“Pagerper.” This ostensibly Tagalog word has probably been searched so often that it has become a Google “keyword1.” Among the most commonly searched of related keywords is “pagerper meaning.” However, another keyword, “pagerper meaning in Tagalog,” suggests that non-Tagalogs — and likely even many Tagalogs — do not understand the meaning of the word, either.
Anybody who searches for the word’s meaning in any standard Filipino-English online dictionary is, however, likely to draw a blank. There is, meanwhile, another keyword that gives a clue as to why this will be the case.
The keyword is “pagerper in batangas,” an insinuation that the word is part of Batangas dialect. While people in the province speak what is generally accepted as Tagalog, the accent apart, there are enough words and rules of grammar in the version of Tagalog there that are not used elsewhere in the other Tagalog-speaking provinces to make it a distinct dialect.
|A Filipina entertains GIs in a bar in Rosario, Pangasinan in 1945. Image credit: U.S. National Archives.|
What the word “pagerper” actually means in the Batangas dialect is “prostitute.” The more standard Tagalog word — although its origin is really Spanish and this word is also used in other Philippine dialects — is “puta,” Spanish for “bitch.” The more polite will use euphemistic language such as “kalapating mababa ang lipad” (dove that flies low).
The etymology of the word “pagerper” is generally lost even among most Batangueños. However, on social media, one individual commented that his father used to be stationed at what used to be called the Batangas Landing Field in the Kumintang area of what is now the city of Batangas.
Just prior to the outbreak of World War II in the Pacific, this landing field was jointly operated by the United States Army Air Corps and the Philippine Army Air Corps2. It was subsequently occupied by the Japanese during their occupation of the country and reclaimed by the United States in March 1945.
According to the aforementioned individual, his father used to run errands for American GIs stationed in the then-town of Batangas, and it was from him that he heard a very plausible etymology of the word “pagerper.” According to his father, the word was originally “pay girl fair,” probably an admonition from pimps to servicemen who were out to avail of the services of the, ehrm, sweet painted ladies.
Because World War II ended almost eighty years ago in the Pacific, and many of its survivors in the country have passed on, it will be extremely difficult to corroborate this possible etymology of the word “pagerper.” That said, with the natural tendency of words in a language to become corrupted and evolve over time, there phrase “pay girl fair” does seem to be a very plausible explanation indeed.
Notes and references:1 Google Ads defines “keywords” as “Words or phrases describing your product or service that you choose to help determine when and where your ad can appear.” Loosely, however, this refers to character strings (that form words or phrases) that people use to search for information on any particular subject. “Keywords: Definition,” online at Google Ads.
2 “Batangas Airfield,” online at Pacific Wrecks.