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For the second straight evening, Henry, Michael, Bierhoff and I went for a cheap fast food meal at Pangga’s inside Rob after training. I kind of know the fast food joint’s daily fare from my frequent sorties, so I knew the sautéed string beans were not among the normal offerings.

So I asked for some…

Just being curious, I asked my friend the cashier, “And what do you call sitaw in Ilonggo?”

With a wry smile – as is the way she does – she said, “Balatong Sir!”

“Balatong?!” I immediately guffawed. Although my Dad was himself Ilonggo, this was one of those things it escaped me to ask him about. To a Batangueño, of course – and I am not sure if it’s the same in other Tagalog provinces – balatong is monggo.

The way certain words can have totally different meanings in different dialects of these wonderful islands never ceases to fascinate me.

The late Br. Rafael used to draw laughter from eager listeners about this encounter with some elementary school children in a school in Lutopan in the island of Cebu. “Brother! Brother!” the kids called out to him, “Langgam!”

So he promptly looked down at the ground as all Tagalogs would instinctively do. But the children were looking up instead! In Cebuano, langgam is the word for bird…

Back to Pangga’s and my jovial conversation with the cashier… “Doesn’t the word pating mean kalapati in Ilonggo?” Her gleeful laughter was my reply.

So if you are on a boat offshore in Iloilo and somebody shouts “Pating!” – make sure you look up at the sky instead of down at the water!

I remember when I was a teenager, our next-door neighbor hired a young katulong from the Bicol region. Her Tagalog was limited and she gleefully mixed it with Bicolano when trying to converse with the natives.

Once, surrounded by young teenage boys, she was trying to draw water from a tunggâ- tunggâ pump my Mom had conveniently kept for times when there were power outages. “Malibog!” she screamed, shocked to see what was coming out of the pump. “Malibog ang tubig!”

And she said that over and over again…

If you’ve ever tried a tunggâ-tunggâ pump, then you know that the initial water that flows out of it is yellowish. You just kept pumping until the clear water comes out. All the poor lass was trying to say was malabô

She later fled the scene, unable to bear the taunting from the initially shocked but eventually rambunctious teenage boys. I guess she eventually found out what the word means in Tagalog!

Then, when I was in college, there was this Kapampangan classmate from whom I often overheard the word potambenge. I thought she loved to swear! It was only when I started to know her really well that I summoned the nerve to ask her about this word that, to my Tagalog ear, really – really! – sounded like her favorite expletive.

Tonight… Mamayang gabi… Now picture me blushing red as a beet…

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