Monday, September 27, 2010

Barristers injured by pillbox during bar ops

Pinoy English FTW

(with updates -- 28 Sep 2010)

By now you would have heard of the explosion outside the DLSU last 26 September injuring several people during the Bar examinations. If you havent, here's a link. This post is only tangentially about that tragedy.

The title of this blog post is remarkable because anybody who is not from these islands would find it incomprehensible. The words are recognizable as English, sure, but they do not mean what a non-Pinoy would think it means. It is in fact Pinoy English.

A barrister for instance means a lawyer in the UK and several other mostly British Commonwealth countries, whereas here it is someone who is taking the bar exams. This is the word as used in a Malaya report.
Initial police investigation showed that the blast took place between 5 and 5:30 p.m., just after the bell signaling the end of the examinations, and as the barristers were preparing to leave the school premises.
I started seeing the word used in this manner last year in mainstream media. I dont know if it was used in this way prior to that, although Ive seen references to it in blogs and other online material. So as far as new word adaptations go, this one is pretty new. (Update: a link is provided below, dated February 2004, to a Supreme Court resolution wherein the term 'barrister' is used for bar examinees.)

This is what a barrister looks like outside the Philippines
(Photo nicked from the Wikipedia article Barrister)

And this is what barristers looks like here.
(Photo nicked from Philstar.)

As for pillbox, outside of our islands, it can refer to several things: a small box for pills, a small brimless hat usually worn by ladies, or a concrete bunker that usually houses a machine gun or two. See below. (Photos below nicked from their respective Wikipedia articles.)

This is a pillbox.

So is this.

And so is this.

In the Philippines, a pillbox is a small homemade bomb. I first heard of these devices as a child growing up during Marcos's time (70s -- yes I was already around at that time) when student protesters hurled them against riot police. Here's the word as used in a Philippine Information Agency report from an incident in 2008:
The blast, believed to have been from a pillbox, tore at least three middle fingers of the arresting officer, PO3 Alfonso Villamil and wounded him in other parts of the body. An unidentified barangay tanod who helped bring in the suspect, Albert Alvarez, for investigation and custody was also slightly injured as he stood nearby.
And here's one from 1970 from a Philippines Free Press article:
By then, their brothers in militancy were ramming Gate 4 open with a commandeered fire truck whose driver they had first mauled. They set fire to another parked car inside the gate. They threw Molotov cocktails, pillbox bombs, and stoned the windows of the Malacañang clinic.
Notice that the 1970 article called them 'pillbox bombs' which is probably the proper term since these were small explosive devices the size of pillboxes but colloquially they were simply referred to as 'pillbox'. Later, 'pillbox' was showing up alone in written pieces in media without the 'bomb' and the device was called simply pillbox, and although they are still referred to as 'pillbox bombs' in reports today, that is slowly giving way to the shorter term. Here for instance is a Supreme Court decision referring to the device as 'pillbox'.
That on or about the 21st day of December, 1994, in the Municipality of Las Piñas, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused...with intent to kill and without justifiable motive and evident premeditation and by means of treachery and use of explosive (pillbox), did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and throw a Pillbox to one Jose Mesqueriola y Labarosa, thereby inflicting upon the latter serious and mortal wounds, which directly caused his death.
I coudlnt find a picture of one but I could describe how we used to make them. But I won't. Suffice it to say theyre very dangerous and we were very, very stupid for making them and actually using them as noisemakers for New Year's. You hurl it in the air as high as you can and run the heck away as fast as you can. It explodes on impact. It usually doesnt need more shrapnel than the stuff that's already in there to make it explode but people actually put more stuff in there to make it more lethal. That's what those crazy/stupid college kids did to their device.

Which brings us to bar ops. Here's a Supreme Court resolution, dated 2004, that uses the term (it uses the term 'barrister' as well):
Bar Ops are the biggest activity of the fraternity every year. They start as soon as new officers of the fraternity are elected in June, and they continue until the bar examinations are over. The bar operations consist of soliciting funds from alumni brods and friends to be spent in reproducing bar review materials for the use of their ‘barristers’ (bar candidates) in the various review centers, providing meals for their ‘brod’-barristers on examination days; and to rent a ‘bar site’ or place near De la Salle University where the examinees and the frat members can convene and take their meals during the break time.
I suspect this is another one of those uniquely Pinoy traditions you won't find anywhere else and would leave even a Pinoy scratching his head in wonderment. I havent found anything on the net as to when the tradition started though. In bar ops, during bar exams conducted over four Sundays, law schools and law fraternities each send a delegation to the exam venue and cheer the examinees on with parades and such. The atmosphere is festive and is indistinguishable from the hoopla that accompanies college sporting events like the UAAP or NCAA. Different schools and fraternities stake out different areas surrounding the exam venue while the bar examinees -- the barristers -- take the exams. No other professional licensure examinations have this (although I suspect engineers and accountants would want one too after seeing how much fun the law fratboys are having). That's what we see, we meaning those of us who generally dont give that much of a hoot. It's all good, clean fun. The ole college spirit. Hip, hip, hooray! There are even moms there.

But there's another side to the fun and fanfare as reported by several sources on the web. Lawyer Connie Veneracion writes this in her blog:
The boisterous celebration is often accompanied by beer (champagne, for the more affluent groups). The males, especially members of fraternities, would occasionally get doused with beer. All in jest. But, sometimes, the jesting went too far. There were occasions in the past when these cheerers and supporters — drunk by the time the last exam is over — would hurl beer bottles right in front of the gate of the exam venue. I know. As a law student waiting for friends who took the bar exams, I have witnessed a few of those.
But there is a darker, more sinister side to the bar ops. Apparently, and this is spoken of only on the QT, part of the 'ops' is the distribution of 'tips' that law school or review school operators give their examinees, and these tips sometimes are the actual exam questions illegally obtained. Bar exams have been controversial in the past because of these tips such that the Supreme Court which supervises the exams have ordered results to be nullified and a retest be taken. To be fair, there are no reports of leakage (another Pinoy Englishism, btw -- other English-speaking countries just use leak) in the 2010 exams. The Supreme Court has announced new security measures to the exams starting 2011.

Connie Veneracion laments the fact that those involved in the violence during the bar exams are future lawyers. She didnt go far enough. The Law profession is the King Kong of all professions in the Philippines because it is usually from their ranks that congressmen, senators, justices of the Supreme Court, and presidents come from, and that, my friends, is a scary thought indeed.

In any case, Filipino English marches on. Mabuhay!

(Updates include references to 'pillbox' and 'bar ops' in Supreme Court documents and other sources.)


R.O. said...

What's FTW? Sorry, I just retired, so I'm out of the retarded pop culture loop.

Jego said...

FTW = for the win.

There's also FTMFW which I'll leave you to figure out yourself. :-D