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AMA, INA, ANAK (Father, Mother, Child)

When writing ama, ina, and anak in Baybayin, I get the sense that each of my parents shared part of what makes them who they are, in order to create me.

The Tagalog words for father, mother, and child (ama, ina, and anak, respectively) are used commonly enough in Philippine society. Yet the connection these words have to each other is little known, much less appreciated.
I had an insight into this connection, when I, along with Dr. Teresita Obusan, gave a talk at the Asian Institute of Management in 2002. Before I was asked to speak in front of the audience that attended a forum on Servant Leadership, I was scribbling the words ama, ina, and anak, first in Roman letters, then in Baybayin, the ancient Filipino script (ama    ina     anak     ), when I suddenly realized the deeper link that these words had to each other.
Writing the word ANAK in Baybayin involves using the symbols A , NA  , and KA , with the latter symbol’s vowel sound dropped, making it K . Inasmuch as our ancestors did not have stand-alone consonants, thereby dropping these sounds when written, the importance of KA/K in writing the word ANAK is such that I had to adopt the use of the cross kudlit. Why the fuss over including K when writing the Tagalog word for child?
KA  ,when used as a prefix at least, implies relationship (e..g, kapatid or sibling, kasama or companion) or the process of unifying. When writing the Baybayin symbols needed to represent the word ANAK, one realizes that it shares something with the words AMA and INA. To highlight this fact, I have placed the words written in the ancient script, each written vertically, and placed alongside each other, with ANAK in the middle:

              A                      A                  I     
MA                 NA                  NA

To write the word ANAK in Baybayin, one uses the syllable A from the word AMA, and NA from the word INA. One half from the father, another half from the mother: doesn’t this sound strangely familiar? “The offspring is a result of the union between the genetic contributions of the father and the mother.” This is something we learn in basic genetics: we get 50 percent (or to be technically accurate, 23 chromosomes) of our genetic inheritance, each from the father and the mother. It was only in the late 1800’s when science was able to prove this.  Yet our ancestors have known this all along, but they expressed this truth symbolically, long before science ever discovered this fact. The inclusion of KA underlines the union between these two halves.

We all are a result of a union between the genetic contributions of both our parents, yet their “contributions” go beyond the mere biological. When writing ama, ina, and anak in Baybayin, I get the sense that each of my parents shared part of what makes them who they are, in order to create me. Not just their genes, but also their values, their dreams, and their hopes, among other things. It is when two whole beings equally give half of what they have, half of who they are, that another whole being is brought into this world. People who abide by the commandment “Honor your father and mother” would do well to ponder on these words by literally seeing the profound relationship among three simple Tagalog words, words that can help us realize what we do and can truly share among family members.

© Reimon Cosare

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