Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Girls Who Spoke For Themselves : Part 5 : Liba Poto, Liba Cabengo

They were just two normal little girls who found themselves outside the world, looking in with curious eyes. But they made themselves a home there. They gave names to things, and found a way to express what they thought and felt inside.

"What are they saying?" Perhaps things quite ordinary, only uttered in a strange and unknown tongue. Things like:

"Pinit, putahtraletungay." (Finish, potato salad hungry)
"Nis, Poto?" (This, Poto?)
"Liba Cabingoat, it." (Dear Cabengo, eat)
"La moa, Poto?" (Here more, Poto?)
"Ya." (Yeah)

 They had no less than sixteen different ways to say "potato":

1. poo day dooz
2. puh da tut
3. buh da duh
4. puh tay toe sa led
5. po ta too
6. puh day too tah
7. po da tuht
8. po da too
9. po day tah ta led
10. puh tah ta let
11. boo day poo tile
12. buh da too
13. puh tay toe ta led
14. puh ted ta led
15. puh tay to tah
16. puh toe toe

And those are just the ones that were documented.

This is Jean-Pierre, the friendly filmmaker who wanted to tell the story of these two bright and charming girls:

He said years later of his film about them: "I start from the question 'What are they saying?' and I end up with quite a different question—'What is going to happen to them?' And somewhere in between, I have asked myself the question of kidnapping the twins and living happily ever after with them."

It is an understandable sentiment. What if the Kennedy girls had been whisked away to a place where they were allowed to continue speaking their own rare and marvelous language, where they could describe the world to us as only they could see it? Perhaps they could have been bilingual, fluent in the language of the land, but also carrying on their own mysterious native speech.

They may have stopped speaking it on their own after awhile. But perhaps that should have been their decision, made in their own time.


Dear Poto and Cabengo, what things did you say, and what things did you know?

You had a word, liba, obviously based on the German word for love. Did you learn this from your grandmother, not only the word, but also what it meant? I like to think it is true.

You knew about potatoes and potato salad, of this we are certain.

I am glad that Jean-Pierre took you to the zoo, to see the many wondrous creatures of the earth. I often take my daughter there, and I know it is a joy for little girls.

Where are they now... Poto and Cabengo? These strange girls from another world?

If you ever see them, tell them that they are remembered, and that they taught us something special.

Tell them that their secret and precious words, though no longer heard on this earth, still exist somewhere in the universe, still carrying the secret and precious thoughts that emerged from lonely children's hearts.

If you ever see them, tell them that I love them, and that they are beautiful.

Liba Poto, Liba Cabengo.

Part 6

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