Sunday, March 12, 2006

Much ado about Pinoy

So I am a member of a group dedicating to promoting Hispanic culture and language in the Philippines. For what it's worth, my views are moderate. Though the more conservative members tend to say I am liberal as they are for instituting Spanish as the official language of the Philippines (I have over 160 reasons why). My views have to do with making Spanish an option in schools and perhaps forging relationships with Latin Americans for cultural exchange and the like, nothing too drastic, ¿no?

I am going off on a tangent, but one of the more extreme members is Guillermo Gómez y Rivera. He's a retired(?) educator in the Philippines, originally from Iloilo. He was involved somehow the constitutional convention of 1973 and he's been a very passionate advocate of reviving the Spanish language in Philippines; he blames the Americans, whom he refers to as the WASP USENSES (American WASPS).

In any case, one of his pet peeves is the term "Pinoy." No problem, I know some people aren't rather fond of nicknames. But he takes it a step further. He urges Filipinos to stop using it because it is very demeaning to us. For one, he asserts, that the Americans coined it, taking the PIN in "Pilipinong" and the OY from "unggoy" (monkey).

Of course, I am in complete disagreement. Gómez asserts that those of us who defend the word "Pinoy" are "sick" because we want other Filipinos to be seen as demeaning. He offers the latest show, "Pinoy Big Brother," as proof wherein one of the celebrities urinates on public television. He blames it on the Americans, but I dutifully pointed out to him that it is a Dutch invention which is now owned by Telefónica, a company based in Spain.

Now his son, Guillermo Gómez y Ordóñez, maintains a blog here on blogspot. I have encountered an entry from January 19, 2006 wherein he mentions his father's story. This time it's a different story; he claims Pinoy was actually coined by two American employers in Los Angeles during the 1970's:
And so it goes and now we adopt it as a norm without knowing where this idiom or street slang even ever came about. Hey, Bro..wake up and smell the coffee!! It was born in L.A.!! Imagine what it means!! It means Pilipinong ungoy! And you will say or sing: Pinoy, Pinoy ako..ibang iba ang Pinoy…and so the song goes. I wonder what those two guys back in the 70’s would be laughing at right now…The problem with us is that it’s always ‘ok’ with us because we choose it to be so then when we are made aware of it, it becomes easy to blametoss it to the concept of colonialism. But who in the first place is entertaining it??!! Now, ’think!’, where did the word ‘flips’ come from or how it was invented…wanna adopt that too? It came from L.A. These words didn’t even come from here!! Not that I have something against the Americans or the other nations. In the first place, it’s not their fault that we do not properly identify or respect our nationality. Will Rizal stand up for this or Bonifacio?? SO DO NOT USE IT!! BOYCOTT THE WORD ‘PINOY’!!
Never mind the fact that neither Gómez Jr. nor Gómez Sr. identify the names of these racist American pigs and neither do they provide any documentation.

Now, the usual story behind the origin of Pinoy is that it originated among the "manongs" - the early Filipino immigrants to America. Sources such as the Fililipino American National Historical Society say that it was coined to distinguish between the Filipinos living "back home" with the Filipinos living here in America.

I have perused the University of Michigan's collection of important Philippine historical documents (which I mentioned here) and found a lot of hits for "Pinoy" and "Pinoys".

The oldest hit in the database is from a Philippine Republic article written in January 1926 by Dr. J. Juliano, member of the faculty of the Schurz school in Chicago. You can say the article in its entirety here. I quote:

"Why does a Pinoy take it as an insult to be taken for a Shintoist or a Confucian?"
"What should a Pinoy do if he is addressed as a Chinese or a Jap?"

The oldest reference for the Philippines is from 1927. It's a book by Carson Taylor called History of the Philippine press. It's simply a brief mention of a weekly Spanish-Visayan-English publication called Pinoy based in Capiz. The publication date December 27, 1926. The publisher was Pinoy Publishing Company. Other than that, there's no further information.

Another reference is from 1930 in the Manila-based publication Khaki and Red: the official organ of the constabulary and police. The article, which is about street gangs, is located here and the relevant quote is "another is the "Kapatiran" gang of Intramuros, composed of patrons pools rooms who banded together to "protect pinoys" from the abusive American soldados."

There are a more results that span from the 1920's to the 1940's. Some take on social issues facing Pinoy, some are casual mentions of Pinoys at events, while some are advertisements from Hawai'i from Filipinos themselves saying "BILI KAYO SA PINOY."

You can see them for yourselves here:

Results for 'pinoys'.
Results for 'pinoy'.

There are hits for "Pinay" but they are for a French person's surname and does not mean "Filipina."

I should note that Professor Laurence Reid, a retired University of Hawai'i linguist specializing in Philippine languages, is the consultant for the newest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary; he looks for terms originating from Philippine languages that have made it into English. He says that Pinoy was mentioned in Carlos Bulosan's 1946 book America is in the Heart: "The Pinoys work every day in the fields but when the season is over their money is in the Chinese vaults." (Bulosan, 118)

If any of you know of references to Pinoy earlier than 1926, contact me.

Signing off,

--Chris Sundita
A proud Pinoy


murrayjames said...

Even if Gomez is right about the origins of the word, I don't see how this is a problem. Words change in meaning and nuance over time. Pinoy may have been derogatory once, but it's certainly not today. If no one--not the Filipino, nor the Spaniard, nor the American--takes Pinoy as an insult, then what's the big deal?

tlm said...

I have a quick question. What's the name of this organized dedicated to promoting Hispanic language and culture in the Philippines?

Christopher Sundita said...

It's called El Círculo HispanoFilipino.

Ekaterina said...

Dear Mr. Chris, kumusta!

aKo'y si Ekaterina (Katya na lang), taga-Moscow ako (Russia) at nagreresearch sa Tagalog.
Interesante talaga ang mga blogs ninyo at matulungin sa akin.

Native speaker ba kayo ng Tagalog? kung ganoon, pakitulong na lang sa akin, kung puwede. Wala akong maraming kakilalang Pinoy dito sa Moscow, pero kailangan ko ang ilang Tagalog respondents para isalin nila ang 2 phrases na susunod - para sa research ko ito na ukol sa modern Tag, at kailangan kong tingnan kung anong salita ang gagamitin talaga ng mga respondents sa pagsasalin nila ;)

Mayroon ba kayong mga kakilalang Tagalog o Filipino na pwedeng tumulong?
(Kailangan ko ring malaman ang edad nila at social status - student, teacher, worker, housemaid, atbp)

these are two phrases:

1) "Yesterday my grandmother went shopping. She took a taxi and went to the biggest market. She bought some cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, and also her favorite sweets."

2) "A child between seven till thirteen or forteen is ready to get fundamental knowledge in five principle fields of science: mathematics, phisics, chemistry, biology, and social science."

Pasensya n lang na ginamit ko ang blog post para magtanong, pero wala akong sources para sa pagreresearch. Masyadong malayo ang Pilipinas ;)


Christopher Sundita said...

Здравствуйте Екатерина/Катя!

I am a native Tagalog speaker, but my English is better (I grew up in the states). I translated the sentences for you. I had trouble with the 2nd one - it sounds awkward.

Namili ang lola ko kahapon. Sumakay siya sa taksi papunta sa pinakamalaking palengke. Bumili siya ng pipino, carrot, kamatis, at saka ang mga paborito niyang matamis.

Ang mga batang mula pitong taon hanggang labintatlo o labing-apat taon ay handang kumuha ng fundamental knowledge sa limang principal fields ng syensya: matematika, pisika, kimika, biyolohiya, at social science.


Kharen Malagar said...

Gusto lang kitang batiin sa blogs mo. Hindi ko pa nababasa lahat pero itong pinaka-bago mo ay talaga namang de kalidad. Papuri Kapatid!

Intresado din ako mag-aral ng mga iba-ibang salita. Pero medyo iba sa iyo, ang gusto kong aralin ay mga salita ng ibang bansa. Nasa Australia kami nakatira, kakalipat lang. Mga anim na taon na kami dito at marami nang kakilalang Pinoy (walang kaso sa akin na masama ang pinang-galinggan basta ang importante ngayon ay wala na syang masamang konotasyon). Masarap magtrabaho dito dahil sa kahalubilo mo ang iba-ibang lahi. Mababait silang lahat! Gusto kong aralin ang Spanish (agree ako na ibalik yun sa atin! I missed it sa school), Brasilian Portugese, French, Latin, Italian. Marunong na ako mag-Hapon at konting Portugese. Saya mag-aral diba?

Natutuwa ako na magaling ka mag-Tagalog kahit laking LA ka. Sana paglaki ng mga anak ko magaling din sila tulad mo. Pipilitin ko palakihin sila ng ganoon. Medyo mahirap pero di impossible.

Salamat at Pagpalain ka ng Poon :)

Anonymous said...

hi chris!

man, the gomez claim as to the origin of the word "pinoy" has no merit whatsover. i'm begining to suspect that sr. & jr. gomez invented that's funny (give 'em that) but it shouldn't be taken seriously.

from another proud PINOY,


Anonymous said...

hey you wanna be spanish. dude. tagalog already has so much spanish it in why learn the actual one? it's not worth it and yes it's not worth it. stick with tagalog and stop with the spanish.

Christopher Sundita said...

No, I don't want to be Spanish. I learned Spanish because 1. it is part of Filipino culture and 2. it is useful to know here in the United States. It has nothing to do with me wanting to be Spanish.

Try speaking Tagalog to a Mexican. I did, and it was hilarious. They didn't understand shit. Hence, I had to learn Spanish.

Was it worth it? I'd say it really was.

Learning another languages opens up opportunities.


Anonymous said...

I am half Filipino, born in Manila with a dad who was air force. So every other move we made was back to the PI so mom could see family. I learned my Tagalog over summer vacation from school while I played all day with my cousins at age 8. I feel that anyone who speaks more than one language has a verbal advantage over one who doesn't. I don't speak Tagalog fluently but I can hold a conversation. I am on the interpreter list at the well known company I work for which employs thousands. That list has less than a 8 names on it. In todays complicated world anyone should be grateful they can multi-anything.
Spanish is part of Philippine history and culture. My mom speaks Spanish fluently because her family spoke it in Manila where she grew up. Her education was taught in Spanish in a convent. No matter where we went people were amazed that my mom spoke 4 languages. Spanish-fluently, Tagalog-fluently, English-broken, Ilocano-broken. The fact that she knew spanish helped her to partially understand Italian when she was in Rome. If the Philippines embraces another main language, that just shows how rich the Pinoy culture is (yes, I said Pinoy).

seav said...

Hi Chris, I know it's late but I would like to point out some corrections in your translation of Katya's passages.

"Sumakay siya sa taksi papunta sa pinakamalaking palengke."

The sentence above should probably be:

"Sumakay siya ng taksi at pumunta sa pinakamalaking palengke."

Note that the original English sentence had two independent clauses, but you translated the second into a prepositional phrase.


Ang mga batang mula pitong taon hanggang labintatlo o labing-apat taon ay handang kumuha ng fundamental knowledge sa limang principal fields ng syensya: matematika, pisika, kimika, biyolohiya, at social science.

Corrections: "labing-apat na taon", "payak na kaalaman" instead of "fundamental knowledge", "agham" instead of "siyensiya", and "agham panlipunan" instead of "social science". (I generally dislike AP [agham panlipunan] but I surprisingly got the subject medal for that in high school. =)

Lou said...

I am with murrayjames.....what is this drama all about? do we deny the spanish history of the PI, do we deny any previous history? No, we don't. We go with what happened to the country and heal from it. We move on and embrace everything the Philippines has experienced as a country and rise above it.
The Philippines is a multi-cultural country, very diverse and complicated, unlike any other. How beautiful and proud should it's people be.

Anonymous said...

As you have found Bulosan's mention of "Pinoy" in _America is in the Heart_, I highly recommend reading P.C. Morantte's _Remembering Carlos_ as a companion book, to better understand Bulosan's world.

Also, a must read on your "Pinoy" research is Morantte's essay "Pinoy is a calqued word" in _Heritage_ (Carson, CA), September 1991, vol.5 Issue 3, p.13+.;jsessionid=2A531F75272BCAD79209719EF0D58548.ehctc1

In this essay, Morantte traces the origin of Pinoy to Vicente Yerro, a comedian from Leyte, who arrived in the U.S. as a vaudeville performer in 1929.

More power to you, Chris!

Anonymous said...

Di ako naniniwala sa kwnetong PINOY (PiliPINong-unggOY)... kalikutan lng isip yan!

dont let other people or races define who we are!

I'm and will always be Pinay.
Anak na babae, nag-aral, nagtapos, may marangal na trabaho, may respeto sa sarili at sa lahat ng nilikha...
higit sa lahat, at hindi "whore"
Ito ang depinisyon ko!

Anonymous said...

super late pero interested lang mag comment...

Kung saan pa man galing ang PINOY word na yan, wala kong pakelam. We can easily reclaim even insults, like the word "queer" which had been reclaimed by homosexuals and now use it with pride to refer to themselves!

ourselves pala! GAY PRIDE! PINOY PRIDE!

Christopher Sundita said...

amen. :-D

ian said...

Hello, this is an interesting blog, I'm currently doing my research(thesis) and a part of it has to do with the definition of Pinoy.
On the Gomez' definition... it's the first time I've heard of it. It sound more of "chismis" that they heard from somewhere. Besides, "unggoy" is a Tagalog term, I'd think that if Americans would give us a derogatory nickname it would be in English... something like Pilipino-Monkey or Pinokey.. Lols

Steph R. said...

I'm a little bit concerned about WHY most Filipinos aren't aware of their nickname's origin. I mean, if we're Filipinos, we should know why we speak and act this way. Philippines is a big country, I know, but we should all be educated about these things; we should preserve our culture and wash away the stains history has left us with.

I saw a link to your blog on I'm currently researching about the languages and dialects used in Filipino television/ media-- Tagalog, english and Visaya-- and how they are used as a form of discrimination between the speakers. We, the Filipinos (the viewers), are also the ones discriminating our own people. We are not really aware about this but once we conclude that a character who does not speak English very well is a poor and uneducated person, we are already doing it.

Of course, that's just my hypothesis, very subjective, really. I'm still doing preliminary research (links and sources only) and I would like to have an expert's opinion about this, one that's objective. ^_^ If it's alright with you, could you give me some of your views on the subject?

Thank you so much!

-Steph R.

P.S. Do you think it would be an acceptable idea to survey about this? Would it be the right tool? My professor thinks surveys shouldn't be done but I believe that depends on the topic. What do you think? ^_^

Steph R. said...

@ IAN:

Tama, I was asking myself the same thing. hahahaha. But I concluded that the American who said it knew how to speak Tagalog (or atleast knew two words: 'Pilipinong' and 'Unggoy'). He must've learned it from a Filipino who befriended him and then did something wrong. LOL. I have a really wild imagination. XD

Obviously a "chismis", though. It doesn't have supporting facts, like the author of this blog wrote. ^_^

Pet Taxi said...

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Pet Taxi

casual arrogance said...

I am completely sceptical about the Gómez père & fils claims that PINOY comes from Pilipino Unggoy. It makes much more sense to see it as the etymological progression Pilipino -> Pilipinoy -> Pinoy. Just like Mestizo -> Tisoy. Vicente -> Vicentico -> Ticoy. Lourdes or Diana -> Diday. Muchacha -> Chimay.

People may have, after the fact, played with the letters to make Pilipino Unggoy,but that is akin to me taking your name and making up CHild RISing (for lack of a better example).

There are a lot of opinions that that father & son team state as "undisputable facts", and the contemptible thing is that many local AND hispanic "intellectuals" suck on and fully swallow these "undisputable facts".

While their fervour for and apparent skill with the Spanish language may at best be admirable, their beliefs and the absolute authority they have over their peons minds reek of archaic Catholicism, which they, it seems, still practise.

Keep up the scepticism, Chris, I think you are doing a far better job than either of them as regards this Pilipino Unggoy kalokohan.

Anímate y espero que no pares de luchar contra toda esta desinformación...."undiputable fact".

Jose Ramon Perdigon said...

Hi, I am one of the oldest members of the Circulo Hispano Filipino, and I have commented on the pinoy cpntroversy years ago in the circulo's Yahoo Groups Mail. I have always contended that Pinoy is a very normal derivative from the word Filipino, Pinoys are fond of nicknames ending in 'oy.' So from the popular pronunciation Pilipino, take the last two syllables and add 'oy and you have Pinoy. I don't think the ending 'oy' comes from 'baboy,' pig. Rizal had a trusted friend from his early days in his uncle's students residence Casa Tomasina, Jose M Cecilio (que llamaba a Rizal 'tocayo') who was commonly called 'Chingoy', a play on his name Cecilio. There are several letters from Chingoy to Rizal telling him news of the sweethearts Rizal left sighing in Manila when he suddenly traveled to Spain. All this a good 19 years before arrogant Americans taking control of the Philippines had a chance to insult Filipinos with the 'P' word Pinoy:>). I don't believe Rizal meant Cecilio Pig or some other Mexican cuss word when he called Cecilio Chingoy.