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Human Face

Cursing our mothers

/ 12:16 AM October 13, 2016

The current joke now is that the Philippines should also be known as the “Republic of P.I.” Not for Philippine Islands, as our country was called during the American colonial era, but for “p***** ina,” the favorite cuss words of President Duterte who cannot go without them in his rambling speeches. Translated into English, the phrase means “child of a whore” or “son of a b****.” If you add the word “mo,” it means you are one, but in English you don’t really add “You are a” to SOB.  So with or without mo, your mother is insulted just the same.

I don’t know how it is said in other Philippine languages and dialects but I know that in Iloilo, it is said in Spanish—that is, “hijo de p***” or “yudep***.” It has been further contracted or sanitized as “deputa” or “depuga,” the last one used as an expression of awe or amazement, as in “Depuga gid.” Another variation is “yude”-to praise or compliment. With this, the original meaning has been completely erased because it is not even a cuss word.

But to inflict pain or insult, there is nothing like the complete expletive in Spanish, uttered harshly and deliberately to insult the other person and his or her mother.


I have never heard my parents utter cuss words when I was growing up, but walls are not impermeable especially in the province, so I got to hear “bad words” used on some people. I got to know the Ilonggo (Hiligaynon) words for whore. Like most towns, ours had a menagerie of peculiar characters, their names appended with their particular disabilities or dishonorable preoccupations. For example: “Manuel Buang,” “Amin Kurog” or Estrella Padót.

But why does cursing have to dishonor mothers? In Ilocano the equivalent of “P.I.” refers to the mother’s birth canal, to say it rather clinically. Not about what she is but about the offspring that passed through it. The ultimate insult.

It is the opposite of what a woman said to Jesus as recounted in the Bible: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the paps that gave you suck.”  The ultimate compliment.

Another variation of the mother-son insult is the “M.F.” cuss words which are of American origin. This time it is directed to the good-for-nothing son, but the mother is still in the picture. And both of them are being called sexual perverts.

Speaking of “M.F.,” there is an old joke about a Filipino family in America having a good time in a park. When the toddler began running, the concerned parents yelled, “Madapa ka (You might stumble)! Immediately, dagger looks were thrown their way.

Seriously now, the “P.I.” cuss has become so commonplace, popularized by no less than the President whose vocabulary is littered with it. Some of his defenders argue that it is just his manner of speaking, a verbal expression. One can even say that eventually, it will lose its original meaning and that it will just be a set of nonsense syllables that can add color to one’s limited vocabulary. I don’t think so. I shudder when I think that an insult to mothers will soon be as commonplace as “OMG” or “LOL.”

Some time ago someone posted on Facebook a cartoon which showed kids exclaiming “P.I.” enclosed in so many dialogue balloons.

Last Sunday the Catholic Church in the Philippines celebrated Indigenous Peoples (IP) Sunday. I could not help thinking whether in their pristine state in the forest primeval our IP communities had an equivalent of “P.I.” Did they deliver insults by referring to their enemies’ mothers? Did it get into their vocabulary?


The Old Testament has lots of stories about fornication and people committing sexual taboos, but later, in the new dispensation, didn’t Jesus save the woman caught in adultery from being stoned to death? (Emphasis on caught.) As the story goes, the woman was caught in flagrante delicto. She was not merely being falsely accused.

Last year while he was on the plane to (or from?) the Philippines, Pope Francis was asked about violence. He began by saying: “Curse my mother and expect a punch.” During the presidential campaign, Mr. Duterte did throw a “P.I” at the Pope for the traffic his visit had caused.

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TAGS: cursing, expletives, Language, profanity, Rodrigo Duterte
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