Category Archives: Social Issues

International Mother Language Day

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“Marked on 21 February each year, International Mother Language Day celebrates all different languages with special attention to minority languages in the world. Out of over 6,000 languages, as much as 50 per cent of these languages are dying, 40 per cent are endangered and 90 per cent of the world population speaks about 300 majority languages. Only 100 languages are used in the education.” ~ The Day for all languages: 21 February via UNESCO

Watching old files – this one’s a short video file showing a non-Filipino friend talking with an old woman working under the hot sun. At that time, we were on our way to attend a consultation meeting at a rural barangay in the northern part of the Philippines. I remember that just minutes before we came through that clearing, I’ve been telling them (my non-Filipino colleagues) re: some cultural tidbits, including the manner in which youngsters show respect/reverent toward the elders in the community.

Watching the video clip now, it feels great somehow – realizing that over the years, I’ve unconsciously developed that ‘systemic’ act of always informing non-Filipino friends and colleagues re: how people in Luzon address the elders as sign of respect (I didn’t encourage them to use the corresponding English terms like ‘mom or dad’ or pop or gran) -

Inang/Nanang (mother);
Amang/Tatang (father)
Apong Lakay/Lelong Grandfather/old men)
Apong Baket/Lelang (grandmother/old women)

I had lots of giggle watching the scene – as my colleague took great effort to address the elderly woman using the Ilokano language. It was an endearing, sweet moment. I’ll never forget that “joy in the moment” as our Ilokano elder giggled like kids as she listened to our foreigner friends calling her “Apong Baket”. Similar scenarios played out while we were  in the secluded village.

Thinking about it, I am thankful I never referred to my parents and grandparents as either “Mom” or “Dad/Pop” or “granny” or “grandpa” when I talked/write about them (I’d explain to my foreigner friends why I address my mother ‘Mamang’ instead of ‘Nanang’, but I won’t do it here – it’s a personal thing). They will always be “Mamang/Inang” Papang/Tatang” and Apong” to me.

It’s not much, really – these are but very small ways re: promoting my culture and mother tongue; it’s always been my focus to “utilize language as a tool to promote cultural connections” - in this case, to make non-Ilokanos understand who we are as people, and to let them see the significance of our simple ways in connection to our cultural identity.

Language, I think, has a paradoxical nature: it can unite or divide people and cultures. The real challenge posited by language is not about its preservation or usage; it is about proper utilization of its empowering nature. Language should be utilized as a tool that enables/empowers people.” ~ /ljgg