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Chinese Words that have enriched the Tagalog Language according to a 1916 Anthropology Paper

Image credit:  A Blast from the Past by Mike Dash.
Tagalog, the language spoken primarily in the southern part of Luzon and arguably the basis for the national language called Filipino, is part of the Austronesian language family1. In its present conversational form, it has been enriched by words from other languages such as English and Spanish, which is merely a reflection of the Philippines’ history.

While English and Spanish words are easier to pick out in conversational Tagalog, those of Chinese origin are probably less so. For one, the phonology of these words, or at least how locals pronounce them, makes them sound almost as though they are native to the Tagalog language. For another, they have probably been absorbed into Tagalog earlier since Chinese interaction with the natives of the Philippine Islands predated the arrival of the Spaniards.

A 1916 paper written by one Rafael Ongkeco, of Tagalog-Chinese parentage from Malolos in the province of Bulacan, lists words that he claimed were originally from Chinese. He failed to specify which Chinese language the words came from, however. As I do not myself speak any of the Chinese languages, I am in no position to vouch for Ongkeco’s accuracy.

Some of the words will be recognizable even to Batangueños, even if the dialect that Ongkeco naturally spoke was presumably that of Bulacan. Many, however, have become archaic and will likely not be recognizable for a variety of reasons: among others, the objects or actions that the words stood for are no longer present or relevant to the modern era; or usage of these words never really reached Batangas.

Below are some of the words Ongkeco listed, with his own descriptions-cum-explanations. I make annotations in brackets [x] where I feel they are necessary.

Lipia: a kind of tool used in connection with the plough; or, it is part of the plough.

Punhi: a kind of basket or receptacle used for carrying sand, stones, lime, etc. by the mason.

Bithay: [likely pronounced bit-hay] a sieve. This word is made up of “bi” meaning rice in Chinese and “tay” meaning to sieve.

Siansy: [the Tagalog spelling I used to see of this word, which ought to be familiar to everyone, is “siyansi.”] a cooking utensil used in frying. In Chinese, it is Chian-sy: chian meaning “to fry,” sy. [Ongkeco’s description abruptly stopped at “sy,” and it is quite obvious the way the sentence was constructed that he meant to say something more.]

Sansoy: changsuy, as the Chinese pronounce it; and kind of raincoat imported from China and worn by Filipino farmers and carretonaros [drivers of the carretón; drayman, truckman2] during rain.

Tinghoy: a kind of small lamp used by a goldsmith.

Huepe: (hue – fire; pe – bunch), a torch or a flambeau. [A flambeau is a burning torch, particularly one carried in a procession3.]

Kusot: (ku – to saw; sot – dust) sawdust.

Hikaw: (hi – ear; kaw – hook) earring.

Hueteng: a kind of game.

Ingkong: (a corruption of “angkong”) grandfather. A Chinese in talking to his little grandchild often says “your grandfather,” which is rendered by “Din Kong.” This term is used by Chinese mestizos. [I am old enough to have heard this often when I was much younger; and always assumed it to be Tagalog. I hardly, if at all, hear the word used in the present day.]

Cha: tea. [In Batangas, we say tiya-a.]

Hibi: (hay or hi – shrimp) dried shrimp.

Lumpia: a sort of food.

Baktaw: a carpenter’s instrument used in drawing black straight lines on boards.

Suki: (chu-ke) customer; patron. [This came as something of a surprise to me personally. I always thought the word was native Tagalog.]

Jusi: a kind of silk. [Ditto.]

Ampaw: a kind of cake. [Not sure that cake is the correct word to use; and the ampaw or ampao ought to be familiar enough to Tagalogs everywhere.]

Siopaw: (sio – hot; paw – something inside). This term is known only in Manila. This is a kind of food eaten when hot. [Siopao, as everyone knows, is the contemporary spelling.]

Jopia: (jo – good; pia – cake) applied to certain cakes made by the Chinese.

Sosi: (so – lock) key. [I am curious about this etymology. Google Translate says “lock” is “suo” but the key itself is “jian.”]

Chop soy: (Chop chuy – according to Amoy dialect) mixture of food. (Chop or chap – mixing or mixture; soy or chay means food; victuals4 in a general sense; in its narrow sense it means vegetable.)

Goto: (gu – ox; to tripes) ox tripes. [It is funny how the famous goto in Batangas has come to include other ox innards, and not just the tripes.]

Ati: (Achi according to Chinese pronunciation) eldest sister.
Ditchi: (di – second; chi – sister) second oldest sister.
Sansi: (sang chi. Sang – third) third oldest sister.
Koyang: eldest brother.
Diko: (di – second; ko – older) second older brother.
Sangko: third elder brother.
[The above terms ate, ditse, sanse, kuya, diko and sangko (in Tagalog spelling) were just six of many hierarchical terms taught in Social Science books when I was a boy as traditional Filipino ways of addressing older siblings.]

Siako: (chia hu according to Chinese pronunciation. Chia – sister; hu – husband) a brother-in-law.

Hiong chin: A new word which is used by those Filipinos who frequent Chinese restaurants. I could not help smiling when I heard them use this term. They did not know the meaning of this term. So, blame could be laid on them because they use it by imitation. “Hiong chin” is a compound word and means “fellow countryman.” “Hiong” means “town,” “country.” “Chin” means relative or related.

Prudently, Ongkeco ended his paper with a disclaimer: “All of the words except Hiong Chin are in good use in Malolos. But I do not know whether they are understood and used in other provinces.”

Notes and references
1Tagalog language,” Wikipedia.
2Carretonero,” online at Spanishdict.com.
3Flambeau,” Wikipedia.
4 Merriam-Webster defines a victual as “food usable by people.”
5 The Chinese words and their descriptions were taken from “Chinese Words in Tagalog,” an anthropology paper written in 1916 by Rafael V. Ongkeco. The paper is part of the H. Otley Beyer collection at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.

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