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


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