Using intellectualized Sugboanon Binisayâ

Topic |  

Using intellectualized Sugboanon Binisayâ

Topic |  


Sugboanon Binisayâ is already a well developed language.  It has already a sophisticated grammar and the vocabulary is already extensive.  However today only very few can use Binisayâ in an intellectualized discussion.

Binisayâ is now used only in colloquial conversation and communication.  As a colloquial language it now tends to be pidgin. It combines the grammar and vocabulary of Binisayâ, Spanish, Tagalog, and English.  Our colloquial Binisayâ, which unfortunately is the language used in our MTB (Mother Tongue Based) instruction, could not be intellectual because it is confusing as to meaning and intention of the speaker.

We are no longer a colony of the United States of America in terms of the political situation but our minds and intellect are still very much colonized by the Americans.


English language bias

The Spaniards made it a point that they will not teach Spanish to the Filipinos.  The Spaniards were the ones who studied the different local languages. It made the major languages in the Philippines to become at par with the Spanish language.

When the Americans established their public school system in the Philippines they made it a requirement that only the English language will be used.  Spanish and the local languages, like Binisayâ, were prohibited in school. Now, after 116 years of using only English in school for many generations we have forgotten our own language and are now bias in favor of the English language.

For example: If a Boholano is given an examination using the English language and he could not pass the examination, he is labeled as “dull student” or bulók.  If an American is given an examination using the Binisayâ and he could not pass, he is not labeled as “dull student” or bulók. Why is this so? At most you will just say that the American does not know Binisayâ that was why he did not pass the exam.  It clearly shows our colonized mind.

Different languages

English is an inflectional language.  It relies so much on the verb. Also, English is classified as an Indo-European language.


Binisayâ is an agglutinative language.  It relies so much on the affixes. Also, Binisayâ is classified as a Malayo-Polynesian language.


It is very clear therefore that our pidgin colloquial Binisayâ cannot convey the proper meaning.  To make your Binisayâ intellectualized, you must study properly the grammar of the agglutinative Bisayan language that is very different from the inflectional English language.

Wrong assumption

In our bias for the English language, when there is a difference in the English grammar and Bisayan grammar, we always assume that the Binisaya is wrong. Why?


Let us consider the use of tenses.  The English language uses tense, which is past, present, and future tenses.  Binisayâ uses aspect of time. In Binisayâ you only have an idea of the time but it would not be specific past, present, and future.

The Binisayâ has an indeterminate aspect of time or aorist tense in English.  You were not taught about aorist tense because it is not found in English grammar.  It happens when the sentence do not have a verb, which is not allowed in English.


For example: “Matahom si Maria.” Litarally it means “Beautiful Maria”.  This is not allowed in English because there is no verb. It has an aorist tense.  The proper translation is “Mary is beautiful”. There must be the linking verb “is”.

According to English grammar “is” is to be used for present tense and singular.  Who told you that “is” is to be used when there is no verb in the Bisayan sentence? Why not “was”?

Clearly the English translation is not accurate because “Maria is beautiful” means that she is only beautiful now.  So tomorrow she will not be beautiful because you must use “will be”.

The Bisayan “Matahom si Maria” means that Maria is always beautiful.  It can be yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

Now which language has a better way of saying it?  Is it the generalize statement in Binisayâ or the selective statement in English?  When I present this “problem” to my students in Binisayâ, majority will respond that Binisayâ has a wrong grammar.  Why? Is it not that English is deficient because it do not have the aorist tense?

Long sentences

I am always asked by educated people why it is that when they will write in Binisayâ the sentences tends to be longer than English.

My usual answer is because you are thinking in English and translate it into Binisayâ.  The grammars are different so your translation tends to be long.

Write it using Bisayan grammar and the English translation will be long.  For example: “Nagpakapárì si Pedro.” The accurate translation is “Pedro is assuming the role of a priest.”  It is different from “Nagpapari-pari si Pedro”, which means “Pedro is pretending to be a priest.

Intellectualizing Binisayâ

I have read books written in English regarding Thai and Chinese grammars.  The usual approach is to discuss English in terms of the Thai or Chinese languages.

This is the approach that I use in my lectures.  I discuss Binisayâ in terms of Binisayâ. If there is a need for comparison I compare it with English with Binisaya as the reference.

My companions in LUDABI and Akademiyang Bisaya explain Binisaya in terms of English.  IT tends to consider that English has the correct grammar and Binisayâ is wrong if it will not conform to English.  It is a common mentality among educated people.

For example they will say that bato is a noun.  I always say, “Wait a minute”, bato is only a base word.  It can become any of the substantive words. “Bató = stone” is a noun. “Báto” with stress in “ba..” means throw stones and is a verb.  “Batoón = stony” is adjective and “batóon = will throw stone” is a verb. “Kabatoán” is adjective while “batoánay” can be a verb or adverb.  How about “bato-báto”, “binatóan”, “nabató”, etc, and hundred other variations?

You must be able to handle the more than 4,300 affixes in order to have a good intellectualized Binisayâ.

The best reference book that I read is the “Analysis of the Syntax and the System of Affixes in the Bisayà Language” by J.D. v.d. Bergh, M.S.C. originally written in Dutch for Dutch missionaries and translated to English by G. Trienekens, M.S.C., 1958.

The Sacred Heart Missionaries (M.S.C.) are assigned in Surigao, Surigao and Cordova, Cebu.  The Bisayan language is analyzed in terms of elements and not the usual subject and predicate of the English taught in school.

Why do we want Binisayâ to be intellectualized?  It is because there is so much local knowledge in the towns and barrios that are neglected and not included in the school system.  What are our medicinal plants? How about our proverbs, culture and traditions? What happened to our science and mathematics? A culture that can already count from zero to billion or build ships of 2,000 tons weight with two or three tiers or bireme (Bis: saníb) or trireme (Bis: lapíd) is a culture worth preserving.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply