Monday, October 31, 2011

The Latest Report on Isinay as an Endangered Language

Just when I thought I have digested all the literature on Isinay that is available on the Internet, I got another happy surprise in my work as Isinay lexicographer when I found by accident a paper written by Ms. Celina Marie Cruz of the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Not one to miss the opportunity, I fired this salvo to Ma'am Celina:

Dear Ma’am Celina,

Mawalang galang na po.

While navigating through the internet last night for a free downloadable copy of Otto Scheerer’s  THE PARTICLES OF RELATION OF THE ISINAI LANGUAGE, my serendipity angel showed me your THE REVITALIZATION CHALLENGE FOR SMALL LANGUAGES: THE CASE OF ISINAI.

Well, as a mestizo Isinay from Dupax myself, I feel I should thank you on behalf of my fellow Isinays who still care for the value and preservation – or at least prolonging the existence for many decades more – of our centuries-old language. 
I’m sorry I could not find your paper’s publication date. But based on your mentioning the Bona’ si Isinai Dopaj and mentioning a Department Order No. 74, s. 2009, I get it to mean it came out very recently. You see, I was speaker during the first anniversary of  Bona^ only last December and, indeed, it came out that we really need to do bold steps to save the Isinay language from falling into complete oblivion.

I guess that as a result of the suggestion I made in my rambling Isinay talk, the members of Bona^ teamed up with the Senior Citizens of Dupax in including as “major, major” part of the town’s fiesta last April a live presentation of how the Isinay daluj-daluj and lupeyup are made.

I’m not sure though if there was a complete videotape (or if somebody kept a copy) of the event which included the Isinay “how-to” narration of how such formerly popular glutinous-rice delicacies among us Dupax Isinays were made. Of course, there was also singing by senior and not-yet-senior citizens of the Isinay songs (e.g. “Dattut Ittuam,” “Uar Sipan Uar,” “Osan Lavi”) that young and old alike loved to sing up to the early ‘70s when TV and Tagalog and cellphones were not yet part of our culture in Dupax, Bambang, and Aritao.

Oh yes, one reason I’m sending you this note is to report to you a recent development about our move to revitalize Isinay – in case you are going to write a sequel or an updated version of your “maserot on mampagayjayam poddan sinulat.”  Early this year I included an “Isinay Friends” group in my Facebook account that generated very warm reception from the younger Irupajs (people of Dupax) many of whom now work or live in the USA, Europe, Canada, Hongkong, and the Middle East.

It didn’t take long before our group got linked with another Facebook group called “Isinay Global Association” started by Isinays from Bambang and made more appealing by a lady who translated Bible verses into the Bambang version of Isinay. I had sporadic contributions to both groups by way of photos that generated not only lively Isinay exchanges but also evoked nostalgia among the members now living overseas.

In both FB groups, there is implied enthusiasm for revitalizing the Isinay language, be it Bambang or Dupax. Small steps and small victories, yes. It’s only unfortunate that no matter how I repeatedly included Aritao in my posts in the hope to flush out of the cave, as it were, Isinays of that town, my effort has so far met nakabibinging katahimikan from I-aritaos.

This is why I’m happy you reported that Aritao also has its Uhmu Si Tribun Si Beveoyar Ari-Tau. Would you know somebody in that group I could contact, preferably through e-mail? Would you also know if that group includes the Isinay writer-editor Edgar Daniel and the UP-based(?) indi-film producer/director Mel Guzman?

Pasensiya na po, Madam, sa aking pang-aabala. Patunay lang po iyon kung gaano ninyo pinasigla ang aba naming puso at mundong Isinay sa inyong sinulat. Magtiwala po kayo na gagamitin namin, kung inyo pong mamarapatin, ang mga mungkahing nakapulupot sa mga findings ninyo – tungo sa aming panggagatong at pagpapalagablab muli sa aming wika na kaakibat ng aming kultura.


Osan mangirayaw ira^yun mabves pusonar an tataju sina Diliman,

88 Amistad, Camp 7, Baguio City

From: Celina Marie Cruz <>
To: charlz castro <>
Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 11:08 AM
Subject: Re: Revitalizing Isinay

Dear Mr. Castro,

Thank you so much for your email. It really brightened my day, knowing the people of Isinai are showing so much interest in the preservation and revitalization of the language. And it warms the heart to know that, in my own little way, I could help you in your pursuits.

I wrote my paper on The Revitalization Challenge of Small Languages: The Case of Isinai for a Linguistics Congress held at Cagayan de Oro last February 2010. It's basically a summary of my thesis. I will try to find a copy of my thesis, in hopes of helping you further your initiatives. We (a group of linguistics and anthropology students) also did a paper on the Isinai language and culture around 2009 for field work. We left copies of our study at Aritao, Dupax and Bambang.

Mr. Edgar Daniel III was one of my research sources. You can try and contact him through this number 0906-5748717 or his wife at 09155778368. I'm sorry but I still can't find his email address. I will email you again once I find it.

Thank you again for updating me on the developments of the revitalization of the Isinai language and culture. I am excited for all your efforts! I hope your initiatives will soon bloom into greater things! Please continue updatingf me. And if there is anything I can help you with, please do not hesitate to ask! :)

Celina Cruz

Pinavlen Ma'am Celina,

Maraming salamat po sa inyong reply, at sa mga contact numbers.

It would be great to find out if the III in Mr. Daniel's name means he is the same person or a younger version of the Vizcaya Advocate editor I wrote a letter to and he liked the Isinay line I used ("Ayyu ayyu bebeyoyar Dupaj!" -- Literally: Kawawa naman ang bayang Dupax!). Well, that was in the pre-Martial Law years and I was a scrawny student then in UP Los Baños.

Actually, my interest at helping revitalize one of my dual native languages started as a game between me and my sisters in 2007 when, each time we meet, we would talk in Isinay and tried to outdo one another in using what we thought was the deepest Isinay word or phrase we could use -- and even imitated the sing-song way my father and uncle (natoy ra mot) talked. We started with the names of vegetables, insects, household utensils, and parts of the body. Since then our little game continued and included even my Dupax-based nieces and cousins, such that it became an unwritten rule to use Isinay when we talked with one another.

Interestingly, in cases of disputes involving wrong pronunciation or Ilocanized/Tagalized terms, we used our mother (a pure Ilocana who was forced to learn Isinay so she could get along with her pure Isinay mother-in-law and my father's Isinay relatives) as arbiter. Quite often, too, we consulted some of her senior citizen Isinay friends. I kept arbitrary listings here and there of the words that I myself have already forgotten, and pretty soon the few dozens of quaint or even moribund Isinay terms on my list became hundreds.

The hundreds soon became thousands and, before I knew it, I was already compiling and alphabetizing enough words in my computer to make an Isinay-English dictionary. The cellphone had been very useful as now and then my sisters would send in new words they remembered or came across with while conversing with fellow Isinays. In my little place in Baguio, I would also be alert for Isinay-sounding words each time my Bontoc-Barlig wife talked with her siblings.

And that was how I got invited to speak before the Bona^ si Isinai Dupaj. Somehow news got around that this prodigal son of Dupax was trying to make an Isinay dictionary, and the officers thought it would be best to encourage their members to help. To make the story short, napasubo na po ako. In fact, each time I go to Dupax to visit my mother, several members of the Bona^ (we use the circumflex here) who are also members of her senior citizens' association would come to the house and would ask me if I already had in my compilation this word, this song, this prayer, this saying, this lojlojmo^ (riddle), etc.

For the younger Isinays, mabuti na lang may Facebook na kung saan di lang kami nagkakakilanlan at nagpapalitan ng Isinay jokes at nag-re-react sa photos using Isinay. Believe me, enthusiastic din sila sa paggamit ng Isinay! In the process, marami akong napupulot na Isinay Bambang at Isinay Dupaj na di ko pa narinig sa tanang buhay ko.

Hulog ng langit din itong Internet na kung saan nadiskubre ko ang napakagandang sinulat ninyo.

Pasensya na po kung makuwento ako (ganyan daw yata ang medyo tumatanda na!) pero nakalimutan ko palang ireport din na napakalaking tulong sa revitalization ng Isinay language ang paggamit sa mga kanta at dasal na Isinay sa mga misa tuwing Linggo sa St. Vincent Catholic Church ng Dupax.

Mavves an ejao ira^yu, Madam Celina!

I shall tell you some of the findings of Ms. Cruz on Isinay in a future post. But those of you who may wish to read the paper may please Google Revitalization of Isinai. Alternatively, you can type at the top of your computer screen's search line.

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