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Ethnologue to Remove Offensive Name Sambal Tina

January 12, 2011

Ethnologue, the official publication of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), will no longer use the offensive name Sambal Tina  to refer to the Sambal language when it releases its 17th Edition, according to its Managing Editor, Charles Fennig. The name Sambal Tina, which was  first used by SIL researchers in 1976-1979 to refer to the Zambal language, is considered an offensive term and was never recognized by the Zambal-speakers as a name of their language. The publication and the subsequent online availability of the 1976-1979 SIL papers had caused the use of the term to spread and eventually  gaining  a  language code “xsb” under ISO 639-3. SIL is the designated ISO 639-3 Registration Authority or the International Standard, Codes for the representation of names of languages – Part 3: Alpha-3 code for comprehensive coverage of languages.

Below is the copy of the email received from the Editor of Ethnologue.

Email copy (W.R.’s real name is changed to Johnny Ong on this copy):

RE: Sambal Tina – Philippines – language code xsb

From: Editor Ethnologue <>
To: Johnny Ong (W.R.)
Cc: Roger Stone <>; Info Philippines <>; William Hall <>

Dear Johnny Ong,

Thank you for communicating with us about the offensive word in the Tina Sambal [xsb] language name.

We have begun the process to have this name changed with the goal of having it removed by the time that the 17th edition is published.

Thank you.

Charles Fennig

Managing Editor

From: Johnny Ong (WR)
Sent: Thursday, January 06, 2011 5:19 PM
Subject: Sambal Tina – Philippines – language code xsb

Dear Sirs,

I wish to present the attached photo and a link why Sambal Tina should not be used to refer to our language. The word Tina is an offensive word to use to refer to us as it means “bleached” people.  The name of our language is simply Sambal and we do not want to be called Sambal Tina people. We are simply called Sambals or Zambals as a people.

As a member of this ethno-linguistics group, I respectfully request  that language code xsb be renamed as simply Sambal without the offensive word Tina. I hope you would find this email meriting your kind attention.

Thank you.

Johnny Ong (WR)


Call me Sambal

December 16, 2010

Don’t Call Me Tina

Tina Sambal – a correct term for our language or an ethnic slur? When and how did we get this term for our language?

They were called The Sambals – a name that strikes fear into the enemies’ hearts during the Pre-Hispanic and Hispanic colonization period.[i] Just like our brave ancestors, we do not want to be called by another name. Sambal – that is who we are, not Tina, Tina Sambal or Sambal Tina. You may call us Sambal Iba, Sambal Masinloc, Sambal Candelaria or by the name of the place we live in but not Tina.

This term was first used in around 1976 to 1979 by linguistics researchers under the name of Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL).[ii] Our folks did not complain on the use of this term as they were unaware of it as the authors themselves wrote (see image, also in Our folks had probably not seen the published reports or had no means to scrutinize the use of such word after the paper was published.

The authors could have been more cautious in placing a label on our language, especially with one that is an obvious pun on our name coined in our sister’s Sambal Botolan language. Due to the dearth in published written papers, their reports had become an easy reference for subsequent studies on our dialect. With the advent of the internet and the online availability of the above reports, the use of the term has been spreading fast. Most of our folks continued to be unaware of the name due to their remoteness where use of modern technology is less preferred over their old mano-mano styles. Our youth on the other hand are starting to use the term unaware of its pejorative meaning and etymology.

Being referred to as bleached is unacceptable to us Sambal. We were sent to school by our mawmatontawo (elders) not only so that we can make something of ourselves but more so to preserve our Sambal heritage. Our name as a people is simply Sambal, Zambal, Sambale, Zambale, Sambali,  Zambali, or Zambaleno (or Zambalena para koni kaka/for my big sister). To be referred to by another name as a people would make our ancestors turn in their graves. History tells us of their ferocity. Their ghosts must be equally brutal hence we should do our duty to protect what they had bequeathed to us.

In searching for anything Zambal online, I came across an old ethno-linguistic study that was published in 1904 characterizing our ancestors with words that a Sambal today would feel kapa-paringoy maging Sambali (shameful to be Zambal). Like on the 1976-79 publication of the Tina Sambal linguistics studies, our ancestors were not able to correct what is already out there in circulation as they were simply too busy on their paliyan (ricefield) to worry about something they did not know would be seen worldwide because of the  William Allan Reed wrote on his report Negritos of Zambales the following passage:

Everything in the history of the Zambal people and their present comparative unimportance goes to show that they were the most indolent and backward of the Malayan peoples. While they have never given the governing powers much trouble, yet they have not kept pace with the agricultural and commercial progress of the other people, and their territory has been so steadily encroached on from all sides by their more aggressive neighbors that their separate identity is seriously threatened. The rich valleys of Zambales have long attracted Ilokano immigrants, who have founded several important towns. The Zambal themselves, owing to lack of communication between their towns, have developed three separate dialects, none of which has ever been deemed worthy of study and publication, as have the other native dialects of the Philippines. A glance at the list of towns of Zambales with the prevailing dialect spoken in each, and in case of nearly equal division also the second most important dialect, will show to what extent Zambal as a distinct dialect is gradually disappearing.

–, p. 28

Sadly, what is lacking from the author’s observation is his proof, which, in case an iota of it had been cited, even inadvertently so, I would probably treat his writing differently. Kanyabongat yadti pastang ko no anyay kapotogan na ha na-halita na kot ambo ha kapotogan ha ma-alhom tan kapa-pasoran pa-makabilbi na kontamo masbali kot ha kapotogan no main yan otok tapigaw ma-tandaan nan kapi-piyari bongat hinyataw yay giyera (some Zambal statements). However, a watermark is discernible from the pages of his report showing his little intellectual complexity and his perplexing belief on the superiority of his race. The wrong impression he had is probably due to his fear of the Zambal natives or just simply a result of his own indolence. Reed cited a work by Fr. Manuel Buzeta, a Spanish historian, reinforcing his misguided belief about our ancestors. Fr. Buzeta, as quoted by Reed, wrote:

Each village was composed of ten, twenty, or thirty families, united nearly always by ties of kinship. It was difficult to bring these villages together because they carried on wars continually, and they lived in such a state of discord that it was impossible to govern them; moreover they were so barbarous and fierce that they recognized only superior power. They governed through fear. He who wished to be most respected sought to inspire fear by striking off as many heads as possible. The one who committed the most assassinations was thus assured of the subordination of all. They made such a glory of it that they were accustomed to wear certain ornaments in order to show to the eyes or all the murders they had committed. When a person lost a relative either by a violent or a natural death he covered his head with a strip of black cloth as a sign of mourning and could take it off only after having committed a murder, a thing which they were always eager to do in order to get rid of the sadness of mourning, because so long as they wore the badge they could not sing or dance or take part in any festivity. One understands then that deaths became very frequent in a country where all deaths were necessarily followed by one or more murders. It is true that he who committed a murder sought to atone for it by paying to the relatives of the deceased a certain quantity of gold or silver or by giving them a slave or a Negrito who might be murdered in his place.

This portrayal of the Zambal’s ferocious and barbaric ways had most likely left a negative impression on Reed’s mind. Reed’s sources of information were probably not so friendly with the clannish Zambal, that he was contented to make such sweeping and fallacious characterization of our ethnicity. However, we were not able to make a stand against his published demeaning description of our ancestry. This time, our Sambalic heritage is once again being besmirched as we are impertinently called Tina Sambal people (see second paragraph of image) or Sambal Tina. A blatant disrespect on the name of the Sambals – Zambales’ earliest inhabitants,  the most feared warriors of the land as attested to by the most renowned Spanish historians. It should not surprise anyone if generations from now we are just called Tina if we do not act today. Now that we have a means of intellectually protecting our heritage, we should therefore speak up.

Please don’t call us Sambal Tina. Call us Sambal.