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COMMENT | ‘Buhi pa baja kaw?’

By: Jhon Steven C. Espenido


We are Surigaonons! Of course, we don’t say, “Kumusta na?” Instead, we say, “Buhi pa baja kaw?” (Its closest translation is “Are you still alive?”)

No matter how disturbing it might seem to hear, this term, along with its linguistic context, is best understood by Surigaonons, or at least by people who have lived in Surigao City. Similarly, this implies that the one who asks the question is concerned or interested in knowing the person’s current state whom he or she is addressing, and the interlocutor would respond by any means necessary, typically with a reply of “buhi pa” or jokingly saying “ay dili.”

“Buhi pa baja kaw?” is akin to “Kumusta na?”—a cultural greeting among us Filipinos. Moreover, to gain more insight into people, I believe it’s nice to ask this question, “Kumusta na?” as frequently as possible. This allows you to better gauge whether the person you’re engaged with is still doing well or is facing challenges in life.

This question gives you a chance for profound connections, allowing yourself to be part of the journey with the person you are asking. It is a ticket towards a route of understanding life even more, discovering the undiscovered. This question seems simple but it will definitely strike a chord in someone’s heart. Planting a seed of kindness and compassion, I believe is way more important than sowing seeds of sorrow in another’s heart.

This question may offer you a sense of relief, acknowledging that while life may be challenging—an uphill battle—there will always be someone out there willing to lend an ear, hear your stories, and value the outcome of your experiences. A question that expresses a longing for consolation and a savor for authenticity in the pursuit of life satisfaction.

Whether we like it or not, this “common” question is something we often find ourselves wanting to ask our friends, family members, etc., if not daily, then occasionally. At times, we might even ask it dramatically to ourselves (Kumusta na nga ba ako?) and appreciate it when someone asks it directly to us, whether we are in a hallway or nestled anywhere else.

All right, let me ask you, buhi pa baja kaw? I mean, kumusta na? And whatever response you decide on, I hope that is truly what you feel now.

Jhon Steven C. Espenido, 23, is from Surigao City.


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