Life in the Philippines – Ingat!

Leave the office to go home or from having dinner with local friends and you will almost always hear “ingat” or “ingat ikaw”. It is pronounced, as near as I can hear, as “ing-at”. Often your friends and colleagues will translate that to English, knowing how terrible your Tagalog is. In English you will hear “take care”.

“Ingat” literally means take care or be cautious and is the usual farewell between folks here. So, when a Filipino is leaving the office, give them a friendly “ingat”!

Life in the Philippines – Ano!

“Ano”! The universal Tagalog word, often heard in Taglish sentences as well, sentences such as, “You are so ano!” This means, “you are so ‘what is the word I am looking for?'” So ano could mean “cute”, “terrible”, “lovely”, “horrible” etc. Sometimes it could mean all of the preceding.

So, it is not unusual to hear someone say, “See how you are? You’re so ano!”

Life in the Philippines – and we wonder about the traffic

When is a one way street not one way?

Why on a Sunday of course.

These signs are seen all over Makati City. Mind you, I can’t help but think, if the one way streets work so well keeping the traffic moving, why would you bother to go back to two ways on a Sunday?

And worse, two weeks ago this one way street went one way the other way!

Life in the Philippines – Aray!

Ouch!

No, really, “ouch”. In the Philippines, stub your toe or be pinched by someone and you would say “aray”. Close as I can make it, you would pronounce it like “a-rye”.

So, be bumped by someone and say “aray”, then hear them respond with “ay sorry” 🙂

Life in the Philippines – O-o!

That’s got you confused I bet!

Uh-oh in English is an interjection for “oops, something just happened” and is generally a negative. It is used to indicate a sudden awareness of a problem or error and the resulting worry. Examples could be “uh-oh I did it again” signifying I have repeated a previous error. “Uh-oh, you’ll be in trouble when mum gets home”, something I heard a lot as a child. “Oh-oh” is the American version of “Uh-oh”.

Both variations of uh-oh sound almost exactly like the Tagalog, “o-o”. In Tagalog, however, “o-o” means “yes”. The polite form of it may be changed to “o-po”, “Yes sir/ma’am,” but o-o is heard a lot. It can be used like the English “uh-huh” as well so “o-o” repeated through a conversation from one person generally means “yep, got it”.

So now, when I break something in the Philippines, I bite my tongue and avoid saying “uh-oh”. Now I am more likely to say “oh crap” as there is no mistaking the intent of that!

Life in the Philippines – “I Sorry” Ay Sorry, joke lang!

Well, the ‘ber months are here so it is full-on Christmas. More on that later. Today I wanted to cover one commonly used English expression and one Taglish* expression generally used by all Filipinos, no matter their native tongue.

I Sorry” “Ay Sorry” — firstly, my team has corrected my poor Taglish. The correct expression is “ay sorry” rather than “I sorry”. Of course to an English speakers ears, the difference in sound between “ay” and “I” is, well, almost none. Anyway, this is said whenever someone bumps you, knocks, you drops something in front of you or generally does anything that would elicit an apology from native English speakers from the UK, Australia, New Zealand or similar. The expression is simply “I sorry”. No “I am”, “I’m”, or other form of the pronoun, just a simple “I”. The expression is simply “ay sorry”, literally “oh, sorry”. OK RJ, Kaii and the others … have I got that correct now? 🙂

“Joke lang” — When hearing the expression “joke lang” I am reminded of an old friend since passed, Bob Preller. Bob was born in Rhodesia and lived there through the civil war that resulted in the current Zimbabwe. He later travelled, married a lovely Norwegian lady and lived in Norway for the rest of his life. He was the most positive person I ever knew but he was also gifted with an acute sense of humour and the ability to make any story, no matter how unbelievable, sound believable. This got him scolded a few times by his Norwegian friends who could not tell he was joking. They explained to him,

Når du forteller en vits, må du smile slik at vi vet at det er en vits

Which translated to:

When you tell a joke you must smile so that we know it is a joke

It is similar here. At the immediate conclusion of a joke or when teasing someone playfully, you are expected to say, “joke lang”, which I guess literally means, “and it is a joke” or perhaps better, “just kidding”.


* Taglish – is the combination of Tagalog and English, both in name and in substance. It is the name given to the phenomenon where the two languages are combined into one sentence in everyday speech. It is also common to see in writing too. The earliest use of the term “Taglish” seems to date back to about 1973. There are other forms of this portmanteau, such as “Engalog” and “Tanglish” but “Taglish” appears to be the common form used these days.

Life in the Philippines – 15 Days to Christmas!

Well, it is in the Philippines. Today is 16 August and as such, 15 days away from the start of the Festive Season here. In the Philippines the festive season is known as the ‘ber months (September, October, November, December). This will be when the Christmas decorations go up in the stores and malls, and the playing of Christmas Carols commences in those malls – for the next four months!

It is normally around mid-October that the repeated Christmas Carols feel more like a Chinese Water Torture but then I relex and reaise that there are only 10 more weeks of Carol Singing to go!

Merry Christmas!

Life in the Philippines – Pasalubong

Whenever I return from a trip to Australia or Singapore, my staff ask me for their Pasalubong. Pasalubong is a Tagalog word that seems to mean, “here is something I have for you for when you welcome me back”. It is a Filipino tradition where travellers bring gifts from their destination to folks back home – for family, friends, office mates and so on. The Pasalubong can be any gift or souvenir brought for family or friends after being away for a period of time.

Pasalubong is normally something local from the region, or country visited. Yes, it does not just apply to those that have been overseas. So, for example, should I visit the province of Bicol, then I would look to bring back pili nuts. Head to Pampanga and chicharron (see left) would be a suitable Pasalubong. Visit Australia, and I could bring back vegemite (which has the double advantage of being the expected Pasalubong and at the same time, after tasting it, curing the locals of asking me for Pasalubong in the future). Vegemite is an acquired taste after all, fit only for real men and women! 😉

Pasalubong is culturally important to Filipinos and is a way for the traveller to share some of the experience of their trip with family and friends – sort of like the souvenirs brought back by western cultures (like the Elgin marbles for example).

The other nice part about Pasalubong is that it is not wrapped, but given as is. A nice custom and one I seem to recall in other parts of Asia as well.

 

Life in the Philippines – Paluwagan

Paluwagan has existed in the Philippines for many years. It is a group forced savings system and similar money saving systems exist in other countries and cultures, however, in the Philippines, and regardless of what the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP – the Central Bank) says, it is almost ubiquitous. Paluwagans exist in the cities such as Metro Manila and down to the farms on Mindanao and Samar. Even retired folks have been know to be part of a paluwagan.

So, what is it exactly? It is a means of group saving or money lending. A group of people, perhaps workmates, friends, extended family and such, get together and agree an amount they can afford to “save” or deposit to the paluwagan. They agree on who will hold the funds, how frequently payments will be and then the order of receiving payments – the order is usually random unless there is a compelling reason to help out one or two members of the paluwagan group first.

The mechanics are quite simple. Each member contributes the same amount each week (or month or whatever cycle is selected). One member then receives the collected funds each cycle. The next week all contribute again and the second member receives the collected funds. This continues until all members receive the full funds after which the paluwagan then terminates. In many respects, it is like the terminating Building societies of 18th century England.

A paluwagan payment set of cycles could look like:

There are six members and all agree to contribute 1,000 pesos per month for six months. The payment order is agreed, in this case, Anne, Bob, Charlie, Dave, Edwin and Francine. In January all contribute 1,000 pesos and Anne is then given 6,000 pesos. In February all contribute 1,000 pesos and Bob is then given 6,000 pesos. The cycle repeats until everyone has received their 6,000 pesos.

The benefits of paluwagan are:

  • quick access to a lump sum of money
  • easy to set up
  • no fees
  • forces saving

The disadvantages/risks:

  • unregulated
  • prone to money problems (dishonest members)
  • strained relationships among friends and family
  • no interest or profits

The paluwagan however, is effective among friends, colleagues, co-workers and family where all can be trusted and if there is a large group, say 10 to 20 people, and they are contributing 1,000 pesos each cycle, then the lump sum of 10,000 to 20,000 pesos is very useful.

As with all things in the 21st century, there are a number of online frauds and scams to be avoided. However, when lending face-to-face to the paluwagan among a group of trusted friends,  colleagues etc. the risk is low.

Life in the Philippines

I’ve been living in the Philippines for nearly five years now (I arrived in Manila on 9 August 2014 so five years on 9 August 2019). It is an interesting and friendly country with much familiar and much different. Most of the five years has been spent in Manila, famous mostly for its traffic and balut. I have been fortunate in the apartments I have stayed in to be able to see Manila Bay (battlefield of course for Dewey’s Squadron in the Spanish-American War) and generally a nice view into the distance, although a few too many high dwellings.

Many days the sunsets are wonderful and on clear days I can see the Bataan peninsula which forms the northern edge to the entrance to Manila Bay and was the scene of one of the death marches in World War 2. It is also the home to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Construction of that commenced in 1976 and was completed by 1986, just in time to see the Chernobyl meltdown. It was decided not to power up this power plant and it sits on the Bataan peninsula to this day. Who knew?

Interestingly it is not that far from Mt Pinatubo which famously blew its top in 1991.

Sunset over Manila Bay – Bataan in the right background, Corregidor in the left

To the south I can see the Cavite peninsula, forming the southern edge to the entrance to the bay and in the middle, Corregidor, famous as a fortified island, fortified by the Spanish, the Americans and then the Japanese. It was supposed to protect the entrance to the bay. From there you can see the concrete battleship Fort Drum (originally known as El Fraile Island).

I was fortunate to take a day drip across to Corregidor a few years ago, which I promised myself I would write up here. Still, it’s my blog so things happen at my rate.

I will start to cover life in the Philippines more in the future, especially the life of the expat turning local as my plan is to remain here after I finally retire. In the meantime, ingat ikaw.