Philippine Signs (pt 2)

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Tagalog is one of the official languages of the Philippines. The other is English. This means there’s a lot of fun crossover between the two. English words get Tagalog-ized and Tagalog words get English-ized. One example is above.

In Tagalog it’s easy to change a noun into a verb, a verb into a noun, and an adjective into whatever you want. All you have to do is change the prefix. This Tagalog convention is often applied to English words. Here, the adjective “checkout” (as in “checkout stand” or “checkout counter”) has been transmogrified into a noun. And we all know that when a noun refers to more than one of the same object it needs to be plural.

So next time you’re in the Philippines avoid confusion and tell your friends that when you’re done shopping you’ll meet them at the “checkouts.”


Farm Living (Land of My Mother)


A school on a farm on a hill

Outside a small town south of Bacolod is a dirt road near a dormant volcano. It winds out of a small town and across a tiny stream. It weaves through sugar cane fields taller than the van and past a tree my uncle and aunt remember as reportedly being the home of an aswang. Is an aswang a demon? A fairy? My uncle and and conflict on the translation. I do, however, remember that my mom called me an aswang when I was a kid when I was being a brat. Regardless the translation, aswang ain’t good. Continue reading

Filipino Signage (part 1)

English/Tagalog sign

A sign that’s dramatic in Tagalog, but a bit. . .ahem. . .”pedestrian” in English. Hah!

English is one of the official languages of the Philippines. Most road signs, therefore, are in English. (Thanks for everything American colonizers, especially the English!)

Tagalog is the other official language, though, so many signs are also in Tagalog. The Tagalog signs have a certain flair that’s missing in their English counterparts.

Take the above sign, for example. In English it’s unremarkable: “No pedestrian crossing.” In Tagalog, though: “Crossing prohibited, fatal.”

This, however, can’t top another sign at this same intersection I wasn’t able to take a pic of which, translated, read: “Crossing prohibited, Someone’s already accidentally died here.”

So, just in case you were wondering whether this is just speculative signage, it’s not. Helpful in the extreme, really.

Trapped in A Steel Case of Ingestion

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China Eastern Airlines is all about the branding flair.

I’m flying China Eastern for the first time. The airline just got permission to fly into Manila and is pretty darn motivated to up it’s presence. That means deep discounts coming in a good $200 less than the competition.

Of course, it comes at a cost. The cushion in the middle of my seat is worn so much it felt like a 4×4 plank of wood tried to introduce itself to my colon. After a full two hours of this my travel ingenuity kicked in and I slid my blanket under my bum. Problem solved. They say necessity is the mother of invention; I learned today that a couple hours of a timber enema works, too.

Doesn’t stop there. When I ordered a “ginger ale” I got water. This is because I confused the flight attendant by looking Chinese. My bad. She misinterpreted my obscure English for a Chinese hinterland dialect, I think. Smile and nod. I’m good with water.

The real difference though is in the food. Airlines usually serve some bastardized version of their country’s fare. On KAL you get kimchi. Thai Air you’ll get Thai (surprise!) and Turkish Air gives you Turkish food (weird cheese!). American? Sandwiches, of course, but you’ll have to pay extra (deli sliced capitalism!). Continue reading

Opening Stanza (Made in the USA)

Made in the USA

Some say life begins at birth, others at conception.

Mine began when my parents separately made their way to the United States.

Scratch that. Let’s go further back. My father’s part of my life started in a barrio north of Manila. My mother’s share began on a farm in the central islands of the Visayas. By any reckoning, my life began–at the least–some time in the Philippines. Continue reading