Manila Vanilla

What it's like to be a U.S. Fulbright scholar, basketball player, journalist, and the whitest man in Metro Manila.

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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

New Yorker by birth, shipped across the globe to the world of malls, shanty-towns, patronage, corruption, basketball and a curious burnt-toast smell that wafts around at dusk

Friday, December 02, 2005

Nomenclature, Philippine-style

Talatawagan, nomenklatura, n. nomenclature.

What a surprise! After consulting the diksyunaryong ingles-filipino, it seems there is more than just a Taglish cognate for nomenclature, and it is talatawagan. I was ready to swear on my seed's first-born that the concept of systematic, appropriate naming was alien to Philippine culture in its native form.

Actually, I'm still a little skeptical about talatawagan. It may mean the act of naming things, but naming them with complete disregard to their function and purpose.

Nowhere is the Filipino anti-talent for naming things more apparent than in local cigarette brands like "Hope" and "More." Teams of DeVry marketing students couldn't come up with more ghastly names for smokes.

Skiing, a favorite pastime of toothless smokers across the Philippines.


Smoke enough Hopes and eventually you'll have nothing left but hope. I'm still waiting for a commercial showing someone's surgically removed lung with a voiceover saying, "I'm down to one lung, but I've still got Hope." I won't hold my breath for that one, but the irony-masters at Hope have come up with some notable advertising campaigns, including TV commercials that appear to be stolen Baywatch B-roll of assorted blond smokers lounging on beaches and a poster of Hope smokers skiing! From what I've seen, the majority of Hope smokers have mouths filled with nothing but gums and buy their cigs one at a time from EDSA street hawkers. Kudos to the ad-wizards at Hope for their laser insight into their customers' psyches -- I'm sure nothing tickles the tropical everyman's smokey bone like thoughts of zipping down the double black diamonds in Aspen.

Please sir, I want some More.


And then there's More, the valedictorian of the crappy cigarette name class of 2005. This is so deadpan and thoughtless, it can only appeal to smokers whose habit is driven primarily by the desire to hasten their deaths. "Smoke More, die sooner."

A more cheerful example of the Philippine knack for naming is found in their professional basketball teams. Teams in the professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the semi-pro Philippine Basketball League (PBL) belong to businesses instead of localities. So while the San Antonio Spurs sit atop the NBA's Southwest Division, the PureFoods Chunkee Giants lead the PBA Fiesta Conference. Other names range from the irresponsible San Miguel Beermen and Barangay Ginebra Gin-Kings to the pitiful Santa Lucia Realtors and Hapee Toothpaste TeethMasters.

This is pure fantasy, but I dream of the day when the teams will not only name be named after the products they're pushing, but the players will also play like their names suggest they should. Hey, the Realtors already do this -- they suck! But I want to see some really chunky Chunkee Giants out there bodying people. Likewise, the Gin-Kings and Beermen need to start imbibing their respective boozes at least two hours before tip-off and play like belligerent drunks. And who could resist a team full of pretty boys with million-dollar, bright white, Hapee toothpaste smiles?

One last example, and it's going to be low brow, but there are just too many people named "Bong" here. I've been in the country less than four weeks and have already played basketball with three separate Bongs, been served by a waiter named Bongrex and eaten at another place called Bong's Bar and Grill. English is way too widely spoken here. There is no excuse. If the word "nomenklatura" exists, than somebody must know what a "bong" is, and it's not a 5'4'' guy with a deadly-accurate set shot.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bong vs. Kong. Talibanwagon versus TheLittleRedWagon. Yep. Can't escape the dichotomies of a world in crisis. The ability to put a name on something, a thing or an idea, a wisp or a concept, when you give something a moniker, you somehow give it respect. Even if you hate & despise it, you dignify it by naming it. Then others can come behind you and either change the name, or begin to add sub-facts/ideas/etc. beneath the original name. All this to further pin something down, develop it, tame it, know it, conquer it. Man tries to conquer everything by knowing it, fixing it in time, in a book, as an artifact, even an idea as an artifact; it's Collingwood's paradigm deal, and each culture seems stuck in his respective paradigm, no way out other than butchering the other guy until he yells uncle & goes home...Cigarettes? Hope. More. It doesn't get any better than this. The Filippinos are geniuses. Who could have guessed? Orwell would have eaten this stuff up, come up with a new book: DOWN BUT NOT OUT IN MANILA.
So now that you're into the nomenclature lesson, how about a post on sexual words and their meanings? Tagalog? Slang? Or is it not wise to go there on a blog like this? You might have to couch it in academic terms, nothing lascivious or lewd, word-wise, while discussing stuff. Actually, a dry presentation could be very witty in an understated way. Or not. Okay, I'm sitting here on the corner of Bond Street and the Bowery, and my battery is running low. Till next time, young fella. Old NYC Bum.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi - I was searching for blogs about associations and found yours. Reason I was searching for associations is I have one and I'm looking for ways people run theirs.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Traveller said...

"Bong" is a nickname for a junior, (i.e. If Fernando is the father's name Fernando Jr., the son, will be called Bong by his friends)

11:27 AM  

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