Filipino inverted words older than Spanish rule

by Ramon T. Ayco May 12, 2009
(First publish in my “Culture Column” on Pinoy Reporter’s June 2009 issue)

This coming June 12, the Philippines will celebrate its “Independence Day”. To be more exact: Philippine independence from Spanish rule. In this connection, I would like to discuss something about our language, the Filipino language. Not about our literary language but something about Filipino slang words. One of the most popular slang words in the Philippines are the inverted words like erpat (short for father), ermat (short for mother), lespu (pulis meaning policeman), dehins (hindi meaning no), astig (from matigas meaning hard), atab (from bata or child) etc. Erap, in which former President Estrada is popularly known, is an inverted word of “pare”. Have you ever been wondered when this Filipino inverted words began? Michael Tan, in his article posted in Philippine Daily Inquirer on March 27, 2009 said: “Rereading Tagalog Slang Dictionary reminded me of the tendency, in the 1970s, to create new words by inverting syllables. Thus, “yosi” came from playing around with the first and last syllables of “sigarilyo.” … It was quite a feat for young Filipinos to conduct a conversation with these transposed syllables and I remember friends who could convert every word in a sentence into their inverted slang equivalents. The inversion
Joseph “Erap” Estrada.

seemed almost natural for the 1970s, a period of youthful rebellion, a linguistic counter-culture that literally turned languages on their head. So Mr. Tan believes that Filipino inverted words began in the 1970s. I almost agree. But doing some more research work, I have found this information from Wikipedia, which said: Eraño de Guzman Manalo (born January 2, 1925), is the son and successor of Felix Y. Manalo, the founder of the church Iglesia ni Cristo. The name Eraño comes from a reversal and elision of the term “New Era,” which his father used to describe what he felt was “a new Christian era” as the Iglesia ni Cristo was established.

So base on this information, there was an inverted word as early as 1925. But, not so satisfied, I tried to go over and over again searching for more information, but to no avail. And as I am pondering my mind, as if a lamp in my brain start blinking and blinking, bringing me back way, way down to 19th century, 18th century, 17th century, and, oh no, the blinking stops at 16th century with full of lights. It is almost the same period as the time of Reformation in my “Snow White” theory. Remember? Unbelievable! So without further ado, here is my theory. In the ancient times and up until now, color red is believed to symbolize bravery. So during those times in the Philippines, I mean 16th century Philippines, a man who had showed his braveness was given a title “Pula” (red). But there was a man, a datu (chieftain), who was not only brave but very-very brave. So he was given a title of double brave or “Pula-Pula”. And because inverted words were already a fashion in those time, the name “Pula-Pula” was also inverted and became “Lapu-Lapu”. And as we already know, on March 16, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan was said to discover the Philippines, but he was killed by this doubly brave chieftain Lapu-Lapu. So in celebration of the Philippine Independence Day, we salute Lapu-Lapu as the first Filipino hero who was successful in resisting Spanish colonialism in our country. -o0o-

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