One hundred years of sakada solitude. This, to me, is what this centennial of the coming of the first 15 sakadas to Hawaii is all about. They were Ilokanos: brave and bold, daring despite the dread of living in a foreign land, a sea away from home, and miles and miles of roads to sorrows and sadnesses perhaps they have not known before.
At the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel last night, I witnessed the closure of a hundred years to start another saga of a hundred years, believing that in 3006, the peoples of Hawaii, the United States Mainland, and the Philippines will still remember. I am writing this note to issue a memorandum to the next generations, about four from today, to resist forgetting but keep on with the business of re-membering, of constantly renewing that membership to the virtual community of sakadas who labored it out starting in 1906.
To become a witness to this occasion is a privilege, a gift, a grace. I felt only awe, knowing that I do not know enough of the sakada story that needs to be told and told again and again, plus or minus those story tellers who are opportunists or braggarts or simply mindful of their big egos. And there are a lot of them that I saw in this centennial celebration despite my having joined only a handful of the more memorable activities, the memory in them either for their being infamous for their pretensions at anything connected to 'international' or just some bluff to find the gate to the corridor of power. Some people can be drunk with people's praises, with or without wine, the arak or the basi, or the champagne to wish everyone a happy
Then again, this is beside the point.
Celebrations are supposed to be celebrated and there were two big intellectual exercises that proved to be sufficient reason to keep on producing knowledge, one that is critical, reflective, and visionary, always thinking on ahead, always sensitive to the coming days and years and centennial gatherings that are yet to come. These are the Nakem Centennial Conference and the Philippine Studies Conference.
The Nakem Conference, we already know: the first time ever that issues about Ilokanohood and Amiananhood are brought to the surface and talked about in the open. We made history here, with many of the best of Ilokano and Amianan brains joining us to discourse about the many things that concern Ilokanos and peoples of the Amianan alike.
Now this Philippine Studies conference put together by the Center for Philippine Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
It gathered the best of brains on Philippine concerns in the Philippines or in the diaspora. And the topics ranged from the awakening to the esoteric to the exoteric. Knowledge is always like that: a variety, with lots of possibilities.
The closing ceremonies capped what the year-long celebration was, with the political leaders of the State and city and country of Honolulu in attendance, minus the governor but ably represented by the lieutenant governor.
There were symbols here--and one could only take in so many of them. To process these symbols, one has to summon all the powers of the memory and mind.
We even need to call the spirits for guidance--with the invoking of the god of life done in the country's native languages. Thye missed a point: there was nothing Ilokano in the invoking despite the fact the first of the sakadas were Ilokanos from the brown land yonder. Wrong symbol here, the pulsating of memory lesser. I only wish this was an unintended omission.
Surely, the gods are listening now.
The night ended with that symbolic passing on of responsibilities to the young by the individuals identified to receive the centennial award in the various fields.
We went home with the hope that 3006 will come by soon and fast.
A Solver Agcaoili
Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel
December 17, 2006