“Sirena” by Gloc 9: Lyrics, explanation & English translation

Commentary

It’s usually my rule here on the blog that I don’t translate songs natives already have, so long as I wasn’t able to find their translation after a moderate amount of research. However, the ones I found online for this song, unfortunately had many errors which made me unsure if I was even understanding the song. Or, worse, were very whitewashed as regards the abuse in the song. After realizing I was right about footnote 3, I decided I needed to translate this.

Video

Lyrics & translation

[CHORUS]
Ako’y isang sirena
I am a mermaid[1]This translation is not exact. Sirena comes by way of Spanish in this case, where it has more negative connotations than in English, and is often used as a synonym for a femme fatalemujer fatal. Wikipedia has an article which attempts to explain the differences. There is also a connotation, similar to Spanish maricón, that makes the word slang for a homosexual man, (which obviously makes sense given the topic.)

Kahit anong sabihin nila
No matter what they say,

Ako ay ubod ng ganda
(I know) I’m very beautiful.

Ako’y isang sirena
I am a mermaid

Kahit anong gawin nila
No matter what they do,

Bandera ko’y di tutumba
My flag[2]Rainbow LGBT rights flag implied. will never fall

Drum na may tubig ang sinisisid
Into a drum of water I’m made to dive[3]In this context, it’s a punishment for a child seen as misbehaving. It’s also a reference to a Filipino joke, according to a comment on Reddit.

Naglalaki ang mga braso, sa’kin dumidikdik
Strong arms are holding me down

Drum na may tubig ang sinisisid
Into a drum of water I’m made to dive

Sa patagalan ng paghinga, sa’kin kayo ay bibilib
You’ll all be surprised at how long I can hold my breath

Simula pa nang bata pa ako,
From the start, when I was still a child

Halata mo na kapag naglalaro
You very easily noticed it[4]It, meaning his gender, or queerness (kabaklaan). Thanks to the anonymous commenter who left reply № 1 to this post! when I was playing

Kaya para lahat ay nalilito,
Of course for everyone it was confusing,

Magaling sa Chinese garter at piko
To see how good I was at Chinese garter[5]A game something like an opposite of the game of “limbo”. Instead of going under the fixed “garter” (rope, etc.), players cross over it. As it gets higher and higher, more and more difficult techniques will be required to jump over it. Most often played by little girls. and hopscotch

Mga labi ko’y pulang pula,
While I had lips, as red as could be,

Sa bubble gum na sinaba
Chewing gum loudly[6]Literally, “to a pulp” or “until flavorless”.

Palakad-lakad sa harapan ng salamin,
Always walking in front of the mirror,

Sinasabi sa sarili “ano’ng panama nila?”
Saying to myself, “who can match me?”[7]Literally, “what match are they to me?”, essentially a statement of extreme self-love.

Habang kumekembot ang bewang,
While I shake my booty,[8]This is a bit of artistic license on my part. Kembot is hard to exactly translate; sometimes “swaying hips” are used but it’s more like one single motion which pronounces the hips, often used by homosexual men in the Philippines.

Mga hikaw na gumegewang
With my earrings bouncing around,

Gamit ang pulbos na binili kay Aling Bebang
And powder on my face which I bought from Ms. Bebang

Upang matakpan ang mga pasa sa mukha
To hide the bruises on my face

Nga galing sa aking ama
Which my father gives me.

Na tila di natutuwa sa tuwing ako’y nasisilayan
It seems he hates even a glimpse of what I look like.

Laging nalalatayan,
He always gives me fresh wounds,

Sa paglipas ng panahon ay di ko namamalayan
So many that eventually I stop caring.[9]Literally, “I’m no longer aware.”

Na imbes na tumigas ay tila lalong lumlambot, ang puso kong mapagmahal
My tender heart, instead of hardening, seems to get even softer

Parang pilikmatang kulot.
Like eyelashes made curly[10]Literally, “like curly eyelashes”. This seemed like a non sequitur to me at first, maknig me wonder whether I understood the word kulot. Then, when I was looking through a dictionary, I found pilikmata pangkulot, eyelash curler. I decided to look into the process, now this line makes sense. From Bustle: “For the first 24 to 48 hours after the treatment, your lashes are still a little flexible, so avoid moisture for the first day or two.”

[REPEAT CHORUS]

Hanggang sa naging bibinata na ako
Even during[11]Literally, “until” or “through”. the time I was becoming a young man

(Teka muna mali, dalaga na pala ‘to)
(Well, rather, a young woman)

Pero bakit parang lahat ay nalilito pa rin?
Why is everyone still confused?

Ano bang mga problema nyo?
What is your problem?

Dahil ba ang mga kilos ko’y iba,
Is it just because I behave differently,

Sa dapat makita ng inyong mga mata?
Than from what’s proper in your eyes?

Sa tuwing nanonood ng liga laging natutulala
Whenever I watched basketball, I was always transfixed

Kahit di pumasok ang bola ako’y tuwang tuwa
Even if there wasn’t a goal, I was excited

Kahit kinalyo na sa tapang, kasi ganun na lamang
Even despite my callouses,[12]Literally, “even despite the callouses (inflicted upon me) by the brave”. Clearly, to me at least, somewhat mocking the bravery/manliness of leaving wounds on a child. I just learned to live with them[13]Ganun na lamang is similar to the Japanese phrase しょうがない (shōganai), and literally means “it’s just like that” but has a sense similar to “nothing can be done about it” or “it can’t be helped”.

Akong paluin ng tubo kahit kinakalawang
As I learned to live with being beaten by a rusty tube

Tama na naman itay, di na po ako pasaway
Enough daddy, I promise not to be naughty anymore

Di ko na po isusuot ang lumang saya ni inay
I won’t wear mommy’s old dresses anymore

Kapag ako’y naiiyak ay sumusugod sa ambon
When I feel the tears coming on, I’ll just cry in the rain

Iniisip ko na lamang na baka ako’y ampon
I’ll just think to myself, “maybe I’m adopted.”

Kasi araw araw na lamang ay walang humpay na banat
Because there is no end to our daily tension,

At inaabot ang ganda ko papailalim ng dagat
Neither to my reaching out for beauty underneath the sea.

[REPEAT CHORUS]

Lumipas ang mga taon na nagsipag-asawa
Years have passed since the marriages

Aking mga kapatid, lahat sila’y sumama
Of all my siblings, they all live (with their spouses)[14]Literally, “are together”.

Nagpakalayo-layo; ni hindi makabisita
Far away; they aren’t able to visit

Kakain na po itay; nakahanda na ang lamesita
Time to eat, Dad; the table is ready for you

Akay akay sa paglakad paisa isang hakbang
You’re led in by the hand, one step at a time

Ngayo’y buto’t balat ang dati matipunong katawan
Your once muscular frame is now just skin and bones

Ngayon sa inyong kaarawan, susubukan kong palitan
Now that it’s your birthday, I’ll try to replace

Ang lungkot na nadarama, wag na po nating balikan
The sadness that you’re feeling, let’s not go back to how things were before

Kahit medyo naiinis hindi dahil sa nagca-cancer
Even though you’re annoyed, and not due to your cancer

Kasi dahil ang tagapag-alaga mo’y nakaduster
But rather because your son is taking care of you in a duster[15]A type of cheap dress for wearing around the house.

Isang gabi, ako’y iyong tinawag
One night, you call for me

Lumapit ako sa’yong tabi, ika’y tumangan
I come close to you, you grab hold of me

Kumapit ka sa aking kamay kahit hirap magsalita
You cling to my hand, and say, even though it’s hard for you to say it:

“Anak, patawad sana sa lahat ng aking nagawa
“Son, please forgive all I’ve done

Di sinusukat ang tapang at ang bigote sa mukha
A man doesn’t need a moustache to be brave[16]Literally, “a man’s bravery isn’t measured along with his moustache.”

Dahil kung minsan mas lalake pa sa lalake ang bakla”
Because sometimes, bakla[17]The word bakla in the Philippines is used also for all three: crossdressers, gay men, and transexuals. A footnote really cannot explain why. If you are interested, I recommend Ceperiano, et al. (2016), “Girl, Bi, Bakla, Tomboy”: The Intersectionality of Sexuality, Gender, and Class in Urban Poor Contexts”, § Philippine Cultural Context, p. 8 make better men than men do.”

[REPEAT CHORUS]

TL Notes    [ + ]

1. This translation is not exact. Sirena comes by way of Spanish in this case, where it has more negative connotations than in English, and is often used as a synonym for a femme fatalemujer fatal. Wikipedia has an article which attempts to explain the differences. There is also a connotation, similar to Spanish maricón, that makes the word slang for a homosexual man, (which obviously makes sense given the topic.)
2. Rainbow LGBT rights flag implied.
3. In this context, it’s a punishment for a child seen as misbehaving. It’s also a reference to a Filipino joke, according to a comment on Reddit.
4. It, meaning his gender, or queerness (kabaklaan). Thanks to the anonymous commenter who left reply № 1 to this post!
5. A game something like an opposite of the game of “limbo”. Instead of going under the fixed “garter” (rope, etc.), players cross over it. As it gets higher and higher, more and more difficult techniques will be required to jump over it. Most often played by little girls.
6. Literally, “to a pulp” or “until flavorless”.
7. Literally, “what match are they to me?”, essentially a statement of extreme self-love.
8. This is a bit of artistic license on my part. Kembot is hard to exactly translate; sometimes “swaying hips” are used but it’s more like one single motion which pronounces the hips, often used by homosexual men in the Philippines.
9. Literally, “I’m no longer aware.”
10. Literally, “like curly eyelashes”. This seemed like a non sequitur to me at first, maknig me wonder whether I understood the word kulot. Then, when I was looking through a dictionary, I found pilikmata pangkulot, eyelash curler. I decided to look into the process, now this line makes sense. From Bustle: “For the first 24 to 48 hours after the treatment, your lashes are still a little flexible, so avoid moisture for the first day or two.”
11. Literally, “until” or “through”.
12. Literally, “even despite the callouses (inflicted upon me) by the brave”. Clearly, to me at least, somewhat mocking the bravery/manliness of leaving wounds on a child.
13. Ganun na lamang is similar to the Japanese phrase しょうがない (shōganai), and literally means “it’s just like that” but has a sense similar to “nothing can be done about it” or “it can’t be helped”.
14. Literally, “are together”.
15. A type of cheap dress for wearing around the house.
16. Literally, “a man’s bravery isn’t measured along with his moustache.”
17. The word bakla in the Philippines is used also for all three: crossdressers, gay men, and transexuals. A footnote really cannot explain why. If you are interested, I recommend Ceperiano, et al. (2016), “Girl, Bi, Bakla, Tomboy”: The Intersectionality of Sexuality, Gender, and Class in Urban Poor Contexts”, § Philippine Cultural Context, p. 8

4 Replies to ““Sirena” by Gloc 9: Lyrics, explanation & English translation”

  1. Very nice translation. I do wonder why the other translations you found were whitewashed or nonsensical, considering this is a popular song.

    Can I just point out that in these lines:

    > Simula pa nang bata pa ako / halata mo na kapag naglalaro
    > From the start, when I was still a child/ I was very easily noticed while playing

    It reads more like “halata mo na [ang kabaklaan ko] kapag naglalaro.” So it’s not him that was very easily noticed (or was obvious), but his gender.

    1. Thank you! That does indeed make sense! We’d indeed expect a pronoun if it was a self-reference.

  2. Hey, is there a way to talk to you privately? You mentioned my site in your Tagalog learning resources and wanted to mention that it’s changed and improved a lot. Maybe we can cooperate in some way?

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