Yes, what is “ningas kugon”? For the sake of literal interpretation so that it is easily understood, allow me to dissect what the phrase means: ningas means “in flame”, it could also be a “spark” that could eventually turn into fire, something that could also be “burning”. There are many ways of interpreting it but, basically those are the straight out meaning in English as they are in Tagalog and of course if you come from a different province in the Philippines, the word might have a contrasting significance. But for purposes of understanding, we shall make use of how it is commonly understood. Going to the ‘kugon’ – it actually refers to a tall, perennial grass used in thatching. Its scientific name is Imperata cylindrica.
Etimologically, the English word ‘cogon’ is from the Spanish cogón, while in Tagalog, it is expressed and spelled as ‘kugon’.
Cogon grass is called by the Japanese as bloodgrass and is considered a noxious weed that’s a more invasive species than kudzu in the southeastern United States.
The two words put together is “flaming cogon grass”. As a Filipino cultural trait, it refers to the Filipino cultural trait of enthusiastically starting things, but then quickly losing enthusiasm soon after. So if you try to lit up a ‘cogon’ you would observe how it will just burn into flames and poof!, gone afterwards!
Correlating ‘ningas cogon’ to the Filipinos could be rooted from the fact that at times or in more ways than one, Filipinos tend to leave problems unsolved or projects undone because of lack of knowledge on how to resolve or fix the problems thus, it is “better” to leave it, but, the truth is, it is more of the lack of understanding of the root of the problems.
In short, that cultural trait has been attributed to the Filipinos for years and somewhere along the years, it appears that Filipinos themselves – not all but some – have admitted or even owned, such a character trait. The reality though is different, because we know full well that we are much more than what that preconceived attributions say of Filipinos than what we actually are. It is a negative connotation which we ourselves have proven to be a mere attribution outside of the fact.
Insofar as I am concerned, it is a misnomer in the Filipino culture that could even lead to discrimination to us as Filipinos and to our culture in general. It has been proven for years that Filipinos are hard workers, and those who are abroad working are sacrificing for the sake of their families and loved ones left behind in the Philippines, is a demonstration of NOT being a ‘ningas kugon’. Filipinos have made themselves worthy to any society they face. Experience tells us that. Although a saying holds true ‘that in any forest there is a snake’ but, the Filipinos have shown integrity and dignity, and in the midst of the problems the country and its people are facing now, our nature is to prosper, and it may not come now but surely, later.
With the ideals of the present dispensation, and in the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, the speck of light at the end of the tunnel the Philippines is going through, can already be seen even from the far distance.