Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Notes on the salawikain

Notes and anecdotes on the salawikain, mostly taken from my Filipino 14 class under Mr. Popa.

    The salawikain is a form of Philippine pre-colonial literature that is comparable to the proverb. It is short, mostly appearing in a couplet of two lines with a certain meter and rhyme. The term salawikain is used by the Tagalogs, while in other regions it is known as kasabian (Pampango), sanglitanan (Cebuano), pagsasao (Ilocano), hulubaton (Ilongo), pananahan* (Ivatan), musaalin (Tausug) and sasabihon (Bicol).

    The salawikain is short and full of metaphors, mostly alluding to nature. The rhyming pattern for the salawikain is formulaic; most are done with one rhyme throughout. However, the rules for rhyme and meter differ from English language conventions (for more information, consult Additional Resource#1). The couplet usually consists of two lines, although salawikain with three to four lines exist. These lines usually follow a cause/effect structure, with the first line establishing the metaphor and the next predicting the outcome.

    The salawikain is used to give importance to natural phenomena or daily routines that are compared to collective experiences, situations and emotions within the community. As opposed to the bugtong, it is done in a serious vein, imparting a lesson in life based on communal beliefs. It is thus, by extension, a synthesis of the philosophy and beliefs within the community. The salawikain is used by the members of the community to highlight certain lessons that they believe are vital to surviving in life, and serves as a mirror through which one sees the community's value system. The salawikain is much more refined than its light-hearted counterpart the bugtong, thus giving it more weight and authenticity. This gives the salawikain more credibility.

    The rhythm and meter employed in the salawikain is used to refine it so as to reflect the inherent value in a metaphorical manner. This refinement also gives the salawikain a distinct appearance from common everyday language, further enhancing its role as a proverbial saying. The metaphors employed have a two-fold effect: they impart a certain value in a more vivid and tangible manner, while also allowing the community to further appreciate the deep impact of nature and daily life in their lives in general. An example is as follows:

Original:Translation (English):
An matacot sa doronOne who is afraid of locusts
Daing anihinWill harvest nothing

This sasabihon from Bicol exemplifies the typical qualities of a salawikain. It uses a natural phenomenon (the onset of locusts on the fields) to convey a certain message. The existence of this phenomenon within the community further grants importance to the salawikain within the community, as those who are directly affected can appreciate it more. Again, a certain message is conveyed. The metaphor used alludes to the concept of courage; the inability to face troubles head-on will not result in anything.

Additional Resources:

  1. Mahahalagang tala tungkol sa katutubong tugma at sukat ng tulang Tagalog by Michael M. Coroza

* Unsure about this, might have been a result of my barely legible handwriting

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