Throughout the generation, one can already make a separate dictionary for the great number of Filipino slang terms created. However one term can definitely catch one’s attention, which is exactly what the term’s meaning is. Have you ever been in a situation where a person has been called epal? What exactly is being epal? Urban Dictionary defines it as ‘a person who goes into a situation wherein his presence is not needed or in a place he does not belong’.
The term epal has been derived from the word ‘pumapapel’ or ‘mapapel’ which means someone who intervenes with affairs of others or impedes with the concerns of a group with no relation to him with the intention of trying to become the center of attention. It can be inferred that it is an example of salitang kalye or balbal in Filipino language and has an unclear etymology.
Although unclear is its roots, epal is similar to other Filipino slang terms and it is certain that there is a catalyst for these words to be created.
Hence, it is not only about using epal as either an insult or a label because it is also an element of language variation. Relevantly, slang terms are codes or “mechanisms” that reflect social awareness or circumstances happening around an individual (Newsome, n.d.) The term can be traced to the culture of the Philippines. Knowing that it is part of our language and culture, it is ought to be elaborated for it allows the discovery of the pattern of formation of words like it and what it has to do with our identity. This one word could even identify the image of Filipino society in the micro-level.
The term epal is a proof of the diversity of the Filipino language because of its connotation in the past and present, impact to society and contrasting themes with other similar terms in the Philippines. On account of being a mainstream negative label for someone, the attribute of epal has extended to the usage in the social and political dimension. There are hundreds of situations one can recognize someone as epal. In the social scene, media might use epal as an interesting element in a show. One can imagine a girl with her quickly beating heart, and blushing cheeks that seem like roses blossoming and sparkling eyes hidden and focused on the ground to avert the eyes directed toward her.
In an inconspicuous location after school hours, she called this boy full of determination but now it was as though her courage was being drained from her. Presently, she is standing before the man of her dreams and is ready to confess her overflowing emotion. Both are anxious of their presence and what is about to happen. Beginning to explain, she spoke to the boy in a soft-spoken yet determined voice. As soon as she was about to confess her pure and deep love, the whole atmosphere is ruined and the mood is after a teacher appeared. The romance between the princess and the prince is destroyed by the dragon and to what they thought was going to be their happy ending, it ended painfully before it even began.
An epal is a person who intervenes with people or thwarts plans. In a political scene, again one can imagine a person walking down the street, and he sees posters everywhere of incompetent politicians declaring their vow to the progress of this country. It was the same vow they made during the previous campaign period where they won, and currently their promises are insubstantial. Completely infuriated by this, he goes home and tries to ease his mind so he turned the television on to watch his favourite show.
Giggles and tears were expressed; the person was concentrated veritably on the show for the storyline was reaching its climax. Then, the epal struck once more; a campaign advertisement showed the same shameless politician, who pretended to help the adults and children by giving them goods and smiles at a populated squatter area. At such a premature period, he was already campaigning and promoting his kupal side. An epal is one who schemes and gets as much opportunity as possible to get attention. To distinguish further, an epal is characterized as: first, he is treated like an outcast when he is forcing his way in to a group he does not belong or he is not welcome in.
Second, a person who assigns himself with more work so he seems the good guy in the group but actually he receives pity and the work he assigned for himself is given to others so he is left with none. He is a cunning extra character in a movie trying to create his own script in the film, so he can get the credit for the success of the movie and get more attention. Boosting the ego through vexatious ways, it is what an epal does. As is any other term, there must have been a cause as to why slang words are formed. Though epal has a vague etymology, it has motivators for it to be integrated in the Filipino vocabulary.
First, according to Zorc (1993), Filipinos establish the idea of a slang terminology “by borrowing from other languages, by giving new meanings to pre-existing words by coining or creating original forms, or by using numbers as a kind of “in-group codes” (as cited in Derivation of Slang Words, para. 1) The explanation for the existence of epal can be identified as coinage, or invented words completely or almost varying from the words they had been based on. It has reshaped the term through the process of metathesis and reduction.
Metathesis or agglutination is simply the rearrangement of sounds and syllables in a word to produce new terms that may or may not have the same meaning as the original word (Derivation of Slang Words, n.d.). During the 1970s, the process of agglutination become popular and it might be the reason why we have epal (Tan, 2009). Reduction is the truncation or removal of a letter or a group of letters in a word. Example of these are Erap from the word pare (brother or friend), as well as yosi and siga (a brute) from sigarilyo (cigarette). Second, the likely cause of the creation of epal, similar to other salitang kalye at balbal, is being relative to the situation the term epal was formed. The result is a product that suits its social environment.
Epal’s locus and period of time of creation has influenced and contextualized the term. Areas of the masa, or the middle and lower class Filipinos and further popularized by the media is the likely origin of epal. It is proven that slang terms are more likely to flourish in the scene of the masa but it is not absolute in all cases for even in college or in other various settings, people create their own slang, jargon and register. As a result, epal is evidence that our language is diversified and made more unique, through its regular usage rather than using foreign language. Epal has observantly contributed to our media and politics. In social context, media has made it famous because celebrities, hosts, and showbiz gossip people use it; it has become a staple label for people regardless whether they deserve it or not. Another effect would be that media has used epal characters frequently in comedy programs and use them for humor in romantic shows or rom-coms in short.
They are portrayed as people who are annoying and uncontrollably butts in conversations, break up friendship among people, or someone who likes to brag and present himself to other uninterested people. He is a typical fool or clown. In political context, DSWD has used the term and launched its program after this. The “Anti-epal” campaign is against the “epals” in our community. These are politicians and political groups that ‘use the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, also known as PantawidPamilyang Pilipino Program, to threaten beneficiaries and take advantage of their roles in the forthcoming elections (Fernandez, 2013).
The epals here have the same essence as the social context but has integrated it into their own conditions. Looking at these instances, epal is a slang term created by and for vendors, pedicab drivers or loiterers in the street. It can symbolize a cry for patriotism and change. These effects show that even a term like epal affects not only our language but also the people themselves. From the unique term epal, other terms have branched out from it such as kupal and kapalmuks. The variety of such creative words in Filipino slang vocabulary is too many to identify; its usage changing through periods of time and its trend fluctuating through succeeding generations. Epal, kupal and kapalmuks have been used interchangeably but in actuality they differ in: representation and degree.
The word kupal originated from the language of Cebu. Similar as epal, kupal is also a master in the field of being an irksome pest but it specifically means an obnoxious person. Furthermore, it may be described as a person doing irresponsible actions and being ignorant of its consequences. The degree of the term kupal is greater than epal because it expresses a stronger feeling of frustration when one is called kupal. Hence, it can only be used as an insult. A person being kupal may not actually always be impudent, yet the person will always be considered repugnant. An instance could be whenever a person makes decisions without good discretion and this wrong judgement has caused grave results to him and others as well.
First aspect of a kupal is that the person lies frequently and blatantly to get what he wants. The second aspect of a kupal is that the person recklessly does things and insensitively involves people with him. Ultimately, the primary difference between epal from kupal is the depth of both terms’ to denominate an individual’s acrimony to a person. Conversely, kapalmuks is pure shamelessness. It is the contraction of the Filipino phrase “kapal ng mukha” which exactly means being thick-faced or to be put simply have no sense of modesty in oneself. Both kapalmuk and epal are almost synonymous with each other. Both are vainglorious and egotistic, but epal tends to meddle with people’s businesses while a kapalmuk fixes himself in showing off for the praise.
Kapalmuks is the state of shamelessness to the extreme degree, greater than an epal. An epal might self-promote through people, or social channels like giving himself most of the credit for a project that he had negligible collaboration with (Esguerra, 2011). Brazenly stepping into an affair and wanting to help very pretentiously, an epal gains popularity with his non-existent contributions and solutions. Randy David of Inquirer claimed this to be the “new narcissism” (De Veas Insigne, 2011) Contrariwise, a kapalmuk associate himself with people to seek attention rather he would spotlight himself.
In a clearer manner, a kapalmuk is personified and can be seen here in the Philippines where walls of cities are turned into photo albums or scrapbooks by politicians. Everywhere, they put tarpaulins, posters, ads, infograph and other propaganda of politicians about themselves. The affected are just not facades, buildings or electric posts; license plate, permits, etc. are also marked by politicians’ faces. Although an epal can be intolerable, a kapalmuk can be disgraceful to himself and other people. Despite arguments claiming slang words in the language of Filipinos for instance epal, astig, damulag, bulalo, and jologs as detrimental to our culture for it makes our language a lowly, menial and ineffective medium in communication, slang terms are actually one characteristic of language which represents diversity at the same time solidarity.
Coinages of Filipino terms prove that the language is ever evolving. It does not matter if it is barbaric or jargon but the important thing is that these words convey some aspect of truth in the world. The term epal then, represents the truth of having an exasperating character whether in real life or in a TV show. A person being epal is characterized as an outcast of in a group or a prideful extra in a movie. Similar as any slang word, it has its origin and during the trend of deriving slang in the 70s, epal took its form from the word ‘pumapapel’. Its effects to the Philippine community are that it is a recurring theme in the entertainment side and has been used to label people from the political arena. Epal may simply describe an attention seeking person but this is just a manifested purpose of the term. Its latent purpose might be to depict people in the country that are damaging this society.
The significance of words in our language such as epal is not just to know a description for an enemy you have, it is much more complex than that. According to Gibbs (1994), Slang can be defined as “dynamic variety of language that is used to show solidarity and claimin-group membership” (as cited in Newsome, para. 2). It is in this light that we can deduce that when one culture creates slang it means that people are comfortable with the people they are mingling with and this strengthens the affiliation between a group either through race, language, belief, etc.
Hence, it is right to say that bekimons, gay people in the Philippines, do not just cluster around their sexual orientation but also the language that they speak of.
Lodge in his work “The Pragmatics of Slang” concisely explained it in his first of three features of language variation, that “a broad and increasing lexicon is essential in order to express the ‘nuances’ of human emotions and personal identity and experiences” We create these slang words because these words embody our troubles and our personality; the whole essence of us. Words mean nothing if these do not help define ideas and thoughts of the people. The word epal entails the idea of the generation when it was made and is being used. Thus, epal may, in the future, disappear in the following generations but the language of Filipinos will still be evolving.
Arriola, B. So what’s epal (2012, September 03) Retrieved from <http://blog.benjarriola.com/2012/09/03/so-whats-epal/> Beltran, C. Beyond epal…it’s kapal (2012, September 12) Retrieved from http://www. <philstar.com/opinion/2012-09-12/848028/beyond-epal-its-kapal/> De Guzman, L. In the know: ‘Epal’ (2011, November 04) Retrieved from <http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/87787/in-the-know-%E2%80%98epal%E2%80%997/> De Veas Insigne, Y. (2011, November 17) Anti-epal bill is ok but how about the kapalmuks? Retrieved from http://www.yodisphere.com/2011/11/anti-epal-bill-is-ok-but-how-about.html DSWD to launch anti-epal campaign (2013, February 03) Retrieved from <http://www.sunstar.com.ph/baguio/local-news/2013/02/03/dswd-launch-anti-epal-campaign-206290/> Epal : Pinoy Slang. (n.d.) Retrieved from<http://pinoyslang.com/> Epal : Urban Dictionary (n.d) Retrieved from <http://urbandictionary.com/> Esguerra, C. V. (2011, November 04) Sen. Santiago to shame vain politicians thru ‘anti-epal’ bill” Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from <http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/87821/sen-santiago-to-shame-vain-politicians