March 2, 2024

“Shy kami mango” is a statement often used and associated with the Ibaloys. As to how it started, I refer to Morr Pungayan’s column in the Midland Courier, which I read way back May 18, 2014. Accordingly, there was a seminar in La Trinidad, Benguet where the usherettes were Ibaloy ladies. These ladies then had the task of directing visitors where seats are available. Some minutes after the seminar started, a few participants arrived. As part of their duty, the usherettes came near to direct them in front where available seats are found. However, after sensing that the usherettes were Ibaloy, one of them said, “Shai kami et ngo” (Allow us to stay here where we are standing and not to go in front). They were then granted the request and they stayed where they were while others found some vacant seats at the back. Lunch time came and so with the chatting and the joking. One participant kiddingly said the person who spoke to the usherette said, “Shy kami mango.” That time, there were laughs but since that time also, the word “shy” has always been used to describe Ibaloys. The Ibaloy word “shai” which originated from “shiyay,” which means “here” became “shy”, which became an identical word with the Ibaloys.
“Ibaloys are shy.” It was perhaps because of hearing such line for many times in various instances that pushed me to ponder on it through some philosophical concepts. I am not into philosophy. It actually gives me headache, but learning about it for a semester at least allowed me to come up with the following reflections, analysis, and suppositions.
“Ibaloys are shy.” Analyzing from J.L. Austin’s distinction of utterances, the statement is a constative utterance, which means it is describing or reporting. Such statement then is subject to truth-conditional verification. So as part of verification, the questions shall be: Are the Ibaloys really shy? Is it appropriate to generally describe and talk about them to be shy?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines shy as the feeling of being nervous and uncomfortable about meeting and talking to people; it is the tending to avoid something because of nervousness, fear, dislike, etc.; it is the state of being easily frightened; timid, or even disposed to avoid a person or thing; secluded; hidden; hesitant in committing oneself.
One situation which, accordingly, is common among Ibaloys especially during first time encounter, is when one enters a certain office, he/she first peeps and checks through the door and either wait to be called or proceed after few minutes of staying outside. The person would later say, “Mabainak umuneg.” Will this mean the person is uncomfortable about meeting and talking to the people inside or will it mean being frightened as the dictionary states?
Paul Grice, one philosopher, pioneered the thought the meaning of a language is actually based on the speaker’s communicative intention. In the utterance of an Ibaloy being “shy” to enter, if Grice’ principle of communicative intention is applied and the intention of the speaker is not really to show aloofness but simply to convey his/her being cautious and so, staying outside the office for few seconds before proceeding intends checking whether the person needed is inside or whether he/she is entering the correct office can be considerably accepted.
Another philosophical thought that can be attributed is the thought of Wittgeinstein who said that meaning is use. In other words, the meaning depends on the how and the when of language. In a scenario when one Ibaloy is asked to do something like an intermission or any presentation and he/she refuses, the word shy would surely be brought out. One observer may utter, “Madi na ta shy mango da gamin.” In this statement, the word shy is used to generalize or conclude a characteristic which allegedly applies to all Ibaloys. But in the same situation and another observer uttered, “Apay shy kayo nga talaga aya?” The word shy was used in the utterance to challenge the person to disprove the common idea. Another possible comment to be uttered with a smile and a wink will be, “Enya ngay ta shy garud piman. In this utterance, shy was used to jokingly describe a friend or someone and it is further implied that the speaker is a close kin or friend of the subject.
Thus, if one describes Ibaloys to be shy, there are several possible meanings the word will refer to. It can be that shy in the statement means the state of being withdrawn, unaggressive, inassertive, amenable to authority, etc? Also, it could mean the context of “baing” as mentioned by elder Ibaloys which is being ashamed to do evil or any unacceptable behavior to anyone. The listeners then must take into consideration the intention of the speaker or the use of each word in the utterance. But most importantly, a person who utters that Ibaloys are shy must check his/her intention and be cautious enough as not to appear offensive and prejudicing.
So, are Ibaloys really shy? Well, I will have to say that it depends on the intention of such utterance and the use of each word in the utterance. As J.L Austin said, to criticize an utterance and check whether it is true or not, there are a lot of things or dimensions to be considered and weighed. He added, under the heading truth, the facts, the situation of the speaker, the purpose in speaking, the hearer, the questions of precision should all be considered. If people are to restrict themselves and keep on believing and generalizing, then they shall never succeed in untangling the fixed preconception that Ibaloys are shy (which means unable to communicate) when in fact, just like other ethnicities, they are shy (which could simply mean reserved, cautious, knows how to fit oneself, shows hospitality by giving others the best instead of having the best, giver, fun of giving way for others’ benefits, friendly, etc). (SHENTAL M. ANICETO)