The costume that is depicted in this drawing is exactly that of an elegant native woman of Manila. The peineta; the hair pin and the gold rings; the necklace or the gold and coral rosary with a medal of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico hanging from one end; the payo or umbrella; the crepe shawl; the shirt or the blouse of piña or jusi; the saya of silk or cambaya; the short tapis worn by the more elegant women, made of silk from Baliuag; and the embroidered slippers, constitute the true costume of the wealthy native women of Manila. To these they add an embroidered piña handkerchief, which they hold in their hands. When they go to church, they place the handkerchief on their heads, gathering the ends under their chin.
The Spanish that they speak is charming and has been given the name “Kitchen Spanish” due to the tone and the absolute languidness with which they speak it. Duele conmigo este mi cabeza means “I have a headache” but the way they say it can be literally translated as “This my head hurts with me”. Dale usté con de aquél su pañuelo, meaning “Give him his handkerchief”, literally translates as “Give you with him his handkerchief. ¿Como no? meaning “why not?” literally translates as “how not?” Más que! Which does not mean anything in Spanish, can be literally translated as “even though”. But most charming of all is their use of the sentence: Usté cuidao. All of these are expressions that give one an idea of the Spanish spoken by the mestizos and the natives. They do not use the gender forms of Spanish words or the plural of adjectives and pronouns, as these are also absent in Tagalog. Thus, they say Este Tijeras, and un punda for una funda, as they also always interchange the “f” and the “p”, or other letters such as Pilifino for Filipino, cape for café, cabayo for caballo, buerta for vuelta.
The yo cuidao, el cuidao or usté cuidao, which is applied to all and used to answer various questions, is very expressive. ¿Harás esto? Yo cuidao, which can be translated as: “Will you do this? I’ll take care of it”. ¿Cuánto vale esto? Usté cuidao meaning “How much is this? Make an offer or whatever you can afford”. Procura que no se vaya fulano. El cuidao, meaning “Make sure he does not leave. He should fend for himself or he is old enough to take care of himself”. Hence the short phrase uste cuidao expresses completely different concepts, depending on how it is said and the tone in which it is said. It also answers questions in such a manner that it does not compromise the speaker.
José Honrato Lozano
Álbum de las Yslas Filipinas