Latest Stories
Hometown Snapshot

Cordillera folktales in local languages for K-12 students


The Cordillera has always been full of magic and mysteries. The fly buzzing one’s ear may be a friend transformed by a “mandadawak” (shaman or local healer) or the dog burrowing a field may be showing the way to a gold mine.

Cordillera literature is almost all oral and can only be heard chanted or sung in wakes and rituals.

“This may be the reason I chose to be a writer. Fantastic stories are common place in my memory,” says Florenda Pedro, a freelance researcher and member of Ubbog, a group of young Cordillera-based poets and fiction writers.

A few months ago, Pedro decided to go home to Cervantes, a remote town in Ilocos Sur near the border of Mt. Province. Although considered an Ilocano town, most villagers there speak Kankanaey.

FLORENDA Pedro, a writer and researcher, has compiled stories and poems in Kankanaey that she hopes will help in educating children in her native Cervantes in Ilocos Sur. PHOTOS BY RICHARD BALONGLONG

Pedro had learned about the plan to use the mother tongue to teach children in primary schools in remote towns like Cervantes. A program known as the Philippines’ Response to Indigenous Peoples and Muslim Education (PRIME), with funding from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and in coordination with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Department of Education (DepEd), sought the translation of English and Filipino stories to the mother tongue, which, in Cervantes’ case, is Kankanaey.

But a more novel idea by Cervantes elders is the codification of their stories into Kankanaey.

Under the DepEd’s K-12 program, the only major local languages or mother tongues are Tagalog, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Iloko, Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray, Tausug, Maguindanaoan, Maranao and Chabacano. Recently, the DepEd added Ybanag, Ivatan, Sambal, Aklanon, Kinaray-a, Yakan and Surigaonon.

These languages are used in the primary grades as bridges to English and Filipino.


Extra innovative

Since Kankanaey or other Cordillera languages were not included, local teachers had to be extra innovative to teach their students, especially those still learning to read and write. That includes using Kankanaey in telling tales and reciting

poems and chants, and later translating them into English and Filipino.

No one among the teachers in Cervantes was bold enough to venture into this, and Pedro, a cultural activist, decided to go at it.

CHILDREN in the Cordillera will benefit from the use of local languages in schools.

Being a researcher, she listened to the stories of her childhood and even those of her father. She was able to compile 14 stories and poems in Kankanaey.

These are “Bussan Ko” (“My Pig,” a poem), “Butatto” (“A child named Butatto,” another poem), “Da Bayyek en Gaki” (“The Tadpole and the Crab,” a story), “Da Bukang ken Liway” (“Bukang and Liway,” a tale), “Da Kabbigat en Pali” (“Kabbigat and Pali,” another tale), “Da Ket-an en Pag-ong” (“The Snail and the Turtle,” a fable), “Dasan Mangngi an Nangan si Padana ay Mangngi” (“A Monkey Who Ate His Own Kind,” a cautionary tale), “Gatan en Bangan” (a folk prayer), “Saba” (“Banana,” a poem), “Kuttabo” (a tale told by a father), “Labeg” (a poem), “Samotti nan Nanpuan di Malaya” (“A legend of Malaya village”), “Si Kabunian de Begas” (a folktale) and “Lidom” (a poem).

These stories will be compiled and tested on Grades 1 to 3 pupils in the remote village of Malaya. If successful, Kankanaey will be included in the DepEd’s K-12 module.

Pedro’s friends in Ubbog also researched on other Cordillera stories and compiled them into a book. Ubbog’s Rocky Cajigan, Rey Aurelio and Hector Kawig heard of a story told in snippets in Sabangan,

Mt. Province, and came up with “Eaten.”

“Eaten” is part of four magical tales compiled in “The Golden Arrow of Mt. Makilkilang and Other Cordillera Folktales,” which was launched by the Cordillera Green Network (CGN), an environmental nongovernment organization, at Mt. Cloud Bookshop on June 30.

Other stories (all translated in English) in the book are “Legend of Arimoyan,”

“Paco Paco” and “The Golden Arrow of Mt. Makilkilang.” These are illustrated with wood and rubber cuts by Haruka Furusaka, Leonard Aguinaldo, Joey Cobcobo and Fara Manuel.

Not only environmental in nature, the stories are shared only among people in the villages of origin, says Mariko Sorimachi, CGN executive director.

During the launch, CGN introduced the Aanak di Kabiligan, a group of theater performers from the Cordillera, who would share these stories through improvised theater.

Only 1,000 copies of the children’s book were printed, of which 200 will remain with Mt. Cloud and CGN. The rest were distributed to schools in Sabangan and Barlig towns in Mt. Province, Balbalan town in Kalinga, and Kapangan and Kibungan towns in Benguet.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Cordillera , National Commission on Indigenous Peoples , News , Regions

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  2. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  3. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  4. Massive infra spending set
  5. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  6. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  7. Passengers denied chance to escape sinking South Korea ferry
  8. South Korea president shouted down by distraught parents
  9. Two Popes who would be saints
  10. Lacson’s wife loses diamond earring to thieves but recovers jewelry quickly with police arrest
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  4. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  5. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  6. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  7. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  8. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  9. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  10. Palace: We can’t blame increase in population on Vitangcol
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  5. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  6. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  7. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  8. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  9. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  10. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct


  • Title of new Hillary Clinton book: ‘Hard Choices’
  • Filipinos, Dutch re-enact crucifixion of Christ
  • 14 killed in car bombing in Homs
  • 57-nation group plays key Ukraine monitoring role
  • French President Hollande’s top aide resigns
  • Sports

  • Nadal ousted by Ferrer in Monte Carlo quarters
  • Pacquiao shorts in Bradley fight sold for P1.7M in LA auction
  • Ryu pitches Dodgers past Giants
  • Alonso sets the pace in Chinese GP practice
  • Heat seek Three-peat but Spurs, Pacers top seeds
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Business

  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Filipina accomplice arrested for fake bills in Malaysia
  • DoH denies Filipino nurse no longer positive for MERS virus
  • WHO warns vs spread of MERS-Cov, urges vigilance in taking precautions
  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks
  • Marketplace