Here is the download link for a Sinama Shapes Educational Poster to be used in Sama classrooms, including the Sama Dilaut (known by many as the Badjao)

The development of the Sama Shapes poster entitled, “Saga Polma.”

The Problem

Through Kauman Sama Online and our community and school presence, we have developed several educational posters for the Sama people in the Sinama language including an Alphabet chart and banner, Numbers banner, Colors in Sinama, Days of the Week, Parts of the Body, Fruits, Fish, Birds, and Sharks posters. Several of these posters have either had multiple words representing multiple dialects of the Central Sinama language or multiple posters published so that teachers of specific dialect groups could print for their dialect group.  It is my conviction to try and create is better than surrender.

A common classroom poster is a Shapes Poster.  I have surrendered on multiple occasions at the development of this poster as it has proven even more difficult for me to come to a consensus even within dialect groups.  Good people, with strong knowledge of their language have offered good suggestions and helped in the process.  My concern is that these same people will feel slighted when in the end decisions were made that differ from suggestions or even the work and program of larger entities.  I have written this in order to give a little bit of an understanding of the justification behind why the current poster exists in its current form.

The Poster is Based off of the Work of DepEd

First of all, two workshops of the Department of Education formed the basis for this poster.  The original happened in Zamboanga prior to BARMM, under the ARMM period. Multiple Sama languages came up with spelling guides and reading primers.  I believe the original spelling guide from the ARMM workshop for the Central Sinama language had some shapes listed in its dictionary portion.  Unfortunately in the second workshop, held for several other languages, but including the Sama Dilaut of Davao City (those particularly linked to Zamboanga City in the past), the language resource persons were not accustomed to using some of the vocabulary used for the shapes.

The language resource persons at said workshop came up with the following shapes:

dingluꞌ for diamond or rhombus.
kalling for the star shape.
pasagiꞌ for a square.
tibulung for a circle.
tibulung dampōng for a semi-circle.
tibulung patahaꞌ for an oval.
tibulung patahaꞌ-tahaꞌ for an oblong.

The name for shapes used was: Saga Polma

Derivations from the Original Workshops

Generally, I have been able to stick to these names except for in the following instances.

The word dingluꞌ for a diamond cut is the term used by the Sama Dilaut in Davao.  It is also the term that went into Linguist Kemp Pallesen’s dictionary.  I have heard it from one resource person in Tinoto’.  However, the common term from those in Tinoto’ and presumably others in Siasi is bingluꞌ.  Therefore I have included both words under the diamond/rhombus shape.

In Tawi-Tawi, DepEd is using pasagiꞌ-tahaꞌ for a rectangle and lengkong tahaꞌ for an oval.  This contraction of atahaꞌ to tahaꞌ is a common feature of Southern Sinama, but occurs in Central Sinama and seemed acceptable to many after checking the terms with language contacts from the Matina Davao community, a community of Sama Dilaut speakers and also Tinotoꞌ in Sarangani, a community with a mixture of Sama Siasi Dialects.

Unfortunately, tibulung patahaꞌ-tahaꞌ does not readily communicate the difference between an oval and an oblong and therefore oblong has been left off the chart completely.

Considering Various Suggestions/Problems

The word pasagiꞌ refers to the process of cutting lumber into four flat sides.  In English this is called to square something, but it can form both squares and rectangles, particularly in its function for lumber.  A practice that I learned from the work of the teachers in Tawi-Tawi is to define the shapes by their angles or corners.  The difficulty with this for the square is that it still leaves us with several shapes that can be with 4 corners or angles: The square, the rectangle, trapezoids, parallelograms, diamonds/rhombus.

In the end, I chose to stick with the name pasagiꞌ with the justification that this term was chosen in the prior workshop and it mimics some Malay Shapes poster use of the words persegi and persegi panjang.

The word kalling, the Sinama word for starfish, has proven time and time again to be the better option for the star shape. Both the Sama Dilaut of Davao and those in Tinotoꞌ expressed a preference for kalling to describe a star shape and found the use of bituꞌun and/or mamahi in accordance with the English concept of a 5 pointed star representing the celestial body to not be very helpful.  Furthermore, having two competing dialect forms for the word star does not help for creating learning materials.  Probably due to the star shape not resembling the celestial body, many Sama call the star shape by its English name: Istar.

Bulan for moon is a commonly recognized shape and a shared common word by the Sinama dialects that I am aware of.

Jantung for heart is a concession towards the English language. Sinama has already been making this concession in other ways.  Atay should refer to the seat of emotion but more and more the term jantung has been adopted into songs and terms of endearment. In the case of shapes, to some, the use of the word jantung for the heart shape came as a surprise, but was met with overall agreement.

Tibulung-dampōng is the suggestion of the Sama Dilaut of Davao and understood by them when rechecked.  It was also understood by the Sama of Tinotoꞌ, but some suggested tibulung-Sudlay.  This becomes problematic because the dialects of Central Sinama split between the term sudlay and suray for a comb-shape, a shape that is used in making certain sweets.  For the most part the term tibulung-dampōng was mutually understood by those consulted for community check although one respondent suggested that tibulung-dambilaꞌ is the better term.  Though I have great respect for this respondent’s knowledge of Sinama, I have chosen to stick with tibulung-dampōng against the alternative of including two terms, towards the goal of simplicity.

I am grateful to the ideas of the teachers from Tawi-Tawi for their usage of defining shapes by their corners or angles.  They have been using 3 pidju, 4 pidju, 5 pidju, etc.  This enables us to define quite a few more shapes, including the triangle, an important shape that doesn’t have a common single word to describe.  The word pidju may very well be the most correct term.  It seems to refer more to angle and less to a right-angled corner.  Unfortunately, both the Sama Dilaut of Davao and the Sama of Tinotoꞌ are a lot less familiar with the term pidju.  They generally use the term maybe in an archaic form as used in revering the ancestors or part of a noun phrase, mpat pidju alam, for the four corners of the earth.  Dugu on the other hand might in its most rigid form refer to right angle corners of a house.  However, the Sama consulted in community favored the use of dugu to describe the angles/corners of the triangle, pentagon, hexagon, and octagon.  Therefore I have rendered it dugu for the purpose of this poster, but I do so with some double guessing of my final decision.

In Tawi-Tawi, teachers are using legong for circle and tibulung for a cylinder. I wonder if this might have to do with familiarity. Maybe in the south tibulung is not as familiar of a word. Community feedback and the original spelling guide from the Davao workshop show that tibulung seems to be more appropriate for circle in the Central Sinama context. Legong is used as a verb, to circle. Tibulung or atibulung is an adjective and also can be used as the noun for circle.

Additional Shapes

A few more useful shapes for the context of school were added to the poster.

Tumbuk is very useful as it is a dot and also the term used for the period of a sentence.

Gudlis and guhit seem to be almost interchangeable according to both community checks and among a variety of speakers.  I therefore decided to include both on the poster.

Finally, an arrow seems to be a useful shape which several respondents made attempts at defining.  I was pleased to hear of the use of kōk-panaꞌ for arrow and even more so pleased to see that it mimics the Malay shapes poster tanda panah.  This was met with mixed feelings in the community check.  A panaꞌ in the sense of a bow and arrow looks like the arrow shape, but the Sama more actively use the spear in spearfishing panaꞌ and then it becomes a discussion of spearfishing panaꞌ having one gehe, not two.  The gehe is the barb that sticks out from the shaft at the tip of the spear. I have a non-native speargun with two gehe, but that is beside the point.  Others suggested kōksangkil or kōkbudjak.  A sangkil in several respondent’s opinion has the same problem of a panaꞌ; they know it to have one gehe.  The budjak is more known for forming the arrow shape.  For the time being, I have left the term as kōkpanaꞌ, but could be persuaded to change a 2nd edition of the poster.


To me, this type of community and online community checking (FB post to Sama friends) is both tedious and exciting.  I learn new things.  It is a demonstration that Sinama usage is vigorous and the maintenance of its diversity of dialects is something to be appreciated and valued about the Sinama language.

I also ran into the possibility that the term bantuk is better for shape than polma since polma is a Spanish term.  Along the way I realized that bantuk is a Sama rendition of the Malay bentuk and bantukbintang for star shape is most likely borrowed directly from Malay.  This brings up the question of what languages are appropriate influencers of Sinama?  Star and heart are pretty readily borrowed by Sama speakers.  I imagine that Sama in Sabah might be more comfortable with Saga Bantuk and certain dialect groups might use this especially when borrowing fashion designs and sweets recipes from across the border.  Unfortunately many Sama here in the Philippines were completely unaware of the meaning of bantuk.

Several other words were suggested as possible names for the shapes.  We would love to hear more comments on words that could possibly rise to the surface as the most appropriate term to describe Sinama shapes.  Until then, I submit this educational to you as an attempt at providing something for the education of Sama children.

I write this post in English, because I have already spent more time on this poster than I should and therefore find it easier to write in my mother-tongue.

I am grateful for all your input and hope that you will be gracious with me for giving it my best try.  I also hope that your classrooms might consider putting this resource to use.


Kauman Sama Online

A Few More Suggested Terms

Gulis = Starfish and therefore star shape.
Hantang = Shape
Lunggiꞌ or Lunggi = Triangle
Mustatil = Rectangle (This is the Arabic)
Sungbay/Sinungbay = Triangle
Pandoga/Pangindanan = Arrow in terms of pointing direction or marking something
Panōꞌ or Panudluꞌ = Arrow (words for pointer finger or pointing)
Patadjow = Southern SInama word for elongating, to be used with a circle to create the word for oblong
Pisladduꞌ = Diamond shaped
3 sungud, 4 sungud, 5 sungud = Triangle, square, pentagon (I am unclear on the meaning of sungud)

Ai tapah'llingbi pasal itu?

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