By: Dan Esdicul, September 2007
Every year, the month of August is usually
celebrated as Language Month or Buwan ng Wika by the Department
of Education. This years theme, Maraming Wika, Matatag na
Bansa is indeed but fitting. As we all know, our country is an
archipelago. It is widely understood that we have lots of different
languages and one of these is our very own language Ivatan.
We take this timely opportunity to assess
this years theme to the Ivatan language and I say that, it is
one of the most unique languages in the Philippines. Considering that
it is believed to be one of the Austronesian languages, non-Ivatans
are tongue-tied in speaking our language. Because of its uniqueness,
they will need tutors to pronounce it correctly so as to avoid miscommunications.
Due to its inimitability, there are words
with the same spelling but they have different meanings depending on
its pronunciation. But of course, except for Itbayaten (the dialect
of Itbayat Island), some of our words spoken or used everyday vary from
every Municipality. But thats not the real issue.
It has been observed here in Batanes Schools,
both Elementary and High Schools and even in the College level, that
indeed, majority of the language spoken is Ivatan. But once they are
inside their school campuses they are taught and mandated to speak Filipino
or English language and that is understandable. The fact is, outside
these places, we will always hear this pupils and students apply what
they have learned. We always observed that during normal conversations
even in ordinary gatherings and especially street conversations, we
speak our own language but sad to note that they tend to mix the Ivatan
words to Filipino or vise versa in sentences, much worst is the combining
or compounding of the Filipino words to the Ivatan words. One common
example of this is mapatak. This is derived from
marunong (Filipino) and chapatak (Ivatan) which
literally means someone who knows which were then compounded
to form the word mapatak. This is actually the result of
the influence of non-Ivatans who tend to speak our language presuming
that theyve got the right term. These were then eventually adopted
by our kids and even the young-once in the streets which is considered
as the second classroom outside the school campus, notwithstanding the
incorrectness of usage of such word.
Another common mistakes that I often heard,
not only from kids, but even adults, is the mispronunciation of the
Ivatan word like iskarayla the correct is iskalayra
which means stairs, and tumaraya
the correct is tumayara which means going up.
It is sad to note that we are also tongue-tied with our own language.
Though these are minor ones in a sense
that, it does not represent a great percentage to the totality of our
language, it is already considered alarming because this will probably
be passed on from this present generation to the next generation if
not corrected. It will become a dilemma to the future generations because
they will feel that this is correct and so it continuous to spread just
like a virus in the computer which can eventually destroy all the files
if not corrected or removed.
With this kind of situation, we are slowly
killing the Ivatan language as well as the Ivatan culture by adopting
and mixing these from foreign words. It will slowly penetrate or attack
the uniqueness thereby killing or forgetting our very own individuality.
While it is evidently attributed to the effects of the tri-media which
is now widely accepted in our locality and of course, the effect of
the non-Ivatans who dont speak correct Ivatan language. But, I
am not blaming these non-Ivatans because they depend much on us, the
true Ivatans (as we call ourselves) on how do we teach them without
haste. It is but fitting to act on this while it is still in the stage
of transition and still curable. We should not allow these influences
to outrun us.
On the other hand, we also acknowledge
the fact that we have enormous street language. We call it street language
because it emanated from the streets. Examples of these are: tanchew,
coined from mirwa ta anchiyaw literally means well
meet again later, and nganmu, coined from jinu
ngayan mu literally means where are you going.
These are results of shortening the Ivatan phrases or sentences into
one or two words depending on its usage. These are quite accepted for
the fact that we understand what it means. Though we tend to shorten
it, we are not actually changing the word itself. It is just like when
you type your message in your cell phone or simply texting
where you minimize space by omitting some letters and saving your load.
Again, that is one unique characteristic of the Ivatan Language.
I understand that there is no subject
intended for the purpose in the curriculum of the Department of Education
where it teaches Ivatan language, literature and culture here in Batanes.
This maybe one of the reasons why, we Ivatans, sometimes become foreigners
of our own land. This is a proven theory. We become foreigners of our
own province not only in language or culture but especially in places
of interest like our tourists spots. One of the programs of the Government
is the social infrastructure, where it aims to boost ecotourism industry
in our province and one of its components deals with the preservation
of culture which is the very basic of ecotourism. I think its
about time to include if not study the effects of incorporating this
to the curriculum from Elementary to High School so as to give importance
to the Ivatans per se.
I go with the same sentiments of Mrs.
Elena Alcantara, who in one or the other worked for the preservation
of our language by co-authoring the Ivatan Dictionary. In her article
entitled Tongue Tied published in Readers Digest (March
2003), it is very alarming to note that our language may be one of the
languages around the world that will be extinct in the next 50 years,
as quoted from its previous articles. I wouldnt want to see or
happen what she quoted that when a language dies, something unique
dies with it. I just hope that this will serve as a reminder if
not a basis to take the next step towards the preservation of our language
as well as culture.
At present we are still awaiting the much
coveted enlistment of Batanes to the UNESCO World Heritage List, which
one of its major component is ecotourism. Now, if we do not act right
away, we might as well loose our unique identity if we will not preserve
the very root of our uniqueness the Ivatan Language. By adopting
the Ivatan culture and literature, it should include the language, its
uses or composition because this is the basic survival of ones
culture. I believe that there are competent teachers or professionals
to do the job. Let us explore the beauty of the Ivatan.
The presence of non-Ivatans in the teaching
profession in our schools would not entail such problem. If it is a
mandate to teach them Filipino or English, I believe there is always
a room for them to teach the right terms or pronunciation as well as
to enhance the beauty of speaking Ivatan language, because that is our
very own identity. Though this is the first language taught to us by
our parents or families, this is not enough, it also requires enhancements
if not improvements. This is one way of educating the Ivatans as well
as other people living in Batanes that indeed, our language is important.
If this will be properly addressed or
planned and achieve sustainable program for the coming years, it will
definitely contribute a lot to the development of Batanes as the next
ecotourism destination of the Philippines.