Retrace our roots, enrich our identity

By Michael Carlo C. Villas, Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Friday, May 27th, 2011



“THE USE of the child’s language in education means more classroom interaction, deeper learning, lesser dropouts and also a regained sense of pride among language speakers” said Leyte Normal University president Dr. Evelyn Cruzada.

Citing a recently completed project on Winaray phonetics and a spelling guide for instructional materials, Cruzada reiterated the university’s commitment to mother tongue education research at the “Pagpabaskog han Minat-an nga Pinulongan: A Colloquium on the Waray Language,” held on May 16 and 17 at the LNU in Tacloban City. (The title means “strengthening the mother tongue” which in Region VIII refers to Winaray, also known as Leytenhon-Samarnon, Binisaya of Southern Leyte and Western Leyte, and Inabaknon in Capul Island.)

The LNU mother tongue education research team is headed by faculty members Voltaire Q. Oyzon, Firie Jill Ramos and Michael Carlo C. Villas. LNU has also begun producing instructional materials like the Winaray kindergarten workbook in mathematics by Dr. Janet Presnilla-Espada and the big book “Kaon na Iday” (Eat now, Iday) by Alma Sonia Sanchez.

The LNU language conference was one of two important education events held away from Manila (the other one was held in Cordillera). Both activities seem to foretell that there is no turning back for mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTBMLE) in the country.

Leyte Gov. Carlos Jericho “Icot” L. Petilla, represented by Vice Gov. Mimietta S. Bagulaya, admitted that our limited understanding of the native language is a dangerous thing “because the less we know of our language as rooted in the past, the less we can participate in its evolution.”

At the same time, Department of Education regional director Dr. Luisa B. Yu said that “the fire (of MTBMLE) will spread everywhere in the Visayas, wherever there are students, wherever there are schools, wherever there is a mother tongue to learn so that DepEd Order No. 74 will not just remain on paper.”

Josefina Matibag of DepEd Maasin pointed out that the new way of teaching is to take up the most frequent vowel (the letter a) and the most frequent consonant sound (the letter n) in the language. More sounds can be added on the basis of frequency until children master the entire system accurately and with comprehension.

MTBMLE regional coordinator Rose Guino and supervisor Gretel Cadiong announced that a Waray primer has already been designed for field-testing in the region’s pioneer schools.

Tacloban City Mayor Alfred S. Romualdez found time to meet Dr. Ricardo Nolasco and LNU’s Voltaire Q. Oyzon in his office. Romualdez spoke of his plan to change the city’s street signs to Winaray and English. This is a welcome move especially because it comes from a great-grandson of Justice Norberto Romualdez Sr., the father of the first National Language Law.

At the conference, Nolasco and his students presented the results of their survey on the Kanâ variety in Southern Leyte which they found to contain features from Bol-anon and Cebuano.

Over at the Ifugao State University in Banaue, the “Sursuro: Mother Language Education and Cultural Nationalism” Conference got underway on May 23-25, 2011. This education conference was hosted jointly by NAKEM International and NAKEM Philippines, Ifugao State University and Mariano Marcos State University together with St. Mary’s University and the University of Northern Philippines.

“Sursuro” is the sixth international conference organized by NAKEM. Close to 400 elementary and high school teachers, university and college professors, students and local government officials participated in this year’s event.

President Aquino in his message told the participants that retracing their roots and identifying the very facets that make them distinctively Ilocano help enrich our identity as Filipinos.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat called it poetic justice that the tools spurring modernization are the same tools being used by NAKEM to safeguard cultures and languages.

The affair was highlighted by the launching of the Contemporary English-Ilokano Dictionary compiled by Dr. Aurelio Solver Agcaoili. Containing more than 18,000 entries, the dictionary is one of the most comprehensive Ilocano dictionaries ever produced. Agcaoili is the Ilocano program coordinator of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, president of NAKEM International, and a leader of the 170+ Talaytayan MLE Inc.

As in Leyte, the quality of papers presented at NAKEM reflects the renewed vigor that tertiary education institutions are giving to linguistic and cultural research that directly impact on children’s education. Scholars are now more conscious and sensitive to how their studies can translate to better teaching practices and materials for basic instruction.

A good example would be “Stories of Alapu” published by Benguet State University in 2007. A team of volunteers painstakingly gathered, visualized and validated these folk stories by Mountain Province elders and converted these into a form with illustrations that is child-friendly. More importantly, the stories were written not only in English but also in the language variety spoken by children where the stories were collected.

Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco ( is a faculty member of the UP Linguistics Department in Diliman. Michael Carlo C. Villas ( is a researcher who teaches at the Leyte Normal University in Tacloban City.

One thought on “Retrace our roots, enrich our identity

  1. the unesco press release on thenuwera eliya conference 1953 states that on the educational grounds and in the interest of the cultural enrichment of the world the medium of instruction in all countries should be the mother tongue. the report states….it is axiomatic that the best medium for teaching a child is his mother tongue. psychologically it is the system of meaningful signs that in his mind work automatically for expression and understanding.

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