Bugtong. They say it’s too old-school, boring and a form of literature facing imminent death. While hugot lines and jokes are all the rage these days, bugtong has been relegated to books rarely touched by youngsters who are growing up in this age of digital boom.
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For starters, bugtong is a Filipino riddle (palaisipan) that consists of two phrases that rhyme. It uses symbolism to describe a specific object, which the listener can guess by using his imagination.
Take the following riddle as an example:
Balong malalim, puno ng patalim
(Deep well, full of knives)
One should never take these words literally. By letting your imagination do the work, you’d picture a hollow cavity filled with cutting objects. The answer: mouth.
Some people may find it too puzzling, but that’s exactly what Pinoy riddle is all about. It challenges your wit, tests your familiarity with the surroundings and lets your imagination run wild.
Bugtong: An Essential Part of Filipino Culture.
The Pinoy riddle has been around for ages. Bugtong-bugtungan was a favorite pastime of early Filipinos. It’s also part of our folklore, grouped in the same category as the salawikain or proverbs.
In the book “The Riddles. Philippine Folk Literature Series. Vol. V,” Damiana Eugenio said:
“Riddles belong to large class of enigmatic and puzzling questions that one person poses to another during a riddling session. They rank with myths, fables, folktales and proverbs, most riddles are characterized by brevity, wit and felicitous phrasing, and as such effective ways of transmitting folk wisdom to succeeding generations in capsule form.”
Sadly, the same literary form that has survived many generations is now being neglected by the young Filipinos who should preserve it in the first place.
But are we supposed to let things as they are? Is it time to embrace the new and let go of the old?
As what German Gervacio’s “101 Bugtong na Hindi Alam ng Titser Mo” has proven, there’s actually a solution: create new riddles whose subjects are modern gadgets or terms that present-day Filipinos are familiar with.
This simple quiz is my attempt to modernize the way we play the traditional Filipino riddle. I hope this will encourage more projects that aim to preserve and protect the unique Filipino identity.
Eugenio, D. (1983). The Riddles. Philippine Folk Literature Series. Vol. V (1st ed.). Quezon City: University of the Philippine.
Gervacio, G. (2011). 101 Bugtong na Hindi Alam ng Titser Mo (1st ed.). University of Santo Tomas Publishing.
Mga Bugtong at Bugtungan. Katig.com. Retrieved 2 January 2017, from https://goo.gl/SVhNA6