Pinoy eccentricities that make Kiwis scratch their heads


i have to acknowledge this properly, and I will promise, asap ! thanks again Alpha!

[ Note : we are beside ourselves with excitement, profuse thanks and eternal acknowledgment to Ms Alpha Miguel – Sanford of Aspire Motivate Succeed, a five-star and world-class blogger who nominated us for Versatile Blogger Award.  For now, we can only say maraming maraming salamat po and we will hopefully live up to your lofty expectations AMS ! ]

EX-DIEHARD-BACHELOR SuperBisor is now a diehard boyfriend / fiancee.  Why am I not surprised to know that the betrothed is a kabayan with whom I share the same DNA, bagoong-scarred taste buds and kayumanggi blood coursing through my veins? 

He has enthusiastically engaged my “voluntary” services to translate Taglish idioms that defy dictionaries, illuminate persons, places and events unique to Pinoy culture,  and delineate aspects of the average Pinoy personality (for instance, clannishness, utang na loob, etc.). 

There are limits, though.  Some things you just can’t explain.  Just this afternoon, SB passed me a piece of paper on which was written a single word, purportedly to explain why she was curled up in bed all day after an uncharacteristic cold snap in Manila brought about by a low-pressure area.  The word was bati.  I knew what it meant and the context it was used, but it wasn’t easy to explain it away, which kabayan girlfriend had requested I do. 

Trying hard not to sound like a UFO-certified nutcase, I said : “If you believe in positive and negative waves, including brain waves, microwaves and sonic waves, sometimes these things come from persons near and around us, and according to your girlfriend, she took a hit from negative waves.”

I got exactly the response I deserved, Bisor looking at me like I was a confused little boy who lost his mommy.  Have you been smoking too many funny cigarets Noel he asked, trying to make light of the situation but clearly incredulous and requiring a little more by way of explanation from the only source of enlightenment he would get, for miles and miles around.

Sigh.  I won’t stretch a futile story for you kabayan, just that this bati thing extends particularly to babies from people they’ve met for only the first time, and the requirement to swab the baby’s heel with a sprinkle of your laway (saliva) to avoid propagation of the said negative waves.  Methinks that was enough to cut the explanation short. 

Another quaintness shared by many Pinoys is when the latter pass through a garden or similar corner of natural beauty and must tread around the place, we need to say tabi-tabi po (excuse me please) lest we overturn some half-hidden anthill or termite mound that will be a source of endless suffering for the rest of our life here on earth.  This belief has evolved from mythology and folklore into urban legend that neither you nor I are willing to disrespect , witness the saying wala namang masama kung pakinggan ang matatanda or a little superstition never hurt anybody, loosely translated.  Try explaining that to your non-Pinoy friend the next time you tiptoe around the bushes, and watch yourself turn red.

And have you noticed we have Christian-themed holidays, an Islam-inspired holiday, and now a Chinese New Year national holiday (last I heard) back home?  Forgetting momentarily the separation-of-church-and-state awkwardness, what do we tell our dayuhan colleagues when they ask, what’s up with that?  That our formerly homogenous Christian state is now a demographically diverse country with various religions, or that politician lawmakers need to please everybody and pass a holiday law at a drop of  a pin?  As they say, only in the Philippines.

And lastly, there are two aspects of our national flakiness that belong together, before I forget.  The first is the supposed endearment of padala whenever a person makes a journey back home or whereever there are Pinoys.  The nearest thing I can come up with for this is a bailment except that the person making padala reposes complete trust on whoever carrying the object of padala, whether it is cash, electronics, signature items or other objects of value.  The fact that in many cases the padala fails to make its way to the intended recipient, for one reason or another, never deters the person from requesting padala, again and again.

Companion to this Pinoy oddity is stuffing the suitcase or pasalubong box with imported goods that are easily purchased back home in specialty stores, duty-free shops or even the big supermarkets and department stores in malls.

Bisor made the observation when we told him about it, observing that (1) if it was really important , why didn’t we just post the stuff instead of stressing ourselves by dragging it through check-in and customs, and (2) wouldn’t it just be cheaper and more convenient to send money with which to buy the apparently desirable goods, hassle-free, in SM, Rustans or DFS after the chaos of departure and arrival?

The famous nuno sa punso and his condo

Agree on all counts, and I vigorously nod my head on that, but you don’t complete the ritual of sending off and welcoming back of the OFW, even though these events might be a year or even two years apart.  Each person who’s wished the OFW well is entitled to a pasalubong or gift on the way back; not only is it bad luck to forget a promise to send or remember a token of gratitude before the OFW made his/her fortune, it is also a recognition of all the goodwill and sacrifices made in order that the foreign worker earn his/her bread overseas.  The humblest Toblerone bar, Las Vegas keychain, or cheap souvenir T-shirt, is a source of pride to the recipient even though in the grand total of repatriation budgets it means next-to-nothing and costs more to stuff it into the maleta, the airline scales be damned.

Again, try explaining this to Bisor, for whom every gram of baggage will be scrutinized and discussed, and you might as well forget afternoon tea.  As if explaining bati and nuno sa punso wasn’t enough.

Thanks for reading !

Noel

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13 thoughts on “Pinoy eccentricities that make Kiwis scratch their heads

  1. I totally agree, trying to explain bati, usog, and nuno to a foreigner will just make them think that the air we breathe in Pinas is heavy with some funny weed’s smoke. Blame it to the jeepney’s belching hallucinogenic smoke.

    • hahaha, very true pinoytransplant. Though I know that various cultures have their own way of explaining things too 🙂 Thanks for the comment and more power to your awesome blog !

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    • omg, now I’m REALLY relieved you’re not blogging about your personal life bro ! but thanks still for the comment, and I’m DOUBLY glad you’re wrong 🙂 Cheers!

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  6. Haha…nice one. This made me smile especially when I read the comment about “bati”. 😀 Regarding pasalubong, I believe it is our way of showing our generosity. I have two uncles that went abroad before as OFW but I don’t remember they’re obliged to send pasalubong to everybody. As my lola said it “kung meron salamat, kung wala ayos lang. Ang mahalaga ligtas at maayos na nakauwi.” I remember my lola telling me not to expect a pasalubong so as not to burden the sender. 🙂

    • thanks very much Joan, it looks like we share a lot of views and experiences as Pinoys 🙂 happy weekend and please continue visiting our blog site !

  7. ‘bati”, I am so familiar with that. My parents always told me to put an atis leaf in my pocket whenever we passed by a certain area in our place. There was even this advice that one should spit and curse whenever one saw the person who causes the ‘bati’. I never believed in it and I never had any of the symptoms – but my relatives, especially my sister, swore by it.
    The nearest English word I can think of for ‘bati’ is ‘hex’ or even ‘evil eye’.

    • hahaha, I bet all cultures have their own version of our bati, but you seem to have a more colorful experience with our folk legends 🙂 more power to your breezy poetry!

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