Have you come across a new and exotic word lately? You have just encountered one. ‘Semenekaki’ has host of meanings depending upon the disposition of the user at a particular point – and the gravity of the topic or situation being confronted.

The etymology of the word is somewhat interesting on a singular note: this was concocted by two teen-agers 58 years ago before midnight of a particular day of the week they were to embark on an unexpected journey.

A few weeks earlier, they learned that they were accepted to the Seminary and enter priesthood. Their days since then were a flurry of activities preparing for this life-changing opportunity. You see, these two were the oldest males of two closely related families. They are cousins and the best of friends. They also come from the ‘lower class’, the mine-field for the Catholic Church Hierarchy to replenish their stock of ‘shepherds of the Lord’.

But the more important thing was that the Seminary was an escape from a tedious and tough life of the poverty-stricken and provided them a higher quality education at an affordable cost. It was practically free. Education such as this was normally beyond the capabilities of their families to provide. They hit the jackpot and the sweepstakes too. They were the toasts of their community: two young boys off to improve their lot – and their families too.

So, that one special night, these two went the rounds of their haunts bidding these favourite places goodbye. One such place was the dark stage of the local catholic school beside the ‘balay sa pari’ – the ‘combento’ – in front of the local unpaved basketball court, next to the church where they were privileged to serve masses and religious ceremonies as the local altar-boys. It was these latter roles that got them the invitations from the parish priest to apply for entrance to the seminary and a subsequent nod of the bishop.

They didn’t know how to drink then but they were on a ‘sustained high’ gambolling around and shouting gibberish. And that word ‘Semenekaki’ exploded.

Since then, that word was used by the two into their seminary years and beyond. At that point of discovery, that could have meant ‘awesome’. They wrote the word everywhere, even on their classroom desk during the long hours of study of Latin literature and grammar. It could have meant ‘boredom’. They wrote the word on paper money. It could have meant a wish for riches in contravention to the priesthood’s vow of poverty. There really was no strict definition. It was a secret word between the two. But it was a word suited more for something positive and perhaps something hopeful.


The Priest was the parish-priest of Calinan, a small barrio then and just a few kilometres from the city, but a million breaths away from that opportunity laid before them. His name is Rev. Fr. Marcel Lavois, PME – of the Foreign Mission Society of Canada. The bishop was His Excellency Bishop Clovis Thibault, PME of the Prelature ‘Nullius’ of Davao. The two boys were Melchor C. Peloton and his cousin Lito Monico C. Lorenzana. They never made it to the priesthood.


Semenekaki – pronounced “sem-me ne kay-ki”


Read 1605 times Last modified on Wednesday, 17 February 2016 12:40
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