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Hoy, There’s A Filipino Influence in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

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Lechonk, the Hog Pokémon. Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company/Nintendo

If you’re a discerning Filipino Pokémon fan like me, you might have noticed something sorta kinda pinoy going on with the news updates for the upcoming Generation 9 games.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are releasing on November 18, 2022 on the Nintendo Switch, marking them the second mainline franchise games on the console after Pokémon Sword and Shield in 2019.

On June 1st, we were treated to the second trailer for the games set in the Paldea region which is influenced by Spain. In that trailer we got the squirrely Pika-clone Pawmi, the tiny olive Pokémon, Smoliv and last but not least, Lechonk–the rotund piggy whose name and appearance sizzled the internet’s hearts.

The Paldea Region. Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company/Nintendo

Like many clever Pokémon names, Lechonk is a portmanteau. Lechon is a Spanish term for roasted suckling pig, and chonk is a whippersnapper’s term for lovably plump. Together, they make Lechonk. The concept of roasted pig spans several countries outside of Spain, including the Philippines where the dish predates Spanish colonization. For centuries, Lechon has remained a popular meal across the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora, often shared at big family gatherings.

Lechonk as evidence for Poképinos is coincidental at best, but combined with the most recent trailer release, the chismis brains started bugging.

Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet’s World Overview trailer dropped on August 4th, beginning another hype cycle of theories and rumors. We got information on new characters, new Pokémon, and a look at a sparkling new vehicle. Wait, is that a jeepney?

Yes ma’am sir, my eyes do not deceive me. There is a whole ass jeepney at the 1:43 mark in the trailer. For those unfamiliar, a jeepney is a Filipino public transit vehicle converted from a surplus of military Jeeps the United States left behind after World War II. They have since become a Filipino cultural icon across the globe, shuttling the masses in style. So what’s it doing in Pokémon then?

On September 7th, we got a better look at the game through the Seek Your Treasure trailer. In it, we see that the jeepney is commandeered by Mela, leader of the newest rival team, Team Star. In promotional art, it appears that the engine of the vehicle has a tongue, insinuating that there might actually be a Pokémon under the hood powering everything. It’s certainly tricked out enough to be of some importance including hot rod flames, flags, multicolored LED accents, and a banging speaker system even Exploud would be jealous of!

Beyond that, the utility of the jeepney is uncertain. Maybe you can race it among other vehicles. Perhaps it offers fast-travel between cities. And it certainly tracks with the theming of the motorized box-art legendaries, Koraidon and Miraidon.

Are we about to see a barangay of Filipinos roll up to Paldea and get revenge? It’s really hard to say. Anything else is purely speculation and we need more context. However, I am primed to see how the Philippines might play more of an aesthetic or narrative influence in these games. It’s reasonable to expect islands being depicted in each Pokémon entry. Who’s to say they wouldn’t be based on the Philippines? As long as I get a bibingka Pokémon, I’ll be satisfied.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet will be released on the Nintendo Switch November 18, 2022. 

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