The Boholano Language

IJsselstein, Sunday, 11 August 2013 18:07:31

On Bohol, most people speak Cebuano, or, to be more exact, the local dialect of Cebuano, called Boholano. It differs in some aspects from the Cebuano spoken on Cebu. For example:

Cebuano: Akoa baya ning sinilas.
Boholano: Ahoa baja ning sinilas.
Tagalog: Akin itong tsinilas na ito.
English: This is my slipper.

However, you will not face too much trouble making yourself understood on Bohol. Many people speak English, and almost all speak standard Cebuano as well as Tagalog.

In the Philippines, some people have the unfortunate habit of calling the indigenous languages "dialects", a misconception that dates back from the days of Spanish colonial rule. Although related, the various languages spoken in the Philippines are quite distinct languages, with their own vocabulary and grammar, and are often not mutually understandable.

The names used for languages in the central Philippines are somewhat confusing, to say the least. As the central group of islands is called Visaya (or more properly Bisaya, as there is no V in any of the languages spoken there), some people call Cebuano 'Visayan' or 'Bisayan' (Binisaya), however this term is confusing, as this name is also applied to Hiligaynon (also known as Ilonggo), spoken on Panay and in Negros Occidental, and Waray-Waray, spoken on Leyte and Samar. The Cebuano language is spoken on Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor and parts of Negros, Northern Mindanao, and Leyte. Adding to the confusion is that many Filipino's call these languages 'dialects', even though they are quite distinct in many aspects, similar to the differences between English, Dutch, and German.

Of the three main Bisayan languages, Cebuano is the most common, spoken by about a third of the Philippine population and first language to more Filipino's than any other language, including Tagalog (Although the Philippine government tries to downplay the number of Cebuano speakers, by listing Boholano and other dialects of Cebuano as separate languages).

As a side-note, also in Borneo, there is a people calling themselves Bisaya, speaking yet another language called, you guess it, Bisaya. The historical connection is of course that most Filipino Bisayans migrated to their current homeland some 1000 years ago. In a semi-literate population (the language had its own script before the Spanish conquest), separated by seas and mountains, a language can change a lot in such a span of time, so again this language is unintelligible to Filipino Bisayans, just as much as most English speakers won't be able to make much out of Anglo-Saxon.

Soft-Boiled Rice

One time, three men met at a trail crossing. One was a Boholano, another was a Pangasinan, and the last was Pampangueño. Each had only a smattering of the dialects of the others, but they managed to learn from each other that they were all bound for the same destination and to make it understood between them that, because of the distance and the difficulty of the way, it would be a good thing to travel together. They each carried an equal quantity of rice and agreed to put all their food together to make the cooking easier in the camp.

They walked on for several days and their supplies were running low. Finally, while camped near a spring, they noticed they had only very little rice left.

"Mayap no lilotan tapamo para dakal," said the Pampangueño. (It would be better if we make lilot so it will be more).

"Pare, lugaon lamang ang bugas aron madaghan," said the Boholano. (Pal, lets make linugao of the rice so that it will be enough for us).

"Andi u-umpay, maong na balbalon tayo piano dakel," said the Pangasinan. (No my friends, it would be better if we cook binolbal, so it will be more.)

"I tell you, lets make linugao," said the Boholano.

The Pampangueño got angry: "No lets make lilot out of it."

"Stop," shouted the Pangasinan alarmed. "It would be very unwise to quarrel here. Let us re-divide the rice so that each one of us could prepare his share in his own way." They did so and soon three fires were burning beneath three pots. When the cooking was finished and the three men looked up from their efforts, Their eyes widened in surprise.

"Linugao!" cried the Boholano.

"Lilot!" exclaimed the Pampangueño.

"Binolbal!" shouted the Pangasinan.

They all only cooked the rice a little longer and with more water, making the grains larger and softer than usual. A common understanding might many times have saved both time and temper.

From Boholano Folklore by Maria Caseñas Pajo.

Jeroen Hellingman