Essay on Pangasinan

Is Pangasinan a dying dialect?

by Armando R Ravanzo

In an essay entitled Pangasinan: A Dying Dialect, Mangaldan-born U.P. professor Ernesto M. Serote writes:

"A popular joke is told about a young Pangasinense who, returning home after a year's stay in
manila, is completely 'tagalized'.

"Feeling hungry one mid-morning he rushes to the kitchen and finds his mother preparing
(their) lunch.

'Ang bagal naman ni Inay,' he says. 'Gutom na gutom na ako, e. Ano ho bang ulam natin?

"He sees a basket of live crabs. 'Inay, ano ba ire?' he asks, pointing his finger, and suddenly blurts out: 'Aray, Anak na lasin alama ya, kinetket to ak.'"

This, Serote continues, is an exaggeration, but a telling example of how many Pangasinenses
unwittingly kill their language through disuse.

True but it comes out better as an illustration of the Pangasinense's penchant or say, uncanny
ability, for assimilation, that is to absorb himself into the cultural tradition of another place, let
alone another time.

All for this, to be sure, the moribund Pangasinan tongue suffers, the search for the authentic Pangasinan identity likewise, though what seems to be one distinctive mark of a Pangasinense is an imperative to survival, adaptation to environment, as French philosopher-naturalist Herbert Spencer puts it.

Journalist Behn F. Hortaleza, Jr., in his article "What Makes a Pangasinense a Pangasinense" echoes Serote's evaluation in: "Rare is the Pangasinense today who readily brandishes his native tongue in front of total strangers.

He is more likely to use Pilipino or Iluko when trying to strike up a conversation in a crowded bus bound for Manila or Baguio or in a neighborhood dance outside of Central Pangasinan or in most offices where he may find himself transacting business sometime."

Hortaleza, though, attributes this to the Pangasinense's awareness of his spoken word's impending appointment with oblivion.

However, it could also be interpreted as an instance of his proclivity to belong, to survive
against all odds. This, too, come to think of it, explains the "talangka mentality" so called of
the Pangasinense.

The recent exhibition of the works of Pangasinan artists called Pagalang, is a proof positive - a
dead give-away - of the Pangasinense's cultural identity.

On the art exhibit, critic Roberto Paulino says: "Though unified by the theme of homage to the late National Artist Victorio C. Edades, Pagalang displays a diverse array of artists with sometimes seemingly conflicting styles.

Viewers expecting a certain regional look in the Pangasinan exhibit will instead find a desperate assortment of images."  Eclectic.

That Paulino used to describe Pangasinan art. That means Pangasinan art has been drawn from various sources or influences.

It is not at all far-fetched to think that this appreciation (or is it indictment?) of Pangasinan art is in itself a definition of Pangasinan culture, or what Pangasinense are.

In the National PEN ( Poets, Essayists and Novelists ) Cinference sometime in 1993 where I was invited as a panelist on the literature of Southern Luzon, I protested with utter indignation Dean Armando Malay's professed belief that Pangasinan literature is part of Ilocano literature.

"Pangasinenses speak Pangasinan, not Ilocano". I said to the confreres which included Nick Joaquin, Fr. Miguel Bernad, Bienvenido Santos, comprovincianos Francisco Sionel Jose and Rolando Carbonell, and the newly-widowed Cory Aquino, "And we're mightly proud of it."

And, yes, I pursued, when a Pangasinense expresses, say, a philosophical idea, he uses English. When he wants to show he's one with other Filipinos, Tagalog is his medium, but when he's in love, no tongue is better than Pangasinan.

As the panelists were asked to come out with excerpts from their native literature, I obliged them with:

" Malinak lay labi, oras lay mareen,
Mapalpalnay dagen, katekep toy linaew.
Samit na kugip ko… "

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