Friday, March 30, 2012

What's the Isinay for Scarecrows?

The scarecrows we had were a far cry from the gigantic and complete-with-the-signature-mole effigies of former President GMA that student and labor activists burn during protest rallies.

THERE'S THIS RECENT picture of me and a cousin taken from my farm in upstream Dupax that I love to share with Isinay Bird readers, not only because of the nostalgically verdant background and the promise of a good harvest that the ricefield setting suggests, but also because it reminds me of an activity that I loved to do as a boy in the barrio.

Here, your honor, is that guilty photograph:

 My little patch of farm in Sinagat, Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya. (March 19, 2012 photo by Boni Calacala)

That's your Isinay Bird on the right, and that's my farm manager and cousin Rudy Batacan on the left. As you can see, we were raising our hands while posing for the camera. No, friend, it was not because we had imbibed in our system more than our usual bottle of gin and a native chicken for pulutan. It was rather more because we were imitating the pose of a bambanti.

Bambanti is of course an Ilocano word for scarecrow -- even as the birds that it is supposed to scare off are not even the size of the head of an ordinary crow (as described below).

It was not very long ago (from an article on Isinay culture that I came across in the internet) that I got to learn, among other words, the Isinay for scarecrow. This is a give-away of how recent I have re-energized or re-visited my Isinay vocabulary, I know. But that's the truth.

The word is TINAJUTAJU (Note: the Js here are pronounced like the Hs of halo-halo).

Also spelled TINAHUTAHU (in modern-day Philippine orthography), this Isinay term specifically refers to that human-like figure set in a strategic spot of ricefields to, as the name suggests, scare away crows.

The effigy, if we may call it that, is usually made of two bamboo poles or branches tied together in the form of a cross then fleshed out with rice hay, coconut husks, banana stalks, or cogon before being dressed with rags and its head capped with an old sombrero (balanggut in Isinay, kallugong in Ilocano).

Yes, it is a far cry from the gigantic, artistic and complete-with-the-signature-mole effigies of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that student and labor activists burn during protest rallies.

The tinahutahu figures in Dupax as well as in rice-producing communities elsewhere in the Philippines were not, however, intended to frighten crows. Instead, they were meant for the tiny birds called tulin in Isinay, maya in Tagalog, and billit-tuleng in Ilocano.

Sometimes referred to as rice sparrows in English, the birds were (and still are) only a little more than two inches long from head to tail and were cute to look at due to their neatly combed chocolate, chestnut or ebony feathers. They also sang songs that sounded like a short-breathed whistle as they called one another in the periphery of rice paddies.

Small but terrible would be an appropriate description for the birds. Often coming in droves or groups of a few dozens up to hundreds, you could just imagine how much would-be rice they would deprive the poor farmer and his kids once they took fancy to an unguarded ricefield whose grains are yet to grow fat and yellow.

Incidentally, before the picture above was taken, I had just learned from my cousin Rudy that the billit-tuleng preferred to feed on the rice panicles when they still have milky grains, not when the grains are ready to be harvested (as in the photo).

In a visit to this same farm last year, Rudy also told that a very effective way to drive away the bird pests was to use labentador (firecrackers). Sometimes he would fire his air-rifle, minus its lead-pellets.

I DON'T KNOW about kids of Dupax nowadays, be they Ilocano or Isinay or Cordilleran. But when I was a boy, it was farm children's duty to guard the ricefields from the rice-eating birds.

No sir, it was not a difficult chore at all nor was it a case of forced child labor.

Instead, it was a fun-filled assignment and an enjoyable thing for us that lasted for only a week or so, depending on the stage of maturity of the rice grains.

It was fun because it was basically play for outdoor-loving barrio kids like us. It meant freedom from other chores such as husking corn, taking care of baby sisters or kid brothers, guarding the tomato-seedling bed from chickens, cooking papayas or gabi stalks for the pigs, or pasturing the carabaos.

It was enjoyable because we had the whole day to ourselves and with our slingshots. When a big covey of the rice sparrows would come near, we would shoot pebbles at them with our slingshots, and quite often we would down one or two of the birds which we would later go find among the grain-heavy rice plants, if our dogs would not beat us to them.

Of course, small as they are, the birds have brains, too. Thus, sensing our noisy and threatening presence, most often they would go to feed in other ricefields somewhere.

And so, what did we do while the birds were away?

Well, we would have time to engage in other enjoyable things that farm-based boys in my time loved to do aside from driving away the rice birds.

If there were small pools of water left on the deeper sides of the rice paddies, we would go apply what we learned from our elders on how to catch mudfish (dalaj in Isinay, dalag in Ilocano and Tagalog) or frogs (tadaj in Isinay, tukak in Ilocano, palaka in Tagalog) with bare hands without disturbing the rice plants.

Quite often, we would apply a fishing method called savu in Isinay and karas in Ilocano, which simply involved bailing out water from a pond or mudhole using a pail, a plate or one's joint cupped palms and then catching the resident or remnant fish when the drained out pond has reached "low tide" of sorts.

Sometimes Mother Luck or serendipity would bring surprises for us. For instance, instead of fish or frogs, we would find a turtle (bau-u in Isinay, pag-ong in Ilocano, pagong in Tagalog) sleeping in the mud. Other days, we would find the nest along with a couple of eggs or more of the gallinule (siboj in Isinay, tukling in Ilocano, tikling in Tagalog).

Thus, apart from the bite-size body of the ricebirds, we would occasionally have fish or frogs to roast, or eggs to boil under the bitnong tree, or to bring home. The turtle will of course soon be part of our communal toys and if we tired of it we usually tethered it in a pail along with leftover food and rice-wash (arasaw in Ilocano) collected for the pigs.

If there were a fruiting tibig tree in the vicinity, we would go pick some to fill our pockets and make spinning tops out of them. Some of the fruits we would use as bullets for our slingshots.

For snacks, we never ran out of fruit-laden kitkitiwit vines or guava trees nearby. Otherwise, there was always fresh-from-the-farm corn or camote or peanuts to boil or roast.

If there were unguarded mangoes nearby, we would go vent our Olympian slingshot skills at their fruits.

And when the sun became too hot, we would go dip on a nearby banawang (irrigation canal) if not the river. And if a docile carabao would be bathing nearby, we would use the poor animal as diving board.

Other times, we would quarrel under the abung-abong (farm hut) about any topic within our barrio world that caught our fancy. Examples: Which fruit tasted sweeter -- a ripe langka or a ripe mangga? Which bird flew higher -- the swift (sallapingaw in Ilocano, pipingngaw in Isinay) or the hawk (kali in Ilocano, labban in Isinay)? Which one was better -- the cow or the carabao? 

Our bickering would only stop when we would hear the distinct sound of the ricebirds singing among the rice plants nearby -- or when someone's sister would come to tell, "Agawidkayo kanon ta manganen!" (It's time to go home  for lunch.)

MY FIRST ENCOUNTER with the bambanti aka tinahutahu was when I was yet a barefoot and scabies-infected boy wearing suspenders and not knowing which one was front and which one was back when left alone to put on my T-shirt.

I was then living with my grandparents in I-iyo, then a sitio of Dupax that is now officially called Barangay Palobotan and was always a sacristan of sorts to my maternal grandmother. One time I went with her to rid the tobacco plants of leaf-eating worms, I caught glimpse of a red-shirted object on a field adjacent to my grandparents' farm.

The thing had protruding yet fingerless arms and tattered kallugong (wide-brimmed hat) that covered its face. It was standing in the middle of a ricefield and, despite the searing heat of the sun, it was not seeking shade under the bitnong trees nearby nor was it moving at all.

Sensing my frightened but curious look, my Inang Baket merely said, "Bambanti."

A Wild Fruit for Toys and for Pigs

I JUST POSTED in my Facebook account the following photo plus an accompanying note:

Fruit-laden tibig tree in Langka, Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya. (March 19, 2012 photo by charlz castro)

These are fruits of the Ficus nota tree (tibig in Tagalog, tebbeg in Ilocano). Long, long before plastic, metallic and electronic toy cars came to our part of the country, my friends in the barrio and I used the fruits as wheels for our sardine-can "trucks". We also used them as throw-away turumpo (spinning top). And when we ran out of river pebbles, we used them as "bullets" for our slingshots when we were assigned to drive away the hundreds of tamsi/ibon/billit called maya (billit-tuleng in Ilocano) that loved to raid the milky grains of our ricefields.

IT DIDN'T TAKE long before comments came cascading in. The first came from a young Isinay guy working in the Middle East, followed by those from two Isinay ladies now based in the USA. There's also one from a lady forester working with the DENR, and an enlightening feedback from a medical doctor in Dupax married to a forester. 

I'm sure some more back and forth exchanges will come in but I couldn't help sharing -- now, while they're still hot --  the excitement I got and the memories resurrected by the exchanges I had with the initial batch of reactors. 

Here, friends of Isinay Bird, look at what a single harmless picture could do:

I'm a big fan of your informative posts, uwa charlz. More please. =)

Salamat, idong. Alimbawa na ta uriam tay naila, dioy si blogsite u an pangit-ittua^ si mas anduoy on mas kumpleton sinulat u. Just Google-search Isinay Bird and click the months in the archive section to read older posts about trees, people, beliefs, etc. especially in our beloved Dupax.

There were a lot of these near the Abannatan between the lot of Carpio Magno and Nelly Castro before... Madamo pa ang lote ni Nelly noon.

Josie, sayang... Uria^ naila ren pun si lavay siren namummutoja^ tay. Amplamu siri Pitang ya nayyit naila^ -- andoj-olan omoya lad di Daya an mangeyat bebbevoy u.

Ay o attoj, to my fellow Isinays in Aritao, Bambang and Dupax -- the Isinay name for tibig is "lavay". Those of you who have heard the Isinay "Anino^" songs would probably recall that one version carries the lines: "Amung lan savung si lavay... anay... susun bi-alar an navayvay! Mavves lan bebbevoy si lajay... kada lavi an naolay!"

Hahaha! Nice lyrics! Naughty, yet funny and very isinay.

Charlz, maserot an mantanom anut deen atna an ayu toy mangamung anu net danum? Santuwo isi-a toy forester a ya siguradon amtam de... Uria amta mu joy tay si panalayapon besan. Saren ayu ya domonan ilamoj si bu-e ri tuvu na. On biyu-u^, bunga nar te ya^ panlojos si dalah. Pumuraw poda sanggup nar. Naramita^ lojom darate den navilay tay si Epic toy amoy daya an mangeya.

Salamat, Sally, toy inpanomnom mu isaon daranen panalayapon on biyu-u^. Otoy ta man-uluwa^ mot si adyomar an dalah an pumuraw podda sanggup nar! It would be nice to find out, indeed, if these vanishing edible wild plants could be propagated.... The panalayapon is a tree called panalayapen in Ilocano and malarayap in Tagalog. I'm not sure if the biyu-u^ is the same as the du-u that Ilocanos call ariwat and is a vine (waaj). Aboleyam ta mu omoya^ Dupaj si satye umaliyar an pista (Abril 21-22) ya anapo^ darane. If Wa Epic got them from daya, I'm sure my relatives in Palobotan would still know where to source them.

Ay o attoh, Sally... about the tibig as water collector, I'm not sure about that. What I know is that this tree loves to grow near streams or in areas where there are springs (tayo^to^). This is probably why -- a tip for plane crash survivors or jungle-survival enthusiasts! -- they say that the presence of a tibig is an indicator of the presence of tubig (water) in the vicinity.

Kala ko sa amin lang, brod, sa inyo rin pala... Gone were the days of ingenuity. Sayang, di na naexperience ng mga bata ngayon. 

Sis Roni, tulad ninyong lumaki sa rural towns of Quezon, panay organic din ang laruan namin noong kami ang batang-paslit. Correct, those were the days of ingenuity. Ibig sabihin, noong wala pa ang mga PSP, maski patpat ng kawayan, buto ng sampalok, dahon ng niyog, o palapa ng saging -- happy na tayo noon.

Apion mi iman dalij si latan trak-trakan. Mangeya amit aytun si niyuj, saru walis tingting, sari di appion min connection na.

Adday, Josie, I didn't know that you were some sort of a car engineer when you were a kid! Da^mi ilad di poto^ miyar an as-asup Pitang ya logging truck anumalla ri appion miyar ira Oret Calacala. When we were a bit older, we made bigger trucks ot darare mot si pangisahayan mit upa^ si troso on slab on kusut an omoy min eyan siri sawmillar si sahungon di sementeryowa. (Those of you from Dupax who are now in their late 50s would probably remember that sawmill as well as the noisy logging trucks that used to pass by the Dampol bridge.)

Charlz do you know na these fruits are very nutritious? These are food to native pigs or organically grown pigs!!! We did try it and the meat is far better than chemical feed-fed pigs... Healthy living... healthy diet... and stay young and healthy!!!

Nutritious? Coming from a doctor, that's a great revelation, Manang Jean! All the while, I was thinking na sayang ang maraming bunga ng tibig kasi as far as I know hindi siya kinakain. I might as well try to experiment tasting it myself very soon -- for the sake of science. Who knows, aside from serving as freely available feed for raising organic pigs (maybe even cows!), the tibig may also be made into candies or fruit jams.

Try it! What I mean is, for animals especially pigs, so that we eat the real native pigs not the hormone-fed ones nowadays!!!  For human consumption! We had a project then but nawala when we got so busy, anyway would like to go into it again! Healthy diet... health and wellness!!!

Good! Sige, try for the sake of science! And better business... less expense for feed, quality food for every one... especially for Dupax people.

Real native versus hormone-fed pigs... I just remembered that to augment my teacher-father's income, my mother and I raised black pigs when I was little. Yes, they were certainly organic because, aside from rice bran (duhi in Isinay, tuyo in Ilocano, darak in Tagalog), we fed them with binugbog (boiled pig food) that included green native papayas, gabi stalks, kangkong, kamote leaves, ngalug, kwantung (spiny amaranth the young seedlings of which we call kalunay in Ilocano and suwit in Isinay), ngalug, and tigi (imbayang in Isinay, pongapong in Tagalog). For their snacks, I used to gather fallen guavas, starapples and mangoes for them.

NOTE: To Isinay Bird friends who wish to have translation for some of the Isinay texts in this post that you could not understand by context, please feel free to type in your questions on the COMMENT section below. Alternatively, you can also please e-mail me at:

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.

Isinay Names of the Fish and Other Edibles We Used to Catch in the River

THE ONSET OF the dry season (also known as summer) in my part of the Philippines reminds me of my favorite pastime when I was still wearing short-pants as a youngster: river fishing.

Indeed, I was so fond of staying in the river when I was growing up that it didn't matter if I caught fish or not. It didn't also matter if my already brown skin became even more sunburned. And I didn't care, too, when my peers in town didn't go near the water and instead went on to be good basketball players, guitarists, and dancers and were already attracting the pretty girls of Dupax.

Apart from seyup, I engaged in spearfishing, angling, and baited hooks as methods of catching fish. If not with friends and cousins in the barrio, I was out fishing with my elders.

My grandfather used a wide circular net (called tabukol in Ilocano, tabuu in Isinay) to go after schools of tilapia on hot summer days when he is done tending to his cows or weaving rattan pasiking. When his stone-cum-bamboo-branch fish-aggregating devices (called rama in Ilocano, lajma in Isinay) are already a couple of months old, he would summon for me and we would use the same net to trap mudfish (dalaj in Isinay, dalag in Ilocano and Tagalog) and eel (dalit in Isinay and Bontoc, igat in Ilocano, palos in Tagalog) that nested in them.

Not to be outdone, each time I was around, my grandmother used a small triangular net (called batbateng in Ilocano, batong in Isinay) to catch small fish and shrimps. She would gather edible fern by the river on the way home and cook these along with her catch. If she or my grandfather and I had caught at least a bowlful of shrimps (ajdaw in Isinay, lagdaw in Ilocano), we would squeeze native lemon (lojos in Isinay, dalayap in Ilocano) over them and salt to taste, and -- presto -- we have fresh-from-the-river jumping salad for lunch!

My mother was also a river fisher. In summer, she and her also Isinay-speaking Bicolana friend Lita Dicen-Calacala (RIP) would go to the river and would compete on who would bring home to their respective many kids the most fish, usually sappilan (bunog in Ilocano), caught through the lipit method (which involves bending low or sitting on the river for hours and using bare fingers to trap fish dwelling under the stones).

Woman catching stone-dwelling fish and shrimps in the river near Palobotan using the method called lipit which involves agility with the fingers and physical endurance under the burning sun. (March 20, 2012 photo by charlz castro)

IN MY OTHER post about the seyup, I enumerated the river creatures we were able to lay our hands on through the river-damming method. Let me be more specific about such river catches.

For the fish part, our catch mostly consisted of stone goby (sappilan in Isinay, bunog in Ilocano, biyang-bato in Tagalog) with a sprinkling of juvenile mudfish (tuldu^ in Isinay, buntiek in Ilocano), native carp (alalu in Isinay, ar-aro in Ilocano, martiniko in Tagalog), gurami, and tilapia.

Very rarely, we would find the swordfish-like river species we call baruy in Isinay and susay in Ilocano. Very rarely, I say, because unlike the sappilan that hides under stones and stays there for as long as there is water, the baruy is always a surface swimmer and is thus the first one to scamper for safety ones it sees an intruder or when the water level starts to go down.

In fact, the baruy is such a game fish that I don't recall ever having nailed one with my pana (fishing speargun). But ah, I soon discovered the bigger ones are easy to catch with a fishing rod (siwattan in Isinay, liwliw in Ilocano) using the tiniest hook and a wriggling earthworm (kolang in Isinay, alumbayad in Isinay, bulate in Tagalog) for bait (papan in Isinay, appan in Ilocano).

Via seyup, the other edibles we paid attention to were mostly river crabs (ajasit in Isinay, akasit or agatol in Ilocano, talangka in Tagalog) and shrimps (ajdaw in Isinay, lagdaw in Ilocano). If there is not much of these two, a good alternative would be the lance-tipped shellfish (ajurung in Isinay, agurong in Ilocano).

On occasions when fish and green leafy vegetables were hard to come by, we went to the river not exactly for the fish nor for the fern but to look for certain edible algae. The most popular then was a fat algae called bajase in Isinay and barbaradiong in Ilocano, usually found growing alongside the lumot (normal river algae). There was a round-shaped version of the bajase that Ilocanos call bulbulintik (because it looked like a marble) that we usually collected in the stagnant waters of the ricefields.

Oh well, that was about fifty summers ago. At that time the ricefields and the rivers (note: waters from the fields flow down to the rivers) of Dupax were not yet poisoned with pesticides, molluscide, and inorganic fertilizer.

For several times now, I tried to look for such bajase and bulbulintik when I go to Dupax. They are no more to be found. Unless somebody tried to re-introduce them from existing mother algae somewhere, I bet not even a picture of them, let alone recollections of their tastes and appearances, would be available someday.

WHILE FISHING in the river, we would occasionally find small clams (asisip in Isinay, tukmem or bennek in Ilocano, tulya in Tagalog), but we didn't collect them then as they were too small and didn't speak well of a fishing expedition if you focused attention on them.

In much the same manner, we ignored the apple snails (basikul in Isinay, bisukol in Ilocano, kuhol in Tagalog), the black snails (ambeveyo^ in Isinay, leddeg in Ilocano), and the soft-shelled snails (genga in Isinay, birabid in Ilocano) when we encountered them while fishing in the river. It seemed then that there was a proper place and a proper time for these edibles.

Speaking of shells, no, sir, we didn't collect "golden kuhol" then. All right, they say it's called escargot in France and is edible elsewhere. But we didn't include this shell in our dining table then. This was simply because, when I was little, we didn't have this alien then.

Today the golden kuhol has become a hard-to-eradicate riceplant-eating pest that has practically replaced our edible snails in Dupax. The distinctly pink eggs of this introduced and poison-resistant exotic species are now common sights not only in ricefields but also on stones and debris in ponds and rivers.

HOW ABOUT frogs (tadaj in Isinay, tukak in Ilocano, palaka in Tagalog)? 

Big frogs were a prized catch later when my grandfather and I combed mountain springs (wayil in Isinay, waig in Ilocano, weg in Ibanag, sapa in Tagalog) with our electronic fishing gadget. But when I was younger, my grandfather used a lampara (carbide-powered lamp) to catch plenty of them noisy creatures at night in the ricefields during the rainy season, but not in the river.

I think I also mentioned tadpoles, dragonfly nymphs, and leeches in my Vanishing Fishing Method post. Well, unlike in my wife's hometown Barlig, Mountain Province, where tadpoles are a delicacy, very few people in Dupax eat tadpoles (tojong in Isinay, bayyek in Ilocano, butete in Tagalog, fiayyak in Finallig).

I digress, but I do remember seeing my Auntie Tibang once catch tadpoles in a carabao pond in Pitang. Of course, decades before I had them for breakfast in the house of my wife's uncle in Barlig, I found it strange then for people to eat the wriggling creatures long, long before they became full-grown frogs.

In like manner, I have yet to hear of Isinays and Ilocanos collecting dragonfly nymphs for food but, yes, one time my wife and I joined a river-fishing picnic with her cousins in Barlig, I did discover the exquisite taste of that creature that they call chayyap.

The blood-sucking leech -- dreaded as it is by juvenile Ilocanos, Igorots, Tagalogs, and Isinays alike -- is, of course, not edible.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Traditional but Vanishing Isinay Method of Catching River Fish

ON ANOTHER trip to my hometown a couple of weeks ago, I had chance to take close-up photos of a method of catching fish that used to be common in the rivers of Dupax and many towns of Nueva Vizcaya when I was young. Here's one of the shots I took:

The enclosed middle part of the river on the left was made shallow by the putting up of a dike made of stones, plastic sheets, and sand to divert the stream flow. This method is called "seyup" and has been employed since time immemorial by Isinays to catch a wide range of river fish, shrimps, crabs, and shells. March 20, 2012 photo by charlz castro

Those of you who lived close to shallow and stony rivers before would be familiar or may have in fact tried this fishing method that, depending on how fish-rich the river is, is a sure-fire way of getting protein from Mother Nature during family picnics or group outings by the river.

No rocket science, no high-tech hydro-engineering, nor even a technical course on fishery is needed for this.

Called seyup in Isinay and sarep in Ilocano, it simply involves closing a part of the stream and diverting the water's flow to other parts.

For tools, use mainly the stones, gravel, sand, and driftwood you would find in the river. Pile these materials in the form of a dike running across the stream, then fortify their water-barricading intent by adding banana leaves or sheaths and seal other entry points with clayey soil. If available, use plastic sheets or woven bamboo slats to make the dike more efficient.

The target result would be to make the downstream part of the dammed portion go "waterless" or shallow as in a "low tide" for a while and the makeshift dike/dam to hold fort, giving you enough leverage and time to be able to catch with bare hands the water-dwelling creatures that would be stranded.

Depending on how effective you are at barricading the stream and redirecting its flow, in a couple of hours or so you would be able to literally scoop out fish, crabs, shrimps, shells, frogs, tadpoles, dragonfly nymphs, leeches, and other river denizens.

WHEN I FIRST caught glimpse of the river with its tell-tale signs of the seyup pictured above, there was a little pain inside me at remembering not only the fishing technology but also how once upon a time this same river was my playground, friend, and food provider all rolled into one.

The people, the swimming holes, the fish, and the remnant forests associated with the river are gone now. But memories of my family always having fun using this river and the fishing technology when I was young are still alive.

Indeed, the seyup or sarep was our collective way of catching fish and enjoying the river every summer, particularly Huebes Santo or Sabado de Gloria, when my part of the Pudiquet and Castro families would go to I-iyo.

My Apong Pedro and my Uncle Atong always seemed to know which part of this river and the ones upstream had plenty of stone goby (sappilan in Isinay, bunog in Ilocano, biyang-bato in Tagalog). Summer or not, it didn't take long before those fish-rich parts would have fiesta-like atmosphere.

I recall there was always my grandmother, along with my mother and aunts, picking edible fern by the riverbank or cooking upland rice in three-stone stoves, while we kids would be shouting with glee at catching our first tiny fish, or scaring one another with a blood-fattened leech (bilavil in Isinay, alinta in Ilocano, linta in Tagalog).

I remember my father had a tulda (canvas) that he always brought each time we would have such occasions to  maneyup (to make seyup). I don't know where he got this item (along with the binoculars, canteen can, green army blanket that used to be part of our household items when I was young), but that piece of canvas was often the front-liner, so to speak, when the water got difficult to dam.

THERE IS, HOWEVER, one event that stands out in my earliest recollections of the seyup technology.

It happened one summer time my playmates in I-iyo and I took our daily digos-uwak (literally "a crow's bath", or bathing quickly without using soap, rubbing stone, towel, etc.) in this river and, just for fun, found ourselves making a sarep using rice hay (garami in Ilocano, nangili-an in Isinay, dayami in Tagalog) plus stones and sand as dam material.

In other words, we played, nay, stayed too long in the river as the make-believe sarep soon became a real thing and the short strings of bunog we each caught became longer and longer and the bamboo tubes we used as container for shrimps were spilling.

Yes, my friends and I didn't get a scolding from our elders as our respective fish catches gave us good excuse for not doing our carabao-tending, corn-husking or maya-scaring chores well that sunny day.

Isinay Words Related to Mangoes

WHILE ENJOYING one of my now almost twice-a-day encounters with ripe mangoes sometime last week, it occurred to me that there are Isinay words pertaining to mangoes that today may no longer be familiar to speakers of the vanishing indigenous language of southern Nueva Vizcaya (i.e., the towns of Aritao, Bambang and Dupax). These words may in fact be unique to the Isinay tongue and (mango) culture and may not have exact equivalents in Ilocano, Tagalog, or Ibaloy, and more so in English.

To illustrate, here are 35 adjectives that my mango-energized skull was able to recall pertaining to the fruits alone:
  1. Amma-i -- big
  2. Binuru -- preserved in salt-and-water solution
  3. Kampusu -- heart-shaped (kinampuso in Ilocano, hugis-puso in Tagalog)
  4. Kinalburo -- ripened with the aid of carbide (kalburo)
  5. Maesom -- sour (note how the word sounds similar to maasim in Tagalog, naalsem in Ilocano)
  6. Mamis -- sweet (matamis in Tagalog)
  7. Man-oj -- small (also referred to as man-okke^)
  8. Manredis -- yellow-orange with pinkish spots in color (a corruption of the English "reddish")
  9. Mara-itluj -- like that of an egg (pertaining to the color of the fruit's flesh)
  10. Masangpot -- astringent (mapakla^ in Tagalog, nasugpet in Ilocano)
  11. Masimusum -- aromatic, sweet-smelling
  12. Mata -- unripe, green (naata or naganus in Ilocano, hilaw in Tagalog)
  13. Na-am-amon -- containing maggots (inigges in Ilocano, may-uod in Tagalog)
  14. Naeyatan -- bitten or nibbled (especially by birds or fruit bats)
  15. Nagupa^ -- broken (also najpa^), a condition when the fruit is of such seasoned quality that it splits when it falls on the ground or is handled roughly
  16. Najoggolotong -- warty (binurtong in Ilocano, nabulutong in Tagalog)
  17. Nanbubung-us -- in bunch or cluster (nagraraay in Ilocano)
  18. Nangkandu-oy -- oblong
  19. Nansisipeyan -- defective allegedly as a result of the fruits having attracted the cravings of a pregnant woman (nagnginawan in Ilocano, napaglihian in Tagalog)
  20. Napoppor -- abnormally ripened (napilit in Ilocano, hinog-sa-pilit in Tagalog)
  21. Narongdong -- mushy; also termed as naruyruy (nalamog in Tagalog)
  22. Narung-isan -- scratched (nagarumiadan in Ilocano, narungisan in Tagalog)
  23. Nasese -- broken into pieces (naderder in Ilocano)
  24. Nata^duj -- fallen (natinnag in Ilocano, nahulog in Tagalog)
  25. Natu^tu-an -- has holes or punctures (naabutan in Ilocano, nabutas in Tagalog) probably due to the pecking of birds
  26. Naunawan -- has blemishes as a result of being over-ripe
  27. Naungutan -- seeds already have tough fibers (nakabbutan in Ilocano)
  28. Naviyu^ -- rotten (nabuyok in Ilocano, nabulok in Tagalog)
  29. Navungis -- literally "with cleft lip", a condition when the fruit develops a slit while still in the tree
  30. Neyamsan -- seasoned, ready to harvest (natangkenan in Ilocano)
  31. Neyum -- forcefully ripened (hinog sa pilit in Tagalog)
  32. Neyutu -- ripe (naluom in Ilocano, hinog in Tagalog)
  33. Pinayutu -- artificially ripened (pinaluom in Ilocano, pinahinog in Tagalog)
  34. Pingi -- looks like conjoined twins (singin in Ilocano, kambal in Tagalog)
  35. Sinlu-ayaj -- one cluster (sangaraay in Ilocano, isang bungkos in Tagalog).
 Well, well... here's a photo of a naunawan an mangga (mango with blemishes):

The black parts (unaw in Isinay) of this mango are signs that the fruit is at its sweetest stage.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mango Memories

AS ALWAYS, my trip to Dupax last February was another trigger-happy camera-clicking occasion. As always, too, the associated long walks along the roads and trails that had been part of my childhood were a delightfully delicious time-travel experience.

This particular time, however, my encounters included a patch of ricefields surrounded by mango trees in glorious bloom, a geriatric mango tree whose branches are full of promising yellow flowers, and another mango tree that was heavily laden with fruits.

Here's my photo documentation of them:

A mango-rich landscape beside Abannatan Creek across the new Dupax del Sur Municipal Nursery. (Feb. 20, 2012 photo by charlz castro)

An old mango tree on the road to the old Dupax Nursery.
(Feb. 20, 2012 photo by charlz castro)
Had I not seen and photographed these trees, my memories associated with mangoes would not have been resurrected.

Nourished by Mangoes

WHEN MY SISTERS and Castro cousins and I were growing up, mangoes formed a huge part of our nourishment and Vitamin C intakes. This was, of course, in addition to the guavas, bananas, tamarinds, pomelos, sarisay, anonas, santol, duhat, sapang, bignay, and many more fruits that our part of Dupax used to have plenty of.

Yes, we had mangoes for breakfast. We had mangoes for lunch. We had mangoes for supper. And we had mangoes for between-meals snacks.

You better believe it also when I say that, in my case, I even had to sleep with mangoes. This was during the pamujbuj (fruit-picking) season for mangoes when we had fruits so many my father had to use the space under my bed not only to payutuwon (ripen) them but also to keep them away from being attacked by kanet (ants), gandaw (mice), and leyoj (houseflies).

A heavily-laden mango tree and a carabao under it in I-iyo.
(Feb. 16, 2012 photo by charlz castro)
We had a lot of options to choose from on how to eat ripe mangoes. One was to hold the fruit on one hand then use the other to remove its soft pealing one bite after another until what is left of the juicy golden meat is the single large seed that you continue to lick and nibble at until it turns white.

Another was to slice the fruit on one side of the flat seed then carve the meat of the resulting half (called aping in Isinay; literally "face") into several squares or triangles, then bite off the chunks as slowly or as fast as you can, depending on what it takes so that you can have chance for the other half or for the syrupy seed.

We mixed mango with rice, along with a pinch of salt, and a plateful of that concoction was enough for one happy meal. As we say the past tense of "Bon appetit!" in Isinay, mayat podda oy nar!

Mangoes would already be part of our diet -- both as snacks and as part of the regular meals -- starting when the fruits are still green and sour or even before the fruit's stage that Isinays call naungutan (nakabbutan in Ilocano; when the seed is already covered with a fibrous and tough skin).

As a merienda, we would bite green mango and dip the chunk in salt made hot by red lara (siling labuyo). Or we sliced the fruit and put them in a bowl and shake them along with bagoong or inasin, again flavored to taste with siling labuyo. This method of eating the fruit would reach high fever, so to speak, when the mangoes go in marasaba up to mara-itluj stages, meaning when the fruits are almost ready to be harvested and their inner parts are now a pale yellow-green like ripe bananas and soft like boiled egg, and their taste would  border between sour and sweet.

I remember that during mango season both Papa and my Uncle Ermin were fond of using green mango as major ingredient in making the Isinay side dish called inlasap. They also used it as seasoning for most food items that needed sour flavor such as the "jumping salad" (live river shrimps the preparation of which is called kilawen in Ilocano and binesej in Isinay). They also used shredded green mango to make freshly picked edible fern (pa-u in Isinay, paku in Ilocano) or roasted rattan shoots (tangpat in Isinay, barit in Ilocano) more delectable.

Sliced green mango was also used to make our versions then of sinigang na bangus, inlangeyan an dalaj (sauteed mudfish), and daludal ti aba (gabi runners) more delicious. Womenfolk used green mangoes, in particular the injured and thus rejected ones during harvest, to make garapon (large candy jars) of buro (fruit preserve using salt and water).

If you ask what was my favorite mango-flavored dish then, I'd say it's a toss between the jumping salad and Papa's inlasap that consisted of scraped green mango that he mixed with salted shrimp paste (inasin in Isinay, aramang in Ilocano, bagoong alamang in Tagalog, balaw in Bicol).

A Mango Heritage of Sorts

ONE WAY or another, you could call me and my sisters and cousins "mango children." I guess that because Dupax was (and is still now) a mango paradise, many kids in town at the time were in that privileged mango-rich situation too.

But I recall then that we were luckier -- mango-wise, that is -- than many of my contemporaries. This was because our house was only a stone-throw away from Pitang, that meadow-like narrow plain near the western hills of Dupax del Sur that siren poto^ (in the days of old) was a communal grazing land for carabaos and had plenty of freely growing mango trees.

Aside from spending summer under its mango groves, Pitang was where I would bring my cousin Nelson Castro to chase birds and dragonflies, gather firewood, and climb guava, aratiles and tamarind trees when we were young. That was long, long before we both became foresters.

We were also lucky because, alongside the mango-endowed wilderness of Pitang, we had a huge and prolific-fruiting mango tree of our own. The tree was the most prominent feature in that semi-wilderness piece of land near our house that my parents used to call "Solar" but which later, because of that mango, my sisters and I referred to as "Mangga."

One memory I had of that tree was Papa going to it in several early mornings to build a smoky pile under it using the giyun (cogon) and shrubs he cut the day before. I would later learn that the smoke-creating activity was called mangasu^ in Isinay (agsu-ob in Ilocano), and it was meant to induce the mango tree to flower as well as to drive away insects that would nibble at the flowers and the tiny fruits later.

I would also learn later that that mango tree was of the carabao variety (manggang kinalabaw in Tagalog) and that our harvest from that tree averaged 20 tiklis (kuribot in Ilocano, kaing in Tagalog; bamboo basket for loading fruits) each fruiting season.

It's unfortunate that only a study table (given as gift by my father) now remains of that tree after we lost it to a strong typhoon when I was already starting a family in Baguio. But one memory of it still lingers in my now senior citizen mind:

One morning, my sister Arlyne and I followed our father to the solar where he was tending his pigeon pea (iris in Isinay, kardis in Ilocano) plants, and our little eyes caught sight of the countless fruits hanging from the tree's low branches. In short, my sister (who was around five at the time) and I (not yet seven) found the fruits so irresistible that before we knew it we were already picking as many as we could, using as container Arlyne's dress upturned on the front in what they call sab-uk in Ilocano.

I recall the fruits were still small -- the size of a pandesal -- but we were kids and we only stopped picking them when we heard Papa's thundering voice. I also remember we never even got to taste the fruits we harvested as Arlyne dropped them all on our way home to Mama.

On the side of my cousins (Elnora, Nancy, Nelson, Ellen, Ninfa, and Emma), Uncle Ermin's ricefield in Manggayang used to have a large and also prolific-fruiting tree on one side. That mango tree and our own tree both gave us extra supply of fruits that we let to ripe under our beds, as our fathers were inseparable brothers ever since they lost their ama when they were kids, and they both shared the harvests of their trees especially when one's tree happened not to bear many fruits for the year.

Indeed, we must have inherited our love for mangoes from our fathers.

Children of the Mango Groves

UNLIKE TODAY when we only get to taste mangoes when we buy them from the market, when we were small, mangoes in Dupax were practically free. Yes, libre -- as in you could go near a tree and if the owner is there, you can ask for a few fruits to munch on the spot (minus the salt, as it was prohibited to use such under a fruiting tree) and even to take home.

There were no SM plastic bags or market sando bags yet at the time. So we either put the fruits on our pockets or on our caps. Or we used the multipurpose jute sacks (langgotse) that we always carried mainly for padding the firewood we would gather from the forests further up in the hills.

When the mangoes are in the maraitluj (like an egg) stage, the owners would now forget being generous and would even eye our baris (slingshot; saltik in Tagalog, pal-siit in Ilocano) with suspicion, especially when the sprayers are watching and estimating how many tiklis of fruits would be soon be harvested.

So we would pretend to just pass by to rest under the trees, but actually we would look for fallen, fully ripe fruits under the cogon and shrubbery in the periphery of the fruit-laden tree.

The golden nuggets would often be naam-amon (full of fruit-fly maggots) or at times naruyruy (made soft from the fall; nalamog in Tagalog), but still they would still be useful and, in fact, being naturally ripened by the sun up there in the tree, they tasted more heavenly than the ones forced to ripe in the house.

We called such mango foraging activity as mammung si mangga. And among my sweet memories of those days was the fact that the activity forced me to learn how to whistle.

How that thing happened is a story worth telling in a separate post. But suffice it to tell for now that when I was little I was ribrib. I have yet to ask the Isinay for this, but ribrib is Ilocano word for a kid whose milk teeth are visibly brown and "eroding" due to too much eating ininti (sugar). Thus, because I had incomplete front teeth, I was sawaw and could only pass on a whispering air when I would attempt to whistle.

At the time, all males be they young or old, are supposed to know how to whistle. For boys, specially, we needed to whistle "wheee-whit-whit-whit-whit!" repeatedly to summon our dogs when we went playing outdoors. We had to whistle, too, to call the wind to blow during kite-making and -flying season (around November to April, summer season in our part of the Philippines). If we didn't know how to make the whistle, we would find extreme challenge making our kites take off to the sky.

And we applied such "whistle technology" when we went to hunt for fallen mango fruits (or often to wait for them to fall!) under the trees growing wild in that part of Pitang that older folks used to call Gatchalian and later Bautista (both referring to the owners of the place).

Indeed, while during kite season I would hitch on the collective whistling forces of the other kids to summon the wind, it was altogether a different story with the mangoes. You see, as a self-appointed leader of a small group of mango-infatuated kids in our neighborhood then, I was forced to learn how to whistle when we wanted the wind to come, preferably in full force as in a typhoon (puwo^ in Isinay, bagyo in both Ilocano and Tagalog).

(As a footnote, the group included my cousin Nelson, now Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer of DENR Zambales; Jude Calacala, now a globetrotting seaman; and my nephew Ramiro, who went on to become a tree-climber each mango season and tree-owners want help in the spraying and later in the harvesting.)

And what in the world is the connect between the whistle (usisiw in Isinay) and the gale-force wind and the mangoes?

So that the mango branches would manyojyoj (shake) -- and in doing so the reddish-yellow fruits, especially the ones hanging up there in the tree where they could not be reached by our bali-ve (projectiles), would stop teasing us mango-loving kids that they could not in any way be harmed by our puny slingshots.

And so that, at the end of the summer day, the sweet, luscious, and glorious fruits would go to our mouths!

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.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

This Tree’s Flowers Are Edible

WHEN I WENT to Dupax a day after Valentine’s this year, I had for lunch the flowers of a tree that the forester and tree-lover in me was happy to find growing mostly as living posts in many backyards and frontyards of houses in our part of the town.

Now, before your imagination becomes agitated with images of red-petalled flowers being chewed to smithereens by a huge defoliator worm masquerading as a human being, here’s a picture of the tree:

Upward shot of  ame' (birch flower) branches in Domang, Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya, with ready-to-harvest leaves and inflorescence. Note the worm-like flowers dangling on the twigs. (Photo by charlz castro)

Yes, my dear fellow on-and-off vegetarian, aside from their being dull green and looking like a “baby butterfy” (bangbangawan in Isinay, igges in Ilocano, uod in Tagalog), the flowers may not be bundled as in a bouquet or made into a lei and offered to your loved ones on Valentine’s Day.

A small to medium-sized tropical  tree that, along with the mango and coffee, is in flowering season  every February or thereabouts, the plant is a member of the Moraceae family and is called ame' in Isinay, alukon (or baeg and bungon) in Ilocano, himbaba-o in Tagalog, birch flower in English, and Broussonettia luzonica (formerly Allaeanthus luzonicus) among botanists.

Now don’t ask me who discovered the idea that this tree’s flowers (or fruits) as well as its young leaves are edible and, in fact, are a cherished delicacy not only among rural Isinays but also Ilocanos.  

As far as I can remember, alukon -- along with saluyot, marunggay, kalunay, katuday, fern, fungi, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, barbaradiong (bahase in Isinay) and ballaiba -- had been part of the repertoire of edible plants (apart from common vegetables) that formed part of my nourishment when I was growing up. 
A file photo of the edible tree flowers called ame' in Isinay. Note how long some of the flowers are.

To cook a plateful of the delicacy, just boil a cup of water, add two or more spoonfuls of salted anchovy (bagoong), squeeze a couple or so of reddish tomatoes, then put the ame flowers in and let the pot simmer for two to three minutes.

To make the viand more tasty/delicious (maattamtam in Isinay, malinamnam in Tagalog, masiram in Bicol, marasa in Visayan, naimas in Ilocano), it is best to cook it with a generous quantity of lima beans (atav in Dupax Isinay, lamero in Bambang Isinay, patani in both Tagalog and Ilocano) or pigeon peas (iris in Isinay, kardis in Ilocano, kadios in Tagalog). 

Then for better impact, toss in deep-fried bangus or, alternatively, grilled mudfish or tilapia or roasted chicken breast, or pindang (dried meat).

Well, that’s how my mother and my sister Arlyne cooked the edible flowers as in-asuj (inabraw or dinengdeng in Ilocano, bulanglang in Tagalog) that I loved to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner when I was home in Dupax -- and which made me forget my New Year resolution to go on diet.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why Isinay Is Vanishing

I JUST FOUND in the inbox of my email account a questionnaire sent in by a student of the University of the Philippines Baguio who, after finding this Isinay Bird blogsite in the internet, wrote to me last year and asked help on what references I could suggest for her thesis on Isinay.

The questionnaire's cover letter went this way:

Magandang araw po sa inyo. Ako po si Lianne Lelis, BS-Mathematics ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas Baguio. Kasalukuyan po akong gumagawa ng undergraduate thesis “Ang mga Isinay ng Nueva Vizcaya at ang Panghihina ng Kulturang Isinai”. Kaugnay po ng thesis na ito ay ang mga sumusunod na tanong tungkol sa mga Isinay. Maari po bang sagutin niyo ang mga ito. Malaki po ang maitutulong ng mga sagot niyo sa aking thesis. Pasensya na po sa abala. Salamat po sa inyong oras.

The following item (Item 4) in the questionnaire caught my fancy: 

Nabasa ko po ang thesis ni Celine Cruz na isa sa mga endangered language ang Isinay. Bilang isang Isinay, sa sarili niyong perspektibo ano ang dahilan ng paghina ng kulturang Isinay sa paglipas ng panahon?

I have yet to send my answers to the survey, but the question indeed sent my little coconut into motion. 

Very quickly, this humble observer attests to the following as having contributed to the Isinay culture and language as being endangered:

1.   Effect ng TV. Many kids in Dupax (and I presume even in Bambang and Aritao) now speak or are more at home with Tagalog -- even if you talk to them in Ilocano or Isinay. Worse, rather than enjoy the sunny outdoors, kids today prefer to watch Mr. Bean or the noontime shows exhibiting how sexy some Filipinas are or the antics of gay personalities . Consequently, there are no more "inheritors" of such formerly common Isinay ways as manpattol si nuwang (pasturing the carabao), mangamabuvun (collecting mushrooms), manumpup (gathering bamboo shoots), umeyav si sompalo (climbing tamarind trees), mansoppeng (swidden farming), and manalin si tulin (drive away rice-eating sparrows)
2.   Influence ng paaralan. Aside from the language of instruction not being Isinay, teachers and pupils now also speak in Tagalog or accented English. I presume that (like what we had when I was small) schools prohibit pupils/students from using Isinay in the classroom, so that they will have better mastery of English. Or so they say. It is probable, too, that grade school boys are no longer required to engage in such projects as manlajat uvi (weave chicken nesting basket), manubuj si masetas (water ornamental plants),  or mamangbang si pantanoman si gayya^ (dig a garden for string beans). Similarly, I wonder if  schools still offer Home Economics where girls learn how to manguhut (sew), man-asuh (cook vegetables), mangijar si niyuj (grate coconuts), manlutut pising (cook guava with coconut milk), or manajpat (wash the dishes).
3.   Pagdami ng populasyon ng mga kapitbahay, kaibigan, kamag-anak na hindi Isinay. Naturally, what can a native Irupaj or Iromang do when everybody in the neighborhood speaks a different language? With many young people getting married to Visayans, Bicolanos, Cordillerans, Americans, Europeans, Australians, Japanese, Indians, and Chinese, what language would Aritao, Bambang, and Dupax natives use to minimize communication gap and to show how friendly and warm as a people the Isinays are?
4.   Pagkaubos ng mga likas-yaman tulad ng gubat, ilog, isda, ibon, atbp. As a consequence, of the despoliation of its once fabulous forests and along with them the rivers, and the loss of wildlife, not so many are encountering or doing Isinay things associated with such natural resources anymore. For example, with forests gone, gone too are the wildlife that used to be part of the Isinay culture -- and so, no one hears of such words as salejap (trap), barale (preserved meat), and manganup (to hunt wild animals) anymore. With the rivers now dry in summer and flooded in the rainy season, gone are the sappilan (stone goby) and gone too are the methods of catching them like maneyup, mangintoj, mangemu, maniwattan and manlipit.
5.   Modernization. With the presence of electricity, people in Isinay country now prefer to watch TV or sing in videoke rather than watch the tallivong (full moon) or count how many matutina (shooting star) one sees in the night sky. With the convenience of gas stoves, children no longer do such chores as mangayu (gather firewood) or manisij (split wood with axe). With tricycles now available, many folks no longer experience mirungpil (hitting one's toe on a stone) or malurun (getting spine on one's sole) when walking on the road. Because the hand-tractor has replaced the carabao, such things as patuji (sled) and araru (plow) are becoming rare sights.

Lianne, if you're reading this, salamat si dee (thank you very much) for giving me ideas on what to write. 
Mansor ayu lojom (just you wait). I'll give these topics more bones and muscles in future blogs very soon.