My parents are migrants from the Visayas. My mom is one hundred percent Ilongga and my father, a true Boholano. My two sisters and I were all born in Marawi where almost everyone speaks Minaranao . We moved to Iligan in the late 70s where we all learned to speak Cebuano.


My elder sister used to say that our home is both a linguist’s treasure trove and a language teacher’s nightmare. Sure, everybody at home can understand Inilonggo/Hiligaynon, Binol-anon, Cebuano, Tagalog, English and bits of Minaranao. But code switching, a no-no in communication, is an integral part of our tongue. Like, one Cebuano sentence may contain words borrowed from other languages or dialects. For example: normally, we construct our sentences like this before our Cebuano-speaking friends: Nakuratan ang iro mauna nidagan sya sa tindahan. But at home, that simple sentence is deconstructed like this: Nakuratan ang ido mauna nagdalagan sya sa store. Or even perhaps like this: Na-surprise ang doggie so nagdagan sya sa store. See, the first sentence contains 2 Ilonggo words (ido and nagdalagan) and 1 English word (store). The second contains 4 English words meshed in an Ilonggo-Cebuano construct.

Another stuff at home that would probably excite linguists (or make them cringe) is our ‘carambola’ dialogue. A classic example during mealtime:

Younger Sister: Makantano! (Minaranao for “Let’s eat!”)
Me: Busog pa ako.(Tagalog for “Im still full.”)
Elder Sister: Lami ang sud-an. Friend chicken! Sige na! (Cebuano for “The food/viand is delicious. Fried chicken! Come on!”)
Mom: Abaw, sin-o nagluto sini? (Ilonggo for “Oh, who cooked this?)
Dad: Aw, kinsa pa kundili ako! (Cebuano for “Who else but me” but delivered in the usual brusque Boholano way)
Elder Sister: Ok, let’s pray … (English)

People often find these disconcerting so we try to tone down our code switching ways or just stick to one language or dialect whenever we have guests at home.


My sisters and I used to wonder how my dad courted my mom given their diverse ethnolinguistic backgrounds. My father, back in the 60’s, can’t speak Ilonggo and my mom, being a genuine Ilongga, neither understands Binol-anon. The mystery was solved when my elder sister found a chestful of letters hidden behind my grandmother’s aparador. My mom and dad’s love letters… written in English. Definitely, this was my parents’ version of ‘love will always find a way’. Mwahahaha!


Code-switching is a term in linguistics referring to alternation between two or more languages, dialects, or language registers in a single conversation, stretch of discourse, or utterance between people who have more than one language in common.- wikipedia