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Philippine Riddles: Bugtong

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MGA BUGTONG AT BUGTUNGAN

Bugtong is a Tagalog riddle (palaisipan) that showcases the Pilipino

wit, literary talent, and keen observation of surroundings. It involves

references to one or two images that symbolize the characteristics

of a unknown object that is to be guessed. Bugtungan is the playing

of bugtong.

Bugtong Tagalog started generations ago and has passed from one

generation to another. New ones are being created with the passage

of time but to be considered a true Filipino bugtong the riddle should

meet all the elements of a Tagalog bugtong . These elements are:

A Pilipino bugtong, or Tagalog riddle, is a short, one-liner, statement.

The statement is consist of two phrases. Each phrase refers to an

image, or characteristic of an image, that symbolizes another object

that is to be identified.

The two phrases end in words that rhyme.

The object to be identified must relate to our daily lives, personal

experience, and observation of common things around us.

Let us study some examples:

Example 1: Balong malalim, puno ng patalim

In this example the first phrase is: balong malalim (deep well). The

second phrase is: puno ng patalim (full of knives.) These phrases

are distinct of each other. Both phrases end in words that rhymes:

malalim and patalim.

Although it literally refers to a deep well full of knives, the bugtong

uses this symbolism to refer to a different object and challenges us

to use our wit and imagination to identify that object as it relates to

our daily lives, personal experience, and observations. The word

balong (or balon) symbolizes cavity and patalim symbolizes a sharp

cutting object. In other words the riddle is referring to a cavity filled

with cutting objects. The answer is mouth.

Example 2: Mataas kung nakaupo, mababa kung nakatayo

In this example the first phrase is: mataas kung nakaupo (tall when

seated.) The second phrase is: mababa kung nakatayo (short when

standing up.) Both phrases end in words that rhymes: nakaupo and

nakatayo.

Think of something that is tall when seated but short when standing

up. The answer is dog. One can think of other animals, cat for

example, as an answer that also fits the description but the best

answer is the one most people will usually relate to in their daily

lives. This is what makes bugtong, or bugtungan, an inherently

Pilipino riddle.

Example 3: Nagtago si Pedro, nakalabas ang ulo.

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