Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Which Should It Be: Isinay or Isinai?

UP UNTIL RECENTLY, I have been hesitant to give my side on the issue of which term -- ISINAY or ISINAI -- is the correct one to use when referring to both the original language and the native people of Aritao, Bambang, and Dupax.

It was a couple of years ago and  from a fellow forester and also a mestizo Isinay -- Allan Gonzales -- that I first heard there was such an argument.

The issue has, I guess, not turned into a word war in Isinay country yet. But at least in Bambang where Allan has gone into semi-retirement, it was a point of contention -- some prefer one over the other -- when the idea of revitalizing the endangered Isinay culture first came out.
I digress but, by way of introduction, Allan is a bachelor nephew of the late Isabelo Gonzales (the composer of the popular Isinay song "War Sipan Uwar"). Allan's sister Zoh Gonzales is one of the active members of the Facebook group Isinay Global Association and is the one composing and disseminating via Facebook those beautifully illustrated psalms and prayers in Isinay Bambang.

If my senior memory has not failed me, Allan batted then for the use of ISINAI -- spelled with three I's.

And, as is obvious in their official name, so are the founders of the Bona^ Si Isinai Dopaj, Inc., the group that in December of 2010 has so kindly invited me to speak -- for the first time in my whole life! -- in pure Isinay, in front of many Isinays, and on a stage at the Dupax del Sur plaza.  

Why is your Isinay Bird writing about Isinay versus Isinai now?

Well, the following two photos that I shot near the munisipyo (town hall) in my Valentine's week visit to Dupax del Sur re-awakened the issue in me:

This tarpaulin poster's creator that used a silhouette version of one of Eduardo Masfere's classic photos of a Bontoc tribal warrior must have faced the challenged not only of choosing between ISINAY and ISINAI (see rightmost part of the poster); he faced the same hurdle with  ILONGOT and IGONGOT, the old terms for another group of "endangered" indigenous people that used to be integral parts of Bambang, Dupax, and Aritao (and also parts of Quirino and Nueva Ecija provinces).

This tarp poster manifests the prevalence of the use of ISINAI and shows that even Bona^ Si Isinai, a formal organization founded in 2009 to work for the revitalization of the Isinay language and culture in Dupax del Sur, uses the term. Note, however, that Isinay was used in ISINAYA^ ("I am an Isinay").

Perhaps  because I happened to so far be the only one that has been energetically blogging things and sundry about Isinay lately -- and using Isinay instead of Isinai at that -- I felt I owe it to the readers of this humble blog to outline my side of the coin.

Here then. In addition to the fact that it would be more awkward to use ISINAI'YA^ (as in the top photo) compared to ISINAYA^ (as in the lower photo), I personally prefer using ISINAY for the following reasons:

1. The name ISINAY (that is, spelled with a Y) was the one used in the first book ever to be published in Isinay -- the CATECISMO DE LA DOCTRINA CRISTIANA EN LA LENGUA ISINAY O INMEAS (printed in 1876).

2. ISINAY was also used in the first Isinay grammar book to be published -- the INTRODUCCION AL ESTUDIO DE LA LENGUA CASTELLANA EN ISINAY (printed in 1889 by the Colegio del Sto. Tomas and available in the internet).

3. ISINAY was the term used in the 561-page book ISINAY TEXTS AND TRANSLATIONS (authored by Prof. Ernesto Constantino of the University of the Philippines Diliman; published in 1982 by the Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures in Asia and Africa; with contributions and editing guidance from Mrs. Ermelinda Castañeda Magalad, Mr. Edgar Daniel Sr., and Mr. Dominador Boada Sr., all venerable Isinays and Isinay language advocates when they were still living).

Of course, to be sure, both ISINAY and ISINAI are correct.

As we jestingly say it, "e-der op da two well do" -- you could use one or the other and no one would bother.

(While we're at it, there is one more contender to the throne that many, including your Isinay Bird, are not familiar yet -- INMEAS -- which I guess would mean somebody who went to the forest.)

On a more practical level, the use of ISINAY especially in written materials will prevent mispronunciation by non-Isinay readers. Just try letting an outsider read ISINAI aloud. Chances are that, instead of I-SI-NAY, you would hear the four-syllable I-SI-NA-I.

Now, compare ISINAI'YA^ and ISINAYA^ (both meaning "Isinay ako" or "I'm Isinay") and tell me, plus or minus the circumflex mark (^) used in many Dupax Isinay words, which one is more reader-friendly and confusion-free.


  1. This is very enlightening :) either of the two will do.

  2. Interesting to find your site. I speak the same language. =) I often use Isinai.. but I think Isinay is acceptable too.