Bigas or Palay?
As Filipinos, we should be very familiar with the different variations of “rice” – our staple diet. For Americans, it’s just “rice.” But it’s not as simple as that for us Filipinos who obviously can’t live without rice, even for those who are already residing in America or elsewhere in the world.
It took me a trip to a ricefield in the village of Mapanike in Candaba, Pampanga to recall these Filipino words for “rice”:
Bigas – raw, milled rice
Palay – raw, unmilled rice
Kanin – boiled rice
Malagkit – sticky rice
Tutong – boiled and burnt rice
Bahaw – left-over rice
Kaning-lamig – “cold” rice or rice stored in ref
Note the first two ones: “bigas” and “palay”. Yeah, I know that there is a difference between the two, one is milled and the other is unmilled. But for some reason, it slipped my mind when I was doing a standupper (that shot showing a reporter talking or demonstrating something in front of the camera) in Mapanike.
I was in the middle of the ricefield and in front of a group of farmers in the village when I said this out loud:
“Dahil sa pagpasok ng lupa, buhangin, at tubig-ulan, sa halip na dalawang-daang kaban ng BIGAS ay limampu na lang ang aanihin sa palayang ito.”
Naturally, after my standupper, someone from the crowd caught my attention and said that it should have been “palay” and not “bigas”. Only then did I realize na mali nga pala yung sinabi ko. This man is a farmer and obviously, he knows better than me when it comes to rice farming.
Pahiya tuloy ako hehehe. Oo nga naman, they harvest "palay" and not "bigas." Of course, I did a take two and said the right thing.
This mistake immediately brought to my mind something I think I came across in my English 100 class – that language is culture-bound. Since we are a rice-consuming country, naturally we have a thousand and one words for rice. Parallel to that, in Alaska, we should not be surprised that Eskimos have a thousand and one words too for “ice”. Of course, for us, it’s just “yelo”.
Right now, I’m also thinking, which country has the most number of variant words for “love”? Maybe they’re the most romantic people on earth hehehe.
Anyway, language is really tricky, especially for us journalists who are somehow, and sometimes, considered as the authority when it comes to pronunciation. So we better be careful on how we use and pronounce words.
Recently, there was a debate in our newsroom on how to correctly pronounce the word “tinataya”, meaning “estimated”. As in “Tinatayang dalawampung milyong piso ang napinsala ng bagyong Dodong sa buong bansa.”
Is it “ti-na-TA-ya” or “ti-na-ta-YA”? For a time, almost everyone was using “ti-na-TA-ya” because it’s what’s written in our pronunciation alert (our newsroom’s list of words and their correct pronunciation.) I was told reporters from the other station are also using “ti-na-TA-ya”.
I really thought it is, and it should be, “ti-na-ta-YA”. So to avoid joining the bandwagon, I just used “humigit-kumulang” or “more or less.” But “humigit-kumulang” is longer and more complicated than “tinataya” and in TV news, the simpler the better.
Fortunately, an opportunity to ask the experts came when I was in UP Diliman and did a story on the proposal to use Filipino as the primary medium of instruction in schools. As expected, no less than National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario and Filipino Prof. Jovy Peregrino simply told me it really is, and it really should be, “ti-na-ta-YA”.
So now, "tinataYA kong alam na ninyo ang pagkakaiba ng palay sa bigas."