“DUTERTESPEAK”: Sugboanon Bisaya Context Compared to English


I have sent this article to newspapers in Manila in an attempt to explain that the rules in the English language are not applicable to the Bisayan language.  Unfortunately it was not published.  In my opinion, it is because no English language trained journalist knows that Sugboanon Bisaya has a different grammar.



After more than 100 years of using only English in school and official communications, 60% of Filipinos are now wired into the English language pattern.  However the 40% are still wired in the thinking process of their different mother languages.

The 40% synchronized with and understood the Sugboánon Binisayâ thinking pattern of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and voted for him.  Fortunately or unfortunately the other 60% were shared by four (4) other Presidential candidates.  Now the 60% are at a loss.  They do not seem to understand the thinking process of President-elect Rody Duterte.  It is always assumed that the English grammar and context is applicable to the different regional languages.  Unfortunately it is not applicable, especially to the Sugboánon Bisaya or Binisayâ.

English is an inflectional language.  It relies so much on the verb.  In English, the meaning is to be found only in the sentence and nowhere else.

Binisayâ is an agglutinative language.  It relies so much on the affixes.  The meaning is to be found in the intention.  The words used are only aids in understanding the intention of the speaker. There are 4,270 affixes in Binisayâ to indicate the intention.

Dr. Cecilio Lopez, the recognized “Father of Pilipino Grammar” once said: “Pilipino (now: Filipino), or even any Philippine language, must be explained in a manner characteristically its own.  It must not be patterned after the English or Spanish grammar.  We must search for the psychology of the language and from there establishes the rules.”

One particular different in psychology is when asking questions.  In English, when a question is asked, it is expected that the answer will be the context of the one asking the question.  In Binisayâ, the answer will be in accordance to the one answering.

The responder will first determine the intention and he may or may not answer in accordance to the context of the one asking.

“Hain na mo?  (Tagalog: Nasaán na kayo?) = Where are you now?”  In the English context the “where” should be answered.  In the Bisayan context, the responder will imagine the exasperation of the person asking and will answer “Duol na mi.  (Tag: Malapit na kami.) = We are already near.” The “where” in English is not answered.

English will ask questions beginning with What, How, When, etc.  The Why is asked at the last or none at all.  English uses the inductive process or from the particular to the general.

Binisayâ will usually start with the question Ngano (Why) and followed by Unsa (What), etc. Binisayâ uses the deductive process or from the general to the particular.

A journalist asked President-elect Duterte, “What will you do with the cases regarding journalists that were killed?” True to his Bisayan thinking pattern, President-elect Duterte chooses to answer the “Why” of the question.  He answered “There are many journalists that are corrupt, etc.” According to the English thinking journalist, the President-elect did not answer his question.  He attributed much malicious intent to the answer of President-elect Duterte.

President-elect Duterte could not also understand why the journalist could not understand.  So he said “Just ask the journalists from Davao City because they understand me.” Both the journalist and President-elect Duterte do not know the difference in psychology of the English and Binisayâ.  Each one assumed that he was correct.

Another incident that English patterned journalists are hounding President-elect Duterte is regarding the alleged “rape” of an Australian missionary.  When analyzed in the context of the psychology of the Bisayan language, there was no “rape joke”.

In the Bisayan culture and even in Tagalog culture we always reserve the best for an honored guest or esteemed visitor.

A story is told about an American priest who can already speak Binisayâ.  When he visited a house during a fiesta, the host-landlord shouted, “Isugba ang atáy sa Parì.  (Tag: Ihawin ang atay sa Pari.) = Broil the liver of the Priest.”  The Priest was terrified and reported to the police that there was a threat to kill him.  When the police heard the statement, he laughed because the real meaning in English was “Broil the liver of the pig that was reserved for the priest because he is now here.”

During the Davao Penal Colony incident, after the prisoners were killed and the Australian missionary also died, Mayor Duterte, speaking in Tagalog but clearly in the Bisayan grammar said, “Sayang, maganda pa naman, dapat ang Mayor ang mauna.”  This statement was labeled by English thinking journalist as the joke and insult to women.  If you think about it, how can the mayor know that the woman was raped since he did not inspect the woman?

The Bisayan context of the situation can be rendered in English as, “These good for nothing criminals, they do not know the custom, they should have first presented the beautiful woman to the Mayor.” And of course, if the woman was first presented to the Mayor, the woman will be safe.

Mayor Duterte then said, “Patayin silang lahat. = Kill them all.”  It was then that laughter can be heard.  The joke was, how can you kill the prisoners when they are all dead?

Mayor Duterte in his Bisayan thinking pattern could not understand why everything was labeled as a “sick rape joke”.  The journalists with their English thinking pattern viewed it in English because they do not know that there is such a thing as Bisayan context.

The situation that has hounded President-elect Duterte since the campaign period until the present is his supposed use of “vulgar and uncouth” language.  This is an unfortunate situation because there is such a thing as “Difference in Cogency” between English and Binisayâ.

In English, in order to have a cogent or emphatic meaning, you will use formal, legalistic, and high sounding words.  In Binisayâ you will use particles of speech such as “lagí, bitaw, ha, man”, etc.  These are words of emphasis that do not have particular meanings.  Sometimes, in a proper context, expletives are used.  At other times the speaker will just invent a word.

In English, if you say “You are told not to do it”, it is already understood.  However, the statement “You are ordered not to do it” is more cogent or emphatic.

In Binisayâ you can say “Giingnan ka nga ayáw nâ buháta”.  However if you make the exact translation of “You are ordered not do it” as “Gisúgò ka nga ayáw ná buháta”, the meaning is confusing. “Súgò (Tag: utos) = order” connotes that you must do something. “Ayáw nâ buháta (Tag: Huwag mong gagawin yan) = Do not do it”.  Therefore it means to do something by not doing it.  How could it be done?

The procedure in Binisayâ is to use particles of speech. “Ayáw lagí nâ buháta” is already cogent.  However if you string more particles together as “Ayáw bitaw lagí inataya kanâ buháta ha!” is very cogent even with the use of words that have no particular meanings and therefore have no English translations.

Mayor Duterte, thinking in the normal Bisayà pattern, may be forced to use inappropriate Tagalog or English translations to Bisayan words without definite meanings.  He is then accused of using vulgar and uncouth words.

The irony is, the Bisayans have been hearing Tagalog words, which to the Tagalogs are normal but actually very vulgar, uncouth, and malicious in the Binisayâ.  Tagalog words like kayat, lagay, upa, bilat, hikayatin, etc. are unmentionables in Binisayâ.  Did the Tagalogs and the English pattern writers mind the complaints of the Bisayáns?  Of course not; these words are still used when teaching Filipino.

For example you can say in English, “A youth here, a youth there, a youth everywhere” and mention it to a Bisayà without showing the spelling.  He will say that you are “bastos = vulgar”.

“Dutertespeak” is very normal in Binisayâ.  Since he is the incoming President of the Philippines, it behooves upon the English-language-wired journalists to learn the Bisayan context so that they will not commit the error of attributing malice where there is none.

It is said that Mayor Duterte will always flip flop.  The truth is he does not.  In Binisayâ the meaning is in the intention and his intention is consistent.  The words used are only aids to convey the intention.  It may seem difficult in English but in Binisayâ the proper choice of the 4,270 affixes can convey the correct meaning or intention. (By Jes B. Tirol)

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