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

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Catchin' the Holy Ghost

They say you should never judge a book by its cover. Well, when I saw the bright blue cover and the title of "Da Jesus Book" in a shabby, disorganized second-hand book store in Makati Cinema Square, I knew right then and there that I found something special.

Could you resist a cover like this?

What is Da Jesus Book? It's the New Testament translated into Hawaii pidgin English. And by writing about it, I'm going to potentially offend millions of people with my lack of religious, cultural and linguistic sensitivity. But the fact remains -- Da Jesus Book is 700 pages of pure comedic genius.

Here's a sample from Matthew, book 8, verses 1-4:

Jesus Make One Lepa Guy Come Good
Had one lepa guy wen go by Jesus, an go down in front him an beg him. He say, "If you like, you canmake me come good so I can go wit da odda peopo fo pray, yeah?
Jesus wen look at him, an he pity him. He touch da guy, an say, "Okay I do um. Come good." Right den an dea da lepa guy come good. No mo lepa!
Jesus wen talk strong to da guy. He tell um, 'Eh! You betta not tell nobody bout dis! Go let da priest guy check you out. No foget make da kine sacrifice now, jalike Moses wen tel inside God's Rules. Den everybody goin know dat you stay good now." Den he tell um fo go. But da guy, he go outside an tell everybody wat wen happen to him. So, Jesus no can stay inside da towns, but he gotta stay outside inside da boonies. An da peopo, day stay come from all ova da place fo hear him.

There isn't one page of this book that isn't written like this. It's truly an endless supply of giggles. And it's not because I'm just a jerk who likes to make fun of people who sound different from me. I taught ESL for four years and currently live in a country where everyone speaks there own version of English which is only outdone in brokenness by my Tagalog.

In spoken language, anything goes. Being able to express your needs so that whomever you're speaking to understands is all that matters. But in written language -- especially for semi-professional writers -- it's still really bizarre to see words like "peopo" and "spesho" in print. This sentiment applies to instant messaging, E-mails and text messages, where I capitalize, write in complete sentences and avoid contractions like "bcoz" and "2nyte." And the way printed pidgin is juxtaposed alongside the Bible in such a straight-faced manner -- something supposedly base with something supposedly holy -- makes it even funnier.

My kind of preacher.

Most of the preachers I've seen (admittedly, it's not that big of a number) have presented themselves as somehow above the masses to whom they preach. Maybe it's with their eloquence, or their garments, or they're actually standing above them in a pulpit. Reading Da Jesus Book is like being preached to by Buckwheat. When I look at the glossary of "Bible Kine Words" in the back of Da Jesus Book and read entries like "Cain: Adam's numba one boy. He wen get huhu wit his brudda Abel, an kill him," I can't stop myself from laughing. Maybe I'm a bad person. Maybe I need to turn in my Liberal New Yorker membership card, but it's the truth.

The back cover of Da Jesus Book shows quotes from satisfied readers. One, from a high school student in Nanakuli says, "I like dis Bible. I can undastan!" Another, from a Leeward Church churchgoer, proclaims, "Oh! Dass wat dat mean!" If this Bible exposes Hawaii pidgin speakers who couldn't understand the standard English versions of the book to Christ's teachings, it will probably be considered a success. But maybe the publishers haven't considered another potential audience for the book -- culturally insensitive jackasses. I would never have bought "The Holy Bible" in that store. But I saw "Da Jesus Book" and was rifling through my pockets for cash in a split second. Who knows, maybe reading the Buckwheat Bible from cover to cover will stir up the spirit inside me.


Anonymous Friend of Mr. Cosby said...

Mr. Vanilla,
Wait till Mr. Cosby reads this blog entry on the Good Book. The reason Mr. Cosby purchased all Little Rascals films and put them under lock and key was to put certain stereotypes to rest. You seem to want to resuscitate said stereotypes in the name of humor alone. Pidgin English from Hawaii? Is this Jesus book not a fabrication of some White Supremacist Sect, perhaps located in Hawaii? Or using Hawaii as a front? I will mention your site to Mr. Cosby for his perusal.

12:12 PM  

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