05 September 2014

Why Do Batangueños Say ‘Ano Ga’ While Other Tagalogs Say ‘Ano Ba?’

Originally from the post "Batangas Signs" here on Life So Mundane.



I had written in a previous article that I have always found the Batangueño stereotype ‘ala eh’ not only annoying but also so totally inaccurate. We Batangueños do have a propensity to use the words ‘ala’ and ‘eh’ liberally; but seldom together as the stereotype has always suggested.

Be that as it may, that is just probably what other ethnicities notice about us as a people. Fair is fair because we do also have our own stereotypes of other cultures.

When I was in high school, there used to be this popular shirt with ‘Batangueño De La Salle’ printed in front and then the question “Ano ga?” at the back. The latter, I believe, is generally more descriptive of us Batangueños as a people than the exaggerated and derogatory ‘ala eh’ ever will be.

The short two-word statement can just as easily be a rude and irritable “What!” or a pleasant greeting that means, loosely translated, “How goes it?” or “How are you?”


When I was much younger, I used to hear the word ‘baga’ used a lot more by older folks here in Batangas. These days, ‘ba’ has become standard Tagalog while ‘baga,’ although still very much valid and will be understood, is something akin to hardcore Tagalog; i.e. almost archaic.
Provinces north of Batangas, of course, will prefer to say “Ano ba?” There is no difference because ‘ga’ and ‘ba’ mean the same.

Batangas, it has to be said, does not really own proprietary rights to the ‘ga.’ It is also used in Mindoro and communities in Quezon and Laguna close to those two provinces’ borders with Batangas.

San Pablo in Laguna, for instance, is a funny old city. One street can have decidedly Batangueño-sounding inhabitants while those of the next street speak more with the accent typical of the rest of Laguna.

Usage of the ‘ga’ is also by no means universal in Batangas.

Inhabitants of the province’s western municipalities prefer to use ‘bâ’ with the clipped glottal stop pronunciation of the ‘maragsâ’ vowel sound and speak with a decidedly less aggressive intonation than those of the province’s eastern section.

The border municipalities, I would say, are Lemery and Calacâ. I am reasonably certain that most if not all in Lemery prefer the ‘ga’ and some as far as Calacâ probably also do.

Starting from Balayan, however, and on to the municipalities of Calatagan, Lian and Nasugbu, usage of the ‘ga’ is laughed upon because the local preference is the ‘bâ.’ I ought to know. My own relations in Nasugbu used to laugh at us whenever we went to visit when we were kids.

What I would dearly love to discover is why or how the ‘ga’ became the ‘ba.’ Literature on Tagalog the language, however, is woefully limited over the Internet.

Of the Tagalog dictionaries that I tried, only one bothered to come up with a definition of ‘ba’ and calls it a participle, especially one used in the interrogative.

The Ilonggos have a similar word – balá. I used to hear this used a lot whenever my late father used to chat with his fellow Ilonggos. I asked him once what the word meant and he said it was similar in usage to ‘ba.’

The hint of Malay origin for both words is quite obvious.

I was trying to recall my high school Balarilâ (grammar) and if there is a difference in the meaning and usage of ‘ba’ and ‘baga.’ Regrettably, that was roughly four decades ago. Remembering is not so easy after forty years.

From practical usage, however, I am inclined to think that there really is none. Hence, ‘Ano ba ‘yan?’ can just as correctly be stated as ‘Ano baga ‘yan?’ Or, ‘Hindî ka pa ba aalis?’ can also be stated as ‘Hindî ka pa baga aalis?’

When I was much younger, I used to hear the word ‘baga’ used a lot more by older folks here in Batangas. These days, ‘ba’ has become standard Tagalog elsewhere while ‘baga,’ although still very much valid and will be understood, is something akin to hardcore Tagalog; i.e. almost archaic.

That is, except in certain communities in the Tagalog region. For instance, I used to have a colleague from the province of Rizal who was as wont to use ‘baga’ as much as the ‘ba.’

In Batangas, of course – at least in the eastern side as well as border communities of neighbouring provinces – ‘ga’ is widely preferred.

I really wish there was more literature on the Tagalog language over the Internet so we can all come up with a definitive reason why some Tagalogs use ‘ba’ while others prefer to use ‘ga,’ migration apart.

If I really had to at all come up with a hypothesis, I would stick to the obvious and cite the natural tendency of people to contract the words they say, whatever the culture

I often hear Ilonggos, for example, contract the ‘balá’ to ‘bla.’ Since the Tagalog ‘baga’ seems to have a cousin in the Ilonggo ‘balá,’ then both must be of Malay origin.

Is it not possible, then, that Tagalogs in Batangas preferred to shorten ‘baga’ to ‘ga’ until the latter came to be the norm; while those in the northern provinces preferred to shorten the word to ‘ba’ instead?

Let us use as an example the sentence “Hindî pa baga tayo aalis?” Contemporary Tagalogs in the northern provinces will say “Hindî pa ba tayo aalis?” Those in western Batangas will say “Hindî pa bâ tayo aalis?”

In eastern Batangas and neighbouring communities, however, the version will be “Hindî pa ga tayo aalis?” Each is as correct as the other; and despite the differences in accent, Tagalogs will understand each other.

I may be wrong, of course; and if there are linguistic experts who happen to come across this, please do enlighten me.

Hanggang dine na la-ang at ako’y hurindat na! Kayo ga?

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