"Banaklaot" a painting by Vicente Manansala
In general, a Pinoy will resort to quoting proverbs if he wishes to express himself eloquently, or if he wishes to fancy himself as a sage of wisdom. Defined interchangeably as "ornament to the language," "words of our ancestors," and "wisdom of experience," salawikain, as is called in Tagalog, are sayings that are steeped in traditional Filipino culture and wisdom. They are forceful expressions cloaked in poetry, and are basically euphemistic passages that not too infrequently enter daily conversations. They can be used to emphasize a point or even to punctuate an ending to a rancorous discussion. This does not, however, guarantee that the discussion will end there if the party at whom a particularly biting proverb was just thrown comes back instantaneously with a choice proverb of his own to counter what was dished out to him. If both parties happen to be well-versed in proverbs and if they are so inclined, they could end up engaging in a form of poetic joust worthy of a balagtasan, using proverbs as their weapons right in front of the barrio sari-sari store. Such a scene - found perhaps only in the Philippines - would invariably attract onlookers and passersby who will, in no time, form opposing camps to cheer on their favorite discussant. Bets might even be waged amid much laughter and good-natured ribbing. Soon, bettors could be heard above the din, "Sa pula o sa puti, kanino ka?" The upside to this real-life anecdote is that because of the support that each received from the bi-partisan crowd, both discussants would feel vindicated and would become less and less combative. In the end, the pair would almost always shake hands, embrace each other with a smile, and part as friends again. And to think that it all started with a proverb. This is an exaggeration, of course, but you get the drift.
Salawikain can also be used prefatorily as a sort of disclaimer to a statement when the speaker is about to say something that may offend a particular individual or group. Thus, when Mr. Willy Rabara Francia prefaces his statement that may offend some people concerning his aversion to having to read endless discussions in the ZF2 discussion forum about international affairs at the expense of devoting equal time to his beloved San Felipe with the proverb, "Bato-bato sa langit, pag tinamaan huwag magagalit" (a stone thrown heavenward, if you get hit on its way down, don't get mad), Mr. Francia hopes to accomplish two things: to absolve himself of responsibility for any resentment that his statement might generate and to forewarn affected individuals not to get angry when they are struck by the stone thrown heavenward.
It also seems that when a Pinoy wishes to be more emphatic and finds run-of-the mill, ordinary words are not convincing enough to agree, to disagree, to warn, to lecture, or to advice, he will often quote the appropriate proverb. Because a proverb may be similar, contradictory, or supplementary to another, the speaker or speakers - as illustrated in the sari-sari store anecdote above - will likely use a proverb that supports his viewpoint on a particular issue. Handed down from generation to generation, salawikain is as easily committed to memory as recalling it at appropriate times. What gives proverbs much weight and credibility are their universal wisdom, not to mention the wit and humor contained therein that invariably add spice to the Pilipino language. To examine a salawikain is to capture the essence of the Filipino soul and his way of life.
So, without further ado, here is a sampling of some of the most enduring Filipino proverbs that, in my judgment, best illuminate the character of the Filipino, his philosophy and his values. Arranged in no particular order, the proverbs are presented in their original Tagalog version, along with their English translations. Where a literal translation might sound awkward and does not do justice to the value of the proverb, an equivalent translation is provided. Please also know that in the process of translating the original poetic lines of the proverb, the richness of the original flavor may have been lost. Rest assured that, in translating, I have taken great care in preserving the original intent and wisdom of the salawikain wherever possible.
Kung sino ang pumutak ay
malakas, magwatak-watak at babagsak.
Matibay ang walis, palibhasa'y magkabigkis.
Walang palayok na walang kasukat na
Sa taong walang takot, walang
mataas na bakod.
bayaning nasusugatan, nagiibayo ang tapang.
Marami ang matapang sa bilang, ngunit ang buo ang
loob ay kulang.
Kung ano ang puno, siya ang bunga.
Kung walang tiyaga, walang nilaga.
Kung may tinanim, may aanihin.
Huli man daw at
magaling, naihahabol din.
Aanhin pa ang damo, kung patay na
nagigipit, sa patalim kumakapit.
Ang tunay na anyaya, sinasamahan ng hila.
Ang taong walang kibo, nasa loob ang
na ang takalan, kailangan kalusan.
Kung di ukol, di bubukol
Kung may isinuksok, may madudukot.
Habang maikli ang kumot, matutong mamaluktot.
Ang magalang na sagot,
nakakapawi ng pagod.
ay gumagaan, kung pinagtutulungan.
Ubos-ubos biyaya, pagkatapos nakatunganga.
Pagkahaba-haba man daw ng
prusisyon, sa simbahan din ang tuloy.
Ang buhay ay parang gulong, minsang nasa
ibabaw, minsang nasa ilalim.
Ang hindi marunong magmahal sa
sariling wika, daig pa ang malangsang isda.
Ang umaayaw ay di nagwawagi,
ang nagwawagi ay di umaayaw.
Malaking puno, ngunit walang lilim.
Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa.
Madali ang maging tao, mahirap magpakatao.
Ang gawa sa pagkabata, dala
Kung sino ang masalita ay siyang kulang sa gawa.
Daig ng maagap ang taong masipag.
Ako ang nagbayo, ako ang nagsaing, saka ng maluto'y
iba ang kumain.
Kunwaring matapang, bagkus duwag naman.
Bago ka bumati ng sa ibang uling, uling mo muna ang
Walang naninira sa bakal kundi sariling kalawang.
Walang lumura sa langit na di sa
kanyang mukha nagbalik.
Di lahat ng kagalingan ay may dalang katamisan.
Di lahat ng kapaitan ay tanda ng kasamaan.
Pulutin ang mabuti, ang masama ay iwaksi.
Ang maniwala sa sabi-sabi, walang bait sa sarili.
Malakas ang bulong
sa lupa na hindi dinilig ng luha.
Ang kaginhawaan ay nasa kasiyahan, at wala sa kasaganaan.
Ang pagsasabi ng
tapat ay pagsasamang maluat.
Kung saan ang hilig duon mabubuwal.
Yaong mapag-alinlangan, madalas mapagiwanan.
Nakikita ang butas ng karayom,
hindi nakikita ang butas ng palakol.
Ang pili ng pili, natatapat sa bungi.
Ano man ang gawa at
dali-dali ay hindi iigi ang pagkakayari.
Ang taong walang pilak ay parang ibong walang pakpak.
Mainam na ang pipit na nasa
kamay kaysa lawing lumilipad.
Ang araw bago sumikat nakikita muna'y banaag.
Walang mahirap na gawa pag dinaan sa tiyaga.
magtiwala sa di mo kakilala.
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