By OLIVER SAMSON
IRIGA CITY: Singing icon Nora Aunor, actors Jaime Fabregas and Rez Cortes, 2010 Miss Universe runner-up Venus Raj, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Eddie Ilarde, a former assemblyman, senator and congressman, are Bicolano but they speak Rinconada.
Frank Peñones, Rinconada Dictionary project head, said the late Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin was fluent in the language that has persisted through the ages in the peninsula.
“If we go by the out-of-Taiwan theory of Peter Bellwood, et al., Rinconada may have been spoken as early as 4,000 years ago,” he said.
“And if by Wilhelm Solheim’s or [Stephen] Oppenheimer’s Sundaland theory, then it would be much older.”
In his lexicographic work with the Summer Institute of Linguistics, Peñones describes the language which has withstood extinction in the vastness of Camarines, Albay and Sorsogon.
He said Rinconanda is deemed lingua franca in Iriga, the towns of Bula, Balatan, Baao, Bato and Nabua while it the name of the geographic and political district that includes Buhi whose folk speak another tongue.
“Like most other Philippine languages, Rinconada belongs to the Austronesian family of languages,” Peñones said.
“Bellwood believes that the Proto-Austronesian languages were spoken by the people of South China and brought to Taiwan about 7,000 years ago.”
Studies show migration to Northern Luzon down to Mindanao occurred about 2,000 years ago.
Peñones also cited Solheim’s Nusantao Maritime Trading and Communication Network Theory, tracing the origin of the Austronesian-speaking people 50,000 years ago in what is now called Sundaland.
“Jason Lobell (a literary writer in Rinconada language) identified at least 16 consonants and 3 vowels” he said.
“Other linguists, however, say it has six short and similar number of long vowels, and 17 consonants.”
What makes the Rinconada language unique is its usage of an extra consonant phoneme which sounds much like the letters h, y and w, according to Peñones.
“The Rinconada-Iriga variety has retained the high central schwa vowel from Proto-Philippine, a sound heard in words like ‘spur’ or ‘curl’,” he said.
“In addition, Lobell noted the ‘presence of a speech registry reserved for use in anger,’ which he observed is, ‘usually either loosely derived or totally unrelated to their normal angry equivalents.’”
Peñones believes that the language with its body of literature can hold a candle to the dominant Bicol tongue.
“The late Fr. James O’Brien, SJ, an Irish-American who taught at the Ateneo de Naga and spoke Bikol himself, attributes this to the (presence) of the Rinconada district,” he said.
Among the published works using the language are Rangang Rinaranga (My Beloved Land) by Peñones, a collection of poems with his English translation published by Naga City: Agnus Press in 2006; Mga Tulang Tulala by Kristian Sendon Cordero; Rinconada Bikol-Filipino-English Phrasebook by Lobell and Grace Bucad, a tourist-guide book published in 2001; and the Rinconada edition of the Gospel of Luke published by the Scripture Translators of Rinconada. – The Manila Standard