Sunday, January 4, 2009

A conversation with a Simaranhon—on and in Asi

I was tempted to reproduce in whole the letter I received on December 12, 2008 from Ambring Fruelda, who took issue with the piece I wrote on language and provincial unity.

The reason was obvious. His letter was in Asi and readers who cannot understand the language might not be able to capture its substance if it is published piecemeal.

Ambring, who is from Simara (from Ilijan, I guess) delved on an issue—language—that is close to heart. In fact, it could be very well the heart of the cultural confusion that is prevalent not only in Romblon, but also in many parts of the country.

Language in the Philippines has become a contentious issue even before Felipinas took its shape as a nascent nation-state.

Jose Rizal, writing Sa Aking Mga Kababata, brought to national consciousness the need for a national language. From there, language development in the country had been characterized by twists and turns, the road towards a national language bumpy and stormy.

This is perhaps why Ambring disagreed that “provincial unity begins with language unity.” My rejoinder follows his letter, which is in italics.

“Kaling tungor sa pagkakausa et mga Romblomanon ay mabug-at nak panrayon,” he wrote.

“Kaling tatabilon nak kali ay asa buha ey et mga Romblomanon meski kag panahon nak waya pa kita sa pananam-go it ato mga maguyang, o maging kag ato mga maguyang nak tubong Romblon ay waya pa sa pananam-go et inra mga maguyang.”

I am not sure about that, Ambring. There is no extant record to indicate that Romblomanons were already concerned about a provincial language even before you and I were born.
What there is, and I can attest to this, was a book called Pasyon, which my grandmothers and their mothers, as well as almost every Sibalenhon, used to read in a singing manner during Lent, in commemoration of the passion and death of Christ.

You must be aware of this: our forebears were reared by the Spaniards in a religious tradition expressed in the language of the Pasyon, which was in Tagalog. There was no indication they worried about translating the Pasyon into Asi, Onhan, or Ini to get closer to heaven.

Fear—religious fear of eternal damnation—was a compelling reason NOT to say a prayer in our own languages. It is amidst this fear that every Romblomanon grew up. I can tell you, very little has changed in this regard. Go ask the priests.

“Pagkarali nak mitlangon kaling ging sisiling nak pagkakausa, pero ka sintido nak kahulugan ay napakahirap makuhil/maruntoy.”

I agree. Provincial unity is an ideal very difficult to realize. That it is hard to unite a disparate group of people, each with a unique culture and tradition and language, means the more we have to aspire for it.

And since we are disunited, it behooves every Romblomanon to work towards uniting ourselves. Unity may be a generic term, a grand vision, but again a mountain exists to be climbed because it is there. It is grand visions which propel a people to heights of achievements.

The answer to your question, “Napati kamo nak ka pagkakausa sa ato sariling rila ay makusog, matibay, matin-aw ag makapuslanan nak kinahangyanon para sa pagkakausa et buong probensiya et Romblon?” is readily yes.

Unity, while it is a part of the politicians’ lexicon, has more than political underpinnings. Its requisites reach far beyond outward show of political agreement, such as overwhelmingly voting a person to power.

Thus, the common trick that politicians use is to exhort voters to “unite” behind candidates during elections. After they have won because the voters “united”, the very first official act of these politicians is to “divide” them again. Worse, they also divide the spoils among themselves, with the people left out, disunited as ever, again.

Unity is agreeing to disagree. It is that cultural and ideological cord that binds a people to a common aspiration, identity, and destiny—not to a common candidate.

It is when we rush in defense of our common provincial heritage and socio-economic and cultural vision, not in defense of corrupt and inutile politicians.

In this sense, we can only summon the Romblomanons’ energy towards provincial unity when we are united in the language of our dreams.

This is not to say we should speak in one common tongue, although that also is an ideal. This is to say we should move in a singular provincial direction. After His death, the twelve apostles of Christ were united in one common purpose, although they “spoke in different tongues.”

No. By language unity, it means agreeing in words and in deed that our unique languages should take precedence and pre-eminence over any other foreign tongues—Tagalog or whatever.

It means speaking with one voice about where we want to go as a province, and how to go there without the help of lying and thieving politicians. More importantly, language unity is rediscovering our provincial soul and keeping it alive through thick and thin to preserve our identity as Romblomanons.

“Sa kaklaruhan nak kali, kung sariling rila yang ka basihan et pagkakausa ay masisiling nako nak mahirap magka-enggwa et pagkakausa ka bug-os nak probensiya; ako mismo, ka ayam yang nako—nakakabasa, nakakabisaya, nakakaintindi, nakakasuyat, nakakapag-estoryahan—reli sa tatlong rila ay Asi dahil ako ay taga Simara, ag waya kamuangan/karanasan tungor sa Onhan ag Ini.”

I did not say—and I never believe—that Romblomanons will be united if they speak one common language. What I did say was that our abandonment of our own languages was one of the causes of our disunity. By substituting our own languages with the medium of Francisco Balagtas, we have become strangers to each other and to ourselves. We have been exposed culturally naked.

Like you, Ambring, I am fiercely proud of my Asi heritage.

I used to be incapacitated by my inability to speak Onhan and Ini. However, over the years of regular travel and association with many Romblomanons, I have come to discover that fellow Romblomanons—from Sibuyan to Hambil; from Looc to Ferrol; and from San Agustin to Romblon—take enormous pride in conversing with me in their own languages.

The same is true with foreigners. Chinese officials, for instance, although they speak English, never bother to converse with state visitors in any language other than in Chinese. To communicate, they employ an army of interpreters.

Ditto with the French, Spaniards, Italians, Germans, and Russians. In Japan, the national sentiment for Nihongo is so strong that the first thing the Japanese do when they get hold of a document in a foreign language is to translate it to Japanese. Translation is a flourishing business in Japan.

“Maramong salamat nak enggwa et rila ka ato bug-os nak Pilipinas—Filipino—para magka-intindihan ka mga tawo buko yang sa sariling rila nak ging mukyatan, ag iba pang kapuslanan. Ging tutudloan ra gihapon kita et iba pang mga lenggwahe sa mga eskwelahan tuyar sa English ag iba pa para ato magamit sa tamang kinahangyanon.”

I have no quarrel with a legislated language, which is what Filipino is. The problem with Filipino is that it is Tagalog in disguise.

The constitutionally-imposed national language is still a work in progress. It continues to borrow, as it should, from Tagalog, Cebuano, Visayan, Pampango, and other regional languages. Hence, it is incomplete. It has no roots of its own, other than the political temperament and the personal inclinations of the members of the revolutionary 1986 Constitutional Convention.

Over time, perhaps, there will evolve a national language called Filipino, and this is fine. In the meantime, we must use our own language in our provincial conversation.

Why should I, therefore, prefer Filipino, a 22-year old language, over Asi, a centuries-old tongue that expresses clearly, exactly and completely my emotional feelings and social predicament?

For instance, does Filipino have a word for “nayuyor” and can it express strongly the Asi’s disdain for political perverts such that “mangoy” does? I doubt.

“Sa muyat nako ay waya mayain nak ka usang tawo ay magka-enggwa et kaayaman sa ibang lenggwahe; ka yain ay kung ka sariling rila ay ging kakahuda, ging rarat-ugan sa pagpalangga et ibang rila, o ging papabad-an nak mapaya sa ato ging mukyatan nak lugar ag sa ato kultura.”

Exactly, Ambring, and I will add: “Kung mapaya sa memorya.”

In the face of today’s strong current of language patriotism all over the world, the best thing we could do is to study and learn other languages—but not expropriate them as a substitute for our own. Also, the other best thing is to preserve our own languages in our collective memory.

"Enggwa ako et ipangutana sa inro kapwa nako Asi. Ayam nato nak sa ngasing nak panahon et ato sibilisasyon ay pagkaramo ey sa ato kapwa Asi nak nakatuntong, nakapag-asawa, naka-estar sa lugar nak liwas et Asi. Ka inro baga mga anak ay maayam et rilang Asi?"

This is a good point, and some Asi readers may squirm at the question.

Lara and Lilac, my two daughters, grew up in a trilingual family. When in the presence of my in-laws, we speak Tagalog. When at home, common conversation is in Asi. In school, they have picked up English because it is a medium of instruction. They also speak very good Tagalog—the Batangueño variety. Of the two, it is Lara who speaks and reads Asi; Lilac, only haltingly. We speak Asi when we are with Romblomanons, whether they are from Looc or from Sibuyan.

The rest of Ambring’s letter is more of an exhortation to his fellow Simaranhons to use Asi. It is reproduced below without any more comments. Notice the Asi language in its full-bodied flavor and you will understand why the it has no equal.

“Simaranhon, ako ay napati nak ka ako ging mukyatan nak rilang Asi ay dapat palanggaon ag gamiton sa tama: kung ka kaatubang ay nakakaintindi et Asi, meski sa lugar nak ka rila ay Tagalog, English, o nio man, ay Asi nak rila ka mitlangon. Kung enggwa sa grupo et buko Asi ag nakikipag-bayduhan et estorya ay gamiton kung nio ka tama nak rila basi sa kung nio ka tama para magkaka-intindihan.

“Kabay pang ka ako kapwa Simaranhon sa tunga et mga pagbabag-o nak raya et pagyukas et mga tuig ag pagyakot-yakot et kultura/sibilisasyon ay e-angkla sa sarili ka rilang Simaranhon Asi, gamiton et tama sa Simara ag riin mang lugar.

“Aya nato gi limti, aya nato gi isli; kupkupa nato et hugot kaling ato sariling rila ag ato ipakilaya nak kali ay ato rilang ging mukyatan; mana nato sa ato mga ninuno ag kailangan nak ipagmarako ag siguraduhon nak perming makusog; gamiton/mitlangon sa tanang sitwasyon nak tama.

“Sa punto et pagkakausa, ka sariling rila ay rako ka maibubulig bilang pagkilaya et ka-grupo/ka-lugar/ging halinan, pero ka hugot nak pagkakausa ay buko yang sa pagmitlang et sariling rila naka-angkla.

“Kung ikaw ay anak et parehong Asi, ag daok ka et rilang Asi dahil sa ibang lugar ka naging tawo, nag-estar, ag nagka-enggwa et sariling pamilya ag 'ya ka gi turo-e et Asi ay maaari ra gihapon nak magrawat et pagkakausa sa lugar et imo mga maguyang/ninunong Asi kung ayam nimo ag ging tataw-an et balor ka inra/imo ging halinan.

Ka mahapri sa suyok-suyok ag nakakalipong et buha ay kung purong Asi ag bisayahan nimo et Asi ay ibang rila ka isabat sa imo, o kung hagto mismo sa sariling isla nak Asi ka rila ay ibang rila pa gihapon ka inahuguran nak mitlangon, o meski ayam ka rilang Asi sa diretsuhang mitlang ay nag-iinuta dahil sa pagyakot it ibang rila—Asi-Taglish—o pag-gamit et estelong "text messaging" meski buko sa "text messaging" nak sitwasyon.

“Kaling pagkakausa ay malip-ot nak mitlangon pero meski sa mga pareho ka rila, maisot nak islang ging halinan, ay mahirap maruntoy; ayam kali nato, lalo ey kitang mga atunanon nak enggwa et naiisip ag naghihimo et mga patikang para sa kaanduan nak pangkaramuan nak waya yakot nak pansariling puntariya ag politika.

“Ka pagkakausa et pila ay indi masisiling nak pagkakausa et bug-os nak lugar—halimbawa, Simara—kung ka karamuang Simaranhon ay waya girarawat et pagkakausa tungor sa pangkaramuang programa, proyekto, ag pag-bulig meski puro Asi ka natutungran.”


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