What Happened

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Preface on Language and Culture.

The Philippines, a cluster of over 7000 islands, is not homogenous in its culture or language. There are two national languages, English and Filipino, also called Tagalog, on which it is based.

However a culturally native Tagalog speaker may use what is called “deep Tagalog” which is not the Filipino/Tagalog taught in the schools.

English is the language of the Philippine Senate and House, but that does not mean the average Filipino has a very good grasp of the language. Nor should the reader assume that Tagalog is well understood by all. It is not!  In the Visayas, (the middle islands,) it is not the preferred language.

According to Wikipedia, the count of the number of languages spoken ranges from 120 to 187 depending on how you count. There are major language groups, called dialects (they are actually separate languages) and smaller regional “dialects” with a circumscribed set of speakers primarily based on a tribal affinity.

Where this story is set, Bohol, the major language is a subdialect of Cebuano, (which is also called Basaya or Visayan, as it is spoken on more islands than Cebu), the subdialect spoken in Bohol is called Boholano.

As an example, here are the four languages saying the same thing.

Akoa baya ning sinilas.
Ahoa baja ning sinilas.
Akin itong tsinilas na ito.
This is my slipper

I will not use Boholano in this story, but rather when a non-English word appears, it will be either Basaya or Tagalog. These days Tagalog frequently creeps in to common language as it is heard in national media and taught in the schools.

This story involves an American English speaker, living in the Philippines and interacting with Filipinos.

For those of you whose primary language is English, it may surprise you that compared to some other languages, your language is a highly precise stew pot of words, nuances, and structures that allow for a strict understanding of exactly what is intended to be conveyed. We have rules upon rules of what constitutes correct speech so that ambiguity is removed.

The languages of the Philippines are the converse. Ambiguity is part and parcel of their lives. States of being we use are completely missing from their casual lexicon. Where a child might come to an adult and say, ‘Mom says to tell you it is time to eat dinner.’ A Tagalog speaker might simply say Kain na. That Tagalog translates to Eat now.  If you hand me a sack of potato chips, I might say, I have had enough, in Tagalog, it would be Tama na. Now, Tama actually means Correct and na means now. But when strung together it is understood as Enough.  So Correct now, means Enough, and nowhere is there a verb of being.

The result is a spoken English which sounds a bit odd to your ears until you remember that the missing words come from people who are unaccustomed to using anything like them. An example is: What you do her? Which can mean: What did you do to her? Or What did you do with her? Or What did you do for her? You are supposed to gather the meaning based on the context of when the question was asked.

In this novella, you will find the sentence: Shayla a bruha (a witch), and the girls you get lucky.

Here there are two assumed verbs and an implied meaning. The average Filipino would understand the English, if I were to put into “proper” English as:

Shayla is a bruha (a witch), and the girls you get are lucky to be with you.

Within these pages, the dialog is as accurate to the place and type of conversation as I can make it given the above comments on dialect. There are things I don’t do.

In real dialog, he is confused with she and visa versa. Filipino dialects do not use gender pronouns and so the speaker will often make this mistake.

In all Filipino languages, pronouns are used freely within sentences and often do not refer to any identified subject. Further a number of individuals may be identified by the same pronoun in the same sentence. If there are four sisters, which sister is being referenced, is anyone’s guess. If you ask, you often get a look, like, why does it matter?

That is the nature of the ambiguousness in lives led. You will often hear a Filipino complain that a foreigner is strict. The foreigner is trying to untangle the ambiguity and it is not appreciated.

So I have done as much as I can without making the reading completely impossible. I hope you enjoy what follows.

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