“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.””

The art of breaking rules

Vietcong rubber sandals
This pair of sandals, its soles crafted from tough rubber tires and its straps from rubber interior tubing, was standard issue for South Vietnamese guerrilla fighters during the Vietnam War. I saw it as a symbol for breaking rules.

I remember an anecdote about breaking rules that I read somewhere, so long ago in my youth I no longer remember from which book or magazine. But the story struck me so deeply I still remember the details like I read it just yesterday.

An American writer is visiting Paris, and one evening he takes a cab to attend a late-evening dinner in another part of the city. The French cab driver, it seems, is fluent enough in English to strike up a conversation with him, and the writer is happy to oblige as he wants tips on how to get around town. So they talk sporadically about random topics. Continue reading “The art of breaking rules”

When flipping a coin produces the best decision

Piet Hein
Piet Hein (December 16, 1905–April 17, 1996) was a Danish scientist, mathematician, inventor, designer, author, and poet, often writing under the Old Norse pseudonym "Kumbel" meaning "tombstone". His short poems, known as gruks or grooks, first started to appear in the daily newspaper "Politiken" shortly after the Nazi occupation in April 1940 under the pseudonym "Kumbel Kumbell". Source: Wikipedia

Sometimes I’m stumped by a very difficult decision point, a fork in the road, an “answer with yes or no, no ifs and buts” type of question. Faced with that situation and with the kind of personality that I have, often I will agonize for days before coming up with a decision. Even then, while I go ahead with its implementation, it will take another round of self-convincing to assure myself that I made the right choice.

Continue reading “When flipping a coin produces the best decision”