NCIS and Pinpin Pula

Raquel and I are both avid fans of NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service), an American TV series about an criminal investigative branch of the US Navy. Although it might first have been mistaken for a CSI wannabe, NCIS deals more with cases that involve Navy personnel and Navy assets. They not only do forensics, but they are also federal agents so espionage and counter-terrorism action is also to be expected.

But the main draw of the show for us is the humourous banter between the lead characters and the common geeky exchange of the more geeky characters (such as Abby, Agent McGee, Palmer and Ducky). I gave this show a try when it was starting out only because Donald Bellisario is the executive producer of the show (as well as an old TV fave of mine, Quantum Leap).

Okay so it’s obvious that we love NCIS. But that’s not the reason why I wrote this post.

The second to the last episode of Season 3 titled Hiatus (Part 1) was shown on Channel Ten last night. Yes, for you Americans out there that are already into Season 4, Australia is usually behind on TV episodes so we only got to watch it last night. Anyway, at the beginning of the show, the NCIS gang were at a pier inspecting a ship and its crew.

One of the crew members showed his passport and guess what? It’s a green passport with the words “Pasaporte” and “Pilipinas” on the cover. Yep. It was a Philippine passport. It turned out that the passport was forged so the guilty “Filipino” made a run for it. Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (just think of him as the Optimus Prime of the group) gave chase. Thankfully, it turned out that this seeming Pinoy bad guy was actually an informant and the chase was only for show.

It was a good start but I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief later on due to some of things shown in that particular episode. The main one is that the NCIS is after a Filipino terrorist that goes by the name of Pinpin Pula. What kind of Filipino name is Pinpin Pula? Okay, given that this supposed Filipino terrorist probably lives in Mindanao and not in Manila, maybe the surname Pula is popular in Mindanao but it certainly isn’t in Manila.

And the first name, Pinpin? From observation, most Filipinos would either have an old Spanish-sounding name (such as Gabriel, Mariano, Jose, Manuel, etc.), an Anglicised name (such as Peter, Jason, Dexter, etc.) or an Arabic name if he or she is a Muslim (though I don’t personally know a lot of Filipinos with Arabic names so I couldn’t give you a list of common examples). Pinpin sounds more like a Chinese name and Chinese-Filipinos would probably give their children Spanish names (to make it sound more Filipino) or Anglicised names.

Well, according to Dr “Ducky” Mallard (of the NCIS team), the name Pinpin Pula is supposedly Tagalog for “rice paddy dike”! Really? Where did they get this? Is it that difficult to find a Filipino in the USA that they couldn’t get a more authentic sounding Filipino name and get its meaning correctly? We had to laugh out loud when we heard the supposed meaning.

And so that one bit of inaccuracy sort of ruined the episode for me. I couldn’t take it seriously after that.

It was a bit funny that they pronounce Abu Sayyaf as Abu Sayyif but I guess Sayyif could be a more accurate pronunciation in Arabic. Locally, Filipinos pronounce and spell it as Sayyaf so it was just a bit weird to hear it pronounced another way. However, Agent Ziva David (an Israeli Mossad agent assigned to be part of the NCIS team) pronounced Sayyaf as is. And she also pronounced Pula as you would expect a Filipino would. Looking at the actress’s bio, I found out that Cote de Pablo (who played Agent Ziva David) was born in Chile and grew up in Miami. I suppose it’s because she speaks Spanish that she got the pronunciations “correctly”.

There was also a fun tidbit in the show. While the team was looking for leads, it was suggested that they talk to all the Filipino sailors. Then Agent McGee pointed out that there are over 250,000 Filipino sailors! I tried to verify the numbers but couldn’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true though as most Filipinos know at least one person who became a seaman.

Part 2 of the two-parter would be shown next week. I hope that I could suspend my disbelief again by then.

Published in: on October 19, 2006 at 12:34 pm  Comments (15)