Language prof: “Our indigenous languages are sacred”

Baguio City — Seminarians and formators of Casiciaco Recoletos Seminary were reminded of the importance of preserving and enriching indigenous languages during a lecture given by a leading language scholar of the Cordilleras.

“Our indigenous languages are sacred,” said Dr. Stephenie Lee Ong-Busbos, who gave a lecture on the indigenous languages in the country as part of the culminating activity of Buwan ng Wika last August 26, 2019 at the mini-theater.

Dr. Busbos, who used to conduct English conferences and modular classes in the seminary, is now the department head of the Professional Education, School of Teacher Education and Liberal Arts of St. Louis University, and a leading researcher on indigenous languages and cultures in the Mountain Province.

She said that of 185 languages spoken by Filipinos, only 28 are used as educational languages for only these have orthography, the system of grammar and spelling indispensable for academic endeavors.

Dr. Busbos also showed graphs depicting the number of Filipino indigenous languages on the brink of extinction, if not already extinct, a phenomenon which is tragically undeniable among scholars and local communities.

“I urge you, when you become religious and priests, learn the language of the community where you will be assigned,” Dr. Busbos told the seminarians.

“We must help preserve our languages, for we cannot separate language from culture,” she said. “Language is anchored on culture; it is anchored on the heart of the Filipino.”

Aware of the diverse ethnicity of the seminarians, she urged them to constantly use and preserve their native tongues, and to learn other languages as well as part of their apostolic endeavors.

“I urge you, when you become religious and priests, learn the language of the community where you will be assigned,” Dr. Busbos told the seminarians. “Use these native Filipino languages in your apostolates. In this way, you bring God closer to the people.”

Seminarians of Casiciaco Recoletos Seminary come from all over the archipelago, especially in places where the Recollects maintain strong missionary presence. For this formation year, there are 3 seminarians who come all the way from Mindanao, 2 from the Cordilleras, a good number from Tagalog-speaking Central Luzon while the majority are Visayans.

Fr. Anthony Irineo, OAR, dean of studies and senior high school principal, told the assembly that the early Recollect missionaries in the Philippines also did their share of learning and preserving indigenous languages and cultures in the Philippine regions.

Proof of this, he said, were the volumes of regional language dictionaries painstakingly written by the Recollect missionaries, as part of their apostolic endeavors, which are now preserved at the Bulwagang Recoleto in Mira-Nila.

Fr. Irieneo added that St. Ezekiel Moreno, who was for 15 years a missionary in the Philippines, was also a fluent speaker of the Tagalog language which paved the way to his becoming the official preacher of the Recollects in Manila at that time.

“Kung seseryusohin natin ang ating bokasyon, kailangan din nating aralin ang salita ng ating kawan,” he said.

Filipino Recollect missionaries — present in Africa, Taiwan, and Indonesia — learn the languages of their places of assignments in order to better communicate the Gospel to these people.

In the afternoon, seminarians went on a hiking trip to the nearby Tam-Awan Village in Brgy. Pinsao Proper to better understand and appreciate Cordilleran art, architecture and culture.

Seminarians pose with a tour guide of the nearby Tam-Awan Village.

Featured Photo Caption: Dr. Busbos with Fr. Irineo and fourth year seminarians.

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