Sunday, February 24, 2008

HHV: Mikey and her sister, Dadong and her daughter

One of my favorite columnists, whose prose is normally elegant and correct, recently made a slip and came up with these sentences:

"Presidential daughter Evangeline 'Luli' Arroyo said the younger De Venecia’s drug use might have affected his thinking. / Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel 'Mikey' Arroyo, the President’s son, admitted harboring ill feelings toward De Venecia III. HE agreed with HER sister that drugs might have caused hallucinations."

If it's any consolation to one of my favorite columnists, hindi siya nag-iisa. As the Roman poet Horace once said, "Even Homer nods"--and he wasn't talking of Homer Simpson. Below are three columns I wrote long, long ago on the subject of HHV, a.k.a. His-Husband Virus, along with HHV samples I have been collecting over the years.

Dadong and her daughter, Flor and his husband

"Carabeef Lengua"
Jose F. Lacaba
Sunday Times Magazine, 1995 June 7

RUMORS and police states sometimes have a way of prematurely killing off people, but the Philippine media have a special way of murdering the Queen's English.

Just this week, former President Diosdado Macapagal was rumored to have suffered a massive heart attack. “But,” one broadsheet reported in literally bold letters immediately below the fold, “when her daughter Gloria showed up at the Philippine International Convention Center for the proclamation [of senators], the rumors died down.”

Sometime after Singapore hanged Flor Contemplacion for allegedly strangling Delia Maga, another broadsheet garroted grammar with equal dispatch. Citing the testimony of Herminia M. Manzanilla, a domestic helper who worked in the same apartment building as Contemplacion, the daily noted that “Flor had mentioned how cheaply she had bought some watches for his husband Efren.”

The italics reveal a feature of Filipino English that I wrote about only last December in another publication, but which I am constrained to write about again because I have compiled a new list of citations.

In standard English, which is to say, the English used in the greater part of the globe, the pronoun takes the gender of its antecedent. Thus, in the sentence “The mother loves her son,” her is feminine because the mother is female.

But for some strange reason, a recent trend in Filipino English is for the singular pronoun to acquire the gender, not of its antecedent, but of the noun it modifies.

My previous piece on the subject was entitled “He Raped Her Own Daughter,” and it trotted out the following citation from a now-defunct broadsheet as the quintessential example of this curious trend: “Investigation showed that [Mario] Vallejo had been raping her daughter since she was 10.”

The quintessential example found a villainous twin in the April 6, 1995, issue of a still extant broadsheet. Its Metro section reported that one Roberto Abanador “started raping her younger daughter one night in 1992.”

1992 was also the year I started gathering samples of this distinctly Pinoy way with English pronouns. That was the year a magazine I was then editing came up with this lulu, which I caught only after the fact: “Aside from his duties as vice-mayor of Parañaque, Joey is preparing to direct and star in a new sex-comedy, with her wife of course.”

Now that Joey Marquez is mayor, he should be giving his wife a more politically-and pronominally-correct role.

Parenthetically, snooty sectors used to make fun of the Erap English that Marquez's wife Almo Moreno allegedly perpetrated, but it wasn't Alma who was responsible for this front-page news item in 1993: “Child actor Vandolph, visibly scared, showed up at the Bureau of Immigration yesterday accompanied by her mother, actress Alma Moreno.”

With 1995 only half-way through, I have already come up with the following additional citations, all culled from respectable, fairly well-edited broadsheets, not from your run-of-the-mill tabloids and fanzines that play fast and loose with language as much as with facts:

“Real-estate businessman Johnny Ramos carries her two-year-old daughter Nicole who was allegedly kidnapped by Rosita de la Cruz, Ruben Soriaga and Joel Isedera last Sunday.” (Photo caption, January 25, 1995.)

“It was during that time when he [sic; this refers to feminist Aurora Javate de Dios] met his future husband, Angelito de Dios.” (Feature, January 29, 1995.)

“A beauty queen-turned-actress was apparently punched by his father.” (Gossip column, February 23, 1995.)

“… the book The Fooling of America (The Untold Story of Carlos P. Romulo) by Pedro Andrade, dismissing the late statesman as a fraud and devoting a few pages to her widow as a mediocre writer.” (Gossip column, April 9, 1995. Incidentally, a book subtitle, when used in a prose piece, is normally preceded by a colon instead of enclosed in parentheses; but that is another story, and besides, I haven't seen this particular book.)

No linguist or grammarian, as far as I know, has yet ventured to give a plausible explanation for the plight of the English pronoun in the Philippine media. So, until Pinoy Eng 101 is offered in some university's Philippine Studies program, it remains for this language loony to make a wild guess.

My personal theory is that the language of an earlier colonizer has been playing tricks with the phonetic, semantic, lexical, grammatical, and syntactical structure of Filipino English.

Spanish gave us such filanglicized words as aggrupation, fiscalize, and oppositor. It may also have indirectly influenced the gender agreement of adjectival pronoun and modified noun in Filipino English.

In Spanish, article and adjective take the gender of the noun they modify: el niño bonito, las flores rojas, la sierra morena. It doesn't require much of an imagination to see the relationship between el marido and his husband, la esposa and her wife, la hija and her daughter.


Slip of the lengua

"Carabeef Lengua"
Jose F. Lacaba
Sunday Times Magazine, 1995 June 19

THE HIS-HUSBAND SYNDROME. Two Sundays ago, in a disquisition entitled “Dadong and Her Daughter, Flor and His Husband,” this column took note of the tendency in Filipino English “for the singular pronoun to acquire the gender, not of its antecedent, but of the noun it modifies.”

Back issues of newspapers sitting in one corner of my workroom yielded more examples of “this distinctly Pinoy way with English pronouns.”

(A little editing has been done on texts so that misspellings, grammatical errors, and awkward syntax will not draw attention away from the his-husband syndrome.)

From a review (April 7, 1995) of the film The Last Seduction, starring Linda Fiorentino: “Linda’s character is always reducing men to silly putty—she moves through his men’s lives like a blender with stiletto heels.”

From a profile (May 13, 1995) of Frances Jane Abao, last schoolyear’s summa cum laude from the University of the Philippines in Diliman: “‘I guess she’ll be a writer, pero mas literary,’ says the obviously proud father, speaking on behalf of her eldest daughter.”

From an article (May 14, 1995) about mothers with gay sons: “The first inkling Ms. Nory Tolentino had that his son—publicist Joselito or ‘Toots’—might be gay was during his high school years.”

From the same article: “Unlike Ms. Tolentino, Lourdes Ortiz never really had to contend with inner wranglings about the homosexuality of his son, fashion designer Randy.”

From a movie-gossip column (May 14, 1995): “Phillip Salvador is in a dilemma. He has to make a choice, and it better be good: he has to either be at Kris’s bedside when she gives birth to their love child in June, or attend her eldest daughter’s graduation from high school in New York at about the same time.”

From another movie-gossip column (May 30, 1995), which quotes new actress Giselle “G” Toengi denying any relationship with actor Eric Fructuoso: “He’s just a good friend. … I know her girlfriend.”

And here’s a late-breaker! Just when I think my column is coming in early this time around, I come upon this item in a June 20 news report on the Vizconde massacre: “He said that her daughter had written to him about a spurned suitor.”


HHV positive

"Carabeef Lengua"
Jose F. Lacaba
Sunday Times Magazine, 1996 April 28

TWICE in this space (Sunday Times Magazine, June 11 and 25, 1995), I frothed at the mouth over the spread of something I called the his-husband syndrome.

This I described as a “distinctly Pinoy way with English pronouns,” and I defined it as the tendency in Filipino English “for the singular pronoun to acquire the gender, not of its antecedent, but of the noun it modifies.” Among the many egregious examples of this “syndrome” that I cited was the one after which I named the phenomenon: “Flor had mentioned how cheaply she had bought some watches for his husband Efren.”

In true scientific spirit, which requires a hypothesis to be revised if it is not supported by objective conditions, I hereby admit my mistake in speaking of this phenomenon as a syndrome. The dictionary defines syndrome as “a set of signs and symptoms that together indicate the presence of a disease or abnormal condition.” By extension, the medical term has also come to mean “a combination of opinions, behavior, etc., that are characteristic of a particular condition.”

In the case of the his-husband phenomenon, my scientific investigations have led me to conclude that what we have here is not a syndrome but a virus—a virus as debilitating, as dangerous, as deadly, as destructive as the Michelangelo computer virus or the human immunodeficiency virus.

I do not claim to have discovered the virus, but I expect to get a Nobel Prize in medical research for my collection of laboratory specimens of this organism—arguably the largest such collection in these parts. In view of my groundbreaking role in this endeavor, I hereby exercise my right to give the organism a habitation and a name: the his-husband virus, HHV for short, at the moment found only in the Philippines.

HHV probably causes AARGHS, the acquired acute recrudescent grammatical headache syndrome, but further tests may be necessary to determine this.

It is with the deepest sadness that I must now report a renewed outbreak of this ebullient virus. In a single recent issue alone (April 17, 1996), my favorite paper produced five HHV-positive citations.

One citation comes from an op-ed piece on whistle-blower Gloria Garabato: “She’s more popularly called the ‘pyramid-scam witness,’ who had linked his superiors to the latest financial scandal to hit the National Police hierarchy.”

The four other citations are from a front-page story on a teenage GRO who survived the Ozone fire. Edwin Rosales, father of the survivor, is reported to have “accused owners of the Ozone disco of child exploitation for hiring her daughter despite her minor age.” (Minor age is a mild case of dislocated idiom; but the disorder is not life-threatening, and we’ll let it pass.)

In the jump-page, we are then told that Edwin Rosales’s daughter, Micaela, “kept her work a secret from his father.” The report continues: “Her daughter, he said, was able to hide her job since she reported for work only on a part-time basis.” And further: “Rosales asked the NBI to provide protection for her daughter after they received several death threats from anonymous callers.” (Note that Micaela’s gender is carried over into the pronoun of work and job, but that the gender of father and daughter takes possession of the pronoun that precedes them.)

In a more recent issue (April 24, 1996) of the nation’s biggest daily, the virus appears twice in a report on imprisoned OCW Sarah Balabagan’s troubled parents. “Karim [Balabagan] reportedly wounded her wife Abai over an argument over donated money after their first visit to the UAE last year,” goes the page-one story. The jump page maintains the gender-crossing stance: “Karim denied he hurt her wife in an earlier interview with radio station dxMY in Cotabato City.”

Parenthetically, the two overs in the first sentence is distracting: “over an argument over donated money.” As the kids say: Oh-verrr! And the awkward structuring of the second sentence makes it appear that that the wife got hurt in the course of the interview. This is a bad case of the AARGHS; but you can always expect complications to arise when you’re afflicted with HHV.

Hereunder are a number of other HHV-positive cases I have come across since my last report on the subject. It must be noted that this is a random sampling, since I can’t afford to subscribe to all the Metro Manila broadsheets.

From a front-page caption (June 24, 1995) of a photograph showing a young woman beside an open casket: “Che-Che Aragon looks on his father, NBI Director Antonio Aragon, who died yesterday of a heart attack.”

From a report (August 27, 1995) on the alleged rape of a 12-year-old girl who got pregnant: “Marlon said his teachers and friends talked behind his back. No one wanted to get near him even. The whole neighborhood treated him warily. Even her 13-year-old sister was affected.”

From a column item (September 27, 1995) on actor Mark Anthony Fernandez’s crush on co-star Ana Roces: “Wasn’t it difficult doing Matimbang Pa sa Dugo with Ana Roces as her leading lady now that he’s lovey-dovey with onother girl?” Don’t ask me about onother; that’s another story.

From the caption (October 10, 1995) of a front-page color photo: “Tony Boy Lejano wipes his face while talking to her mother, actress Pinky de Leon, at the start of the Vizconde slay trial.”

From a column item (December 4, 1995) on the decision of Mr. Cruz (no first name mentioned) to allow daughter Sunshine Cruz to star in the sex film Virgin People: “Last we heard, Mr. Cruz has finally given his blessings. What probably made him change his mind is the prospect of international exposure for her daughter.” Sunshine Cruz, incidentally, is described by the same item as a “buxomy actress.” No such word in the dictionary; Sunshine is buxom and bosomy, or as they say in kanto-boy lingo: maganda ang hinaharap.

From another item in the same column (December 13, 1995), about Ina Raymundo’s screen partner: “That was probably the case with Paolo Abrera, his leading man in that beer commercial and its sequel, and now one of his three boyfriends in Sabado Nights the Movie.”

From a news story (March 9, 1996) about an incestuous rape: “She woke up when she felt someone go on top of her and was startled to see his father wearing nothing but his underwear and trying to take her clothes of. … To prevent from arousing suspicion, his father concocted a tale which pinned her pregnancies to alleged rapists who forcibly entered their house on separate occasions.” The second sentence reveals idiomatic deficiencies: to prevent from arousing suspicion, pinned her pregnancies to; again, we shall not attempt a treatment. The headline of this piece, by the way, got the girl’s gender right: “Two babies later, daughter reveals rape by her own father.”

I began my case studies with whistle-blower Gloria Garabato, and now I end with her. This is from a front-page story (March 29, 1996) about the lie detector test that she and her former boss took. Police Superintendent Virgilio Odulio, according to the story’s background information, “was implicated by her secretary, Gloria Victoria Garabato, as the mastermind behind the multimillion-peso pyramid racket at the National Police in Camp Crame.”

Incidentally, Gloria Victoria was gloriously victorious in the polygraph test. His boss failed—I mean, her boss.

This virus is virulent. It is the fervent hope of this report that disclosure and diagnosis of the above medical cases will impel editorial-desk doctors to find a cure for the strange epidemic caused by HHV.


Through the years, I have put together quite a sizable collection of HHV samples. Here are samples from the 21st century (names of authors and publications have been omitted to protect the guilty, including their editors):

The second one is PLDT’s IDD (international direct dial) telephone ad. It’s the more popular one, and features the ongoing story of a mother and her presumably unico hijo in the United States. The mother, a resolutely doting one, keeps calling her son up in the United States to inquire about his welfare. He tells her that he has met a nice girl, named Gracia, who is probably a Fil-Am to go by her name. The mother worries no end about the girl being too American, but her son keeps assuring her she will meet with her approval. As the story goes, the SON eventually tells HER mother SHE is going to marry Gracia and is going back to the Philippines to introduce Gracia to her. The subplot to the story is that the boy’s best friend, who turns out to be gay and has the hots for him, is devastated by the news.
--2001 August 2

A 23-year-old MAN allegedly shoved HER 21-year-old common-law wife from their 6th floor apartment, then himself jumped to his death yesterday morning in Tondo.
--2001 September 16

[Female actress Aleck] Bovick was involved in a legal battle with HIS father, Aurelio P. Tambis, who had asked the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to put HER daughter in jail for appearing in exploitative bold movies that showed her in several stages of nudity when she was only 17. The lawsuit has been settled, according to Bovick.
--2003 April 16, 2003

During the presidency of HER niece-in-law Corazon Aquino, HE [Hermie Aquino] was appointed executive secretary…
--2003 December 3

For his part, Tarlac Rep. BENIGNO “Noynoy” Aquino III, Kris’ older brother, told the same newscast that he respected HER sister’s feelings. The congressman, however, advised her not to give their 70-year-old mother, former President Corazon Aquino, “too much stress.”
--2003 December 16

Vina Morales, a guest at Eula’s wedding, came to Boracay with a guest of her own—a Malaysian GUY known only by HER first name, Sulayman. The guys is rumoured to be her current boyfriend.
--Unedited copy

An employee of Starbucks Coffee Shop and his girlfriend were abducted by two unidentified armed men shortly after they went out of the establishment Tuesday night in Muntinlupa City. / Sr. Supt. Roberto Rongavilla, Muntinlupa police officer-in-charge, identified the victims as Jeffrey Cruz, 26, a resident of Pilar Village, Las Piñas City, and KATRINA SCHOOS, 20, of Ayala-Alabang Village, Muntinlupa City…. / Schoos reportedly fetched HIS boyfriend at the said coffee shop….
--2005 January 13

HER dream is to complete HIS Dentistry course at the University of the East next April, pass the Board exams and practice her profession to help support her family and uplift it from want. / Now in her fifth and last year in Dentistry, Huwaran Luntian Galora, 23, had her dreamed [sic] almost sidetracked….
--2005 January 13

Police said the shooting incident in he house the Bagondon [sic] started when MARITES [Bagondon] confronted HIS live-in partner Oscar delos Reyes after he reportedly failed to go home last Sunday.
--2005 January 18

Now it can be told, Jenny Suico’s FATHER was just waiting for HER beloved daughter before finally signing off. Suico’s father, Aquilino de los Santos, passed away on Thursday, five days after she voluntarily left Pinoy Big Brother’s house purposely to attend to him.
--2005 September 24


ESU Philippines said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ESU Philippines said...

welcome to blogging, pete, and thanks for linking my blog to yours (i've done the same). you might want to use a free counter (check out for a way of monitoring traffic on your site--how many hits, from where, etc.

butch dalisay
(logging in under the blog account i hold for ESU philippines)

Brian Brotarlo said...

subject-verb agreement is a consistent problem among Filipino writers in English. This and the problem your article pointed out may have a lot to do with the non-existence of gender pronouns and connecting verbs (is, are) in our native tongues.

Filipinos educated in an english-speaking country do not have such problems, I've observed. Natively-taught writers in English do, no matter how masterful they are in the language.

Unknown said...

Hi Pete! First time to read your blogspot. Your HHV examples culled from newspapers etc are really funny.

I think (I hope!) I've got my English possessives right most times. I can imagine a lot of Pinoys getting confused since Filipino/Tagalog (and other Phil languages, I suppose) does not have gender-specific pronouns.

So you can imagine how my learning curve is being challenged by French which I am studying (intermittently, I'm afraid). HHV is the norm in French. If I want to say "He loves his mother. He loves his father." it's "Il aime sa mère. Il aime son père" which in the beginning for me, translated into "he loves her mother, he loves his father.". The possessive is determined by the gender of the noun being "possessed" and not the "possessor." (Ay ano ba yan, parang na possess na yata ako!)

The Pinoys and Pinay with HHV will not feel out of place in France.