If you do a Google search on the word tinapay, among the results will be “bread” from Tagalog-Dictionary.com. You will also see images of various kinds of bread.
If you do a further Google search on the word bread, Wikipedia will tell you that bread is a staple food prepared — usually by baking —from a dough of flour and water.
My interest in the root of tinapay began when I learned that the word was included in the first Western record of the Cebuano vocabulary, written down by Antonio Pigafetta in 1521. Pigafetta was a Venetian scholar and explorer who sailed with the Magellan expedition and visited some Visayan islands.
According to Pigafetta’s notes, the Old Cebuano word tinapai meant “rice cake.”
In LanguageLink.com, Jessie Grace U. Robrico points out that the old Cebuano tinapai has evolved into puto and bibingka in modern Cebuano. This makes sense: indeed, in the whole country today the generic names puto and bibingka apply to cakes made with rice, whole or ground.
Our word puto is believed to be derived from puttu of Kerala, India.
Our bibingka comes from Goa, India, where a sweet rice cake was called bebingca. These words probably came to our shores via contacts with Indian and Portuguese traders.
Puto, as we understand it today, generally applies to rice cakes made by steaming fermented rice batter. Have you noticed that putong puti has a yeasty taste to it, hinting that it is quite panis (fermented)? This is accomplished by soaking the rice overnight with a sourdough starter which spreads its flavor into the whole batch and also serves as a leavening agent.
Putong puti baked in banana keaves. The slightly sour white puto
often accompanies a stew that has a sauce of pork blood (dinuguan).
Puto kutsinta, another type of rice cake.
In the early history of Maritime Southeast Asia there was a staple food called tapai. These were fermented pastes made with starches such as cassava or rice. Very likely, Indonesian settlers brought this food to our islands, and those rice cakes were what Pigafetta saw, and he was told that they were called tinapai.
I have yet to find out the linguistic principle behind the formation of some Pilipino words which indicate process, as in the following examples. The -in is inserted in the original term, which could be borrowed from another language:
By Midori in https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapai
Vendors in modern-day Indonesia still sell slightly alcoholic (that is, fermented) tapai, which can have either a sweet or sour taste. They may be eaten as is, or with certain dishes.
Indonesian tapai are now called puto in the Philippines, where tinapay applies to any kind of bread made from wheat flour.