There is, in the Ilokano way of reckoning and seeing things, an intricate connection between a soul migrating or going away or wandering with the body feeling all the aches and ills—the ‘dis-eases’—that attend to that separation of the material and spiritual in a person.
The idea is for the intricate connection between the body and the soul—and for the Ilokano of old, the soul is in the plural as the soul is not only one but four of them—to be always maintained as in a homeostasis. Once the intricate connection is severed, the ‘dis-ease’ begins.
And so we have a young child crying, as if calling out to his wandering soul, wandering aimlessly in the shadows, in the worlds beyond, in the universe beyond that which we know and see.
And so we have to cry out to the soul to come along, come back, and not to linger in the dark, in the places where it is not supposed to linger: “Umaykan, umaykan, dika agbatbati.”
The people of old called that the ‘mabatbati’ phenomenon, one that happens when the soul is left behind—or goes on exile, goes astray, goes on a journey without destination.
I see this lingering of the soul, its going away to some other places yet to be known as some kind of a metaphor for any immigrant in another land. With another niece, a former science teacher, going away to Singapore to find her luck in that land, I can only wish her with all the good fortune of the journey and this searching for a better life in some other people’s land.
I heave a sigh, and I feel this misery that has befallen us as a people even as I got to know that the president of the land is busy looking for investors in Hawai`i and the Caribbean and in some other places where the moneyed capitalists are.
When the president of the land came over for that centennial visit to be one with us in this centennial celebration of the migration of the sakadas to Hawai`i and staying for a night on Waikiki away from the plantations after her talk at the Filipino Community Center that was interrupted by the Anakbayan group shouting out the ugly truth about the state of the nation and our people but which group was pronounced by a television news broadcaster as ‘Enekbeyen’, we can only collectively heave a sigh.
The peso went down here to fifty per dollar—and somewhere the manipulation of the economy goes on.
This is good for the people, we say, this stabilizing of the peso.
Then again, who are these ‘people’?
Are the poor part of the ‘people’ these rich leaders in the entourage of the president of the land imagine?
Are the poor Filipinos part of the equation about business development and good national economy? Are they part of the agenda for an honest-to-goodness progress?
The children of the poor making up three-fourths of the nation have always been hungry, malnourished, starved.
Are we going to call out their souls?
Oh, where have our souls gone?
So today, from exile, I stand to watch other Filipinos leaving the homeland, one after another, in search for something more promising, some form of hopefulness, some form of an energizing power that would make them live again in fullness and joy.
I feel something within, something sorrowful, something sad, and something that is killing my spirit and unless I go away, that spirit would not know freedom and what it offers.
So I give my blessing to a niece who has to leave the homeland in order to find life somewhere as I give my blessing to all those who have decided to leave the country in order that the political leaders might have the chance to sell the Philippines abroad, sell the country for its meager labor cost.
A Solver Agcaoili
Sept 21, 2006