Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Twist in My Indonesian Trip: Tracing the Malay Roots of Philippines

How can I thank "words" for giving our minds and hearts the expression of thoughts and emotions? And for reconnecting our heritage?

I must confess though that I am a Hispanist. I have leaning on associating Filipino towards Spanish - architecture, language, music, fashion, cuisine. When it comes to language, just think about Filipino words related to kitchen items, clothing articles, school materials, family names, technical jargons, and even curses! Chance would be they are mostly Spanish loan words. 

But my recent trip mainly to Indonesia with side stop in Malaysia and another sojourn in Brunei illuminated my cultural understanding. It was a trip not only to the ancient Borobudur Temple or the majestic Sultan Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque but to the distant and almost forgotten connection between Philippines and the Malay world.

I disclaim to be a linguist as I have long abandoned my undergraduate discipline, but my personal observations of languages - Filipino and Bahasa Indonesia - led this reflection that Spanish may have clothed us or named us, but the Filipino soul will always be Malay in core.

One would feel at least at home in Indonesia reading and hearing familiar words virtually in every nook and cranny of Indonesia. A friend later informed me that a study did identify at least 300 related Filipino and Indonesian words. This statistics, I believe, could be higher. Based on my personal encounters, here are some of those words I amusingly discovered.

Filipino and Indonesian words with the same words and meanings:

right - Fil. kanan; Indo. kanan
child - Fil. anak; Indo. anak
sky - Fil. langit; Indo. langit
white - Fil. puti; Indo. puti
cheap - Fil. mura; Indo. mura
sickness - Fil. sakit; Indo. sakit
eye - Fil. mata; Indo. mata

Filipino and Indonesian words with slight variations but with the same meanings:

push - Fil. tulak; Indo. tolak
open - Fil. bukas; Indo. buka
stone - Fil. bato; Indo. batu
kitten - Fil. kuting; Indo. kuching
year - Fil. taon; Indo. tahun
enter - Fil. pasok; Indo. masuk
door - Fil. pinto; Indo. pintu

Filipino and Indonesian words that are false friends, the same words but different meanings:

bunga - Fil. fruit; Indo. flower
manok - Fil. chicken; Indo. bird
halaman - Fil. plants; Indo. park

Because I also speak Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Ilocano, I discovered these some interesting words same or similar to Indonesian:

street - Ceb. dalan; Indo. jalan
wall - Hil. dingding; Indo. dingding
food - Iloc. makan; Indo. makan

I recall there were instances when we proudly counted in Filipino much to the delight of our Indonesian friends! They told us that we could learn Indonesian in a month and survive in Indonesia!

On a more retrospective side, I wonder how Philippines has grown apart and differently in many aspects with its cousins from the rest of Malay archipelago. But thanks to these wonderful words as they serve as immortal evidences to our Malay heritage connection.

Terima kasih, Indonesia!

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