Filipinos from other regions have a general impression of the Ilonggos (people of Western Visayas) as “malambing”, meaning sweet or affectionate. It can be attributed to our language, Hiligaynon. We speak with a sing-song intonation that could sound very sweet to the ears of a non-Hiligaynon speaker.
Hiligaynon is a member of the Visayan language family and spoken by around 7 million people native Hiligaynon speakers and 4 million people who knows how to speak it. There are native Hiligaynon speakers not only in the Visayas but in Mindanao as well, such as in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat largely due to the migration.
Hiligaynon or Ilonggo?
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 Iloilo province but it is commonly used to refer to the people of 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 speak Bisaya or 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 (employer) is speaking in Hiligaynon, you would probably be speaking the language of your employer too.
How to Learn Hiligaynon Language
If you want to learn Hiligaynon, I am providing you with two valuable files to download, a Hiligaygon learning guide and a Hiligaynon-English dictionary.
The first file is the Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) Language Packet which was designed as guide for Hiligaynon language training for the US Peace Corps in the Philippines. It has a list of common phrases for daily communication, Hiligaynon to English dictionary, a workbook and grammar notes. The guide has everything you need to start to learn Hiligaynon. 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.
The second file is John Kaufmann’s 1934 Visayan-English Dictionary (Kapulúñgan Binisayá-Ininglís). The title is a little misleading but it is a Hiligaynon to English Dictionary. A little side note on this, our Spanish colonizers used the word Visayan to refer to the inhabitants of Panay, Negros and Romblon islands and the inhabitants of Cebu, Bohol and Leyte were known as Pintados. More on this at Wikipedia.
This Visayan-English dictionary can come in handy for Hiligaynon speakers too since it has a lot of words which are no longer commonly used in daily conversations. Since the dictionary was published in 1934, there are a lot of things which are slowly disappearing in our culture due to modernization which can still be found in the dictionary.
Learning to converse in Hiligaynon is easy but learning the intonation is another thing. But if you want to learn Hiligaynon you have to start somewhere and these files are all you need.
Download your copy below.