Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Isinay Word for "Rainbow"

WHILE TAKING LUNCH at The Manor of Camp John Hay a few days ago to celebrate the birthday of the mother of my children, my eyes got caught by an attractive figure arcing over an artificial waterfall that forms one of the attractions at the east-side grounds of the hotel.

The figure was a replica of a rainbow and correctly followed the ROYGBIV arrangement of the colors of the earth-bound "heavenly body."  Here's a photo of the object:

Rainbow at Camp John Hay. [March 25, 2012 photo by charlz castro]

As I tested the Grade 5 knowledge of the youngest member of the family who immediately rattled off "Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo,Violet" when I asked what colors does the rainbow have, it came to my mind that the Isinay term for rainbow, along with the name for anthill, is a lesson usually given to guys who want to learn a few words in Isinay.

Indeed, even among kids in Isinay land, one of the first things taught to them are the Isinay names of certain objects that they get to see once in a while — such as the rainbow. 

The Isinay name for it is tavungeyon.

In Ilocano, it is bullalayaw and  in Tagalog it is bahag-hari

Sad to say, however, that children of modern-day Dupax, be they Isinay, Ilocano, or Tagalog, no longer use any of those three words.

Instead, they refer to this celestial sight as “renbo”  (minus the w).

INTERESTINGLY, when I was growing up, the teaching of a new word was almost always accompanied by precautions, stories, or other reminders that only doting parents can give to their children. 

In the case of the rainbow, we Isinay-Ilocano kids were cautioned from pointing to it. 

It is a case, one might say, of “look but don’t touch” — as if the rainbow were indeed a work of art meant only to be admired from a distance. 

And what if you point to it? 

“Your finger would either be cut off someday."

"Or go crooked."

"Or be twisted.” 

Or so the warnings go. 

Of course, the more hard-headed among my playmates would defy our elders' warning. 

They would point to the rainbow, gingerly at first, then defiantly haughty later, along with the mocking looks that would mean something like "See? Nothing happened!"

Naturally we would see that the bravest guy’s index finger indeed remained straight and intact as ever.

Thus, pretty soon the rest of us mortal children would cautiously follow his example.

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