Kinaray-a Writers Movement Hatched over Coffee and Love for the Language

By: Leomel H. Pasquin

“AY MAAN, di takon ka intsindi!”

This is the line that I usually hear from locals of Calinog, Iloilo when someone tries to explain a certain thing to them in English.

Perhaps, this is how I feel in return when someone talks to me in a very deep Kinaray-a.

How much more, if somebody dares me to read a poem written in it?

Ay maan du lang!

About three decades past, Creative Writing as a college course was not yet hatched and the most students could get from the university was Philosophy or Literature.

Sadly enough, most of the materials used were foreign literature – ranging from Plato to Blake, and Shakespeare to Goethe.

The foremost reason is that we don’t have a sort of Filipino Philosophy just like what Bro. Abulad has claimed. That also goes to say that there was no determinate emphasis on the essence of local literature back then. Students were made to look up to the West.

In short, while these masterpieces were instrumental in shaping our consciousness to the wonderful world of literature, one thing remains undeniable: that we do not have the adequate language to fete our own nor we do not have the artistry to hone it.

Blame it, of course, to how we were taught from the start: that English literature should be the model for sophisticated arts, and that the global market has only room for literature written in it.

Hence, the masterpieces of Steven Javellana, Francisco Sionil Jose, Jose Garcia Villa, Nick Joaquin and many more. Filipino have crafted good books, but still the fact remains that it does not come close to even a single percent of English writers.

This brings to mind the very words of Ludwig von Wittgenstein, an Austrian mathematician, logician and philosopher: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

While it is true that English language has already been the core of our education, we could not deny the fact that our primary vernacular language can be the sole medium for which we can express ourselves very well.

In other words, our very own language has all the cultural elements from which we can fully express ourselves with ease without being constricted by terms that are rather alien to us. It does not mean that English language is bad, it just that we need to give room to our vernacular to nourish and bloom; and to consider it as part of the bold foundation of teaching literature.

Because we cannot say it accurately than using our native language. We cannot describe things better than employing our own vernacular languages.

In Iloilo alone, there are two major dialects: the Hiligaynon and the Kinaray-a. (Or sometimes three by considering English for coños who employ it in an odd and repulsive way).

While the former have been commonly recognized in the field of literature, the latter is gradually taking roots in clustered yet effective movements in raising the awareness about it. Proof of this is the group of young and promising writers headed by Jesus Insilada, a three-time Palanca Awardee in Hiligaynon Short Story.

Gathered over cups otf native brewed coffee in a humble yet cozy place called GroupMates Cafe in Calinog, Iloilo, this group of emerging writers have mustered their courage to share and discuss their masterpieces – all done in Kinaray-a dialect.

What is remarkable about it is that this group had managed to criticize, polish and even overhaul the whole plot and made it culturally suit the typical Kinaray-a culture. It was some sort of a bayanihan done in an unusually unique literary way.

“If we use a metaphor, make sure it is typically Kinaray-a – something that is ordinarily understood by the readers yet does not lose the tinge of artistry in it,” said Insilada.

“Although it is acceptable to mix Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a, it would rather be pure and consistent to just stick to one language that we all are naturally familiar with.”

Insilada served as the mentor, the ultimate critique and the foremost charmer of the group. He ensured that all lines or sentences were framed within explicable picture using the Kinaray-a.

Kinahanglan, maintindihan ka mgagabasa ang inyo gusto ipalab-otkananda (Make sure that the readers understand what you ought to convey to them).”

I was only mesmerized at how passionately shared their thoughts over a certain term and clarified it before the group. While I could not figure some of the terminologies used, nonetheless, I could well sense the dedication and the passion they all poured into their individual masterpieces.

Some had done it in poetry, others in short story other were reluctant yet to share with the group. But what is important is that this movement is taking roots among the writers who are not fluent in using the English language. Interestingly, this group is composed of public school teachers – something that is very surprising given their loads of daily compliances to be passed to their higher offices.

Well, thanks to the initiative of Dr. Jesus Insilada. The group had taken off with about 10 members, and others were signifying the interest to join in.

The meeting lasted about four hours. But those four hours were filled with certain admiration at how a group of young writers have come to embrace the challenge of giving meat to the nascent Kinaray-a literature.

I am not a native Karay-a speaker, and I am using the English language in writing this; I have not even spared a thought of reading the works of Peter Solis Neri, nor the sensational magnum opus of  Alain Russ Dimzon,  but I have come to realize that, there is nothing more meaningful than going back to the roots and maybe it is about time that I join the movement.

It is about time – like the sweet sound boiling native coffee simmering to the brim – to hear the language from the ground up and get involved.