THE ILOKANO LANGUAGE: HISTORY, CULTURE AND STRUCTURE: From Alphabet to History

We see this same mistake in the 1980 “Dagiti Letra Iti Ilokano/The Ilokano Alphabet” written by Fe Albano MacLean for the Hawai’i Bilingual/Bicultural Education Project of  the State of Hawai’i Department of Education. In the “Pakauna” is the following: “Daytoy ti Libro ‘Dagiti Letra iti Ilokano’ nga inaramid ti Hawaii Bilingual/Bicultural Education Project. /Ti wagas nga inusar a mangiparang iti tunggal letra ti Ilokano ket babaen ti panangusar iti kultura ti Ilokano ket ti panagbiag na. Mangted daytoy iti ubing ti napateg a gundaway a mangusar iti kabukbukodan na a kultura iti baro a padas na iti panagadal. Makatulong pay iti ubing a makasursuro maipanggep iti bukod na a kultura kabayatan ti panagpapigsa na iti nasayaat a kapampanunotan iti bagi na./ Babaen kadagitoy a padas, nadardaras ti panagsursuro ti ubing iti Ingles ken kasta met a nadardaras ti pannakaawat na iti adalen iti Ingles.” (“’The Ilokano Alphabet’ book was developed by Hawai’i Bilingual/Bicultural Education Project./The approach used is introducing each letter of the Ilokano alphabet through meaningful association with the Ilokano culture and life-style. This link with familiar patterns provides the learner with a valuable opportunity to relate his cultural heritage to new learning experiences and in the process, the learner gains knowledge of his ethnic background which hopefully strengthens while strengthening his self-concept./Through these experiences the learner will make a smoother transition to the English language with the ultimate goal of achieving optimum in learning instruction in English.”) We soon realize the age-old, even archaic view of the Ilokano language even by those very teachers who are supposed to know how their own language ought to critically reflect their own experiences, even forgetting that there were other letters apart from the twenty ( a, b, k, d, e, g, h, i, l, m, n, ng, o, p, r, s, t, u, w, y) that they presented in that book. Those who are schooled in the Lope K. Santos’ Tagalog grammar, the ‘balarila,’ would recall how these same letters of the Ilokano alphabet are the exact replica of the Tagalog ‘alibata,’ with the familiar sounds that ring like this: a-ba-ka-da-e-ga-ha and so on.

These samples are instructive but a 1930 “Manual for the Progressive Laborer” written by Macario L. Alverne, one-time interpreter of the Honolulu Immigration Station, hints at our own understanding of the Ilokano grammar in those times. His book contains both an Ilokano translation which he himself did (“Manual ti Narang-ay A Makitegtegged”) and a Visayan translated by Marcelo Jumauan Baguio (“Manual sa Mauswagon’g Mammomoo”). We see in the “preface” the following: “Naaramid daytoy a pagbasaan tapno masungbatan dagiti nasansan ken nayunay-unay a dawdawat dagiti agkakanakem a gagayyem, ken tapno maitungpal ti pagkakalikagom dagiti karwayan dagiti Filipinos a maaddaan da ti Gramatica Inglesa a naisao ti Fini-filipino. Daytoy a libro naaramid inggat’ kabaelan a nangikabassit ken nangilawlawag. Naikari nga aramaten ti siasinoman a tao nga kayat na ti makaammo nga agbasa ken agsurat iti sao ti Ingles, ken Ilokano wenno Visaya, isoda nga ar-aramaten dagiti karwayan ti Filipino ditoy Hawaii. Ti nagaramid itoy a pagbasaan idaton na ti adda a kabaelan na nga agsao ka dagitoy  a pagsasao iti nalaka ken iti ababa a panagadal. Makaunmanayen a pagdamoan da iti lecleccion a matagtagadtad iti ini-Ingles agraman panakaiulog na iti sao ti Iloko ken Visaya” (“This brief manual is written to meet the repeated and earnest requests of some good friends, and also to answer the popular demand of the Filipino community for a concise and practical English Grammar with Filipino translations. The book is planned to the best test of simplicity and briefness. It is intended for the use of any person who wants to gain knowledge in reading and speaking English, and Ilokano or Visayan, the two most popular dialects of the Filipinos in Hawaii. The author offers in this work a working knowledge of any of these tongues in a practical method in the shortest time possible. It is a sufficient Grammar for the beginner, the book containing exercises in such a way that the logical succession of the lessons are gradually brought together into a simplified English Grammar with translations in Ilokano and Visayan.”)
(To be continued)