Monday, January 14, 2013

What's Earthquake in Isinay?

The Isinay Word for Earthquake

A FEW STEPS away from the door of the St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic church of Dupax del Sur, until recently there used to be a small structure with a cross on top.

The thing was not there before. By “before” is meant not so long ago, starting when I was a church-going boy in the 1960s up to when my wife and I got married there in 1979.

The first time I noticed it, it looked to me like a tombstone. Yet I didn’t bother to inquire whether it was intended to commemorate a VIP connected with the almost two-and-a-half centuries old church.

And one time I attended a burial or a wedding, I saw kids playing hide-and-seek on it. Thus, I got the impression that it was meant to cater to the playful nature of angels while their elders are attending mass, memorizing the faces of new in-laws witnessing a church wedding, or listening to kilometric eulogies for a dead relative, or something.

It was only when I went to take photos of the St. Vincent patronal procession and town fiesta last April that I came to know the whys and wherefores of the monument.

It was built to commemorate a big event that literally shook not only the church but also the entire towns of Dupax, Bambang and Aritao -- and killed hundreds of people in the cities of Baguio, Cabanatuan and Dagupan, and forced thousands of survivors to once again walk and carry loads as roads and bridges were erased in many parts of Luzon.

That big event was the intensity 7.7 killer earthquake of July 16, 1990.
This 2-meter monument in front of the St. Vincent Church of Dupax features the cross that fell during the  earthquake that hit Northern Philippines on July 16, 1990. The cross served as pinnacle of the front wall of the church.

IF YOU GO to that monument in Dupax nowadays and pretend to ask someone around what is it for, most probably you’ll hear in their statements the Ilocano word ginggined or the Tagalog lindol.

It would be fun, indeed, if one Sunday morning I’ll visit that Spanish-era church and do a little experiment of asking 100 or so church-goers. I bet, even if they know that I am an Isinay, I’d be lucky to get 10 who would utter the Isinay word YOJYOJ while the majority will most likely say "saru ngay ertkweykkar."

Alternatively and phonetically spelled yohyoh, the Isinay term for earthquake is a good example of words in the southern Nueva Vizcaya language that are now seldom used in Dupax del Sur, said to be the base as well as the last bastion of the Isinay tongue.

A number of Isinay words associated with the effects of earthquakes have also been replaced by Ilocano or Tagalog or even English terms.

Examples: NAJBA (narba in Ilocano, nagiba in Tagalog); NAJDAY or NAJURAY (nagidday in Ilocano, nagiray in Tagalog); NAJPING (nasping in Ilocano); NATABU-AN (nagaburan in Ilocano; natabunan in Tagalog; buried in English); NABANTU-AN or NAT-ONAN (napandagan in Ilocano; nadaganan in Tagalog); NITAPUSAN (napabutngan in Ilocano; kinilabutan in Tagalog; scared to death in English).

AS PART OF Isinay country’s collective memory, a story went around that a day or so after the earthquake, a DZRH correspondent went to Dupax to report the incident.

I have yet to verify the story but I know the Isinay fellow interviewed by the field reporter. Anyway, he was said to have uttered on nationwide radio: “Nuung nag-lindul, ang simbahan ay napunit!”
It’s obviously a funny Tagalog, purists among us might say.

But that just goes to show how we people of the Isinay world go all out to accommodate strangers and to voice out what we feel. On the side, the interviewee might be right in using “napunit” – because, after all, the church part torn away by the yojyoj was the same cross used as crowning glory of the earthquake monument now gracing the front of the church.

WHAT IS NO longer part of the collective memory of Dupax is the earthquake that happened in 1882 or thereabouts. You see, I happened to have a copy of a yellowing 11-page typewritten document titled History and Cultural Life of Dupax (handed down to me by my Ilocana mother who found it while arranging the files of my Isinay father a few months after he died).

In the section on Important Facts, Incidents or Events, the document carries this:

1882 – There was an earthquake which lasted for about a month. Daily masses were said outside the church. It was said that at times water from jars spilled out because of the violent shakes caused by the earthquakes. 

I checked the internet for major temblors that occurred in 1882 and, except for a report that said earthquakes occurred that year in Oregon, USA, nothing was mentioned about the Philippines.

But I did discover the closest information about a cataclysmic event that could possibly have affected Dupax “for about a month.” This was the eruption of Indonesia’s most famous volcano -- Mount Krakatoa.

According to Wikipedia:

“Krakatoa was a volcanic island made of lava in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia.The volcano exploded in 1883, killing 36,417 people. The explosion is considered to be the loudest sound ever heard in modern history, with reports of it being heard nearly 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from its point of origin. The shock wave from the explosion was recorded on barographs around the globe…. The recordings show that the shock wave from the final explosion reverberated around the globe seven times. Ash was propelled to a height of 80 km (50 mi). The sound of the eruption was so loud it was said that if anyone was within ten miles (16 km), he would go deaf.” [Source:]

“The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa began in May 1883 and culminated with the destruction of Krakatoa on 27 August 1883…. In the years before the 1883 eruption, seismic activity around the volcano was intense, with some earthquakes felt as far as Australia…. On 27 August four enormous explosions took place at 05:30, 06:44, 10:02, and 10:41 local time. The explosions were so violent that they were heard 3,500 km (2,200 mi) away inPerth, Western Australia and the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues near Mauritius, 4,800 km (3,000 mi) away, where they were thought to be cannonfire from a nearby ship.” [Source:]

If you ask me, the month-long earthquakes felt in Dupax (that caused daily masses to be held outside the church) and the eruption of Mt. Krakatoa (that started in 1882 and continued May-August 1883 and whose explosions were heard thousands of kilometers away) were most probably related. In other words, the earthquakes felt in Isinay country were repercussions of the volcanic movements of Krakatoa (Karakatau to some).

But why the discrepancy between 1882 and 1883 in the recorded history of Dupax? Well, I guess there might have been a clerical error committed by one who recorded the year and another who transcribed the same data many years later.

On second thought, it could have been due to extremely challenged recall on the part of an informant who, according to a naughty whisperer in my mind, must have said in an aging voice:

“Yojyoj? E… attu ye, idong… dongngem si mavves. Nave^leng on namummutoja^ tay an unga siriye… ot mansajsajov ami tay siri Avannatan… i-us-usa mi ya andu-oy an bayombong toy neyir tay timba… ot pingsanyen napnu mot si danum di sajban on mawaga si batalan miar, otoy mot ta dajas an dimmatong ri naansananar podda an yojyoj… ot wara, najday ri baiyurar siri Avuwew… natabu-an ri wayilar Pitang… nan-ajpa^ on nan-avalin di sajban on mawaga miar dari… ot, e, aytu, omoy nin sinbuwenan an om-omoy amid di simbaanar an nandu^duuj on nanpajo^go^gos y Apu San Vicente Ferrer toy, wara, opong si ejaw ya mitapusan amit atdiyar an masden poddan yojyoj!”

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