Saturday, June 23, 2012


LET'S FORGET for a moment that Dr. Constantino is not a Novo Vizcayino and probably had not been to Aritao-Bambang-Dupax before doing the book (and, I guess, must not have gone back to do a possible sequel or even merely to distribute copies of the book after coming back from Japan).

But what he has done for Vizcaya, particularly the Isinays, should more than qualify him to be an adopted son of the province, particularly Isinay country.

The Book's Illustrious Co-Authors

Equally monumental as the contents of the book, is the way Prof. Constantino was able to bring into its making a synergy of Isinays from Aritao, Bambang, and Dupax del Sur. Indeed, he could not have assembled a more formidable powerhouse of informants as well as gatekeepers to produce his book. 

Consider, for example, the following  authorities on Isinay he was able to harness from Dupax alone:

Except for Carlina Liquigan Felix, Genoveva Lazam, Genaro Guzman, Mary Amador, Eufracio Toje, annd Anastacio Acosta, I'm quite familiar with most of the venerable people in the list above -- now all gone to the Isinay world up there! 

Madam Magalad, for instance, was my favorite teacher at St. Mary's High School (see "Farewell to a Great Isinay Teacher" in this blogsite). I heard the grand old man Osio Pating was married to a Maxima Castro, an aunt of my father. 

I used to call Estela Fernandez and Concepcion Felix, respectively, Auntie Tating and Auntie Concing. And I hasten to add that Auntie Tating was my teacher in Grade 6 where I got the highest grades ever of 96 then 98 for "original" and "rewritten" theme (not to forget my being Valedictorian under her care when I finished going to the Dupax Central Elementary School).

Don Alfonso Castañeda was, of course, the first and only Isinay so far who rose to become Governor of Nueva Vizcaya. Ama Juan Felix was the eng-eng (violin) player in the St. Vincent Church during his time. 

Ina Ane^ Bastero was one of our catechism teachers during my pre-Holy Communion days and was one of the golden voiced cantores (church singers) when I was growing up, along with Ina Vito^ Arroyo.

As for Ama Pio Daggao, well, I remember that morning in 1967 when it was my turn to guard the road by the Dampol Bridge for "violators" while the flag ceremony was going on at the St. Mary's High School. I think I blew the whistle when Ama Pio was still on that part of the road that used to have teak and mahogany trees on one side, and the old man got off his carabao, stood at attention, then got back to his farm animal later when the singing of the national anthem was over, and when he passed by me I heard him say: "Naveyandaj tiyen nuwang, nayyi gineje nan adal!" (This pest of a carabao, he has no manners.)

Seeing their names in the book (and reading or singing what they have contributed to its pages) is thus, for me, not only a journey back to that particular time siren poto^ (in the olden days) when I could see them or hear their gentle voices somewhere and even get to talk to them and kiss their hands during the Angelus!

Tapes Were Used but No Photos

Apart from the nap-em porat nabalitu-an an laman (packed with golden contents) main pages of the book, the author's preliminary pages are also a joy to read. 

I was particularly attracted to two parts of the Acknowledgements. Here's one:  

"The collection of the texts included in this book was begun in 1963 in a research project on Philippine languages and dialects which received financial assistance from the University of the Philippines for more than ten years.... During my one-year stay as Visiting Professor in the Institute for the Study of the Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, I was able to transcribe phonemically and translate all the texts in this book.

The items I underlined have made my imagination go on turbo mode. Since 1963 onwards to when Dr. Constantino flew to Japan, could it be possible that he took photographs not only of the Isinays he interviewed but also of certain spots in the towns of Aritao, Bambang, and Dupax del Sur? 

I guess the book would have been doubly more appealing and historical now had it included photos that were at least representative of the topics and the people, places, customs, and practices mentioned in the book. For example, a good picture of the anino^ singers or perhaps even the newly wed couples they were singing to would have been a jackpot for the children of those involved.

If he transcribed the interviews/recitations/singing, where are the tapes now? Could he have left the tapes in Japan? Or are they getting eaten by silverfish and fungi now somewhere in UP Diliman or in the Constantino household's filing boxes? If they still exist and are still usable, is it possible to borrow them so that at least we the living and caring Isinays could possibly listen to the voices of our pinavlen darauway an Isinay (beloved elderly Isinays)?

Here's another part that caught my interest:

I am  especially grateful to Mrs. Magdalena Larosa-Aliaga, her son Mr. Edgar L. Daniel and Mrs. Ermelinda C. Magalad for additional help for translating some of the difficult words and phrases. I wish also to thank Mr. Dominador C. Boada, Sr. for giving me the typed copy of the Isinay diaries which are included in this book and for taperecording the entire Catecismo de la Doctrina Cristiana en la lengua de Isinay & Inmeas (1876), and Mayor William Giron of Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya who extended to us his hospitality and help when we went to his town in 1976 to undertake fieldwork.

The names I underlined were both my uncles. Mr. Boada was married to my father's only sister Atanacia Mambear Castro while Mayor Giron was married to my father's first cousin Josefa Mambear Guiab. (Except for Auntie Pepang who is now in the U.S., all the names mentioned above, including my father, did not live long enough for me to at least be able to ask what their reactions to the book.)

The following parts of the 9-page Introduction also titillated my senses:

This publication is the first volume of my study of the language and literature of the Isinay people in the Philippines.

The oral compositions were collected from Isinay informants with a taperecorder between 1963 and 1982. A few texts were written down by the informants before they were taperecorded.

All the words in the texts included in this book were compiled in a vocabulary which will be published immediately following this book.

I wonder whether Dr. Constantino was able to come up with that follow-up publication.

The Isinay World Years From Now

Constantino's Isinay Texts and Translations has set the pace or ran a very good lap, were it a relay race, and it’s now up to us concerned Isinays and language activists to pick up from where he left off.

In fact, the book's Introduction carried just such a marching order:

We hope that the publication of these texts will not only result in their preservation and dissemination but will also provide original data for the study of the life and culture of the Isinays.

Continuing the race after Constantino has made a great starting run is, however, a huge challenge now. For one thing -- reincarnation aside -- it would probably take forever to wait until a convergence or at least a semblance of such could be made of the Isinay authorities he has so enviably spent many hours with.

In the interim, I just hope that the Isinay language would not degenerate further, like what happened to Aritao’s part in terms of speakers -- this, even as the Larosa and Daniel elders have done their big, big part with no heir apparent so far coming out to pick up the baton for them. 

Incidentally, I heard that the writer Edgar Daniel of Aritao (of "Mount Malussong" fame) passed away only last April. I remember he was editor-in-chief of the Vizcaya Advocate when I wrote a letter to the editor that started this way: "Ayyu-ayyu beveyoyar Dupaj!" 

In publishing my letter, Apo Daniel even did a translation of my Isinay lines and, as I didn't know he was an iAritao then, I was surprised that there was an Isinay up there in that newspaper's office. 

Anyway, that letter aired the collective grievance of the people of Dupax regarding the results of the elections where Benjamin Perez (brother of then COMELEC boss Leonardo Perez) became Congressman -- and later authored the bill that divided my hometown Dupax into Dupax del Norte and Dupax del Sur.

But so much for that lamentation. 

For now it would help Isinay language activists as well as Isinay world historians to know that Constantino has propitiously did his now-an-indispensable-Isinay-language-and-history reference at the right time and at the right place -- in particular because the unassailable authorities he consulted were still alive at the time.

Had he done it later, say in the late 1980s up to the 1990s, he would probably meet only a sprinkling of Isinays who may not have good sutsur or appoyaw to tell, genuine anino^ songs to chant, and past Isinay events and places to revisit.

In other words, I bet Constantino could not have come out with a gem of a book on the Isinay language and many of the now mostly forgotten customs and stories of the Isinay world the way he did.

Be that as it may, I hope Dr. Ernesto Constantino is still alive and would make himself available -- so that, among other things, I could possibly do a reversal of roles: this time an Isinay videotaping him making sutsur of his experiences with the Isinays and asking him to possibly sing a few strains of the baliwaway and anino^ he very fortunately taped many, many years ago!
 -- charlz castro/isinay bird

Monday, June 4, 2012

Beautiful Piece on Isinay from a Young Isinay

NOTE: We interrupt our regular programming, as it were, to feature an essay by a young lady who, at the time this piece was being written, was studying in Bangladesh. Insofar as your Isinay Bird is concerned, this beautifully crafted piece is most probably the first of its kind to ever come out in defense of the Isinay tongue and of being an Isinay coming straight from the heart of a budding writer and language activist with Isinay blood. We're just too glad to publish it here in ISINAY BIRD for at least two reasons: 1) to show our appreciation for the efforts and aspirations of the author as well as, oh well, for the nurturing guidance of her Isinay mother; and 2) to inspire other youngsters and their parents, be they full-blooded Isinays or half-bloods or "muggles" (to use a term in the Harry Potter movies) like Isinay Bird. We also included selected feedback from those who read the original essay on Facebook, including corrective comments from the author's Catholic nun grandaunt, Sister Concepcion Daran, a pure-blood Isinay working in Africa. The author and her parents and sister are now back in Belgium.

A Small Effort to Save the Isinai Language

by Rica Duchateau
September 23, 2011

MY USUAL INTRODUCTION is that I am half-Belgian and half-Filipino, but many do not know that I have tribal ancestry. 

My Filipino grandmother is a genuine member of the Isinai indigenous people’s group that inhabits southern Nueva Vizcaya in Luzon. Hence I am one-fourth Isinai, and proud to be so. 

Unfortunately, the traditional costumes and dances (which we often associate with ethnic groups) in the Isinai culture have been pushed aside by globalization in the form of jeans, television and mobile phones. 

Nevertheless, there are still certain customs that survive, and the generation of the elderly is still able to fluently speak the Isinai language (to point out, the language is considered as a tribal one and not a dialect). This language is in a vulnerable position, though, as only Tagalog and English are being taught at local schools. 

Apparently current students with Isinai origins can understand the language, but are abandoning it as it is considered old fashioned.

My lola (grandmother) and her siblings are part of the last generation of fluent speakers of Isinai. My mother has a working knowledge of the language and uses it with her mother, but she claims she does not speak it in its pure form. 

I just know a couple of expressions and words, mainly (not very severe) swear words I picked up from the elderly cursing at naughty youngsters hanging around in Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya. In fact, I hardly spend much time in the Philippines so there are not many chances for me to use and practice this language on a daily basis. 

But then again, my cousins who have lived there all their lives aren’t particularly fluent in it. 

Observing this dramatic decrease in its usage, the Isinai language might just disappear in a couple of generations. In addition, according to the Facebook group “Isinai Global Association”, formal Isinai is based on the Dupax del Sur version of the language, but now another IP group, the Gaddangs, are attempting to push it aside and name it “just” a dialect. 

Below is a small effort to document and save the Isinai language. The following are Isinai words and expressions I know off the top of my head, and their English meanings. A special acknowledgement goes to Sr. Ching Daran, my lola's sister and a member of the last generation of fluent Isinai speakers, who helped correct the notation and meaning of words. 

Now, I wish I could add Isinai as a language on Facebook, but sadly there is no page for it and I cannot create one.

  • "i" is pronounced as an English "ee"
  • "j" signifies a firm Spanish "g", or a Germanic "ch"
  • "u" is pronounced as an English "oo"
  • An apostrophe signifies a suspension on the consonant when followed by the same consonant; when followed by another consonant, it signifies an abrupt ending.
  • "^" signifies an abrupt ending to the previous letter.
  • A dash means the syllables are connected, but pronounced separately.
  • Underlined letters signify a stress.

  1. am'mai = large
  2. ana = children
  3. ba-ak = old maid
  4. baket = old woman
  5. ba-u-u = turtle
  6. beya = charcoal
  7. beyoy = house
  8. bojas = rice
  9. bongas = cuts at the heel
  10. butongero = alcoholic
  11. dalaj = fish
  12. e-eng = clothing
  13. gulir = butt
  14. isiraj' = viand
  15. itungu = firewood
  16. lajay = old man
  17. lujit = chicken poo
  18. ma-al'ali = good in despising
  19. ma-e-as = lazy
  20. mahuv = smelly
  21. man-dam'ot = to be pregnant
  22. man-lutu = to cook
  23. man-os'oseya = to be united
  24. man-taro^ = to dance
  25. marot'lot = voracious
  26. maserot = pretty, beautiful
  27. mata-aw = gossiper
  28. matava = fat
  29. matung = hot
  30. maveveha = noisy
  31. mulagat = big eyes
  32. muwar = your
  33. nay-yir = nothing
  34. navutong = drunk (effect of drinking too much alcohol)
  35. paltat = catfish
  36. perensa = iron
  37. pod'da = really, extremely
  38. sang'gup = soup
  39. sa-urong = squat
  40. tatahu = people
  41. umat'tay = to poo
  42. u-u = nails

  1. aboleyam = never mind
  2. adday mayat pod'da sa-urong muwar = "What a nice squat!" Expressed when people in a group are talking, especially referring to those talking on the street, maintaining the traditional squat position
  3. addu payla = expression directed at someone who is being over-dramatic
  4. amoy tau mot = "Come, let's go."
  5. ande niye? = "What is that?"
  6. ande tiye? = "What is this?"
  7. ay apu! = expressed when you are pleasantly amused at someone's silliness
  8. ayan yu? = "Where are you going?"
  9. bakbaketan = expression directed at a person who does something he/she is too old for
  10. mara^da^waw!= "Liar!"
  11. dahom a = a swear-word directed at someone who is trying to be funny by doing crazy things
  12. daraten tatahu/ana! = "These people!" Expressed when irritated at the naughty or reproachable acts of people/children.
  13. eytu = an expression similar to "umm..."
  14. ilam de! = "Look at that!"
  15. Hesus Mariya Kusep! = Literally means "Jesus, Mary, Joseph!". It has a meaning similar to "Oh dear!"
  16. luj'dit = a swear-word directed at an unpleasant person
  17. mahuv gulir muar = "Your butt smells"
  18. man-amos amot = "Go and take a bath"
  19. man- ... aytu tau = "Let's (activity)"
  20. man ilo aj' si ihar = Literally means "go and scratch yourself with a coconut grater." It is expressed when someone believes that something will never happen
  21. man-sor a! = "Wait!"
  22. mangan tau = "Let's eat"
  23. mawawa' = "I'm thirsty!"
  24. meyasa! = Similar to "Oh my!", but with a negative connotation
  25. meyo^ amot = "Go to sleep."
  26. naveyanduj = a swear-word closely related to "darn it"
  27. naveyangit = a swear-word closely related to "darn it"
  28. navitila^ = "I'm hungry!"
  29. poha! = expression directed at someone who seems to be daydreaming/hallucinating, or does something wrongly
  30. punyemes = a swear-word directed at someone who is not behaving properly
  31. sanat' sinot'tom = "That's what you know." Expressed when reproaching someone who constantly participates in abominable or dishonorable acts.
  32. sayang = "It's a pity"
  33. sibijbihat = "Good morning"
  34. si-ejaw = "Good day"
  35. silawi = "Good evening"
  36. udi = "There"
  37. udiet' si ... = "There is (name)"

CHING DARAN: That is awesome to hear Rica. You are such a very authentic and a beautiful heart. Yes, indeed you are very international in your blood and you made us so proud of you. I keep you in my prayers and Nina too .

RICA: Hi lola Ching! Thank you! Since you are a member of the last generation of fluent Isinay speakers, could you please correct the Isinay words I wrote?

CHING DARAN: Adday,de-e mot tuwa di amtamar an ba^ba^ an Isinai a. Here are some minor corrections: 
am'ma-i (instead of am'mai) 
maveveha (use V instead of using W), 
umat'tay instead of tumak'ki (this is Ilokano) 
addu payla. 
ayan yu? -where are you going? 
meyo^ mot - go to sleep! 
amoy tau mot - come let's go. 
poha! - means are you daydreaming, or are you hallucinating? (or say to someone who does things wrongly?) 
si bi^bihat - good morning. 
mara^da^waw - liar. 

In our dialect we also use this punctuation (^) a lot. It sounds like an abrupt breaking. Otherwise, you are doing well Rica. Keep learning our dialect. Am'ma-i on addawi ri maratong di bilay muar, Eteng. Mav'ves podda ri ap-apyomar. Keep smiling too.

HAYDEE ESQUIOJA-TUCAY: I am proud to be an Isinay!Spread it that we are genuine!!!!!!

MARITES JALLORINA: Wow, Rica. I am proud of you and i am proud to be an isinay. Maserot podda di inapyamar. Mari min kaya an apyon di inapyamar.

SHAZEEN KARIM: Rica this is sooooo cool! spread the indigenous culture that are being blanketed by globalization. Once we lose something by time then for sure we will be saying "why didn't we do anything about it!" i hope you are successful in your journey to preserve this wonderful aspect of who you are and family's history.

RICA: Hi Shazeen, I'll continue this "project" in June, once I'm done with IB exams. I'm trying to set up a Google site where I put together all sorts of information related to the Isinai.


NIDA GRUTAS BASTERO: Wow, I'm so impressed Rica!!! Here you are, half-Belgian yet so proud of being an Isinai and really making an effort to trace her roots and living up to it by embracing the culture and speaking its native tongue. Isn't this a big insult to some of us who easily could say… I couldn't speak the language anymore because I have no one to converse in Isinai with? And so we pretend not to know anymore and easily make an excuse to speak other languages. Of course, this is not bad as long as we keep in our heart the truth that we are Isinais and part of being so is embracing the culture as I have previously mentioned and most importantly knowing how to speak the language... so no excuse please!!! And thank you so much, Rica, for the awakening!!!

RACHEL ZAMORA DUCHATEAU: Yap! Sobrang proud yang anak ko na may Isinay root siya.Somehow yong every day na nakakausap ko siya ay laging may nakasingit na Isinay words kaya lahat ay tinatandaan niya yan and grabe ang memory niya.I am really so proud of her!Ayan sinabi ko sa kanya na lola ka niya.Thank u auntie for encouraging her!

NIDA GRUTAS BASTERO: I salute you Eteng as well as your husband for the very good up-bringing of your kids... so impressive really!!! Congratulations again, Rica!!!

CHARLZ CASTRO: Eh, Rica, sangkanan besan u lojom navatar tiyen nabalitu-an an in-itnur mu? Bendisionan daa otyat Apu Tauwar an Namalsa, Eteng... And may there be more young people like you who are not only proud of their Isinay roots but also make the effort to contribute to the revitalization of the Isinay language (yes, it is a distinct language!). Rachel, manpagayjayam podda toy sinalinuwam tiye mariit muar Rica an mangita^doj si puli tauwar an Isinay.

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)