About a year ago, Dr. Joel B. Lopez, Education Program Supervisor at the Ilocos Norte DepEd, and Dr. Maria Eliza Lopez, submitted their version of an Ilocano Orthography to the DepEd Central Office for the latter’s consideration. Judging from the reaction in the social media, notably Facebook, the Lopez orthography caused a bit of a stir. From the copy of the correspondence from DepEd Usec. Yolanda Quijano which is reprinted below, the proposed Ilocano orthography ended being referred to the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino if for no other reason than to quell the fire it lit.
One of the main bones of contention was some quixotic effort to establish a rule that was perhaps remarkable in its difficulty to remember how the Iloco ligatures a and nga should be used, especially in oral discourse in Ilocano.
The consensus from writers in Ilocano came down to the following preferred usage:
(1) Use a before an Ilocano word that starts with a consonant sound, e.g., saanka a mapan <do not go>; napintas a balasang <a beautiful girl>; lakay a maestro <an old teacher>. We normally don’t use a before a word starting with a vowel sound to avoid the awkward glottal stop [momentary silent pause] that is otherwise required between “a” and a following word with an initial vowel sound, e.g., di materred a apal <uncontrolled jealousy> (which would be fine with the archaic Joel B. Lopez rule: “Maaramat ti NGA no ti sao iti unaanna ket agleppas iti patimek. Mausar met ti A no ti sao iti unaanna ket agleppas iti katimek.” <NGA is used if the word that precedes it ends in a vowel. A is used when the word that precedes it ends in a consonant>).
(2) Use nga before an Ilocano word that starts with a vowel sound, e.g., isu nga immayak <that’s why I came>; nalaing nga agsala <he/she/it is good at dancing>; saanda nga agawid <they’re not going home>; nagan nga Honorato [“Honorato” starts with a vowel sound because the H is silent] <name of (by) Honorato>; ti video nga “Ylocos Festival” [“Y”, the initial letter of “Ylocos”, is a consonant but is pronounced with a vowel sound exactly like the initial “I” in “Ilocos”] << the “Ylocos Festival” video>>.
NOTE: In informal or unrehearsed conversations in Ilocano, whereas the ligature a is commonly used before a word starting with a consonant sound, nga, on the other hand, is commonly used before any word starting with either a vowel sound or a consonant sound, e.g., nangisit nga aso <black dog>; aso a nangisit = aso nga nangisit <black dog>. However, the reader is reminded that in formal or written discourse, the form “aso a nangisit” is preferred over “aso nga nangisit”.