Filipinos from other regions have a general impression of the Ilonggos as “malambing”, meaning sweet or affectionate. It can be attributed to our language. We speak with a sing-song intonation that could sound very sweet to the ears of a non-Hiligaynon speaker.
I am sometimes torn whether to refer to our language as Hiligaynon or Ilonggo. Most non-Ilonggos and even the Ilonggos would refer to our language as Ilonggo. I’m neither a historian nor an expert in linguistics but through various articles I came across, Ilonggo is what you call the people that inhabit or whose ethnic origin is Western Visayas. Hiligaynon is the lingua franca of the people of Western Visayas for there exist other languages such as Kinaray-a of Antique, Capiz and the hinterlands of Iloilo and Akeanon of Aklan.
In Negros Occidental, Hiligaynon is widely spoken by the majority especially in the west coast while in the east coast facing Cebu people speaks Cebuano. Seldom can you hear Kinaray-a except perhaps from those who are Kinaray-a speakers living in Negros Occidental.
Ilonggo historian Henry Funtecha has some interesting insights on why Hiligaynon is the dominant language of the province. Rich families from the lowland of Iloilo migrated to Negros during the boom of the sugar industry. They became hacienderos and became prominent families. They brought with them sugarcane farm workers (sacada) from Antique and the hinterland towns of Iloilo where Kinaray-a was widely spoken. Imagine if you were a sacada during those times and your amo (boss) is speaking in Hiligaynon, you would probably be speaking the language of your employer too.
If you want to learn Hiligaynon, just download the Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) Language Packet being used by the US Peace Corps. Learning to converse in Hiligaynon is easy but learning the intonation is not. But if you want to learn Hiligaynon you have to start somewhere.
The language pack cotains phrases for daily communication needs. Even for Ilonggos this tutorial can come in handy if you want to review your Hiligaynon. Sometimes when we use English in our daily conversations we tend to forget correct usage of our own language.
Again, here’s the download link: