There is no doubt by now that "Putang Ina," a Filipino expletive used by President Rody Duterte in replying to a media reporter's question on his reaction to the possibility that US President Barack Obama would raise human rights issues in their Laos meeting, is now the most studied and dissected line.
The expletive, commonly used by Filipinos, as Americans do with "sonofabitch" or "fucking shit," has gained world-wide attention since President Duterte blurted it out in front of international media men creating a diplomatic uproar because it was interpreted as a cuss line directed at President Obama.
Filipino interpreters working for the international media translated the line as "Son of a Whore" which they said was an insult on the American President.
What followed was an announcement by the US State Department that the scheduled talks between President Duterte and President Obama in Laos were "rescheduled" for some other time.
President Duterte also issued a clarification made in an official statement that the use of the words "Putang Ina!" was not directed at President Obama and should not be taken as an insult.
Obviously, whoever translated "putang ina" to mean "Son of a Whore" and claimed that President Duterte used it to insult the American President did not fully understand the contextual meaning of the expletive or was motivated by a malicious intent to put the Philippine President in a bad light.
What is the real meaning of "Putang Ina" and other Filipino cuss words derived from the expletive?
For purposes of really understanding the Filipino street language, let me, a former journalist who also uses the same expression from time to time, provide the contextual meaning of the phrase which nearly strained Philippine-American relations.
"Putang Ina" is a Filipino expletive which is a derivative of the Spanish cuss line "Hijo de Pota," which literally means "Son of a Whore."
There are other variations of this cuss line. In the Hiligaynon-speaking Visayas, they use "Yodipoga."
The Tagalogs have more colourful versions of derivatives from the Spanish cuss line such as "Nak ng puta" (Son of a Whore), "Anak ng Tipaklong" (Son of a Grasshopper), "Anak ng Kamatis" (Son of a Tomato) and other similar expressions.
But back to "Putang Ina." Is it really an insult?
No. Through generations of common usage, the expletive has actually lost its derogatory meaning and is commonly employed by many Filipinos in day to day conversations.
"Tang-ina, ang galing mo!" means "wow, you're really good."
"Tang-inang buhay ito oh!" means "this life sucks!"
"Tang-ina, bilisan nyo naman," means "f..k man, hurry up!"
"Tang-ina, ang hirap ng exam," means "Sh.t man, the exams were really tough."
Depending on the mood of the people using it, the phrase "Putang Ina" could take a jovial form or an expression of extreme exasperation, disappointment and even admiration.
Generally, "Putang Ina," while it may sound very vulgar and is not openly used in formal conversations, has lost its original insulting meaning and has become a common Filipino expression.
It only becomes offensive when the line is directed at a person, as in "Putang Ina Mo!" which means "Your Mother is a Whore."
That is considered a personal insult and it could cost one's life when it is directed at a person.
So, how did President Duterte use the phrase "putang ina" in his answer to a reporter's question on how he would react to the reports that President Obama would raise human rights issues in their meeting in Laos?
I viewed the video clip and it was clear that President Duterte used it as an expression of anger and it was not directed as an insult to the American President.
It is very clear that the phrase was used by President Duterte as an expression of anger and not an insult on President Obama because of the absence of the object word "mo," as in "Putang Ina Mo!" which would have referred to the American President.
Whoever translated President Duterte's usage of the cuss line to mean that he was calling President Obama as a "Son of a Whore" simply did not understand the context of the phrase.
Or it could be that the interpreter represented a group out to destroy a President who uses "colourful" language.
The fact is "Putang Ina," even if translated literally, does not even mean "Son of a Whore."
It means "Mother Whore."
Source: Manny Piñol