Author Archives: Timothy Chen

Buntot mo hila mo

Translation: It’s your fault, bear the consequences.


This Filipino proverb came from the harsh upbringing of my informant’s family as her mom was raised in the lower-middle class near Tondo in the Philippines. It was something that my informant’s mom used to say a lot while she was working several jobs while raising her six children. As a result, my informant didn’t have a regular childhood and she spent most of it helping out her mom. Since she was the youngest in her family, she had help from her older siblings, but they also had to tend to their studies as well. My informant had to learn all her lessons the hard way and suffering its consequences, so this saying had tremendous impact on her life.

The proverb, to me, thus also reflects the harshness that life gives people. It reflects the brutality of the sort of lifestyle under which my informant grew up in and had to endure until she matured and acquired a stable job. Even then, the saying also reflects on the simplicity of life in how there is no avoidance of responsibility, and it instills a simple moral which some people wouldn’t want to face.

Kahirayan ay hindi sagabal sa tagumpay

Translation: Poverty is not a hindrance to success.


This Filipino proverb was passed down from my informant’s mother, who worked several jobs and had to raise six children on her own. She believes that it reflects the lifestyle in which she grew up as a child in a low-middle income Filipino neighborhood where people were less prosperous than most Filipinos, let alone Americans. As a result, my informant spent most of her time working and helping out her mom. As she was the youngest child, her brothers would also do the same thing and eventually most of them would move to the US, where they encountered varying degrees of success. This proverb was also passed down to her child, who managed to enter USC through scholarship.

I believe this proverb is reflective of this family’s history, showing how they encountered success despite coming from a non-affluent background. I also think that the generality of this statement can also be applicable to other situations outside this family since it shows that the American Dream can actually come true and proves that social mobility can occur in other places outside America.

Treat others with respect

This proverb was passed down to my informant from her mom who learnt it from her parents. My informant believes that the proverb means that one has to be able to work with others well in order to get many things done in life. Furthermore, she believes, if you treat someone nicely, they will treat you nicely back. I asked her mom about where she got this as well, and she said that it came back to how she and her family were raised in New Jersey, since they grew up in a tough neighborhood and had to learn respect this way. According to her mom, this was how her family had learned respect from very long ago and this saying was acquired through experience. Thus she passed it down to her kids hoping they would do the same.


I believe this proverb reflects the lifestyle of the family’s past, and it functions as a model for how to live properly. This was knowledge which was passed down from the experience of my informant’s family and they believe it to be simple wisdom. Thus when they pass this proverb down to younger generations, they hope that they can learn from it as well as they did when they were younger.

Chinese New Year

My informant used to receive Chinese red envelopes when she was a child growing up in San Francisco in Chinese New Year. On those occasions, upon receiving them she would give some traditional Chinese greeting like 恭喜发财 (Geng hei fat choi – congratulations and be prosperous) and 新年快樂 (sun li fai long – happy new year). She says that there were lost of other greetings she said but she couldn’t remember them very well anymore. But after she reached sixteen, her parents stopped giving her envelopes, she assumes that they forgot, and she stopped asking for them because she thought that it was rude.


I think that the parents of my informant stopped giving her Chinese new year envelopes because she reached an age where she no longer needed to ask for them. Also, I believe that her family, since she and her parents had essentially grown up in San Francisco, there was less urgency to keep up a Chinese tradition which had no place in modern American society.

No deies para mañana loque puedes alsair oi

Translation: Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today


This saying according to my informant has been passed down from his mom’s grandpa’s generation. It gives optimistic spirit about what he does everyday and makes everything more challenging. Supposedly, there was more to this saying but my informant regrettably could not remember what the rest was, despite me asking him multiple times. But the overall gist involved, in his words, the god-given duty of supporting his family. Seeing that his family is very close and supportive of him, I can see how this proverb is very close to ‘carpe diem’ in its connotations and implications. The family part, I believe, comes from the upbringing of a close family.