Saturday, September 14, 2013

Naming Names

We have been getting rains and thunders and lightning in the past weeks. Decades ago, September was the time when we should be finally getting out of the typhoon season but climate change had changed that. Or maybe we are not really listening to the weather. Or watching them.
While doing my research on Cordillera terms, I was astounded that the Ifugaos have not two or three words for clouds. They have at least 16! They are Baliknug (Clouds that surround the sun/moon), Bunabun (Clouds that expand), Halibubu (Clouds that looks like floating water plants), Imbunong ( As if a shadow under a cloud), Kulput (Clouds that scurry low), Libbuwog (Clouds that hide the sun), Mamuliyo (Clouds carried by gentle wind), Manulul (Clouds that exchange places; cross each other), Maugo (Light white feathery clouds), Mompaidu (Clouds that pass through each other), Mon-abunab (Clouds that hug the earth), Mon-ambayug (Clouds that appear to wear a hip bag), Monhanubangal (Clouds that pass each other), Mumbulyun (Nimbustratos clouds), Mun-nut-nut (Clouds that drop down like seeds of cotton) and Nahyung (Cumulus clouds).
This was compiled by Roy Barton in the 1940s. Imagine pointing to the clouds and getting this much answers.
Not only that. Barton also compiled the different thunders from the Ifugaos of old. They have Binabaan (Toothed thunder), Ngumalakngak (Rattling thunder), Umalolot(Throbbing or vibrating after a thunderclap), Umalakaak(Rolling thunder), Nginalakngakan (Intermittent rattling thunder), Umalogo-og ( Deep rolling thunder),Bumayugbug (Shaking ground and house thunder),Dumunguwol (Like the cry of a startled pig thunder),Umungngul (Diminishing end of a peal thunder) andUmunuwol (Thud-like falling tree thunder). The rest of us only have two names of thunder: Loud and Extremely loud. As Kawayan Thor de Guia said when I told him of the different thunders, "What genius!"
The more I researched about the terms, the more I am suprised and dumbfounded.
Also because these are words that matter to them. The Isnegs have many names for bad spirits. And why not? The tropical jungle was so mysterious and deep there must be millions of bad spirits lurking there. Which helped them and their environment because a Apayao person dies, they declare a part of the river or forest as lapat because the spirits will be staying there for awhile.  And you don't know what bad spirit will get into you. Woe if you get Landusan, for example the spirit of extreme poverty. When you become malandusan, it means, well, you become extremely poor. Lundasan must be stinging a lot of Apayaos because the province seemed to be a permanent member of Club 20 or the 20 poorest provinces in the country.
But as I read a lot of dictionary entries in Ibaloi, Kankanaey, Ifugao, Isneg and Bontoc, I realized how poor my own vocabulary is. I am nalandusan in this regard.
I now listen to the thunder with a different ear and the clouds with a different eye. Not only Both Sides Now ala Joni Mitchell. I now look at the months the way the Lepanto-Bontocs saw it, waiting for the right bird to appear and sing.
These are the words that disappeared with the appearance of Americans and these are the words we should govern ourselves now before we talk about autonomy. 
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