Sira-sira store: Political seasoning

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Friday, May 3, 2013


LOOKING at the number of political sorties that suddenly take place in god-forsaken sitios in Cebu and elsewhere in the Philippines, you would know it’s the Political Season of the country. Since this is a food column, I would rather call it the political seasoning of the country, which momentarily adds flavor to a Filipino’s dreary life.

It’s amazing how suddenly politicians, who want to get elected or reelected, pop up in the poorest sitios in Cebu to hobnob with have-nots, their “agalon” (boss), or the “haring lungsod” (the sovereign people). Behind your mind you add the words “haring lungsod kon eleksyon, pero hari-harian kon humana (sovereign people during elections, but treated in a bossy way when it’s over).”

It turns your stomach to see them eat with their hands when they share a humble meal with the “pinangga kong kaigsuonan (my beloved siblings) in the slum area or Carbon Market or a barangay community center. You wonder whether parents who have infants or toddlers use alcohol to swab the cheeks of their little ones after some politician kisses the tender cheeks.

Your dirty mind gets dirtier when you see them shake the hand of a loafer or hug a fishmonger—you can’t help but put a thought balloon on the politician’s head: “This guy is my insurance to winning the election.”

As they flash their yellow canines, dance to the latest hip hop craze and practically do whatever the electorate wants or expects them to do (like jumping jacks or toys with pull strings), you marvel at how politics in the Philippines copies from show business.

It’s not all like a grade school show and tell presentation (politicians do take with them a couple of celebrities or some witness to their earlier poverty as illustration), but you get that déjà vu feeling.

As with TV shows, there are clever commercial breaks to ease the pain of seeing actress Louise delos Reyes (Mundo Moy Akin) suffering from poverty, or Maja Salvador and Kim Chiu struggling with each other (Ina, Kapatid, Anak). But commercials can also be irritating. So it is with politics.

There are breaks from the usual political promises—more food, more work, more education, more free education, more free hospitalization, classrooms, more, more, more since 1935—and some are indeed clever, some offer a chance to highlight the Cebuano language and some are just plain irritating.

These breaks are called political ads. One wants to be witty in the fact that it plays with the name of the politician. Another shows a senatorial aspirant as a superhero. There’s even one that, if you are to believe it, the senatorial aspirant is a social worker.

Then there’s the irritating ad. I agree with journalist Leo Lastimosa when he said it bothered him to hear one political ad saying “ang sayop saktuhon” and “ang limbong sugpuon.” Saktuhon is not the right word. It should be tul-iron or tarungon (sakto does mean correct and also enough, but it is not the appropriate word for the sentence). The joke is that people can make enough mischief. Go figure.

As for sugpuon, it seems that the ad maker is not a native Cebuano speaker. Sugpuin is a Tagalog word to mean to curtail. It was Cebuanized to sugpuon. Lastimosa is right.

The word should be tarungon or tul-iron.

So let’s make tarong our political seasonings, as one colegiala once said. (A colegiala is a student of an exclusive school and is not allowed to speak Cebuano while in campus. To get away with it, she mixes Cebuano words with English.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 04, 2013.

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