Thursday, January 17, 2013

Facebook, Isinays and the Isinay Language

IF THERE IS one modern technology (aside from the Internet as a whole) that is greatly helping save the Isinay language from the jaws of extinction right now, I can think of no other thing than Facebook.
One day soon, in fact, when I shall be writing the acknowledgement section of the semi-multilingual Isinay dictionary that I have been working on since 2008, Facebook will be one of those that will get very special mention.

YOU SEE, when I embarked on the said Isinay dictionary project, I thought it was only going to be “for domestic consumption.” 

Like I do it just for fun. (I think I even confessed somewhere that I thought of coming out with the Isinay dictionary for lack of better things to do when some health problems sometime ago prevented me from consulting jobs that required travel.)

But the hunting and listing of now nearly forgotten or even mawaywayir mot (moribund) Isinay words later took on a different color. This was when the darauway (senior) Isinays who I would dangarangon (pester) for the Isinay term for this and that each time I would go home to Dupax, were now the ones volunteering Isinay words they remembered being used siriyen poto^ (long time ago). 

Yes, my fellow Isinays were now sort of turning the table around. People who I only got to greet with a nod or a smile not very long ago would now approach me to ask: “Dioy mot si listamar tiye?” (Do you already have on your list this one?) 

I would also receive surprise text messages now and then, sometimes in the middle of the night, reporting the Isinay name of this object and that, or the Isinay equivalent for this Ilocano noun, this Tagalog verb, or that English adjective, etc.

The dictionary project was now a community – nay, even a collective Isinay people’s – project. 

Big Help from Facebook
CURIOUSLY, Facebook (or rather the Isinays who dabble in it) would come into the picture each time I would think there are no more new entries to add to the dictionary. They are not directly saying it but the posts give you the sense that there is an urgent and primary need, indeed, for a dictionary of the Isinay language.
Thus, if one day soon the would-be dictionary would be perceived as sort of light at the end of the tunnel for the Isinay language and, for that matter, the Isinays’ identity as a people, part of the credit should go to Facebook.

Consider for instance that through Facebook, I was able to extensively increase my list of words from both versions of Isinay – Bambang and Dupax-Aritao. Even as a significant part of my childhood was spent in the Buag part of Bambang (which thus made me learn some Bambang Isinay by osmosis), it was actually in Facebook that I got to learn the lexical and phonemic differences between Bambang Isinay and the Dupax-Aritao Isinay language that I grew up with.

Examples of Bambang Isinay words I picked up from Facebook: ansisinno (dragonfly), beyavat (guava), mansijlob (twilight), mansiporopdong (gather together), masing-aw (delicious).

Examples of Dupax-Aritao Isinay words I met via Facebook: anamme-on (on the surface, seemingly), antamotni (I'm not sure now), mamborobdang (dawn, sunrise), sinluayah (cluster, bunch), sinpajapaj (large quantity).

Other Lessons
IT WAS ALSO through Facebook, particularly through the reminders of Mr. Alfonso Castañeda Magalad (based in Melbourne, Australia, and better known to us younger Isinays as Uwa Alipong), that I learned that some words we’ve been using are Ilocanized. For example, the correct Isinay for “nakaila” is inila (we/they saw) and instead of “baket”, better to use bi-al (mature/elderly old woman).

In fact, such a timely interjection by this illustrious Isinay advocate and grandson of Alfonso Castañeda (the first Isinay to become Governor of Nueva Vizcaya) has sent me to weed out a hundred or so Ilocanized entries in my list of words.

If we did not have access to Facebook and did not reach out to our fellow Isinays, we Isinay language activists would have taken many, many years to learn or unlearn many things as regards the usage of many Isinay words and phrases. 

Indeed, apart from being a channel of communication – or language education, if you may – Facebook has also become a virtual library insofar as the Isinay language as well as Isinay-related issues are concerned.
I say library because if we combine the Isinay posts in Facebook, there are now probably thousands of profound exchanges, recent and vintage photos, remembering of the good old days, bits of history,  as well as jokes, prayers, songs, riddles, and even quarrels – in Isinay – now recorded in and circulating all over the world.

There were of course a sprinkling of topics that ruffled feathers among some FB-using Isinays. One of them is the fact that some Isinays are ashamed to speak Isinay in public. A very recent one was the attempted transfer of the cross-topped 1990 earthquake monument that for more than two decades now has served as symbol of Isinay community unity at the St. Vincent Church of Dupax del Sur.

Isinay Unification Tool
LOOKING BACK, had there been no Facebook and we merely relied on email or texting, we Isinays would not have had an exciting, quick, colorful, and enjoyable way of communicating with one another. 

Consider, for instance, that ISINAY GLOBAL ASSOCIATION, the leading Isinay group on Facebook, has as of today 952 members – presumably all Isinays, descendants of Isinays, or people married to Isinays. Another group, TAON YA ISINAI, has 770 members (mostly from Bambang). And a third one, ISINAY FRIENDS, has 336 members (mostly Isinays from Dupax).

Many members of these three Facebook groups are members of two or all of the said three groups.

There’s no discounting, indeed, how Facebook has become a great help in many Isinays becoming friends with one another. FB also was a go-between in many a member's renewing partnerships or finding relatives with their fellow Isinays amplamu dattun suung di mundo war si ittuan da besan (no matter what corners of the earth they are in now) and also no matter how the geographical distances are. 

As an Isinay, I also dare say we FB-using Isinays would not have become more unified at least insofar as reinvigorating the Isinay language – the soul and perhaps the only remaining evidence of the Isinay culture – is concerned.

By Way of Conclusion
I REMEMBER how it was when I still didn’t have an account on Facebook. Back then, I merely relied on documents available in the internet for sources of Isinay words and phrases that either I have already half-forgotten or I have not yet encountered in my word-hunting consultation meetings with friends, relatives and fellow senior citizens in Dupax del Sur.

Take it from me, fellow native language savers. Facebook is a short cut and a time- and resource-saving road en route to finding additional words, phrases and idioms in the language of your interest as well as giving illustrative examples of how to use such idioms, phrases, and words in a sentences.

Matuwa tiye (this is true), the making of a dictionary, particularly a comprehensive one and most probably the first ever for Isinay especially in its endangered state, is a humongous challenge. Mari mos an tajtaje. (It’s no longer a joke.) 

But thank heavens, Facebook has helped energize not only the Isinay soul in many of us but also fanned the dying embers of many Isinays’ love for their Isinay roots. 

I just hope that the embers would soon become bright flames that would continue to burn – no matter how cold the nights are and no matter how strong the winds.


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