No arrival (Walang dating)


ONE August, the Buwan ng Wika, Sen. Vicente “Tito Sen” Sotto 3rd asked reporters to translate into Filipino/Tagalog the following sentence: “Sa mga pangulo ng Pilipinas, pang-ilan si Erap Estrada?”

Head-scratching followed Tito Sen’s poser. I’m a full-blooded Ilocano so I had a valid excuse why I couldn’t translate it. However, even the reporters from Tagalog provinces like Quezon, Batangas, Laguna and Cavite were unable to give any satisfactory answer.

This proves that a number of Filipino/Tagalog words or phrases are very difficult to translate in English. Some translate literally. A friend recently described Secretary Mar Roxas as “no arrival.” That’s English but it sounded Greek to me until he explained that “no arrival” is the literal translation of the Filipino/Tagalog idiom “walang dating.”

Language is just a tool for communication so it should not matter if a sentence is interspersed with English and Filipino/Tagalog words as long as its essence is comprehensible. Here’s an example: “What do you call a person who puts the left shoe on his right foot and the right shoe on his left foot?”
Answer: “Mali shoes.”

* * *

It’s undeniable that Filipino/Tagalog has made great strides since its use as medium of instruction in the elementary grades. Why, the kids in my barangay in Lupao, Nueva Ecija are now conversing in Tagalog/Filipino. Oh well, at least they have retained their Ilocano accent.

There are some lawmakers, however, who raise hell whenever a colleague delivers a speech in Filipino/Tagalog on the floor. Off hand, I could name former Rep. Pablo Garcia who always stood up to protest the use of such language in plenary and even threatened to interpelate using Cebuano.

Indeed, despite the inroads made by Filipino/Tagalog as a national language, there are still some who have difficulty understanding it. Thankfully, modern technology has broken the language barrier by providing automatic translation of what’s posted, especially in social media.

The translation offered by Facebook, however, is so out of this world that one gets more confused after reading it. Here are samples:

“Mag-ingat kayo sa police na ito, hindi naman naka uniform, ang tigas ng mukha, taga ‘Tondo’ lang ito. Sa UNO PRISINTO sa ibat-ibang street sila ng Tondo nanghuhuli sa gabi.”

FB’s automatic translation: “Caution you against police. These are not uniform, the hardness, from only neuropathology at uno prisinto. Across the street they neuropathology nanghuhuli at night.”

Here’s another one:

“Sa mga mahilig gumamit ng Magic Sarap, it’s not good for the health. Dahil sa ingredients na ginamit sa Magic Sarap, dahil maaring maging cause ng pagkakaroon ng sakit sa puso at iba pang sakit.”

FB: “The like to use a Magic Delicious, it’s not good for the health. Because the ingredients used the Magic Delicious. Because may be the cause of having a heart disease or other pain.”

An attempt to make a public service message understandable to non-Filipino/Tagalog speakers falls flat on its face. Here goes:

“Alam niyo ba ng tama ninyong timbang? May taong mukhang payat pero ang taba ay nasa bilbil. May taong mabilog ang mukha pero payat naman.”

FB translation: “Know is said to ideal weight? Someone looks thin but fat is on bilbil. Someone mabilog the face but thin there.”

Here’s a classic, courtesy of VP Jojo Binay’s spokesman, Joey Salgado, right after Secretary Edwin Lacierda described Binay’s “True State of the Nation Address” as “charot.”

“Tungkol naman po sa pagtawag nyo na ‘charot’ ang True State of the Nation Address ni Vice President, sorry po at hindi ako maalam sa beki speak. Pero nagkonsulta ako sa mga marurunong at ito ang sagot nila:

“Imbey ang fez ni Scretarush dahil trulalu ang spluk ni VP. Pero ang SONA ng pangulo, chaka ever sa madlang pipol dahil hindi trulalu.”

Now, this “beki speak” is already head-spinning but Facebook’s automatic translation makes it even more so:

“About please, please call ‘charot’ ang True State of the Nation Address by Vice President, sorry po and I maalam with beki speak. But I’m on nagkonsulta marurunong and they answer:

“The fez imbey secretarush trulalo because the spluk by VP. But the zone, chaka president ever in the audience because trulalo pipol.”

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Oh yes, on this Buwan ng Wika, I want to greet a blue-blooded Bulakeño, veteran newsman Bert de Guzman of Balita, who celebrated his birthday yesterday. While studying Journalism at UST, Bert won a number of awards in the Tagalog literary contest sponsored by The Varsitarian, the school’s official student organ of which I was once features editor and news editor.


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  1. Madali lang yan. What is Erap Estradas standing among the presidents elected in the Philippines. Maiksi at, to the point.

  2. I was out of breath laughing with the facebook translation! It is true, even where I work, we send out translation of the rules and policies of the company, tagalog is one of them. I was reading it closely one day and it was wrong! facebook translation is based on the literal meaning of the word, discounting its usage in the system, of course the translation would be out of this world! It is nice you brought this up, trulalu, parehong charot ang sona ng katao sa madlang pipol!

  3. How come Sen tito sotto is not in jail for plunder ?

    He gave Napoles his P200 million pork barrel money to fake non government organizations same as the 3 opposition senators that are jailed for plunder.

  4. Anong pinapalabas mo?…..What are you trying to exit?
    Pinagiisahan nyo ako ha….You’re trying to one me huh.
    Pagdating ng araw, paghihigantian kita….When the sun comes, I will giant you.

  5. Tricycle Driver on

    So what if Tagalog does not translate to English in the same form that English is structured? If you expect it to be, then you might think that Tagalog must conform to the structure of English for it to be correct!

    What language can do that vis-a-vis English?

    Of course some changes and adjustments must be made in the translation.

    Otherwise, you run the risk of being called an idiot. Now, what’s that in Tagalog?

  6. Efren L. Danao on

    Mr. Marcelo is correct. The translation is into English, not into Filipino/Tagalog. Thanks for the correction

  7. Amnata Pundit on

    Man, showing off how to juggle a ball: ” Kaya mo ba ‘to? Translation: “Can you like this?”

  8. Efren L. Danao on

    Sen. Tito Sotto is very popular but some persons still mistake him for his brother Vic because his first name is Vicente

  9. Mr. Danao,

    I think what you mean to say in your opening lines is “Vic Sotto asked reporters to translate into English…”

    On the topic of translations, my friends and I were a bit perplexed as to how to translate
    ” what do you want to be when you grow up?” Is it “ano ang gusto mong maging….?”

  10. Jerry Ocampo on

    My humble opinion: “Sa mga pangulo ng Pilipinas, pang-ilan si Erap Estrada?” = In the succession of presidents of the Philippines, what is the order of Erap Estrada? In the Tagalog original, the word “pagkakasunod-sunod” is implied, i,e., the first part of the sentence meant to say “Sa pagkakasunod-sunod ng mga pangulo ng Pilipinas…” As seasoned translators know, literal translation is not the way to go.

    • Amnata Pundit on

      Its perfectly human for writers to eventually run out of things to say. If you don’t believe this, just read the most ardent promoters of Poor Boy Binay’s cause in The Manila Times and you will know what I mean. Thank God Efren Danao is not one of them.

  11. Jose A. Oliveros on

    I am pure Tagalog – my father was a native of Batangas; my mother, of Laguna. I grew up and studied in Batangas and up to now, even after more than 50 years living in Metro Manila, I still speak the Batangas Tagalog with that famous Batangueno accent. But I cannot translate into Tagalog this question often asked of children: “What would you like to be when you grow up?” The closes Tagalog translation is :”Anong gusto mong maging, pag laki mo.” But the sentence is very awkward.

  12. P.Akialamiro on

    Like life, Tagalog/Filipino sometimes, is a ‘rock’. (Like life, Tagalog/Filipino sometimes, is “hard”).