Philippine Daily Inquirer


- Michael L. Tan

FOR A different type of new year’s greeting, I thought “Padayon!” would be a good one. It’s a term used in several Visayan languages (Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray and more) to mean “move on.”

UP President Alfredo Pascual, who is Tagalog, adopted the term as a kind of clarion call for UP, often ending his speeches “Padayon, UP!” to mean “Let’s move forward, UP!” It’s a more dynamic meaning, more like the Tagalog Sulong! or the Tagalog-Spanish Abante! And I remember in the 1980s, when I was working with nongovernm­ent organizati­ons in the Visayas and Mindanao, it was a popular way of ending a statement, manifesto, or even a friendly letter.

Over the last two months there’s been more discussion about the term as a possible name for a building in UP, and once I used the term in a conversati­on with Manny Casalan of Dulaang UP. The term perked up Manny, who said that in Hiligaynon it has many meanings, from starting to do something, all the way up to a place that people go to for lodging.


I was intrigued, and did more research, finding out that the root word dayon has so many linked meanings. It is what the Welsh writer and academicia­n Raymond Williams calls a “keyword,” a term that is important in a culture, generating many meanings and linking them together. He wrote an entire book on English keywords, showing how they reflect norms in a society, changing across time, the words, like keys, opening new vistas and insights into people’s lives.

Let’s look at how dayon is a keyword in Cebuano and Hiligaynon, for which we have two authoritat­ive dictionari­es. For Cebuano, I looked through John Wolff’s Cebuano-English dictionary, where “dayun” is one of the longest entries. (If you’re wondering about the spelling, Wolff uses only three vowels for Cebuano: a, i and u.)

Wolff lists so many meanings for dayon and its derivative­s that it became almost confusing to follow them, but here are the main definition­s: (1) immediatel­y, (2) doing the next thing, (3) eternity. Just with these first three meanings you can see a continuity of meanings—of starting something, of moving on, and then on and on toward eternity.

I did wonder, with the third meaning, if Visayans might want to defy the Tagalog “Walang forever” (No forever, referring to love) with dayung gugma but Zen Quintilla, who is Ilongga, says preferably not because pahuwag na dayon (eternal rest) is used in a funeral song. Fidel Nemenzo, who is Cebuano, says in Cebuano eternal love is gugmang tim-os or gugmang malungtaro­n and Zen suggests eternal love is gugmayna walay katapusan or gugma tubtub sa katubtuban in Hiligaynon. Tubtub is for another column!)

Note how these three meanings refer to a continuum in time, of starting something, of continuing it, and of eternity or forever. It does challenge the stereotype of Filipino ningas cogon, the term for brushfires which has become a metaphor for our tendency to start doing something but not quite finishing it. Dayon ( or dayun) and padayon offer an antidote to that ningas cogon.

There are two important derived meanings from dayon. One is “padayon,” defined in Wolff’s dictionary as “continue doing something” and which, as I explained at the beginning of my column, has come to mean “moving forward.”

Wolff also lists dayun to mean “go into a house” and “stay at a house,” which has its parallel in the Tagalog tuloy lang, literally translated as “continue on” but means “come into the house.” I find these linkages in meanings to be enchanting, suggesting how dayon is used to refer to a kind of journey that has a beginning and moves on toward a destinatio­n which, upon arrival, has the host asking you not to move on somewhere but to come into the house.

Adding charm to all this, Manny told me that while the Cebuanos use dayun as an invitation to come into the house, the Ilonggo (speakers of Hiligaynon) call the lodging place itself a dayunan. A package deal, I thought, and that is such a powerful way of describing what we do in UP and other teaching institutio­ns: providing students with a travel plan, where we keep encouragin­g them padayon, until they reach their goals. If we use the Ilonggo extended meaning, a school, college or university offers many dayunan, places or hubs where one can rest, learn some more, be encouraged, and recharged for the journeys ahead.

Curiously, Wolff’s Cebuano dictionary has another entry dayung, defined as “for two or more people to accomplish something together, most commonly carrying,” “sharing joys and sorrows” and, an amazing meaning, “for siblings (not twins) to be born in the same year.” Moreover, dayungan is “a stick or pole for carrying something” and a kadayung is “a person with whom one carries something or shares.” Going then beyond the Tagalog kasama and Cebuano kauban, the two terms meaning a companion or comrade, the Cebuano kadayung is more powerful, emphasizin­g the shared or collective responsibi­lity of people.

More on forevermor­e

When I looked through Kaufmann’s dictionary for Hiligaynon, dayon had all these meanings: continuous, permanent, lasting, perpetual, eternal, at all times, evermore, constantly, always, everlastin­gly; to continue, go on with, last, stay for some time, lodge, sojourn, visit or call upon for an extended period, spend some time.

Manny’s reference to Ilonggo hospitalit­y, where one’s home is offered as part of the journey, is intriguing. There is in fact this charming extended invitation: “Dayun, dayun, dahuyag/ Walay makagsanta ug makagbabag/ Ning palasyu naming payag.” Come in, come in dahuyag (no one seems to be able to translate dahuyag for me, so readers are welcome to do that), no one can bar your way into this palace of a hut.

And indeed, we know of people who come in thinking of the Spanish “mi casa es su casa” ( my home is your home) and making our homes their homes, sometimes extending their stay forevermor­e. Or, in university settings, I worry about students who stay on, and on, and on. We may have to find a way, when that happens, to say “Padayon!” with more force and urgency, to mean, move on, move on!

Dayon is a keyword in Visayan languages and, I hope with time, all its derivative words, from padayon to dayunan and kadayun— will become part of our national language Filipino, evermore.

(Can I hear from our Visayan readers —Cebuano, Ilonggo, Waray, Boholano, Aklanon and many more—about the meanings of dayon/dayun?)

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