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Pangasinan: A Dying Dialect (?

By Ernest M. Serote
(lifted from: ‘Balon Silew’ Oct-Dec 2000 issue - with permission to republish from
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 forefinger, and
suddenly blurts out: “Aray ! Anak na lasin alama ya, kinetket to ak!”

The preceding anecdote is an exaggeration, of course. But it is a telling example of how

many Pangasinenses unwittingly kill their language through disuse. For a Pangasinense in
another region loses his cultural identity – language especially, and is readily absorbed by
the culture of that other region. This, among other things, account for the rapid decay of
Pangasinan dialect.
More of the causes later.

In the not-so-remote past, Pangasinan was one of the major dialects in the Philippines. It
bares close affinity with some Indonesian tongues, a fact often cited by historians as
proof of the assertion that the fabled Princess Urduja was not a native Amazon but a
migrant from the South. Pangasinan, too, has a fair share of the Hindu Arabic terms, an
off-shoot most probably, of the once flourishing trade between Sual and the Arab world.

Pangasinan before the Ilocano Deluge, must have been spoken throughout the length and
breadth of this big province. Many barrios in what are now predominantly Ilocano-
speaking towns have retained their original names in the dialect. The barrios of
Caoringan in Sison, Nancayasan in Urdaneta, Cabayaoasan in Mangatarem, are only
three of the scores that can be named as cases in point. Also, many aging people from the
Ilocano-speaking towns, whom this writer has had the chance to meet have intimated
quite nostalgically that they are, or used that they had to adopt a second language having
been overwhelmingly outnumbered.

The existence of people still fluent in Pangasinan in as far as south of Paniqui, Tarlac and
the distinctly heavy streaks of Pangasinan terms in Ibaloy, the dialect spoken by the
Igorots in Benguet, point to the Palaris and Malong in the once resplendent past. Today,
Pangasinan is a dying dialect. It is spoken only in a handful of towns in the central part of
the province.

And the frontier is continually being pushed inward due to incessant incursions of the
Ilocanos from all sides. Even in these diminishing places that are ‘pre’ Pangasinan
speaking are as virgins are in England.

Perhaps enrichment from other languages augurs well for many particular language.
Unfortunately, it is not so with Pangasinan. Contact with other cultures does not enrich
but rather annihilates Pangasinan.

The invisible limits of what remains a Pangasinan-speaking area are readily noticeable as
one takes a bus ride from the city of Dagupan outward to any direction. One notes how,
after travelling 20 kilometers or so, the passengers conspicuously change to Ilocano the
way the driver shifts his gears. So small has the area grown that the Pangasinenses, once
a major ethnic group, are now reduced to mere cultural minorities.

Political campaign strategists in Manila erroneously and sweepingly consider Pangasinan

as part of Ilocandia. To native Manileño, other region, a Pangasinense is an Ilocano.
Campaigner therefore, who spice their speeches with a smattering of Ilocano idioms
usually endear themselves to Pangasinan audiences.

If this trend goes on, one dreads that day when Pangasinan-speaking people,
cultural minorities that they are now, will be edged out into the sea, like the rats of
Hamelin, there being no mountain vastness in Central Pangasinan to which they can
retreat. That would mean the death of Pangasinan. And when that happens,
“lingotopsy” will surely unravel the following causes of the death of the Pangasinan

For one thing, there has been no serious and sustained effort to preserve, much less
propagate, the dialect. One vital factor in the propagation of any language is the
development of its written literature. But alas, Pangasinan literature is largely oral. There
is a dismal death of vernacular, including a novel in series. The Pangasinan novel, too,
assuming that it deserves such a name, has almost died with the late Maria Magsano of
‘Samban Agnabenegan’ fame. Ironically this novel and some other works which include
Colegiala Dolores Nami-ko (a translation from Japanese). Bales na Kalamangan, can be
obtained more easily in their English translation than in their original version. The
translations were done by Juan Villamil who also has novels to his name, notably: Ampait
ya Pagbabawi, Pakseb na Kapalaran, Pinisag ya Puso, Diad Tape na Daluyon and Sika
Tan Siak.

The themes of these novels and their variations have nourished for some time another
indigenous literary form – the zarzuela. The zarzuela used to be popular fare not only
among the simple barrio folk but also in the more sophisticated poblacion.

Years ago, no town fiesta was complete without a zarzuela as a major presentation. Now
zarzuela is a dying art. One last ditch effort to revive the art was weekly radio program
‘Zarzuela on the Air’ directed by Lorenzo Morante, but it did not last.

Lorenzo Morante, who is better known as Lorenzo ‘Tason-taso’, represents the last
gasping breath of another dying art-cancionan.

Cancionan is Pangasinan’s answer to the Tagalog ‘Balagtasan’ or the Ilocano

‘Bukanegan’, a sort of verbal joust usually between a man and a woman. It used to share
equal popularity with the zarzuela. Now, too, it is a literary form in its death throes.

Original Pangasinan songs and ribald tales are occasionally hummed from oblivion by
older folk usually after several glasses of alac-bogbog or CDC gin. Unfortunately, these
songs and tales never get written for posterity.

Of course, the most readily accessible literature in Pangasinan is the Bible and a few
religious literature like taw-tawag, galikin, and passion. But how many read today?
Another cause for the death of Pangasinan ‘lingotopsy’ is that assertion made at the start
of the essay: that Pangasinan speaking people are generally not assertive. Some even go
to the extent of denying their dialect.

That is understandable. With hardly a literary heritage to stand on and with a stage of
linguistic development suitable only for grade two, how can Pangasinenses expect to
stand with pride beside Ilocano and Tagalog? Pangasinenses take pride instead in their
facility in learning other languages and getting themselves lost in or assimilated by other
cultural groups.

Two Ilocanos can transplant Ilocandia anywhere in the world as they use their dialect
without feeling embarrassed even before a king. Children of Pangasinenses who migrated
to other regions, however, hardly know their parents’ tongue.

Pangasinenses are uniquely funny. As hosts, they try hard to seek the language of their
guests. As guests, they struggle with the language of their host. Which is a very
convenient way of losing, as it were, one’s roots. Must the Pangasinan dialect be left to
Hundred Islands

Lose yourself among the Hundred Islands, scattered like emeralds in the deep blue
waters off Pangasinan. Unexplored coves and islets await seekers of solitude. Each
one in its own pristine beauty basks in the sun, lapped by the waters of Lingayen

Situated in Alaminos, Pangasinan, Hundred Islands is a gem waiting to be

discovered. Choose among it's many facets. Soak in the sunshine on the white sand
beaches of Quezon Island. Frolic in the shallow waters of Children's Island. Hire a
boat and go island-hopping. Explore the abundant marine life beneath the waters of
Lingayen Gulf. Hike through caves and across island trails and discover interesting
rock formations.
Only three of those myriad islands have been partially developed in the interest of
ecological balance. Accomodations on these developed islands are rustic and basic,
for those who wish to touch base with nature. Nipa huts and duplexes offer simple
facilities, such as kerosene lighting, a drum of fresh water, and trundle beds.

Pangasinan is a province 250 kilometers north on Manila. The province is bordered
by the provinces of Zambales and Tarlac on the south, Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva
Ecija to the east, La Union on the north and the Lingayen Gulf to the west. The name
Pangasinan was derived from the word "asin" or salt due to Pangasinan's vast salt
making industry. The province is also a major producer of mangoes, rice, milkfish
and bamboo handicrafts.

Today, Pangasinan is more known for its most popular tourist attraction which is the
Hundred Islands National Park. A cluster of more than a hundred islands off the town
of Alaminos on the Lingayen Gulf. Of which, the biggest island is named Quezon.
Most of the islands are small and uninhabited and are only occasionally visited during
the day by local and foreign tourist. Most of the bigger islands have beaches where
visitors can spend the day or camp out for a picnic.

However, only a few of these island have facilities. Those that offer facilities are:
Quezon Island with viewing decks, toilets and picnic sheds, the Governor's Island has
accommodation facilities for those who would like to stay longer and the Children's
Island which has bathrooms, camping and sleeping areas.

Now, visitors to the Hundred Islands can better enjoy their vacation with water
sports facilities offered for rent at Lucap Waterfront (Tel # +63 75 5512246) for
activities like jet skiing, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, parasailing and big game

Other Tourist Attractions of Pangasinan:

Places of interest in Pangasinan are: the 2 lighthouses in Bolinao: the Cape Bolinao
Lighthouse in Barangay Patar and the Port Bolinao Lighthouse in Guigui-wanen in
Barangay Luciente; the Tara waterfalls in Bolinao; the pristine Balingasay river;
Antong Falls in the town of Sison; the Urduja House in Lingayen; the Salasa Church
in Bugallon; Mount Balungao in Balungao; Manleluag Spring National Park in
Mangatarem; Bolinao Museum; Sanctuario de Senor Divino Tesoro in Calasiao;
Redeemer’s Cross; Agno Umbrella Rocks and the Lingayen Gulf War Museum in the
town of Lingayen.

For the adventurous, there are several caves in

Pangasinan waiting to be explored. There is the
Cacupangan cave in the town of Mabini, Cindy’s cave
in Bolinao and the 200 meter Villacorta Caves in the
town of Villacorta with waterfalls, pools and rock

Aside form the beaches found on the Hundred

Islands, one need not get a boat ride to get to a
beach in Pangasinan. The coastline of Lingayen Gulf
is blessed with numerous beaches for tourist and
vacationers. There is the Bonuan beach, videoke stalls to match and other beaches
that dot the coastline of Pangasinan.

Best Beaches of Pangasinan:

● Abrak Beach in Bolinao has huts for rent for the

budget conscious and several resorts for those with
bigger budgets.
● Tambobong Beach, also in Dasol has pristine waters and a fishing village serves as
a backdrop.
● Colibra Island, in Dasol has a beautiful shoreline; clear waters that is good for for
diving and snorkeling. The island’s beach however has no shade. So be prepared to
get a dark tan.
● Tondol Beach in Anda town offers a long stretch shallow and calm waters. Ideal for
● Arnedo Beach also in Bolinao offers several resorts, some with surfing facilities with
reasonable rates.

Philippine Normal University

Taft avenue, Manila
Philippine History 1

History of

Submitted by:
Sheena Peralta

Submitted to:
Prof. Remedios Ong

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