Philippines: Globalization killing Pangasinan language

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Sep 4 15:04:13 UTC 2007

Monday, September 03, 2007

Globalization killing Pangasinan language

LINGUISTICS experts expect Pangasinan to be a dead language in 20 years.

Only half of Panga-sinan's population speak the Pangasi-nan language. The
rest of the Pangasinenses speak Ilocano and Tagalog. And many parents talk
to their children in Tagalog—not in Panga-sinan.

To reverse this tend, one of the first acts of Gov. Amado Espino, who took
office after winning in the May 14 election, was to set a policy to preserve
the Pangasinan language. He immediately made his subalterns in the capitol
and the officials of Pangasinan's municipalities aware of the threat of
extinction facing the Panga-sinenses' true language.

So now, unless you are a foreigner, you must speak Pangasinan at the capitol
and most of the town halls of the province.

Pangasinenses have welcomed this policy. Non-Panga-sinan natives—like
national government officials detailed in the province—are now learning to
speak the Pangasinan tongue. (Many Pangasinenses, especially older ones,
don't mind calling their language "Pangalatok." As far as they are concerned
that is the name of the language of their semi-legendary heroine Prinsesa
Urduja and the real-life writers Juan Saingan, Felipe Quintos, Narciso
Corpus, Antonio Solis, Juan Villamil, Juan Mejia and Maria C. Magsano.)

Espino has also drawn everyone who can help, such as historians, educators,
linguists, artists, and the media, to organize activities to make all
residents (even the Ilocano speakers) to take an active part in preserving
and making more people zealous about promoting the language.

The half of the province's population who speak Panga-sinan are located in
the central part. Experts are worried that before long the province will be
mainly Ilocano and Tagalog speaking Pangasinenses.

This is happening because many children are speaking Tagalog, Ilocano and
English at home instead of Pangasinan. Parents encourage this practice for
the sake of making their children ready for the imperatives of
competitiveness and globalization.

The use of Tagalog by Pangasinense families talking to their children has a
pragmatic reason. They went to give their kids an advantage—because Tagalog
and English are the languages used in schools.

The TV, cell phones and other modern means of communication are also
undermining the Pangasinan language. TV programs received from Manila are of
course mainly in Tagalog and rarely in English—never in Pangasinan language.

In the remote areas in the old days, as recent as a decade ago, before the
inner barrios were electrified, traditional theater—the comedia as it is
called in Pangasinan—was the only entertainment rural folk had.

Comedia presentations were always done in Pangasinan, of course. And various
government agencies—mostly the Department of Agriculture—used it as a
teaching tool.

Now no one uses these techniques anymore. With electricity and TV everybody
can tune in on the government programs giving farming and fishing advice in
English and Tagalog. There are of course local radio broadcasters who speak
in Pangasinan.

The families whose OFW kin have sent enough money for computers and CDs, can
watch shows in English the whole day. Information technology and the passion
to be competitive in the global economic village are without a doubt helping
shrink the numbers of the Pangasinan ethnolinguistic people.

What Gov. Espino is doing and laws to preserve and make the use and learning
of Panga-sinan attractive to Pangasinense children may reverse the trend.

In 1048 Pangasinan speakers made up 3 percent of the Philippine population.
Now they make up only 1 percent—maybe even less.

Pangasinan's total population was 2,343,086 according to the last census.
Speakers of the language are concentrated mostly in central Pangasinan.
Outside Pangasinan province, Pangasinan is spoken in Zambales, Tarlac, Nueva
Ecija, Nueva Visaya and Benguet, and by a significant number of Pangasinan
immigrants in the United States.
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