16 February 2014

Sir, What is Pagerper?

And just when I begin to feel that I have come to a point in life when I have seen and heard it all, I get a reminder that – uhm – I really haven’t.

Kirk – obviously not his real name – is Fil-American born and raised in LA to BatangueƱo parents. He has lived in Batangas for – methinks – more than half a decade now.

Now a college junior, he went to high school in a local private academy. He still speaks English with the accent of a native North American; but can speak Tagalog with the thick and unmistakable accent of one Batangas born and raised.

Segue to futsal yesterday with my club, composed of players who I myself coached when they were in high school.

While the others played, I was on the bleachers with a couple of boys gossiping about Rem – obviously not his real name too – who was their high school teammate and who is also a member of our club.


I was momentarily tempted to turn to euphemism and say something poetic like “a sweet painted lady.” But I decided that the best way to educate him was straight to the point.
The problem with the state of football in Batangas is that there are probably too many clubs or teams and just way too few players. That is why it is not uncommon for some players to hop from one team to another whenever one of those fairly frequent football festivals is being held.

Rem is one of those. He is officially part of a university team in the province; but apart from this also represents a club in a neighbouring city whilst also a member of our club.

Moreover, because Rem is a skilful player, he is always being asked to join many of those impromptu little teams that boys oh-so-love to form for these little festivals.

“On loan” is how one of my club-mates calls players like him. “On call” probably is the more appropriate term, in reference to a type of employment in which one is employed on short term bases when the needs arise.

I have a more colourful term. “Iyang si Rem,” I told the two boys I was gossiping with, “pagerper ‘yan!”

Note that Kirk wasn’t even part of our conversation; but he was sitting close by and was apparently listening in. We were just having fun, in all honesty.

Without any warning, Kirk cut in with this question, “Sir, ano ‘yung pagerper?”

If ever a question could kill, it was that! I almost fell flat on my face and died a totally undignified death.

Was the boy serious?

In all the years he has lived in this province of ours, had no one ever – ever! – used in his presence one of the most iconic words in the colourful BatangueƱo dialect?

I don’t have a clue about the etymology of the word and I’m sure it is used in neighbouring provinces; but I was sure until yesterday that everyone knew what the word means.

But the boy was dead serious, even if I was darned close to bursting into teeny bits from the sheer hilarity of the situation.

I was momentarily tempted to turn to euphemism and say something poetic like “a sweet painted lady.” But I decided that the best way to educate him was straight to the point.

“Ang pagerper Kirk,” I said, “is a whore.”

It was like Thomas Edison when he turned on the first electric light bulb. I enriched his vocabulary by just one word; but the humour of the situation was priceless!

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