In a country where multiple languages are prevalent, the incomprehensibility of the traditional Filipino-translated Bible has been a valid excuse not to impinge on the sacred text.
This was a challenge that the Philippine Bible Society tried to address a year ago when it launched a new Bible translation
of the New Testament known as the "Pinoy Version."
The new version is a heterogenous language translation that uses Tagalog and English languages and everyday vernacular, especially of young Filipinos.
"This is the way most Filipinos speak, and so if you make it any different from the way they naturally speak, they won’t read it," said Anicia Del Corro, a linguist and translation consultant.
The publishers of the new translation noted that it seems to ring clearer to the younger generation. The youth are quick to try their hands at reading the "Pinoy Version," calling it the "Millennial Bible."
Trisha Flores, 18, said the new translation "resonates deeply with my own experiences ... unlike other translations that use difficult words."
"You wouldn’t get bored reading it, especially if you’re a new reader of the Bible
," said Mechaela Pangilinan, 22.
The new translation went through a rough patch in getting the approval of church leaders.
Due to its "unusual language," some church people find it "too informal" to be called sacred literature
"The way it appealed to them was that you can’t be that lax and be friends with the Lord," said translator Thine Ibasco. "Your relationship with Him should be distant, with respect."
"There’s also an assumption that the Bible was randomly given by God, that it wasn’t a result of history and language development," said Marvin Luci, one of the translators.
"Some [church] leaders felt that if you understood what’s written on the Bible, it diminishes the sanctity of the text," added Jasmin Crismo.
Alvin Molito, a linguist who helped in the project, recalled how one academic called the project a "corruption of language."
Readers' reaction to the text helped the translators.
For instance, the word "bobo
," meaning stupid, when used in a verse in Galatians, sparked harsh comments from reviewers who demanded it be removed.
The translators eventually used the phrase "hindi nag-iisip
," or not thinking. "Some people found it offensive," said Molito.
Another challenge was to make the translation faithful to the source text and free from the theological bias of a particular religion.
Even the distribution of the Bible to the public was done in a "not-so-usual way."
Francine Tan, a biker, tapped her organization to take the Bible to the different provinces.
She recalled how one woman approached during one stop to thank the bikers. "Now my child does not have any excuse not to read the Bible," she said.
"I can see that they have more engagement [with the new translation]," said Tan.
Del Corro, the linguist, said it's the beauty of the language. "It talks about profound meaning about God, and the Pinoy version made it easier and fun," she said.
Three months after its launch in September last year, the "Pinoy Version" had sold about 100,000 copies, a first in the publishing house's history.
When asked what’s next, Del Corro said the Psalms and the Proverbs are in the pipeline, and eventually the Old Testament.
She said it would not be easy, "but it is definitely a step in the right direction."