Now here is a Tagalog word that you only hear during new year’s eve (and even then, hardly). That is “manigong” as in Manigong Bagong Taon, the Filipino greeting for a Happy New Year.
I have always had a problem with this word, which I presume means “prosperous”. It is a word doused with generous obscurity and inaccessibility. For Merry Christmas , we say Maligayang Pasko, which is simple enough…since “maligaya” is of fairly common usage. But “manigong”?
In the whole history of the Tagalog language, a Rappler study says the word “manigong” has been used only 4 times in plebeian conversation, once in Cavite in 1956, once in Laguna in 1969, and the two other times yesterday in UP Diliman in a conversation between two leftist academics.
Did Filipinos just exhaust their vocabulary for “Happy”? If the intent was not to duplicate the Christmas adjective (maligaya) then we could have gone for Masayang Bagong Taon. But no, the intent seems to be a less Western, and rather a more Asian, focus on materiality and hopes for a better standard of living in the coming year. Think about all the Chinese wishings for a “prosperous“ or “bountiful“ new year. That’s what we are going for.
So we are stuck with “manigong” , which to me sounds like “maligo”, as in Maligo ka sa Bagong Taon! Quite a well-intentioned and meaningful greeting, especially if one is experiencing a particularly harsh winter and has been skipping showers.
Taking a daily bath is a very Filipino trait, and probably our most (only?) notable mark of cultural advancement. It shows dogged habit and discipline despite all odds, like lack of hot water. It also shows the concern for our fellows that we typically do not show otherwise. We will go counterflow and jam up traffic, but at least we don’t stink up the mall with BO, and people can enjoy their paseo.
Some would argue, the point is moot (like RevGov) because everyone in the Philippines says Happy New Year in English anyway. So why bother pointing out the inadequacy and peculiarity of a quaint archaic phrase?
Precisely because, if we had a catchier local way of saying Happy New Year, we would probably be using it more. The diagnosis is everything. And IMHO it is all the fault of that grinch word “manigong”.
So I will start a petition on Change.org and I want 100 million signatures to change “Manigong Bagong Taon” to “Maligo ka sa Bagong Taon”. Catchy, huh? No need for Con-Ass or Con-Con. No need for plebiscite to ratify. (Charles Englund has always been authoritarian).
In a complementary move, “manigong” will be demoted (or reassigned) to a new saying, “Mabuhay at Manigong Ka”. This is along the lines of the Vulcan, “Live long and prosper”.