THE MONTH of March, being graduation season in most schools in Pinoy country, reminds me of the particular spot where I learned how to speak fluent Isinay as a kid. Satun lugar ya saru ngarngaranan miyar siren uunga ami an Gabaldon. (This place was what we used to call Gabaldon when we were kids.)
How? By what I like to now call "linguistic osmosis".
More to the point, through the games we played (e.g. Prisoner of War). Through the required school chores (e.g., pulling amorseco so that their "grains" would not cling on the pants of our sirs or ruin the nylon stockings of our ma'ams). Through our school projects (e.g., making brooms out of coconut midribs, weaving small baskets out of bamboos, carving storks out of sawmill slabs). And through the bullying (e.g., sticking a soldier termite in clay and letting the insect bite the ear of an unfriendly pupil) that even during my time seemed to be part of the school culture anywhere.
It was via these mediums that I picked up words that my Ilocano upbringing has before then shielded me from. Examples: ikulkulepot, manluham, mangawas, asaw, unung, talenan, tamuhaha, lurun, duluriyaw, kutalu, palla^, tawas, lutih, wawini, uhaw, tili indong, ulili, maagu^, sing-aw, bunuvun, kengkeng, dumoh, nahugguran, nais-isaw, naguggure^, suput, and hundreds more Isinay words that are now half-forgotten or even moribund.
No, sir, it was not because I could not touch my left ear when I put my right hand over my head (as was the practice then in our part of the Philippines, to determine if a kid can now go to school). I was scratched off the initial list of Grade One pupils in Dupax because I was not yet 7-year-old during the enrolment for school year 1958-1959.
First target was St. Catherine's School where Papa taught Grade 4 pupils when I was a baby. Too late for enrolment, we were told. So Uwa Ika^ brought me to the Bambang Central Elementary School instead.