Tuesday, June 30, 2009


To say 'I love you' in Tagalog, one says 'Mahal kita', or 'mahal ko kayo' when one addresses a group of several people. Oftentimes we say 'mahal kita' or 'mahal ko kayo' absentmindedly that we eventually forget its true meaning. For example, the word 'mahal' is also the Tagalog word for 'expensive', and thus, it is joked that, for the Tagalogs to accept one's love-offering, it must be expensive for it to be even considered. The word 'kamahalan' is the Tagalog equivalent of 'majesty'; it basically means 'preciousness'. But 'kamahalan' is not always inert; sometimes it is invested. The process of investing an object with a suitable degree of preciousness is 'pagmamahal', while an already 'love-invested' object is called 'minamahal' (beloved). The Tagalog term for the Sacred Triduum is 'Mahal na Araw'-- 'the precious', 'the beloved', or the 'blessed days', perhaps even 'the majestic' days.

Then there is 'kita'. In the word kita, there is no distinction made between subject and object. The Tagalog word for oneself is 'ako' and the appropriate pronoun for the second person is 'ikaw'. In kita, these two seem to have been fused together, so that it becomes impossible for the speaker to consider the one spoken to in distinction from himself. They are, so to speak, become one person in kita.

Thus it becomes clear: when a Tagalog speaker says 'mahal kita' to his beloved, he is no longer thinking of himself as an entity distinct from him or her; rather, he is saying, 'tayo na' (approximately 'we are an item now'). To be poetic about it, a fitting translation of mahal kita would be: 'I take thee to myself, you, whom I consider to be more precious than all the treasures of the earth.'

Photo taken at Vigan's historic Calle Crisologo

1 comment:

Enbrethiliel said...


We have something similar in French: cher is both "expensive" and "dear."

When I lived in New Zealand, the natives used "dear" and "expensive" interchangeably.