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P. I.

Teresa R. Tunay, OCDS

…and that’s the truth


PHILIPPINE Islands. That’s what our geography teacher in Grade School told us “P.I.” stood for—our Motherland. It’s in history books, in world maps, world atlas, encyclopedias, etc. But what does “P.I.” remind you of now, when you read it in the news? President Incoming? Of course.

How “P.I.” has come to mean something other than Philippine Islands these days should make an intriguing study in the evolution of language—and the dysfunctions in our society.

A website called Acronymfinder lists 208 meanings for “P.I.” Philippine Islands is on the list—along with Paranormal Investigation, Premature Infant, Position Indicator, Personal Injury (legal), Performance Improvement, Physically Impaired, Penile Implant (medicine), Precision Instrument, but our very own contemporary P.I., an expletive that in English means “a mother who is a whore”, is not on that list.

Media write “P.I.” or “p— i—“ for politeness’ sake but the President Incoming who seems to revel at being Politically Incorrect doesn’t mince his words. Mincing words is a damage-control job done by his defenders—like dog owners in New York who by law must pick up fecal matter their beloved pets deposit in the streets. His sympathizers, “people who really know him”, shrug off their idol’s cussing as mere “bulaklak ng dila”—uttered out of habit but hardly that malicious. Really? No malice meant? Like rain that falls on both the just and the unjust?

How can you believe that when the air crackles with expletives whenever he opens his mouth, whether his tirades target feudal lords, drug lords or servants of the Lord? Okay, granted he means well, maybe he sincerely hates oligarchy, drug abuse, hypocrisy or traffic jams, but why should he call anyone’s mother a whore?

It’s not just a bad habit. It’s rooted in something deeper. Out of the bounty of the heart, the mouth speaks. If you put the foul mouth in context you will see his cussing is not simply “bulaklak ng dila” or thoughtless interjections. He doesn’t pepper his speeches with “p—– i–” or “f—” just to entertain his audience or to express solidarity with the masa. When he doesn’t bother to think twice before calling his political opponents “bayot” or “magnanakaw”, challenging Mar Roxas to a fist fight or to strip to prove he is circumcised, making a deceased rape victim the butt of a joke, threatening to kill generals, furiously referring to a reporter’s wife’s private parts in reaction to a harmless question about his health, flaunting his womanizing and use of Viagra—you know the man isn’t just playing cute to get your applause. He talks dirty, but instead of apologizing he smugly says “It’s how men talk.”

Are we to take that sitting down and let our children become desensitized to foul language? “It’s how men talk”? Yes, that may be true for all those “P.I.” men who may be Psychologically Incapacitated, Psychically Impaired, Pathetically Irrational, Perfectly Imbecile, Perpetually Ignorant, and Power-Intoxicated. Shall we now sit back and make “P.I.” our Pambansang Iksplitib? (That’s my invention).
The thing is—President Incoming has been elected to office by 16 million Filipinos. Vox populi, vox Dei, they say? We respect the “vox populi” that made him president, but “vox Dei” certainly doesn’t mean we will now accept “p—– i–” in our vocabulary. Remember the popular prayer, “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”? We can’t change electoral figures, but we can do something for the good to prevail. We have schools to launch Clean Speech Campaigns and instill love for the Philippine Islands, our Motherland. We have our pulpits to remind people that we are loved by our Blessed Mother—Pinagpalang Ina— and to seek her help in purifying our thoughts and our speech. We can do something in our own neighborhood, our homes, our individual circle of power, no matter how insignificant our action may appear to the world’s eyes.

One day as I was walking home from Mass, I met in front of our house a bunch of young boys—maybe about 8 or 9-years-old—cussing one another like it’s nobody’s business. Putangina ka, Tangina mo, Tangina naman eh! I stopped them dead in their tracks, they couldn’t say a thing as I was unstoppable: “Sssst! Huwag niyong sasabihin yan, mura yan, masama yan! Alam niyo ba ibig sabihin ng putang ina? Na ang nanay ng minumura mo ay parang isang babaeng aso na pakalat-kalat sa kalye at naghahanap ng lalake. Gusto n’yo bang marinig yon tungkol sa nanay niyo? Mahalin ninyo ang nanay ninyo at ang nanay ng iba, huwag na ninyong sasabihin yan! Saan ba n’yo natutuhan iyan? Sa tatay n’yo? Pag narinig n’yo iyan ulit sa bahay n’yo, sa kung sino man sa pamilya n’yo, sabihin n’yo sa kanila ang itinuro ko sa inyo ngayon. Pag nagalit, sabihin ninyo, ako ang pagalitan nila, puntahan nila ako dito, ayan ang bahay ko!” (Sssst! Don’t say that, it’s a bad word! Do you know what ‘you son of a whore [bitch]’ means? That the mother of the one you’re cursing is like a bitch roaming the streets in search of a male. Do you want that said about your mother? Love your mother and the mother of others—never say that again. Where did you learn that anyway? From your father? If you hear that again in your house, from whomever, tell them what I taught you today. If they get angry, tell them to be angry with me. Tell them to come here, that’s my house!)

They walked down the road quietly, occasionally looking back at me. I have no way of knowing if the lesson sunk, but I know I did my part, and trust that God will do the rest. And that’s the truth.

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