Ang Lumang Aklat

Although Raquel is supposed to be only a quarter Filipino (Ilocano), she’s more versed in Tagalog than I am. Often, if I hear a Tagalog word I’m not familiar with, I ask her and she translates the word for me into English. Pathetic, isn’t it?

When I was growing up, my parents taught me to speak in English more than Tagalog. I was also exposed to a lot of American children TV shows like Sesame Street and the Electric Company. Whereas with Raquel, she didn’t watch a lot of TV when she was growing up but she had these old Tagalog text books left behind by the owner of the house her family lived in.

She told me that it was the kind of Tagalog that’s not used colloquially anymore. Anyway, she claims she learnt most of the real obscure Tagalog words (by today’s standards at least) she knows from those books. I envied that she knew all these Tagalog words that I never even knew about — and I was supposed to be the Tagalog (person).

One time a few years ago while Raquel and I were having dinner with my family, my Mom mentioned in a sentence a Tagalog word I wasn’t at all familiar with (can’t remember what word it was now). It was like the first time I’ve heard of it. I guess Raquel noticed my glazy-eyed look and provided the English translation of the word. Ping! A light bulb turned on in my head.

“What? You didn’t know what ______ meant?” My Mom asked me incredulously.

“What do you mean, ‘What?'” I retorted. “You never taught me that word.” And I certainly didn’t remember being taught that word in school neither. If I didn’t learn it from school or from my parents, how was I supposed to know the word? Ah, well. It wasn’t a big deal but I felt silly not knowing words in my native tongue.

It was because of similar experiences that I became more motivated to acquaint myself with my native language. Sadly, when I tried looking in Philippine bookstores for books similar to those Raquel had, I was disappointed not to find anything.

And today, I did find such a book. Of all places, I didn’t expect to find it in a second-hand bookshop here in Melbourne, Australia. In case you’re interested, I bought it at City Basement Books along Elizabeth Street.

The book is titled “Ang BATANG MAGALANG at iba pang mga KUWENTO” (The RESPECTFUL CHILD and other [more?] STORIES) and written by Antonia Villanueva, Genoveva Edrosa and Antonio Mariano. I’m not sure what year it was published but it was copyrighted 1951. It’s a pretty old book.

It was in the Reference section of the book shop along with Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia language learning books. I immediately grabbed it and showed it to Raquel. She agreed that the language used in the book was similar in era to those she’d read in her youth. I was excited! And to make things even better, it’s only four dollars! Yes!

It has in the book 58 stories all written in 1950s Tagalog with each story followed by a study guide questionaire (Mga Tulong sa Pag-aaral) and glossary (Talasalitaan). Giving it a quick read, only now did I found out the meaning of the following words: tarangkahan (gate), magparikit (to build a fire), dapog (hearth) and ikinikiwang-kiwang (moving about) to name a few.

Pretty nerdy stuff, some of you would probably think. But that’s me. I always like learning more about languages, specially my own. I can’t wait to read more of it so I bought it. Four dollars? I think the book should be worth way more than that but I’m not really complaining. I’m just glad I found it.

Published in: on July 28, 2005 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment