Revitalizing Siraya Culture: Fearless Campaigners on the Path to Recognition

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2017 / September

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Lin Min-hsuan /tr. by Phil Newell


The Green Valley Siraya Park, at Jiu­ceng­ling in the Xin­hua District of Tai­nan City, is home to ­Cheng­-hiong­ Ta­la­van, founder of the Si­raya Culture Association. It is also the main base of the movement for the Si­raya to be officially recognized as one of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples. The park is nestled between mountains and water. Over the pond there is a simple floating bridge constructed out of water pipes and bamboo. The pond is quite deep, and as soon as you step on the bridge, it sinks by several centimeters, adding a sense of danger.

We ask the Talavan family if we can take their picture on the bridge, and Cheng-hiong immediately agrees. Then the whole family step cautiously onto the bridge, with daughter Uma Talavan leading the way and grandchildren following grandparents as they all hold hands for a beautiful family portrait.

 


 

On the pathway to revitalizing Sirayan culture, three generations of the Talavan family are working hand in hand, just like in the picture, for the same goals. Cheng­-hiong­ Ta­la­van has spent his entire life encouraging the descendants of ­Pingpu Aborigines (who include the Si­raya) to awaken to a sense of their identity. His daughter Uma Ta­la­van and her husband Edgar Ma­ca­pili have devoted themselves to Si­ra­yan language and culture. His grandchildren Euphony and Lici Ta­la­van, together with other young people from the tribe, sent a letter to President Tsai Ing-wen appealing for recognition of the Si­raya name and identity. The three generations are working together to revitalize Si­ra­yan culture.

Waking up to identity and human rights

Now aged 75, Cheng­-hiong­ Ta­la­van recalls being called a “savage” as a child. He didn’t understand what this term meant, and he asked about it repeatedly, until finally his uncle whispered in his ear, “‘Savages’ means the ­Pingpu!” Only after asking even more questions did ­Cheng-hiong­ learn that the ­Pingpu were Formosan Aboriginal peoples.

The Si­raya are one of the ­Pingpu peoples. When the Dutch came to Taiwan in the 17th century, the Si­raya were the first people they encountered. But under a succession of foreign ruling powers, the Siraya were forcibly Sinicized, losing their traditional customs and language, until their very identity became obscured.

Cheng-hiong says there is no sense in indigenous people accepting discrimination against them. Instead they should proudly be who they are. That is why at every gathering or occasion, he has long seized the opportunity to say to everyone, “We are savages,” reclaiming the term.

One person lobbying and trying to wake up his tribespeople to their identity can only have a weak influence. ­Cheng-hiong­ therefore also devoted great efforts to forming the Si­raya Culture Association, drawing on collective power to revitalize Si­ra­yan culture.

Cheng-hiong’s daughter Uma Ta­la­van is currently chairwoman of the Si­raya Culture Association. She was born and raised in the tribal community, so it was only after growing up and leaving the community that she discovered that her group was considered different. Her love of her homeland and her awakening to her identity caused her to realize that her memories of childhood represented the life she wanted. “So if there’s anything that feels awkward to me, or something that clashes, it makes me want to plunge right in and challenge it.” Thus does Uma describe her inspiration for and involvement in human rights and cultural movements.

Another happy turn of fate was that on a trip to study music in the Philippines, she not only brought back a husband who would later become a key figure in the revitalization of the Si­ra­yan language, but also discovered that the school hosted talented people from all over the world, which allowed her to see the beauty of multiculturalism. From there she reflected: “What about me? What can the Si­raya show other people?”

This caused Uma to proactively explore the treasures of Si­ra­yan culture after returning home. “I hoped I would become a person who not only unearths Si­ra­yan culture, but also polishes it to a shine.”

A miraculous linguistic renaissance

In going from feeling bewildered at being called a “savage” by Han Chinese to discovering his identity as an indigenous person, ­Cheng-hiong­ Ta­la­van also found out that he knew nothing at all about his culture.

Even today, the S­ira­yan language is listed on the ­UNESCO website as an “extinct” tongue which has been gone for over 200 years, never being heard or spoken in that whole period of time.

However, from historical evidence we know that when the Dutch arrived in Taiwan in the 17th century, they wrote out Si­ra­yan using the Latin alphabet. Si­raya people continued to use and pass down this Romanized writing system. For example, they used it to draw up land ­contracts and trading contracts with Han Chinese. These are the well-known “­Sinckan manuscripts.”

In their quest to recover Si­­raya linguistic culture, ­­Cheng-hiong­­ and Uma Ta­­la­­van searched everywhere to collect words and phrases in Sirayan from elders. But the results were very meager. The dramatic turning point came after they obtained a Si­rayan translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew, made by early Dutch missionaries. After ­Cheng-hiong­ had invested so much effort in the hope of opening the door to the Si­rayan language, amazingly the key to unlocking its secrets turned out to be his Filipino son-in-law, Edgar Ma­ca­pili.

Ma­ca­pili is a member of the Bi­­saya indigenous people of the Philippines. Like Si­ra­yan, Bi­sa­yan is a branch of the Austronesian language group, and when he opened up the Sirayan Gospel of St. Matthew that it had taken ­Cheng-hiong­ Ta­la­van so long to find, Ma­ca­pili found he could read most of the content. He recalls his impression of Si­ra­yan: “This language is like the mother or older sister of the Bi­sa­yan language—they have a family relationship. What’s more, Si­ra­yan is purer, having not been impacted by too many foreign terms.”

Originally a musician, Ma­ca­pili turned himself into a linguistics scholar. He compared texts in Dutch, English, Si­ra­yan, and Bi­sa­yan word by word and phrase by phrase. The main difficulty is that when the Dutch wrote down the Si­ra­yan language in the 17th century, their own spelling system had not yet been standardized, so they were unable to accurately record the Si­ra­yan pronunciation. It took Ma­ca­pili more than seven years, burning the midnight oil on countless occasions, to complete his Si­raya Glossary: Based on the Gospel of St. Matthew in Formosan (Sin­kan Dialect), a Preliminary Survey, which contains more than 3000 Si­ra­yan vocabulary items. Only later, with this as a starting point, could there be textbooks, illustrated books, pocket books, audiobooks, the training of teachers, and finally the introduction of Si­ra­yan language classes into the formal educational curriculum in 2016.

A different youth

The third generation of the Ta­la­van family, sisters Euphony and Lici Ta­la­van, learned Taiwanese and Si­ra­yan side by side from early childhood. They grew up very differently from most children. From ages three or four they travelled around with ­Onini, a Si­ra­yan-language music group that instructs people in the basics of Si­ra­yan culture. When other kids were in class or playing, they often took time off to perform or protest. Says Lici Ta­la­van frankly, “My whole life has been a social movement.”

As we interviewed and followed around elder sister Euphony, we often saw her discussing questions of Si­ra­yan sentence structure with her father Edgar Ma­ca­pili, or conducting the ­Onini group in singing practice sessions, fully exemplifying the role of the oldest daughter. And her comments reveal a different logic and understanding from her own generation: “Having one more identity allows me to experience things in a different way, to maintain a tolerant attitude toward other cultures, and to understand and discuss controversial social issues with empathy.”

The words and deeds of the older generations of the clan are imprinted indelibly on the children’s hearts. ­Euphony wants to go back to school and study for a degree in linguistics, and she is very interested in the analysis of sentence structure. She is also considering researching the Si­rayan language herself, so that in the future she can help write teaching materials and lesson plans to assist more teachers of the language. Lici says, “I have known my future goal from early childhood: to work to revitalize Si­ra­yan culture.” Even in choosing her university major, she considered what would be of most value to the Si­raya in the future.

Fearlessly moving forward

Today, the Si­raya’s campaign for official recognition as one of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples is still ongoing. To this end, members of the Si­raya community have several times brought administrative lawsuits before the Tai­pei High Administrative Court, demanding that the central government formally recognize their historical status and identity.

On May 19 of 2016, judgment was about to be rendered in an administrative lawsuit over the Si­raya people’s status. As Uma Ta­la­van waited for the announcement at the Tai­pei High Administrative Court, Cheng­-hiong­ Talavan was in Xin­hua in Tai­nan with some fellow tribespeople, preparing tang­yuan (boiled balls of glutinous rice flour) to celebrate success in the lawsuit. But a few minutes later Uma, her eyes red with tears, stepped out of the court and announced to the media that the lawsuit had failed. As she did so, she repeated the exhortation that Cheng­-hiong­ had given her previously: “If the judgement goes against us, we have also won, because there is no reason for us to lose.”

When Cheng­­-­hiong­ got the news back in Xin­hua, he still tried to fire up his fellow tribespeople, saying that they should go ahead and eat the tang­yuan to celebrate victory in the future.

Having not admitted defeat for more than 20 years, Cheng­-­hiong is pledged to the revitalization of Si­ra­yan culture, and has continually advanced toward this goal. He has always believed that the Si­raya will eventually be formally recognized as an indigenous group.

The transition to a new generation is inevitable, and the seeds that have been planted in the minds of the newest generation have broken out of the darkness of the soil and into the sunlight. The children and grand­children of the Siraya believe that, like that family portrait, hand in hand they will continue to fearlessly advance on the path to a Siraya renaissance.

繁體中文

復振西拉雅 無畏向前正名之路

文‧鄧慧純 圖‧林旻萱 翻譯‧Phil Newell

位在台南市新化區九層嶺的綠谷西拉雅園區,是西拉雅文化協會創辦人萬正雄的住所,也是西拉雅族正名運動的基地。園區內依山傍水,池塘上有一座用水管、竹枝簡易搭建的便橋,池水頗深,腳一踩上橋即下陷了數公分,頗為驚險。

我們詢問可否請萬家人在橋上拍張照,萬正雄一口答應,他說間隔三尺站,分散重量即可。於是一家人女兒萬淑娟打頭陣,孫子、孫女居中,牽著外公外婆小心翼翼地走上便橋,一家子手牽著手,留下一幅美麗的全家福。


 

在復振西拉雅文化的路上,萬家三代亦是如此攜手同心。萬正雄一生為鼓吹平埔族後裔自我認同與覺醒而奮鬥,第二代萬淑娟與夫婿萬益嘉投身西拉雅的語言文化事工,第三代子孫萬瑩綠、萬瑩穗也同族裡年輕人一起上書總統,為西拉雅正名請命。三代人協力同心,復振西拉雅文化。

身分覺醒  人權啟蒙

「我這個人是行動派,設定好目標,想到就去做。」已75高齡的萬正雄,仍中氣十足地說。小時候被人說是「番」,他聽不懂什麼是「番」,再三追究,伯父才在他耳邊小聲竊語說:「番就是平埔啦!」再深入探詢,才知道平埔族其實是台灣最早的住民。

西拉雅族是台灣平埔族的一支,17世紀荷蘭人來台,最早便是與西拉雅族接觸;但卻因外來政權更迭,西拉雅人被強勢漢化,失去了傳統風俗及語言,身分更被迫隱而不揚。

萬正雄認為原住民沒道理受歧視,應該抬頭挺胸做人,所以「在任何聚會場合,我都抓住機會跟大家說我們是『番』,但大家聽了都會生氣說:『你要當番你自己去』,當時的社會氛圍『番』是被歧視的,比二等公民還不如。」萬正雄說。

一個人苦口遊說,想喚醒族人身分認同,卻勢單力薄。萬正雄因此費盡千辛萬苦成立西拉雅文化協會,集眾人之力復振西拉雅文化。

萬正雄的女兒萬淑娟(西拉雅名Uma Talavan),現任西拉雅文化協會理事長。從小在部落長大,她回憶當年:「我一直記得兒時每天的日常,採野草莓,跟著家人在雨天撿蝸牛,隨處可聞到的花香和四季的變化。」她感性的話語彷彿帶著我們在燠熱的午後來到她兒時奔馳的山林,與她一起回想與土地的故事。

隨著年紀增長,走出了部落,她才發現自己的族群是被區別的。對故鄉的依戀、對身分的覺醒,使她覺察兒時的記憶才是她想要的生活,「因此若有東西跟我的感覺疙瘩了,碰在一起覺得不妙了,就讓我想去衝撞、去挑戰。」萬淑娟描述她投身人權、文化運動的啟蒙與歷程。

另一個機緣是她負笈菲律賓的音樂之旅,這一趟旅程不僅讓她結識了相知相惜的夫婿,並成為日後復興西拉雅語言的關鍵人物;另一方面,當時學校匯集了世界各地的人才,讓她見識到多元文化的魅力,進而反思「那我呢?西拉雅可以展現什麼?」

這促使萬淑娟回國後,積極探尋西拉雅的瑰寶,「我希望成為把西拉雅文化挖掘出來,並將之擦亮的人。我做的只是長工、礦工的工作而已。」

語言復振的奇蹟

從疑惑被漢人稱為「番」,到覺察自己的原住民身分,萬正雄卻也發現對西拉雅文化的一無所知。「最初為什麼沒有推動正名呢?因為我們連自己的文化、語言都找不到,哪有資格去要求身分。」

至今,聯合國教科文組織(UNESCO)的網站上,西拉雅語仍被列為「滅絕語言」(extinct),已經消失兩百多年,這期間沒人聽過、沒人會說。

但從文獻上可知,17世紀荷蘭人來台,以羅馬拼音將西拉雅語文字化,其後西拉雅人繼續流傳使用,拿它與漢人簽訂土地、買賣等交易契約,即是社會所熟知的「新港文書」。

「我心中的不忍是,我想像祖先們如何用這語言打情罵俏、聊八卦,或在山頭上工作時,唱著山歌。在這土地已使用幾千年的西拉雅語怎麼在清末近代漸趨弱勢,然後被聯合國宣判死亡了。」萬淑娟略顯感傷地說。

為了尋回西拉雅的語言文化,萬正雄和萬淑娟四處收集部落耆老關於西拉雅的隻字片語,但還是杯水車薪。戲劇性的轉機是在取得當年荷蘭傳教士以荷蘭文翻譯、同時用羅馬拼音記錄西拉雅語的《馬太福音》。萬正雄當初費盡千辛萬苦期待打開西拉雅語之門,殊不知鑰匙就在菲律賓籍女婿萬益嘉身上。

萬益嘉是菲律賓比薩亞原住民,與西拉雅族同屬南島語系的一支,他翻開萬正雄尋覓已久的《馬太福音》,居然能讀懂大部分的內容。回憶對西拉雅語的印象:「這個語言很像比薩亞語的姐姐或母親,有親戚關係。而且西拉雅語更純粹,沒有受到太多外來語言的影響。」萬益嘉說。

如果當初不知道自己的平埔族身分,如果沒有找到那本西拉雅語的《馬太福音》,那大概就會死心了,萬淑娟說:「可是因為我們有一天知道了。」所以只能加倍努力,讓已被界定為滅絕的語言重新呼吸。

本是音樂家的萬益嘉,開始當起語言學者,一字一句在荷蘭語、英語、西拉雅語、比薩亞語中比對考究。困難點在於,當初荷蘭人以他們的拼寫系統記錄西拉雅語讀音,但17世紀時荷蘭語的拼寫尚未被標準化,致使聲音無法被正確記錄。萬益嘉舉例說,就像用漢字記錄英語發音一樣,不只發音,還包括聲調、重音等問題,難度高且不易準確。花了七年多的時間,萬益嘉在無數個晚上挑燈夜戰,從中比對出三千多個西拉雅詞彙,完成《西拉雅詞彙初探:以新港語馬太福音研究為主例》一書。以此為起點,才有後續編寫教科書、繪本、口袋書、有聲書、師資培訓,以及2016年納入正規教育的西拉雅語課程。

而大半輩子都以台語為母語的萬正雄,老了才開始一字一句學習祖先的話,從基礎的數數開始,「sa-sat、ru-ha、tu-ru、a-pat……(1、2、3、4)」,口說容易忘記,他就寫成歌曲幫助背誦。第一首創作的西拉雅語歌謠就是「數字歌」。一首接一首不間斷地寫,如今萬正雄已完成六十多首創作,學過西拉雅語的孩子一定唱過萬爺爺寫的歌。

不一樣的青春時光

台南市的西拉雅語教育近年來才開始推動,但萬家第三代萬瑩綠、萬瑩穗牙牙學語時就是台語、西拉雅語雙軌並行。她們成長的軌跡也跟一般孩子很不一樣,三、四歲開始跟著Onini竹音樂團(西拉雅語樂團)四處巡迴表演,介紹西拉雅文化,別人在上課或玩耍的時候,常常要請假去表演、抗議,這讓妹妹萬瑩穗直言:「我的人生就是一場社會運動。」

姐姐萬盈綠,1992年次,大學畢業已三年多。在採訪行程中,總看著她熱絡地跟父親萬益嘉討論西拉雅語的構句問題,或是指揮Onini竹音樂團練唱,十足長女的模樣。而她的話語也透露與同世代不同的理性與圓融,「多一個身分讓我有不一樣的體驗,讓我對其他文化能抱持包容的態度,用同理心去理解有爭議的社會議題。」

家族長者的一言一行,都刻印在孩子的心中,留下不可抹滅的印記。萬瑩綠想再攻讀語言學學位,她對語言的句構和分析很有興趣,也考慮自行鑽研西拉雅語,未來協助編寫教材、教案,讓更多族語老師可參考。萬瑩穗則說:「我從小就知道未來的目標,就是要做西拉雅文化振復的工作。」連大學選系都是考量讀什麼對西拉雅的未來有幫助。

無畏向前

至今,西拉雅的正名運動還在進行中,西拉雅族人為此多次向台北高等行政法院提出行政訴訟,要求中央政府正視其歷史定位與身分。

2016年5月19日,西拉雅族正名的行政訴訟即將宣判前,萬家父女倆南北一地,萬淑娟在台北高等行政法院等宣判,萬正雄在台南新化和部落族人搓湯圓,打算慶祝正名成功。不料幾分鐘後,萬淑娟紅著眼眶走出法庭面對媒體宣布敗訴結果,她轉述先前萬正雄叮囑的話,哽咽地說:「如果宣布我們敗訴,我們也是贏,因為我們沒有理由輸。」

在台南新化的萬正雄也接到消息,卻仍打起精神振奮族人說,我們繼續吃湯圓,為了明天的勝利慶祝。萬正雄事後表示,「我的心境是還好,因為一直以來我有努力的目標。但我難過的是Uma電話裡說不出話、想哭的情緒,我卻無法過去安慰她。」

二十多年來不曾認輸,萬正雄矢志復興西拉雅文化,就一直朝著這個目標邁進,他始終相信西拉雅正名一定會通過。

「當正名成功之時,代表我階段性的任務完成,我的擔子就會先放下來了。」「所以年輕人們,你的語言、你的文化要如何推動要自己努力,我仍然會做你們的後盾,但我將隱身幕後,不再站上舞台。」萬正雄說。

世代交替是必然,長年在新世代心中埋下的種子已漸掙脫泥土下的黑暗,探見陽光。西拉雅的子子孫孫,相信也將如那幅全家福一般,手牽著手,在西拉雅復興的路上繼續無畏前行。

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