Friday, June 1, 2012


Dear friends and supporters of Isinay Bird, are you still with me? I have been out for a while, sorry for that. It's sort of bad for business -- blogging business, that is. But I had to pause for a while and I'll tell the whys for this a little later in one post. I assure you they are good reasons, or excuses if you may, and they will most probably more than make up for the half-month hiatus I gave for this blogsite. OK then, to those of you who have been so patiently waiting for the continuation of our series on Dr. Constantino's Isinay book, here's Part 3:


NOT SO LONG ago, after sensing that I would never get personal hold of a volume of ISINAY TEXTS AND TRANSLATIONS, I tried to apply the "Control A + Control C" technique of getting copies of books for free via the Internet.

You see, I applied that downloading technique earlier -- with satisfactory results -- to two books that I was willing to shell out part of my allowance for blood-pressure maintenance tablets, had they been available at National Book Store.

One was a beautifully written book on biology by a scientist who certainly knew how to inspire lay people or non-technical readers. The other was probably the best reference on writing for scientific publications I ever encountered.

I needed the books so much, not only to nurture my self-imposed mission as a forester writer but also to stay fully armed, as occasional lecturer at DENR and as Editor-in-Chief of the Ecosystems & Development Journal, with the latest hows and wherefores of science writing and editing technical articles.

In the case of  ISINAY TEXTS AND TRANSLATIONS, however, even as I wanted to peruse it so much I was thinking to go shoot even only a few of its pages in the lone copy said to be available at the museum of the St. Mary's University in Bayombong, the Ctrl A + Ctrl C magic didn't work.

Indeed, I was only able to reach the foot of the hill insofar as going to the pages that I wanted to read in full or to closely inspect. Except for a few discordant snippets of paragraphs that would appear on my laptop's screen, there was not much I could extract from the 561-page book even with the combined forces of Google and Yahoo.

When I say it hit me like it was the end of the world, you better believe it.

Like staring and salivating at a smiling, fragrant and seductive lechon enclosed in a restaurant's display counter, I thought I would content myself with being able to catch only an Isinay word here (like teyantah) and a couple more there (like sinungop and pingsanean).

But just as I was beginning to forget about the book, just when the thought was starting to gel in my subconscious that there was nothing much to it (meaning, no need to salivate for it), an angel came down from Heaven, as it were, to come to the rescue.

Her name was Dr. Analyn V. Salvador-Amores, a social anthropology professor of UP Baguio.I met her through my daughter Leia.

How I came into the picture was not clear. It could be that Leia (who also teaches in UP Baguio) mentioned something about her Isinay roots or my doing an Isinay dictionary, or that Dr. Amores (Ikin for short) sounded off her plan to do research on the Isinays.

Or whatever.

Ikin and I met one afternoon last April. It came out that she's interested in a kinuttiyan cloth that is said to be made by Isinay weavers and is called uwes pinutuan.

Yes, she said, she heard of the Isinay dictionary I was working on and we could probably do a joint research project.

I could not contain my excitement at having a Ph.D. graduate from the University of Oxford conduct research on Isinay culture, and in Dupax at that.

But equally exciting was her words that she has a copy of Dr. Constantino's book.

And so, I forgot most of what we were discussing. But I do recall Ikin mentioning something like she found THE BOOK lying in one library at Oxford (probably gathering dust and awaiting a trip to the trash bin) and she just picked it up.

So that was it. She gave me a folder containing Celina Marie Cruz' "Revitalization Challenge for Small Languages: The Case of Isinai" and The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project small grants information pack.

And a day or so later, Leia came home with a paper-bound photocopy of THE BOOK.


I SPENT THE whole night and long, long hours the days and nights after that voraciously feasting on and savoring every page of Constantino's Isinay book.

If it were a food item and you're going to ask me to describe it, the least I could say is that it is completos recados. It has all the ingredients -- nay, the items -- I was looking for, including even some juicy bits about the exploits of an Isinay playboy of yesteryears.

What I was looking for, mainly, were words in Isinay -- particularly authentic Isinay words and ways of articulating thoughts and weaving them into coherent language all of which I needed to enrich and substantiate my already around 12,000-strong collection of Isinay words as of April 2012.

Again, I'm not stretching it when I say I got much, much more than I prayed for.

Not only were the book's Isinay pages packed with Isinay vocabulary, expressions, songs, mottoes, riddles, stories, and prose many of which I barely remember hearing or coming across before -- the author also did a wonderful job giving their English equivalents. And on a one-on-one or paired-pages format at that. Thus, there's no need for me to squeeze some other people's brains or to second-guess what they meant.

What's more, the book did not only focus on Isinay Dupax but also contained equally golden items on Isinay Bambang. For one whose i-Bambang vocabulary has not gone beyond takallo (corn), bansing (matches), mangaw (cat), dadak (frog), ansisinno (dragonfly), and masing-aw (delicious), the book would save me from pilfering words from the Facebook postings of friends from Bambang.

As for Isinay Aritao, the book is also certainly a windfall as it contains very generous samples of vintage documents -- such as patayav and testamento -- written in unadulterated Isinay. The Aritao Isinay customs concerning marriage and those concerning death are certainly enlightening as well as entertaining reading for one concerned not only with the language but also now vanishing practices.

For children or even those who want to be equipped with bullets to tell their kids or grandkids bedtime stories, the book has a generous menu of legends, prince and princesses stories, fairy tales, and even ghost stories.
For the more serious language students, the inclusion of Isinay prayers from the first Isinay book ever to be published -- the Catecismo de la Doctrina Cristiana de la Lengua de Isinay o Inmeas reportedly printed in 1876 -- should be interesting. In fact, even a fluent Isinay speaker like me would find the prayers challenging to read and to understand as their author/s used an orthography that looks alien compared to today's largely phonetic Isinay wayof spelling words.

As if the above items were not enough, the book is also a treasure trove of bits and pieces of history as well as tidbits on local geography and natural resources that should not be side-stepped by history buffs worth their salt. For instance, the three Isinay diaries are a very absorbing read for one who wants to know how the Spaniards subdued the Bugkalots -- already known then for their headhunting prowess -- using Christianized natives such as Isinays and imported warriors from the Ilocos.

(To be concluded)

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