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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reviving 'dying' languages


I had the privilege of being guest speaker at the 62nd anniversary of the City of Dagupan last month. It was a week-long celebration starting with “Labi ya Panangidayew tan Panligliwa” (A Night of Recognition and Entertainment) which showcased the city’s proud heritage in culture and the arts, and recognized achievements towards making the city the center of trade, education, and now, arts and culture in Northern Luzon. What impressed me most was its comprehensive approach to local governance, its focus on its unique attributes – strategic location, human resources, its rich coastal resources, and the manner it had confronted threats from disasters – with remarkable courage and resiliency. It had done this through its past and present visionary leadership. Thanks to Mayor Al Fernandez and Councilor Farah Decano, chair of this year’s celebration for this opportunity to witness the evolution of the city of my birth.

Dagupenos are united behind the revival of the Pangasinan language. Among such initiatives is its City Resolution mandating all schools and government offices to sing the Dagupan Hymn during flag ceremonies.

At the anniversary celebration, the program was conducted in the Pangasinan language. True, as Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz said, the language is so distinct and expressive that listening to its poetry and music is itself quite a stirring experience.

It is however sad to hear the lament of members of the Ulupan na Pansiansia’y Salitan Pangasinan (Association for the Preservation of the Pangasinan Language) who say they lack the invigorating environment of a literary movement... that they are a dying tribe on the verge of extinction because of lack of support. Despite the abundance of literary materials (from the 1930’s to the 1960’s), Pangasinan is still not used as a language of instruction. While a student at UP, in a literature class of Prof. Leopoldo Yabes, I undertook a study on Pangasinan writers – Maria Magsano, Juan Villamil, and a few others including my mother, Paz Zulueta Rosario, who was a regular columnist of Silew Magazine in the early 30’s. This explains my interest in efforts to revive the language.

The Gunigundo bill on multilingualism and the mother tongue would respond to this problem unless derailed by those who continue to disregard what research says – that critical and creative thinking skills are best developed through use of mother tongue.

In Malaysia, for example, the government has decided that starting 2012, science and mathematics will be taught in Bahasa Malaysia for national schools or in Chinese and Tamil in vernacular schools.

According to Deputy Premier Muhyiddin Yasin, English has not achieved the desired objectives – that students’ performance had deteriorated and that rural children were badly hit. This shift will require recruitment of about 14,000 extra teachers. That Malaysians are passionate about the use of their mother tongue is that earlier, the police had to use tear gas to disperse some 5,000 Malays who demonstrated against the use of English in teaching these two subjects.

Today, with modern technologies like digitization, it is possible to preserve and revive “dying” languages like Pangasinan and Jawi, a language of Mindanao.

This will require political will such as what the Malaysians had shown, and a concerted effort among citizens and the media. One constraint is the perception that the language may not be able to adequately communicate technical terms in science and technology. In the case of Pangasinan that is spoken by only 1.3 million people, there is a need to further greater awareness and use of the language as well as appreciation of its rich literary heritage. -- florangel.braid@gmail.com.

Source: http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/210924/reviving-dying-languages

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A Tao 道 Sign

Le poèt de Pangasinan

Santiago B. Villafania, a bilingual Filipino poet who writes in English and in his native language of Pangasinan, is the author of poetry collections Bonsaic Verses (2012), Pinabli and Other Poems (2012), Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles (2007), and Balikas na Caboloan (Voices from Caboloan, 2005) published by the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) under its UBOD New Authors Series. He has been published in several countries and translated into several languages. Villafania is one of the 11 Outstanding Pangasinan conferred with the 2010 ASNA Award for the Arts and Culture (literature) during the first Agew na Pangasinan and also the 430th Foundation Day of the province on April 2010. He is a member of Philippine PEN writes a regular weekly column for the Sunday Punch.



A collection of ghazals in Pangasinan language. Order now at Amazon.com

A collection of haiku, senryu, tanka, haiga, and other poems in English and Pangasinan language. Order now at Amazon.com

“Santiago Villafania is a searcher with a seemingly insatiable curiosity and endurance. His quest has brought him to explore world poetry from points East and West. He is no stranger to sophisticated verse forms such the Sapphic strophe nor to the diverse permutations of the Japanese haiku. But he is not a formalist, he has daringly explored Asian and Western cultures in a very personal way and writes his mind with a daring, invigorating, aesthetically pleasing ease. In his poetry Villafania displays not only a breadth, but it feels very much like a breath of fresh air.” – Ute Margaret Saine, poet, critic, translator, past president of PEN Orange County and the former editor of the California Poetry Quarterly

“Villafania’s emergence as a poet is a fine moment to celebrate. Another voice from the regions augurs a richer body of writing that Filipinos can hold up as a mirror of our native culture.” – Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature

The Beloved Idiom | A Reading of Villafania’s ‘Pinabli & other poems’ by Dennis Andrew S. Aguinaldo

LCCN.: 2010338612

Order your copy now at CreateSpace or Amazon.com :)

"The publication of Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles by Santiago B. Villafania should be a source of rejoicing for readers of regional literatures. This second book by Pangasinan's leading poet today is impressive in both form and substance. Villafania has created 300 sonnets and 50 villanelles in his own language that attempt to reflect the primacy of native culture and return the poet to the central stage of social life."A Boost to Pangasinan Literature from Breaking Signs by Cirilo F. Bautista (Philippine Panorama, 16 Dec. 2007, pp.25-26)

"Villafania is not only a visionary poet, he is a linguistic philosopher who codifies the origin of language and culture, dissects the myths and the common beliefs of the people against the urban legends, juxtaposes the literary tradition against the modern influences by dialectically infusing them in his poetic revelation of truth."Poetic Revelation in Language and Culture by Danny C. Sillada (Manila Bulletin, 12 May 2008, pp. F1-F2)

Photos: Book Launching at the Pearl Manila Hotel, 5 Feb. 2008

"Santiago Villafania's Balikas ed Caboloan certainly has reinvigorated the anlong tradition of Pangasinan that for a long period of time suffered silence from the hands of writers more attuned to English writing. Characteristically anacbanua, Villafania's poetry echoes his predecessors and presages a promising era for young writers in Pangasinan." – Dr. Marot Nelmida-Flores

Thesis: Bilay ed Caboloan - Reconfiguration of Space using a New Historicist Lens by Ayesah Tecson

from Pangasinan 'Anlong': Oral tradition into the 21st century published in Manila Times / Sunday Magazine, March 13 & 20, 2011.

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