Alben meng manyaman, boy!

January 31, 2007

Why National Language is BS

I've been planning to write a pretty lengthy article about the topic of the National Language in the Philippines. While it is called Filipino, we don't need geniuses to see that it's plainly Tagalog. Others would argue, it's not Tagalog; that it's merely based from Tagalog.

I can only say, "Yeah right!"

Anyway, here is the article which expresses my disgust for Tagalog Imperialism in the Philippines. While it's written by a Visayan, it exactly airs out my sentiments as a Kapampangan and is exactly how I view the current Philippines -- only that the author has mastered how to academically present his stand and recommendations.


By Dr. Jose Palu-ay Dacudao
January 29, 2007

Manila Colonialism, a Brief Introduction


The center is the place wherein control resides; the peripheries are the places that are controlled. In our present social and historical context, the center is MetroManila and perhaps the adjacent CALABARZON, and the peripheries are the ‘provinces’. Some terms that are sometimes used to refer to peripheries are:

3.captive nations
4.captive peoples
5.the 4th world

(In our context, we Visayans would be regarded as captive peoples, and the Ilonggo nation as a captive nation, victims of internal colonialism. Like many other former Asian and African European colonies that are now internally being colonized by their capitals and by other native ethnic groups left in power by the former colonial masters, we have become part of the 4th world. Like them, our political, economic, and ethnolinguistic realities are slaved to the whims of the colonial capital.)

There are two general ways by which a center controls its peripheries. One is by direct means through the state apparatus, called ‘colonialism’. A second is by indirect means: economic, political, and cultural pressure, called ‘imperialism’. Manila controls its peripheries for the most part directly through the state apparatus and is thus engaged in ‘internal colonialism’. The term ‘imperial Manila’ should technically contain the term 'colonial', but in any case it does serve to highlight the abusive center.

The present situation of ‘captive nations’ is a historical consequence of the great drive of the Europeans to colonize the rest of the world in the 16th to the 19th century. Whenever a colony was established, a center was set up within the overseas colony in order to control the peripheries of the colony. When the Europeans withdrew from their colonies in the 20th century, the centers were taken over usually by the ethnic groups residing in them, and continued to implement internal colonialism under a different set of masters.

Political Solution:

Promote political autonomy in the peripheries. Movements for Independence/ Secession (synonymous terms differing only from whose viewpoint, center or periphery, you are looking from), Anarchism (not the bomb throwers of urban legends but the social theory that tries to decentralize the nation-state), Confederation, Federalism, Autonomy, and so on are manifestations of the drive of peripheral peoples for political autonomy.

Given the present conditions, it is my opinion that a concerted effort by concerned libertarians and patriots for Federalism serves the purpose to preserve our languages the best.


The economy of a colonial set-up is ‘designed’ to promote capital flight from the peripheries to the center, and also to promote the industrialization of the central area (in our context the Manila-CALABARZON) while keeping the peripheries agricultural.

1. Taxation/tribute (essentially synonymous terms in a colonial set-up with ‘taxes’ as the more socially acceptable term): This is centralized in and controlled by the center, to do as it wills. It is only by the grace of the center if the peripheries receive a share. From the point of view of the periphery, this is legalized, socially acceptable plunder.

2. Manila-based corporations (MBCs): These organizations are similar to Multinational Companies (MNCs) that transfer money to their parent nation-states from the ‘third world’. MBCs may have economic operations in the provinces, but most of their profits are transferred to Manila.

3. The upper classes of the provinces that reside in Manila: As in MBCs, the earnings of upper class families in a provincial economic operation usually end up where they reside in.

4. Unequal distribution of the industrial compartment of society, with most industries in the center (Manila-CALABARZON) , due to social and historical forces in a colonial set-up. The economy of an ecosystem can be divided for convenience into productive, industrial, service, and ‘protective’ (for our purposes the natural climax community of the area) compartments. The productive compartment produces raw materials. The industrial compartment turns the raw material into finished products, thereby adding to the value of the raw material. If the industry/factory is located in the center, as is usually the case, this added value represents a profit for the center, when it sells back the finished product to the periphery that originally produced the raw material.

5. The concentrated presence of the best educational institutions in the center because of social and historical forces in a colonial set-up. A large part of every family’s budget goes into the education of its children. If the children are educated in the center, this budget will end up in the center too.

Economic Solution: Place the control of taxes, corporations/ companies, education in the peripheries. Make laws that will encourage or require controlling families (the ‘upper class’) to reside in the peripheries. Industrialize the peripheries.


Whenever one talks about such things above, one would run into cultural/psychologi cal barriers that could be regarded as 'nationalist myths’ that apparently justify the existence of internal colonialism in the area known as the ‘Philippines’. Examples of such myths are ‘Nationalism’, ‘Nation’, ‘Nation-state’ , ‘One Country’, ‘National Language’, and so on, which the Manila-based Unitarian government promotes in schools and government institutions.

Specifically, these myths tend to promote the particular nationalism that is properly termed ‘Tagalog Nationalism’, which presupposes:

1. that nationalism (in the Philippines) is good and

2.that to be a good nationalist, one must be a good Tagalog.

Individuals, organizations, and other entities that promote Tagalog Nationalism may be described by the adjective ‘Tagalista’.

A person or organization that promotes peripheral autonomy invites the label of ‘anti’ the above myths. Since the central Philippine State itself promotes Tagalog nationalism, prevailing Philippine social norms are set against such persons and organizations.

It must be made clear that these nationalist myths are not sacred, and were invented and spread mostly only in early 20th century. The Philippines itself in a sense did not exist before the 20th century. The word ‘Filipino’ back then meant a person of Spanish descent born in what was then a colony of Spain, the Philippine Islands. Natives were called ‘Indios’.

Persons and organizations, both those in power and those aspiring for power, that want a strong centralized state generally promote these myths. For example, not only does the Manila government promote ‘Nationalism’, but also the opposition Communist Party that aims for a highly centralized state, should it succeed, in order to implement the state socialism / dictatorship of the proletariat that Marxist theory requires. As for traditional Philippine opposition political parties, fundamentally they just aim to change whoever is on top, but not the centralized system itself.

It must also be made clear that we are not opposing individual Manilenos or Tagalogs per se, but that as members of our own culture groups, we have a right to protect out own cultural identities.

How to promote nationalist myths?

A. The National Creeds: the National Anthem and National Pledge that every school child recites every morning. There are also nationalist songs and pledges sung and recited by all government employees weekly. Note that all of these are in Tagalog, and that their significant effect is to promote Tagalog Nationalism.

Solution: Demythify or desanctify these myths. Being human inventions, they are subject to the critique of human reason. For example, one can consider not singing or reciting them. Or a non-Tagalog, like an Ilonggo (or for that matter a Cebuano, Waray, Ilocano, Pangasinense, Kapampangan, Bicolano, etc.), can sing and recite them in Binisaya, thus promoting Ilonggo nationalism, which in our present social and historical context may be a good way to oppose Manila colonialism.

B. Centralized Mass Media: These promote captive provincial cultures that idolize Manila’s culture and enhances the social status of Manilenos and Tagalogs as the social majority.

Solution: Promote provincial based mass media that uses non-Tagalog languages.

C. The Educational System: This is controlled by Manila and actively promotes nationalist myths. The concentration of the best schools in Manila also results in the best minds to be educated there, thereby also promoting a loyalty to the center and its culture.

Solution: Place the control of Education in the peripheral governments. Build more good schools in the peripheries.

D. Tagalog as the National Language: This has promoted the Manila-CALABARZON status as the social majority more than any other phenomenon. Non-Tagalogs in the Philippines have become social and soon to be actual minorities. Already, the percentage of non-Tagalogs in the over-all Philippine population has been steadily decreasing as seen in NSO statistics. Historical studies indicate that this Tagalizing policy will eventually result in the death of all non-Tagalog identities if left unopposed. Unitarian governments throughout history, from Rome and the Caliphates to imperial Russia and China, have generally imposed a one-language policy, and cultures that failed to resist found themselves extinguished.

Solution: Recognize the peripheral languages as official and teach them in the peripheral schools. This is done in other countries. For example, India has about 20 official languages, Switzerland 4, Canada 2. Vietnam recognizes all its indigenous languages as official and uses them in government institutions in their traditional areas.

E. The Negligence to Teach the History of the Non-Tagalog Peoples: Where in Philippine schools can you see the history of the Visaya peoples (or for that matter Ilocano, Pangasinense, Pampango, Bicol, and so on) being taught. I myself, a Visayan, only realized that my cultural identity stems from the Sri-Visaya Empire of old when I did personal research on the origin of the term ‘Visaya’. What do present-day Visayans know of this? The histories of the peoples of
the Philippines have effectively been erased from the public’s mind.

Solution: The local schools should be required to teach local histories, from the point of view of the local ethnolinguistic people.

January 29, 2007

Wind Terms

I've read from an article of Joel P. Mallari that Kapampangans, usually the fishing folks, had indigenous wisdom and terms for winds, depending on the directions that they blow from. Being a fan of the Greek mythology names for the winds (Zephyrus, Eurus, Notus, Boreas), I'm delighted to add the following in my native vocabulary:

Amian / Balas

This is the wind from the north direction. We can see the resemblance of the term with the Tagalog term for northeast wind, amihan.

Abagat / Timug

This is the southern wind. We can see the resemblance of the term with the Tagalog term for southwest monsoon, habagat.

Amiang Ibat-aldo

This is the wind that hails from aslagan which is the east direction. The Kapampangan word aslag is a verb, which means 'to shine brightly.' It is a favorite word among Kapampangans for some strange reason. Probably because of its poetic positive outlook. If you pass by Dau, you'd see a business establishment named Aslag Internet Cafe, with a sun as its logo. In the tourism song Malaus Ka Pampanga, we'll hear the words Pangaslag ning aldo at the start of the song, meaning "When the sun rises." While the word is often used with regard to the sun, it is also used figuratively to describe something grand or full of hope, e.g., Saslag ya lupa patse matula ya.


This wind, of course, comes from the opposite of aslagan -- albugan (west). Banaklaut is the Kapampangan zephyr (west wind). Albug is a water term (early Kapampangans being river people) which means to submerge, or to go underwater. The sun appears to go underwater during sunset, so I presume that's the reason why such a celestial body makes use of this water word.


The Greek God Aeolus didn't bear a child that would represent the southwest wind. This is the Kapampangan name for the wind that hails from the southwest direction.


And lastly, this is the wind that whistles from the northeast direction.

A date to remember:
February 10, 2007 - Arti Sta. Rita's new musical,
Siwala (voice), featuring the songs from the upcoming third album of the foundation. To be held at St. Scholastica's Academy, San Fernando.

January 18, 2007

The Kapampángan polosador

A long time ago, a friend of mine handed me a seemingly old casette tape and told me that her Imâ was listening to it while laughing at the lyrics. The tape contains songs in Kapampángan.

It wasn't until weeks ago that I found my walkman so I decided to listen to it at once. This humorous song called Istorya Nang Raffy Balboa was what I heard first, making me smile in glee. It was sang by a man whose voice and style would make me imagine a slightly drunk karaoke star indulging himself in fun-filled singing in the presence of friends and relatives.

The song is nothing philosophical or thought-provoking. It's merely a story of a man trying to kill himself after seeing his wife with another man when he went home from Saudi Arabia. However, cosmic forces and Raffy's middle-class logic both conspire and prevent him from succeeding in his suicidal attempts. When he and his wife were finally okay, Raffy lost his tongue due to torrid kissing, making him incapable of eating.

And that, my friends, is the story of Raffy Balboa. Let me show you the lyrics, which I myself transcribed, with the English counterpart, that I, myself, too, have written.

Click Istorya Nang Raffy Balboa on my podcast on the right column to hear the song.

E ku pa kelinguan (I still remember)
Istorya nang Ráffy (The story of Raffy)
Iniang dinatang yang (When he arrived)
Menibat kng Saudi (From Saudi)
Dasnan ne ing Misis na (He finds his wife)
Atin yang laláki (With another man)
Ing magpakamate (Killing himself)
Áyisip nang Ráffy (Was what Raffy planned to do)

Kingua ne ing baril na (He grabbed his gun)
Ding ausan dang 'pikbung' (The type people call 'pikbung')
'Tsaká ne tinutuk (Then he aimed the gun)
Kng busbus nang árung (At his nostrils)
Ot ápansinan na (But he realized)
Damdaman da ing akbung (People would hear the gunfire)
Pota dimándá reng (He might be sued)
Illegal possession (For illegal possession)

Belákan na námu (And so he just decided)
Kng ilug niá ume (To go to the river)
Karin nia pailumud (There he'll drown himself)
Ban neng agad mate (To quickly die)
Lulundag ne sána (He was about to jump)
Kng bábo ning tete (From the bridge)
Oneng áyisip na (But then he thought)
E ya biásang káue (He knew not how to swim)

Minuli ne naman (And so home went)
Ing magpakamate (The suicide-taker)
Karin ya migkulung (There he stayed)
Kng karelang bale (Inside their house)
Atsaká ne kingua (And grabbed)
Itang bainti-nueve (the 29 knife)
Ya sang gamitan na (It was what he planned to use)
Ban niang agad mate (For a quick death)

Iniang akua na ne ing (When he got hold)
Mesábing pataram (Of the said blade)
Isaksak na ne sa (He planned to stab)
Ketang kayang bátal (His neck)
Ot ápansinan ne (But then he noticed)
Atnu yang kaláuang (How rusty it was)
Nung mayimpeksyun ya (If he would get infected)
Gumástus yang dakal (He would have to spend a lot)

Kng pali nang buntuk (Pissed)
Linual ya kng dalan (He went out to the street)
Ing Philippine Rabbit (Where a Philippine Rabbit bus)
Sáktu yang dáratang (Was arriving just in time)
Saganan na ne sa (He planned to have himself run over)
Ban niang mamisan (For once and for all die)
Ing buysit a Rabbit (But the stupid bus)
Kinorba yang uanan (Turned right)

Sáktung-sáktu naman (Coincidentally)
Lálábas ya i Vicky (Vicky was passing by)
Atne ping kabalbun (She's got a lot of body hair)
Atne pang ka-sexy (And she's very sexy, too)
Ngána, "Koyang Raffy, (She said, "Raffy,)
Atiu na ka keti (You're already here)
Likuan da ka pá mu (I thought I just left you)
Iniang atiu tá Saudi" (When we were still in Saudi")

Inisip nang Ráffy (Raffy thought)
I-rape na niá i Vicky (He could just rape Vicky)
Bán niáng miparusan (So he would be sentenced)
Ketang death penalty (With death penalty)
Oneng ing masákit (What was hard, though, was the fact)
Crush ne palang Vicky (That Vicky had a crush on him)
Ya pa ing menagkat (In fact, it was she who invited)
Kng hotel kang Ráffy (Raffy to do it in a hotel)

Kaibat ning ligáya (After the sensual fun)
Tikman dang manyáman (Which the two had)
Ing magpakamate (The suicide-taker)
Minuli ne naman (Went home again)
Pángaras na bale (Upon arrival)
Minyara yang áuang (He shut the windows closed)
Isip-isipan na (And pondered)
Ing dápat nang gáuan (On what to do)

Tináli neng lubid (He tied a rope)
Itang kayang bátal (Around his neck)
'Tsaká ne sinábit (And attached the other end)
Bábo ning bubungan (To the ceiling)
Sáktu yang lulundag (He was already about to jump)
Iniang bigla deng ausan (When someone called for him)
Ngána, "Koyang Raffy, (He said, "Raffy,)
Atin kang long distance" (You have a long distance call")

Kelagan neng agad (Quickly he got rid)
Lubid kng bátal na (Of the rope around his neck)
'Tsaká ya kinuldas (And then he went down)
Malaguang tinipa (As quickly as he could)
Iniang sagutan ne (When he answered)
Itang long distance na (His long distance call)
Ing mámáus pala (The one on the line)
Ing Misis nang sinta (Was his beloved wife)

Ngána ning Misis na, (His wife cried,)
"Aku ini, Raffy ("Raffy, it's me)
Paniáuad keng táuad (I ask you)
Ing kákung sarili (To please forgive me)
E na ka mimimua (Be angry no more)
Ala nang maliári (It won't happen again)
Pángaratang ku ken (When I get there)
Gáua katang baby" (We'll make a baby")

Mesaya ya i Ráffy (Raffy got delighted)
Kng áramdaman na (with what he heard)
"Muli na ka keni," ("Come home,")
Ngána kng Misis na (He told his wife)
"Ing geua mu káku ("What you did to me)
ákalinguan ku na (Doesn't matter anymore)
Ban nong miragdagan (Come now so that we'll have one more kid)
Ding aduang ának ta" (In addition to the two ones we have)

Malagua't salita (In a flash)
Dintang ne ing Misis na (His wife arrived)
Keta la páng dálan (Not having gone inside the house yet)
Mipangául na la (They already embraced each other tight)
Kng sobra nang tula (In great bliss)
Mipag-lips-to-lips la (They kissed each other passionately)
Aputut ne dila (His wife accidentally bit off the tongue)
I Ráffy Balboa (Of Raffy Balboa)

Dela re ospital (They brought him to the hospital)
Ing kalulung Ráffy (The poor Raffy)
E ne makápangan (He no longer could eat)
E ne makásábi (No longer could talk)
Pipiling ya ing doctor (The doctor shakes his head)
Ala nang maliári (In hopelessless)
Ikua na ring mete (Finally, death dawns upon)
Ning digpan-ning-alti (The lightning-stricken fool)

The melody of the song sounded familiar to me. Then I remembered, it had the same tune as the Kapampangan song Iniang Malati Ku which I heard in one of ArtiSta. Rita's CDs. Interestingly, the ArtiSta. Rita song starts with E ku pa kelinguan iniang malati ku... like how Istorya Nang Raffy Balboa starts with something the singer could never forget, too.

The other songs in the casette tape were equally entertaining and in humorous, casual Kapampangan. It is by such fact that I researched on the maker of the music.

Totoy Bato, I found out--through Internet research, in spite of the high frequency of that FPJ flick Dudurugin Ko Si Totoy Bato search results--was the drunk karaoke addict of my imagination.

His songs are often categorized under the Kapampangan musical art pulósa, which, according to a Pampanga News article, could have been derived from the word "prose." The art is said to have originated from Floridablanca, as popularized in the 1940s by none other than the original Totoy Bato. Through context, I think a pulósa is like a ballad, where the singer tells a story, like the song Better Days of Dianne Reeves.

Also a favorite of mine is this song called Babaero in spite of its slightly bastus lyrics, especially on the part of the women. But then, it's all for the fun. The polosador recounts the women (all of them popular like Joyce Jimenez, Alma Moreno, Sharon Cuneta, Ara Mina) he has been linked with or has "tasted," but in the end got married with Bella Flores. The melody resembles that of the song Sad Movies Always Make Me Me Cry.

I believe you can download a couple of his songs through Lime Wire. Check them out and have fun!

January 10, 2007

Ligligan Parul featured on film 'Masahista'

The first time I heard about the half-Kapampangan digital film Masahista by Brillante Mendoza, I really searched for a DVD copy of it. Yes, even a pirated copy, just to be able to watch it. Thank Ápung Sinukuan, I got an original copy at SM.

My thesis proposal during my stay in the Broadcast Communication Department of the UP College of Mass Communication was about halting the deterioration of the Kapampangan language in Angeles City through the use of broadcast media, particularly TV, by giving people media content (soap operas, talk shows, teen-oriented shows, etc.) in pure Kapampangan.

But that topic was a trimmed down version of what I originally would like to make a study of. I wanted to cover all forms of mass media: print, film, radio, and even theater.

In the area of film, I would personally call Brillante Mendoza the father of Kapampangan films. While there is no evident Kapampangan film industry yet, ever since his series of films, young Kapampangan filmmakers have been inspired to write screenplays using their Ámanung Sisuan.

(L-R: Film distributor Ferdie Lapuz, Director Brillante Mendoza, and Coco Martin)

Although not entirely Kapampangan when it comes to the language used, they offer a great deal of Kapampangan stuff, like festivals, traditions, superstitions, and comic relief only Kapampangans (by land of birth and language spoken) would be able to relate and give significance to.

Before I make a review of his three films, Masahista, Mánoro (The Aeta Teacher), and Káleldo (Summer Heat), you might want to read this Manila Standard Today article featuring him, to know more about this cultural entrepreneur.


Center Stage Productions. Starring Coco Martin, Jaclyn Jose, Katherine Luna, and Alan Paule. Iliac, a 20-year-old, masseur is forced to return to the province to help with the funeral rites for his father. He resigns himself to accomplishing his duty to a drunkard father who abandoned their family. (credits: Manila Standard Today)

It’s not entirely a Kapampangan film, because the story takes place both in Manila and Pampanga. In Pampanga, the characters speak Kapampangan. When Iliac goes to Manila, he speaks Tagalog, because his customer Marina Hidalgo (Alan Paule) was Caviteño and his raunchy girlfriend (Katherine Luna) was Tagalog-speaking. Some of his co-masseurs are Kapampangan though and they speak the language even though working in Manila.

The opening scene of the movie was enough to make me relate it to my life as a Kapampangan studying in Quezon City going home every now and then to Pampanga: the view of the plains and rice fields along the North Luzon Expressway under the vast firmament.

Then we are taken to sites and objects such as the kalésa (horse-driven carriage), pedicabs (public transport tricycles that house no motors), and the parul (giant lantern)—all of which would be more familiar to a San Fernandino.

I live in Angeles City and don’t go beyond the Intersection to the center of San Fernando so those objects didn’t really ring a bell. However, a recent visit to the capitol of San Fernando gave familiarity to the stuff I saw in Masahista. I even rode a kalésa and a pedicab!

There is really no beginning-climax-end to look out for in Masahista. As you might have read in the Manila Standard Today feature, critics say the story is flat; I couldn’t agree more. However, such sincerity is what makes me like most of Brillante Mendoza’s films. They are the show-don’t-tell type. Plus the culture and realistic happenings foster a sense of reality and sophistication.

Speaking of a sense of reality, on the bad side, it is obvious that the lead actors who have a number of Kapampangan lines are not Kapampangan, and the fact that they are not reeks in the way they deliver their Kapampangan lines.

Coco Martin is obvious in trying to adopt the sort of singsong accent of Kapampangan. Foreign and non-Kapampangan viewers have the slightest probability to detect such flaw, but for a Kapampangan like me, I can only cringe or laugh at the mispronunciations the actors make.

Try to listen to this verbal joust between Iliac and his younger brother Maldon, played by Aaron Christian Rivera, who’s genuine.

Worse, in some lines, Coco mixed Tagalog grammar/words and Kapampangan. For instance, in an apparently fake accent, he said, “Sori pu, na-lowbatt ako nabengi.” (Sorry, my cell phone ran out of battery last night. / Sorry po, na-lowbatt ako kagabi.)

A native would find the line funny, because it should have been “Sóri pû, mé-lowbatt ku nabéngi.” Kapampangan verb tenses don’t sport the use of na- and the word ako is basically Tagalog.

Jaclyn Jose was good. Almost. In some scenes, I was convinced that she indeed spoke the language.

A magazine I read recently said she has Kapampangan blood, but I doubt she knows very well how to speak it. I can still sense the artificiality of the way she talks in Kapampangan as Natty, the tocino-making mother of Iliac in the story.

All of the extras in the Pampanga scenes, plus the siblings of Iliac and one or two of the masseurs, are genuine Kapampangans. I can tell by the way they speak. Also, seeing their minor characters behave the way I perceive Kapampangans to behave in some occasions—such as the brutal gossiping behind people’s backs, silent criticizing upon another’s misfortune, and overreaction to actually-no-big-deal stimuli—makes the film closer to home.

Then, of course, the wonderful giant lanterns only San Fernandino craftsmen can erect beautifully.

They are made for the annual Liglígan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival). The behind-the-scenes footages of the DVD show the technical side of the giant lantern and how the lights are controlled.

I’m not really sure if the director/writer is trying to say something about life being like the magnificence of the giant lanterns and how people marvel at their beauty, but you are free to associate Iliac’s life with them.

It’s a great, even though simple and plain, film. In fact, it has earned a spot in my ‘Favorite Movies’ section in my Friendster profile. What taints it is the broken Kapampangan of the lead actors.

I’d like to believe that film is audio-visual and it is its innate goal to give the audience a sense of reality, not make them pretend to believe.

With lingual distortions, reaching the goal is about 25% hindered. Sadly, even in Mendoza’s follow-up film Káleldo, the lead actors speak Kapampangan as if with twisted tongues.

But then again, I understand. There aren’t many Kapampangan-speaking actors.

Even in my own digital short Kapampangan film, my lead actors spoke Kapampangan artificially despite my passionate attempts of teaching them proper enunciation. It was hard getting Kapampangan actors, so I had no choice.

I just hope that in the future, this language thing would be fixed in Mendoza’s (and every Kapampangan filmmaker’s) films. I believe we’re on our way there.

January 7, 2007

How Ápung Ines cured hives

My deceased grandmother Apung Ines has this simple and inexpensive way of overcoming a seemingly incurable skin disease. God knows where she knew about the procedure, but good thing, she was able to pass the knowledge on to my parents. She must have learned it from my great grandparents, whose time didn’t rely much on chemically-produced medicines to cure local sicknesses.

For several months now, I’ve been stuffing myself with these medicinal pills called Virlix every two days. This I do to tame my urticaria, or hives in layman’s terms. In Kapampangan, we call it talagube. Tagalogs call it pagpapantal.

It’s in the family, as my mother and big brother have it too. I seem to be the most cursed though.

My hives manifest when my skin is exposed to anything cold. The low temperature of the early hours of the morning is enough to trigger irritation. Even cold leather will do.

At first, I would experience hard breathing (probably because even my insides are swollen), causing me to cough as if attacked by asthma. Then, parts of my body—usually the neck, back of the knees, belly, and forearms—would start to itch. The so-called hives then become visible.

If it’s an unfortunate day, my lips would swell, too, making me look funny. I can’t bear being seen ugly with distorted lips, so I usually isolate myself from judgmental society by locking myself inside my room whenever in such situation. If I scratch the hives in my belly too hard, my skin would resemble an archipelago of irritated flesh. Not really an appealing sight when I look at it in the mirror.

If I get exposed to warm temperature, they subside. But if I enter an air-conditioned room, they would start sprouting again, like attention-hungry children, making me wish I were someone else. So I then resort to Virlix, which costs about forty pesos each pill.

Virlix doesn’t cure the disease, but one intake is enough to make you normal for two to three days. I would know when the pill had lost its effect; I would start breathing hardly and my skin would begin to mutate again.

Just two days ago, “That’s it!” I told my Mom. “I’ve had enough of itching every now and then, of being financially drained due to my frequent purchase of medicine.”

Ima answered, “Mag-ásap ka. (Do the ásap.)"

It's not advanced knowledge, but everytime Ima speaks of it, she shines with confidence in the effectiveness of her proposed solution to my dermatological complaint. She would often say that at first, she too was skeptical of the process, but ever since she heeded Apung Ines' way of shutting out hives, she became an advocate.

Ásap is done this way, as taught by Apung Ines: You collect fresh coconut shells. Yes, that's minus the juice and the edible part. Expose them to sunlight for three days, until their color turns brownish green (not too dried). Get a metal basin or any container, where you can burn the shells until they seem like charcoal used for grilling. They must smoke a great deal.

Then bare your skin. Be in the nude if you’re alone, but if not, wearing skimpy shorts such as cycling shorts would do. Allow your body, especially the irritable spots, to catch the smoke emitted from the shells. If you’re in a confined area, you wouldn’t have problems in catching the therapeutic smoke. However, if you’re in an open area, ask assistance from friends or relatives to confine you in walls of blanket to keep the smoke from escaping.

Do this for fifteen to twenty minutes. Be careful. Don’t end up suffocating. After being smoked, you are strictly prohibited from taking any form of water bath for twenty four hours. Never mind that you smell like moist firewood. Doing so would wash away the medicine.

It's ancient knowledge. People passing by our house in our subdivision gave us enstranged looks when we were executing ásap in the garden of our residence. They must have thought we were doing infernal rituals involving me as the human sacrifice.

If done correctly and if right ingredients were used, hives would gradually subside after. Still expect irritation for a few days after the process, but, as proven through experience in our family, your hives won’t bug you for about five to six years. You’ll be able to save money from all the every-two-days pills you’re taking and you’ll be able to have fewer problems in facing the skin-conscious society.

Don’t ask me about the science behind ásap. We just inherited this knowledge from Apung Ines, my grandma, and so far, we have proven it effective. Nothing really beats nature in healing.

Too bad. If only Apung Ines were still alive, I would ask her if she knew more nature-based cures on common diseases.