As most of you know, I am taking lessons to learn to speak Bisaya. My lesson is every Wednesday afternoon. Unfortunately, I missed the previous two weeks! I really felt bad about it, but both weeks were beyond my control. Two weeks ago, i was sick that day, and last week, my Mom was leaving on Thursday morning, and we had a lot to do on Wednesday, so I had to cancel my class. So, yesterday, I was a little nervous, and dreading the class, because I felt that I would have fallen behind. You see, not only had I missed my classes, I also did not study a bit for the last two weeks. I was lucky, though, my teacher said that I had done a good job of retaining what I had learned, and should not worry about my absence.
During our class yesterday afternoon, the vocabulary that I was working on lead my teacher (Bebe) and I to a very interesting discussion. One of the words that I had on my vocabulary list was “merkado” which means market. Another word that is more commonly used in my area for market is “palengke.” We talked about the fact that I would be better to use palengke rather than merkado, although it’s good to know both. Previously, I learned the word “tindahan” which means store. Generally, I already understood how merkado or palengke meant a public market or a wet market. If you have spent time in the Philippines, you know what I am talking about – it’s basically an open air market where you can buy meat, vegetables, fish and such. Each vendor has an individual stall, there is not like a “checkout counter” for the entire market. You deal with each vendor individually. This is something I understood already. However, I asked Bebe a few questions that lead to an interesting exchange of ideas and it was very enlightening in a cultural sense for each of us.
Just for curiosity sake, I asked Bebe what the difference was between tindahan and palengke or merkado. She explained to me that a tindahan was more like a sari-sari store. A sari-sari store is basically a little store that is generally in the front yard of somebody’s house, or even built in as part of their house, but has an opening on the street. You can buy things like snacks, basic items like cooking oil, sugar and such, and drinks, even ice at a sari-sari store in most cases. There may be 3 or 4 people on your street who have a little sari-sari store. In general (except in higher class gated communities), I would venture to say that virtually every residential street in the Philippines has at least one sari-sari store. I was a little surprised when Bebe told me that a tindahan was a sari-sari store. I have known the word tindahan for years, and I always thought that any store can be called a tindahan. But, Bebe told me that this is not the case. I asked her, how about a store in a mall, what would it be called? She told me that it is just called “mall.” Hmm… very interesting.
My next line of questioning with Bebe was what the difference was between a market, store and mall to a Filipino. Well, mall is rather obvious to all of us what that is, right? However, I found the understanding of “store” and “market” to be totally different than what I would have expected. A market is, as I understood already, the public market or wet market. For an American, a market can be almost any kind of store, particularly a grocery store. A store, though, surprised me…. if a Filipino says “store” that means sari-sari store. For an American like me, I would say that any of the examples (the public market, a sari-sari store, or a store in a mall) could all be called a store. But, that would not be the case to a Filipino. Why is it like this? Culture! Culturally, the definitions of these words are very specific for a Filipino. For us, they are more general. I mean, a “store” could be a convenience store, a grocery store, a store in a mall, any kind of business that was selling things to the public would be a store! Of course, we don’t have sari-sari stores in the USA, or anything even remotely like that.
This lead to another extension of the discussion. I already knew the word “tindero” which is a person who works in a store. After learning about the definition of a tindahan, I now assumed that a tindero (or tindera if it’s a female) was only a person who worked in a sari-sari store. I had always thought that a tindero was any clerk in any store. So, I asked Bebe, “what do you call a person who works in the store in the mall, you can’t call them a tindero, right?” Well, she surprised me again with her answer! “You will call them a tindero,” she said! Wow, so the place where they work cannot be called a tindahan, yet they are a tindero! ha ha… I found this fascinating!
Isn’t it funny how our culture influences the words we choose so much! In one culture things that are very general and can be applied to a number of things suddenly won’t work in another culture!
One thing that I feel is that by learning more about the language it helps you learn little tidbits like this. And, in learning this, even though it is a very small thing, it does open my mind up to understanding the culture more. It is something I enjoy.
Oh, and by the way… I asked my teacher another question, “if palengke is public market, tindahan is sari-sari store and mall is the mall, what would you call a convenience store?” She had to stop and think for only a second…. “convenience” she said! Sus!