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Ilocano, also Iloko and Ilokano, refers to the language and culture associated with the Ilocano people, the third largest ethnic group in the Philippines. The native area of the Ilocano are in northwestern Luzon and is the defining identity for the Ilocos Region

Table of contents
1 People and Culture
2 Language
3 Related Articles
4 External Link

People and Culture

Ilocanos are of Malay stock, descendants of Southeast Asian migrants that settled the Philippines in successive waves for centuries. The term Ilocano come from i-, meaning "from", and loöc, meaning "cove or bay", thus "people of the bay." Ilocanos also refer to themselves as Samtoy, a contraction from the Ilocano phrase saö mi ditoy, meaning "our language here".

Ilocanos occupy the narrow, barren strip of land in the northwestern tip of Luzon, squeezed in between an inhospitable mountain range to the east and the open sea to the west. This geographic coincidence molded a people known for their clannishness, tenacious industry and frugality, traits that were vital to survival. It also induced Ilocanos to become a migratory people, always in search for better opportunities and for land to build a life on. Although their homeland constitutes the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and parts of La Union and Abra, their population has spread east and south of their original territorial borders. Ilocano pioneers flocked to the more fertile Cagayan Valley and the Pangasinan plains during the 18th and 19th centuries and now constitute a majority in many of these areas. In the 20th century, many Ilocano families moved further south to Mindanao, and they became the first Filipino ethnic group to immigrate en masse to North America, forming sizable communities in the American states of Hawaii, California, Washington and Alaska. A large, growing number of Ilocanos can also be found in the Middle East, Hong Kong, Japan and the urban centers of Canada and Europe.


Ilocano or Iloko (ISO 639 ilo) is a Western Austronesian language spoken in Northern Luzon and in various parts of the country and around the world. It comprises its own branch in the Philippine Cordilleran family of languages and is the lingua franca of the northern region. It is spoken by about nine million people.

Orthography, Phonology & Morphology

Ilocano has two dialects: Northern "deeper" Ilocano and Southern Ilocano. The difference between these two dialects are merely regional variations in lexicon and intonation. The southern speech, in addition, uses six vowels instead of the usual a, e, i, o, u sounds that the northern dialect employs (using Spanish orthography). Southern Ilocanos (e.g. those from La Union and Pangasinan) has two distinct sounds for the vowel e, a frontal easy "e" like in "men" for many loan words in Spanish and English, and an unrounded "uh" sound for native words.

For example, the word for "yes" is wen. Northern speech would pronounce it as wεn which rhymes with "men" while Southern speech would pronounce it as wuhn.

Ilocano employs a predicate-initial structure and uses a highly complex list of affixes (prefixes, suffixes, infixes and enclitics) and reduplications to indicate a wide array of grammatical categories. Learning simple root words and corresponding affixes goes a long way in forming cohesive sentences. Ilocano also has five sets of pronouns.

Example: Root word for bath is digos.

         Agdigos (to take a bath)
         Agdigdigos (bathing)
         Agdigdigosak (Bathing I am)
         Agindidigos (Pretending to bathe I am)

Written Script (see Baybayin)

Pre-colonial Ilocanos employed a syllabic script similar to Vedic writing in India and used in languages throughout Indonesia (e.g. Buginese) and the Philippines. This writing system was not limited to elite classes but was widely used in the population prior to European arrival. The script is akin to the Tagalog and Pangasinan scripts but was the first to designate coda consonants with a diacritic mark. Whereas the Tagalog script expected its reader to supply the coda consonant based on context, the Ilocano script was innovated with a cross verama to designate coda consonants. The Ilocano Doctrina Cristiana of 1621, one of the earliest surviving publications, display this device.

Common expressions

Yes                     Wen
No                      Saän (haän is a southern variation as "h" is not commonly used in Ilocano)
How are you?            Comosta?
Good day                Naimbag nga aldaw
Good morning            Naimbag nga bigat
Good afternoon          Naimbag nga malem
Good evening            Naimbag nga rabiï
What is your name?      Ania ti naganmo? (often contracted to Ania't naganmo)
Where's the bathroom?   Ayanna didiay baño?
I love you              Ayayatenka               
Sorry                   Pacawan
Goodbye                 Sige or Innakon (I'm going)

Numbers (Bilang), Days, Months

1                       maisa
2                       dua
3                       tallo
4                       uppat
5                       lima
6                       innem
7                       pito
8                       walo
9                       siam
10                      sangapulo (from maysa nga pulo or "one ten")
11                      sangapulo't maysa (10 + 1)
20                      duapulo
50                      limapulo
100                     sangagasut
1000                    sangaribo
1000000                 sangariwriw
1000000000              sangabilion (from billion, English)

Day (aldaw)/Week (lawas)/Month(bulan)
For these names, Ilocanos use the Spanish terms

From Monday to Sunday: Lunes, Martes, Miercoles, Hueves, Viernes, Sabado, Domingo

From January to December: Enero, Febrero, Marso, Abril, Mayo, Hunio, Hulio, Agosto, Septiembre, Octobre, Noviembre, Desiembre

To mention time, Ilocanos use a mixture of Spanish and Ilocano
1:00 a.m. A la una ti bigat (One in the morning)
2:30 p.m. A las dos-imedia ti malem (in Spanish, Son las dos y media de la tarde or "half past two in the afternoon")

second segundo
minute daras or minuto
hour oras
day aldaw
week lawas or domingo
year tawen

Related Articles

External Link