In Filipino, A Meteorite Is Called Taeng-Bituin

Literally, star shit. 

Ever wondered how our ancestors named objects around them? Imagine, thousands of years ago, when a meteorite fell in front of a certain ninuno, who decided to call it (obviously for lack of other names) taeng-bituin (tae+ng+bituin) or star shit. He would have considered it a gift from Bathala and kept it as his prized agimat. The name probably caught on as he showed it off to the entire village, proud to have been bestowed shit from the stars. 

We could think of many alternative names for tae ng bituin, among them, luha ng tala (star tears), bituing bato (rock star), patay na butuin (dead star), and a dozen more romantic names. But no, they had to choose the malodorous label for something bright that had fallen from the heavens. 

Perhaps we should be grateful it was not called tae ni Tala, who happens to be the Tagalog goddess of the stars, daughter of the supreme deity Bathala. That would be riotous. 

The Difference Between Taeng-Bituin and Bulalakaw

Another word you might be thinking of is bulalakaw, which is also meteorite in English. Apparently, tae ng bituin or taeng-bituin is distinct from bulalakaw in Filipinop.

According to the UP Diksiyonaryong Filipino, which was edited by National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, the definition of tae ng bituin or taeng-bituin is: 

Bulalákaw na bumagsak, may kaukulang laki upang maabot ang rabaw ng mundo nang walang ganap na pagbabaga sa atmospera

(Meteorite of a specific size enough to reach the surface of the earth without burning up in the atmosphere). 


UP Diksiyonaryong Filipino Entry for 'Taeng-Bituin'

Photo by Abo Limos.

On the other hand, bulalakaw is defined as: 

Batóng pangkalawakan o metal sa kalawakan na nag-aapoy kapag pumapasok sa atmospera ng mundo at nakikíta bílang mabilis maglahong bituin na gumuguhit ng arko sa madilim na langit

(A space rock or metal in space that burns as it enters the earth’s atmosphere and is seen as a fast streak of light that darts across the night sky).

UP Diksiyonaryong Filipino, Binagong Edisyon Entry for 'Bulalakaw'

Photo by Abo Limos.
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If you’re still surprised about taeng-bituin, wait until you hear about taeng-bakal (rust) taeng-ngipin (plaque), and most unfortunate of all, taeng-baboy (a small bird with black feathers). 

Nevertheless, the Tagalog language is still beautiful, even if its inventors named a ton of things after feces. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor-at-Large
Mario Alvaro Limos is features editor-at-large at Esquire Philippines, and heads the Lifestyle and Esports content of as its section editor. Email him at [email protected] and [email protected]
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