Faithful or Loyal? “Tapat” or “tapat”?

In my study of the Tagalog language I occasionally bump into gaps that sometimes make it difficult to convey nuances. You can convey the general meaning but there are situations where, if you are trying to put across a more nuanced information, that actually makes a huge difference in meaning, you find yourself short of words.

A case in point is the difference between faithful and loyal.

Dogs are animals who are always talked in terms of being faithful to men. The term can also be used in connection with an employee who faithfully does what his employer requires of him when his boss is watching him or, perhaps, a driver who abides by traffic laws, as long as police is around.

Personally I’ve never heard of a dog being talked in terms of being loyal. To me a driver who is loyal abides by the law regardless of whether he fears being given a ticket or not and a loyal employee will always do what is right even if his boss is not around.

In the western United States, there is a geyser that erupts just about every hour. It is so regular that it has been called Old Faithful. Such inanimate things as the moon are very faithful yet they are not capable of any attachment or moral qualities, such as loyalty.

In an intimate relationship you are faithful as a man if you do not cheat upon your spouse, but you are loyal if you are by her side come what may.

Now, while the English language has two different words to express these two concepts, Tagalog only seems to have one word which is “tapat“.

Does it mean that Filipinos don’t know the difference between being a dog-like, a geyser-like or a moon-like faithful person and a loyal one?

Well, the Filipino culture is a high-context one and the language is also high-context so, although the Tagalog language doesn’t really seem to have a specific word for loyal I do not believe that this means that by marrying a Filipina you will bump into someone who is just faithfully sticking to her marriage vows and does not know how to be loyally attached no matter what.

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