These are my own peculiar way of looking at the lively and dynamic exchange of ideas on the Ilokano language at this time.
There have been a number of positions, voices, and attitudes and all of them are salutary. They all point to a mind that is thinking, reflecting, ruminating, and caring.
For me, thinking is simply thinking hard and allowing reflexivity to come in and reside in the soul, the spirit, and the heart where fusion becomes the principle of each second of our thinking life.
This means that I have seen in these attitudes, voices, and positions such a quality. And then there is the bonus: care, a caring disposition which we all see in Roy Aragon, Joel Manuel, Joe Padre, Jake Ilic, Jim Raras, Jim Agpalo, and Nid Anima.
There are, of course, other previous voices we can allude to, refer back, and 'archeologize': JSP Hidalgo Jr, Greg Laconsay, Joe Bragado, the 'Bannawag voice', and scholars from the West who are not necessarily Ilokano but who have taken upon this task of helping us help ourselves by looking into how our language behaves. We name some: Prescila Espiritu, Carl Rubino, and Laurie Reid.
Now, the points:
1) On the 'abecederia' or kur-itan or kurditan or alibata.
Various literatures would tell you that the terms for the alphabet are many such as abecederia, kur-itan, kurditan, alibata. Abecederia is Hispanic, kur-itan is of the Ilocos Norte variety, kurditan is Ilocos Sur, or alibata is Greek-Arabic before it ever became Tagalog, or Filipino, or Ilokano as it came from aleph and beta.
You see that aleph and beta have been fused.
This has been done by allowing the process and power of neologism to come in to account a new linguistic and cultural human experience.
The sounds, when combined, were made to behave in a Tagalog and/or Ilokano way, hence the word 'alibata', clearly, aleph-beta, mispronounced and mis-wrtten as it were, but now clearly appropriated. The notion of abecederia is the same thing: the a-be-ce of the Spanish language.
Every language is a sound, right? And the way to account the sound/s in a written form is arbitrary, convention-bound, historical, cultural. In short, written accounting calls for a system, hence, some sense of constancy. And yet, to be democratic and just and fair, it must be an open system to admit change, some kind of a change that adds quality to human life.
We note here that the aleph-beta are the first letters in the way the letters of the Greek alphabet have been ordered; the Arabic language appropriated this, in some sense, which is the reason why we caught it as well by force of trade and commerce, possibly by way of the Arab and Indian traders (?), which accounts for the Sanskrit influence of our language, such as the Ilokano word 'arak'.
If some 'unenlightened' Ilokanos, in their foolishness and ignorance say that 'arak' is all ours and it came right off from the split of the bamboo as if it were part of the Malakas-Maganda legend that became the rallying point for some 'political agendum' of the past, we can only guffaw here. Hello, hello, where were they when Apo Lung-aw showered grace and wisdom and light and knowledge?
Were they with me in the fields of Gumamugam, playing risay-baboy? We could have all been absent at that time. Absenerotay ngamin, gunggunatayo.
Every 'alphabet' is a linguistic, cultural, and historical convention.
And it is a political act and fact.
This means that some time in the past, some people have tacitly agreed to work things out this way and their way of 'working things out' this way became the convention.
Does it matter what we call? Do we have to choose which is 'better'?
My answer is: No way, Jose.
Forget your linguistic dictatorship or your cultural authoritarianism.
There is some kind of a political unconscious in language and we must, at all times, be wary and ever-ready to unmask those that are meant to deceive us. For language, as it were, is already a lie. We are to create another one and we are done in.
Any attitude that points to a generous and genuine idea of what democracy is, in concept as well as in practice to account an orthopraxis of what we are and what we want to be, ought to be the guiding light, our guiding light.
When we dream of and pursue democracy, we extend that, in toto and without exception, to all that which concerns 'life': social, political, economic, cultural, linguistic.
2. On the letters of the alphabet.
My position, take them all.
And you have to be bold and daring. You have to be brave.
In some ways, writers and cultural workers like Aragon, Manuel, Agpalo, and Padre have joined the fray to re-visiting and re-thinking about the letters of the kur-itan/kurditan and their position of accounting new sounds is the right way to go.
In a shrinking world, we cannot deny the drone and dreariness of the 'globalized' sounds of the present, this Present as Presence suggesting sounds from Czech Republic to Hezbollah in Beirut. Thanks to the far-reaching arm of CNN on your cable.
So what is the way to go? Admit Z in zero; X in X-ray, J in Jesus and Jerusalem (why spell them in H, aver?), Ch in China, C in (pancit Canton), and all the others.
In this way, you enrich the language. Our ethical act should be one that enriches us all and not one that renders us impotent, inutile, and impoverished. The way to go, really, is appropriating all of these.
3. On Ilokano being pure.
Come on, Jose the purist. Back off a bit. Ilokano as a completely fenced off, completely insular, fully isolated linguistic phenomenon, clinically deodorized and Lysol-ed/Gladed? The facts of the case show otherwise.
Admit that you are ignorant and you are masking off that ignorance with the mangled faux meditation on what pure language and pure culture ought to look like. In social psychology, they call this act 'compensation', one way of self-defense in order to hide that you do know something but not enough to hide your ignorance.
And so you want the language to be pure, spotless, and without any blemish. Are you an agent of some laundry soap company, with all those claims to ultra- and/or calamansi 'cleanness' and 'whiteness'? Awaganka iti ahente ti kinapuraw ken kinapudaw. Change careers. Be a laundryperson--or some kind of an agent of all these mutinational companies that always flood and bombard us with notions of whiteness, and, if you so wish, germ-free life: clean, white, pure, conscience-stricken.
Now, now, admit that you are ignorant. In this way, you are able to name the disease in your mind: that ignorance with the big, big 'I'.
Simply put: you do not know your premises and therefore, you cannot account the il/logic of your argument. Or your lack of an argument, ab initio. The Romans would say: Distinguo, amico. How to move from premises to a conclusive conclusion is really your problem, not ours.
You want a sermon, Jose the purist? I will give it to you: There is no pure language, no pure culture, no pure anything. Your name, Jose the purist, is as impure as the breeze down in Gumamugam as in Laoag and Vigan. Or Bangued. Or San Fernando City.
All of human acts, customs, traditions, and languages are 'polluted'. Here and there we borrowed something and we never returned.
Remember the 'Ilokano pride' in the word 'arak'? Hehehe, admit that you did not kow where that word came from, di ngamin?
The most difficult thing to learn and to understand and to see is our own very nose. And yet the irony is that it is too close to our eyes. Why? Beats me.
But the reality is this: we need some mindful consciousness to understand those that are supposedly familiar to us. Like those of our heart, di ngata?
(To be continued)
A Solver Agcaoili
August 27, 2006