University of santo tomas PUblishing hoUse

The House of True Desire The House of True Desire

The House of True Desire
Essays on Life and Literature

CIRILO F. BAUTISTA

UST PUbliShing hoUSe Manila, Philippines 2010

Foreword
='

n answer to the request of readers, I put together in this book articles from my weekly column, “Breaking Signs,” in the Philippine Panorama, Sunday magazine of the Manila Bulletin. From around 476 pieces culled from 17 years of writing, I have chosen some 115 which I hope will be representative of my subject range and style. When I started writing “Breaking Signs” in 1992, I did not think that it would be a major concern of my writing interest. It would not last. It was just something you did “on the side,” I thought, to fill up the spaces in between finishing that poem or that story. In the first few years I regarded it as such—an obligation to be met as literary editor of the Panorama. Then I came to like writing the column and I do even now. It provides me with a counter-energy for crawling out of the muddle of an epic in progress or escaping the headache of a novel that refuses to move. It makes me look at life from the perspective of a citizen and a countryman, while at the same time maintaining its linkage to literary truths. Indeed, the editorial parameters given me by the publisher were “Life and Literature,” no more than two typewritten pages, and I must observe the responsibilities of a conservative magazine. For the sake of editorial convenience, the articles in this book are grouped in four categories — “Commentaries: Literature and Life”; “Conversations”; “Literary Reviews”; xiii

I

xiv

The House of True Desire

“Personal Narratives”; and “Commentaries: Literature and Writing.” They are not, of course, rigid classifications, given the nature of my literary strategies. There are some articles that can be placed under more than one of the categories. In writing my column, I have no particular audience in mind. I do not want my creativeness to be limited by an unseen force with its own demands on my literary act. And so to those who ask, “For whom do you write?” I answer, “If you read my column, then I write for you.” That is the closest I can get to defining my readers—not by their quality but buy their response. And there are many of them out there—provincial and city teachers, college students, ports, fictionists, housewives, retired government servants, overseas Filipino workers. They have been writing me and texting me their reactions to what they read. I am sometimes surprised by the depth of their insights or the relevance of their inter- pretations. They complain when the column is bumped off to give way to an advertisement, but always they have encouraging words for my writing skill and the wish for the column’s continued existence. With these readers I explore literature, the house of true desire, to understand how it permeates everyday life and social institutions. Literature and life always intersect at certain point, since they feed each other. A sociology binds them together in a relationship that is both human and artistic. The house provides the rooms for life’s yearning for fulfillment, and offers correctives to its frailties and frustra- tions; life enlivens the house with materials for passion and perfection. We seek in literature what we cannot find in life, and in life what literature promises.
CIRILO F. BAUTISTA

The History of Words
='

t is interesting to note that some Tagalog words have their origin in the English language. This is, of course, a result of the American colonization. The public educational system that the colonial government set up for the Filipinos stipulated the use of English as a medium of instruction, and soon enough their modes of thinking and speaking went through significant alterations. Linguistic influences followed with the influx of American materials and ideas. Thus, though the Americans ruled the islands for less than fifty years, their language made a great impact on the natives’ consciousness. It is to be expected then that somehow, American words would find accommodation in the Tagalog language. This was especially true with the lower classes who, for one reason or another, were unable to attend school. They could not be bilingual—experts in both Tagalog and English—so they tried to incorporate American words into their native language system. This was a form of reversed colonization, as it were, which enriched Tagalog to a certain extent and continues to the present time. Unfortunately, our etymologists and lexicographers have not written sufficiently on the subject. Even Fr. Leo James English’s Tagalog-English Dictionary and EnglishTagalog Dictionary, two important works in the field, do not have etymological entries. We do not have any book that can compare with, for instance, Ernest Weekley’s The Romance of Words. It contains the history of more than 2000 common words and phrases in 8

I

Commentaries: Literature and Life

9

the English language. Weekley considers all the important divisions of etymology such as phonetics, semantics, doublets, homonyms, and family names. He traces the beginnings of each word and explains the various changes that it went through in the course of time. The information he gives is interesting at the very least and a corrective to misconceptions at most. For instance, he writes that “a salary is an allowance for ‘salt’ (sal), a supercilious man is fond of raising his ‘eyebrows’ (supercilia), and a trivial matter is so commonplace that it can be picked up at the meeting of ‘three ways’ (trivium). Dexterity implies skill with the ‘right’ hand (dexter), while sinister preserves the superstition of the ill-omened left.” Weekley says also that the game of tennis originated in France, where it was played as early as the fifteenth century by French knights who said tenez (hold) when they struck the ball. The Tagalog borrowings we are talking about are mainly phonetic, not semantic. The original meanings are retained while the spelling is Tagalized. In effect, they are American words in Tagalog sounds. For instance, suot is from “suit” (coat and tie) which the Americans introduced to the islands. High school and college students in those times wore suits to class. They were commonly made of sharkskin cloth which was white and therefore cool because it reflected, rather than absorbed the intense tropical sun. Other cloths were used. So one might be asked, “Ano’ng suot mo (what’s your suit)?” In time, the word came to mean simply “what one is wearing.” Hambog is from “humbug” (a pretender, an impostor, a fraud), as in “Maraming hambog sa gobyerno.” It is synonymous with mayabang (which has the shade of a person given to self-praise or self-admiration). Palaboy is from “playboy” (a wealthy man who spends his time in pursuit of hedonistic

10

The House of True Desire

pleasure and leisure). A shade of meaning—that of being a useless wanderer with a carefree attitude in life—developed, as in “palaboy ng lansangan”—a vagabond, a jobless person. This is synonymous with istambay which is from “stand by” (idle, just hanging around). Pikon is from “pick on” (to affect someone with sharp irritation by wounding his or her pride), as in “Napikon siya dahil ininsulto ang kaniyang tula.” Garalgal is from “gurgle” (to make the sound as of water flowing in an uneven and irregular manner), as in “Magaralgal ang tunog ng radyo.” Sipsip is from “sip” (to drink a little at a time), as in “Sinipsip niya ang kape.” Gilitin or gilitan is from “guillotine” (the sharp metal for beheading condemned persons). In usage, it does not necessarily mean “to behead” but “to cut” or “to incise,” as in “Gilitan mo ng leeg ang manok.” For this reason, some say that the word may have come from “Gillette,” the brand name of a shaving blade. There are many other words of similar kind that need to be studied and written about in a definitive volume on the etymology of modern Tagalog words. It will be a useful source of information and delight about aspects of our cultural heritage, since the history of words is a mainspring of our intellectual and emotional character. z

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful