The Two Levels of Kwentuan (or Chit-chatting): Mabuting Usapan and “Maboteng” Usapan

As I often mention in my posts, Filipinos are very social and like spending hours talking and gossiping.

Filipino women seem to be more inclined toward tsismis or gossip (not always malicious gossip, most of the time it is just a harmless sticking of their nose into other people’s affairs).

Men in the Philippines, on the other hand, only seem to know two kinds of conversation: the mabuting usapan (literally the “good conversation” meaning, I guess, a conversation centered around a topic) and the maBOTEng usapan, bote meaning “bottle” (of gin of course) which is a conversation that has no specific topic, rather it is just an opportunity for drinking.

I remember walking down the main street of my wife’s barangay and noticing that early in the morning men were seated either on the side of the road or in front of their homes and, because they knew I could speak Tagalog, they would say to me: “kwentuan tayo” (“let’s chat”) and, because I had already acquired some experience with the Filipino community here in Rome and I was already rather acquainted with the two possible types of conversation Filipino men engage in, I would ask: “ito ba ay isang mabuting usapan o isang maBOTEng usapan?” at which they chuckled and pulled out a bottle of Ginebra San Miguel to make it clear that 99% of the times the usapan is a maBOTEng one!

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