The mangling continues

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By Stella A. Estremera

Spider’s web

Sunday, February 23, 2014

WHILE waiting for the results of the second batch of semifinalists for the 5th ABS-CBN Inter-school Newscasting Competition at the ABS-CBN Davao last week, Danjo was entertaining the crowd by interviewing the contestants.

One of the contestants was asked, “What did you find most difficult, Tagalog, English or Bisaya?”

I’d have expected English, but no. The contestant said, “Bisaya.”


Asked what specific words she found most difficult, she said, “Beinte og atol,” she said. In normal conversations, it’s twenty, just like 500 is five hundred and not kinyentos. Atol? She had never used that. Which made me wonder as well, errrrmmmm… what does “atol” mean?

Another male contestant said the same. The Visayan words were difficult to read and pronounce.

Which brings us to the ever-evolving dialect that Dabawenyos have claimed to be Bisaya but which isn’t, while also claiming to be Tagalog, which again isn’t.

On the bus on Valentine’s Day from Nabunturan, two women with two children both below five years old sat at the seat right behind me. The two women were speaking in Tagalog with the distinct accent of a taga-Dabaw. Definitely, not the drop-jaw insolent Tagalog of the Metro. But they were speaking in good Tagalog. Not perfect, but good. The two children, however, were something else. First, because the first thing they did was to climb up and hang on to the back of my seat (since I had the window seat and of course, kids would want to get the best view from the window), and second, because children around three years old have the nastiest decibel level. I was caught between irritation and amusement as they tried to out-talk each other in the most terrible Davao Bisaya/Tagalog.

“Tapos ang gipanood natin, yung nakakatakot ba. Yung wala talagang lupa, katong nakatali lang gyud,” the elder and more talkative one was telling the younger one in the shrill voice of a below-five all peppered with the word “tapos”. I can’t figure out what movie the little one was talking about as I continuously flinched at the way the languages were being murdered right above my head, my consciousness swinging along with my backrest where the older one was swinging. Sheer torture.

But I can be more forgiving, given that they are toddlers. I’m just about ready to fly into a murderous rage as my reporter, the neighborhood police officer, the college student I’m talking to would say, “Diri-a” while pointing to a direction.

“Diri-a mo muagi”, “Diri-a ra man to sila ganina”, “Naa ra gyud ko diri-a”. Promise. This is a new one, such that even my contemporaries who did their best to teach me Bisaya and failed are now walking around with raised eyebrows wondering where the “diri-a” came from. To make it worst, others are now even saying “tura-a” for there to complemenf their “diri-a” (or here).

While we were not looking, like almost a decade ago now, the words “baskin” and “biskin” (to the real Visayans this is ‘bisan’) have already entrenched themselves into the common lingo, and the newcomers of Davao are all claiming, we are Dabawenyos because we are Bisaya, and vice versa. The more ignorant ones are even saying Davao is Cebuano. But who are we to say otherwise when government census lists “Cebuano” as the most common dialect. Really now?

The second, third, and fourth generations who have seen the entry of the Bisaya into mainstream conversations only in the late 1980s are one in saying, you do not know your history.

In history almost forgotten, people of Davao spoke Chavacano (pidgin Spanish) before settling for Tagalog that had a sprinkling of Bisaya, but more like Waray and Ilonggo rather than Cebuano until the 1980s. Before that? Only the “katabang” spoke Bisaya and you only spoke in Bisaya to the “katabang” because even the natibos did not speak Bisaya, they spoke Dinabaw and understood Tagalog.

“We do not use ‘labang’ to mean cross the road. We use ‘tabok’,” I told a friend who would repeatedly say ‘labang’ and I would almost always fail to understand what she was saying. She went on to explain what labang and tabok is in Cebuano, and I simply drowned in lack of comprehension. To this day, I use tabok knowing too well that my Davao friends will likewise not comprehend ‘labang,’ and no amount of explanation will ever make us use the word.

Thus I resign myself, that while diri-a and tura-a are among the most irritating words I’ve been hearing of late, it will become familiar and no longer as irritating as “Biskin” and “Baskin” were once before. I haven’t even told the story of my former reporter who, while speaking in Bisaya all the time and can hardly speak Tagalog, could never ever distinguish the difference between “bisan” and “basin.”

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 23, 2014.


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