Alben meng manyaman, boy!

June 7, 2009

Cuyonons and Kapampangans / Kuyonons and Capampangans

By Jason Paul Laxamana
Urban Kamaru
Central Luzon Daily
Sino manga tao nga Cuyonon?

There are many ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines, but we know only the major ones such as the Tagalogs, Cebuanos, Ilonggos, Kapampangans, Ilocanos, Bicolanos, Pangasinenses, Warays, and to some extent, the Tausugs, Badjaos, Maranaos, and Maguindanaos. For us Luzonians, the Cuyonon people are most of the time unheard of. However, if we have seen the movie “Ploning” starring Judy Ann Santos, we might have an idea about the Cuyonon people of Cuyo Island of the Palawan province and the Western Visayan language that they usually speak.

Surprisingly, I actually knew people in Angeles City of Cuyonon descent. JC Lim, a high school classmate of mine at the Chevalier School, along with his big brother Vincent Lim, who became the Valedictorian of his batch in the same school, have a Cuyonon mother. Their identification of themselves back when I often encountered them in the city has always been either Chinese or Kapampangan though.

In our production trip to Puerto Princesa City weeks ago, we got to know more about the Cuyonons—although there is still much to know about them. But in a span of a week, we were able to discover things about them that might interest us Kapampangans, especially those engaged in cultural work and literature.

The Letter H

Dorong dagon den ang ag lolobas Ang adlao na ikaw mabagat ko Indi ko pa ra engued malipatan Imong matang midyo biton sa langit Imong mga ngirit indi agpakatorog Pirmi ko ing sasadyap imong mga arek

This is a stanza from the song “Ploning Adin Ka Ren” (Ploning, Where Art Thou) by Bulyaw Mariguen, a rock band that makes contemporary Cuyonon songs. The shooting of the music video of the song was our purpose in flying there. Do you notice anything about the stanzas and the Cuyonon language?

In one of our idle sessions, Engr. Johnny Fabello, who is the owner of the house were were lodging in and the father of the executive producer of the music video, told us, “Suwerte kayong mga Kapampangan, immune kayo sa swine flu.”

When we asked why, he comically replied, “Kasi wala kayong H!” referring to the presence of the letter H in H1N1. Apparently he knew about the infamous Kapampangan stereotype of H-deficiency in speech.

After laughing with his joke, I responded, “E di kayo rin po, immune din kayo? Wala rin po kasi kayong H.” He paused for a moment to think about it... no, they do not have the letter H either! And we found it amusing that they, despite being Cuyonon speaker, never noticed. Take for example the following Cuyonon words, their Tagalog counterparts, and their lack of H.

“Indi” for “hindi,” “arek” for “halik,” “kasiguraduan” for “kasiguraduhan,” and “kabui” for “buhay” (“buhi” in several Visayan languages).

But since Kapampangans are a major language group—the seventh biggest ethnolinguistic group in the country, with around two million native speakers, versus the Cuyonon speakers who are only approximately a hundred thousand—we have earned the dunce hat of H-deficiency in the world of stereotypes.

Enam, Anem, Anam, Anim

In Kapampangan, the rootword “atas” (height), when turned into an adjective, becomes “mátas,” because the prefix “ma-” is added. It's a general rule in Kapampangan to drop the 'a' from “ma-” (or “ka-”) thus making it “mátas,” not “maatas” or “mayatas.”

The same goes for the following words: “máyap/káyap” (not “maayap”), “maslam/kaslam” (not “maaslam”), “málimum” (not “maalimum”) and “málat” (not “mayalat” or “maalat”).

It's the same for Cuyonon. “Mayad” (good) is “ma-” and “ayad” combined, but the sum is only “mayad,” with stress on the last syllable.

Unlike Tagalog and Kapampangan, Cuyonon can have glottal stops in the middle of their sentences like the Cebuano speakers. This glottal stop is written in the symbol of an apostrophe. However, fast speech can conceal the glottal stop in the middle of Cuyonon sentences.

A last observation we had was regarding the way they pronounce the letter E. It's not like how we say the letter E in Kapampangan words like “sukle,” “betute,” and “eran.” It's more like the way Bahasa Indonesia/Melayu speakers pronounce the letter E—like an “uh” sound—making the Indonesian word “setelah” read as “suh-tuh-lá” and “lelaki” as “luh-lá-kee.” Therefore, in Cuyonon, “gegma” (love) is read as “guhg-má” and “aken” as “áh-kuhn.”

With this characteristic of Cuyonon, it makes some words sound like they're Kapampangan. The Kapampangan “anam” (six), even though it has two letter As written the same way, the first A is actually longer compared to the A in the second syllable. Its pronunciation is “ah-nuhm.” In Cuyonon, the number six is “anem.” With what we've discussed with the Cuyonon E sound, can you now try to read “anem”?

CQ vs K Dispute

Since Cuyonon is not a national or official language, no group or institution has the authority to dictate how the Cuyonon language should be written.

The older generation, like those from, are advocating for the use of the CQ orthography—just like how the older generation of Kapampangans insist on CQ—because, according to them, “the letter K is not Cuyonon,” just as how confused Kapampangan elders would reason, “the letter K is not Capampangan.”

The younger generation goes for the K orthography though, because of their Abakada education, and find it more efficient to write because instead of having two symbols for one sound such as C and Q for the “k” sound and C and S for the “s,” they only need one.

Pursuant to the Ordinances

In Pampanga, the Governor has declared an “Aldo Ning Amanung Sisuan” to be celebrated on the last Friday of August, the Languages Month, and had formed a Pampanga Provincial Language Council to spearhead events that would promote the use of the Kapampangan language. Language advocates rejoiced with the declaration, because they have begun to notice that Kapampangan children born to Kapampangan parents are gradually being turned into native Tagalog speakers with no knowledge or understanding of Kapampangan.

A similar case can be seen with the Cuyonons. Years ago, the Vice Governor of Palawan authored an ordinance they called the Cuyonon Provincial Dialect Ordinance (albeit they got it wrong calling Cuyonon a dialect instead of a language). Cuyonon was declared the “Official Dialect” of the Palawan province; a committee had been designated to work on its function of promoting Cuyonon language, literature, traditions, and culture, and institutions were encouraged to take part in the movement to counter the case of Tagalog-speaking Cuyonon children born to Cuyonon parents.

Because Palawan must be one of the most linguistically diverse provinces in the Philippines, Tagalog has often served as the lingua franca of the dwellers. Its reputation as tourist destination must also contribute to the interest of the natives in learning the outsiders' languages. However, hints of the struggling dominance of Cuyonon in Palawan is evident—aside from the provincial ordinance supporting its promotion—is evident in the penetration of the Cuyonon language in FM and AM radio stations such as DYPR and DYER and cable television. The Philippine Airlines also acknowledges Cuyonon as the dominant native language of Palawan, as it uses the Cuyonon language in some of its greetings and announcements in domestic flights taken in Puerto Princesa.

Pampanga, although diverse in its own right due to the in-migration of Visayans, Maranaos, Koreans, Aytas, Tagalogs, Ilocanos, Pangasinenses, and Ilocanos, is still acknowledged to be a Kapampangan-speaking area, and Kapampangan continuously penetrates various forms of mass and interactive media.

Now back to the ordinances—laudable declarations, I must say. But the question is: how well-implemented are these ordinances and the activities spearheaded by the designated councils? Are they even effective in promoting the local language especially to the modern youth?

Or do the celebrations just come and go, creating the illusion that the local language is being saved?

That we'll have to see.

June 5, 2009

Palawan Subterranean River National Park: A Global Wonder of Nature

By Jason Paul Laxamana
Urban Kamaru
Central Luzon Daily

Last month, my Kamaru production team and I flew to Puerto Princesa City, Palawan to co-produce the music video of the carrier single of an upcoming Cuyonon rock album by a band called Bulyaw Mariguen.

During our stay, our producer Jocelyn Fabello of Matinlo Productions took us to one of country's pride in the realm of ecotourism—the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (also called St. Paul Underground River National Park), a nominee in the “New Seven Wonders of Nature” competition and one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.

Trip to the Park

We woke up early in the morning and rode a van to reach the place. Even though we were staying in Puerto Princesa City, the barangay (Sabang) where the park is located is far from the heart of the city, and the trip can range from one hour to an hour and a half.

It's not all land transportation. Upon arrival to Sabang, we had to take a short banca ride at the Sabang Pier—about ten minutes—to reach the national park, which is on the other side of the beach. The water we had to travel across comes from the South China Sea already.

The trip is short but we were stunned with the beauty of the surrounding shores, forests, and mountains. Plus, the water is not murky compared to the waters of Pampanga Bay; the water is also greenish blue—probably a reflection of both the sky and the lush forests from nearby bodies of land—and best of all, clean.

Upon landing, we enter a safe forest that would lead us to the small port where the City Government of Puerto Princesa. In that short trek inside the forest, we encountered monkeys and monitor lizards (bayawak) freely roaming around.

The monkeys, like the ones in Subic, are infamous for snatching stuff from people, so we were advised to keep an eye on our things and to not leave our possessions unattended. Physically harming the monkeys, along with the lizards and the other animals that may be found in the forest, is unlawful.

The giant monitor lizards, especially for us urban people, were both fascinating and frightening due to their baby dragon-like appearance. Fear not though because they don't attack people.

In fact, according to the locals, they are afraid of people. Their seemingly casual behavior around humans is only because they have been used to their constant presence in the area. But if you try to shock one, it will run away fast like a shooed cat.

Into the Cave

After the short trek, we arrived at the port where tourists can avail of group boat rides—paddled by local employees—through the cave. A tour inside the cave, which can last from thirty to forty minutes, would have cost us money, but since our trip was sponsored by Mayor Joel Reyes of Puerto Princesa, we went in for free.

We enter the mouth of the cave where it's pitch-black all through. A spotlight is held by the passenger in front though, allowing everyone to scan the surroundings which is filled with stalactites, stalagmites, sleeping bats, and swiftlets that fly around the area. At first, we mistook the swiftlets as bats, but the boatman—who serves as tour guide and entertainer as well with his funny side comments and knowledge of greetings in several Philippine and world languages including Kapampangan and Niponggo—informed us that they were birds, swooping down on insects to dine.

The cave, while the lower part is submerged in approximately 30 feet of fresh water (the water at the entrance is somewhat salty though as evidenced by the seashells forming on the walls because the entrance is near the point where the river and sea meet) still had a huge dome space above, where water droplets were falling down mildly at random points.

The water was coming from the rainwater accumulated above the terrain, seeping down through soil and rocks, until it reaches the cave.

“The water dropping from above can be considered Holy Water,” the boatman comments. “But if what drops from above comes from the bats, it's Holy Shit.” We burst in laughter.

Various stone and rock formations inside have names like the Holy Family, LRT, the face of Jesus Christ, Bat Cave, the Pegasus, the T-Rex, and many more. They had been named as such because the formations appeared like them, especially the breath-taking face of Christ.

We couldn't help but wonder how such place was formed. The boatman said that the cave could have been water-free back in the centuries when sea levels were lower. While the documented discovery of the underground river is credited to a Spaniard, the natives of Palawan could have known the area as well, except that there hasn't been any piece of evidence found yet.

After a cozy tour inside, we reached the point where boats are supposed to return. No, it was not the edge of the tunnel yet. In fact, the edge was still far away, and we were even informed that a huge empty lot where a hundred people or so can camp was situated there.

“Gusto niyo bang puntahan?” the boatman asked. “Yes!” we all excitedly replied. “Sige, puntahan niyo, hihintayin ko kayo dito... promise!” he answered. Again, we laughed hard.

The reason they don't take tourists, or anyone for that matter—except if people with enough reason like geographers and scholars have permits from the proper authorities—to the far reaches is because it could be too dangerous and distant from the port, such that if emergency happened, rescue will take time to come.

Ecotourism VS Environmental Protection

One might wonder why there aren't many boats available to rent, causing people to wait long in line before experiencing the cave. Boats could be enlarged to accommodate more people per trip, but why is it not being done?

It's because it's not purely ecotourism for the national park. Concerned with the animals, like the nocturnal bats sleeping inside, they limit the number of people inside the cave to not cause too much noise. “Travel agencies keep on suggesting that we increase the number of boats, but we tell them we don't want to strongly disturb the dwellers inside.”

Puerto Princesa City is lucky to have such natural wonder, and the natural wonder is luck to have an understanding and sincerely passionate group of people looking out for its preservation. Even though the government keeps on promoting the place, it doesn't abuse and over-commercialize the whole idea, unlike what happens in other places.

For more information about the place, visit the official website of the management.

Photos care of Diego Marx Dobles, Kamaru Photography

June 1, 2009

I gave a lecture not in Pampanga but in PALAWAN!

Last week, I was in Palawan to expand my cultural work to Cuyonons, who, like the Kapampangans and the other non-Tagalogs, and experiencing cultural decline. Aside from directing a Cuyonon rock music video in Puerto Princesa, I also delivered a lecture to Mass Communication students of PSU (Palawan State University). See news item below (taken from


As a means to entice young media practitioners in creating works of art or production works with local cultural content, Matinlo Productions in cooperation with Bulyaw Mariguen, Kamaru Productions and JCI Kiao conducted a lecture/workshop entitled Local Eyes: creating Works of Art with Local Cultural Content to 31 3rd & 4th year Mass Communication Students of the Palawan State University last May 27, 2009.

The lecture started with an exercise conducted by Jason Laxamana of Kamaru productions assessing how the students use their local environment in creating their own superhero. Jason Laxamana then proceeded to explaining the exercise and then to showing the students some of the works of Kamaru.

In his lecture, Jason laxamana emphasized the benefits of creating production works with local cultural content. His Kapampangan short film entitled Balangingi in Kapampangan or Nosebleed in English which won in the ETC First Philippine Digital Awards for best short film is living proof that using local cultural content in film can give filmmakers a competitive advantage in such competitions. The sense of pride such works bring to the local community was also mentioned.

Due to a scheduled radio guesting at DYPR Palawan Radyom, Jason Laxamana gave way for Bulyaw Mariguen to perform their carrier single, Ploning Adin Ka Ren. Matinlo productions chose to ask Bulyaw Mariguen to perform in this lecture to show the students the possibility of using the local language in Palawan, Cuyonon, in making songs that are appealling to the young generation of Palawenos and viable for mainstream broadcasting. Joey Fabello of Matinlo productions, also known as DJ Jojo of IFM 99.9 by some of the students, briefly explained the Bulyaw Mariguen project after the performance of the band to reiterate the value of using local content in works of art and production works.

Certificates were awarded and snacks were provided by Jci Kiao after the lecture.

Some feedback from the students can be seen below.

Nainspire po kami sa inyong shinare samin and we are hoping also na magkaron ng sariling version ang mga Palaweno to produce music, movies, telenovelas, etc of our own.

Thank you for inspiring me. Makakatulung po talaga ito sa lahat. Keep up the good work...May God Bless You...

Nakakainspire. Namulat ako sa dapat kong kamulatan. -Psydz

Marami po salamat sa mga binahagi niyong kaalaman sa amin, tama nga dapat din nating ipakita sa iba na pwede rin natin ibahagi sa kanila ang culture na mayroon tayo. tnx po. Sana makalat pa ito sa iba.- Rearitz

Very inspiring. It really gives indication that we have to uplift ones local culture through music and film. -Anna Lissa Magtibay

Marami po akong (kaming) natutunan. Now I realized na mahalaga maging maka local tayo para narin stain to. galing po ng speakers at nakakatuwa. - Jeric

Mahalaga po sa amin bilang Palaweno na ipagmalaki sa buong mundo ang katutubong kultura. Sa pamamagitan ng Seminar workshop na ito namulat ang aking isipan na maaari tayong kilalanin. maraming salamat- Anagyn Barrios

Matinlo productions would like to thank Ms. Faith Malacao of the Palawan State University for making this event possible.