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“If you lose the language, you lose the culture as well.”
This was the reason why the researchers of the National Research Council of the Philippines were so eager to save the indigenous language – Hanunuo Mangyan from extinction.
Hanunoo Mangyan Script scribble on fresh bamboo wood
Photo source: Atlas of Endangered Alphabets

 Researchers of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), in its effort to save the Mangyan culture from extinction, produced an e-dictionary app of the language, and provided clear and strong policy recommendations.

Dr. Rochelle Irene G. Lucas and Dr. Melvin Jabar’s project, Language Preservation and Documentation of Hanunoo: Saving the Mangyan Culture, will soon officially release their policy recommendations through an NRCP Policy Brief as it got publication approval from ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and NRCP during the recently concluded NRCP Seminar-Workshop: Policy Brief Writing on April 19 and 22. An e-dictionary application was developed for the purpose of preserving the language from extinction. The e-dictionary showcases the Hanunoo Mangyan script, the lexical items in Hanunoo Mangyan, Filipino, and English.

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According to the study, the Hanunoo Mangyan language, despite being alive because it is widely spoken in the communities, the younger generation of Hanunuo Mangyan are no longer literate in their system of writing. This illiteracy will eventually lead to language loss in writing their script.

 Lucas added that for the Hanunuo Mangyan script to be used by the community including the younger generations, this needs to be accessible, visible, and functional. The Senate Bill Number 706, or as well-known as Resource Centers for Indigenous Peoples Act of 2019, iterated the establishment of resource centers in indigenous people’s communities that may assist in the preservation efforts of the languages and orthographies of ethnolinguistic groups.

Drs. Lucas’ and Jabar’s policy recommendations include: (1) promote the use of Surat Mangyan as part of the Mother Tongue- Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) curriculum of the Department of Education (DepEd) for Kinder to Grade 3 through the Indigenous Education Program (IPED); (2) promote the use of Surat Mangyan in community/barangay/LGU documentations of Hanunoo Mangyan activities such as town hall meetings, observance of traditional practices, and sharing of indigenous knowledge; (3) institute the annual Indigenous Peoples (IP) Language Week celebration to be held on the week of February 21;

(4) provide support to all IP groups in instituting the School of Living Traditions (SOTL) by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for the preservation initiatives of the IP communities in saving their culture and traditional knowledge; and (5) develop e-dictionary applications for other IP languages in the country to be funded by NRCP through its National Research Development Agenda initiatives.

This initiatives fall under one of the priority research areas of NRCP’s National Integrated Basic Research Agenda (NIBRA), particularly on Inclusive Nation Building (ATIN Program). The language documentation was conducted in the villages of Umabang and Bailan of Barangay Benli of the Municipality of Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro.

Saving a language from extinction is considered a very significant move in saving the culture of the country. Do you know other Philippine languages that need saving and restoring?