Teaching Ilokano at UP Diliman

My Experience in Teaching
at the College of Arts & Letters
UP Diliman (1993-present)


Noemi U. Rosal

(Presented at the 1st MLE Conference, “Reclaiming the Right to Learn in One’s Own Language,” Capitol University, Cagayan de Oro City, Feb 18-20, 2010.)

This paper is a narrative report on  my experience in teaching the Ilokano language at the College of Arts and Letters at UP Diliman since 1993.  Such a narrative is basically informed by my re-invented subject position  as a native Ilokano who majored in English and Comparative Literature for my undergraduate and graduate degrees but is now teaching Ilokano language and Philippine Literature and at the same time an advocate of multiculturalism and linguistic pluralism.

Filipino 10.1 and Filipino 10.2 is a 6 unit course offered by the Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature that deals on any chosen Philippine regional language the mainstays of which are Ilokano, Cebuano, and Hiligaynon, Kapampangan and Bikol, however, have been recently offered.  The course title is PAGBASA AT PAGSULAT SA MGA WIKA SA PILIPINAS (Reading and Writing in the Philippine Languages).  Why such a course title and number?   This is in accordance with the provision of our 1987 Constitution, Article XIV, Section 6  that Filipino is our national language and that it is based on our existing languages throughout the whole archipelago and not just Tagalog.

The course aims to develop the four macroskills among the students with the ultimate goal of enabling them to read literary texts in Ilokano and speak the language in their future research work.  Another basic aim is for them to develop tolerance and respect for the peculiarities of our regional languages.  It basically does not aim to teach Iloko grammar per se  although the lessons are arranged thematically and sequentially in accordance with the grammatical structure of the Iloko language.

Now what is the relationship  among Fil. 10.1 & Fil 10.2 classes?  Each regional language is taught separately owing to the fact that every language has its own distinctive features.  Although a common syllabus is not possible, the teachers occasionally meet for course conferences in order to share their teaching techniques as well as to determine the  expected minimum learning competencies and course requirements.

Who are the students enrolled in these subjects?  First, we have the undergraduate students majority of whom come from the College of Arts and Letters and are majoring in Filipino, Philippine Studies, and Malikhaing Pagsulat.  They should be non-native speakers in the language they are enrolled.  They should choose only one regional language. The rest of the enrollees come from the other colleges.  These students are taking this course as a language elective or for non-academic reasons such as personal, socio-economic and cultural reasons.  This time native speakers are not prohibited to enroll in these subjects. Then we also have the MA and Ph.D students who are preparing for their language proficiency exam in a Philippine language other than Tagalog/Filipino and their mother language.  These students are mixed with undergraduate students and are given no special treatment except in rare cases.  The average class size is 20 students per section.

So  far,  what have been the highlights of my experience as a teacher of Ilokano in our college?  Well, when I first taught the course in 1993, there was no existing syllabus and textbook – workbook.  Of course, there were many Ilokano language experts in the college then but they did not teach it as a separate course.  Furthermore, Ilokano literature was offered as a graduate course and as part of the course in regional literature that were taught in both the English and Filipino Departments (Rosal, 2010).  The good news is that hopefully by August this year, this writer will be publishing the first textbook-workbook in FIL. 10.1. The textbook in Cebuano has long been finished but has not yet been published due to budgetary constraints, (Peregrino, 2010). For a long time in the history of the University, priority was given by the Administration to the publication and printing of General Education books.  Thanks to Drs. Galileo Zafra and Jovy Peregrino, past and incumbent directors of Sentro ng Wikang Filipino – Diliman respectively, our regional languages are now being given attention. Their projects have included not only textbooks but also a digital dictionary of the major Philippine languages (Zafra,  2010) in which this writer is a co-translator and editor.  Hopefully, the output of this latter project will also be coming out this year.

As regards the conduct of classes and teaching strategies, I have been using the communicative approach by using the Amianan (Northern Luzon) experience because to me this  is more interesting and intellectual.  For instance, when I teach nouns, I introduce native dishes and delicacies such as chicharon (corn), etc. as well as Ilokano terms for particular fruits and vegetables such as otong (string beans), kabatiti (patola), tarong (eggplant), etc.  When I teach verbs, I introduce words such as makiki (to be tickled), agpapukis (to have a haircut),   and again when I teach adjectives,  I  also introduce odd expressions such as nabayag for slow and laglag for dumb.  In the process, the students learn cultural peculiarities and oddities while learning Ilokano.  Of course, I use Filipino as my medium of instruction since I am based at the Filipino and Philippine Literature Department.  However, I use also English in some instances because Ilokano has no specific terms for the different  parts of speech and other linguistic terms.  Sometimes some English terms are even more familiar than Filipino/Tagalog to some students.

In retrospect, I  have learned in the process to be tolerant of the seemingly odd speech patterns of my students coming from other regions, likewise, I have become more expectant of their tolerance for my seemingly odd speech peculiarities.  Does it matter now if we pronounce tricycle as traysikel, traysikol, traysikil or traysikel with the e pronounced as schwa for our signifier, i.e., the spoken and written word, when we all know that the signified, i.e., the referent, the meaning (Refer to Saussure, n.d. for details) is the same?   Of course, I  smiled when I first heard a Cebuano student pronounce  kotse as kotsi but not anymore.   In addition, my students are no longer bothered by my seemingly angry tone when I speak at times because I have already told them that my intention more often than not the opposite.

In terms of my students’ learning experiences, the heterogeneous composition of the classes has become an advantage instead of a discomfort.  For one thing, similar and parallel linguistic experiences of my students from different ethnic groups as well as diverse class origins and educational backgrounds have made it easier for them to learn the language and respect its unique characteristics.  Who says that Ilokano is hard to learn if they realize that the word aldaw is similar to adlo, adlaw, and araw in other Philippine languages?  Of course , mother language interference usually happens.  For instance, my students say Napintasna for Maganda siya instead of just Napintas (in Ilokano the third person singular pronoun is omitted in the -Ak form used as an adjectival complement).  Or they say Inaldawak nga agdigdigos instead of Inaldawak nga  agdigos to mean I take a bath everyday (present habitual action), thus transliterating the Tagalog/Filipino naliligo into agdigdigos in Ilokano.  And when it comes to our Spanish linguistic heritage, they do realize that our regional languages  have so many common borrowed words, both in their pure and corrupted forms.

What have been the other positive results of my experience in teaching Ilokano?  Well, I have the privilege of meeting students who are exposed to both native and acculturated Ilokano in all parts of the country and even abroad resulting likewise in my exposure to different varieties and variations of this language.  Such an exposure has led me to re-invent my “Iloko” (Ilokano spoken in the original Iloko provinces) subject position  and not just stick to my puristic Iloko linguistic heritage.  Pangasinan variety for instance is full of the particle ngay; Region II for its fondness of nak instead ak only.  e.g. Mangannak (I eat) instead of Manganak; Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur for their very pure/unadulterated Iloko terms; Cordillera variety for its Anglized Ilokano, and Hawaii variety for its queer terms such as carro for car which means a funeral car in Ilocos and ag-driva for driving.  (For more details on Filipino language varieties and variations, refer to Constantino, et. al., 2002).  For me, this accommodating attitude that I have developed is in order inasmuch as scholars on Ilokano have yet to come out with a Standard  Iloko Language.  This does not mean, however, that they have not done anything yet to achieve this goal.  I remember very well that in the GUMIL (Association of Ilokano Writers) Conference held at the University of Hawaii, in November 2002  creative  writers, academicians, and media practitioners attempted to come out with a Standard Ilokano Language, but up to now this project is still in progress.

I have also learned in the process of teaching the course to consult and confer with other scholars on Philippine languages, resulting in our agreement that unique qualities specific to  each of our regional languages should be retained in translation works in  Filipino, thus becoming a part of our national language.  Examples are Ilokano words and expressions such as beddeng, (boundary), palpa (resting after meals) pammadayaw (tribute),   Dios to agngina (Thank you);  the use of dipthongs, e.g., Dios, kuarto, dies, kuentas; and pronouns always attached to other parts of the sentence  such as asawak (my husband/wife), balayko (my house), estudiantek (my student), and Estudianteak (I am a student).

More importantly, I have come up with a hidden agenda of exposing my  students to Ilokano literature and culture.  Teaching Iloko language and literature is my “advocacy” in our college; outside the campus I also join cause-oriented organizations  such NAKEM International, a group that aims to persuade other scholars of diverse subject positions that it is high time for Tagalogs and Americanized Filipinos to accept and respect other regional languages  and that they should re-invent/change their hegemonic attitude of hindering other languages to co-exist and assert themselves by moving from “margin to center,” to borrow the words of Bell Hooks (1984), a well-known Black Feminist writer.

Finally, I have learned that as Filipinos, we must all realize that in order for us to become a nation in the true sense of the word, we must recognize our “unity in diversity” by allowing all voices, all discourses, all  languages to be heard.  Indeed, “language is power,” so the Marxist linguist Norman Fairclough (1989) strongly asserts.  For while it is true that it can be an instrument for oppression, domination (Constantino, 1989) and division, it is equally true that it could also be used as a tool not only for our liberation but also for our national unity and peace.


Constantino, Ernesto.  Ilokano Dictionary.  Honolulu:  The University Press of Hawaii.  1971.

Constantino, Pamela; Nilo Ocampo at Jovy Peregrino.  Minanga:  Mga Babasahin sa Varayti at Varyasyon ng Filipino.  UP Sentro ng Wikang Filipino, 2002.

Constantino, Renato.  “The Miseducation of the Filipinos.”  Phil. Graphics, 1988.

Espiritu, Precy.  Let’s Speak Ilokano.  Honolulu:  University of Hawaii Press, 1984.

Fairclough, Norman.  Language and Power.  London and New York:  Longman, 1989.

Hooks, Bell.  Feminist TheoryFrom Margin to Center.  Boston, Massachusetts:  South End Press, 1984.

Informal Interview with Dr. Jovy Peregrino, Director of Sentro ng Wikang Filipino, UP Diliman (January 20, 2010).

Informal Interview with Dr. Mario Rosal, retired UP English (February 15, 2010).

Informal Interview with Dr. Galileo Zafra, former Director of Sentro ng Wikang Filipino, UP Diliman (February 16, 2010).

Laconsay, Gregorio.  Iluko-English-Tagalog Dictionary,  Quezon City:  Phoenix Publishing House, Inc., 1993.

McKaughan, Howard and Jannette Forster.  Ilocano:  An Intensive Language Course.  California:  Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1953.

Rojas, Guillermo.   Ilokano Made Easy.  Manila:   Lady of the North Publishing, 1995.

Rosal, Nicolas, Understanding An Exotic LanguageIlokano.   New Jersey:  The Author, 1981.

Saussure, Ferdinand de.  A Course in General Linguistics, trans. by Wade Baskin.  London:  Fontana, n.d.

The 1987 Constitution, Section XIV, Section 6.

Vanoverbergh, Morice, trans.  Iloko-English Dictionary, translation of Vocabulario Iloco-Español by Rev. Andres Carro, n.p., 1956.

_________________,  trans.  Iloko Grammar.  Bauko, Mountain Province:  The Author, 1955.

16 thoughts on “Teaching Ilokano at UP Diliman

  1. what have been the highlights of my experience as a teacher of Ilokano in our college? Well, when I first taught the course in 1993, there was no existing syllabus and textbook – workbook. Of course, there were many Ilokano language experts in the college then but they did not teach it as a separate course.
    )Distance Education is one such fast developing concept.
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  2. Naimbag nga aldawyo, apo. Makaayatak man unay iti nabasak ditoy. Maragsakanak a makaammo a ti unibersidadtayo ket addaan iti panagdayaw kadagiti rehional a pagsasao ditoy pagilian, a saan ket a kas iti dadduma nga institusion ti adal a mangtagtagibassit kadagitoy a pagsasao. Iti panagkitak, addaantayon, nupay di pay inkeddeng nga ofisial, iti pataran wenno estandar nga Ilocano. Daytoy a kita ti pagsasaotayo ti masarakan kadagiti sinurat, nangnangruna kadagiti partuat dagiti konserbatibo a mannurat. Ket maipapan met iti panagaramat iti -nak, imbes nga iti -ak, daytoy ket gagangay met iti Ilocos Norte ken Ilocos Sur, ket mabalin nga ibilangtayo a kolokial. Kasta pay a maibilangtayo a kolokial ti pannakaaramid a monoftongo dagiti diftongo, kas koma iti /ay/ iti daytoy, nga iti kolokial a panagsao ket detoy. Ket adu pay ti giddiat ti kolokial ken formal.

    Kasta pay ngarud apo, ket sapay ta agballigikayo iti amin a gandatenyo para iti pagsasaotayo, a maysa a nabileg a pagsasao nga adu ti maipalaemna iti nailian a kulturatayo a filipino!

  3. Hello Ms Rosal,
    I am an IT professional and I desperately want to learn speaking, reading and writing in Ilokano for very personal reasons. I am willing to pay whatever fee there is. What are my options? I’ve been trying to look for language schools in Metro Manila that teach Ilokano but haven’t really found any yet? Are there language schools you can refer me too? Or maybe you do personal tutoring or anybody you know does personal tutoring?

    I hope you can help me out.

    • Patgec a Jenny,

      Ala man ngarud, Adingco, ta bareng maitultuloy diay dua a blogco: Ilocano Online (ilocanoonline.wordpress.com) ken Ilocano Language, Culture, Literature (ilocano-samtoy.blogspot.com). Kinapudnona, calicagumac ti mangawis kenca nga agsurat cadagiti napipintas ken maicanunong a bambanag a mabalin nga ipablaac ken pangituloy cadagitoy nadacamatco a blogs.

      On another subject, kindly critique my other website, thelearningplace.ph, and let me know how I could invite the curiosity of Filipino students to use the learning resources I am trying so very hard to compile in one place — and they’re for FREE. Make a point to check the tabs on the navigation bar: Free Courses and Free Textbooks. Go into any textbook title and click “Read Flexbook” to give you an idea of how the actual textbook looks like. Then tell me what you think about the quality and usefulness.

      You may also wish to wander thru Philippine Education Research Journal (perj.org) and its sister blog (perj.wordpress.com) — both of which I am editing. I wish to know how an audience for these websites could be generated.

      Adda pay sabali a cayatco a pagtinnulongan: tay panangirusat iti Ilocano-English/English-Ilocano Dictionary a napimpintas ngem cadagiti agdama a dictionario a masaracam ita.

      Agyamanac unay iti inca maidiaya a tulong, Jenny.

      Manong Joe

    • hai maam ,,, can you help me maam about the translation? from tagalog to ilokano maam..please help me maam im begging you.. here is the short words of tagalog that i want to translate it into ilokano ——–( Mga magulang,guro,estudyante,taga paghusga,katulad kong kalahok, at sa lahat na nandito, magandang gabi sa lahat )—-

      thanks maam more power god bless,, you can send me at my yahoo account. ( raymundlloren564@yahoo.com)

  4. good morning ,maajung buntag maam/sir. i just to translate this short words maam/sir from tagalog to ilokano. im begging maam/sir to have this translation now. with your lovely heart maam/sir god will always bless you.. more power ,god strength and god speed

    and here is the short tagalog words that i want to translate into ilokano;

    —- Mga magulang,guro,estudyante,taga paghusga,katulad kong kalahok, at sa lahat na nandito, magandang gabi sa lahat—-

    raymund..here is my yahoo account maam/sir (raymundlloren564@yahoo.com)

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