Sweet Kapampangans

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By Robby Tantingco

Peanut Gallery

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

MUCH has been written about Kapampangans’ swagger and audacity, but little about their graciousness. Is it possible that this loud and conceited people, who produced the country’s bravest warriors, are by nature really humble and soft-hearted?

Two events last week eloquently demonstrated this other side of Kapampangans.

One was The Voice singing contest where four celebrity coaches decide if they want contestants on their team. All coaches in the show’s Philippine edition happen to be Kapampangan: apl. de.ap from Angeles City, Lea Salonga from Porac, Bamboo from Floridablanca, and Sarah Geronimo also from Floridablanca.


When they found out that one contestant they had just rejected was a Kapampangan, they all said, “Wow cabalen” but it was apl.de.ap, ironically the one with the most number of years spent abroad, who carried a conversation with the contestant in fluent Kapampangan.

“Komusta cabalen?” he started. “Ing buri ku sabyan, talagang masanting ya ing bosis mu, pero para kanaku, megkulang ya. Lege me kasi itang sikan na ketang tauli. Sana lege me ketang minuna, migkayi na ku sana, pero pasensya na mu.” (“What I want to say is, you really have a good voice but for me, it fell short. You came strong too early. You should have saved it for later, then I’d have pressed the button for you. I’m really sorry.”)

“Ay ala pung problema ita,” replied the equally gracious contestant.

apl.de.ap could not hide his embarrassment, even remorse, that he had to turn down a cabalen: “Mangapalaspas na ku kanyan kareng kalupa kung Kapampangan!” (“My fellow Kapampangans will flagellate me for this!”)

It was the contestant’s turn to comfort him: “Ali naman pu, kasi balu yu naman pu dakal talagang magaling. Siyempre e ku naman pu a-please ding eganagana. Siguru it’s not for me talaga.”

apl.de.ap offered more sympathy: “Eganagana, masanting naman ing gewa mu. Migkulang ya mu. Pasensya na ka ne. King tutuki na mu.” (All in all, you did well. It just fell short, that’s all. Sorry again, maybe next time.”)

“Ay opu,” the contestant replied before bowing out.

“I’m impressed right now,” Lea Salonga said, and so were thousands of Kapampangans who watched it on TV and saw it on Facebook.

They were impressed I think, first, because the Black Eyed Peas member could speak fluent Kapampangan and seemed proud of it, too (which came as a shock and an indictment to those Kapampangans who have stopped using Kapampangan) and, second, because he revealed a sensitive, almost tender, side that nobody knew about.

We Kapampangans can relate, can’t we, when we watch apl.de.ap reach out to a total stranger with instant, genuine affection simply because she is a Kapampangan like him.

I also think that we Kapampangans were as surprised as the rest of the country that our language, often criticized for being too loud, too pedestrian and too funny with all the interchanged /p/ and /f/ and the /h/ sound found in all the wrong places, could after all be so sweet and soothing to the ear.

We wouldn’t know until later how much that televised exchange between apl.de.ap and the losing candidate changed the nation’s perception of Kapampangans as a people and Kapampangan as a language. But for sure, apl.de.ap accomplished in a few precious seconds what many cultural workers and advocates have spent years and years trying to do.

The other event last week where Kapampangans’ gracious nature came shining through was the Luis Taruc Birth Centenary in San Luis town, where the guest speaker, a historian from the national government’s historical commission, and Taruc’s only son, Dr. Romeo Taruc, publicly disagreed on a few facts about the Huk Supremo’s life and role in history.

“Hindi naman si Ka Luis ang nagsulat ng Born of the People kundi si William Pomeroy,” the historian said at one point, and “Hindi naman siya sopistikadong mag-isip tulad naming mga intelektwal, kaya siya ay natanggal sa Partido Komunista na noon ay hawak na ng mga intelektwal” he said at another.

Such comments would hardly cause a ripple in an academic forum, a lecture, or a conference, where contrary ideas get tossed around like daggers without ever drawing blood.

But this was Taruc’s 100th birthday, held in Taruc’s hometown, attended by Taruc’s family and followers, with Taruc’s son sitting just within spitting distance. Everyone was there to lionize, not analyze, the Huk Supremo. The speaker might as well have walked into a lions’ den while all the lions were having a ball and then told to their faces their lion king wasn’t as smart as they thought he was.

And so when Dr. Romeo Taruc’s turn to speak came, he didn’t waste time giving his own version of his father’s life and legacy.

At one point he turned to face the historian and told him, with some measure of indignation, “Hindi po pinatalsik sa Partido Komunista ang ama ko, dahil hindi naman talaga siya komunista. Siya ay sosyalista!” He also said that his father did in fact study law but stopped when his scholarship ran dry. Just because one didn’t finish school doesn’t mean he is not capable of writing a book or thinking sophisticated thoughts, Dr. Taruc said in effect.

But after his speech, Dr. Taruc went back to his seat beside the historian and they shook hands, smiled and all was well again. I applauded the historian for boldly speaking his mind in the face of opposition, but I also applauded Dr. Taruc for boldly disagreeing. And I applauded both of them for being gentlemen enough to do so without raving and ranting like some so-called experts do when someone does something as simple as giving a different opinion.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on June 26, 2013.


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