The Non-Standardized Filipino Measurement System

This is a sequel of my previous post, “How do you define isang gatang?” Other non-standard measurement system burst out my mind. It’s better to jot them down than let lost somewhere.

1) Gatang. small tin can, drinking glass, plastic cups or ceramic mugs. Choice of medium determines the actual volume. I think the real equivalent is a standard cup, 250 ml. Use to measure small volume of rice for steaming.

2) Takal. The old way of determining amount of harvested coffee berries. Large rectangular cooking oil tin can is filled with excess coffee berries until a pyramid forms beyond the brim. Harvesters are paid based on number of takal they got.

3) Drum. Household water usage is measured in cubic meters – as seen on water gauges. But most people remember the daily water usage by means of drum container. Mom and family usually consume two drums daily. Us usually consume one drum daily. True for households with no water metering system.

4) Pala, shovel. In construction site. Small cement quantities are measured by shovel. E.g. four shovels sand plus one shovel cement. Differences in quantities are due to shovel size, extent of shovel damage and user’s judgment.

5) Sako, sack. I am buying two sacks fermented cocoa beans whenever out of stock. Two sacks means 100 kilograms, 50 kilograms per sack. Note: for cocoa beans only. The seller assures that each sack contain exactly 50 kilograms.

Other commodities will have different weight measurements. Sacks come in different sizes. Farm products like, ginger, santol, whole corn, gabi and avocado for wholesale are packed in sacks.

6) Bote, glass bottle. The common sentence heard at sari-sari store, “May I buy one bottle vinegar/soy sauce/cooking oil!” It commonly refers to a 335 ml gin bottle.

7) Salop. Mom used to buy rice packed in a large brown paper bag – she was referring to it as one salop. I could not roughly quantify the volume. The word “salop” faded since the proliferation of plastic sando bags.

8) Talampakan. It is the SI system foot/feet. Instead of using a foot ruler/measuring tape, commoners use own’s feet for rough measurements.

9) Dangkal. It is the distance between tip of thumb and tip of baby finger pointed at opposite directions.

10) Dipa. The distance between tips of left and right arm raised at opposite directions.

11) Dali. The distance between tip of thumb and the first joint or simply half of the thumb length. One dali usually equates to one inch.

12) Kulo, boil. I asked mom how long shall I boil the vegetable. I was amazed by her answer. She said, dalwang(two) kulo. Should I let it cool and boil it for the second time? I asked for further explanation but got no response.

13) Kawayan, bamboo. Use to illustrate how deep a river is. The deepest river in town is about two bamboos. A measurement done in darkness. No one has ever lined bamboos vertically to measure depth.

14) Timba. Yet another way to measure water volume. E.g. Please fetch me five pails of water? Pails come in different sizes and constructions.

15) Dakot. Isang(one) dakot is the amount of grain or powder that can be grasp by hand. Using both hands significantly make the volume difference.


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