Seares: Cebu City Council fussed over 'ilong tuwapos,' 'libod-suroy.' Earlier, people debated on 'si lugaw,' 'si Megawide' – and Labella's 'agukoy.'

Pachico A. Seares
·4 min read

'Proof of life'

THE hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo is not new. This is not the first time President Rodrigo Duterte disappeared from public view and people wondered where he was.

Last May 19, 2019, Duterte posed for a picture to prove he was alive and well after rumors of his confinement at a hospital circulated. In various other dates, whenever the president dropped out of sight, the same talk spread and came the same proof of life.

Two common elements in those attempts to squelch speculation about Duterte's health: (1) a newspaper bearing the date the photo was taken; and (2) Senator Bong Go.

With growing distrust though in the repeated incidents of disappearance, some people rely less in the newspaper and the former and current presidential gofer. They now look more closely at the entire photo.

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'I-lo' and not 'i-lOng'

The colorful Cebuano-Bisaya language is very much part of the local conversation these days.

In the Cebu City Council, the official language is English but often a member would break away from English and speak Bisaya. By the amount of local dialect used, compared to the use of English, the Sanggunian is not Lisbis but Bislis.

Not disastrous, as the gallery -- comprising mostly of watchers of the live-streamed proceedings from outside the Sanggunian's "august" halls -- understands the Bisdak talk better than when many of the councilors struggle with English.

Last Wednesday, April 7, what perked up the watch-from-home audience was the use of "ilong tuwapos" in a proposed ordinance to give "assistance" to orphans.

Presiding officer Mike Rama, the vice mayor, butted in as proponent Councilor Phillip Zafra of the south district explained why orphans must be helped, as the city's single mothers are. Mike asked, What (in the world) is "ilong tuwapos"? He understands "libod-suroy" (vagrant or homeless, often a juvenile who hangs out in public places), he said, but not "ilong tuwapos." Mike accented the vowel in the second syllable, "i-lOng," as in nose.

No kidding. Mike -- 67 by the next election season, native Cebuano and almost totally home-grown -- didn't know that "ilo" is pure Cebuano-Bisaya for "orphan" and "tuwapos" means one who has lost both "nanay" and "tatay," as explained by Guardo.

Bisayistas like Lamberto Ceballos might say "tuwapos" is redundant since the word also means "orphan." But then there's often excess in the local dialect, particularly when it specifies the condition or action. "Orphan" in English is a child deprived by death of one or both his parents; thus, the "tuwapos" in the ordinance removes the doubt about the number of parents lost.

By the way, this is not nitpicking. A clear definition is needed to identify the beneficiaries of the grant from the city.

USE OF "SI" ON 'LUGAW." Interesting how the Cebuano-Bisaya "si" managed to surface in the public debate.

Malacañang said last April 1 that the humble local porridge "lugaw" is essential, putting to rest the row stirred by a law enforcer lecturing that it is not.

(The question is not whether "lugaw" is essential but whether it is food.) The debate generated so much heat, given the importance the word "lugaw" or "Megawide" got, that the word is accorded the "si" to introduce it.

Bisayista Lam Ceballos says "si" introduces a person or his/her name, e.g. "si Juan," or a pet, "si Bantay." If the object is inanimate, Lam says, the preface word is "ang," e.g. "ang merkado," or "ang lugaw," not "si Carbon" or "si lugaw."

The rule is most likely not inflexible, otherwise, this is wrong: "ang tawo" or "ang iro." Maybe, we modify Lam's dictum by adding "specific," thus: "si Juan" but "ang tawo" and "si Bantay" but "ang iro."

Disregard the grammar but the usage may be explained by the importance the speaker gives to the subject, thus: "si lugaw" and "si Megawide."

DESCRIPTIVE 'AGUKOY'? The simile of the burrowing crab could've been less descriptive and stinging had Mayor Edgardo Labella last December 7, 2020 used the English word instead of the colorful "agukoy."

At a press-con, the mayor blasted at critics who, he said, "mora'g mga agukoy," hid during the first assault by coronavirus. "Where were they?" the mayor asked, along with the simile in Cebuano-Bisaya.

He directed it at Councilor Alvin Dizon of the minority BOPK. But even VM Rama felt himself alluded to, pleading, "Please don't call me 'agukoy.'"