Nuggets of wisdom
The academic oval of UP Diliman, lined by old acacia trees, draws in hundreds of visitors every weekend who come to bike, jog, stroll or, simply, istambay.
Sometimes, you’ll find tarps on the lampposts all around the 2-kilometer stretch, to announce particular events. Much effort goes into these tarps to make them more than announcements. For example, last year’s Lean Run, organized by alumni belonging to the now defunct Samasa, had tarps that commemorated some of the many people killed during martial law, including student leader Lean Alejandro, after whom the fund-raising/educational run is named.
In a sense, then, the oval does live up to its name. It’s not just a place where you have most of UP Diliman’s academic buildings, but is a learning oval for people who choose to walk, or at least do a slow jog.
This month, in particular, the oval’s tarps offer three learning experiences, all for free.
First, there are three art installations around the oval, located fairly close to each other and near the area of the Vargas Museum, around the theme “Lawas,” which means “body” in several Philippine languages.
Second, there’s an exhibit, running until Sept. 13, called “Looking for Juan 2018: What Does it Mean to be Filipino?”
The exhibit is organized by the artists’ collective canvas.ph. If you want to see the actual works of art, you can visit the Bulwagan ng Dangal, which is in the Main Library by the parking lot, open from Tuesdays to Saturdays. But you can also get an appetizer of sorts at the academic oval, because most of the paintings have been transferred to tarps that line the stretch. You can’t photograph the pieces inside the Bulwagan, but you can shoot the tarps.
I’ll save “Lawas” and the canvas.ph exhibit for other columns. Today, I wanted to focus on a third educational treat. From the area of Quezon Hall to Lagmay Hall, you will find tarps that celebrate the Buwan ng Wika with popular, almost always witty, metaphors and expressions that we use in Filipino, accompanied by eye-catching illustrations. Most of the expressions were compiled by Rosario Torres-Yu, professor emeritus from the Department of Filipino; these are nuggets of wisdom that we might lose if we don’t pass them on to the next generation, because their context might no longer be familiar.
An example is “nagsusunog ng kilay,” which means studying hard, but the expression translates as burning the eyebrows. The context is a pre-electricity era when people had to use candles and gas lamps—risky for the eyebrows if you dozed off from the hard work.
Three tarps speak out against sexism. One declares: “Ang Babae raw ay hipon, lollipop, bulalo, buko,” comparing certain types of women to shrimps, lollipops, beef shank soup and coconuts. The tarp protests with a rejoinder: “Pero higit sa lahat, ang babae ay tao. Tigilan ang pang-iinsulto (But most importantly, women are human beings. End the insults).”
Another tarp notes the proverb: “Kapag nagmumura, babae ang ginagamit. Pero kapag nagigipit sa ina lumalapit. Itigil ang seksistang pananalita.” Translation: When cursing, women are invoked. When in times of need, the mother is approached.
Stop sexist remarks.
There is one tarp that also protests expressions used for men: Andres de Saya or “under the saya” (a henpecked husband, with reference to being under a traditional skirt), Chemist or “ke misis umaasa” (being dependent on the wife) and Tigasin (supposed to mean “hard” or—oh my, I must choose my words—prone to hardness, but transformed to tagasaing, tagalaba, or someone who cooks rice and washes clothes).
One tarp that will amuse: “ligaw tingin,” which means being content with just looking at someone you’re interested in. The tarp omitted a second rhyming part of the expression, which is “halik hangin”—meaning, if you just keep looking, then, well, you might as well go kiss the wind.
Oh, and instead of “halik hangin,” there’s a more risqué version, still about doing something to the wind.
There are more nuggets of wisdom to discover around the oval, and, I hope, in our lives, from “amoy-pinipig” to “mahaba ang dila.” The tarps have a common theme: “sanib salita, kapangyarihan ng wika.” The power of language comes from the way words are put together, and that happens all the time in our daily social interactions. Recruit your older relatives and friends to pass on these linguistic treasures.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.