26 December 2008
Kuwadro / Portrait 3
The climax of the play occurs with Katerina cursing Don Isagani with the Tagalog cuss words "Putang-ina niya!" I had to change the Tagalog to the Spanish "Hijo de puta!" when the play was anthologized for a secondary school textbook, at the request of teachers in a Catholic school; otherwise the textbook would not have been adopted. Curiously, the Spanish (which is a literal equivalent of the Tagalog) sounds a bit less vulgar to Philippine ears. In the English version, I used the pretty mild "That son of a bitch!" The English doesn't even begin to approach the complex sharpness of the Tagalog curse. When spoken in an American film, SOB has little shock value, but when spoken in a Tagalog film, "Putang-ina" still surprises. The three versions (Tagalog, Spanish, English) of exactly the same literal meaning (referring to the mother's less than exemplary sexual behavior) show why the language makes a lot of difference to the literariness.