The language of love in the highlands

>> Wednesday, March 2, 2022

 Richard Kinnud

LAGAWE, Ifugao -- Someone asked me, “Is it true ‘I love you’ in the Ifugao language is also ‘Pulong mu’ or ‘Puhog mu’?” The inquisitor said he learned from his college ex-girfriend that “pinpinhod daa” are the words for “I love you” in the Ifugao Tuwali language but was curious when someone mentioned about a video from an Ifugao vlogger which claimed that in their place they do not say “I love you” but instead say “pulong mu” or “puhog mu.” 
    Are these synonyms?  If these were, he said, they would be added to his present vocabulary of how “I love you” is said in the Cordilleras.  In the Ibaloi language of Benguet, it is “ensemek taja” or “pipiyan taja.”  In Kalinga, they say “pipiyok sika.”  In the Benguet Kankanaey, it is “laylaydek sik-a”.  Languages in the Mt. Province has “laylaychek sik-a” and “laylaychuk he’a”.   In Abra , they say “ay-ayaton ka” which is close to “ay-ayatan taa” of those from Apayao and to “Ay-ayaten ka” in Iloko language which is a lingua franca in the Cordillera.
    I shared to him my observation that each of the phrases he mentioned has a similarity to at least one of the other phrases.  For instance, “pinpinhod” sounds similar with “pipiyok” then with “pipiyan.” But “pulong mu” or “puhog mu” is way far.  Still, I did not dismiss the idea that these phrases could indeed be “I love you.”
    Then we went on to chew over what everybody else knew about love.  As a universal experience, it is expressed in different ways – verbal and non-verbal.  It may not be said always but actions can say it all.  Favors and gifts, for instance, when specially given may translate to “I love you.”  Also spending quality time with someone could be love even without saying anything of it.
    We soon delved on the courtship practices in the Cordillera.  Some common things we reckoned was how love is connected to service and home.  The first indicator of service is to be able to reach the home of a beloved. 
    The lyrics of a folk song that I suppose has its version in the many languages of the Cordillera has the line that would say something like “if you really love me, come home with me but you must bear with the long and winding road going there.”
    Also, it seemed common in Cordilleran cultures that a man who is courting would be in a better position of having his “love accepted” if he is able to do some chores in the household of his lady.  This would include working in the rice fields, carrying logs from the forest and chopping of firewood, and even helping in simple chores such as fetching water and cooking.  These of course has taken a different dimension these days because young men and women are already schooled.  For example, the scenario of going to the farm can be palatable for a trained agriculturist but how can someone, say a lawyer be tasked by a prospective father-in-law to plow the rice farm.  Perhaps those in the social sciences could also do such but maybe it would be awkward for those in other fields.
    We also talked about the role of enablers, or those who speak in behalf of someone who may not be able to express what he truly feels.  I relayed the story of a friend who said that in earlier times in their village, when young men would sleep together in a house and the young women are also together in another, someone from the men’s camp who would talk about or show interest in marrying someone in the women’s camp would be helped.  The men may even bodily carry their fellow to the women’s camp and the women would heartfully welcome him to sleep with them and may even be witness to whatever happens in the night between him and the one he fancies.  Mostly, that would result to a good marriage, my friend related.
    In Ifugao, there’s also the concept of mangihapit (someone who speaks in behalf) who could also soon be the mangigawi (someone who serves as a messenger during an engagement or marriage proposal ritual called the momon.)   Of course, these constructs have also evolved these days.  The momon, for instance, is now viewed as the marriage itself instead of it being just a proposition yet which can be approved or disapproved by the woman’s clan.  If ever, the least it could result to is a trial until established to be a marriage by the parties involved and the community/communities to which they belong.
    But in this digital age, an enabler or someone to speak in one’s behalf may no longer be necessary.  Someone who is not good in speaking may use his (and also her) phone.  There have been the SMS/texts and now the Messenger that served bridge to relationships.
    Speaking of the digital age, my inquisitor soon found the video on Facebook and asked me more about it.  The vlogger is an i-Ayangan, (the i-Ayangans generally refer to those from the south-eastern parts of Ifugao) though the words she uttered are understood also by other linguistic groups.  I related to my inquisitor that such vlog seemed to have stroked all of Ifugao that it had spurred several other videos telling the world of how the Ifugaos tell their I-love-yous.  Some directly denied what the vlog claimed that “cha’mi” (we Ifugaos) do not say I love you.  Some boys claimed that they are sweet in their locality as they do pronounce “I love you, I miss you….”  Another video declared that they Ifugao men say the sweet words often even to the extent of making calls every now and then just to do so.  Others are bold in stating that they may not say the words more often but do so by bringing in the goods that their love needs even if not demanded.  Another video relates that the one who invites to partake with “watwat” or one who bring the “watwat” to the one he fancies is the way to say I love you in their place.
So what does pulong mu and puhog mu means, the inquisitor pressed.  I said, literally it says “Your ass!” and “Your bellybutton!”
    He replied with expletives.  “P***** I**! B*** S***! T****!”
    And so I replied, are you saying that because you don’t love me?  He countered with a smile.  As it is, expletives or swear words have different uses – expressing anger, resentment, or provocation and on the other hand, they could be ways of communicating friendliness and love especially when accompanied with smiles and laughter!
    Happy Love Month to all!


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