Last weekend, we watched the conclusion of a three-day webinar on Ilokano orthography, a system which covers spelling and rules that determine the uniformity of the means of representing speech – words and grammatical forms – in writing.
The webinar was the latest of virtual national conferences of GUMIL Filipinas, the association of Ilokano writers at home and abroad, founded in 1968 with its first convention – which was to become annual – in Baguio City.
We witnessed through social media portals available to the lecturers and participants – writers and teachers — from different provinces, particularly those in the north of the country where Ilokano, as the mother tongue, is, under an existing law, being taught from Kinder to Grade 3 and how it should be written.
The webinar had three lecturers – Mario Tejada, Joel Manuel and Cles B. Rambaud all from Ilocos Norte – who separately addressed the importance of orthography, based on the published book titled Tarabay iti Ortograpia ti Pagsasao nga Ilokano or Guide to Ilokano Orthography.
The book was prepared on the main by Rambaud, former Secretary General of GUMIL Filipinas and at present Managing Editor of the weekly Ilokano magazine Bannawag, in consultation with fellow distinguished Ilokano writers approved and published by the Komisyon on Wikang Pambansa in 2012.
But that approved orthography eventually ran into contentious waters when there was a change in KWF commissioner, when the Commission, headed by another Tagalog, published a different orthography based on the orthography of the so-called “wikang pambansa” – a genteelism for Filipino but is in fact Tagalog.
The KWF reasoning, challenged judiciously by Ilokano writers and educators, is the “homogenization” of all the orthographies of the different regions, which to the Commission meant all the other orthographies should follow the so-called Filipino orthography.
That logic is blatantly distorted since it deviated from the real meaning of homogenization which should be the coalescence, the intermingling, the commixture of the other orthographies, not the exclusion – and the debate is continuing.
But the webinar conducted by GUMIL Filipinas on Ilokano orthography suggests the Ilokanos, who have for scores exhibited their love for their written language – in the many books, anthologies and pamphlets that now are in different public libraries – remain true to their culture.
The webinar on orthography is timely since it tackled a high definition point for the MTB-MLE programs being implemented for learners in the north.
We will not second guess how successful the webinar is, until perhaps a post webinar study is conducted and a survey done among the participants and how their absorbed knowledge would affect their writings in Ilokano and how this would impact on the Kinder to Grade 3 pupils who must share as beneficiaries of such webinar through the participating teachers.
We speed read the power points presented by Rambaud and his explanation for each, and we are persuaded that he knew his marbles in orthography, the system of rules – in this case Ilokano orthography – that determines the uniformity of the means of representing speech – words and grammatical forms – in writing.
We get the impression from his lecture how orthography is important to society because a uniform spelling system that disregards individual and language differences in pronunciation facilitates the use of the written language.
From his power points we saw the rules of orthography which cover, for instance, the ways of representing phonemes and words in letters, the use of capital letters, word division, and the open, solid, or hyphenated spelling of compounds.
This goes on a square on the purpose of the MTB-MLE, which is to develop appropriate cognitive and reasoning skills enabling Ilokano children to operate equally in different languages – starting in the mother tongue with transition to Filipino and then English and to preserve the Philippine cultural treasure as well.
The lecture has put Ilokano orthography in high gear, stressing its importance to Ilokano society at this time when the MTB-MLE program is being pushed by the government, with the mother tongue mandated to be used as the primary medium of instruction for teaching and learning in the kindergarten levels to Grade 3 in the public schools.
Rambaud talked about what might be initially observed as simple – even writers and teachers may not be fast with a quick eye or ear — like graphemes, a written letter, group of letters, number, or symbol that represents a single sound in speech, syllabication or the act, process, or method of forming or dividing words into syllables.
Rambaud, seen by some as an Ilokano orthography maven, has helped fellow aspiring writers as well as grade school teachers in the north with some of the necessary tools that would help open doors for opportunities for those who have the zeal and commitment to be proud of their culture. (To be continued)