According to wiktionary.org this is the Tagalog definition of the term "Ingat"
I have heard the term before from other friends and thought that it was a pleasant way to sign off as a goodbye with folks. Recently I mentioned this to Strawberry Farm Boy Mike. I want to start using the phrase but haven't felt comfortable enough to do so due to my lack of Tagalog skills.
Like most Filipino Americans who were raised in the States in 1980s, I cannot speak a lick of Tagalog. My parents believed in the fallacy that learning a second language would set me back in school. Numerous studies have disproved that notion and now I am stuck being monolingual. When I was 12 I told my parents I wanted them to teach me Tagalog. I told them I wished there was Tagalog school like there was Thai school or Chinese school that some of my respective friends would attend on the weekends. Pops Oblivious reaction to this was to nonchalantly tell me "If you want to learn how to speak Tagalog, just speak Tagalog." Easier said then done.
Lord help me I tried. But when I would fumble through the words Pops would reply with "What did you say?!" And I would then get embarrassed. I would quickly respond "Nevermind" and say whatever I was trying to say in English.
This has left me in a place where I understand Tagalog, and to some extent Bisaya, but you will never find me speaking the languages. In the 90s I went through a phase of watching Filipino romantic dramadies. Like most girls, I thought Aga Mulach was so dreamy. I wished to be as pretty as Dawn Zulueta and to sing as amazingly as Lea Salonga. My parents didn't understand why I wanted to see these movies, but I got hooked. Moms Oblivious would ask me "Why do you want to watch these movies? I didn't even watch Filipino movies in the Philippines!"
Those words are so revealing. My parents grew up in a Philippines heavily influenced by American culture. Pops would rather watch John Wayne or Clint Eastwood classics, while Mom would rather watch West Side Story, Grease, and Love Story. They prefer Hollywood films over anything starring Dolphy, Eddie Garcia, Vilma Santos or Sharon Cuneta.
It's also a telling revelation on the static picture my parents have of the Philippines. Moms hasn't returned since 1980. Pops last was there in 1993. There vision of the Philippines is frozen with the snapshot of their last times there. When I brought up the word "ingat" to them and how I wanted to start using it. Pops' reaction could have been out of those Philippine dramas the I love. "WHY?!" I was quite surprised by his dramatic tone. "WHY would you want to do that?!" Confusingly I explained because I liked that it means "Take care."
Pops replied that the word also means "Be Careful." On one hand, it's simply a matter of interpretation. But on the other hand my parents' interpretation of "ingat" is a reflection of their frozen snapshot of a country plagued by martial law and their province constantly at war. Ingat to them is a warning, one not said with affection but with trepidation.
It's a warning that is tied to the memories of bombings that almost killed my parents while they were at the movie theater when my mom was pregnant with me. It's a warning that is tied to Pops immediate suspicion of those weaved backpacks because to him it's what members of the NPA used to hold their weapons. It's a warning that Pops ignored when he was stuck hiding in a ditch while he waited for the martial law mandated curfew to end because my Lola Inday had enough of his gallivanting and drinking one night and locked him out of the their house.
Stories from my grandparents escaping Manila during world war 2 lead into my parents experiences with martial law and the civil unrest in Mindanao. My families experiences have covertly weaved reactions that reveal ptsd like symptoms. These conflicts have never faded from their psyche. Our family legacy of trauma continues to persist.
I obliviously find fancy in the beauty of a word from a language I have always longed to know, while my parents find anxiety in their mother tongue. I don't want them to feel that way. I certainly don't. But that is their experience and this is mine. Will I start using "ingat?" I can honestly say I'm not sure. But the conversations have revealed one thing war fucks everyone up.