Monday, April 29, 2013

An Isinay Word Hunter's Story (Part 2)

I DELIBERATELY USED as introduction those word-aerobics on Isinay for two reasons.
The first is to enable you to have a tamtam (taste) of the Isinay words that I have been collecting and cataloguing for more than opat an taw-on mot (four years now). The second is to give you an idea of the nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, interjections, conjunctions, and phrases (along with the thoughts, practices, and worldviews associated with them) that are in extreme danger of being irretrievably forgotten unless remedial measures are done very soon.
Full-fledged linguists (including my fellow “feeling linguists”) may have other views, but those words are indeed just a trickle of the vocabulary that we who care for small indigenous languages, and Isinays in particular, would stand to mawayir (lose) if they are not reactivated, documented, housed in accessible repositories such as dictionaries, and used to the max in the revitalization of the language NOW!
Note how I wrote NOW! The all caps and the exclamation point are meant to emphasize the urgent need for strategic and substantial moves to reverse the fast deteriorating situation of Isinay as a language. When this language dies, with it will disappear the biggest evidence of our being Isinays.
How I stumbled into the serious but very exciting mission of trying to build what would probably be the most (if not the first) comprehensive list of Isinay words ever made, is an interesting story. But let me first make sutsur how I discovered that something is going wrong with Isinay.
You see, as a Baguio-based free-lance consultant for more than three decades now, I got into this little habit of going home to Dupax at least once in every two months, especially if I’m not out of the country. I don’t know if other darauway (elderly people) feel the same, but this urge of going back again and again to the beveyoy an ni-anaa^ (town where I was born) has intensified when I became a senior citizen. Yes, this may be similar to birds coming home to umahab (roost) at the end of the day.
If you ask why I love to go back home again and again to my birthplace, I’d probably admit to being nasingngen (fed up) with the traffic, pollution, congestion, and faces in Metro Manila and elsewhere… and I’ll probably add that I’m now often meyongngaw (nostalgic) for the faces, places, sounds, colors, and myriad other things that had been part of my happy in-aunga (childhood) in Isinay land.
Always a huge part of my homecomings is to recharge and reload (like a cellphone) with the Isinay language and all things Isinay. 
The latter includes food (e.g. tangpat, ame, sappilan, itluh si eha)[1] and the verbal ways of stressing points during conversation (e.g. Dahom, attepaw mot pora danumar siri wangwang! Wara mot si maemu an dalah siri, ampaylamu ahdaw asta ahasit, nayyir mot podda… beyandahar darin golden kuhol a si dimmee. Nawayir mot ampay eyas on ayu war dari an pi^busan si danum siri daya. Ayyu-ayyu beveyoy tauwar!)[2]
It was through these on-and-off re-acculturation in the Isinay world, readjusting my tongue to the Isinay language, and resurrecting my memories of boyhood in Isinay country, that I discovered a very sad thing: Many if not most children in Dupax today do not speak Isinay anymore.

Correlated to this, many Isinay parents/grandparents/uncles/aunts/teachers today also often don’t use their native language anymore when they talk to their children or even to their fellow adults.
If it is of any comfort, many children also don’t speak the rival language – Iloko or Ilocano – anymore (or at least the way we Ilocano-Isinay hybrids easily switched codes between pure Isinay and pure Ilocano when we were young).
I got a good example of this in the summer of last year when I was in Dupax and went to renew my love affair with the river of my youth in Palobotan, in the near upstream part of town. I had just dipped my sweating Baguio-acclimatized body in the knee-deep water when a man and three kids arrived on board a tricycle.
To make a short story shorter, I overheard the father say something to his kids about where to find basikul (edible snail) and tohong (tadpole). Mabves niye (that’s fine), I mumbled to myself. Moments later, however, when the kids were frolicking on the water, I heard one of them say to her sibling: “Yucky ka, luppa ka nang luppa. Ipulong kita ke Papa!”
You got it. Children in Dupax today (I’m not sure if this is also the case in Aritao and Bambang) now use Tagalog or a conglomeration of Tagalog, English, Ilocano, and Isinay. I need not go far for another example. Living with my mother are her four apun si puwoh (apo sa tuhod) aged between 4 and 11. If you speak with them in Ilocano, they might understand you even if they could hardly swallow saluyot. But try talking to them in the most basic Isinay – for example: “Ituyong yu mot niye TV yar. Eyan yu saharar ta saharan yu daratye intetah yuwar.” (Enough TV already.  Get the broom and sweep these things you scattered.) – and you only get blank stares.
Indeed, in supposedly Isinay podda (pure Isinay) homes today, the prevalent language you hear is TV-derived Tagalog. Even in the school where I learned by osmosis how to speak fluent Isinay, I once watched what I thought were Isinay boys playing Tarzan with a low-hanging branch of a mango tree. I heard them speak not one word in Isinay. Only Tagalog. Of course, with the sing-song Isinay accent.

[1] Tangpat refers to the tips/shoots of the rattan; ame refers to the worm-like flowers of the tree called himbabao in Tagalog, alukon or baeg in Iloko; sappilan is the river fish goby called bunog in Iloko, biyang-bato in Tagalog; itluh si eha are the eggs and nymphs of the tailor ant, abuos in Iloko.
[2] Literal translation: “Wind, the water in the river has become very shallow! No more can one catch snakehead fish there, even shrimps and crabs, they’re no more… only the pesky golden snails have become plentiful. The forests and trees upstream where the water originates are gone, that’s why. What a pity for our community!”

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