Monday, April 29, 2013

An Isinay Word Hunter's Story (Part 3)

Part 3. An Eye-Opener from UP Diliman

I only got to know Isinay is a threatened language one time I surfed the Internet for sources of Isinay trivia that I could include in my Isinay-Bird blog. This was in 2011 when I came across the paper The Revitalization Challenge for Small Languages: The Case for Isinai by Ms. Celina Marie Cruz of the Department of Linguistics, UP Diliman. The paper is so far the only one I could find that gives a candid assessment of the status of the Isinay language today. Here’s the paper’s Overview:
The Isinai-speaking peoples in the Philippines are concentrated in three municipalities of the Nueva Vizcaya province – Aritao, Bambang, and Dupax del Sur. They are situated in the middle of Nueva Vizcaya, near the mountain ranges; surrounded by the towns of Santa Fe, Bayombong and Sta. Cruz.[1]
Among the three municipalities, the Isinai people’s concentration in Dupax del Sur is the largest, as 5 out of the 15 barangays in this municipality are dominated by the Isinai. Followed in number by Bambang which has an estimated number of 500 families of Isinai descent, and the least number of Isinai people in Aritao having only at least 2,500 individuals.
There is also a wide difference in the usage of the Isinai language among the three. In Dupax del Sur, the 5 barangays use the Isinai language predominantly and serves as their first language. In Bambang, though most Isinai members use the language within their homes and among other Isinai speakers, Ilocano has become predominantly used in the municipality. Aritao has the least number of speakers with only 100 individuals, and only 1% of the total Isinai community writing the language.

In a reply I got from Ms. Cruz when I e-mailed her to ask for the publication date of her work, she said she presented the paper in a linguistics seminar in Cagayan de Oro in February 2010 and added that, along with a group of linguistics and anthropology students, she also did one on the Isinai language and culture around 2009 for field work. (See e-mail exchanges below.)
I have yet to get hold of that other paper and the thesis itself where Ms. Cruz extracted her Cagayan de Oro seminar paper. It would be interesting to find out, among other things, which particular barangays she and her group went to for their research and who her key informants were.
Anyway, Ms. Cruz sort of confirmed what I was already lamenting earlier as regards the Isinay children of Dupax. In her paper’s subsection titled Problems of Endangerment, she wrote:

Although Isinai is strongly used in Dupax del Sur, there is also evidence of language shift among the children. Children are using the Tagalog language in communicating with peers, and they seldom use the Isinai language even at home. Tagalog is reinforced in the school together with English as medium of instruction. The influence of the media is also said to be a factor that encourages language shift. There is also hardly any documents written in the Isinai language.

Bambang has also seen a shift in language use as more and more members of the Isinai community speak the dominant language, Ilocano. The parental and grandparental generations remain fluent and frequent in usage of the language with other Isinai speakers. However, only some individuals found in the younger generations are fluent in the use of the Isinai language. There is also the problem of language shift evident in intermarriages, as the language that the family uses is dependent on the prevailing language most commonly, Ilocano.
The Isinai language in Aritao can be said as the most endangered language among the three dialectal groups. To this day, there remain, at most, 100 individuals that speak Isinai, mostly from the older generations. There is also the problem with fluency as the grandparental generation and those from the ages of later 40s are the only ones that remain fluent in the language. The rest know very little of the language, and at most times the Isinai language is mixed with the Ilocano language.
I have not met Celina Marie in person yet, but I did have sweet moments with her through email. Now, don’t get me wrong on that. What I mean with sweet moments is the glorious feeling (like seeing the sun after days of cloudy skies) of learning new things about something very close to my heart, in this case the Isinay language – and discovering that someone who is not Isinay has done something great for my dying native tongue.
You may think I’m digressing here, but the email back-and-forth I had with Ms. Cruz has encapsulated much of what I should be telling in this sutsur. Thus, I guess I should not deprive you of what we talked about. Well then, here’s our exchange:
Mon, Oct 10, 2011 at 9:35 PM
Dear Ma’am Celina,
While navigating through the internet last night for a free downloadable copy of Otto Scheerer’s  The Particles of Relation of the Isinai Language, my serendipity angel showed me your The Revitalization Challenge for Small Languages: The Case of Isinai. Well, as a mestizo Isinay from Dupax myself, I feel I should thank you on behalf of my fellow Isinays who still care for the value and preservation – or at least prolonging the existence for many decades more – of our centuries-old language.
I could not find your paper’s publication date. But based on your mentioning the Bona^ si Isinai Dopaj and mentioning a Department Order No. 74, s. 2009, I get it to mean it came out very recently. You see, I was speaker during the first anniversary of Bona^ (December 2010) and, indeed, it came out that we really need to do bold steps to save the Isinay language from falling into complete oblivion.
I guess that as a result of the suggestion I made in my rambling Isinay talk, the members of Bona^ teamed up with the Senior Citizens of Dupax in including as “major, major” part of the town’s fiesta last April a live presentation of how the Isinay daluj-daluj and lupeyup are made. I’m not sure though if there was a complete videotape of the event which included the how-to narration in Isinay of how such formerly popular glutinous-rice delicacies among us Dupax Isinays were made. Of course, there was also singing by senior citizens of the Isinay songs (e.g. “Dattut Ittuam,” “Uar Sipan Uar,” “Osan Lavi”) that young and old alike loved to sing up to the early ‘70s when TV and Tagalog and cellphones were not yet part of our culture in Dupax, Bambang, and Aritao.
Oh yes, one reason I’m sending you this note is to report a recent development about our move to revitalize Isinay – in case you’re going to write a sequel of your “maserot on mampagayjayam poddan sinulat.”  Early this year I opened an “Isinay Friends” group in my Facebook account that generated very warm reception from the younger Irupajs (people of Dupax) many of whom now work or live in the USA, Europe, Canada, Hongkong, Singapore, and the Middle East.
It didn’t take long before our group got linked with another FB group called “Isinay Global Association” the active members of which include a lady who translated Bible verses into the Bambang version of Isinay. I had sporadic contributions to both groups by way of photos that generated not only lively Isinay exchanges but also evoked nostalgia among the members now living overseas.
In both FB groups, there is implied enthusiasm for revitalizing the Isinay language, be it Bambang or Dupax-Aritao. Small steps and small victories, yes. Unfortunately, no matter how I repeatedly included Aritao in my posts in the hope of flushing out of the cave, as it were, Isinays of that town, my effort has so far met nakabibinging katahimikan from I-aritaos.
This is why I’m happy you reported that Aritao also has its Uhmu^ Si Tribun Si Beveoyar Ari-Tau. Would you know somebody in that group I could contact, preferably through e-mail? Would you also know if that group includes the Isinay writer-editor Edgar Daniel and the UP-based(?) independent-film producer/director Mel Guzman?
Pasensiya na po, Madam, sa aking pang-aabala. Patunay lang po iyon kung gaano ninyo pinasigla ang aba naming puso at mundong Isinay sa inyong sinulat. Magtiwala po kayo na gagamitin namin, kung inyo pong mamarapatin, ang mga mungkahing nakapulupot sa mga findings ninyo – tungo sa aming panggagatong at pagpapalagablab muli sa aming wika na kaakibat ng aming kultura. MABUHAY PO KAYO!
Osan mangirayaw ira^yun mabves pusonar an tataju sina Diliman,
Charlz Castro
From: Celina Marie Cruz <>
To: charlz castro <>
Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 11:08 AM
Subject: Re: Revitalizing Isinay
Thank you so much for your email. It really brightened my day, knowing the people of Isinai are showing so much interest in the preservation and revitalization of the language. And it warms the heart to know that, in my own little way, I could help you in your pursuits.
I wrote my paper on The Revitalization Challenge of Small Languages: The Case of Isinai for a Linguistics Congress held at Cagayan de Oro last February 2010. It's basically a summary of my thesis. I will try to find a copy of my thesis, in hopes of helping you further your initiatives. We (a group of linguistics and anthropology students) also did a paper on the Isinai language and culture around 2009 for field work. We left copies of our study at Aritao, Dupax and Bambang.
Mr. Edgar Daniel III was one of my research sources. You can try and contact him through this number 0906-5748717. I'm sorry but I still can't find his email address. I will email you again once I find it. 
Thank you for updating me on the developments of the revitalization of the Isinai language and culture. I am excited for all your efforts! I hope your initiatives will soon bloom into greater things! Please continue updating me. And if there is anything I can help you with, please, do not hesitate to ask! :)
Celina Cruz
Encouraged with her line “Please continue updating me”, I fired another email to Celina. She didn’t reply this time, but what I told her should be worth including in this sutsur. So here goes:
Pinavlen Ma'am Celina,
Maraming salamat po sa inyong reply, at sa mga contact numbers. It would be great to find out if the III in Mr. Daniel's name means he is the same person or a younger version of the Vizcaya Advocate editor I wrote a letter to and he liked the Isinay line I used ("Ayyu ayyu bebeyoyar Dupaj!" -- Literally: Kawawa naman ang bayang Dupax!). Well, that was in the pre-Martial Law years and I was a scrawny student then in UP Los Baños.
Actually, my interest at helping revitalize one of my dual native languages started as a game between me and my sisters in 2007 when, each time we meet, we would talk in Isinay and tried to outdo one another in using what we thought was the deepest Isinay word or phrase we could use -- and even imitated the sing-song way my father and uncle (natoy ra mot) talked.
We started with the names of vegetables, insects, household utensils, and parts of the body. Since then our little game continued and included even my Dupax-based nieces and cousins, such that it became an unwritten rule to use Isinay when we talked with one another. Interestingly, in cases of disputes involving wrong pronunciation or Ilocanized/Tagalized terms, we used our mother (a pure Ilocana who was forced to learn Isinay so she could get along with her pure Isinay mother-in-law and my father's Isinay relatives) as arbiter. Quite often, too, we consulted some of her senior citizen Isinay friends.
I kept arbitrary listings here and there of the words that I myself have already forgotten, and pretty soon the few dozens of quaint or even moribund Isinay terms on my list became hundreds. The hundreds soon became thousands and, before I knew it, I was already compiling and alphabetizing enough words in my computer to make an Isinay-English dictionary.
The cellphone had been very useful as now and then my sisters would send in new words they remembered or came across with while conversing with fellow Isinays. In my little place in Baguio, I would also be alert for Isinay-sounding words each time my Bontoc-Barlig wife talked with her siblings.
And that was how I got invited to speak before the Bona^ si Isinai Dupaj. Somehow news got around that this prodigal son of Dupax was trying to make an Isinay dictionary, and the officers thought it would be best to encourage their members to help.
To make the story short, napasubo na po ako. In fact, each time I go to Dupax to visit my mother, several members of the Bona^ (we use the circumflex here) who are also members of her senior citizens' association would come to the house and would ask me if I already had in my compilation this word, this song, this prayer, this saying, this lojlojmo^ (riddle), etc.
For the younger Isinays, mabuti na lang may Facebook na kung saan di lang kami nagkakakilanlan at nagpapalitan ng Isinay jokes at nag-re-react sa photos using Isinay. Believe me, enthusiastic din sila sa paggamit ng Isinay! In the process, marami akong napupulot na Isinay Bambang at Isinay Dupaj na di ko pa narinig sa tanang buhay ko.
Hulog ng langit din itong Internet na kung saan nadiskubre ko ang napakagandang sinulat ninyo.
Pasensya na po kung makuwento ako (ganyan daw yata ang medyo tumatanda na!) pero nakalimutan ko palang ireport din na napakalaking tulong sa revitalization ng Isinay language ang paggamit sa mga kanta at dasal na Isinay sa mga misa tuwing Linggo sa St. Vincent Catholic Church ng Dupax.
Mavves an ejao ira^yu, Madam Celina!

[1] I underlined Sta. Cruz because no such town goes by that name in Nueva Vizcaya today. Ms. Cruz must have meant Alfonso Castañeda, a newly established hilly-land town south of both Aritao and Dupax del Sur.


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