Community Member Bio: Nelita Cristobal

 This week on the ELAR blog, ELDP grantee Alexandro Garcia Laguia interviews Nelita Cristobal, an Alta speaker who is working with him to document the Northern Alta language in the Phillipines. Thank you to Alexandro and Nelita for providing this interview!

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your language?

My name is Nelita Cristobal, but most people here call me ‘Ate Tikkay’. I was born in in 1962 and I attended Diteki Elementary school, which at the time was just a hut covered with palm leaves.

Our language is very useful because it allows us to communicate without being understood by the Tagalog. There are stories saying that lives have been saved thanks to this! Maybe we can record one of them some time.

2. Is your language still spoken by everyone in your community?

Yes, we still use it! We usually speak it with the other Alta, unless there are people belonging to other ethnical groups around, in that case we speak Tagalog.

Ate Tikkay and Ate Carmelta enjoy their betel nut in a hut nearby Barangay Diteki (May 2017)

 3. How did this project to document your language begin?

I remember when you (Alex) came to Diteki for the first time in 2013. You were asking us whether the children can speak Alta. At the time, it made us realize that we needed to do something in order to preserve the language, given that the children speak Tagalog and not Alta!

Three generaions of Alta: Ate Tikkay, her daughter Jocelyn and her granddaughter

4. Can you tell us a little bit about the people who work on the project?

They clearly enjoy their time here but they also work hard. We appreciate very much what they are doing for us, and for the next generations of Alta. Personally, I enjoy their presence here and try to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

5. What are your thoughts regarding this project?

I would like for the other Alta to also collaborate and make things easy so the project can be concluded successfully!

6. What impact do you believe this project will have/has had on your community?

The project has made us think and discuss about the situation of our language, and this is already a success. Also, thanks to the project, people seem to be suddenly interested in our culture. Several Alta children are even trying to speak the language and feel now proud of their Alta origin, which was not the case in the past.

7. What is your favourite word or phrase in your language? And why?

I don’t really have a favourite word, because for me every Alta word is as important as any other.

8. What has been the best thing about being involved in the ELDP project?

A few weeks ago, I assisted Alex, Marilyn and Harry when the four of us travelled together to Villa, one of the remote Alta villages. The Altas there were amused by the fact that a white man could speak their language so they called him the “americalta”. During thetime we stayed in Villa, we made several recordings in which I participated as interviewer.

Ate Tikkay interviewing Pepito Sarmiento in Barangay Villa, a remote Alta community (May 2017)

We also made a small replica of the “sa’long” the kind of Alta hut where I lived when I was a child. That little trip into the hills of the Sierra Madre was of one my best experiences with this project.

Ate Tikkay and her nephew Lorenzo build a replica of the traditional Sa’long hut in a watershed nearby Barangay Villa (May 2017)

9. What are your hopes for the future of your language?

I really hope that the children will eventually learn the language and pass it on to their own children in the future. This is why I would like to tell them “I’na, pe’’aralan miyud ina, polung tami, para ti’say ay awon miyu iyebut in polung tam” (“This is one of the things you really have to learn, our language, so it will not be lost”)

Thank you to Nelita and Alex for contributing this interview to the blog! To learn more about Alta, visit Alex’s deposit page, found here