I have finished my college degree in Cagayan State University in Tuguegarao city, and I have stayed there for half a decade. But I haven’t really learned to speak the local dialects – Ibanag and Itawes. Maybe I can understand three to four words in a ten-words sentence. I am from a minority tribe of the cordillera and I only speak the Ilocano dialect.
For more than two decades, I have survived in three provinces (Palawan, Kalinga and Cagayan) with my three languages (Ilocano, Tagalog/Filipino and English), and it wasn’t hard.
Recently, me and my wife (a full-blooded cebuana) travelled to Cebu to attend her lola and uncle’s wake. It was my third time to be in Cebu, and it was at that time that I get to really meet my wife’s relatives. A lot of them. And with all of about a hundred faces that I saw, I’ve only had a real 5-15 minutes conversation to three of her cousins and two uncle and single exchanges of phrases to a dozen of them. My mother-in-law have 11 siblings. The obvious reason was, first, I cannot speak Bisaya and they don’t speak much Tagalog. Sometimes, some would even laugh at themselves as they hear their own lips parting with tagalog syllables. And secondly, I am not too confident to start a conversation if I’m not sure that it interests them. I was disappointed for bringing myself unprepared for such situations. I felt like a stranger, unrelated and different.
I do believe in the value of building strong relationships with your spouse’s relatives. Though marriage is a union of two persons, it is also an acceptance of the couple as members into each other’s family. It is then therefore important and mandatory to learn your spouse’s dialect because family members ought to speak the same language. Furthermore, it is a need in order to break the barrier into your spouse’s often unrealized culture.
In one of one of the evenings during our recent trip to Cebu (It was the night after the burial), me, my wife and her mom was at the Grand central hotel lobby. That moment, my wife and her mom were exchanging quick Bisaya phrases. I couldn’t understand what they were talking about but it seems like there was a simple trouble of some sort. I haven’t offered any help for I know it wasn’t that serious, otherwise, my wife would’ve notified me. Then suddenly, my mother-in-law ran outside across the 20m yard of the hotel through the pouring rain and waved at a taxi. She just called a taxi to take us to another place where we’ll have a dinner with the rest of their relatives. So we took the taxi but my mother-in-law stayed, for she was still waiting for someone else. I was so embarrassed letting my mother-in-law do that while I stood there and waited what she was going to do. Two days later, she had a headache and was not feeling well. There were other situations where I could’ve really helped and just volunteered if I knew what was going on around me. I’ve had many embarrassing moments that I am ashamed to tell to the whole world. I have realized that one key to becoming a delightful son-in-law is to observe and assimilate to be able to be the right man at the right time and place. And one key to efficient observation and assimilation is listening to casual conversations of people around you. And one key to efficient listening is an excellent knowledge and comprehension of the language used.
There are lots of things during our recent trip to Cebu that I have missed because I don’t know the dialect. Possibly, a chance to;
– build friendships and bond with my wife’s relatives.
– Personally know them and for them to know me as well.
– Exchange valuable knowledge.
– Laugh at their amusing stories and conversations.
– Make connections for possible future opportunities.
– Experience and learn new things.
– Know how to delight my Cebuana wife.
– Know the things that shouldn’t be missed when you are in Cebu.
– Many other things…
There are about 80 local dialects spoken in the Philippines. Though we are all Filipinos, each dialect spoken by each majority or minority groups expose their unique culture, norms and personality. For all of us to be more united then, it is a basic need to at least have a knowledge about each one’s dialect.
To everyone concerned, it is important to become fluent with your spouse’s dialect – Especially Bisaya. There are still many things that I believe I can learn from my wife. There are still undiscovered aspects about my wife that I’d be able to learn and will strengthen and flourish our understanding and love for each other – WHEN I will learn to speak her dialect.