Sunday, May 17, 2015

A 55-Year-Old Wound Remembered

THE SECOND thing that I remembered when I was nursing the wound I described in the post immediately before this was that I had a similar blood-letting about 55 or so years ago.

I should remember, because the record pain and the amount of blood generated by that wound were only surpassed when I had "a purposive kind of wounding" called circumcision.

Oh well, the memory of that earlier wound stood up as if to say "I'm still here!" because, by some strange coincidence, the wound I had a few days ago was only half a centimeter away from the one that I had when I was eight.

By coincidence, too, the old wound was also accidentally self-inflicted when the bolo I was using went wayward, sliced off about a centimeter of epidermis and some millimeters of flesh in my left index finger, and before I knew it, blood was spurting -- repeat, spurting -- and not oozing.

I purposely paused to make a digital photo of my "lucky" finger while writing this and posted the resulting picture on the right to drive home my point. Note that my current wound is beside the nail (uu in Isinay, kuko in Iloko) of my tannuru, while the scar (pi^lat in Isinay, piglat in Iloko) which I colored red for emphasis is on the pinching or lower side of the finger.
The fresh wound is in green while the scar is marked red.

To complete the story, the accident happened while I was making the first of four wooden wheels intended for a tartarak (toy truck) that I envisioned to be a work of art when completed.

At first I thought the wound was superficial. And, yes, I thought the pain and the bleeding would stop as soon as I chewed young guava leaves and spat the medicine on the wound.

As fate would have it, I got scared of my spurting and bloody finger. Thus, even if anyone of the several guava trees that formed part of our backyard way back then was easily within my chewing reach, I ran to my mother instead.

My mom was as usual busy with a dress in her Singer sewing machine then. But when she saw me sidle up beside her and sobbing, she stopped her sewing and tremblingly asked what happened.

I didn't answer and just firmly pressed my thumb on my injured finger inside my short-pants' front pocket.

Mama must have seen patches of blood on my short pants and got highly alarmed herself. So, pretty soon she was shouting expletives in Ilokano and pried out my left hand from my short pants.

To cut the story, my mother ran to her small medicine cabinet in the big room upstairs, and in a few moments, she applied plaster and sulfanilamide powder on my finger.

The medicine gave a stinging pain when Mama sprinkled it on my wound. But I was so relieved to see the blood stop coming out that I kept the hurt puppy inside me from making ayuwong (Isinay for wailing).

NOW TO GO back to the project that caused it all.

The raw material I used was a slab that was part of my mangayu (firewood gathering) outputs. It was part of my haul of firewood material that I gathered with the use of the then common multipurpose jute sack (called langgotse in Isinay, langgosti in Iloko) either as scrapwood container or as shoulder cushion for hauling longer pieces of throw-away lumber from the sawmill (which used to occupy a huge patch of land across the road from where the Iglesia ni Cristo church now stands in Barangay Sta. Maria, Dupax del Sur) to our home in Domang.

I had no knowledge then of the names and qualities of the timber (said to be mostly dipterocarps) logged from the bluish eastern mountains of Dupax. But I chose that slab for its hardness, the resulting wheels of which would be durable or at least last much longer than the wheels of the truck earlier made by my teacher father purposely to facilitate my firewood gathering.

My father must have sensed that whenever I would not go to Palabotan (called I-iyo when I was young) on weekends or during school breaks, I would join the Calacala brothers Junior and Oret plus other Isinay boys in our neighborhood in Domang to go rummage for fuelwood material from among the mountains of sawdust, trimmings, edgings, log barks, and other sawmilling wastes dumped in the area across the Dupax cemetery.

He must have realized that aside from the itch and bruises one would often get from hauling the slabs and trimmings from the sawmill dump, gathering sawmill waste was not always fun. Thus, Papa must have put heart and soul in fashioning that truck to make my chore somewhat lighter.

But I only got to use Papa's "truck" for its intended purpose of hauling firewood twice. For one thing, its wooden and wiggly wheels were not of much help in taking heavy loads over the one-kilometer distance between the sawmill and our house in Domang.

What broke the camel's back, however, was the truck's artless features -- rubberless wheels, unpainted body, and un-truck-like appearance. I felt uncomfortable pulling it in the company of the Calacala brothers who were prone to despise (al-aliyon in Isinay, uyawen in Iloko) my equipment because their mini versions of logging trucks did not only look handsome in their green metallic hoods complete with tansan (bottle caps) for headlights but were also sturdy, had six rubber-lined wheels, and could haul even a cavan of rice.

Anyway, thank you, Papa, for giving it a try. At least for some joyful moments, I employed your masterpiece to babysit my much younger sisters then -- Merlie 5, Tessie 3&1/2, and Judith 2 -- when we still had that grassy roadside as children's playground in our part of Dupax. 

Question: Whatever happened to my dream truck?

Well, I don't recall having finished even one wheel. But at least the accident gave me days of respite from such household chores then as feeding the pigs, sweeping dung from the poultry, and hauling firewood.

Moreover, the accident it brought has taught me to be extra careful when using sharp objects -- a lesson that I think I have kept in mind since 1960... until recently.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Guava Leaves as Medicine for Wounds

FUNNY HOW a small wound is able to resurrect buried memories of childhood.

The other day I was cutting sayote fruits into chunks preparatory to cooking as sort of viand (in-asuh in Isinay, dinengdeng or inabraw in Iloko) for my three dogs when my bolo (ota^ in Isinay, buneng in Iloko) slid off the tough skin of the veggie fruit and went straight to carve a C-shaped incision on my left index finger (tannuru in Isinay, tammudo in Iloko).

As I was pressing my thumb (am-ama in Isinay, tangan in Iloko) to the wound which I read somewhere a long time ago is a first-aid technique to stop the bleeding and to make the wound close quickly, three sets of memories came racing (nanlolomba in Isinay, nagiinnuna in Iloko) in my mind.

For the sake of brevity, I shall focus first on one of the recollections dusted, if we may use the term, by the finger wound and follow this up later with separate posts on the two.

Indeed, as the title of this piece suggests, guava leaves (dawun si bayyawas in Isinay, bulong ti bayyabas in Iloko) are not only possible but powerful medicines for wounds among Isinays as well as, I guess, among Ilocanos and other "races" that have access to guava trees.

That's my wounded tannuru pointing at the guava medicine.
Like most other outdoor-loving kids in Dupax, as a boy I was also not immune to getting wounded (masuhat in Isinay, masugatan in Iloko). In fact, my most "victimized" body part then were my feet, quite often because I was not looking where I was stepping as my eyes focused on the bird (mantetteyav in Isinay, billit or tumatayab in Iloko) I was sniping among the spiny brush, in the bamboo clumps, or under the mango trees.

I digress, but in case you would ask why I was often barefoot, let me just say that it was not yet in fashion then, especially in the barrio, to wear sandals. You see, we barrio (sitio) folks in I-iyo back then -- and even in the central part of Dupax -- were really simple and frugal barefooted people. If ever we had sandals, shoes, slippers, or any semblance of footwear then, they were only meant for school or for church or when one was a wedding sponsor.
The wooden clog they call bakya in Tagalog (kuekos in Isinay, suikos in Iloko) were the "in" thing then and I remember Inang Feliza, my maternal grandmother, buy me a pair once -- the transparent plastic part of which were painted with flowers and the wooden sole carved with whatever. But I could not run around with such cumbersome clogs, nor could I go after the birds without making a noise with them wooden things.

Besides, as no day passed by without me playing in the river (wangwang in Isinay, karayan in Iloko) or in the banawang (body of water created as diversion path for irrigation water from the river to the ricefields), there was always the risk of losing either of the pair of bakya to the water. I could not wear the bakya either when I went to fetch the carabao (nuwwang in Isinay, nuang in Iloko) from its tether in the hills or in the newly harvested ricefield and ride it down to soak in the banawang or the river.

Naturally the wounds I would get were caused by stepping on a protruding bamboo peg or a sharp stone. But occasionally I would scrape my knees when I would stumble (mirumo^ in Isinay, maipakleb in Iloko) when running from an unfriendly bull in my grandfather's pasto (pasture land for cattle) or when shooing away chickens that are getting more than their share of the biit (upland rice) being sun-dried preparatory to storage in the rice granary (eyang in Isinay, sarusar or kamalig in Iloko).

Lucky for me and my similarly hyperkinetic playmates, there were always guava trees or saplings nearby where we could freely go and pluck young leaves for our injuries. We would chew a leaf or two to form a poultice and later apply the guava-cum-saliva mixture to our wound. Sometimes we were careless or didn't mind if the leaves had black ants on them.

The wound or wounds would almost always stop oozing blood. But when they didn't heal during the first treatment, we would get as many leaves as the pockets of our khaki short-pants could accommodate and bring them home to pound in the small mortar (pamo^bo-an in Isinay, almiris in Iloko) meant for crushing such cooking ingredients as ginger and black pepper, then apply the powdered leaves. Alternatively, we would boil the leaves till the water gains a tea-like color, and use the solution to wash the wound.

I wonder if today the kids in Dupax and elsewhere still resort to this guava cure. I wonder, too, if there are still guavas in their neighborhood and, if there are any that have escaped conversion into charcoal, if the kids or even their parents are still able to identify which one is a guava from other trees in their now congested and nature-starved world!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ariwat Memories

ONE REASON THAT made me write this piece on ariwat and, earlier, on the kallautit is the following note that was sent May 31, 2014 yet by a fellow senior now living in Canada but which I got to read only now. The note came as a comment to my Kitkitiwit Memories, one of the earliest posts I wrote for this blog. Here it is:

Charles, I was trying to google "ariwat" and came across your beautiful blog. I enjoyed reading it... it brought back childhood memories when my family lived in Binalonan, Pangasinan shortly after WW II. 

I know most of the fruits you mentioned and understood the Iluko terminologies because I also speak Ilocano and Tagalog. Every time I am served the "imported gooseberries" as toppings, the first thing that comes to my mind is the "kitkitiwit" that we used to gather as kids. 

Could you publish something about the ARIWAT (does it really cause an incision to your tongue?) and the KALLAUTIT? My mother used to tell me that when I was a very young child, I yearned for someone to gather kallautit for me when we went to visit our rice farm, because that was one of the fruits I ate early in my life. Sadly, I don't remember how it looks like, or its taste. 

I am now 72 years old living in Niagara Falls, Canada. Thank you for a well-written blog. Please keep on writing. More power to you, Charles!

Well, umuna unay, Manong, Dios ti agngina iti suratyo. It is feedback like this that keep bloggers like me realize that at least some people are finding what we share worth reading. Wen, gapu kadagiti kakailian nga adda iti ballasiw taaw a kas kadakayo, agraman dagiti padak a mailiw iti biag "when grass was green and grain was yellow" (a kas kuna tay kanta a Try to Remember), itultuloyko ti agsurat.

I do have good memories of the ariwat as it has been part of my river-loving and carabao-riding boyhood.

The plant was a vine that used to abound in the then forested river banks of the then Sitio Iiyo (now Barangay Palabotan) of Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya, where I spent most of my early childhood.

Called du-u in Isinay, its fruits come in clusters and look like lanzones in size, shape, and the brownish color of their skin. Even the color of the fruit's juicy flesh resembles the translucent white of the lanzones.

One big difference however is that while the lanzones fruit is sweet when ripe, ariwat fruits are very sour. In fact, if your standard of sourness is the green tamarind or the kalamansi, believe me the ariwat is guaranteed to make you more "mukhasim" than the mascot of the sukang Paombong.

Yes, to answer the query of our friend by the Niagara Falls, the ariwat fruit is so acidic indeed that it does make the tongue split and bleed when you chew too many of the fruits even if they become a bit tolerable and somewhat sweet when fully ripe.

I recall having had my generous share of bleeding tongue and lips when the fruits were in season and my barrio playmates and I would include ariwat-eating among our river games, alongside peeling off blood-fattened leeches from the belly of our carabaos that we used as diving board. 

In much the same manner that I have yet to find out if the ariwat also grows in Southern Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao, I have yet to know the ariwat's scientific name. I'm sure it has great potentials for propagation as an ornamental plant. Similarly, I think the fruits have medicinal properties and have good prospects for pharmacological research.

Whether the ariwat fruit is oxalic or citric, I'm not sure. But I suspect that its acid content is too much for the tongue especially if you are a kid. That is probably why folks in my barrio also used ariwat as perres (Ilocano word for fruit used to give sour flavor to food) when they would convert freshly caught and still wriggling river shrimps (lagdaw in Ilocano, ahdaw in Isinay) into kilawen a lagdaw or "jumping salad".

Oh yes, I also remember we used both the fruits and the young leaves of the ariwat as seasoning when during family picnics by the river we would cook bunog, dalag, paltat, and ar-aro (respectively called sappilan, dalah, pattat, and alalu in Isinay) along with such fresh "veggies" as pako (pau in Isinay) and balangeg (kangkong in Isinay) that back then were still abundant in the riverbanks (teyantah in Isinay) of my town.

Because the riverbanks have lost their verdant vegetation due to the combined forces of floods, overgrazing, and conversion into ricefields, nowadays the ariwat has become a rare plant in my hometown. It has been half a century, in fact, since I last saw a full-grown specimen of the vine and tasted its fruit!


Beyandah an Buksing!

SINSIMBAN MOT di napeyawusar mansu^nut diyen nanlaban da Pacquiao on Mayweather si sinnintuh siri Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Bayaw ot mantuna besan, dioy la tay ri sait di nomnom uwar si naapyar. 

Immoya^ mot otya lohom nantanom si kamote siri piyo^ uwar as-asup Carolotan. Immeyava^ mot otya lohom si baiyurar siri Palobotan ot namahut si giyun nanung an tanoman tut kompormen buen si ayu.

Lahay mot si Isinay Bird, beyaw besan u lohom inila an dioy si advertisement di osar an laban si buksing siri Dupaj.
War binuttan di sinnintuh dar ampay ya namerdit ehaw.

Mavves otya mu urian an inyap-appo^ di kampu rar dari, pasi tatahu war darit television (ma-America man o mu ma-Filipinas), an “Fight of the Century” anu tiyen pangilan otya mu siran ira Manny on Money si apaddeyan si batang on arangeyan si sintuh.

Bayaw ot, wara, awor si gulir di naapyar.

Ingong-a ri oras uwar an navayan an nanme^me-ong, nandasdasal, nandiydiyat, on nannansor an parakpakon otyan Manny si nget sorre on neyyir tuyong nan birung, papong, pasiruk, pavantu^, on pamerdit taheng ri beyandahar alaban na.

Bayaw ot, dahomar toy panay tawas boon ila ya amunglan tappi^ lohom ri sintuh di manu^ tauwar! Inayan mot di pamatoyar an amrin maselevan an right straight on left hook Manny?

Ot sare alaban nar pisya, mu marin buti^ lan buti^ on mangipit si lima inapya nar, udi toy amunglan mewot on meyongngaw poddan buwengon ri innunar an mangop-op.

Ahayhayanar ba^baon, mu labentador otya, suyut o mu mentis ri binuttan di laban di duwar darin buksingero!


Alikaha on Sait si Nomnom

Amplamu nin dattun lugar si mundo war an dioy rat nambuyat saren buksing ya dioy ta dioy rat malikaham podda, boon ila ya na-highblood, si resulta nar.

Alimbawa, dioy si nibalita an natoy anun lahay siren mampahawan an mambuybuyat libre yar an live coverage si Pac-May boxing siri Metro Manila.

Dioy pat ama anu siri Antique an binaril na ri beyuntahu nar an mae-as mot la iman, nanwala^ tay si alikaha nar mipun si saren laban si buksing.

Siri America, dioy ra anut mandemanda an bayaran Pacquiao dirat milyones. Nalugi ra ampay anu, ni^bus toy urian imbutatta^ Pacquia an dioy si aro^dah di wawanar an aveya na.

On ohavan lohom, dioy si imbalitan di TV yar an mari anun nambayar di Presidenten di beveyoyar Cambodia si posta nar para i Pacquiao.


Doddorah on Daddarama

Malilliwa tay nanung an matoy ri doddorah on daddaraman di tatahuwar an mahilig si buksing boon ila ya kampe i Manny Pacman sovret saren buksing da i Floyd Moneyweather.

Otoy ta dingnge^ pay besan ye an binawe pay anu Gayweather ri naun-unar an imbaha na an mi-oy si hamun di “Pambansang Kamao” tauwar an rematch.

Gayweather, adyo^ a, toy tin-aw u ri inngaron dat mango^ngotar an alaban Pacman. Neyir ampay anun inapya na mu marin mambuti^ on, amunglan bakla, ya pum-ot, manipit, on mangop-op i Pacman.

Otoy pay ta i-ong-ongongot anu ri Nevada Sporting Commission (or whatever) an ma-suspend anut Manny si si^nun buwen mantunat sintaw-on, mi^bus toy in-ap-ap na anu ri gi^gi^no nar an sait si aveya.

Beyandah! Nasambut mot la iman ri manu^ tauwar si panetten di tiyuwar an huradon si buksing siri Nevada, nillat osan esepon da.


Pamosong si Deyomdom

Ay bilay! Mavves lohom toy si osar an interview ra i Mayweather, in-iptaw na an ampaylamu sinambut nat Pacquiao, saludo tay anut in-aamtan Manny yar si buksing.

Osar tay an imbaha na ya umalin tu anun mampasyal on manlang-ay situ Filipinas.

Mu matuwan nantayo^to^ si pusu nar dararen in-ivtaw Mayweather, mamis an dongngen.  Mu marin bulbulataw, maserot darare an pamosong si sait si nomnom di abeveyoyan tauwar dari an mantuna besan ya mandeydeyomdom si pinangagu^ dar i Pacquiao.

Umalit tu Filipinas si Mayweather? Mu man-Iloho tau, attu ye otya savayatan tauwar: “Ket wen a, barok… isupay a mawarsiam met ti Pilipinas uray sangkakiddit iti ginabsuon nga inabakmo.” “Ala ngarud, umaykan a dagus… amangan agbaliw pay ti panunotmo yo^.”

Mavves tay otya pisya mu iluuy Mayweather ri sin-eyawas nar podda an ama na, pasi si Arizza an datin ara^dan Pacquiao si physical conditioning nar nanung nan nan-otan si kodal Mayweatherar (dohlan siya anut nambaliw espiya an nangibutatta^ mu andiye innurar sambuton si Manny).

Mavves, adyo^, toy ampaylamu besan lohom ye ya ginanapan pay Mayweather ri suhat tauwar si beveha nar. Imbaha na mot la iman an uria na mot ahayhayan an man-rematch da i Manny, udi toy “sore loser” on “coward” anu pay ri pamatu^ tauwar an Pacquiao.

Aboleyan taun umali ra ta maporoban dan man-angen tatahu ri Filipino war dari. Urian taun saiton si nomnom mu ahayhayan dan manlingaling situ Filipinas.

Bintahe taun Filipino mot diye toy segurado an miluuy ri dee yar an sports journalists on camera crew si TV.  Avvesan tau toy tsansa pay an mavuyan di entero war mundo mu aniya na serot di beveyoy tauwar Filipinas, mu sangkanan osar an pasirayaw tau ri in-aserot on in-aguapo Filipino war dari,  on mu aniya naumis di panalinu tauwar an Filipino si urumar tatahu.

Man-engat da lohom a ta urian dan beyunon di in-a-appo^ dar, pasi mara^da^waw on manbali-baliwar an ba^ba^ da.

Toy mu urian dan ipaar siri longav dar di atdi yar madahet an inugale… irasal tau ta mari ran mas-e, o mu masuwitan, o mu manbolos si in-aro^lot dar tu an mangoppah si nabobov-onar mamis/masing-aw an maan, isira, ot-ot, merienda, on pulutan siri ayon dar panlingalingan.

Boon lohom adi…

Alimbawa na ta omoy ran tun man-iyat on mangiluuy si seksi yar darin mamariit si dagat tauwar dari an panunan si serot, iilang na otya ta marin ma^duman di ngo^ngot dar si atung di soy-ang tauwar…

On iilang na ta marin asivon di pating tauwar dari ri alatar lan buwengon/bullang an aping dar!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Senior Citizens & the Endangered Isinay Language (Part 4)

The Birds Are Singing Again

IN CASE YOU want to know what I get in return for my stepping into such virgin territory for foresters as language activism, here’s what I can say for now:
Each word find makes me and my interviewees/informants happy. This, because the resurfaced words almost always trigger stories, often long forgotten, in the memory of the senior Isinays, in particular those nearing their expiry dates, so to speak.
The words keep us connected not only as a people but also to the Isinays now long gone.
I’m particularly excited with the Isinay names and local uses, as well as the habitats, associated traditions, tales and folk beliefs, and status of flora and fauna. Nawala na yung iba, but it is still thrilling to listen to the elders wax romantic and sentimental over those good old days when there were still plenty of eyaw (kalaw), labban (hawk) and tariktik, and when laman (venison, deer meat) and karnen si bavuy si eyas (wild pork) were still common table fare in Isinay homes.
Rain or shine, conversations with the Isinay elders make them young, especially if you do it in a way that takes them out of their current predicaments such as arthritic legs, tubercular lungs, uncommunicative OFW children, or whatever worries or weakens them in the twilight of their years, and even their cobwebbed memories – and bring them back to their comfort zones when, say, they could still hike from town to the ricefield to mameyun (bring lunch to husband in the farm), manlipit (catch stone goby with bare fingers), mama-u (gather edible fern), mamasikul (collect bisukol), etc..
Thus, in a way, my word-collecting sessions and forays with them give me the feeling that no matter how light, no matter how brief, I was able to lift their spirits and give them something to break the monotony of their sunset years.
The Forest Factor

IF MY COLLEAGUES in the forestry profession would think my expanded interest as a forester would seduce me to divorce my forestry concerns and then move to the linguistics territory, I beg to disagree, your honor. You see, my word-hunting has opened not only welcoming doors to the hearts and homes of my townmates and fellow Isinays, but also new ideas for forest-related projects that I would plan to pursue once the dictionary has seen the light of day.
For example, a hearing-impaired Isinay farmer once showed me his guvas (woodlot) where a huge pagsahingin tree that we call antong in Isinay (anteng in Ilocano) has several wildlings. All along I thought the tree has gone extinct in Dupax — all felled and hauled down by carabao power to moneyed people who prefer the tree’s resinous wood  for fuel. My idea is to put up a small nursery for the propagation and raising of this species in my patch of land in the upstream part of town.
A concerned young Isinay, a priest and son of the late Forester Rogelio Felix of DENR Nueva Vizcaya, has suggested that to encourage school children to love  their Isinay language and culture, a summer camp in the former area of the Dupax Subsidiary Nursery may be effective. He believes that my being a forester would be very helpful, especially if we teach the kids basic biology, including identification of trees, birds, insects, leaf shapes and colors, etc. in Isinay.
I’m also thinking of hiring one of these days two farmer cum hunter Isinays to help me do an inventory of birds in the forest fragments and other wooded patches of Dupax. One is an expert not only on the Isinay and Ilocano names of birds, the other is an expert in where to find them, which season they would be found, and what trees/plants they feed on.

As for my partnership with other language activists, I would encourage the idea of extending their documentation and revitalization activities to other IP communities such as the Ilongots, formerly a forest-dwelling tribe feared in the 1950s-1960s for their headhunting practice in the wilderness areas in upstream Dupax.
So you see, I’m not leaving forestry. I’m only initializing a virgin territory that other “thinking outside the box” foresters may wish to explore sooner or later.
And while we're at it, I’d like to add that this growing problem of vanishing languages also opens new opportunities not only for linguistics-inclined forest researchers but also those who are at home with nursery, watershed, restoration, and biodiversity conservation work.
How and why? In my reading up on the language loss phenomenon, I found out that advocates of language revitalization can use as template what we do in forest protection, forest restoration, watershed rehabilitation, biodiversity conservation, and weeding out invasive alien species as technique for cleansing the endangered language’s vocabulary of alien words.

Other Trails to Take

ON A MORE personal level, my new passion has made me feel a better person than I used to be recently. Because of it, I’m not only now a forester but also a blogger, word hunter, and soon a dictionary maker.

In a little while, I shall also try my mettle in  using the internet as partner in furthering the Isinay cause, in coming out with a webpage, in writing books for teaching children to speak Isinay, in convincing others to help keep the Isinay alive.
It’s definitely a task full of challenges. But I love the word-hunting part and the way it makes my heart flutter. It refreshes my memories, makes me connect the dots and find the missing links in certain whys and wherefores pertaining to the culture, the economy, and the natural resources of Isinay country.
Early on, it has made me re-appreciate the wonders of morning walks, evening strolls, and long-distance hikes. It gave new reason for me to revisit my boyhood barrio, to talk with people I only had nodding acquaintances before, to renew my kinship with distant relatives and family friends, and to rejuvenate the recollections of Isinays much older than me.
Lastly (even as this one needs more contemplation) it makes me wish that all I got to do is live in Dupax again and have all the time to do the things that Isinays did when I was young -- and to share stories with the old folks all day and all night...
Yes, very much like what is depicted by the artwork below made for Isinay Bird by my fellow senior citizen and retired nature artist of the UPLB College of Forestry, Dante N. Pecson of Agno, Pangasinan. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Senior Citizens & the Endangered Isinay Language (Part 3)

A Word-Hunting Forester

WE MAY THUS consider my initiation into the world of dictionary-making as nipeyar (providential, guhit ng palad). As a forester the closest to the world of dictionary-makingthat I got into was polishing the glossaries of forestry technical reports and checking the operational-definition-of-terms sections of MS and PhD theses passed on to me for editing.  

Neyir porat esep uwar an mileleman si pangapyat diksyonaryo. (It was never in my mind to meddle in making a dictionary.) And considering that a dictionary is vital in the revitalization of Isinay, I must admit I didn’t have an inkling either that my professional and personal interests in forest conservation would be expanded to include language conservation. 
I don’t know who spilled the beans but, in a manner of speaking, I barely warmed my seat as a word hunter when somehow news got around that there is this native son of Dupax who is a UP Forestry graduate now living in Baguio, and who is making the rounds of elderly Isinays asking the genuine Isinay words for this and that, so that they could be included in the making of an Isinay dictionary.

Consequently, in December 2010, this forester was invited as guest speaker -- using pure Isinay -- in the first anniversary of Bona^ si Isinay (Lahing Isinay), an SEC-registered organization aimed at working on revitalizing the weakening Isinay language in Dupax.

The group got interested in the dictionary that I was working on, and soon a number of its members made it a habit to go to my mother and volunteer words they remembered from somewhere.
Whereas before I was only on nodding acquaintances with many of the senior Isinays of my hometown, this time whenever I go home and I would meet them after Sunday mass we would all go animated in front of the church noisily exchanging jokes and moribund words -- like rain-drenched frogs -- using a merry mix of unadulterated and contemporary Isinay.

Four of my Isinay language and culture consultants among the senior citizens of Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya.   Upper photo: Uwa Encing Ranjo-CastaƱeda and Uwa Deusdedit Campo-Marquez.
 Lower photo: Uwa Josefina Daggao and Auntie Leoncia Castillo-Seupon.
I wonder if it was pure coincidence or if my mother has taken the cue. But each time I go home to Dupax nowadays, there is always an occasion for my mother to convene her fellow senior ladies. It could be a prayer to commemorate the death anniversary of a relative, an afternoon merienda to celebrate somebody’s birthday, or a wedding anniversary.  

It is during these gatherings that I get to add some more words to my collection, and to check with them what this word or that one that I saw mentioned by a friend in Facebook means, and to please use it in a sentence.  Recently, I got invited to join the lunch MWF meetings of the Senior Citizens Association of Dupax del Sur (SCADS) whenever I am in town.
It would certainly be these same senior ladies (bavaket) who I would consult later when I do the cross-checking, validation, definition, and “use in a sentence” stages of the Isinay dictionary I'm working on.

Thrills and Surprises

IT'S NOT an easy task, this one on compiling words, checking and cross-checking them with authoritative speakers, cataloguing them, and later putting them out as a neatly packaged dictionary. But it has given me and continues to shower me with countless thrills and surprises.

Let’s set aside for a while that the dictionary project that I have embraced as my component share in the Isinay revitalization movement of Dupax, Bambang, and Aritao (the three Isinay towns of Nueva Vizcaya) has made me a better person. What excites me is that it is now emerging to be a serendipity angel.
It has not only given me reason to have deeper appreciation this time for my native tongue and Isinay roots but also to be in love again with my birthplace and boyhood playgrounds.
It has endeared me with the darauway (elderly) Isinays and in the process opened to me the idea of documenting certain heretofore little known bits of history and culture, as well as forest use, among my Isinay ancestors. Three instances:
  1.  Among the lalahay (old men) I have met is Romy Tamba who still remembers the names of the trees and birds that, prior to the coming of commercial loggers, used to abound in the forests of Dupax. As a former driver of a logging truck for the logging concession that tapped the dipterocarp-rich forests of Dupax, he also knows the names of mountains and rivers as well as the history of the sawmills and logging companies that opened up the sylvan areas of our town to exploitation.
  2.  There is also a bi-al (senior lady) who recalls that her father used to gather beeswax and dye material from the nearby forests of Dupax to be used in processing the raw materials for her mother’s pan-ave (cloth weaving) livelihood. This same lady (Leoncia Castillo-Seupon), who I later learned to be my distant aunt, also mentioned how the uwes (blanket) and indong (G-string) that her mother Felipa Mayangat wove were treasured by well-to-do Igorots, particularly those in Bokod, Benguet. 
  3. Then there is this former hunter and nursery worker (Isio^ Luma^nga) who had a fascinating story about how the reputedly biggest forest fire to happen in Dupax started. Lasting for "duwan ehaw, duwan lavi" (two days, two nights), it was intentionally set, he said, by a fellow forest nursery worker to get even with the abubbulih (giant red ants) that bit his gulir (buttocks) when he went to move his bowels among the tinder-dry giyun (cogon grass).

My word collection alone has also opened my senses to certain realities in Isinay country, particularly why Isinay is on the brink of extinction.
One reality is illustrated by the fact that a number of genuinely Isinay words are already alien to the current generation of Isinays. Let me cite three examples:

  • The Isinay for flood is datong, but this has now been replaced by the Ilocano layus. 
  • The Isinay for rainbow is tavungeyon, but even adult Isinays today now use reynbo. 
  • The Isinay for effeminate males is binavayi, but the pervasive influence of TV has replaced it to bakla.

Speaking of TV, this modern gadget has indeed become not only a bad influence among the younger generations of Isinays (and, I guess, in other indigenous languages and cultures as well); it has also lured kids to use Manila Tagalog and to shy away from using the native language.

Moreover, because of TV, children in Isinay land no longer play outdoors, and so they don’t know the Isinay for the following:
  • Fullmoon  (tallivong) --  Isinay kids are not interested to sing songs associated to it anymore, preferring instead to watch telenovelas.
  • Dragonfly (atittino^) -- Isinay kids are no longer thrilled at catching one by the tail nor can they even distinguish this insect from the cicada (duluriyaw). 
  • Beans (gayya^) -- Isinay kids don’t join their elders in tending the vegetable garden anymore; instead of the legume veggie beans, they know Mr. Bean.

In re-training my tongue and verbal faculties to go the Isinay way again, I also recalled certain things that are no longer used or their Isinay names already unknown to local folks. Their obsolescence was simply because the raw materials for making such objects as well as the sources (mostly forests) of those raw materials are already gone.

A classic example is be-ang (sagapa in Ilocano). This is a circular kitchen item made of split rattan and used to keep an earthen cooking pot from tilting or rolling off the table. It is also used as a headgear for women to stabilize the big banga carried on their head when they go to fetch water from the well. You don’t see this gadget anymore because there are no more sources of awwoy (rattan) to make them with.