Discovering Ilocano

I spent new year with my friend in Camiling, Tarlac. On the way, we passed by several interesting landmarks like Hacienda Luisita. I also was treated to vistas of hills, mountains, and vast expanses of rice plantations during the bus ride. What caught my attention though while I was in Camiling was the language.

Ilocano is a language spoken by around 8 Million Filipinos according to statistics in Encarta. When I went to Tarlac, it was the first time that I went to a place where Tagalog is not the common language. The friend whom I visited in Camiling speaks the language and here are some interesting observations that I made.

I noticed that there are some Bisayan words in Ilocano. For example I heard her use uli (go home) and balay (house) during a conversation. These two words are actually also found in Bisaya and they mean the same thing in both languages. The comments below seem to debunk this claim.

Then of course I heard some Spanish words. When my friend was speaking to me in Tagalog, she made use of words which I did not believe were Tagalog (I had to assume they were Ilocano). A walking stick or a cane is called Baston in Ilocano. In Chabacano, a cane is also called baston but it is called tungkod in Tagalog. She said: "kailangan nating magdala ng baston." And then there's the word carga which she also used while she was speaking in Tagalog to me. She said: "may carga ba ang album?" and "cargahin natin yung lalagyan mo ng tubig." What's very interesting is the fact that cargar is actually a Spanish verb which means to load.

I never got to ask my friend though if these are indeed words used in Ilocano. But non native speakers of Tagalog (when speaking in Tagalog) usually tend to mix their native language with Tagalog just like people in Zamboanga do. Anyone out there reading this who speaks Ilocano is welcome to shed some light on it.

My friend said that Ilocano is fast disappearing in Tarlac. What used to be the common language in Tarlac is now slowly being replaced by Tagalog. In fact when one is in their downtown area, you could easily get by if you don't speak Ilocano. I actually only heard Ilocano when I was among families and older people. The young people, especially those working or studying in Tarlac city I observed spoke Tagalog.

These are very interesting discoveries that I made during my short stay in Tarlac and I hope that it spurs some interest in you to learn a second Philippine language. I strongly hope that one day, students can learn how to speak other major languages in the Philippines aside from Tagalog like Ilocano, Ilonggo, Bicolano, etc.


  1. I think uli is not the right term forgoing home rather it is agawid...uli means to climb up or to go up, depending on the action...because ilocano words has orcific usage and not to general like tagalog...carga is spelled as karga, a loan word not only used by ilocano lang. but of tagalog as is also a fact that not all ilocano know the deep ilocano words mostly in the southern is also correct that tagalog is already becoming dominant language but this problem is more rampant in the cities...but renewed use may resurrect because of the mother tounge language use in the primary school

  2. Hi, let me react with the Ilocano word for "go home"... it's "agawid" not "uli".. but i'm familiar with the word "uli" because my dad is also a Bisaya ( yah, i'm Half Ilocano). And, Tarlac province is not purely an Ilocano-speaking province, well in fact, some of them also speak in Kapampangan (southern part especially in Tarlac City ), Tagalog, and Zambal (dialect in Zambales). I'm not sure if "uli" is also a Kapampangan term. Kindly check. thanks

  3. Sorry for the mistakes in this article guys and thanks for the corrections.