Friday, April 06, 2007

Relatively Speaking

I've discovered an added benefit to being married to an "Americano." Gareth is always asking me questions about things I've long taken for granted as being "just the way it is." I've always liked learning more about my culture, but there have been times when it was easier to just answer his questions with, "I don't know, Gareth, I didn't grow up in the Philippines." But even I am not satisfied with that answer, as true as it is. So, in a way, Gareth has forced me to be curious about my culture again and find the answers to his questions, thus finding answers to my own questions.

I came across this article by Ambeth Ocampa entitled, "Relatively Speaking." One of the things I'm most proud of in our younger generations is the continued use of the appropriate titles of respect. I just love hearing the words "Ate" and "Kuya" from Jaylen and Trystan when they talk to Nikka or Deric. It was interesting to find out about the Chinese origins of Kuya, Ate and the Spanish origins of Manong & Manang, and other familial terms. I don't know how accurate some of the facts in this article are, but it was still quite illuminating. It's a little long, but still worth the read. Hope you enjoy, and please feel free to comment on it!


Relatively Speaking by Ambeth Ocampo

Growing up is a difficult process and psychologists say that in a family of three, it is the middle child who has- trouble coping. The eldest is given much responsibility and the youngest all the attention. Thus, the middle child should give in to the bullying of the eldest and the whims of the youngest. He wonders why the toy he always wanted is given to the bunso as soon as it whimpers, or why the bunso is never scolded as harshly as he is. The middle child wishes that he was older than the teasing brother and nagging sister.

All these factors come into play in a child's development and despite all the theories of Western psychologists like Dr. Spock, there is more to kinship in the Philippines than meets the eye. There is more to kuya and ate than simply a term with no equivalent in English. Beneath it lies a whole sociological structure.

E. Arsenio Manuel's Chinese Elements in the Tagalog Language traces the origin of Tagalog words loaned from the Chinese. For example, the familiar kuya which everyone believes to be Filipino is actually the joining of two Chinese words or syllables ko (elder brother) and a (a word which denotes kinship). A (kinship) and chi (elder sister) is the origin of the Kapampangan atse, or atsi, meaning elder sister from which the Filipino ate is derived.

In some Philippine homes which retain a strong Chinese influence, family members address each other in specific terms which denotes sex and the seniority of a family member up to the fourth degree. Some of these terms have been used in such a way that the user believes the terms are Filipino. Kuya is always reserved for the eldest brother, but in Philippine usage, the term is used to mean an elder brother, but not necessarily the eldest. This is the difference between Philippine and Chinese usage. The second (di) brother (ko) is simply called diko. Names and nicknames are not appended to the terms because they are 'self-explanatory. Third (sang) brother (ko) is called sangko; and the fourth (sti) brother (ko) is called siko. For the females, ko is simply replaced with chi which means elder sister, thus the eldest sister is the ate or atse; the second (di) sister (tse) is called ditse; the third (san) sister is the sanse; and the fourth (si) sister (tse) is called sitse.

It would seem that Filipino does not have the equivalent kinship terms, but the sociological implications of kinship is the same as the Chinese. Elders are to be respected at all times, to the point of kowtowing. The youngest in the family is seldom punished; instead, he or she is tolerated to the point of being spoiled. Brothers are given priority over sisters: Sisters serve their brothers.

The amount of deference and authority accorded a brother or sister is in direct proportion to his or her age. The older he, or she is, the more respect and authority is accorded to him or her. Isn't the eldest -brother the padre de familia in the absence of the father, and the eldest sister the surrogate mother when the real one is absent? In some families, inheritance is divided according to age, with the eldest getting more than the rest, or at least having first crack at choice properties. More often than not, inheritance is determined by one's closeness to the donor-parents, but favoritism in a Filipino home is connected to a child's sex and age. Fathers usually dote on daughters more than their sons, who, get their share of lopsided attention from their mothers. The unico hijo or unica hija, only boy or only girl, is also the favorite of both parents, but the proceeding rule still applies. Generally, the spoiled brat almost always is the youngest in the family. This family closeness and the intricate structure built on authority and age is one facet of the Filipino psyche which is very Chinese, and it goes deeper than just the kinship terms.

While there is a title reserved for the eldest child, there is also a Chinese term reserved for the youngest boy, totoy. Literally translated, it means "foolish son" and is an endearing term for a small boy. From this comes the Filipino variations: ato, atoy, toto, and ito. This isn't just a term, however. It is also a license to be mischievous. Isn't the bunso the center of attention and the test of one's patience? If the bunso breaks something or does, something wrong, he or she is punished but never spanked or scolded as harshly as an elder sibling. The rationale for this is that the bunso should be given a chance because "he is young and doesn't know what he is doing." (Gen: Boy, isn't this the truth?)

THE LATE NATIONAL ARTIST Guillermo Tolentino agrees with Manuel regarding the Chinese kinship terms adapted into the national language, but in his book, Wika at Baybaying Tagalog, he proposes many interesting etymological theories on Tagalog kinship terms.

Kapatid is the joining of two words ka and patid, meaning cut apart or disconnected from a common point. The Kapampangan term for kapatid-kaputol is more graphic, since it denotes a portion cut from something. This graphically shows that a brother or sister came from the same womb or the same mother. Kapatid/kaputol make one thing of the umbilical cord from which we are cut at birth. In the old Philippine script, the symbol for ka means "to join together" and is said to represent the two pieces of bamboo joined together. It is interesting to note that kapatid only means a pair, while magka-ka patid (doubling ka) means more than two siblings.

People in the city whose minds have been poisoned by anticommunist propaganda think that Ka Lucas and Ka Millie are Leftists in the New People's Army or members of a militant labor union. Ka does not only means "to join," it also is a prefix which denotes brotherhood. Perhaps it can be seen in the same way that Russians use comrade. Ka is the shortened form for "kapatid na " plus a name, say Lucas, which thus becomes Ka Lucas. Kaka, a word for deference, is reserved for the eldest in the family, be it a brother or sister. Tolentino connects this to kakang gala, which is the first extraction of milk from grated coconut. Kaka without the name or nickname of the person means that he or she is the eldest in the family. The younger sibling attach ka to the name of their elders to stress age and consequently; to show respect.

Never does a Filipino address an elder, much less a parent, on a first name basis as Americans do. To hell with Doctor Spock! Respect, for elders is part of Asian life and it shocks many Filipinos to see American children pat their parents on the back and call them by their first names. A child who does this in a Philippine household [would] be beaten black and blue for being disrespectful. Corporal punishment, though, is varied due to the belief that a child should be hit only on the buttocks or on the hands. Don't we hear stories of children made to kneel on rock salt or mongo beans?

If you don't use kuya, ka or kaka, you can use manong for an elder brother or elder male, and manang for a female. This term frequently used by the llocanos comes from the Spanish hermano (brother) and hermana (sister). Centuries of Spanish domination have left many loan words in our language. Lolo (grandfather) and lola (grandmother) were derived from the Spanish abuelo (grandfather) and abuela (grandmother). From this the variations came, like agwelo, agwela, lelong, and lelang.

Tolentino's hypotheses are made more interesting by his research and treatise on the word "poon", the word for "lord," which is the source of the familiar .word for respect. "Opo," is said to be a contraction of "O-poon," which shows deference to a lord or master.

The term for grandfather, apo, is a contraction of ama-poon, and the word for grandmother, impo, comes from ina-poon. The grandchildren, or apo, comes from anak-poon. In his day, Tolentino was ridiculed for these theories, but half a century has passed since his book was published and no one has come up with alternative etymological theories. Tolentino could have been right all along.

NEPHEWS AND NIECES are treated like one's own children in Philippine society. Only one term covers the children of brothers and sisters, nephews or nieces-the word pamangkin which is supposed to have come from the phrase "Parang naman akin" (like my own).

This is bolstered by the fact that some people refer to uncles as tata, tatang, or sometimes, tatay. Aunts are called nana, nanang,or inang. The difference here is that if you simply call somebody tata, you mean your real father. If you add the person's name to this, you mean an uncle. Thus, ang tata ko is not the same as ang Tata Pedro ko, because the former means "my father" and the latter "my uncle Pedro." An uncle is referred to as an amain. Uncles and aunts are called by their names with a prefix to show this relationship. Amang Gorio and Inang Ester are said to have come from inaaring tunay na ama/ina.

One's family grows through intermarriage, but one "extension" which does not require consanguinity is through baptism when people become kumpare and kumare. By being the godfather/mother of a child, you become cofather or comother to a child and you are morally obligated to take care of the child in the event that the parents cannot do so. The godchild is thus referred to as inaanak. The godfather is called ninong, while the godmother is called ninang, both from the Spanish padrino and padrina.

Everything is made more complicated by the "extended" family. In Philippine society, even children of close friends are treated like nephews arid nieces. In order to stress this closeness children, especially in mote modern society, are told to address friends of their parents as tito or tita. Both from the Spanish tio meaning uncle and tia meaning aunt, these later gave rise to tiyo or tiyong, and tiya or tiyang.

Some of Tolentino's plausible but seemingly unbelievable etymological theories include the following:

Half-brothers or half-sisters are called kapatid sa ama or kapatid sa ina, which clearly specifies the source of the relationship, whether it be one's mother or father.

Cousins are called pinsan from the child talk pisan, which means samasama or altogether under one roof. This refers to many Philippine homes where families all live together in the same house, literally under one roof, pisan, so when one clan lives together, everyone, from the grandfather to the cousins, see each other. In more urban places, large families are in "compounds" instead of one house. The addition of "n" to pisan is accidental according to Tolentino, but he says that it could mean pininsan, Thus resulting in pinsang buo (first cousin), pinsang makalawa (second cousin), and pinsang makaitlo (third cousin).

When a woman (babae) consents to marry her boyfriend (lalaki), they are "joined" by matrimony and so their parents by this marriage become related. They become in-laws, or magbabalae. This union between man and woman is the cause of the relation. Babae plus lalaki results in balae, which is the term for the parents of one's son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

The parent-in-laws are called biyanan, or now spelled as biyenan. The father-in-law is called biyenan na lalaki and the mother-in-law is called biyenan na babae. Tolentino says biyenan comes from biyayang binayaan; loosely translated as blessings which were given away. This has reference to the parent-in-law's children who are believed to be biyaya, or gifts from heaven. When the parents give their consent and blessings to the marriage, they give up their child, their biyaya, which, becomes their biyayang binayaan. Perhaps this explains why stereotype inlaws or biyenans like Dely Atay-atayan in "John en Marsha" are cranky to each other. It was difficult for them to give up their "blessings," or biyaya.

The manugang is the daughter- or son-in-law. To be more specific, manugang na babae is daughter-in-law and manugang na lalake is the son-inlaw. Tolentino says that manugang is connected to biyanan in that the parents give to this person their "blessing" or biyaya (their child) with whom they are free to live, so manugang comes from the phrase maalam umugit ng biyayang binayaan. The complicated etymological analysis delves into ancient Philippine script and is as complicated as the phrase itself.

Before marriage, the groom or bride always fishes for "a second opinion" from friends and relatives. It is said that when, they ask their brothers what they think of the prospective husband or wife with "Pakakasalan ko ba si. . ? " (Should I marry him?) The swift reply is "Ba ayaw!" from which comes the term bayaw to mean brother-in-law. It does make an interesting story, but it doesn't give any clues to the origin of hipag, which means the sister of one's spouse. (Gen: Could it be she said, "Hindi ako payag!"?)

More complicated is bilas, which is the husband of one's sister-in-law, or the wife of one's brother-in-law. This complicated term for brother-in or sister-in-law stems from the root word nagkaPILA-S or "peeled. from," meaning that, you are related to people who are "connected to each other by :blood."

Some of the terms we seldom hear except in old Tagalog reruns on afternoon TV include anak sa Iigaw, which means a child born of lovers who did not get marred. Anak sa pagkadalaga is the child of a rape victim, or a woman who is not married. Anak sa tabing bakod is the child of a promiscuous, woman who doesn't know who the father of her child is. Last is all-too-familiar putok sa buho, the child whose parents are unknown even to its foster parents. This has reference to the first man and woman in Philippine legend, Malakas and Maganda who came from nowhere but a split bamboo.

From all of these, we see how rich and complicated the national language can be. If we can take more time off work to analyze Filipino words, we will probably understand our lives, our families and ourselves better.

(27 April 1986)

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