We have several relatives abroad whom we regularly communicate with and by that I mean almost everyday. Growing up, I became familiar with the English language partly because I would overhear snippets of my family’s conversations with our relatives over the phone. Filipino is our primary language at home so we would sometimes joke about how speaking in straight English feels awkward and gives us a “nose bleed”. Eventually, we developed our own words and expressions that became part of our daily banter at home.
When my grandmother was still alive and living with us, we used to call her “motherhood” instead of the usual “mama”, “mommy”, or “mom”. Whenever our aunties called to check on our grandmother, my mother would say, “Si Motherhood? Okay naman siya.” Even after our grandmother passed away we still refer to her that way.
“I am so stressed na sa school…”
The expression above doesn’t seem unusual since “taglish” is common. However, I sometimes pronounce the word stressed as “stress-sed” when I am in such state to make my mood lighter. I first used it when I was in high school. My parents and siblings had a good laugh thinking that I was being serious. Ever since, whenever I arrive home from school looking exhausted and tired my mother would say, “Are you stress-sed? Kawawa naman stress-sed siya.”
Aside from having our own dictionary, we also have our own grammatical structure. Instead of saying, “Someone’s calling”, when the phone rings, we say, “Someone is calling the telephone.” It is oftentimes directed to my dad because there is not a single day that my father doesn’t get a phone call. When he has been on the phone too long, we’d tell him “Calling the telephone again?”
I had a petty fight with my sister when I was in grade school. To teach me a lesson, she bought my favorite food and didn’t ask if I wanted any. I did my best to ignore it despite my cravings. Our mother who was having some of the food teased me and said, “Do you like it? It likes you.” The phrase became our mother’s expression whenever she’s teasing me with food.
Another word in our family dictionary is “labander”. This is not a mispronounced or misspelled name of a flower but it refers to laundry or in Filipino, “labahin”. My mother uses this term when our laundry has piled up – “There is plenty of labander.”
Indeed, we Filipinos have the ability to create something out of the most ordinary situations. We can make fun of our mistakes like our faulty use of the English language. We are capable of finding ways to express how we feel and our imperfect English can’t keep us from doing so.
Having a unique language at home makes our relationship with our family more special. A language that only you and your family can understand gives a sense of togetherness and helps create happy memories.