Monday, April 29, 2013

An Isinay Word Hunter's Story (Part 1)


Part 1: Isinay Word Aerobics

WHAT’S THE ISINAY for “good morning”?  How about “good afternoon” and “good evening”?
For the Nature-inclined, how do you call in Isinay the following: rainbow, fullmoon, shower, mountain, anthill, forest, river, waterfall, vine, deer, python, goby, tadpole, turtle, cicada, preying mantis, tailor ant, bumble bee, honeybee, May beetle, rhinoceros beetle, dragonfly, firefly, baby butterfly?
A little more challenging: What do you call, in Isinay, a single woman who got pregnant? an adopted child? a bachelor? elderly people? a person with crab mentality?
Some more: 
What’s the difference between idong and eteng? indong and e-eng? innaru and seung? mapayit and maesom? mandeya and mandereya? kumáw and kùmaw? ba^ba^ and ba^ba^ a?
Can you translate this into Isinay? “Sangkabirokan, sangkaapuyan” (this is the Ilocano version of the Tagalog phrase “isang kahig, isang tuka”).
One last quiz, an Isinay lojlojmo^ (riddle): “Balinom tuutu^… balinom tuutu^…  Andiye tiye?”
Don’t look now, but I’m sure if you pose these word challenges to Isinays today, many of them would scratch their heads for the answers. 
Chances are they would turn to one another or approach a much dauway (older) Isinay and say “Ande tay re?” (Ano na nga iyon?) probably followed by “Naveyanduh, tinamaat mot!” (Walanghiya, ba’t ba nalimutan ko na!).
Oh well, time was when many of these exercises were part of our bevoy (games) in Dupax . 
We used to engage in them as kids – along with such normal stuff then as climbing bayawas trees, playing tuttut (hide-and-seek) on moonlit nights, chasing atittino^ (dragonflies), defying grandmothers’ warnings not to mambevoy (play) outdoors during namalintur (high noon), challenging one another to step on the dalimajon (termite mound or anthill) or point at the tavungeyon (rainbow) and see if our “bird” and tannuru (index finger) would respectively go crooked, and bringing maesom an sompalo (sour tamarind) along with asin on lara (salt and chili) to school for snacks or as gift to our favorite maestra.
I’m revealing my tinaw-on (age), but that was in the 1960s when my mentors at the Dupax Central Elementary School were teaching me the three Rs (reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic) plus GMRC, vegetable gardening, basic carpentry, making sahar (broom) out of tahtah (buri palm) or coconut fronds, pulling poot (puriket, amorseco) weeds that used to carpet the school yard, on dee tay (et cetera).
Those were the years when the half-Ilocano in me was still learning, mostly from full-blooded Isinay playmates, to mamba^ba^ (speak) in Isinay – but sadly not including how to write it.

[1] Handout for the UP Baguio-St. Mary’s University-DepEd seminar-workshop on Revitalizing Indigenous Languages: Using Indigenous Languages as Medium of Instruction, held 22-23 April 2013 at St. Mary’s University, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. (Note: “Sutsur” is the Isinay word for story.)
[1] The author, a Baguio-based forester, thesis editor, ecotourism and natural resources management consultant, science-writing coach,and blogger ( and, is a native of Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya, and married to a Bontoc Igorota with whom he has three children, all graduates of UP. You can reach him by e-mail ( or through Facebook.

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