Or what one can discover with a little research
By Ernie Zárate
The last time around, we talked about English terms used in the local film industry. This time, let’s look into Filipino words and expressions which are quite unique and are said only in the Philippines.
Take the word “chugi”. This is one of those broad-spectrum slang words from “swardspeak” which could either mean, “deleted, stricken off, cancelled, fired,” or even “killed.” Don’t ask me how it originated—I just know it started in showbiz. By the way, for those not in the know, “swardspeak” is “gay lingo.”
Another gay lingo word is “ bongga.” I am hard put in coming out with a definition of this word. There is a visual image in my mind but I cannot seem to nail it down. The best I can come up with is “show-off” but without any negative connotation. In fact it is said more in appreciation of something than one of deprecation.
One of the early showbiz inventions is the word “kuwela” which means “a hit, success, funny.” One cannot find this is old Tagalog dictionaries because this came about only by the second half of the last century—1960′s to be precise about it. It was also about this time that it was fashionable and quite in for teenagers to reverse the syllables of words or even the letters themselves like “Erap” for “Pare”, or “chokaran” for “karancho.” Could “kuwela” be the corruption of the reverse of “lako” (sell)?
“Kenkoy” was a popular cartoon/comic character in the 50′s and 60′s who was a round headed, happy-go-lucky guy with an all-occasion smile, big round eyes, shiny plastered hair and white suit, created by Tony Velasquez. Today, especially in the movie world, this word stands for “comic antics.”
There was a sexy American star in the early fifties who was named “blond bombshell” because of her very daring poses and movie roles. It was also during this period that in political rallies, “bomba” meant “a damaging exposé” against a political opponent. Two decades later, during the era of soft porn films, “bomba” was the term given to outright triple-X short takes (said to be those scenes scissored by the censors) that were inserted during the main film’s public screening. Today a “bomba star” is “one who bares on screen and does prurient (or perceived to be prurient) roles.”
“Penekula.” Was the term movie writers used for local porno films in the early seventies that showed not just the sex act but even actual penetration. (The Spanish “pene” also stands for “penis.”) This was the bottom of the barrel for the movie industry at that time.
When a movie’s theater run is not making money it is said to be “linalangaw sa takilya” (“infested with flies at the tills”) because dead animals attract flies. The opposite is “tumabo sa takilya.” Figuratively, one would need a “tabo” (“scoop or dipper”) to collect the numerous coins accumulated.
“Goons” are what we call the “baddies” among stuntmen. But did you know that “siga” a salitang kanto (literally, corner language, or slang) that is now accepted by broadcast and newspaper journalists, comes from “siga-siga,” meaning “toughie” although its roots are not that tough—“sigarilyo” ? In the forties and early fifties, cigarette smoking was considered unsocial. Toughies were always portrayed on screen as heavy smokers. Did you know also that “sanggano” from the original Spanish word “zangano,” does not mean “tough guy”? It means “lazy oaf.”
I appeared in “Impakto,” a horror movie about ghouls in the form of babies which have been shown over and over on TV especially during Halloween. In my research, I found out that there is nothing terrifying about the word. In Spanish it simply means “impact.” In Latin, though, according to renowned lexicologist Dr. J.V. Panganiban, “en facto” means “terrifying.”
Our very own venerable “old man of Philippine movies” and the Film Academy, Atty. Espiridion Laxa seems to have noble roots. Again according the Dr. Panganiban, Pampangos bearing the family name Lacsamana (also Laksamana and Laxa) are said to be descendants of the Malayan wife of Alexander the Great who arrived in Pampanga by means of a balanggay (ocean going boat that carried seafaring immigrants from Borneo and Sumatra before the Spaniards arrived).
Editor’s note: SGP (Screenwriters Guild of the Philippines ) is coming out with a book of Modern Filipino Idioms. Perhaps Mr. Zárate can be a contributor. Watch for the book in the early part of 2005.