Tag Archives: bagtican

Pinoy style toponymy

A young local politician told me that the origin of Alabang is the word abang (tagalog for “to wait”). Bandits during the Spanish era use to ambush unsuspecting people he said.

Legends are more appealing than real history. The small Rio Alban (the one in Festival Mall) gave her name to Alabang. Boring story, I know, the legend’s more catchy.

Three years ago, I blogged about the origin of Muntinlupa’s barrio names. Many were surprised that all had botanical word origins.

Most stories about how places got its name are fabulated. They’re mostly “alamat” (legends) but Filipinos takes them as facts.

Pre-colonial Singapore were populated by Malays that had the same practice. They had a profound admiration towards nature and named places to honor it.

The names of the two towns I call home here, Punngol and Tampines, had natural and botanic origins.

Two years ago, we moved to Tampines township. Its name came from the tree “tempinis”. An ironwood variety, like the rare hard Philippine mangkono.

Punggol town got its name from an old Malay word. It was a method of gathering fruits from trees by hurling clubs. Our ancestors adapted the word in tagalog, “pukol”, which generally means “to throw”.

You see, the intangible historical links are there, we only need to pay attention.

Some other places Malays named after plants here are: the heritage district of Kampong Glam, after the tree Gelam. Kranji (I wrote about its WWII site here) from the keranji tree. Sembawang, Katong and many others.

The popular Filipino hangout place, Orchard Road, got its name from trees that used to lined it. What kind of tree? according to local historians, nutmeg. Not far from Orchard there’s a street called Nutmeg.

In the Philippines we call nutmeg as tanghas or duguan (from the red flesh the covers the seeds). The seed is dried up and grounded. It is used as spice and skin medicine.

I grew up in a street called Bagtican (white lauan). I knew even as a child that it’s a tree but never saw one until 9 years ago in Los Baños. It’s a threatened tree because of market demand.

Why knowing the real story behind places names is important?

Well, for one it dispels ludicrous myths that people ends up believing—and studying toponymy (ah, the scientific and fancy name of the study of places names) is a gateway to history.

Try researching where your place got its name and you’ll go into a history rabbit hole!

Malipayon nga kaadlawan Nay…

Kalabaw lang tumatanda… That’s what my Nanay always say when I tease her about her age. We share the same birthday which works for both of us. Tipid sa handaan. Last Thursday, she turned 61 and her favorite son, 22! (a fly just buzz’d pass me).

As far as I can remember, birthdays are celebrated exclusively at home. The sorbetes, pancit, maja blanca, adobo and biko matched with ice cold coke are regular “handa” in our old home. We don’t serve fancy cakes – our parents prefers the traditional kakanin over Goldilocks (one of this bakery’s first store in Pasong Tamo is a jeep ride away from our home) as they’re far cheaper. All dishes are cooked and made by her with the eldest son and me sometimes helping on the side. This hands on preparation made the occasion all the more wonderful. I’ll never forget the anticipation and joy we all felt knowing something special is cooking.

That's me. Hiding behind a Magnolia ice cream (they don't make the like they used too - just look at how big the container was back then). In front of me is a plateful of yummy "biko".

We don’t receive gifts from our parents  but we never mind it. I don’t think we know then that children are suppose to have parties, balloons and gifts – for us boys, birthdays are simple get together.

We don’t sing happy birthday – I don’t know why, perhaps no one thought of it. Looking back, I find this strange. We just ate and teased and played around the table. But to this day, we  all remember that special feeling of being in that old circular wooden table during our birthdays – being there with our parents meant the world for us.

Sadly, all things must come to an end. This simple yet wonderful family affair vanished when my brothers left home to pursue their careers abroad. This salu-salo are now just memories we relive whenever we talk about our old lives in Manila and Makati. Amazing how time pass so fast.

Central to the boys birthday celebration was attending mass with Nanay. When we started secondary school, we had to go to on our own.

Instructions from my Nanay was that if you fail to hear mass (since some already have classes) pray and give thanks for all the blessings God has given you – if you don’t “you’ll have a bad year”.

Of course, we all followed.

Today, hearing mass is the highlight of my birthday “day”. None is more important – probably a sign that I’m really getting old.  I believe that with age the more you get intimately connected with the spiritual side of you.

I faced some challenges lately that drove me to the edge. I made decisions.

Very difficult ones. Trying to see the silver lining in these storm clouds.

I pray that I made the right choices.

We seek guidance, forgiveness and comfort in the trials of daily life.”

Mommy Amparo’s “New Life”

The priest who conducted mass the night I was at the wake had a very good sermon. He spoke about mortality and the meaning of death for us Christians. His opening words were, “Let us congratulate Amparo for her new life… she’s now with our Lord”.

Mommy Amparo must be loving where she’s at right now. She was 83 and by any measure that’s a full life. Our generation will probably no longer reach such age. Recent studies puts our life expectancy at a lil’ over 60. The trend is getting shorter.

It was nice seeing some of the people I grew up with at the wake of my adopted grandma. Most of the grandchildren flew in from the states to be with their beloved “Wawa”. She have so many great grandkids running around that I lost count.

“Times like these brings everybody together”, said James, the youngest grandson. Everybody looked up to her where I came. She sometimes can be overly generous that some people took advantage.

She’s one of the happiest person I’ve ever met. “She’s always optimistic, always happy, always reassuring”, her grandson said.

People never run out of special stories about Mommy. Almost everyone has a favorite “Mommy” moment. I’m sure those who’ll visit her in the coming days would reminded of theirs.

My favorite comes from a woman whose mother was once a street sweeper (metro aide). She said that she’ll never forget how Mommy would always come out of her house to remind her mother to rehydrate because of the heat. Mommy loves people and she gets along with everyone fine. It’s amazing how people remember even the smallest details of such act of kindness.

Its true what they say, people would remember you with what you shared, not what you took.

My brother, who just got back from Australia, remembers Mommy asking him to buy her “yosi (Hope menthol) and Beer (of course San Miguel)”.

I often do that for her and not return the sukli! Of course she knows but I guess she tolerated the behavior so I can buy candies and toys.

She’s no health buff so we are all left to guess where her longevity can be attributed to. It never cease to amaze me how resilient people from her generation are.

She looked at peace. Maaliwalas ang kanyang mukha, maganda pa din s’yempre. She looked like she was just sleeping. I already miss her smile and her laughter. I should’ve visited her more often before. But the past few years, her health was on a declined. Last time I saw her, she could no longer see. It was difficult for me to see her that way. Her youngest grandson, James, did a great job looking after her. Talk about unconditional love.

This coming Sunday will be the internment.

Goodbye Doña Amparo

Protection, shelter that’s what her name means in Spanish. And this is exactly what she gave her love ones.

She was a generous and loving lady. I know. I’ve had the privilege of being close to her. I was a recipient of her love.

I will always look up for her. She was a star.Though we were not related by blood, we were, by friendship and by love.

She gifted me with so many wonderful memories, but above all, she taught  me about the value of having a dream.

She’s big on “having a dream”. She even have song for it.

There were days that we would sing Disney’s Pinocchio theme, “When you wish upon a Star”. And oh boy did we sang like maya’s into the wind. She loves that song, and I did too.

We would sat in front of her house, while enjoying her beloved San Miguel Beer, she would tell me stories about her life and how Filipino life was like when she was younger. No wonder I’ve become a history buff – It was her amazing stories about the Filipino’s days of yore that got me.

She has very kind eyes. Those beautiful eyes were  very observant and curious. If it happened in Calle Bagtican – she knows it.

The reason the whole neighborhood calls her “Mommy” is because everybody love’s her. You’re not from that place if you don’t know the The Queen of Bagtican!

But when she gets upset – better watch out – she’s unstoppable, unpredictable when mad. She could curse, shout and rage in many language. She’s from a generation that gives importance to honesty – she speaks from the heart.

Mommy is always malambing. I think this is the Ilonga side of her. People know she hold no grudges. She’s not the type. Forgive and forget. This is how she was.

To Mommy: thank you, for all that you’ve done for me.

Nunca te olvidaré. Siempre estaras en mi mente y mi corazon.


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