A keen observer would find it amusing that the standard “Komusta ka?” (“How are you?”, derived from the Spanish ‘Como esta’?), has been supplemented today by a variety of Americanisms (“Wazzup?” “Hi, hello!”) as well as greetings that skip formality altogether, almost prying in tone as in “Nang balita?”—what’s new with you.
Time was when our everyday greetings were expressed with respect, always punctuated by “po or pu”, a polite word which we hear often, but now speak less. “Dispu”, derived from “Dios pu”, bestows upon the person being greeted, a kind of divine respect. Hence, when one says “Benging dispu’, it means more than just “Good evening’ (“Mayap a bengi”) , but with it comes a wish for an evening blessed with God’s grace.
Traditional Kapampangan greetings always elevate the stature of the person being addressed, as in the greeting "Siklaud ku pu" (Let me kneel before you), used for our elders. This practice of humbling one’s self in the presence of another is also observed in written sentiments. A person will give his photo to another accompanied by a dedication that almost smacks of self-deprecation: “Maluca queng yampang ing matsura kung letratu keka’ (“I humbly give my ugly picture to you).
The all-purpose greeting “Luid ka/ Maluid ka!” is our equivalent of “Mabuhay” and is used to wish someone welcome, congratulations, good health and a prosperous life. There are specific greetings for special occasions like birthdays, however: “Masayang aldo ning kekang kebaitan!” or a simple “Masayang kebaitan keka!” are our translations of “Happy Birthday!”, but the usage of that English greeting—with the localized pronunciation “Hapi Bertdey!”, is much more pervasive nowadays.
During the Spanish colonial times, the generic greeting “Felicidades!” (Felicitations!) was widely used for such occasions as Christmas, New Year and Graduation. The greeting appeared widely on business cards of Kapampangan professionals like doctors, dentists and lawyers. Tagalogs greeted their own with “Magandang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon” or the more current “Masayang Pasko at Masaganang Bagong Taon”. Our counterpart is “Masayang Pasku at Masaplalang Bayung Banwa”.
When a brief phrase or two was not enough to express his sentiments, a Kapampangan would often resort to poetry, florid and profound, gushing with praise and well-wishes, as in this dedication written by an admirer to a lady friend in Sta. Rita:
Queca cu ngeni papabal
Carin cu naman yayampang
Ini nang tula cung dacal
Pagnasan cu itinang
Fiesta mu ngening dinatang
Pasayan na ngan ding sablang
Magum qng quecang camalan.
Magluid sana ing bie mu
Queting mabilug a yatu
Layun sanang nabangnan mu
Yng tulang panenayan mu
To you I make known
And also to you I offer
My overflowing joy
On this your feast day (birthday) that has come
It is my wish that your feast day
In this whole world
And may you find the happiness
That you have been waiting for.
Kapampangans, they say, are brash, loud and ‘mayabang’—but our traditional forms of greetings and salutations disprove all that—they are polite, respectful, sincere. I don’t hear much of “dispu” nowadays, but “opu and pu” are still there—still used by kids when addressing their elders, although in “jejemonized” form when spelled in text messages. Which is a good thing, as our regard for other people seems to diminish with the advent of new media. We are quick to post insults on facebook, lambast someone on our blogs and make careless remarks in forums. Let’s bring back the era of a polite society, so we can bring humanity back to man. Ne po?