Note: Because the Philippines is an archipelago with more than a hundred languages, the choice of words and spellings to use in this novel was not straightforward. I’ve included some variations here. Some words such as Datu are used in some regions, but different terms are used elsewhere. Some of these words don’t appear in the book, but are described (for example currency). Some words have Spanish origin (for example Reyna), but I have used them for ease of understanding or lack of an alternative.
Anting-Anting – Charms made of wood, copper, bone, or brass, and worn for protection. May include an orasyon (magical prayer). Some are thought to repel bullets, provide invisibility, or make you more attractive. More info here.
Arnis / Kali / Escrima – The national martial art of the Philippines. It involves fighting with two sticks (one in each hand), but also includes sword, dagger, and empty hand techniques. Watch a demo by the Philippine National Arnis team.
Asog – A trans woman in pre-colonial times. They were considered sacred and could become shamans/babaylan. The term fell out of use when the Spanish imposed Catholicism in the Philippines, and asog were forced into hiding. Here’s an interesting article about how the forgotten word lives on.
Ate – (Tagalog) An honorific for an older sister, cousin, or friend.
Banig – A woven mat made of buri leaves, pandan leaves, or reeds. The leaves are dyed to create patterns. It is used for sleeping and sitting.
Babaylan / Baylan / Balian / Bayok / Bayog / Asog – Shamans that communicate with nature spirts and deities (diwata), perform healing rituals, divination, and also functioned as the keepers of tradition. Their power rivaled that of the Datu’s. Originally, only women or asog could be babaylan, but post Spanish colonization, the social class was mostly eradicated. Shamanism continued to be practiced in secret (more often by men) in areas inaccessible to the Spanish. Read about the Fall of the Babaylan. Also more about the Many Names of Philippine Shamans.
Babayin – One of the indigenous writing systems used in the Philippines (mainly in Tagalog speaking areas) which has roots Indian Bramhi script. There has been a modern revival where the characters have been standardized. See an example here.
Datu – A chief or sovereign ruler.
Diwata – Spirits associated with nature, objects, or a place. The word has roots in the Devas of Hindu mythology. Some were worshiped like deities, but others are simply to be appeased.
Kampilan – A long straight sword with a diagonal tip, and a wooden hilt. Example here.
Kris / Keris / Gunong / Puñyal De Kris – A dagger with a sharp wavy double edge. The hilt is commonly carved from wood. Ceremonial blades may be decorated with gold or silver. A Kalis is the sword version of the blade developed in the Philippines. Example here.
Kudyapi / Kutiyapi – A two stringed lute. Listen to it here.
Kuya – (Tagalog) An honorific for an older brother, cousin, or friend.
Mahal – (Tagalog) 1)love/my love 2) expensive
Malong – A tubular garment used like a sarong, and can be worn multiple ways. Unisex. See Fashion for an example.
Mano Po – Asking for a blessing and extending your hands to an elder, taking their hand, and pressing the back of their hand to your forehead as you bow. It’s customary to mano everyone in an older generation when you enter a room for the first time, though sometimes hugging or a cheek kiss is acceptable for close relatives in modern times.
Nanay / Nay / Inang / Inay – Mom (or grandmother)
Manay (Bicolano) / Manang (Ilokano) An honorific for an elder sister. Manoy (Bicolano) / Manong (Ilokano) = for an elder brother.
Nipa Hut / Bahay Kubo – Traditional house on stilts, roofed with nipa (palm) leaves. Walls and stilts are typically made of bamboo.
Panika – Barter rings made of pure gold. Larger than a donut in size. Traded alongside Piloncitos as currency. See an example here.
Piloncitos – Small engraved gold beads used as currency for trade. See an example here.
Po – Unisex honorific. Similar to sir or ma’am.
Raja / Rajah / Lakan – Equivalent to a king. The Datu of Datu’s.
Reyna / Dayang – Equivalent to a queen. The Datu of Datu’s . Reyna is used in modern Tagalog but is Spanish in origin. Dayang is an older honorific that was used instead of Reyna.
Tabo – A scoop used for pouring water over your body from a bucket when you bathe. Also used for cleaning the floors, etc.
Tapis – A rectangular woven cloth worn like a sarong. Held in place by a belt, scarf, or knotted. Unisex. See Fashion for an example.
Tumpong – A bamboo flute. Listen to it being played here.
Tatay / Tay / Itay – Dad (or grandfather).