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Ipalakpak an alima1

(A Study on Surigaonon and Kamayo Dialects of the

Surigao Provinces in Mindanao)

Mundiz, Teresa May A.

Dr. Riceli C. Mendoza

AL 114—Applied Linguistics

May 20, 2010


Let’s all clap hands together

This paper takes a closer look on the intelligibility of the Surigaonon and the Kamayo languages

of the Surigao Provinces in Mindanao with that of the Cebuano Visayan. Oftentimes confused as

the waya-waya or the jaun-jaun language, Surigaonon finds its speech community among the

Surigao del Norte inhabitants as well as a few number of municipalities in Surigao del Sur.

Kamayo, on the other hand, is common among the Surigao del Sur inhabitants. From a select

number of children’s songs common in the Surigao islands, the paper, seeks to discover the

morphological structures, phonological processes, and the semantic features of Surigaonon

language of Surigao del Norte, Cantilangnon Surigaonon, and Bisliganon Kamayo to establish

their intelligibility with the Cebuano Visayan language.

Ipalakpak an alima

(A Study on Surigaonon and Kamayo Dialects of the Surigao

Provinces in Mindanao)


“Surigaonun bisan hain dali ra kilay-an

Kay dali ra man hisakpan sa sinultihan
Lain-lain di kun pareho an inistoryahan
Kay an waya-waya, wara-wara sa iban.”

--lyrics from SURIGAO Surigaonun


And there he was looking in the bus from the outside.

Slouching on the window seat inside the bus, one could hear the

drowning horns and calls from everywhere around the bus terminal. There

were porters selling their services, bus inspectors checking for their

schedules, passengers getting agitated for the yet again late ride, and

families sending off relatives. But most of all, there were peddlers all over

the bus terminal that it would be unusual not to bump at any one of them.

Then, there was that sunglass vendor who could not seem to help but stare

at someone going up in the bus, seemingly stalking at the same person,

following her trail as she sat by the window—to peddle his glossy, black,

plastic goods.

The sunglass vendor kept his gaze, one who seemed to be in search for

an effective pre-sales opener. And he walked towards the window to ask the

passenger—the author—of her whereabouts. Taga Mangagoy diay ka? So,

waya waya imung sinultihan? (So you’re from Mangagoy? Then you must

have spoken Waya-waya?) He gave his widest grin; one would think he would

miss that quick, annoyed glance she had thrown down at him. Luckily, the

sunglass vendor left for another waya-waya passenger, getting the cue not

to bother her with his sales talk.

Making herself comfortable on her side of the window, the author

thought, the incident was not really a new one. Nothing could bring a good

laugh than being mistaken for something or someone you are not. And there

have been too many similar instances—way too comforting that she thought

she had found herself explaining about her family or so. But to be mistaken

quite a few times of virtually the same thing is different. The author realized

that whenever people hear her say she is from Mangagoy, or even just see

her among the passengers on a Mangagoy bus, the waya-waya2 language

would always be associated. And if not waya-waya, these people would call it

“inday-inday”, “jaon-jaon”, “maradjaw karadjaw” or even the infamous

“pospoyo.” These misnomers have added to the lists and even confusion of

what the language really is.

Located in Region 13, CARAGA, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur

make up the provinces of Surigao. It was in the 1960 that the province was

divided into the Surigao geography knows today. Thus, it is unsurprising that

for the people in and outside the Surigao provinces, Surigaonon becomes a

general term for identity or the term given to the people of Surigao.

However, as much as the passengers of Mangagoy bus in Ecoland would

Just a misnomer for the Surigaonun language as known to non-Surigaonun speakers

want to agree with the term, the waya-waya or Surigaonon language will

always be attributed to and spoken by the people living in the Surigao del

Norte region. Even one of the interviewee for this paper added that

Surigaonon language is not the same as Visayan and Kamayo. Albeit the

difference, a Surigaonon speaker still understands what the speakers of

Visayan and Kamayo has to say, or a Kamayo speaker to a Surigaonon or

Cebuano Visayan—after all, the languages are also being used among the

people in Surigao provinces.

Then again, in spite of the widely accepted notion that Surigaonon is

only for the Surigao del Norte speakers, there are still municipalities in

Surigao del Sur which speak a variation of the Surigaonon language.

CarCanMadCarLan—Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen and Lanuza are the

municipalities whose language is considered to be variations of the

Surigaonon of Surigao del Norte language (wikipedia and Lewis ed., 2009).

Mangagoy, on the other hand, is one of the 24 barangays of Bislig city

in Surigao del Sur. With Kamayo as a widely spoken dialect in the province,

living in Bislig city presupposes that one also speaks Kamayo. However, the

existence of PICOP until its bankruptcy in 2008 in Tabon, along with

Mangagoy and the other 22 barangays, has brought along language change

with the migration of people. Hence, with Mangagoy as the commercial

center and Tabon as the home of PICOP, Kamayo is spoken alongside other

languages such as Cebuano Visayan. Bisliganon Kamayo, then again, finds


the majority of its speakers in barangays Poblacion (the city capital),

Pamaypayan, San Jose, San Antonio, Lawigan, Bocto, Sibaroy, Tumanan,

Caguyao, San Vicente 1, Santa Cruz, Coleto, Pamanlinan, Borboanan, Mone,

San Isidro (formerly known as Bagnan), and Kahayag (formerly known as

Palo) (Ramil Go, personal communication). Despite the geographical

differences of the speakers of Bisliganon Kamayo, the language still has a

generally uniform set of vocabulary, speech patterns or even registers

inherent to the Bisliganon Kamayo speech community.

Similar to the Surigaonon language, Kamayo also has its variations

among the other municipalities in Surigao del Sur namely, Barobo, Hinatuan,

Lingig, and Tagbina. But then again, of the Kamayo speech communities,

the Bisliganon Kamayo is said to have a more distinct linguistic

characteristics compared to the other Kamayo speech communities. Prior to

the existence of the paper company, PICOP, and the cityhood of Bislig, the

Bislig roads and highways were not as developed as they are now. Because

of this, transportation was not viable if not altogether possible. Hence, there

were not many opportunities for workers from other municipalities to

migrate. This resulted to a near isolated status of Bislig, and the further

development of the Bisliganon Kamayo (Bernardito Macaranas, personal


Though the author has lived among the Bisliganons ever since, she still

finds herself being from the outside looking in at the kind of language used

by the people of Bislig in much the same way as she is trying to understand

the Surigaonon language. This paper, hence, is an attempt to identify and

explicate the intelligibility on the linguistic features of the two languages—

Kamayo and Surigaonon –according to their variants as the Bisliganon

Kamayo and the Cantilangnon Surigaonon with that of the Cebuano Visayan.

The author used children’s songs in Surigaonon and Bisliganon Kamayo texts

(with translation from English) along with a number of randomly chosen

Cebuano Visayan words translated into the said languages to illustrate and

establish similar and contrasting linguistic features of Surigaonon,

Cantilangnon and Bisliganon Kamayo to the former. The songs were limited

to a very few number since, according to the interviewees, in exception for

their hymns—Surigaonon Hymn, Cantilangnon Hymn, and Bisliganon Kamayo

Hymn—much of the songs they have known are in their original texts as

Cebuano Bisaya or in English. In addition, the children’s songs are

meticulously chosen to include easily identifiable terms as body parts,

domestic animals and even colors alongside discernible linguistic features

inherent to the languages.

In consequence, the songs included in the paper would have “original”

or “translated” indications beside their titles. The former signifies that the

speech community really has their version of the song; the latter signifies

that the text would have been translated from the original English or

Cebuano Visayan versions. Yet with the case of the Cantilangnon

Surigaonon, the translations would have to be oftentimes reflected form the


main Surigaonon language, or what this paper would call, Surigaonon


Much as this paper would try to encompass the languages widely used

in the Surigao provinces, Surigaonon and Kamayo were strategically chosen

since they are the genetic language in the Caraga Region. Also, the

availability and accessibility of the interviewees were considered in the

writing of this paper. Another thing to take note of is that with the migration

of people as an essential part in shaping a language, the

interviewees/speakers then regard whatever form of the languages they are

familiar with as correct.



A widely circulated joke between a Surigaonon and a Cebuano has

become the toasts among social circles of the two languages. The joke goes:

One day, two strangers met in one of the piers in Surigao

City. One was Surigaonon, the other was Cebuano. Both of
them were said to leave for Cebu. But, it was the Cebuano
who brought out the question.

“Bai,” the Cebuano opened. “Unsy ngalan sa barkong

padulong Cebu?3”

“Inday uno4.” the Surigaonon answered nonchalantly.

Later in the evening, the Cebuano was still waiting for the
ship with the name Inday Uno.

For anyone who is used to travelling to Cebu, Inday uno is a valid name

for the motor vessel heading Visayas. But for a Surigaonon, Inday uno could

never be a ship’s name. If it were a Kamayo asking, he would have

Bai, what’s the name of the ship heading for Cebu?
I don’t know.

understood. So does a Cantilangnon from Surigao del Sur. But then again,

Inday uno would have been said differently. A Kamayo would say Inday,

while, a Cantilangnon would say Inday lam.

Inday, hence, is understood as “I don’t know.”

In the pre-1960s, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur was only

known as Surigao islands. For this reason, there is an intelligibility that

somehow exists between Surigaonon and Kamayo with the influences of the

former from the Cebuano Visayan, Leyteño and Boholano languages (Wolff,

1982). And with the migration of people, language change has also reached

Caraga region. Hence, Cebuano Visaya is also among the languages

permeating among the Mindanao regions, particularly in the Surigao

provinces. To establish the said intelligibility among the Surigaonon and

Kamayo languages particularly on the Cantilangnon Surigaonon, Surigaonon

naturalis and the Bisliganon Kamayo with that of the Cebuano Visayan, this

paper has used songs to help identify features inherent in the morphological

structure, phonological processes, and semantic of the said languages.

The following sample nursery and children’s songs are a representation

of the linguistic patterns—the morphological, phonological and semantic

features—of the Surigaonon, Cantilangnon Surigaonon and Bisliganon

Kamayo and the Cebuano Visayan. The songs have been translated in

English for better understanding of some words. But for the purposes of this

paper, Surigaonon from Surigao del Norte would be labeled as Surigaonon

naturalis, Surigaonon from Cantilan would be labeled as Cantilangnon


Surigaonon, and Bislig Kamayo would be known as Bisliganon Kamayo (Click

Here or open file: mam rice_paper_songs.doc).