Sweet victory for our language

Proud coach here.
Proud coach here.

The biggest story I wrote this 2013 was the dismissal of 3 high school students because they spoke Ilokano on campus. Run by foreign Christan missionaries, the school strictly implements an English-only policy.

As fate would have it (or is it destiny?), that high school’s best bet in oratorical competitions, now a freshman in the university where I teach, became one of my debaters. He is a prized find. Very diligent. Eager to learn. Fun. Charming. And respectful.

Recently, ehem, we emerged as champion in a debate tournament with Ilocano as the main medium.

And guess who was hailed as best debater?

More than the trophy and prize, and the bragging rights that go with it, I am happy that a student, previously barred from speaking his mother tongue on campus, could shine and show the world that wisdom is no monopoly of any language. And that Ilocano could, and, in fact, should, be used for intellectual endeavors.

Congratulations, John Marvin Galat aka Jamjam. We–I, your kuyas and ate in the MMSU Debate Society–are proud of you.

Agbiag ni Ilocano! Narambak a baro a tawentayo, kakabsat.


Dear Mesdames and Messieurs:

Thank you for accepting the noble task of sitting as judges in the Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival of Festivals. You were, of course, chosen on account of your sterling credentials and unquestioned integrity.

I argue that no singular activity has raised awareness of and pride in Ilocano greatness more than the two-year old Tan-ok. With tens of thousands of people watching it live and many more witnessing it on television and online, it is no doubt the most witnessed event in Ilocos Norte history.

It is a wonderful activity worth every centavo (or million) spent for it, and Governor Imee Marcos is right to push for this showdown of the respective festivals of every Ilocos Norte town and city. Its return of investment cannot be quantified; in fact, it is priceless. The greatness of the performances on stage permeates the consciousness of our people, who in turn reflect and multiply greatness in their respective spheres of influence.

I have one concern though, and this is on truthfulness. Some groups have won in previous years because the performances were really artistic and entertaining though lacking in authenticity while some authentic festivals lost mainly because they were dull and unexciting.

Ilocos Norte Tourism Officer and Tan-ok organizing committee head Ianree Raquel wrote an article for The Ilocos Times when he was still an arts instructor in a state university. It was aptly titled “Awe inspiring but untruthful.” During a municipal fiesta, he witnessed a festival performance which, he observed, gave primacy to entertainment over truthfulness, artistic license over cultural integrity. His essay, excerpts of which follow, details the same words I wish to convey. Continue reading “AN OPEN LETTER TO THE TAN-OK NI ILOCANO JUDGES”

An unusual US visa interview (or how the American consul talked to me in Ilokano)

US embassy

My paper abstract was accepted for presentation at an international conference in Hawaii on Nov. 14-16. And the next step was to get a US Visa. I was anxious. For who among us hasn’t heard of heartbreaking, if not horrific, experiences with consuls at the US embassy?

The whole process of applying for a visa, and the mere thought of it, seemed daunting to me: bank payment, online application, setting a schedule. My journey began with an online application that was, alas, delayed by a series of unfortunate events: unsuccessful attempts to schedule a group interview (there six seven of us from our university applying together), lack of common available time among us six, adjusted schedules because of flooding in Manila, and the university staff in charge of assisting us traveling abroad for two weeks. Meanwhile, plane fares were steadily going up as days passed.

Then the schedule came: September 6, 2013, 6:30 a.m. All of us got the same appointment, but we were to be interviewed as individuals, not as a group, which I thought was unfortunate because I heard group interviews have lower casualty rates. Anyway, I made sure I had all necessary documents that may be asked: passport, appointment letter, certificate of employment, bank certificate, samples of my published works, and a draft of my research paper.

A few days before the interview, I searched on the Internet articles about actual experiences of Filipinos during visa interviews. There are a lot of tips shared online, but, aside from coming in prepared and having documents that may be asked, the greatest advice I got was to be honest. Consuls are rigidly trained to detect lies, I read. And I learned too that they have eagle eyes for inconsistencies between what you wrote in the application form and what you say during the interview.

I don’t have a problem being honest and consistent, for I know myself quite well, and I am comfortable being me. My real fear was in being assigned either to a cruel consul or to a good one who woke up on the wrong side of the bed. And so, the night before the interview, I prayed to God to give my consul a good night’s rest, and, hopefully, sweet dreams.

Continue reading “An unusual US visa interview (or how the American consul talked to me in Ilokano)”

Pastor Brian Shah airs side, assures public he is not anti-Ilocano

riknakem.jpgThis year, 2013, has no doubt been a roller coaster ride for Rev. Brian Shah, president of Saviour’s Christian Academy in Laoag City. Just last February, he was awarded as one of the Most Outstanding Laoagueños. Today, he is an object of national wrath, and moves are underway to have him deported to his home Singapore.

Shah is currently embroiled in a controversy that has angered Filipinos here and overseas—the expulsion of 3 students from his school on the sole ground of speaking in Ilocano.

A blog post I made last Tuesday morning went viral in a few hours, and prompted the media to cover it.  Various groups have issued statements of support for the three kids while an online petition for Shah’s ouster as school president and deportation from the country is gaining steam.

So far, most people know only three things about Reverend Brian Shah: president, pastor, and Singaporean.
And this is because he has denied all requests from us in the media to get their side. That, they say, was upon the advise of their lawyer who eventually spoke for SCA in media interviews. Thus, we know so little about Shah’s version of the story.

Last Friday, Shah, through an emissary, requested to talk to me so he can air his side. The interview happened yesterday, Aug. 9, in his office at the Saviour’s Christian Academy. It was a holiday so only Shah and his wife May who serves as the school’s administrator, were in the campus, aside from the security guards stationed at the gate.

I was a bit afraid to the do the interview but I went anyway. The couple welcomed me warmly. Pastor Shah sat down with me in his office, Ms. May would later join us after serving coffee.

The moment we sat, Shah looked at me, his eyes already wet. “It has been a very painful week for me, Herdy,” he said as his tears fell.  I did not expect the scene; it was not the Pastor Brian Shah I imagined.

Almost sleepless the past days, Shah has been at the receiving end of phone calls from angry individuals and groups here and abroad. “The moment I say hello, they would start yelling foul words, and some would even threaten me with harm.”

I told him I would listen to anything he would like to share. The 59-year old pastor then began by recalling why he came here to Ilocos Norte. In the mid-80’s, he was a rising executive in a multinational company in Singapore, and has been offered the a tempting offer to head marketing operations in Southeast Asia. However, he felt God’s strong calling for the missions, and decided to come here to the Philippines instead.

Reverend Brian Shah during the August 9 interview
Reverend Brian Shah during the August 9 interview

In 1987, he was initially assigned in Dilavo, a fishing village in Pasuquin, one of Ilocos Norte’s poorest towns. There, he immersed with the villagers. He said worked with them and embraced the people’s way of life.

The following year, they moved to Laoag City to start their ministry and built the Church of Our Saviour in a rented space at A. Castro Avenue. They constructed a small chapel and, behind it, a small preschool.  It was, in fact, a makeshift structure that people referred to as “Kusina School.” For four years it was for free. Later on, rich students were asked to pay so they can subsidize the poor.

Through the years, they established other centers: an orphanage in Abra, a shelter for sexually abused children in San Nicolas, and a free medical and dental clinic. They have also been active in disaster relief operations.

In 2000, the school transferred to its current location in D. Samonte Street. The compound occupies almost a whole block and houses several buildings. Tuition fee per student now ranges between P22,000-P24,000, inclusive of books and other materials. But the couple have also sponsored scholarships for poor students, some of whom are now working as professionals. They currently have four scholars at SCA.

English-speaking Policy

The English-speaking policy at SCA began around 10 years ago when Shah noticed that even Grade 5 pupils could not speak basic English. “How come our students are paying for their education, and yet they have not learned basic English?” he wondered. He said he wanted to equip students linguistic skills that will make them globally competitive. Shah said he has always emphasized to the students the value of excelling at what they do, and to dream big. “You should not only aspire to be a lawyer or a doctor, but a good lawyer or a good doctor.” He said he believes that proficiency in English would open up doors of opportunities for them.

Still, he said, he recognizes the importance of the vernacular, citing that in their Church, half of the worship services are in Ilocano while the other half are in English. He shared that SCA provides a vibrant multicultural environment. Of their 670-strong student population, 20 are Muslim while 10 are Hindu. Moreover, many of their teachers are Catholics and members of Iglesia ni Cristo. He also said that some of their teachers are homosexuals, and are not discriminated against. “What is important to us is their talent and their passion to help the kids.”

Moreover, Shah clarified that the school is fully compliant with the Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education, and that Ilocano is being used as medium of instruction in Grades 1 and 2.

On the dismissals

Shah said he has received many complaints from Grade school pupils and their parents as to why high school students have been violating the language policy. “How come we in Grade school are speaking in English while many high school students continue to speak in Ilocano?” Shah quoted the pupils as saying.

He said the original punishment was to make the violator write a thousand times that he will not speak Ilocano. But Shah, a hands-on administrator, felt the need to be stricter in imposing the language rule. So, on July 30 in the afternoon, he went to all the classes in the high school level to warn them not to violate the English-speaking policy. “I have given you a lot of warnings in the past but you continue to violate. I am giving you this last warning. Please, I really want you to learn English, so please follow the rule.” Shah told the students.

However, just a few hours later, he received a report that the three kids (who, Shah says, were inseparable) spoke Ilocano. “I was upset,” he said, “and that to me was more of a defiance thing, and not much of an Ilocano thing. They were defying school authority.” That very afternoon, he told Samboy Respicio who he said, “is like a son to me,” and whose parents have been his co-pastors for 25 years, that he will be asked to transfer to another school.

That night,  Shah posted on the school’s official Facebook page, “Insubordination and direct defiant (sic) among students is totally unacceptable and I don’t tolerate such nonsense. Tomorrow heads will roll. It took us many years to build the school to what it is today and just a few to destroy all our hard work.”

shah fb post

The next day, Shah informed the other two students, Kleinee Bautista and Carl Abadilla, about his decision, that they will be advised to transfer to another school. Shah denies having gestured like he was about to hit one of the expelled boys. He also denies having said a foul word. “But I admit that I raised my voice because I was overcome by my emotions,” he said.

Continue reading “Pastor Brian Shah airs side, assures public he is not anti-Ilocano”

Issue closed, announces school’s lawyer; Of course not, say parents of kids kicked out for speaking Ilocano

Not that fast.

In an interview with GMA Ilocos news, Atty. Jaime Agtang, counsel for Saviour’s Christian Academy, said the issue—that of 3 Grade 8 students kicked out of school for speaking Ilocano—is closed. However, parents of one of the kids have denied this.

“How can it be closed when they have not even acted on our formal complaint?” wonders Lamar Abadilla, mother of Carl. She said they filed on Thursday (Aug. 8) at the Department of Education Division of Laoag City a letter of complaint addressed to Superintendent Araceli C. Pastor. The six-page complaint presented the details of the case, and sought for administrative sanctions on Shah. The parents are also demanding for a public apology.

complaint covercomplaintsignature

Meanwhile, DepEd Assistant Secretary for Legal and Legislatve Affairs Tonisito Umali is keeping a close eye on the issue. In a television interview yesterday, he categorically stated that speaking in the vernacular is not a valid ground for expelling students. “Mali po talaga yun. Walang batang dapat patalsikin dahil nagsalita lang naman ng Ilokano kahit may English-speaking policy,” he told ABS-CBN’s Anthony Taberna. Moreover, Umali said expulsion of a student is a penalty that must be approved by the Office of Education Secretary Armin Luistro.

Reached by riknakem.net through phone, Pastor said she has not yet informed Umali that a formal complaint has been filed. Continue reading “Issue closed, announces school’s lawyer; Of course not, say parents of kids kicked out for speaking Ilocano”


In the interest of fairness, dear karikna, I talked to Mrs. Elizabeth Madarang Raquel, former president of Gumil Filipinas, regarding the ‘Stupid Quezon’ controversy that has haunted concerned parties in the past two years.

To the uninitiated, just some background. Headlined “University of Hawaii prof calls Quezon stupid,” the news article was about Dr. Aurelio S. Agcaoili who, in good cheer, called the late president Manuel Quezon “stupid” during a Mother Language Education forum held at the MMSU College of Teacher Education. He felt that Quezon’s ‘one-nation, one language’ policy was a nineteenth-century measure that led to the decline of Philippine languages other than Tagalog. The news article said many participants, including teachers and students, were offended by the remark.

Raquel admitted that it was indeed she who wrote and contributed the news article bylined Mark R. Limon, published in the July 27-August 22 2009 issue of The Ilocos Times. She vehemently denied, however, that Limon did not have knowledge the article bore his name. “How can he not know?,” Raquel asked rhetorically in Ilocano, “he used to help me encode my articles, and he typed and emailed that particular article.” Limon, in an earlier interview, told your karikna that his former supervisor indeed used him as encoder but that he was informed of the news article’s byline only after it was published. Confessing to be an avid reader of this column, Raquel said she was hurt by my recent article, “The Lie of Eli.”

But did Limon really allow Raquel to use him as dummy? Definitely, according to Raquel, “Kinayatna met ta kayatna met ti agpopular.” (He agreed because he also wanted to be popular.) She described his former protégé as “ambisioso.” Continue reading ““Uleg””

The lie of Eli

NOW IT CAN BE TOLD.  Elizabeth Raquel, president of Gumil Filipinas, was “Mark Limon.”

Two years ago, a news article supposedly written and contributed by one Mark Limon appeared in this paper. The news article, headlined ““University of Hawaii prof calls Quezon stupid,” was obviously a tirade against Dr. Aurelio S. Agcaoili. In good cheer, Agcaoili called the late president Manuel Quezon “stupid” during a Mother Language Education forum held at the MMSU College of Teacher Education. He felt that Quezon’s ‘one-nation, one language’ policy was an eighteenth-century measure that led to the decline of Philippine languages other than Tagalog. Limon’s news article said many participants, including teachers and students, were offended by the remark.

Limon’s piece prompted Agcaoili to write a lengthy Letter to the Editor which attacked, in a scathing manner, Limon’s grammatical flaws and minor factual errors. Not mincing words, he even said, “Maasiak kadagiti adalan daytoy a maestro a din sa met nakasursuro.”

In a column on this issue, I expressed my suspicion that this is just a microcosm of the large-scale intramurals between rival groups Gumil Filipinas and Timpuyog Dagiti Mannurat iti Iluko. Limon was an elementary teacher in Currimao where Raquel is DepEd district supervisor. Raquel, let me remind you, is president of Gumil Filipinas while Agcaoili is one of the brains behind TMI.

I was right, but only that the real scenario is even more shocking than my conspiracy theory. In an interview with your karikna, Limon revealed that his name was used by Raquel without prior permission. In fact, Limon, who was not even present in the affair where Agcaoili made the ‘stupid’ remark, was only told by Raquel about the falsely bylined news article when it was already published.

But why is Limon now coming out in the open? It is because, dear karikna, he is no longer under the supervision of Raquel. Limon has been recently hired to teach at the MMSU College of Teacher Education. When he was still working in Currimao, teacher Limon was frequently used by supervisor Raquel as encoder.

Some folks in the Iluko writing circle have long shared the suspicion that everything is Raquel’s machination. The proof? The terrible English employed in the article is the same problematic English Raquel is patently known for. Continue reading “The lie of Eli”

The “sorry” we are yet to hear

DR. AURELIO SOLVER AGCAOILI, the University of Hawaii professor who publicly called the late President Manuel L. Quezon “stupid” three months ago, has not apologized for what many felt was an arrogant and irresponsible remark.

I have written about this a moon ago (Brilliant Agca, Stupid Quezon), so let me refresh your memory. Last July, Dr. Agcaoili, a well respected educator and multi-awarded writer, was one of the presenters in the first Mother Language Education (MLE) forum in Ilocos. Held at MMSU Laoag Campus, the activity was attended mostly by teachers from all levels. Students, creative writers, journalists, and politicians were also present.

A week after, Mark Limon, a teacher from the Department of Education, contributed to The Ilocos Times a news article headlined, “University of Hawaii prof calls Quezon stupid,” which prompted Agcaoili to write a lengthy Letter to the Editor which attacked, in a scathing manner, Limon’s grammatical flaws and minor factual errors. He even insulted the teacher, saying, “Maasiak kadagiti adalan daytoy a maestro a din sa met nakasursuro.”

Yet Agcaoili, who demanded a public apology from Limon, never clarified whether or not he called Manuel L. Quezon, a former president venerated by many Filipinos as hero, “stupid.”

Did he?  If he did, why? Continue reading “The “sorry” we are yet to hear”

Nasken nga Ilokano ti pagisuro

Iti agtultuloy a panagsuek ti kalidad ti edukasion iti pagilian ken iti umad-adu a sukisok a mangipakita a nasaysayaat ti panagadal dagiti ubing no maaramat ti nakayanakanda a pagsasao iti panagisuro kadakuada kadagiti umuna a tukad ti elementaria, impaulog ti Departamento ti Edukasion ti DepEd Order No. 74 Series 2009 a napauluan iti Institutionalizing Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education wenno Mother Language Education (MLE). Iti Kailokuan, maaramat ti Ilokano kadagiti umuna a tallo grado iti elementaria. Kalpasanna, in-inut a maiserrek ti Filipino ken Ingles kadagiti nangatngato a tukad.

Adtoy ti makuna ti maysa nga eksperto, ni Dr. Lily Ann C. Pedro, agdama a hepe ti Center for Teaching Excellence iti MMSU College of Teacher Education, maipanggep daytoy nga isyu. Continue reading “Nasken nga Ilokano ti pagisuro”

Brilliant Agca, ‘Stupid’ Quezon

BY ALL YARDSTICKS, Dr. Aurelio S. Agcaoili is a brilliant man.

Prior to his joining University of Hawaii, he held tenured appointment at the University of the Philippines Diliman.  He is a creative writer and social researcher who has reaped coveted awards.  Above all, he is a well-meaning iconoclast.

Last July, Dr. Agcaoili was one of the presenters in the first Mother Language Education (MLE) forum in Ilocos.  On that same occasion, the Nakem Conferences also launched Sukimat: Researches on Ilokano and Amianan Studies, a publication he co-edited with two MMSU professors.

I am quite a big fan of the man known by many as “Agca”.  In fact, after the MLE forum, I requested him to autograph my copy of Dangadang, his award-winning novel.  My admiration for the man’s writing prowess is matched by my adulation for his ideas.  His courage and candor are awe-inspiring.

The other week, however, Agca shocked me with his Letter to the Editor published in The Ilocos Times.  Continue reading “Brilliant Agca, ‘Stupid’ Quezon”



(For those who can’t understand Iluko, you may proceed to the second part, an essay in Filipino. I write in the vernacular once every year on a day in August.)

“Umabot sa 7.3% ang GDP growth rate ng Pilipinas”

7-3 man, ading, order ni Mang Isidro sadiay karinderya ni Nana Dionisia. Continue reading “Siyete-Tres”

Ubba ni Ama


Roughly translated, this Iluko phrase means: “Father carrying a child”.

I may be no fan to America, but the greatness of human spirit transcends geography, race, religion, and even time… and so he has my respect. No man has inspired humanity in recent times more than this guy. Continue reading “Ubba ni Ama”

“Heben” by bhonj

Rusngiit nga uray la gumigis
Arutittit nga sumaplit arigem palsiit
Ngem no talyawem iti aglawlawmo ikit
Awan sabali no di ni Johnny, inka masirit.

Kabayatan iti nagkaado a sagubanitna
Agsusukot, agtutupatop, agsasanga
Maalananto payla’t aggarakgak, agkatawa
Uray na la itangad-tangad, natnag gayam pustiso na.

Arak ti maysa nga inna pangliwliwa
Pammigat, pangngaldaw,pangrabii isu’t danumna
No kastigarem, pampaimas pangan kunaen na kenka
“Ket di mo paylang ilabay”, inka isungbat, ay sultakennaka.

Intunno makaadon, isaganam da bagin
Di mapugsatan ti sao, karyarenna amin
Dayta ni Johnny, katatao na’t managbabain
Ngem no makainom, Diyos ko, mangibabain.

Kiwar ditoy, pinggit dita, dayta’t inna iyul-ulo
Nalaing nga umanunsyo, uray pinagbulan ti baket a kubbo
Ipustananto pay amin a di mangan-ano
Ngem no naatap ni gasat, agtinnagton a tuyo tay adobo.

Awan la’t di awan, tila adda paylang inda masangsango
Siam ti nagsasaruno, adda pay ubba nga agsussuso
Di payen mapunas a buteg, agkaraiwara nga isbo
Ngem no simmangbay da rabiin, dayta manen Apo, otso-otso.

Kastoy ti kasasaad iti kaaduan a Pilipino
Nakakatkatawa a kunaem ngem isu’t pudno
Narway unay inda panagsarak ti rag-o
Sadanto laeng mautob iti nasayaat,
dimmagadanton ken dimmapo.

ARIEL “Bhonj_” AGNGARAYNGAY, is a native of Solsona, Ilocos Norte and a third-year Civil Engineering Student in MMSU.

Ayanmo, Paskua? –by Mickle Cris Peralta

Ayanmo, Paskua? –by Mickle Cris Peralta
Ayandan dagiti tagtagari
Rimrimat ti silaw a di mapundi
Aglalo no matungpal dagiti karkari
A mangted ragsak kadagiti umili

Ayandan dagiti agkerkerol
A maragsakan ken makaayat uray laeng no binting
Iti bulsada ket agkiling-kiling
Urnungenda nga pagay-ayam ti tatsing

Agawid ngata ni tata wenno ni nana ita a paskua?
Tapnon maarakupdakami a pamilyana
Umayda iparikna ti nagpaiduma a dungngoda
Uray nakagalutda iti ubra sadiay adayo a daga

Adtoyen ti panagkasangay
Tay naibaon nga umay mangtarabay
O pada a tattao, ikurimedtay pay lang ni liday
Umaykan paskua, ay, umaykan ala

Sagidem daytoy puso a maul-ulila.

Paskua Manen–by Marceos Ibasan

Ti rabii ket atiddogen
Pul-oy ti angin nalamiisen
Narimat dagiti naraniag a bituen
Sinyales dagitoy, paskua manen!..

Marnekka a maturog
Wen ta appayaunayen ti busbussog
Ngem no agriingka iti bigat
Gapu’t lamiis, agkursing ti lalat

Disyembre ket diak pulos isukat
a bulan daytoy a napnuan gasat,
Ngamin ni Apo Jesus ket nayanak
Isu a rumbeng nga inta’y agrambak..

Ngarud, panawen ti panagkaykaysa,
Panag-iinnayat, pinagkakadua,..
Lipatentayon iti gurang-gura,
Ngamin daytoy ti pudno a paskua..

Agosto, buwan ng ‘Lip Service’?: Patuloy ang pagdedma sa mga katutubong wika

Tuwing sasapit itong buwan ng Agosto, abala ang mga paaralan sa pagdiriwang ng Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa. Programa diyan, patimpalak dito… hindi magkandaugaga ang mga mag-aaral at mga guro sa mga kaganapan.

Nagbago na ang hugis ng Buwan ng Wika. Kung noon ay wikang Filipino lamang ang binibigyang pansin, ngayon ay pinagpupugayan na ang iba’t ibang wika ng ating bansa, na sa huling bilang ay isandaan animnapu’t walo. Walo dito ang mga pangunahing wika, kabilang ang Iluko. Bukod tangi ang pagdiriwang sa taong ito lalo na at ang 2008 ay itinakda ng United Nations bilang pandaigdigang taon ng mga wika.

Ani United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), tunay na mahalaga ang mga wika sa identidad ng mga grupo at indibidwal at ng kanilang mapayapang pakikipamuhay sa isa’t isa. Ang mga ito ay estratehikong sangkap para maging tuluy-tuloy ang pag-unlad at magkaroon ng maayos na pag-uugnayan ang global at lokal na kapaligiran.

Gayunpaman, sa tingin ko ay isa lamang pag-aaksaya ang taunang pagdiriwang na ito kung patuloy na magiging malabo ang papel ng mga katutubong wika sa ating buhay pambansa. “Lip service”, wika nga sa Ingles.

Ayon sa UNESCO, pagkaraan ng ilang henerasyon ay mawawala ang mahigit kalahati ng pitong libong wikang sinasalita sa buong daigdig. Walang isang kapat ng mga wikang ito ang ginagamit ngayon sa mga eskuwelahan at cyberspace, at karamihan ay ginagamit lamang nang panaka-naka.

Minsan ay sinubukan kong pasulatin ng sanaysay ang aking mga mag-aaral gamit ang Iluko. Ito ay sinalubong ng maingay na pagtutol. “Nagrigat, sir! English lattan”, kanilang protesta. Ako ay nalungkot ngunit akin silang naunawaan. Ako man ay hirap din sa pagsusulat sa Iluko. Ang totoo ay tinangka kong isulat ang kolum na ito sa Iluko ngunit makalipas ang limang oras at limang tasa ng kape ay dalawang talata lamang ang aking natapos at hindi pa ako nasiyahan sa kinalabasan.

Bakit nga ba hirap tayong gamitin ang wikang kinagisnan maliban sa payak na pang—araw-araw na huntahan?

Sa isang sanaysay, inilahad ni Propesor Randy David, ang pangunahing sosyologo ng atingbansa (at naging guro ko sa Diliman), ang kasagutan. Narito ang ilang bahagi ng kanyang diskurso:

“Ang pag-unlad ng wika at ang pag-usbong ng kamalayan ay magkakabit. Pareho ang kanilang ugat–ang pangangailangang makipag-usap… Habang lumalawak at lumalalim ang kamalayan, yumayaman din ang wikang ginagamit. Kung mababaw ang kamulatan, sapagkat hindi naging malakas at madalas ang udyok na makipag-usap, mananatili ring payak ang ginagamit na wika.

“Kapag ang wikang katutubo ay nagagamit lamang kaugnay ng maliliit at walang halagang bagay, at ang wikang dayuhan ang nakakasanayang gamitin sa mas mataas na uri ng talastasan – ang wikang katutubo’y nabubusabos habang ang dayuhang wika’y namumukod. Sa kalaunan, ang karamihan ay mag-iisip na sadyang nasa katutubong wika ang kakulangan. Kung walang nagpupunyaging isalin sa katutubong wika ang mahahalagang literatura at produktong intelektwal ng mga dayuhang kultura, iisipin ng marami na may likas na kakapusan ang ating sariling wika, at walang ibang lunas kundi pagsikaping pag-aralan ang wikang dayuhan.

“Walang wikang umuunlad kung hindi ito naisusulat at nababasa. Walang wikang umuunlad kung ito’y hindi sinasanay na maglulan ng mga produkto ng kamalayan at iba’t-ibang kaisipang hango sa maraming kultura. Kailangang makipag-usap ang ating katutubong wika sa mga wika ng ibang bansa, sa halip na isantabi ito, sa maling pag-aakalang hindi na ito angkop sa bagong panahon.”

Malaki sana ang magagawa ng pamahalaan upang isulong ang paggamit ng mga wikang katutubo sa pambansang pagmumulat at sa global na pakikipagtalastasan. Batid ng mga pulitiko ang kahalagahan ng ating mga katutubong wika sa mabisang pagpapahayag ng damdamin at kaisipan. Hindi nga ba’t tuwing halalan ay vernakular ang kanilang ginagamit upang suyuin ang taumbayan?

Ating maaalala na wika ang isa sa mga naging isyu nuong tumakbo sa pagkagobernador si Apo Michael Keon, hindi daw kasi siya bihasa sa Iluko sa kabila ng maraming taon na niyang paglilingkod sa lalawigan. Ngunit nakita naman ang pagsisikap ni Keon na magsalita sa ating katutubong wika. Headline sa TV Patrol Laoag noon kung paano niya isanaulo (at nalimutan sa kalagitnaan ng pagbibigkas) ang isang talumpating isinulat sa Iluko. Subalit ngayong siya ay nasa puwesto na, tuwing maririnig kong magsalita ang butihing gobernador ay Ingles na ang kanyang ginagamit, at hindi na siya nakalilimot.

Si Gng. Gloria Arroyo man ay nakinabang sa kanyang kakayanang magsalita sa iba’t ibang wikang Pinoy. Pinaniniwalaang bahagi ng kanyang popularidad sa Kabisayaan ay bunsod ng kanyang kakayanang mag-Bisaya. Bagama’t hindi ako maka-Gloria, aaminin kong napahanga niya ako at nahaplos ang aking puso nang minsa’y dumalo siya sa pista ng Laoag at nagtalumpati gamit ang Iluko.

Ngunit sa kabuuan, etsapuwera ang ating mga katutubong wika sa ating mga panlipunang institusyon. Nakalulungkot na sa mga session hall sa kapitolyo at sa mga munisipyo, sa ating mga hukuman, at sa ating mga paaralan, Ingles pa rin ang pangunahing daluyan ng talastasan. Kung tunay na masang Pilipino ang pinaglilingkuran ng ating mga lider, ano ang pangangailangan ng paggamit ng wikang banyaga sa paglilingkod-bayan?

Noong 2003, si Gng. Arroyo, sa bisa ng Executive Order No. 210 na may pamagat na “Establishing the Policy to Strengthen the Use of the English Language as a Medium of Instruction in the Educational System”, ay nag-atas na ibalik ang Ingles bilang pangunahing wikang panturo.

Dahilan ng pangulo: Our English literacy, our aptitude and skills give us a competitive edge in ICT.

Subalit marami nang mga pag-aaral ang naisagawa, kabilang na rito ang mga pananaliksik ng UNESCO at ng mga Pilipinong iskolar tulad nila Bro. Andrew Gonzales at Dr. Bonifacio Sibayan, na nagpapatunay na ang paggamit sa unang lengguwahe o wikang kinagisnan ay lubos na nakatutulong sa pang-unawa ng mga mag-aaral sa mga mahahalagang konsepto maging sa mga asignaturang agham at matematika.

Patunay dito ang resulta ng Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) na ginawa noong 1999 kung saan ang Pilipinas ay pang-38 sa Math at pang-40 sa Science sa kabuuang 41 na lumahok na bansa. Ito ay sa kabila ng pagtuturo ng agham at matematika sa wikang Ingles sa loob ng mahigit na isang siglo. Maaari namang maging mahusay sa science at math kahit ito’y hindi itinuturo sa Ingles. Patunay dito ang karanasan ng Tsina, Hapon, at Rusya.

Patung-patong ang mga suliraning kinakaharap ng ating sistema ng edukasyon. Nariyan ang laganap na katiwalian, pulitika, at idagdag pa rito ang hindi sapat na budget na inilalaan para dito. Lubos na di-makatarungan na isisi sa paggamit ng mga katutubong wika ang mababang performans ng ating mga mag-aaral. Sa tingin ko ay sasang-ayon dito si Propesor Janet Rivera, ang masigasig na direktor ng Panrehiyong Sentro ng Wikang Filipino na nakabase sa MMSU.

Ayon pa rin sa mga pananaliksik, ang paggamit ng unang lengguwahe ay tulay din upang matutunan ang pangalawang lengguwahe at ang mga wikang banyaga. Bilang halimbawa, ang isang Ilocanong matatas sa wikang Iluko ay mas madaling matututo ng wikang Filipino. Ang pagiging bihasa sa Iluko at Filipino ay tulay naman upang matutunan ang mga banyagang wika tulad ng Ingles, Mandarin o Pranses. Sa wari ko, ang isang taong hindi nilinang ang sarili sa wikang kanyang kinagisnan ay magiging palpak sa kanyang pakikipagtalastasan kahit anumang wika ang kanyang gamitin. Ang dila niya ay walang pinanghuhugutan.

Sa isang bansang watak-watak, hindi lamang sa heograpiya, kundi pati na sa pulitika, ideolohiya, at pananampalataya, malaki ang maaaring gampanang papel ng wika sa pagtatamo ng pagkakaisa. Ngunit, hindi ito nangyayari, bagkus ay pinapalala pa ng mababang pagtingin sa ating mga katutubong wika ang hidwaan sa pagitan ng mayaman at mahirap, edukado at hindi, taga-Maynila at promdi.

Minsan sa isang mall, nasaksihan ko ang isang pagtatalo. Sa gitna ng kanilang di-pagkakaunawaan, pinaulanan ng isang kostumer ng sangkatutak na malalalim na Ingles ang saleslady. Ang kawawang saleslady ay hindi na nakaimik. Sa eksenang ito, malinaw na ipinabatid ng kostumer na hindi sila magkalebel at siya ang tama sapagkat marunong siyang mag-Ingles. Ipinamukha ng kostumer na mangmang ang saleslady dahil katutubong wika lamang ang gamit niya. Nababagabag ang aking kalooban tuwing nakasasaksi ako ng mga ganitong eksena. Hindi ba dapat sa panahon ng di pagkakaunawaan ay mas lalo pang gamitin ang wikang makapaghahatid ng malinaw na mensahe?

May isang mambabasa ang nagbigay ng komento sa akin: ang galing mo palang magsulat. Bilib ako sa’yo. Ang lalalim ng mga ginagamit mong salita sa English. Hindi ko nga maintindihan e! Idol talaga kitang mag-English para kang abugado.

Hindi ko ikinatuwa ang komento, bagkus ay nalungkot ako. Una, dahil hindi ako lubos na naiintindihan ng mambabasa. Ito ay isang kabiguan sa bahagi ng isang manunulat tulad ko. Ikalawa, tila tanggap na ng taong iyon na ang paggamit ng nakaka-nosebleed na Ingles ay kaakibat na ng mga mahahalagang propesyon tulad ng abugasya. Kung ikaw ay may kasong kinakaharap, biktima ka man o nasasakdal, hindi ka ba mangngamba na ang iyong kinabukasan ay pinagtatalunan sa hukuman gamit ang isang wikang hindi mo lubos na nauunawaan?

Dalawa ang maaaring maging pananaw sa pagdiriwang ng Buwan ng Wika. Maaari itong tignan bilang “kaarawan” ng isang buhay at yumayabong na wika. Sa kabilang banda, tila ito ay isa nang lamay para sa mga katutubong wikang walang habas na kinikitil ng patuloy na pagsasaisantabi hindi lamang ng ating mga lider pampulitika ngunit pati na rin ng bawat mamamayang masahol pa sa malansang isdang nagpupumilit kumahol. ###


“Ma’am ana’t English ti pastor?”, saludsod ti maysa nga estudyante iti unibersidad.

(Nagmalanga ni maestra gapu ta Ingles met ti sao a “pastor”, isu nga impagarupna a “synonym” iti sallsaludsoden diay estudyante.)

“‘Preacher’, barok”, insungbat ni Maestra.

“Tenkyu ngarud, Ma’am”, panagyaman daydiay estudyante.

Idi panagipasaanen iti paper, daytoy ti insurat daydiay ubing:

“My father is a pritcher of animals. He pritchers carabaos, cows, and goats in the farm.”

Ito ay isang tunay na pangyayaring ibinahagi sa akin ni katotong Marlyn Cacatian, kapwa guro ko sa MMSU. Natawa ako nung marinig ko itong kuwento, ngunit nang humupa ang tawanan,

…ako ay nabagabag.


daytoy ti bunga ti rimkuas nga iliw ken abrasa dagiti lagip iti selsel met la a nagtaudanna...

Herdy Yumul

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Got Stuck Beneath the Ink of Pen And Aperture of Lens

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