The Origins of Hampaslupa and Other Filipino Words

IMAGE Mario Alvaro Limos
ILLUSTRATOR Mario Alvaro Limos

Words tend to lose their original and more poignant meaning and imagery with frequency of use, but looking back at the origins of words is an endeavor worth pursuing, especially if we want to see how the true meaning of these words function in a sentence. That way, we can grasp the real weight of our words and not carelessly use them just for effect. 

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The following are eight Filipino words with colorful origins that have been blurred over time as they became staples for everyday use, and sometimes, empty platitudes.

1|  Hampaslupa

Hampaslupa in today’s lingo is a derogatory term that means someone who is deprived of dignity because of extreme poverty. It is a compound word formed by hampas (strike) and lupa (soil). Originally, hampaslupa referred to farmers who would strike the ground (pagbubungkal) as they prepared it for the cultivation of crops. The word earned a negative connotation because of how Filipinos looked down on manual labor.

2|  Kanluran

Kanluran (west) is derived from the rootword lunod or drown, hence, ka+lunod+an. This word has ancient origins tracing its roots to the time our ancestors believed the sun was “drowining” in the sea every time it disappeared in the west.

3|  Pamahalaan

Pamahalaan (government) may seem like an ordinary word, but it actually comes from the Tagalog word for their supreme deity, Bathala. Yes, it has the same roots as bahala. Pamamathala literally means acting like Bathala (God), and pamathalaan means to take control. Over time, pamathalaan changed to pamahalaan.


4|  Dalampasigan

Today, dalampasigan means beach. But it comes from the word pasig, which, in Old Tagalog means a river that flows out to the sea. Pasig also refers to the sediments and silt carried by the river all the way down to its delta. Literally, dalampasigan (dala ng pasig+an) literally means “a place where sediments are brought by the river.”

5|  Katarungan

Katarungan (justice) is derived from the Visayan word tarong, which means correct or proper. In today’s understanding, it means the proper implementation of the law.

6|  Katwiran

Closely related to katarungan is katwiran, which means “the basis of someone’s beliefs and actions.” In English, katwiran means reason. Katwiran is derived from tuwid or straight (ka+tuwid+an), which, in Tagalog, also means integrity. Our ancestors knew that for your reason to be valid, it must have integrity.

7|  Karangalan

Karangalan means honor or dignity. Its rootword is dangal, which loosely translates to similar meanings. But in Old Tagalog, dangal means a clenched fist. A clenched fist symbolizes refusal to give in to pressure, or simply refusal. Opening your fist would allow people to take away what you are holding for yourself. In a way, it means keeping your integrity. Hence, karangalan also means integrity.

8|  Luwalhati

Luwalhati means elation, exhilarating joy, or exuberance. This is why it is the favored term used for glorifying God in the Tagalog language (Luwalhati sa Diyos / Glory to God). Luwalhati comes from two Malay words luar (outside) and hati (emotion / heart). In Filipino, luwal (also related to the Malay word luar), means to give birth. Luwalhati, therefore, means to put your heart out and show strong emotion.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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