Honoring Madam Norma Duguiang, lead MTBMLE pioneer and advocate from Lubuagan

Norma Duguiang in her classroom

We learned the sad news that Madam Norma Odiem Duguiang joined her Maker last Dec 24, 2014 due to heart attack.. She's the hardy teacher of Lubuagan Central Elementary School who along with other fellow teachers advocated for MTBMLE long before it became a policy. She spoke in the Congress during a deliberation on a language and education policy. She was also one of the resource persons who equipped the first sets of national MTBMLE teacher trainers of the Department of Education. 

In 2009-2010, I would bring my graduate class to her hometown to observe the MLE classes in Lubuagan Central Elementary School and Mabilong Elementary School. 

Madam Norma would open her home to us. It's actually the ancestral house of the Odiems, a traditional three level wooden structure with so many spacious rooms.  She would tell us stories behind the Kalinga artifacts that are displayed all over their place. She would point to the large pots saying that their women would  use them to draw water from the river. The beautiful multicolored beads that adorned their necks were made of expensive ceramic material. They would make replicas out of recycled plastic material.

Our favorite topic, of course, was the issue of language. She would express her sadness about how their young are forgetting some Lilubuagen words.  “I am sad that the young people today do not know original Lilubuagen words like how we call the anahaw leaf which is alaaw. They have also forgotten the names of some indigenous kitchen utensils since they have come to prefer those plastic wares.”   

Norma's house
My EDFD 221 students at Madam Norma's house
Madam Norma would remember the challenge of learning in an unfamiliar language. She  would refer to the time in the 1960s when the vernacular was supposed to be the medium of instruction. Since their teachers were Ilocano, they were forced to learn to read and write in their teachers’ language. That time nobody from Lubuagan was educated enough to be a school teacher. At least Ilocano was then the trade language and so they could get by. 

Lubuagan beads
MTBMLE Class at Lubuagan Central Elem Scl
MTBMLE board work in 2009
The most difficult moment was when the bilingual policy was imposed in 1974. Madam Norma was in the middle of her social studies class when her supervisor came. She was asked to immediately switch from English to Tagalog. A stack of paper was placed on her lap detailing the new policy requirement to use Tagalog in teaching Social Studies. At that time Tagalog was totally alien in most places in the Philippines. Tagalog was not yet widely used in radio or TV. Besides, there was no electricity yet in Lubuagan.  Teaching became burdensome and unnatural because she had to consult a Tagalog-English dictionary so often. 

And so the prospect of using Lilubuagen in school was something that was warmly welcomed. Using the local language has improved the performance of the school. Their ranking moved from the bottom to the top in their in the whole division of Kalinga. In a feature story on TV by Howie Severino, it was found that Lubuagan pupils even outperformed the pupils of Caloocan City, Metro Manila.

Thank you Madam Norma for opening your home to us, for showing us the reasons why our language and culture are worth remembering...

Ched Arzadon

To cite:
Arzadon, C. (2015, January 6). Honoring Madam Norma Duguiang, an MTBMLE pioneer and advocate from Lubuagan. Retrieved from http://mothertongue-based.blogspot.com/2015/01/honoring-madam-norma-duguiang-mtbmle.html


Resolution in Support of the Right to Use Ilokano and Other Languages in General Education Curriculum (GEC) and Teacher Education Pre-Service Curriculum

WHEREAS, we delegates of the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language note that the use of languages in the General Education Curriculum (GEC) has become a subject of recent debate.

WHEREAS, the Philippines is a multilingual country for which multilingual policies are just, sensible, and timely;

WHEREAS, the Philippine Constitution upholds academic freedom for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and also the freedom of expression;

WHEREAS, the choice of languages should first and foremost be motivated by educational principles and not political machinations;

WHEREAS, Philippine local languages have been effectively pioneered in a variety of higher education contexts from Luzon to Mindanao, Hawaii, and beyond;

WHEREAS, there is no scientific evidence that other languages besides English and Tagalog are innately inadequate for academic discourse;

WHEREAS, the use of mother tongues can enrich classroom discourse and critical thinking, and recent research demonstrates that development of one’s first language correlates with literacy skills in second languages even into adulthood;

WHEREAS, the use of mother tongue in basic education is now institutionalized as part of the Enhanced Basic Education Curriculum (RA 10533);

WHEREAS, Filipino is the national language, it should not be privileged at the expense of others as all Philippine languages are our heritage and collective patrimony, and can be intellectualized through the initiative of their speakers;

WHEREAS, a Filipino language requirement, whether as a subject or as a medium of instruction, contradicts the purpose of General Education;

NOW, THEREFORE, the delegates of the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language duly assembled:



  • to declare that the GEC be free from medium of instruction requirements that target a specific language 
  • that should a Filipino language-related subject be included in the GEC, it should be applicable and open to various Philippine languages  
  • to revise the Teacher Education Pre-Service Curriculum thoroughly integrating MTBMLE principles and practices across the curriculum and to include local language courses and teaching using the mother tongue.

ADOPTED at the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language held at Hotel Supreme, Baguio City from 23-25 October 2014.

Resolution Supporting a Robust and Vibrant Implementation of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE) from Kindergarten to Grade Three Including the Transition Phase from Grade Four To Six as Provided by RA 10533 “The Enhanced Basic Education Act Of 2013″

WHEREAS, we delegates of the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language have reaffirmed our rights, duties, and privilege to protect and enrich our language, a source of identity for millions of Ilokano people and an inextricable part of the fabric of Filipino society;

WHEREAS, we recognize and appreciate the bold initiatives of the Department of Education to make Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education a key component of the new basic education curriculum institutionalized through Republic Act (RA) 10533;

WHEREAS, RA 10533 states that the new basic curriculum shall be relevant, contextualized, localized and culturally sensitive, especially in the production and development of teaching materials;

WHEREAS, the policy provides that for the kindergarten and the first three (3) years of elementary education, instruction, teaching materials and assessment shall be in the languages of the region and the native language of the learners;

WHEREAS, the Department of Education (DepEd) is directed to formulate a mother language transition program from Grade 4 to Grade 6;

NOW, THEREFORE, the delegates of the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language duly assembled:


SPECIFICALLY, we pose the following components to enhance the potential of the MTBMLE program:

  • MTBMLE teachers’ training and instructional materials provided at the kindergarten level and not just at grade one
  • Mechanisms to maximize the localization of instructional materials, reflecting the lives and language variety of the community.
  • Appropriate MTBMLE approaches for private schools to likewise include languages of the region in harmony with the MTBMLE program of public schools.
  • Researched-based interventions for the delivery of instruction in multilingual classrooms so that pupils whose L1 is not the official medium of instruction will be able to succeed
  • An effective transition plan with substantive representation of the first language and gradual introduction of other languages as mediums of instruction. For example,

a. Maintaining the MTBMLE as a learning area up to at least grade six
b. L1 as medium of instruction in at least four learning areas in grade 4
c. L1 as medium of instruction in at least three learning areas in grade 5
d. L1 as medium of instruction in at least two learning areas in grade 6
e. L1 as an auxiliary medium of instruction in the remaining grade levels

  • The teaching of Filipino as a national language in the context of linguistic democracy recognizing the multilingual nature of the Philippines and the various debates and perspectives surrounding the national language.
  • Opportunities for children to use their languages in a wide assortment of activities to complement their formal instruction, foster a creative language and literacy environment, and raise the public image of DepEd’s MTBMLE program, particularly among parents. It is hence timely for the guidelines of various events to be carefully reviewed and adjusted to make room for the mother tongue, such as in the following activities:  

a. National Schools Press Conference
b. Campus journalism
c. National Heritage Month
d. International Mother Language Day
e. Cinepambata Video Festival
f. Sagisag Kultura Competition
g. National Reading Month
h. National Festival of Talents

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Nakem International and Nakem Philippines, the organizers of this Congress duly assembled, are willing to assist the Department of Education in offering a pool of language experts, educators, writers and editors realizing any of the aforementioned proposals;

ADOPTED at the First International Congress on the Ilokano Language held at Hotel Supreme, Baguio City from 23-25 October 2014.