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)  

15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Pula in romanian means penis

  2. Pinpin is a nickname, as somebody else here pointed out, it’s derived from names such as Serafin, Crispin, or Delfin. Pinpin is also a surname. There was a man named Tomas Pinpin in Filipino history.

    Pula is a surname in Filipino, although not too common. It means “red.” Thus, the name “Pinpin Pula” is probably an alias, much like what someone alluded here to a Kumander Pula. As you proably are aware of, red is associated with communism.

  3. I knew a Jing-Jing when I was in the PI, why not a Pin-Pin?

    Sounds more like a nickname to me.

    I’m watching that episode right now…lol


  4. I know this is a late reaction to your blog. What can I say? I was probably having a slight case of Dori-itis. πŸ™‚ The name kept being intoned differently than how we say it in the Philippines. “Pula” was being pronounced as “Poo-lah” by the team, hence my eureka moment just happened today. So yes…Ducky Mallard was correct PinPin does mean “rice paddy dike”. Refer to this site AND there was an Abu Sayaff leader called “Kumander Pula”. It wouldn’t be surprising to have a Filipino with a Chinese name. After all, they were once of the first settlers here. Anyhoo, those are my two cents. πŸ™‚

  5. Actually, Abu Saif does make sense as the name of a terrorist or a terrorist group. Depending on the kind of S it was, it’s Arabic for father of summer or father of a sword – and the latter fits quite well.

  6. Oh! I was just watching it earlier and now they showed the second part of it. Hehee… Pinpin Pula… When I first heard of it, I thought what?!

    It was a good show, though.

  7. My cousin’s name is Mei Mei so I don’t think it’s totally outlandish that he might have a Chinese given name.

    Pipin Pula sounds like those weird ‘catchy’ gangster name.

  8. Yep.

  9. well there is an abu sayyaf commander named kumander pula… but not his real name more of a nome de guerre

  10. inggo: Yeah, I don’t think it is an actual word but in part 2, Tony reiterated that the name meant “rice paddy dike”. πŸ˜›

    alma: I don’t doubt that Pula could be a valid surname and Pinpin could be a nickname. But from the context in the show, Pinpin was never suggested to be a nickname but a name derived from a word that meant something. πŸ˜‰

    Jennie: Tim McGee is also my favourite character because he is such a geek. πŸ˜€

  11. I personally love “Proby” McGee. I remember one particular episode wherein Tony and Kate (old episode) barged into his apartment and Tony was making jokes about Tim not being able to “get it” with the girls. As soon as they left, this beautiful woman wearing only an MIT shirt walked out of the bedroom looking for Tim and started playing an online video game. Coolness! πŸ˜€

  12. Pinpin could be a nickname for Serafin or Crispin. And Pula is a legitimate Pinoy surname. I know a guy whose last name is Pula. πŸ™‚

  13. it would have been believable if a certain Pinpin Pula is a member of the terrorist group NPA instead of the Abu Sayyaf.. But still, NPA’s are known to have a ‘Ka-‘ in the beginning of their names. and Abu Sayyaf’s mostly have arabic names or atleast a title of Commander.

    I asked a Fil-Chi officemate about Pinpin and he said that he doesn’t know what a Pinpin means. So it’s kind of wierd that they made a Filipino terrorist with that kind of name.

  14. Ah! Well, I wouldn\’t put it pass those NCIS writers to make it a sort of joke. πŸ˜‰

    I\’ve read the blog about the names. Come to think of it, doorbell sounding nicknames isn\’t uncommon in the Philippines at all. I mean, I know a Bongbong, a Bong, a Bing, a Dondon, a Ping, a Ningning, a Dingdong, a Dong, and a Lenlen. But never a Pinpin. Well, except for a teacher I knew but Pinpin was his surname instead derived from a Chinese name.

    But yeah, these are nicknames and I don\’t think a terrorist would give himself a cutesy name. It should be something that strikes fear into the heart of the infidels like Commander Robot (there\’s a terrorist actually named this). πŸ˜›

    And I still don\’t think Pinpin translates to \”rice paddy dike\”. πŸ˜‰ But I do think you may be right with the pin-puller theory.

  15. I figure the name is a nickname .. some American trying to have a laugh and be clever. He’s following the ‘doorbell names’ tradition (Google: ‘pinoy doorbell names’) by using Pinpin .. but the character is a terrorist .. so he has grenades .. with pins that need pulling .. so he’s a pin-puller.

    That’s my guess anyway πŸ™‚


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