|Photo by IHFI. Gabi na Ibanag in Tugeugarao City|
Commentary of an Academic (Copyright @ 2013 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).
I am a native speaker of Ibanag! I am fluent and proficient of my first language!
The Ibanag (also known as Ybanag or Ibanak) language is the lingua franca of Cagayan Valley. It is spoken from Pamplona to Gattaran up to Tuguegarao city in Cagayan. In the province of Isabela, it is widely spoken in Cabagan, Tumauini city, Ilagan, Gamu, Echague and Santiago city.
It is believed that the Ibanagic language has had to splitter into Itawes, Gaddang, Yogad, and Iraya languages. According to noted Ibanag and Atenean scholar Vicente Valdapeñas Jr, in his book on Ateneo de Tuguegarao, he originally cited the chronicles of Dominican friar Pedro V. Salgado, writing that the Spaniards crossed to their minds that having a common language would help the conquistadores in their governance. So, they adopted and enforced the use of Ibanag as the official language for the rest of the Cagayan Valley (2008:18).
Since it was officially used as the lingua franca in Cagayan Valley, it became the language for trade in the area. As a dominant language, published Christiana Doctrina written in Ibanag was also disseminated across the region during the Spanish period.
As to the stature of the Ibanags, documents provide that they belong to the lowland Christian groups according to the Ethnological Survey of the Philippines Office and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) during the American period, and in today’s National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP).
Online facts about the Ibanag recount that the Ibanags originated in the region around the mouth of the mighty Cagayan River and gradually dispersed southward within the last 200 years influencing some other languages in the region.
According to anthropologist Michael Tan, in his column dated February 28, 2012 that based from Ethnologue, a database of languages throughout the world, there are 500,000 speakers of Ibanag. It is not a small number although the figure dates back to 1990. However, there might be a decreased number of Ibanag speakers now.
The Ibanag language is distinct in that it features phonemes and double consonants which are not present in many other languages in the country.
In the speech delivered by Vice President Jejomar Binay in May 2012 during the launching of the Ibanag Heritage Foundation Incorporated (IHFI), sitting as the founding Chairman and being a proud Ibanag himself, he affectionately said that, the Ibanag language is using all the complete letters in the adopted Roman alphabets in Filipino since Ibanag words have embedded y / f / v / z / j / in its phonemes. VP Binay has Ibanag roots and speaks the language fluently. His mother, the late Lourdes Gatan Cabauatan, was a native of Cabagan in Isabela.
Mother-Tongue-Based Multi-Lingual Education
The Department of Education (DepEd) used 12 major languages when it introduced the Mother-Tongue-Based Multi-Lingual Education (MTB-MLE) program last school year. Tagalog, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Iloko, Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Tausug, Maguindanaoan, Maranao and Chabacano were the first batch.
The seven new mother tongues included in the program are Ibanag, Ivatan, Sambal, Akianon and Kinaray-a, Yakan, and Surigaonon. These Philippine languages are currently used or will be used as a medium of instruction from Kindergarten to Grade 3.
Since Ibanag language has now been successfully included in the second batch of the vernacular languages to be used in public schools under the K to 12 reform program of the DepEd, it is expected that Ibanag native speakers will increase in the future.
This is after VP Binay wrote Education secretary Bro Armin Luistro in March 2012 and recommended the inclusion of Ibanag in the MTB-MLE program. Thus, he marked in his recent speech on May 31, 2013 during the second Gabi na Ibanag gathering held at Tuguegarao city, which was delivered by his articulate emissary that, “the official inclusion of Ibanag in the MTB-MLE program of DepEd is a major milestone in our efforts to preserve the Ibanag language and culture by increasing the number of native speakers. It also serves as a springboard of the government’s advocacy to empower every Filipino youth with quality education, including those who belong to indigenous groups.”
I remember last February 9, 2012 when a new set of Board of Trustees of the IHFI, including myself was convened, and being the Chair of Research of the said foundation, we did a cultural heritage workshop in the National Defense College of the Philippines to identify valuable projects and activities related to the preservation and promotion of the Ibanag language and culture. Evidently, proposal to revive the Ibanag language has topped all our insights during series of brainstorming and workshop sessions.
Starting July to September 2012, officers of IHFI spearheaded by Commodore Artemio Arugay and Ms Milaflor Gonzalez, through the guidance of Chairman Binay, has solicited help from the expertise of DepEd senior officials in Region 2, Ibanag orthographers, and grade school teachers in Cagayan and Isabela.
VP Binay has expressed optimism that an official Ibanag Orthography will soon be approved as stakeholders from Cagayan and Isabela met in Tuguegarao City last summer to validate the draft orthography produced in an earlier workshop held last July.
This joyous affair was celebrated after the enthusiastic response of key officials of DepEd led by Secretary Luistro who has been instrumental in the completion of the conceptualization and pilot implementation of our MTB-MLE.
There are 181 documented languages in the Philippines; four have become extinct, while 24 others are either dying or in trouble of going extinct, according to the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Can we still afford to lose any language in our country?
Ibanag language and culture
In Binay’s May 2012 speech, he totally deems that, “culture and history can never be discounted in the act of nation-building and the forging of national unity. History is the continuing narrative of a nation that extends into the future, and culture is a nation’s soul. Everything that we are and aspire to be comes from our national soul. For we are a people rich in heritage, gifted in the arts, and blessed in His bounty."
I only realized the beauty of my language and culture when I entered for college in UP Diliman and began studying anthropology. Perhaps I was not totally conscious about my uniqueness, or had not experienced any marginalization as an Ibanag. As I get immersed in my own culture, by joining my defunct provincial organization in the university - UP Kapinan, and later as a practicing anthropologist, and now as a professor of anthropology, I realized how much I should treasure forms of my tangible and intangible culture.
Certainly, the Ibanags have beautiful language and culture, sumptuous food and delicacies, rich literature and songs which must be shared with fellow Ibanags not only in Region 2 or in Manila but also to Ibanag immigrants all over the world.
Successful and wealthy Ibanags are now spread worldwide and are willing to share their stories. Many illustrious Ibanags in various fields are very much proud of their Ibanag heritage. Without much ado, I can name prominent personalities that have Ibanag lineage including Vice President Jejomar Binay; Kontra-Gapi founder retired UP professor Edru Abraham; top singer Freddie Aguilar; artista Derek Ramsey, Coney Reyes, Michael V, and Maja Salvador; basketball players Jerry Codiñera and Rommel Adducul; senators Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile; and more.