Chancing became part of Pinoys' vocabulary around 1980's (maybe even earlier), a period when girls were considered to be more conservative and parents more strict and that the only chance a guy could touch his girl then would be during dances.

1. Salvage
    This word gets the most twisted twist in the Philippines. Salvage is defined as "to save or to rescue". Shockingly, in the Philippines, this word could mean to kill or murder. This term and its macabre meaning came into use during the Marcos regime referring to victims of summary executions (now called extrajudicial killings or EJKs). There are quite a few theories of how this word gained a gruesome meaning in the country. One theory says the term came from the pseudo-anglicism of the Spanish word "salvaje" which translates to "wild, feral, or barbaric". Another theory is that it came from the English word "savage", which aptly describes how the victims are killed as they are usually bound and tortured. Or it could have evolved from media reports, i.e. "the victim's body was salvaged from a river", as victims are sometimes dumped into rivers and roadsides. The phrase "salvage victim/s" is still widely used by mainstream media in the Philippines.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

SONA or Later - Duterte's Roadmap or Highway to Hell?

     Yes, I watched Duterte's speech for two grueling hours last Monday.  And I was not disappointed to see and hear our president to once again ad lib, punctuate his points with expletives, launch personal attacks against whom he perceived to be enemies of the State, as well as advertise philandering.

     He was able to stick to his written speech for the first 25 minutes or so, reading from the teleprompter. Then, as expected, he started going off-script. Duterte is obviously more at ease and more effective when he does impromptu. And, without failure, he displayed this charisma during his second state of the nation address, going rouge in selling his views (popular and unpopular) to his audience at Batasan Pambansa and TV sets across the country. He stood there in the rostrum like an angry rooster as he spewed his usual rhetoric about the war on drugs, how he would "hound to hell" those who would harm the nation's youth, etcetera. He also made disparaging comments against the US and the white race and resumed mimicking and mocking Obama (who is black BTW).

     And not surprising (but still was able to raise my hackles) was the fact that most of those in the plenary were laughing and clapping with our bad-mouthed president.  I noticed though, as Brillante Mendoza's panned through the gallery, that members of the diplomatic corps were sober and solemn. And of course, the opposition senators were not laughing most especially Risa Hontiveros. Vice-President Leni Robredo, when the camera angled towards her, likewise displayed a serious demeanor. 

(Photo credit:

      Duterte, in my opinion, failed to present a roadmap for our country to take until the next time he addresses the nation next year. His big announcement was probably the 2018 budget, the tax reform bill, and his threat against mining companies. He also failed to mention the accomplishments or the "changes" he had promised during his first SONA, except for Mighty Corp's Php25-B tax settlement.  What he did was used that rostrum and his privilege speech to attack his critics - from the media to Jose Maria Sison. What he did was appealed to the emotions of the Filipinos, trying to awaken our sense of pride and patriotism. He mentioned the Balangiga Bells, the three church bells which the US army have taken as war loot in the battle of Balangiga in Eastern Samar way back in 1901. 

     "Give us back those Balangiga bells," Duterte said. "They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage." 

     I was hoping that those words should be directed to China.  "Give us back those islands," he should have said. I don't want to undermine the importance of those bells to our history and our fight for independence; however, the present is more important to me than the past. If Duterte has wanted to gain respect and admiration of the world and be considered as a strong leader,  he should have made a firmer stance on the West Philippine Sea issue, not just mentioned it in passing in his SONA. His stance on WPS would have created a more resounding noise, much louder than those three bells clanging together.

     Those islands are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage. They are not mere inanimate symbols. Ang mga isla ay sumasagisag ng ating kasarinlan, karapatan at kayamanan. I am hoping Duterte, the ever charismatic and populist demagogue, would have this epiphany sooner than later. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Erap Is A Joke!

     I never like Erap. And the recent news about his Manila Bay photo-op fiasco made me dislike him even more. To see Erap Estrada now, running Manila as its mayor is so beyond belief. He's been kicked out of Malacanang in 2001 due to corruption charges, allegedly receiving Php400M from jueteng payola plus Php180M more from tobacco excise funds. Are we Filipinos really that forgetful and forgiving to re-elect people like Erap, over and over again? Or are we just a brown bunch of ignoramuses who get afflicted with dementia every election period? Maybe some of us hallucinate or hear voices that convince us politicians like Erap can be reformed.

    So now here he is, fulfilling his sworn duties and responsibilities (that's sarcasm), participating in a clean-up drive in Manila Bay. But what's wrong with the picture? Or more precisely, what's wrong with the video? Watch and you judge.

     Back in 2013, as a newly elected mayor, Erap said he was not Superman but he will rebuild Manila. I doubted him then, I doubt him more now. I remember one of my professors in college expressing her disgust when she interviewed Erap for Newsweek during his presidency. She said she was ushered into a room full of Erap's bodyguards and barkada, and they were apparently chugging down beers.  So she interviewed Erap in such an informal setting, drunk and slurring his words.

     There's one thing though that I like about Erap - his jokes and the jokes about him. He could be considered as a national treasure for those.  There are a handful of social media sites dedicated to his wisdom (sarcasm again) and comic timing (that is not sarcasm because he does really have good timing, thanks to his acting background). There are even books paying homage to this guy - Eraption: How to Speak English Without Really Trial (which tackles his "carabao" English) and Jokes Ni Erap. Below are some of his quotable quotes. Enjoy! 

Some of my fave made up jokes from Eraption:

  • According to Erap, a pronoun is a noun that's "no longer an amateur."
  • Erap says Joan of Arc is the wife of Noah. 
  • At a restaurant, after motioning with his hands several times to a waitress to get her attention, Erap complains to the manager. "I've been fingering your waitress for a long time, but she does not come." 
  • Interviewer to Erap : Mr. President, I understand that when you were young you were asthmatic.  Erap: No, that's not true... I've always been a Catholic.

(Image from

Actual lines from ex-prez  Joseph "Erap" Estrada.

When asked how he would rate his one-year-old presidency back in 1999:
"On a scale of 1-10, I'm between 75 and 80."

When asked if he's willing to kiss and make up with his nemesis Manoling Morato (who's rumored to be gay):
"Maybe I will be willing to make up, not kiss."

On the naysayers of his Cabinet members:
"Why should I revamp my cabinet that has been performing well? I think we should instead revamp those who are making criticisms."

On countering Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines allegation that reviving jai alai was anti-poor:
"Sa aking pananaw, walang masasabi na huhut-hutan ang mga mahihirap diro. Kung mahirap ka, e di wala kang pansugal (In my view, one cannot say that we are profiteering from the poor. Because the poor don't have betting money)."

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Duterte Series: Tongues Wagging, Tables Turning

     Back in September 2016, I wrote about the Davao Death Squad or DDS at the height of Edgar Matobato's testimony before the Senate's Justice and Human Rights Committee. I said back then "when there's smoke, there's fire" and right now the DDS rumor is fuelled some more by the recent revelation of retired SPO3 Arthur Lascanas, the alleged team leader of DDS.  And by the looks of it, Lascanas is ready to talk not only to the media but also to any investigative body.

     I fear that like Matobato, Lascanas will have bashers and detractors from all sides - Malacanang, Senate, Congress and Duterte's troll brigade. However, I'm very optimistic that their numbers - members and victims of DDS - will rise to show just how maniacal our president is. Yes, he's still got staunch supporters (how blind can they be?!) but soon more cracks will be found until Malacanang becomes a humungous sinkhole for Duterte and company to fall into. I would love to see the day when tables are turned, when Duterte sits before an inquiry and is being cussed by many while Radiohead's "Karma Police" plays in the background.

     For more on Lascanas' confession, including his role in his brothers' killings, please click this link