Wednesday, July 28, 2004


I've nominated this blog at Philippine Blog Awards, and now it's part of the list. Click on the link to see or you can nominate a blog (even your own) on that site.

Wish me luck? ;-P

Monday, July 26, 2004

News about Chabacano / Chavacano

I participate (read: debate) on a mailing list dedicated to the Philippines' Spanish heritage. Many of the members favor reviving it there. Anyway, back in March a member living in Spain saw a report on Chavacano on channel TVE. Another Spain-based member taped them and were ultimately made available on a website.

The following three links have the video. It's mostly the same; the report itself does not differ it's just that the report was shown three different times and so the people at newsdesk changed.

One Two Three

I personally thought the report was interesting. It was nice to see the extent of Chabacano used in Zamboanga - to the point that it's used in newscasts and in radio.

However, the report had some inaccuracies.

The reporters prefaced the report with: "Chavacano no es sólo algo de mal gusta. Es también un idioma criollo del español que todavía se habla en una zona de Filipinas en la isla de Luzón. El chavacano mantiene las palabras del español y las sostiene con una gramática prestada del tagalo. Es un idioma que está a punto de desaparecer." (Translation: Chabacano is not only something of bad taste. It's also a creole language of Spanish that's still spoken in a part of the Philippines on the island of Luzon. Chabacano maintains words from Spanish and sustains them with a grammar borrowed from Tagalog. It's a language that is going to disappear.)

So far, there really is nothing really wrong. When I first encountered this, I thought they were refering to the Chabacano spoken in Cavite. Or perhaps that of Ermita - which some say is extinct or has only one speaker left.

But then, the person actually presenting the report, Rosa María Calaf, begins the report by saying: "La bienvenida no es a un barrio en España o Hispanoamérica. Es en la ciudad de Zamboanga. En Filipinas." (The welcome is not for a town in Spain or in Latin America. It's for a city in Zamboanga. In the Philippines.)

Totally wrong.

First, Zamboanga is not on the Luzon (in the north) instead it's in western Mindanao which is hundreds of miles away.

Second, since Zamboanga is not in Luzon, then the bulk of its grammar and vocabulary does not come from Tagalog. Instead, it comes from Visayan languages like Cebuano & Hiligaynon and perhaps other languages indigenous to Mindanao.

Third, Zamboangueño will not be disappearing anytime soon. The 2000 census says there are about 358,729. From my understanding, it's widely used as a second language.

On the other hand, In Luzon, there are 7,044 speakers of Ternateño (not the Portuguese creole) and 202,312 speakers of Caviteño. These languages are probably threatened by Tagalog according to this dissertation.

On Mindanao there are 20,545 Cotabateño speakers. There are 327,802 Davaweño speakers. Davaweño refers to both the creole and an Austronesian language so there may be confusion there. Though 17,873 are reported to speak the creole (listed as Davao-Chavacano) specifically.

Lastly, Rosa María Calaf says "... [N]i el tiempo ni otras lenguas alejaron al chabacano del castellano perfecto sino que los españoles no se lo enseñaron bien ..." (Neither time nor other languages distanced Chabacano from perfect Castilian but it's the Spaniards who didn't teach it [their language] well to them.)

Perhaps, in reality, the Spanish did not teach the language well. But creoles are the products of pidgins. Pidgins are created when two diverse linguistic groups strip their language to the bare essentials and try to communicate with each other. No formal teaching involved. The pidgins turn into creoles when the children & subsequent generations speak the pidgin as a native language.

In any case.. ¡Viva el chavacano!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

English as the Medium of Instruction

I am a member of a mailing list called Defenders of the Indigenous Languages of the Archipelago or for short, DILA. The group was founded by Oregon-based Ernesto "Ernie" Turla, a native speaker of Kapampangan. I respect Ernie highly and am grateful for his work and help on the Kapampangan language.

On Monday, Ernie forwarded to the group an article titled [Department of Education] promoting English as medium of instruction.

Ernie prefaced his e-mail with "this is good news." For the life of me, I am having trouble seeing this.

I find this well-intentioned idea detrimental.

As it stands, English is reserved for certain subjects such as math and science and Tagalog for social studies. The DepEd wants to increase the use of English.

I would like to make clear beforehand that I am not anti-English, which would be a silly concept since this is the primary language of my blog and the primary language of my everyday life.

English is not the first language of the vast majority of Filipinos. Hence, it is a foreign language. And as such, it should be treated as a foreign language. There is a world of difference between treating something as a foreign language and having a language used as a medium of instruction in schools.

Here's an example. Whenever I set out to learn something new, I want to make sure the subject at hand has my full comprehension. If not, then why bother? I speak Spanish and French with a decent amount of fluency. Given the option of learning a new concept in English, Spanish, or French, I'd overwhelmingly choose to learn it in English. Why? English is by far my strongest language, thus ensuring that I'll understand the subject thoroughly.

Similarly, if I were teaching a class of Tagalog-speaking children math - a subject some find difficult - I'd do it in Tagalog rather than in English. Why? My answer is very simple. I want them to learn without unnecessary obstacles such as the language barrier. I want them to understand. I want them to succeed.

Unfortunately, my opinion is not very popular.

I've debated this issue at length with people who disagree with me. They point out that it's neither Tagalog nor Cebuano that puts food on the table, but English. They point out that it's English that has benefited millions of Filipino families overseas such as mine.

This gives me the impression that these people care only about fluency in English but very little about other academic subjects. I hope this isn't true.

Now, I said above that I am not anti-English. But where do I feel is English's place in the Philippine education system? As I said, it's a foreign language. So, treat it as a subject that one learns about and not a vehicle for learning new things.

The Japanese learn in their language. So do the Finns, French, Spaniards, Catalans, Indonesians, Chinese, Turks, and even the Icelanders! So why not Filipinos?

I support the use of English as a subject as early as possible. In kindergarten, perhaps. I teach Spanish to children. I have also taught them math and handwriting. I dare not use Spanish to teach those subjects or else they won't fully understand. And that is the point.

Yes, providing the path to fluency in English at a young age is a step in the right direction. But doing it correctly is an important step.

Using English as the medium of instruction, however, is not. Using Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Maranao, et. al. is.

Friday, July 16, 2004

New Tagalog blog

A new Philippine language blog has arrived on the blogging scene. The main subject and, incidentally, the name of the blog is Tagalog translation.

The author is Joseph Rosaceña, a native of Manila now living in Cornellà de Llobregat, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. I met him on the Seasite Tagalog forum.
Joseph's an accomplished professional translator who works with English, Tagalog, Spanish, & Catalan.

He already has some interesting entries now and I look forward to many more.

His blog is now linked to the right sidebar.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Eight Major Languages No More

One of the most frequently-repeated facts about the languages of the Philippines is that there are eight major languages (or if they must, dialects.); Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Bikol, Waray-Waray, and Pangasinan. The reason for this, from my understanding, is that each of these languages have at least one million native speakers.

With the release of the mother tongue statistics of the Philippine Census of 2000, four more languages have become members of the "million club." This brings the number up to 12 major Philippine languages.

The twelve major languages of the Philippines are:
  1. Tagalog (21,485,927) - central & south Luzon.

  2. Cebuano (est. 18,000,000) - central Visayas & northern Mindanao.

  3. Ilokano (6,920,760) - northern Luzon

  4. Hiligaynon (est. 7,000,000) - western Visayas

  5. Bikol (4,583,034) - southeastern Luzon

  6. Waray-Waray (est. 3,000,000) - eastern Visayas

  7. Kapampangan (2,312,870) - central Luzon

  8. Pangasinan (1,362,142) - Pangasinan province

  9. Kinaray-a (est. 1,051,968) - western Visayas

  10. Maranao (1,035,966) - Mindanao

  11. Maguindanao (1,008,424)- Mindanao

  12. Tausug (918,069) - Sulu archipelago
If my math is right, the grand total is 68,679,160 who speak one of the twelve major languages out of 76,332,470 Filipinos. That's almost 90% of Filipinos! All the languages above are a much more inclusive representation of the languages of the Philippines, with the addition of three languages spoken either in or near Mindanao.

The census results are not perfect, however. Three of the languages whose numbers I estimated are spoken in the Visayas; Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Waray-Waray. Kinaray-a may as well be in this group. The reason I estimated is that because in the Census, their numbers have decreased. For example, the census in 1995 said that where 14,486,196 Cebuanos (Boholanos included) but in 2000 there were 11,868,028.

This has also happened to Hiligaynon & Waray-Waray which, according to the 2000 census, have suffered losses of 464,339 and 42,443 speakers respectively.

Uh, so just where did these 3,124,950 Visayans go? Short of being abducted by aliens or mass genocide, the answer is in the census. As I've said, the census isn't perfect. Or more accurately, the methods used to calculate the mother tongue statistics aren't perfect.

Filipinos have a tendancy to give different names for their languages. If you have two different people that speak the same language, they might give you different names. The folks at the Philippine Census recognize this and consolidated the numbers where they could. But they didn't catch all of them. For example Kinaray-a was listed as three: Hamtikanon, Karay-a, and Kiniray-a.

In the Visayas, this happens frequently. There is the generic name Bisaya or Binisaya and the local name (and there can be a handful of local names). According to linguist R. David Zorc, there are about three dozen Visayan languages. So it is no surprise that in the census that there are about 5,778,435 "Bisaya/Binisaya" speakers.

I've double checked the percentages with the Philippine yearbook. Cebuano speakers have numbered at about 24% of the population since 1960. Hiligaynon at around 9-10%. And Waray-Waray at about 4-5%. So, my estimations are not too farfetched.

Furthermore, Tagalog is at about 32% according to the census of 2000 but 29.3% in 1995. Quite a leap if you ask me. Perhaps there were those who considered Tagalog their native tongue, even if it isn't.

Also, I have chosen to place Tausug on the list even if it's at 918,069. There are Tausugs in Sabah as well which bring the number over 1 million. It's an important language that's used as a lingua franca in the region.

What are the least-spoken languages? The five least-spoken languages are:

  1. Pinangal - spoken by 68. I don't know where this language is spoken. It's not listed on Ethnologue.

  2. Karolano - spoken in Negros Island (Visayas) by 71 people. Info here.

  3. Malbog - spoken by 197. Again, I don't know where.

  4. Tabangnon - spoken by 264 in Quezon Province to Paracale in Camarines Norte. Info about them here.

  5. Kabihug - 300 in Camarines Norte. Article here.
Now it's time to wait for the 2005 census....

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Kapampangan Pronoun Combinations

Since the late 1950's, my family has had ties of some sort to Pampanga province, due to the former Clark Air Base. My relatives aren't from Pampanga, but from Manila. I've also lived there myself for a period of five years and my now-18 year old brother was born there as well.

Looking back, my exposure to Kapampangan in Angeles City & Clark was rather scant. Though, I admit that at a young age I could have mistaken it for Tagalog. I was aware of phrases like me keni (come here) and that the locals didn't speak Tagalog the way my parents do. My mother, on the other hand, attended elementary school (Holy Family) in the 1960's and was exposed to it constantly. She understands it well, but cannot speak it fluently.

I left Pampanga in 1989 and it took about 12 year for me to develop a curiosity for the language spoken there; Kapampangan.

This curiosity led to fascination.

What can I say about Kapampangan? Perhaps, unpredictible, bizarre, unique, and, uh... cool? After studying Ilokano, Bikol, & the Visayan languages, I can say that the language is certainly an oddball. And that's what I love about it.

Conjugating took some time getting used to. In Tagalog, sumulat means "wrote" in the actor focus. In Kapampangan, it means "will write." On the other hand susulat means "will write" in Tagalog but means "is writing" in Kapampangan. The past tense in Kapampangan is sinulat. And this resembles the past tense of the object focus in Tagalog!

Also, in Kapampangan you have, for the verb "to read" (object focus): basan (future), babasan (progressive), and binasa (past).

But for the verb "to do" (object focus): gawan (future), gagawan (progressive), and not *ginawa, but gewa.

For "to eat" (again, object focus): kanan, kakanan, and you'd expect to see maybe *kinan. But no, it's pengan!

Ay naku, what a challenge. What fun.

Another interesting feature of Kapampangan is the the fact that a pronoun must always be present even when the noun it stands for is present. Dr. Reid calls these verbal agreement forms.

Kap: Malagu ya i Maria.
Tag: *Maganda siya si Maria. (literal translation)
Tag: Maganda si Maria. (free translation)
Eng: Mary is beautiful.

Kap: Silatanan na kang Pedru.
Tag: *Sinulatan ka niya ni Pedro. (literal)
Tag: Sinulatan ka ni Pedro. (free)
Eng: Peter wrote you.

Kap: Mamasa yang libru i Cristobal.
Tag: *Bumabasa siya ng libro si Cristobal. (literal)
Tag: Bumabasa si Cristobal ng libro. (free)
Eng: Christopher is reading a book.

Furthermore, Kapampangan has a set of merged pronouns that occur with the 3rd person singular & plural pronouns. Tagalog and its Central Philippine cousins typically have one that represents ko ikaw. Tagalog has kita, Bikol has taka, Cebuano has tikaw, Tausug has ta kaw, etc.

Kap: Ikit ke.
Tag: Nakita ko siya.
Eng: I saw him.

Kap: Dinan mong ebun.
Tag: Bigyan mo sila ng itlog.
Eng: Give them an egg.

Kap: Dinan meng ebun.
Tag: Bigyan mo siya ng itlog
Eng: Give him an egg.

Sometimes, they take different forms. The 3rd person singular forms usually do it around the word naman; kya naman rather than *ke naman. The plural ones change because they cannot end a sentence; Ikit ku la rather than *Ikit ko.

In any case, I made a chart that shows the pronoun combinations in Kapampangan. It's been very helpful to me, and so I'd like to share it with you. I compiled the information from sources written by Ernesto Turla, Hiroaki Kitano, Leatrice Mirikitani, and Michael Forman. Some entries might have two variants. The one on top is the short form and the bottom is the long one. Dashes indicate combinations which are deemed impossible. And the "ing sarili [pronoun]" represents a reflex action; myself, yourself, etc.

Also, Kapampangan writers may usually write words like da ka or yu ke as one word, daka or yuke. I've decided to keep them separate since particles can split them; da pin ka.

I've included a similar chart for Tagalog for comparison. I've listed the dual pronoun (you and I) in Tagalog, kata (or kita), which isn't used anymore these days. However, its Kapampangan counterpart is very much in use.

Some more examples:

Kap: Kaluguran da ka.
Tag: Mahal kita. OR Mahal ka namin. OR Mahal ka nila.
Eng: I love you. OR We love you. OR They love you.

Kap: Sulatanan na kong Isabel.
Tag: Susulatan kayo ni Isabel.
Eng: Isabel will write to you (plural).

Kap: Sibli no ring lapis.
Tag: Isinauli niya ang mga lapis.
Eng: He returned the pencils.

Chart of Kapampangan pronoun combinations
by Christopher Sundita
1 sg
2 sg
3 sg
1 dual
1 pl inc.
1 pl exc.
2 pl
3 pl
1 sg
(ing sarili ku)
da ka
da ko
da kayu
ku la
2 sg
mu ku
(ing sarili mu)
mu ke
mu kami
mu la
3 sg
na ku
na ka
(ing sarili na)
na kata
na katamu
na ke
na kami
na ko
na kayu
nu la
1 dual inc.
(ing sarili ta)
ta la
1 pl inc.
ta ya
(ing sarili tamu)
ta la
1 pl exc.
da ka
mi ya
(ing sarili mi)
da ko
da kayu
mi la
2 pl
yu ku
yu ke
yu kami
(ing sarili yu)
yu la
3 pl
da ku
da ka
da kata
da katamu
da ke
da kami
da ko
da kayu
da la
(ing sarili da)

Chart of Tagalog pronoun combinations
by Christopher Sundita
1 sg
2 sg
3 sg
1 dual
1 pl inc.
1 pl exc.
2 pl
3 pl
1 sg
(ang sarili ko
ko siya
ko kayo
ko sila
2 sg
mo ako
(ang sarili mo)
mo siya
mo kami
mo sila
3 sg
niya ako
ka niya
niya siya
(ang sarili niya)
niya kata
niya tayo
niya kami
niya kayo
niya sila
1 dual inc.
nita siya
(ang sarili nita)
nita sila
1 pl inc.
siya natin
(ang sarili natin)
natin sila
1 pl exc.
ka namin
namin siya
(ang sarili namin)
namin kayo
namin sila
2 pl
ninyo ako
ninyo siya
ninyo kami
(ang sarili ninyo)
ninyo sila
3 pl
nila ako
ka nila
nila siya
nila kata
nila tayo
nila kami
nila kayo
nila sila
(ang sarili nila)

Friday, July 02, 2004


This blog is now listed on Tanikalang Ginto. I've been visiting that site for 9 years now. Check them out!

I've also added an icon to the blog. if you're not familiar with it, it's in Baybayin and the word is "salita." Baybayin is the syllabic script that Filipino ethnic groups used before the arrival of the Spaniards. The script is no longer used except by Hanunoos & Tagbanwas on Mindoro Island.

You may find more information about Baybayin in the links below:

A Philippine Leaf by Hector Santos. This site was the first to introduce me to Baybayin 9 years ago. Beforehand, I had no idea it existed.

Sarisari, etc. by Paul Morrow. An excellent site which talks about Baybayin. Paul is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

And you can also read Omniglot's entries about Baybayin as used by Tagalogs, Tagbanwas, and Hanunoos.

Also, I've added some links on the right margin of this blog. They're links worth checking out.