Dear Charlie and Jack,

In my heroic effort to improve our family’s dietary habits, I have started reading “Healing with Whole Foods:  Asian Traditions and Modern”.  It’s like reading a super dense case book in law school—my eyes glaze and I fall asleep every time I try to read more than 10 pages.  To get myself going, I have been intermittently checking out this blog showcasing “recipes & stories from a Pinay kitchen.”  This blogger started her blog back in 2010 with an alphabet series on Filipino food and anything else that’s Filipino food related.  Check it out right here if you are so inclined.  I am inspired!

 So, while I’m laboring on a much longer letter to you on food and healing and traditions, I put together this short piece to start my alphabet series on your experiences growing up (half) Bisaya.

A is for AMBOT.

 Ambot is Bisaya for  “I don’t know”

 But don’t be fooled by its seemingly easy translation.  It is such a powerful word, best resorted to when saying “I don’t know” does not sufficiently express the depth of whatever it is that one is currently feeling: confusion, frustration, anger, hurt, annoyance.

 This is how I use it with Charlie when he asks and asks and asks and asks to do something or go somewhere and doesn’t take no for an answer:  “Ay Ambot nimo!”  (meaning:  I’ve already said no you can’t go and if you insist on going and something bad happens to you, if you fall and break your leg or arm or neck, don’t come crying to me because I will just laugh and laugh at you!)

 Here are two more examples:

 Example #1

“Charlie, where are your shoes?”

Ok Answer:  “Ambot!”  Plus a shrug and wide innocent looking eyes.  This translates to, “I don’t know, I really don’t know.  I had them on when I went to school and then they disappeared!  I think the bad guys took them!”

Really Bad Answer:  “Ambot!”  Plus an exasperated sigh.  This translates to, “I don’t know, don’t ask me, I don’t know anything and I don’t want to be bothered.”  This makes me want to reach over and pinch Charlie’s ears until he cries.

Jack’s echo: “Ambot!”  Plus a giggle.  This translates to, “I don’t know what I’m saying or what you’re saying but that word sounds so funny so I’m going to mimic Kuya Charlie because I want to be just like him.”

(Below is your Papa’s take on Ambot.)


Example #2

“Mike, have you seen my keys?”  This is the question I most often ask your Papa.

Acceptable Answer:  “Ambot!  Did you look in the key drawer?”  This is a very benign Ambot and, although it is not very helpful, it is probably the best Ambot I can hope for.

Bad Answer:  “Ambot!”  Plus an eye roll.  This translates to, “I don’t know, don’t ask me this again, Jesus God, woman, why can’t you put it in the key drawer where all keys go?”  Fortunately, your Papa never dishes me this kind of Ambot.

And then there are the other more powerful Ambot that I’m glad I don’t get to hear (yet) from anyone in our household:

Ambot!”  “I don’t know.  I don’t like you.  F@^*! Off!”

Ambot!”  “I don’t know. How the F@^* should I know?”

“Ambot!”  “I don’t know, whatever, to hell with you…”

And so on…

Because this post is meant to be short, I will end right here with a classic and meaningless Ambot ditty that you both have recently learned:

 “Ambot sa Bunot, Way Sagol Bagol!