“Kung ano ang bigkas, siyang baybay.”

When activists and progressive writers started to seriously and consistently write in Tagalog-Pilipino in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they were quickly confronted with the issue of how to spell Spanish or English words rendered in Tagalog. For example, should it be sitwasyon, situwasiyon, or situweysyon? Rebolusyon or ribulusiyon? Even how to spell native Tagalog words often became problematic: Lalake or lalaki? Babae or babai? Ibaksak or ibagsak?

IRAIA thoughts
IRAIA thoughts

As a rule-of-thumb solution, many of us adopted the rule, “Kung ano ang bigkas, siyang baybay.” How you say it is how you spell it. The premise was that there was only one correct way of pronouncing words in Tagalog-Pilipino. Thus, if we were faithful in spelling a written word the way it is spoken, then the assumption was that we should quickly agree on standard spelling.

But anyone who’s been around the Tagalog provinces or with friends from those provinces will easily realize that there are quite a number of dialect and accent variations in how words are pronounced.  Following the bigkas-baybay rule, we should accept “Isuksok mo ang sanrok sa ringring” of Eastern Rizal and “Eka ko e tama, pero eka niya e mali” of Nueva Ecija as normative for written Tagalog. We often see roughly painted notices (“Bawal omehi ditu”) on walls, and make fun of them as examples of low literacy among street-educated Filipinos. But how do we know, really? Maybe those who wrote them are as educated as we are, but are merely following the bigkas-baybay rule. Continue reading ““Kung ano ang bigkas, siyang baybay.””

A half-forgotten Quiapo bookstore

Quiapo in the 1950s and early 1960s

Does anybody above 50 still remember PECO? I do. It was one of my earliest recollections of shopping in Quiapo with my mother.

PECO meant Philippine Educational Company. It was along Arlegui, just a corner away from the north-bound foot of the Quezon bridge, which back then still smelled of fresh river water. A quick search indicates that it was established by one of the Thomasites in the early 20th century, and had become one of the biggest bookstores in the country after World War II. In my vague recollections, it had the feel of a bombed-out building or a huge warehouse, with rough unpainted concrete posts and beams, and would be considered absolutely ugly by today’s Powerbooks standards.

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Blogging is writing is breathing

When bloggers strain to write “something, anything,” we often presume they’re doing so for money or fame and viral glory. But no, it’s not that simple. Writers continuously chase their muse, as mountaineers climb their summit “because it’s there.” Sometimes they succeed, sometimes not.

Before blogging was invented, every aspiring writer’s journal—and wastebasket—was their private domain. Now blogs and email groups and Facebook posts are in the public realm, where one’s trash is another’s gem. You never can tell what diamonds you might find amid the muck.

Notebook journals
Writing is breathing, even if it means jotting down a one-paragraph entry every day on a personal journal eked out from cheap notebooks of assorted sizes, accumulated from one year to the next.

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