Saturday, December 29, 2007

Zero tolerance versus common sense

    As I was browsing through my newsfeeds (yes, I'm an information hog), I read this story in regarding an old man sneaking out a $3 steak and returning afterwards to pay for it. The manager calls the police on him, and the store plans to press charges on the guy for shoplifting.

    What the hell.

    Yes, it's wrong. Based on most of the comments plastered beneath the story, that's the general sentiment of the public. However, I disgress. The guy was already able to sneak the steak out, probably cook it (well, literally, considering the report indicates that his house burned down) and go back to pay for it. He says he didn't have the money then. Someone argues that he should've just gone back to his house, grabbed the money, then went back to the store to buy the meat. Well, I guess store credit doesn't do much anymore does it. He should've probably just arranged something with the personnel in the shop (though considering the way they were acting, I highly doubt he'd get the help he needed for his situation), but this arrest still smacks of stupidity.

    While I'm not going to argue the intelligence of taking anything from the store (yes, I know it's shoplifting) I'm still impressed the guy came back. Couldn't the store leave it at that? This isn't a simple open and shut case; the fact that the guy came back to pay for the steak is a show of the guy's honesty. Of course, in today's society, that counts for zilch. Zero tolerance, that's what the store was harping about. Zero tolerance? For what? The guy stole a $3 steak. One can argue that big issues start from small ones, but the man was rectifying the situation already! So what is a person supposed to do next time? Just shoplift it outright?

    Someone who'll argue to me the obvious fact that he shoplifted, ergo he was wrong, needs to take his common sense medication. I may sound vehement, but it just irritates me that some people have apparently let their interpretations of the law grind their common sense into fine dust. There are matters that we can resolve without resorting to arrests and trials. He had the honor to come back and pay for it. I'm fine with that. The law was made to police the people who were doing wrong alone, not the ones who did wrong and are trying to make up for it. And trying to contemplate about what would happen if it escalates is non sequitur. What if he steals another one? Or another one? What's important is what he did NOW. If he paid for it now, chances are IF he did it again, he would have probably DONE THE EXACT SAME THING. Big surprise to most, I'm sure. Some people are too jaded about the world to realize that people like this exist. Not every other person on this earth is out to screw you, kid. One of the comments summed it up: "Zero tolerance equals zero common sense."

    Phew. Just wanted to get that off my chest. Pardon the regresion of my vocabulary to common expletives (when in Rome, do what the Romans do, I should say). Anyway. Bye.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The dichotomy that is experience and reason

    Having woken up at one in the afternoon, I must say my brain cells feel thoroughly recharged after pushing them to work until six in the morning. Ah, the joys of vacation.

    I was supposed to write on a topic, but now i'm replacing it with something I find more interesting at the moment. I wrote something before sleeping a while ago, mostly to try to at least capture a few of my sentiments on the topic before I sleep. Why? See, I have a problem with ideas. Once I get them into my head, they branch out and blossom into new avenues faster than vines or Wikipedia sessions. However, once I do something else (in this instance, sleep), the idea instantly retreats back into its hovel in the backyard that is my subconsciousness. I know it's there; I just forgot the password to get it back. And there's no security question to save my derriere. To quote my seven hour ago self, I remember my topics, but somehow the lucidity and acuteness of my sentence structures and inadvertent aphorisms get waylaid enroute to the blogging fingertip neurons into the subconscious junkyard.

    The problem with experience and flashback is that they're a tandem that you can never put together in one sitting, yet they're also a tandem that you must apply to get the most out of your life. Well, at least to me that is. Experience is the sight, the feel, the taste, the smell, the sounds, the emotions that encompass a moment, swirling into one tasteful concoction more potent than a bucket of espresso shots. Flashback, on the other hand, is the crash and burn hangover that follows every drinking spree; while I've never experienced one myself, I'm guessing it involves denial, realization, and comedy. Which draws us to an age-old debate: is the flashback the product of experience or vice versa? Well, not much of an argument there, since anyone will counter with the fact that without an experience, there's nothing to flash back about. However, what is an experience that you don't look back upon? It's ignored, buried deep in the recesses of your brain. Useless. It's a two-way street with U-turns at both ends, I guess. You can never have one without the other; experiences give you the moments, flashbacks give you the capacity to turn experiences into moments. Confusing, eh?

    So what I'm saying basically is, to use a Wikipedia method to explain it, is that the experiences are the entries, and the flashbacks are the fleshing-out text (citation needed). Each experience is filed in your memory cabinet, ready to be pulled by yourself to be reevaluated with all the harshness of an accountant on a Toffee Nut Frapuccino Venti with two Espresso shots and Vanilla syrup. Yes, the Starbucks references. I got my mom and dad (well, supposedly.. I ended up giving it to my brother) planners as their Christmas presents. It might not be the smartest thing to give, financially, but it made them happy and I wouldn't look back with regret. Although some of my entries, on the other hand, I look back with much chagrin (especially my last two, with one sounding didactic and the other sounding fanboy-ish). But that's the deal with experiences; the only time you can change them would be when they're still in your head. I'm rambling now, huh.

    Ohwell, best to get back to the real world. The asphalt jungle beckons. 'Till next time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Pinoy rock

    I just saw the Red Horse Beer ad.


    Though I doubt anyone but a few would appreciate it. But I was surprised to find that "Pinoy Rock" is an actual entry in Wikipedia. Bravo Filipino community. You do care. I could almost cry.

    Some people would find it weird that I, a barely legal (spare me the innuendos, please) college kid would find something like this interesting. But really. Pepe Smith, Basti and Ely (who still rocks despite being a Class A prima donna, A being A-hole) in a single commercial. THEY SHOULD MAKE AN ALBUM. COME ON. These guys are like, the counterparts of the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones, and all those classic rock acts here in the Philippines. I'm not exagerrating. The only reason people don't know that is because these Pinoy rockers are merely a footnote to Pinoy "rock", which is everything from them to manufactured mass-oriented pop rock bands (I'm not naming Hale, Cueshe, Spongecola.. oops). No worries, I'm not saying they suck as a whole. They have some good moments. But they're just like the bubblegum rock that's popular elsewhere. They're not... well, rock. Where are the riffs, the hooks, the melodies, the lyrics that may actually mean something. No emo stuff. Maybe it's just me.

    The States has a very glorified history of rock, with Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, Iron Maiden, et cetera, et cetera. I just wish we had something like that here too. I may not be a musician, but I am a musician fan.

    I am fervently wishing that Red Horse commissions these guys to make an album. Even just a compilation. I'll definitely buy it. I mean buy it buy it, not just download it. Nothing like grabbing a piece of history for posterity, right? Though I doubt that will happen. With commercialization, that's just not possible. * Sigh *

    I will end this post with a link to the advertisement and the Wikipedia article. Enjoy.



A Christmas post

    Some thoughts on the Yuletide season before the end of the day.

    Is Christmas a bad thing? Well, of course not. But looking at society's reaction to the season leaves a bad taste in my mouth. A highly commercialized holiday, with one of its most prominent marketing figures (heyyy Santa Claus) overshadowing the birthday boy Himself. Lest one forgets, it's CHRISTmas. I mean, really.

    But of course, with all the flak Christianity's been receiving, especially from the atheists and agnostics, I shouldn't be surprised with the decentralization of Christmas from Jesus Christ to more, uhm, "acceptable" models. Sometimes though, I just find it lousy that people argue for the removal of religion from different areas of society because it's a "global village" and we should "respect the beliefs of other communities" and that "Christianity is nothing but a massive brainwashing movement designed to dumb us down to the monkeys we evolved from." Christmas is a Catholic holiday. Don't celebrate it if you don't at least understand the meaning behind it. You don't have to go all Catholic-ey to understand the essence of gift-giving, or the other values associated with Christmas. :/

    The hypocrisy of that statement might stem from the fact that most Christians don't even recognize this. Or even if they do, it's all face value. Like the family who hired a caterer for their Christmas party but said that Christmas "isn't about the food or the new clothes," (I quote Kevin on this, I didn't see the actual news report). But I disgress. It's times like this that one should affirm the values that he or she learned and put them into practice. Sacrifice isn't hard on its own; it's just this lazy laid-back society that does nothing but whine that makes it hard.

    Blah, blah, blah. I'm rambling, and no one probably cares about that. The atheists/agnostics would probably say go to hell (wait, no, they can't because they don't believe in it.. hehe) and the hypocrites will say how dare you say such a thing, et cetera, et cetera. Anyways. If taking Christmas as a Catholic holiday, just take it as a Christian holiday then. With that in mind, keep Christ as the focus. Jesus Christ, whether you believe He is the Son of God or not, makes a pretty good model (WAY better than Santa Claus, kids).

    On a different note, let's talk about Christmas as a season of giving. Hey, this was the first Christmas I've ever had where I actually made a list, checked it twice and went out to shop in Greenhills and Glorietta (what, it doesn't rhyme?? Such a travesty! :o). In short, this was the first Christmas wherein I was actually giving away something. Of course, I ended up bankrupt, but seeing (or hearing, kinda hard to see people opening the gifts when you're cities away) the people you gave gifts to accepting them and saying thanks just makes you feel good inside, doesn't it? It may sound self-serving, but all truly selfless acts are two-way anyways (this reminds me of that Friends episode). The priest in the Christmas mass I attended put it so succinctly, "God Himself went bankrupt on the day of Christmas, giving away His only Son to man to be the instrument of their salvation." What a cool way to put it. Just puts everything in perspective.

    Anyway, enough rambling. I'm already thinking of something else that's not Christmas-related, and I don't want this to turn into an entry full of ramblings. So there. :P

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Notes on the components of Philippine pre-colonial poetry

Notes and anecdotes on the components of Philippine pre-colonial poetry, mostly taken from my Filipino 14 class under Mr. Popa.

    There are three main components inherent in Philippine pre-colonial poetry. First and foremost is the talinghaga or metaphor. The employment of the talinghaga is the unifying system of the literary piece, uplifting it above normal conversation so that people would take notice. The talinghaga is an art in itself that showcases the literary prowess of the pre-colonial Filipinos, allowing them to describe certain facets of life in a metaphorical manner. An example is as follows:

Original:Translation (English):
Umulan man sa bundoc,Let it rain in the mountains,
houag sa dacong laot,but not in the nearby sea,
aba si casampaloc,my friend
nanao nang dico loobwho left without my consent
ualang bauong cumot.did not bring a blanket.

The term casampaloc is derived from the sampaloc (tamarind), whose fruit looks similar to the pea, with the seeds inside the elongated fruit. From it, the listener can discern the closeness that the speaker and the person he is referring to shares. The sorrow expressed in the poem is profound and deeply felt by the addition of the last line. The speaker is worried that the person left without a blanket to shield himself against the rain. Taking in the poem as a whole, one sees the poem as a metaphor for the sudden death of a person.

    The other two components are tugma (rhyme) and sukat (meter). The incorporation of these into pre-colonial poetry stems from the evolution of literature from language. The tugma and sukat use the musicality of language to further achieve the objective of the poem.

    The development of language during the Philippine pre-colonial period, an integral factor in the development of that era's literature, was rooted in the sounds and music of nature. The community's undeniable link with nature can be seen in the onomatopeic words formed that describe natural phenomena, such as the kaluskos ng dahon, aliw-iw ng batis, tikatik ng ulan, tiririt ng pipit, pagaspas ng bagwis, dagundong ng kulog, and the ali-it ng kawayan. The movements of nature were named by the people, both as a testament to their affinity with the natural forces but also as an easier method of communicating amongst themselves. The use of these words allowed them to articulate themselves better and easily describe situations in a vivid manner so as to leave no ambiguity as to their meaning. This property of language allows the sharing of experiences within the community. In this sense, language becomes a repository of the progress of the community through history, as defined by Rolando Tinio.

    The first pre-colonial poems were done with the oral tradition in mind. The use of tugma and sukat was handy in inviting people to listen to the poem, elevating it above common everyday language to defamiliarize the listener from the experience. At the same time, the use of these two components allows the poem to be retained in the memory, which is very important in a community where writing is a rare, if not totally non-existent art. Tugma and sukat were also used to mirror the cycle of the seasons and other things in the environment, such as umaga/hapon/gabi (morning/afternoon/night), paglaho/pagbilog ng buwan (waning/waxing of the moon), pagkati/pagtaog (low/high tide), tag-araw/tag-ulan (dry/wet season), pagpunla/pag-ani (sowing/harvest) and pagsilang/kamatayan (birth/death). Tugma and sukat allow the poem to not only provide a visual description but an experience that appeals to all the senses, with emphasis on sounds.

Notes on the Manobo

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

    The Manobo or Manuvu are a Philippine ethnic group that reside in the provinces of Cotabato, Bukidnon and Davao which comprise Central Mindanao. The word Manobo means tao or human in their native tongue. They live near the shores of rivers, in valleys, hills and mountains.

    The literary traditions of the Manobo remain intact and relatively unchanged throughout the years. During gatherings, the awit (song) or epiko (epic) is used to entertain the townsfolk while also paying homage to the tribe's ancestors and gods. The opening awit or tula (poem) is called the Tabhayanon, which contains the goals and wishes of the singer that he wishes to express. The listeners reply with the ondaon, a sigaw (shout) that signals their agreement and acknowledgement of the importance of the singer's request. The awit or tula is related with such fervor and exhiliration so as to excite the emotions of the listeners, providing them with a cinematic story that raptures them all throughout the session.

Notes on the epiko

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

    The epiko, or epic, is the highest form of oral poetry in Philippine pre-colonial literature. As of recent times, almost thirty epics have been transcribed and preserved. However, it is believed that there are hundreds more that have been erased by the onset of colonialism in the Philippines.

    According to Arsenio Manuel, a noted historian and literary figure, the epiko is distinguishable by certain characteristics. The epiko is a long story made in poem form, and is based on the oral tradition. It is usually chanted or recited, especially during grand events such as preparations for war. Themes include supernatural events and heroic acts. Their main purpose is to embody and fortify the beliefs, values, ideals and importance of the community that created it (hence its recitation before the onset of war). The epiko is rarely written, and this is the main reason why so many have been lost to modern scholars. Instead of writing it, the pre-colonial Filipinos memorized the epics entirely, a testament to their mental prowess. Examples of epics across regions include Parang Sabil (Tausug), Biag ni Lam-ang (Ilokano), Keg Sumba neg Sandayo and Guman (Subanon), Alim and Hudhud ni Aliguyun (Ifugao), Ullalim (Kalinga), Agyu (Arakan-Arumanen), Ulahingan (Livunganen-Arumanen), Hinilawod (Labaw Donggon and Humadapnon) (Sulod of Panay), Darangen (Maguindanao and Maranao), Maggob (Mansaka), Handiong (Bicol), Bindian (Ibaloy of Benguet), and Tuwaang (Manobo).

    There are certain conventions to the epiko. The first is the use of indayog (cadence), timbang (symmetry), parallelism, alliteration, repetition of key words, and meter that allows the mang-aawit (singer) to remember the epiko in its entirety. It is also episodic; each epic holds many versions and contains numerous episodes. The epiko is also full of description, with each scene described in detail. This is also a technique by which the epiko achieves a panoramic vista; the listener is held in rapture as the singer chants the scene in minute detail. Thus, the environment of the epiko is also given great importance, helping set the mood and atmosphere of the scene. The presence of the environment is also due to the pre-colonial Filipino's affinity with nature. The actions of the characters are also excessive, most probably to hold the listeners' interest. There is also the presence of magical creatures and objects such as the diwata (fairy), anito, espiritu (spirit), hayop (animals), bungangkahoy (tree), nganga (betel chew), hangin (wind) and others. Lastly, the epiko is centered around the journey of the hero, and shows the relationship between the gods and man. Here, the hero acts as the mediator between the gods and men, a savior of sorts.

    The morphology of the epiko, as explored by Isagani Cruz (see Additional Resources#1), follows a certain structure as shown below.

  1. Pag-alis ng Bayani/Bida sa Tahanan
  2. Pagtanggap ng Bayani ng Agimat
  3. Pagtuklas ng Bayani sa kanyang Layunin
    • Mahal sa Buhay
    • Bagay na Nawawala
    • Patutunguhan
  4. Simula ng Pakikidigma ng Bayani
  5. Mahabang Pakikidigma ng Bayani
  6. Pakikialam ng diyos/diyosa upang itigil ang labanan
  7. Paglantad ng lihim ng diyos/diyosa tungkol sa Bayani
  8. Pagkamatay ng Bayani
  9. Muling Pagkabuhay ng Bayani
  10. Muling Pag-uwi ng Bayani
  11. Pagpapakasal ng Bayani
  1. The Hero leaves his Home
  2. The Hero recieves a Magical Object/Charm
  3. The Hero realizes his Objective
    • His true love
    • Retrieving a lost object
    • Destiny*
  4. The Hero starts fighting
  5. The long fight of the Hero
  6. Interference by a god/goddess to stop the fighting
  7. Revelation from the god/goddess about the Hero
  8. Death of the Hero
  9. Resurrection of the Hero
  10. Return of the Hero
  11. Marriage of the Hero

Additional Resources:

  1. The Beginnings of Philippine Literature: The Epic Tradition by Dr. Isagani Cruz

* A rough translation. Patutunguhan can be taken literally as a place that the hero goes to, or may refer to his fate.

Notes on forms of Philippine pre-colonial prose

Notes and anecdotes on the forms of Philippine pre-colonial prose, mostly taken from my Filipino 14 class under Mr. Popa.

    Philippine pre-colonial prose was made with the primary objective of explaining events that happen in nature, events that happened in the past and contemporary beliefs so as to ease one's fear of his/her environment. There are several types of Philippine pre-colonial prose. First are the highly similar mito (myth) and alamat (legend).

    The mito deals primarily with the creation or destruction of certain things. Through the mito, the community's acceptance of the cycle of life and death is expressed. Also, the mito is a method through which the needs, problems, responsibilities and goals of the community are embedded, which in turn bolster the community's unique culture. The mito is considered sacred amongst the people of the community, containing beliefs and values that the community places importance in. The mito usually takes characters from the world of gods and spirits and the world of human beings and serves as a bridge through which the two worlds meet. As such, it is an important part of rituals and is recited during religious events.

    The alamat is another form of pre-colonial prose that usually centers on a certain hero from the maharlika, or upper class. The hero's goal (and by extension the alamat's) is to defend the interests of the tribe/community it represents. Like the mito, it dabbles in supernatural forces and abilities, and is also taken to be factually true.

    The kuwentong bayan is a secular form of pre-colonial prose that centers on a class persona from the alipin or taumbayan (the lower class). Its main objective is to show the life of the ordinary person in light of the vastly different life of the maharlika. It usually employs comedy, with stories that use trickery and silliness, a method by which the lower class gets to bring down the maharlika a peg or two. The kuwentong bayan may be recited during special occassions and gatherings, such as drinking ones.

Notes on the awit

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

    The awit or awitin, loosely translated as song, is a form of Philippine pre-colonial literature that existed across many regions and dialects, such as the Tagalog, Pampango, Cebuano and Ilongo tongues. It employs the usual characteristics common in all forms of poetry; specifically, rhyme and meter. However, it is not as restrictive as the other forms, usually employing heptameters and octameters (although not at the same time) alongside a single rhyming scheme. It is also chanted and not simply recited. One example is as follows:

Original:Translation (English):
Ang mangingisda't anong hirapBeing a fisherman is hard
Maghulog bumatak ng lambatDropping and retrieving nets
Laging basa ng tubig dagatAlways wet from seawater
Pagal at puyat magdamagTired and lacking in sleep all night

This awitin from the Tagalogs employs a nanometrical syllabication, which is a little unusual. However, the single rhyming scheme is followed, with all ending syllables having the malakas na katinig sound (for more information, consult Additional Resources#1). The use of this type of rhyme has an onomatopeic effect; the sound is harsh, reflecting the fisherman's hardships noted in the text. This awit romanticizes the life of a fisherman as he goes about his daily routines. Being transcribed as an awit, this poem may have been used not only to highlight the hardships of the fisherman's life but also as a way to distract the fishermen from their work. The awit can be formed and used to stave off the banality of daily routines, providing a diversion from their boredom while also becoming a reminder of the importance of their profession.

    A certain form of the awit is called the uyayi or oyayi, and is from the Tagalogs. Loosely translated, it means lullaby, and is usually used in the same manner. It employs the malumanay sound and repetitive verse, and can be didactic or ridiculous. A simple example is as follows:

Original:Translation (English):
Kung lumaki't magkaisipWhen you grow up and become aware
Ikaw bunso'y magbabaitYou, youngest should be good
Mag-aaral na masakitStudy very well
Ng ??? malinis*?????*

This oyayi is probably chanted in a soft manner to lull the child to sleep. The verse is repeated until the child falls asleep, while also serving as a calm reminder to the child to study well when he grows up.

    Another example of an awit is as follows:

Original (Mangyan):Translation (Tagalog):Translation (English):
Si aypod bay upadanMahal na kaibigan Dearest friend
No kang tinagindumanLungkot ka sa isipanYou bring sadness to my memory
May ulang madi kagnanIlog ang naghihiwalayA river keeps us apart
May takip madi kaywanMay gubat pang pagitanA forest too, in between
No kang tinagindumanNgunit pag naalalaYet when I remember
Ga siyon di sa adanganWari ko'y narito kaI feel that you're here
Ga pagtangdaysaKaharap ko't kasamaIn front of and alongside me

This certain awit employs a heptameter and a single rhyming scheme. It is chanted, and while the chant may not follow the line breaks syntactically, the awit gains a certain flow that enhances the listener's experience once heard. Using the reference to nature, the song is able to elevate the message of the awit to a deeper level, allowing the listeners greater insight into the sorrow that the speaker feels.

    The awit is used in formal speeches called arambahan. It is also sung during large gatherings such as the panludan**. However, it is also used for practical purposes, such as courting rituals, and other religious functions. Sometimes, the awit is transcribed in elaborate objects, such as the ones etched on bamboo displays made famous by the Mangyans.

    A certain form of awit, called the kalusan, is common amongst the Ivatans. It is a song used during the harvesting seasons. One example is as follows:

Un as kayaluhan, kakaluhan
Un si payawari, parinin,
Un nu akma diwiyaten
Un as payawa, paypisahen;
Un as payawa, palagen,
Un si wayayat mo nay.

    Another form of awit is the tagay by the Cebuanos. It is a song freqeuntly used during gatherings, especially drinking ones.

Ay, Liding, Liding, Liding,
Ay, Liding, Liding, Liding,
Uhaw tagay.
Uhaw tagay.
Uhaw tagay.
Kon walay sumsuman
Ihawan ang hinuktan
Uhaw tagay.
Uhaw tagay.

    Last is the dung-aw of the Ilokanos. It is a short biography of someone who had died and is sung during that person's funeral wake.

Additional Resources:

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

* Text missing due to undecipherable writing
** Unsure spelling, may be incorrect

Notes on other forms of Philippine pre-colonial poetry

Notes and anecdotes on other forms of Philippine pre-colonial poetry, mostly taken from my Filipino 14 class under Mr. Popa.

    The tanaga is a form of Philippine pre-colonial poetry used by the Tagalogs. It is composed of four lines, employs a heptameter, has the rhyming scheme aaaa, and employs the use of metaphors. The ambahan is another form of poetry that is common within the Hanunoo-Mangyans (the "true" strain of Mangyans). It has no set length, a heptameter, has the rhyming scheme aaaa, and is available both in written and oral form, wherein it is chanted. The dalit is another form of poetry from the Tagalogs, and is similar to the tanaga except that it uses an octameter instead. It is commonly used during wakes.

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

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Notes on Philippine pre-colonial literature

Notes and anecdotes on Philippine pre-colonial literature, mostly taken from my Filipino 14 class under Mr. Popa.

    The pre-colonial period in the Philippines is the longest chapter in the country's history. Yet it is also the darkest chapter in history, with very few records extant. The lack of knowledge concerning the period stems from the lack of resources concerning this era, brought on by the perishability of the items produced during those times. Having a strong affinity with nature, the early Filipino communities produced items molded from the raw materials in the region, mostly from plants and trees. Another reason was the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. The Catholic friars who were tasked with converting the "uncivilized" natives demonized the pre-colonial culture, seeing the beliefs of that era as a threat to their mission to spread Christianity in the land. Only a few manuscripts still survive to this day, mostly done by Spanish priests who had immersed themselves in the community in an attempt to decipher their ways. One of the most important was the Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala by Fr. Juan de Noceda and Fr. Pedro San Lucar (1734), an anthology of early oral lore that preserved many examples of pre-colonial literature.

    However, despite the Spanish teachings, Philippine pre-colonial culture was not as barbaric as it had been made out to be. The presence of a bustling trade economy with Chinese and Muslim merchants existed long before the landing of the Spaniards. The oral literature in existence during that time also displayed a sense of sophistication beyond that of simple barbaric cultures. Anitism, a term coined by Stephen Hislop, refers to the religion prevalent in the religion at that time. The early Filipinos believed in the presence of anitos, primordial forces of nature that could accompany or possess people.

    Filipinos also held the principle of loob with great importance. Loosely translated, loob means inside. Loob is also a vague reference to the soul. An attempt to explain loob may proceed as follows. The concept of loob can, first and foremost, be related to the concept of a soul. It is something that resides within the person. However, it is not corporeal, or as specific as a soul; it is a vital part of the person but not the person in his/her entirety. Loob is also related to space and trust; with the phrase malapit ang loob ko sa iyo (malapit meaning near) referring to a person's high trust level with the other. Loob is also a personal space, something sacred to the person that belongs to him alone.

    The Filipinos were also well-endowed in the area of literature. A long-standing oral tradition that still survives in remnants to this day traces its roots to the pre-colonial period. Philippine literature employed everyday language, and was a communal activity. As such, the social relevance of literature during that time was very important. Themes included the daily routines of the community, living in accordance with nature and living within the community. Literature was the primary expression of the community's experiences, beliefs and emotions.

    Filipino pre-colonial literature followed certain conventions. Due to its oral nature, most stories had a formulaic method of construction. This was reinforced by the duty of literature as a reflection of the communal belief and experience; the repetition of themes highlighted the prevalent qualities of the region's culture, and identity was thus embodied. The oral tradition also refined the structure of pre-colonial literature, employing the use of rhythm and rhyme to great effect. Rhythm and rhyme distinguished literary pieces from normal conversation while employing the familiar everyday language that everyone in the community understood. These devices also made the pieces easier to remember and retell, while allowing the storyteller to associate the rise and fall of tone with the appropriate portions of the story.

    Philippine literature possesses a deep level of sophistication, seen in the organic unity of language, theme and relevance within each piece. The use of common language did not prevent the pieces from obtaining a touch of elegance that set it apart, a testament to the literary ability of the pre-colonial culture. Literature was a vital tool for community cohesiveness, rooted in the foundations of language as a tool for survival. Banding together to overcome the dangers of the wild, literature took on communal themes that promoted a sense of togetherness throughout the locals. Literature also reflected the affinity of pre-colonial Fipinos with nature, with the use of colorful metaphors and vivid backgrounds to enhance the story and express their appreciation of nature itself. Literature is such an integral part of pre-colonial Philippine culture that it was one of the methods employed by the Spanish in order to convert the Filipinos towards Christianity. However, the Filipinos were intensely critical of these Spanish pieces, largely due to their inability to relate them to their communal beliefs.

Additional sources:

  1. Philippine Literature: A History and Anthology by Bienvenido Lumbrera and Cynthia Nograles Lumbrera (1997)
  2. Popular Filipino Spirit-World Beliefs, with a proposed theological response by Reuel U. Almocera (2000)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Notes on the bugtong

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

    The bugtong, loosely translated as "riddle" in the English language, is a form of pre-colonial Filipino literature that still enjoys some popularity to this day. It is known by various names in different regions of the country, such as tigmo (Cebuano), burburti (Ilokano), tugma (Ilongo), kabbuñi (Ivatan) and tukud tukud (Tausug), with bugtong being the term employed by the Tagalogs.

    The bugtong is a form of poetry, usually consisting of a couplet (though sometimes a quatrain is employed). Each line is done in a heptameter or octameter, with the end syllables rhyming. In the common case, the couplet follows a formula: the first line will conjure an image, while the second line adds a detail that turns the image into a paradox. The overall image painted by the two lines will highlight a specific feature of the object in question, allowing those who are asked the bugtong to accurately guess what it is. This is different from a conventional metaphor, in that the picture painted is so far removed from any natural reality, yet at the same time concretizes the object that the bugtong's maker wishes the audience to guess. For example:

Original:Translation (English):
Buto't balatBones and skin

    This is a conventional and oft-repeated bugtong. The first line projects the image of bones and skin, while the second line gives a detail that makes the situation arise from its mundane picture. This style of defamiliarization serves to highlight certain features that allow those who are guessing to give an answer. For this case, the answer is a kite. The skin and bones refer to the kite's frame of cut-out paper held together by several sticks and string, while the second line refers to the kite as something that flies. It is the unnerving and unconventional portrayal of flying skin and bones that allows the bugtong to stand out from an ordinary portrayal of the kite. This makes the bugtong a unique style where defamiliarization is key. This trait may have been developed from the needs and beliefs of the pre-colonial communities in the Philippines. Daily life consisted of looping routines and roundabout labor, and as such the bugtong served as a way of reminding the community of the richness of their lifestyle. The ability of the bugtong to make something ordinary seem extraordinary gives the community a new perspective. It also serves as a mental exercise to sharpen the wit and intellect of members of the community. The bugtong may have also served as a form of sparring between locals in a community, an alternative to more physical forms of contest. The inability to solve a bugtong, especially one that involves such normal objects as a person's hand or house, showcases a person's katangahan (stupidity). Bugtungan is the term used to describe the event wherein people ask each other bugtongs.

    The bugtong normally covers daily chores or objects that are familiar to the speaker and the community he or she is referring to. This springs from the bugtong's relevance to the community as a continuous reminder of their lifestyle. This choice of topic also reflects the harmony between early communities and nature. During pre-colonial times, Filipino communities believed in animism, or the existence of spirits called anitos (singular form: anito) who were present in the primordial forces of nature. This belief, tempered and fueled by a need to survive in the harsh tropical climate, made early Filipinos share a close relationship with nature. The bugtong also serves as a reminder of this closeness, as it draws many of its metaphors from nature and everyday life. However, this makes the bugtong a solely communal exercise; the lack of universal themes will initially drive an outsider back, as he or she does not have the knowledge required to solve a bugtong. An example would be:

Original:Translation (English):
Mataas kung nakaupoTall when seated
Mababa kung nakatayoShort when standing up

While there are many answers that would adequately answer this bugtong, the first one that (by convention) will spring to mind for the everyday Filipino would be that of the dog, an animal whose ubiquitous presence in the community is well-known.

    The bugtong as an art was known for its light-heartedness; sometimes the picture painted may include a hint of sexuality on an otherwise mundane portrayal of the object. The addition of this element, however, highlights the closeness of the individuals sharing the bugtong; if no one is offended, it is because they have no qualms with each other and are comfortable in each other's presence. Also, the bugtong is meant to be a spontaneous form. The inherent nature of the bugtong as a reminder of the richness of one's life requires that it be done at the bat; it is also due to its characteristic as a mental exercise. The bugtong is supposed to be done on the spot, as a testament to the maker's intellectual prowess. This is also done so that the bugtong is fresh and thus keeps the object it describes fresh in one's mind. When a bugtong is repeated often, it loses its power to surprise a person into developing an appreciation of the object in question; thus it loses its reason for existing.

Additional sources: