You may not be able to relate to jokes with words like “butay,” “takong,” “palwa,” “til-as,” “halo” or “ibid.” However, those who grew up in the barrio like me, or at least lived in the barrio for months or years, can easily picture in their minds those ordinary fixtures of rural life.
“Butay,” “takong” and “palwa” are parts of a coconut tree. The first two are found near the bunch of fruits, while the third is the long stem where the leaves hang.
“Til-as” appears to belong to the caterpillar family, but it is the itchy species. “Halo” and “ibid” are monitor lizards; the former is carnivorous while the latter is herbivorous.
Those who know how “palwa” exactly looks like, could laugh at jokes like “ilong mora’g palwang nakulob” (nose which looks like a “palwa” face down), an exaggerated description of the typical Filipino and Asian flat noses.
Many years before, DJs of FM radio stations distinguished themselves from commentators or announcers of AM stations by speaking in English or Tagalog, or in a combination of both known as “Taglish.” In recent years however, there has been a growing number of DJs including Dagol and Tanini who happily and proudly use the Visayan dialect. They must be doing well in the ratings, because there are others who have adopted the same format.
The duo does not have the typical well-modulated voice of DJs. One of them even sounds squeaky and sometimes noisy. However, by being natural and by using their native language, their sense of humor tickles the “rural-raised” listeners who appreciate their being true to themselves.
It shows that in reality, people still appreciate humor better in their mother tongue than in other dialect or foreign language. Jokes are still more effective in the vernacular. And not only jokes, because we of really understand our native language better than any other foreign language.
There are words and phrases which do not have precise translations and lose their real meaning when translated to another language. It is just like MindaNews Bobby Timonera’s challenge on how to translate this to English: “Ikapila na nga presidente si Gloria?” Let me know if you have a nice try.
When I contributed for the book “From Rage to Courage,” a compilation of stories about Martial Law, I wrote in Cebuano, my mother tongue. I had two reasons then. First, my insecurities struck again after knowing the “big names” of writers who would contribute for the book. Second, to be honest, I could still express myself better in Cebuano than in English or Tagalog.
After passing the bar examinations however, I sparingly wrote Visayan articles. English is the official language in the trial court. I have to practice more in using the language. Besides, people expect lawyers to express themselves well in English. Thus the cliché, “brayt kaayo siya kay kung mu-istorya, perting Englisa” (he must be brilliant because he speaks English very well).
Let us face it. English has become one of the universal languages. In today’s borderless age, we need to master English to communicate effectively, of course without losing our nationalism.
For rural boys like me, mastering the English language is a task which requires a lot of efforts. I acknowledge that I do not speak as good as others who are gifted with facility of expression and trained in good institutions. But with more practice, I may eventually sound natural in speaking English.
I desire to speak English as spontaneous and effortless as Dagol and Tanini in delivering their jokes.
I want to be as unpretentious as they are, and not sound like the artist who renders a Tagalog version of a popular song and tries very hard to be as husky as American Idol’s David Cook.
That is a problem of trying to be somebody else. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Danilo Balucos, the first business manager of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center, left to pursue law school, passed the 2006 bar exams and is now a partner in a law firm in Davao City.)