Binisayâ: Nuances and Words We Ought To Know

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Binisayâ: Nuances and Words We Ought To Know

Topic |  


After the passage of the law requiring the Mother Tongue Based (MTB) medium of instruction from Kindergarten to Grade 3, there has been some interest in learning the Sugboánon Binisáyà.

However, even though I am willing to conduct seminars and workshops in Sugboánon Bisáya, the number of groups who want to be taught are very few. The primary reason for these is that I differentiate between English and Binisayâ.

English is an inflectional language. It relies so much on the verb to know the tense, case and number. Binisayâ is an agglutinative language and it relies on the affixes to know the tense, case and number.


You can not use English grammar in speaking Binisayâ. In like manner you can not use Sugboánon Bisáyà grammar in speaking English.

English has no aorist tense of indeterminate tense. You have never been taught aorist tense because it is not found in English. Binisayâ has plenty of aorist tenses.

What the educated Boholanos want is to apply English grammar in Binisayâ. The Mormons and other American missionaries are doing it. However, if you will analyze carefully, they are using only about fifty (50) affixes. I have now collected 4,260 Sugboánon affixes. If you will follow the missionaries’ way of analyzing Sugboánon grammar, then 4,210 affixes will be exception to the rules. Surely it is not a correct approach where the exceptions are much more than the rules. We must use our own grammar.

A Nuance

Recently I heard the TV advertisement of Presidential candidate Mar Roxas where he speaks in Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) Bisáyà. He said “Hindi ako magkawat, hindi ako sigàsigà… trabaho lang.” Hiligaynon and Sugboánon have practically the same grammar. I was analyzing why the advertisement seems flat. It does not have the desired cogency or effect.

In my analysis, the reason is he used the word “lang” instead of “gayód”. It is clear that the original statement was in English and translated to Hiligaynon. The English syntax will be “I just work” or “I only work”. This can be translated as “Trabaho lang”.


The problem is that using the same English syntax you can not translate “Trabaho gayód”. If you will use “I must work”, it will not be a good translation because the meaning will be different. My recommendation is do not mind the English syntax just use the Hiligaynon syntax in order to have cogency or convincing effect. Those who are close to Sec. Mar Roxas, please recommend to him the suggested change.


In English, in order to be cogent, you will use the formal terms and proper grammar because the meaning is in the sentence. In Binisayâ you will use the informal particles of speech like “lang, gayod, lagi, bitaw, etc.” because the meaning is in the intention of the speaker. The speaking style in Binisayâof Mayor Duterte is very cogent among Bisayans because he uses Bisayan particles of speech. However, the English educated and the Tagalogs do not like it. So Mayor Duterte must be careful because there are many English educated Filipinos.

Distinguish These Words

Recently a person came to my office to ask for the Bisayan words equivalent to “Holy” and “Divine”. Just like everybody, I thought that “Holy” and “Divine” are just the same with the equivalent Binisayâ of “baláan”.


When I read the English dictionary I found out that the two words are different. “Holy” is one that is regarded with reverence because it is associated or derived from God. We call the Pope as Holy Father because he is associated with God. “Divine” is pertaining to God or a god.

We are familiar with “baláan = holy”, but what is the equivalent of “divine”? I searched my references and here are the words, “holy = baláan and “divine = balahála”.


They have the same base word “bála”, which means “blessed; fate; fortune”. [Note: There are other meanings of bála.]. Therefore “BALA” plus the suffix “..AN” would be “BALAAN” and will mean blessed or holy.

It would seem that “balahála” came from “bála” plus “Allah” or “Ala” with the “H” transposed. The Spaniards did not propagate this word because it contains the Arabic or Muslim word of God = Allah.

Bisayan poetry still uses “Bathálà” for God. It comes from the Arabic words “Bath – sent by” and “Ala = God” or “Bathálá = sent by God.” [Note: The “H” in baht is transposed in bathálà.] The Cebuanos transmuted it as “Bátà = child” and “Al = God” to become “Bátà Ala = Child God” and refers it to the Santo Niño.

We are also familiar with the word “bahálà”, which comes from Arabic “bah = will come” and “Ala = God”. “Bahálà” means to consign one’s self to God or “Let God’s will be done.”

The Spaniards did not use “Bathálà = God” because of the word “Ala.” They instead used “Gino-o,” which means “Lord” or the Spanish equivalent “Dios.” “Dios” actually comes from the Greek word “Zeus” the supreme god of ancient Greece.

Sincere there is no other Bisayan word for “divine” we might as well use balahála. Anyway the Spaniards are no longer here. We must try to recover our lost language.

Divinity = pagkabahála; balahaláon; balahaláhon. (By Jes Tirol)

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