“Ang bango-bango mong
tingnan (You look so fragrant)” is beautiful. It
is synaesthesia embedded in the
Smell is culture, environment,
history. When we describe a smell, we use words to describe sensations in a
place in the brain that was there before the capacity for language even evolved.
The bridge, then, is metaphor. “It smells like…” Metaphor, at its best, is an
act of creation – the brain evoking the same meaning from two very different
things. Isn’t it lovely to think that every time we describe a smell, we are
creators, adventurers, grand experimenters of the
I can name vanilla, tuberose,
fig. I have never really smelled a Comoros vanilla pod, a tuberose, a fresh fig.
I have no history with them. In my world, they are fictions of anonymous
chemists. In my world, Derrick says “Amoy
latik (It smells like fried coconut)” when I
drift by in Etro Heliotrope (vanilla-almond-floral). In my world, Joey says “It
smells like a funeral in here” when I wear La Chasse Aux Papillons. I expect
that’s the jasmine registering as sampaguita, a small white flower made into
leis draped around statues of saints, unsuspecting tourists and yes, coffins.
pinipig. The smell of puffed toasted rice is
metaphor for the scent of a nubile virgin, usually fair of skin, usually desired
by sweaty men from the
araw. Literally, the smell of the sun. Mothers
say this and wrinkle their noses after they’ve kissed their children’s heads,
sticky and grimy from playing
The smell rising from the soil after rain. My mother used to rub vinegar under
my nose to avert illness, if I had happened to be outside – and breathing,
presumably – when the rain first fell.