I’m not kidding.
The Philippine Supreme Court ruled in 1969, and affirmed in another decision in 2006, that in effect, onion-skinned people like President Obama — or his stupid advisers and uninformed foreign press— shouldn’t really be offended and think that their dearly beloved mothers’ virtues are defamed when the word ”putang ina,” or even the more direct ”putang ina mo,” is used in statements directed at them.
In 1961, an employee at the Naval Exchange in Sangley Point, Rosauro Reyes, got so angry with the store’s managers, especially one Agustin Hallare, for firing him, together with 20 others. Reyes pursued Hallare to his home, and as he was closing the gate, the angry man shouted at the manager: “Agustin, putang ina mo. Agustin, mawawala ka. Lumabas ka, papatayin kita.”
Hallare filed a case accusing the employee of two crimes: grave threat (for saying he will kill him) and oral defamation (for his putang ina). Hallare, in his complaint, claimed that Reyes’ insult, “Agustin, putang ina mo,” “if translated into English means, ‘Agustin, your mother is a whore.’” (That exactly was how the foreign press translated President Duterte’s “putang ina mo” as part of his comment on a reporter’s question about US President Obama during a pre-departure press conference in Manila before his Laos trip. That, of course, sent shock waves around the world.)
The Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling convicting Reyes of both crimes. But Reyes appealed to the Supreme Court in 1962. In 1969 the High Tribunal affirmed his conviction for the crime of grave threat (for threatening to kill Hallare). However, it acquitted him of oral defamation, for his “putang ina mo.”
In its en banc decision written by Justice Querube Makalintal (who later served as Chief Justice from 1973 to 1975), the Supreme Court declared:
“’Putang ina mo’ is a common enough expression in the dialect that is often employed, not really to slander but rather to express anger or displeasure. It is seldom, if ever, taken in its literal sense by the hearer, that is, as a reflection on the virtues of a mother. “
That’s what I said, ahem, in my column Wednesday.
The Supreme Court made that “putang ina” decision part of jurisprudence by citing it in another case (Villanueva v People, G.R. No. 160351) 2006, with Associate Justice Minitia V. Chico Nazarario as ponente:
“In Reyes v. People [137 Phil. 112, 120 (1969)], we ruled that the expression putang ina mo is a common enough utterance in the dialect that is often employed, not really to slander but rather to express anger or displeasure. In fact, more often, it is just an expletive that punctuates one’s expression of profanity.”
But really, blame putang ina mo and the brouhaha it created in our relations with the US to our Spanish colonizers, and the Americans’ limited and unimaginative vocabulary for its expletives:
Putang ina came from the Spanish favorite expletive “hijo de puta,” which is still commonly used by Ilonggos (although pronounced as “yodeputa”), especially by those who want to send the message that they are not from the lower classes who utter putang ina. That is why Mar Roxas sounded so fake when he shouted putang ina in an anti-Arroyo rally. Everyone knew he would have used what would have sounded yodeputa.
Obama’s or his advisers’ shock at Duterte’s putang ina is due to the fact that except for “motherfucker,” which really doesn’t refer to the mother, and the rather ambiguous “son of a bitch,” there isn’t an American expletive that accuses a mother of the oldest profession outright. “Your mother is a whore” (stupid foreign journalists’ translation of Duterte’s putang ina) is an accusation, a statement, not an expletive like “putang ina”.
Tricia Zafra wrote an excellent blog piece in which she cited a list prepared by a Michael Estrada, who claimed that most Spanish curses are “mother-directed,” such as hijo de puta (son of a bitch), puta madre (bitch mother) and tu puta madre me la chupa (your bitch mother sucks my dick).
Citing a 2015 BBC article by James Harbeck (“Mind your Language! Swearing Around the World”), Zafra wrote: “The Latin culture has also been specified by Harbeck as among those that have the mother involved most in a list of offensive language. These cultures tend to be extended-family rather than nuclear-family societies.” Hello, Philippines.
Harbeck also pointed out: “The cultures that swear the most about mothers tend to swear about prostitutes a lot, too.” It seems to me that the Spanish, and most probably their colonized peoples, are obsessed with prostitutes in a love-hate relationship, even as they are mamas’ boys yet hate being so.
In contrast, Americans, as in their cuisine, are unimaginative in their expletives, which are as limited as the menu of their fast-food eateries: the all-time favorite “fuck,” “shit,” “bitch,” “bastard,” “asshole,” “cunt,” and “faggot.” Even their British cousins have more colorful expletives, “bollocks” and “bugger” being among my favorites.
Compare these with the height of imagery by certain Spanish expletives that would have made Obama nuke us if Duterte had uttered them: Jode tu madre ayer noche; Yo cago en la leche de tu puta madre; or even Tu hermano no tiene la ingle.
While we may fault Americans for their lack of imagination in their expletives, we should admire them for making the common term for that biblical injunction to multiply — “fuck” — their all-time favorite expletive, a magical word, as my former guru Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) explained:
“Just by its sound it can describe pain, pleasure, hate and love,” Osho pointed out. He explains: “In language, it falls into many grammatical categories. It can be used as a verb, both transitive (John fucked Mary) and intransitive (Mary was fucked by John), and as a noun (Mary is a fine fuck). It can be used as an adjective (Mary is fucking beautiful).”
“As you can see, there are not many words with the versatility of ‘fuck.’ Besides the sexual meaning, there are also the following uses:
Fraud: I got fucked at the used car-lot; Ignorance: Fucked if I know; Trouble: I guess I am fucked now! Aggression: Fuck you! Displeasure: What the fuck is going on here? Difficulty: I can’t understand this fucking job; Incompetence: He is a fuck-off; Suspicion: What the fuck are you doing?
Enjoyment: I had a fucking good time; Request: Get the fuck out of here! Hostility: I am going to knock your fucking head off! Greeting: How the fuck are you? Apathy: Who gives a fuck? Innovation: Get a bigger fucking hammer. Surprise: Fuck! You scared the shit out of me! Anxiety: Today is really fucked.”
May I add its use to express outrage: What the fuck has become of our country?
(Note: My gratitude to reader Jose Oliveros, who pointed out the Supreme Court decision I discussed through his comments on my column Wednesday.)
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