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). He also claims that "PINAY" is equivalent to "whore" and provides Philippine Inquirer headlines concerning the rape of a Filipina in Subic as proof.

Of course, I am in complete disagreement. It's a joke really. A very sick joke. 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. And if any of you find any conclusive documents supporting Gómez's claim that Pinoy is a "shit name" (his words) coming from Pilipinong unggoy, let me know, because as of now he has given us, uh, shit?

Signing off,

--Chris Sundita
A proud Pinoy