One issue at stake in all these debates, argumentation, and never-ending proposition-giving relative to the 'standardization' issue of the Ilokano language is what Joel Manuel calls 'reintellectualization.'
Of all the many younger thinkers and tinkers of the Ilokano language--and we thank this present generation of writers, educators, and cultural critics of Ilokano language and literature for taking on the cudgels of showing care and commitment for and in the name of our people--Manuel stands out.
I would come out with a random naming now of who is in his own class, veritably some of our best, with a portfolio of work/s to show that can even shame the older generation, well, some of them, who never read any other works anymore apart from their own and the manuscripts that they are asked to judge, believing that Ilokano literature is in accord with their own and only own image of what literature and art and aesthetics should be, their fossilized view of literature really fossilized: Roy Aragon, John Buhay, Arnold Jose, Pete Duldulao, Daniel Nesperos, Aileen Rambaud, Jim Raras, Dan Antalan, Ariel Tabag, and now this Jake Ilac. The fingers are sufficient--you can forget the toes or the Meralco posts.
What do they have in common? They love the language, they play with its possibilities, and they have no love lost in the foreign language and they can even write in it including that Tagalog being passed off as Filipino.
At one point, and as a result of such act of loving and caring for the language, Manuel proposed a method and methodology to the 'reintellectualization' of Ilokano, an intellectual position picked up in some way, in the way I would reckon the blogs and the exchange of ideas in them, by Aragon, Raras, Agpalo, and Joe Padre from Los Angeles.
Let us recall the linguistic, and may I say, ‘intellectual’ position of Manuel to, using his term, ‘reintellectualize’ the Ilokano language.
He says, based on the published/blogged account of Agpalo in kamalig.blogspot.com: “There are proposals for us to use the f, v, c, n, x and others. This is based on the Spanish. Oh yes, this is good because this will intellectualize more the Ilokano language. Like the following: unibersidad-universidad, pasilidad-fasilidad, interaktibo-interaktivo, eksorsismo-exorsismo, kualifikado-kualipikado, rebolusion-revolusion, pormal-formal, birhen-virgen, tekstura-textura, ekspresion-expresion.”
To explain his point, Manuel comes up with an elaborate technique and I quote him in the Ilokano original: “Kayat a sawen daytoy nga amin a natawidtayo a balikas iti Espanol ken English ket marespetar ti pannakabalikasna ken agingga iti kabaelantayo ti ispelingna, saan a kas iti inaramid dagiti Tagalog a nangikkat iti f, ken dadduma pay. Kadagiti napalpalabas a tawen insublida ngem kasla nakupad met ti Liwayway a mangipatungpal iti dayta.”
And then Manuel talks of how the revered Juan SP Hidalgo uses the same approach in Rimat, a magazine, now defunct, he used to edit: “Kas iti ar-aramiden ni Apo Johnny (sic) Hidalgo iti Rimat, isubsublinan ti respeto kadagiti balikas a binulodtayo, daytoy ket para iti in-inut a (sic) reintelektualisasion ti Iluko.”
The intent of Manuel to speak about ‘reintellectualization’ is laudable.
But there is a huge problem here: his notion of ‘reintellectualization’ follows the same Bonifacio Sibayan notion in his mistake to make Pilipino and its schizophrenic twin Filipino ‘intellectualized’, forgetting that each language, by its very nature, has its own sacred and secret way of intellectualizing the world.
From a philosophical point of view, ‘intellectualization’ suggests the ability of a language to explain what the world is all about, the world in general, in its most lucid and metaphorical sense, in its complexity, in its everyday and extraordinary nature.
I do not understand, therefore, why any language, for that matter, needs ‘reintellectualization’ from the outside, suggesting that the world created by the Ilokano language, for that matter, needs to be ‘reintellectualized’ from the outside and to do so, as claimed by Manuel and Hidalgo, following the Sibayan bluff to make the schizoid Tagalog-Pilipino-Filipino appear like that of any ‘intellectualized’ language of the world, and by that, we can presume, Sibayan was bluffing his way to make one mistake after another because, in his mind, he was looking to Spanish and English as his ‘intellectualized’ model of what an ‘intellectualized’ language should be.
My take on intellectualization and that abominable term ‘reintellectualization’ is that of the inherent quality of any language to have an ‘intellect’, a word from middle English, old French, and obviously from Latin, from the verb “intelligere” forming a past participle, intellectus. Here we see cognates: ‘mind,’ in its most generic sense, and obviously the adjective, ‘intelligent.’
My worry with Sibayan’s schizoid approach of Tagalog spinning off, in a rather forced way, into the schizoid Pilipino/Filipino, is that he did not have enough trust and confidence in what the Tagalog language could do, and rather than admitting that Tagalog (or that language form forced into our throat Pilipino/Filipino) did not have the contemporary terms to account the contemporary experience of the Tagalog people/Pilipino people/Filipino people (ano ba talaga tayo dito, ha!), he called for ‘intellectualization.’
The question here is: Does the Tagalog language lack the capacity to discuss and explain in an intelligent way what the world is all about? Or was it the case that Sibayan was so handicapped when he was confronted with the ‘astronomical’ ‘astronomy’ issues related to the planet Pluto as it is the case now?
Ha, Sibayan did not do his job well: he simply did not understand what intellectualization is all about and here comes this concept again about intellectualization that means only borrowing someone else’s terms in the effort to intellectualize/reintellectualize your language.
Now the huge problem: we are following the same Bonifacio trap and calling, among others, to ‘reintellectualize’ our own.
At best, this is bad trip as it suggests the low regard, unconsciously, I suppose, Manuel and Hidalgo have for the Ilokano language. One big problem I have is that I cannot even believe before my very eyes that they do know the consequences of this concept of ‘reintellectualization’ as they are both pillars in their generations of Ilokano language use, being both top-notch literary figures in their own league. We do things with words—and Manuel and Hidalgo might have forgotten this reality with words—and language for that matter—as our own mode of action.
The equation being proposed is that ‘reintellectualization is equal to retaining the spelling of the borrowed word as much as you can’—an equation clearly proposed by Manuel, following Hidalgo, and in some light, by Joe Padre, one of the better exiles in Los Angeles who think thoughts in clear terms about what and who we are as a people with a language worth our loving wherever we are. Aragon takes up this proposal, and Agpalo as well, and both experiment with their works.
The equation lacks conceptual validity: what Manuel is doing is not ‘reintellectualizing’ but allowing the Ilokano language to open to the possibilities of appropriating words that we do not have to account our new experiences.
And this is not peculiar to Ilokano language alone, as this is being done by all languages—and they do not call this ‘reintellectualization’, a demeaning word, subservient, colonial and colonizing, and carries with it the burden of allowing oneself to become an appendage of another linguistic and cultural empire. In the end, we have allowed this new hegemony, cultural and linguistic, to come take hold of our minds, our intelligence, as if our Ilokano language does not and cannot reveal a mind and intelligence.
I could be accused here of nominalism here, that philosophical position as ancient as ancient Greece, that position that holds, among others, that the ‘name/nomen’ counts—and is the only things that counts—to account reality.
Then again, I am holding my ground: what Hidalgo, Manuel, Agpalo, Aragon, and Padre are doing and proposing is not intellectualizing but appropriating, that phenomenon in which borrowing is necessary, even expedient and urgent for the ‘contemporizing’ language, speech, concepts in order to account contemporary experience by borrowing words, terms, and concepts, and making them your own, and not returning it.
Wrong diction there by the ‘reintellectualization’ group of philosophers. Theirs follows a Sibayan empty boast of the need to intellectualize and reintellectualize Tagalog. That is Sibayan’s conceptual problem which we should have not picked up and repeated. Let Sibayan’s Tagalog/Pilipino/Filipino commit all the blunder there is in evolving a truly Filipino language from a false rhetoric of what ought to constitute a ‘national language’.
In appropriating, we do not have to be subservient to the language we are borrowing the terms from and not returning but claiming it as our own.
We need to be careful here with the registers of the terms we are using, as these registers carry with them the weight that is not only linguistic but extra-linguistic as well: historical, cultural, economic, political, and philosophical. No, we do not allow this to happen again.
But let us see some merits in Manuel’s procedures for appropriating, and I have been doing the same thing myself, in a number of my writings, both in Ilokano and Filipino (not Sibayan’s impossible Tagalog/Pilipino): n (enye, how do you write this Roy Aragon, using my Dell laptop with a battery that heats up after one hour of use?), x, f, z, ll.
But you have a problem here: you cannot use them all in all instances when their sounds do not allow for a complete entry into the phonetic system of the Ilokano language.
The first duty is to be faithful to the existing phonetic system and what that system can allow. And when, in the pragmatics of our speech and language, when that sound that we are introducing is not really there but needs to be there, then that is the only time for us to introduce a new ‘phone’, a new sound, but always, always, always, in keeping with other linguistic and extra-linguistic variables.
The clue here is an intelligent, critical scrutiny, and not some borrowing that is not well thought out just to respect the term/word of the language where that term/word was borrowed. In appropriation, there is more to just respecting the original term/word without taking into account the phonetic system of the borrowing language and its structure of accounting sense and meaning.
As well pointed out by previous critics of the Tagalog language being passed off as Pilipino/Filipino, the problem with the Tagalog imperialists and advocates of hegemony is that they forgot the history and the political imagination present in the word “Filipino” to account both the nation and the people—and thus, the national language, such that, in their ignorance of the dynamics of such a history and political imagination, they rammed into our throats their term “Pilipino” to account for the language and “Filipino” for the people (or is it the reverse now?).
If you look at the “Filipino language” program of many universities in the Philippines and abroad, such as the University of Hawaii and the University of California (Los Angeles, Berkeley), we see clearly a schizophrenic program run and managed by people who have no clear notions on what linguistic imperialism and hegemony are all about and what constitutes linguistic democracy. And these are the Tagalog “imperialists” passing off new notions of “linguistic and cultural empire” without intending to but doing it just the same anyway.
We are crying foul about linguistic empires and emperors and here, in our own midst, are the new linguistic emperors and their linguistic empire. We do not want to repeat the same mistakes even if we want to dream of a richer Ilokano language, with vaster possibilities for the future generations.
It is easier when you do not have the sound and you include that sound in the current phonetic system as is the case of x and z. I use both to account the Ilokano examen, examinasion, text, texto, textual, zero, zeta, zigzag.
The reason is simple: we do not have the x sound, and the ‘ks’ combinatory might account it but it is not it and here again, you are using two letters instead of one, a real waste of ink, energy, and mind. And trees and nature and natural resources, if you get the drift. The clue here is: economize, economize.
And the z? Oh, put in there, please.
But does this work with the other sounds, with all the sounds we are borrowing. No. Our duty is not to betray what the Ilokano language offers. Our duty is to make it richer, fuller with meaning, and more open to the vast possibilities of the present and the future.
Next, I will discuss the phonetic problems in appropriation to answer some of the key points raised by the ‘reintellectualization’ philosophers of our language.
A Solver Agcaoili
Sept 13, 2006