FILIPINO SIGNS OF WIT
Nury Vittachi – The Far Eastern Economic Review
This week, we shall take a “reading tour” of one of the most spirited communities in Asia. The Philippines is full of word play. The local accent among many Filipinos, in which English words with “F” are spelled and pronounced with the sound of “P” and V is pronounced as “B” (because the Philippine alphabet has no letters F or V), is often used very cleverly, such as, the sign in a flower shop in Diliman called Petal Attraction.
Much of the word play in the Philippines is deliberate with retailers and various businesses favoring a play on names of Western establishments and celebrities (Americans, in particular—movie stars and entertainment personalities, especially).
For example, there is a bread shop in Manila called Anita Bakery, a 24-hour restaurant called Doris Day and Night, a garment shop called Elizabeth Tailoring, and a barber shop called Felix The Cut.
Reader Robert Harland also spotted a bakery named Bread Pitt, and a Makati fast-food place selling “maruya” (banana fritters) called Maruya Carey. Then, there are Christopher Plumbing, and a boutique called The Way We Wear ; a video rental shop called Leon King Video Rental; a restaurant in the Cainta district of Rizal called Caintacky Fried Chicken, a local burger restaurant called Mang Donald’s, a doughnut shop called MacDonuts , a shop selling “lumpia” (egg roll) in Makati called Wrap and Roll, and two butcher shops called Meating Place and Meatropolis.
Smart travelers can decipher what may look like baffling signs to unaccustomed foreigners by simply sounding out the “Taglish” (the Philippine version of English words spelled and pronounced with a heavy Filipino accent), such as, at a restaurant menu in Cebu : “We hab sopdrink in can an in batol” [translation: We have soft drinks in can and in bottle]. Then, there is a sewing accessories shop called Bids And Pises (translation: Beads and Pieces –or– Bits and Pieces).
There are also many signs with either badly chosen or misspelled words, but they are usually so entertaining that it would be a mistake to “correct” them. A reader named Antonio “Tonyboy” Ramon T. Ongsiako, (now there’s a truly Filipino name), contributed the following interesting Philippine signs and advertisements:
In a restaurant in Baguio City (the “summer capital” of the Philippines ): “Wanted: Boy Waitress”; on a highway in Pampanga: “We Make Modern Antique Furniture;” on the window of a photography shop in Cabanatuan : “We Shoot You While You Wait;” and on the glass front of a cafe in Panay Avenue in Manila : “Wanted: Waiter, Cashier, Washier.”
Some of the notices can even give a wrong impression, such as, a shoe store in Pangasinan which has a sign saying: “We Sell Imported Robber Shoes” (these could be the “sneakiest” sneakers); and a rental property sign in Jaro, Iloilo reads: “House For Rent, Fully Furnaced” (it must really be hot inside)!
Occasionally, one could come across signs that are truly unique–if not altogether odd. Reader Gunilla Edlund submitted a sign that she saw at the ticket booth in the ferry pier in Davao City in southern Philippines , which said: “Adults: 1 peso; Child: 50 centavos; Cadavers: fare subject to negotiation.”
European tourists may also be intrigued to discover two competing shops selling hopia (a Chinese pastry) called Holland Hopia and Poland Hopia, which are owned and operated by two local Chinese entrepreneurs, Mr. Ho and Mr. Po respectively–(believe it or not)!
According to Manila businessman, Tonyboy Ongsiako, there is so much wit in the Philippines because “. . .we are a country where a good sense of humor is needed to survive. We have a 24-hour comedy show here called the government and a huge reserve of comedians made up mostly of politicians and retiring actors.
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