Language Tells A Story Of A Thousands Years of History

3 years ago, I visited Malaysia and found an astounding discovery about myself and the culture that I bound into. At the same time, I was confused about the thought that the Philippines, the country I pledge as a citizen, was an entirely different country as those people from Malaysia and Indonesia. I was totally wrong!

This triggered me to explore more and learned that this cultural pattern was even bigger and far reaching than I expected. What else did I learned and shocked about?

austronesian words distribution map for eye

What made me trigger to find data and explore it?

I went to Malaysia and I saw some distinct similarities between my language “Hiligaynon” and the Malay language. I felt esctatic seeing a garbage can with a label “lain-lain” which literally translate to my language as “different-different” which locally Malay translated as “to separate or segregate”. The meaning is still not far from what it should be.

There are more words that need to be shared and and the culture and story behind these words. I intended to then create and share this

tattoo showcase austronesian culture

How my exploration went? What has been my process?

Exploring the data

I started to explore data and stumbled upon rich data from:

  1. Austronesian Comparative Dictionary ( (Blust & Trussel) - A comparative dictionary as the primary source of historical data on the entire Austronesian language family.
  2. Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database: Main ( - A database contains 300,000+ lexical items from 1,600+ languages spoken throughout the Pacific region.
  3. Pulotu ( - Database of Pacific religions.

I then went directly to R and went into cleaning and try to answer the questions I have in mind to guide me through the process. Full notes on the exploration process here:

  1. Data Exploration: ACD Loan words - Google Docs
  2. Data Exploration: Austronesian Language Database - Google Docs
  3. Data Exploration: Pulotu - Google Docs

Text Wireframe and Designing the Mockup

This is the part that I liked the most, design! I earlier had the intention to have a quasi interactive exploration but explanatory kind of story as I do think it deserves to be immersed this way by the readers.

I wrapped up some ideas here using a Text Wireframe although not all of it will be implemented due to some limitations to my skillsets: Austronesian Data Story: Text Wireframe - Google Docs

I created the base components that would be more likely to be reused again and again.

Development and Procuring Technologies

You can preview an alpha page (currently under development) here: The Words That Sailed Across Half The World (

Procuring technologies available has been challenging especially depending on my development skillsets with React. I have compiled some plugins and code snippets I reused to make the interactive possible and easier to develop without doing everything from scratch!

Current status and results of the exploration

As of the moment, the project is at around 60% of the development. Usually this is being developed during free time and out of work hours. Might take time to full develop but cross-fingers it will be done soon!

What I learned from this exploration journey

The history that were taught to us from school may be not enough knowledge for us compared to the history I learned through this exploration.

  • I realized how much I don’t know that much about my own culture until I did this exploration.
  • I realized how the recent 500 years of history isn’t enough to know better about our own history and how studying language could be a better alternative to learn more about your own history and culture.
  • I realized that the boundaries we are bound into may not constitute the identity and culture that each and every countries national identity try to put us into a box and that there lies more outside that box.

Will update you soon once published! :)