Ilokano as a Heritage Language in Hawaii

(Speech delivered at the Timpuyog Scholarship Banquet and the Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Program Retirement Testimonial for Prof. Precy Espiritu and Prof. Josie Clausen, UH Manoa's HIPLL, Pacific Beach Hotel, April 27, 2007, Honolulu, HI).

Ladies and gentlemen:

Even as I stand before you this evening, I am awed by your coming to celebrate with us at this Timpuyog Scholarship Banquet of the Timpuyog and the Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program of the University of Hawaii.

Tonight, we will honor two of our program scholars and two of our retiring faculty members. Tonight, we also honor ourselves, we Ilokanos, we Filipinos, we Filipino Americans, we immigrants, and we who understand the meaning of diversity in this land.

In less than a year that I assumed the position of program coordinator, I have become a witness to two retirements of two former full-time faculty members when the number of fulltime positions is only three.

These two retirements translate to 67% of the fulltime faculty retiring in less than a year, with a total of 64 years of teaching between them. I look for some meanings of this event somewhere, and before me is a symbolic struggle, a surprising challenge, and a living hope. This whole exercise reminds me of the Latin proposition: vivas ut possis quando nec quis ut velis—he plants trees to be useful for another generation.

Agmula isuna iti kayo tapno pakairanudan ti sumaruno a kaputotan. Magtatanim ng puno upang pakinabangan ng susunod na salinlahi. Vivas ut possis quando quis ut velis. Nagmulada, apo, iti kayo, ket datayo ti nagapit.

These days, I think of the challenges ahead: the kind of cultural and language struggle the Ilokano Program has to go through in this University, in the heritage community of Ilokanos in Hawai`i, in the community of language and culture scholars.

For the 34 years that the Ilokano program has existed in this University, I have come to understand the meaning of such a challenge, and in the aloneness and solitude of an academic and scholar, I see this urgency to keep the ember alive in order for us to be constantly reminded of our duties to ourselves, to our communities, and to the world.

One such duty is to survive.

Another such duty is to thrive. To survive, to thrive—to survive and thrive: these, I think, are to serve as the mantra for pushing the Ilokano Program to grow in spite of all the difficulties. With 9 of every 10 Filipinos in Hawaii tracing their heritage in Ilokano, and with Ilokano as the historical language of the Filipino diaspora in the entire United States, with 4,500 Ilokanos—90 percent of the annual total of Filipino immigrants—migrating to Hawaii each year, the challenges are enormous.

We have opened up the Ilokano program for public service in Hawai`i and in the Philippines. Today, we have inked up a consortium program with other 13 universities and colleges in four regions in the Philippines where Ilokano language and culture is of interest to academics, to the community, and to the students.

There are a number of obstacles that we are faced with in this consortium agreement aimed to assure us that Ilokano language and culture will not only survive but also thrive.

One of them is the skewed, unjust, and culturally tyrannical and dictatorial national language policy of the Philippine government that entitles and privileges one regional language at the expense of other lingua francas.

Number 2, the continuing manipulation by academic, cultural, and language leaders of that obsolete concept of ‘one national language, one nation’ dictum—an imperialist, obsolete, and triumphalist linguistic and epistemological position.

And number 3, the need to understand, again and again, that the Philippine nation, like the United States of America, is a veritable ‘nation among nations’ and thus, in keeping with the premises of the social contract to do good, justice and fairness must be served.

For all these obstacles, we offer these:

One, the need to put an end to the tyrannical and dictatorial consequences of a monolingual national language policy that favors only one regional language against other lingua francas in order to arrest the linguistic and cultural genocide of the Filipino people.

Two, the unmasking of the 70 years of manipulation by academic, cultural and linguistic leaders of their political agendum to lobotomize the minds and consciousness of the Filipino people in order for them to easily invade and colonize these minds and consciousness of our people.

Three, the recognition that the Philippines has not only one or two lingua francas but at least three: Ilokano, Sebuano, and Tagalog—and to assure our people the growth, nurturing, sustenance, and promotion of all three and not giving entitlements and privileges to only one.

These proposals, to me, provide the context of our celebration today, because even as we formally say goodbye to Prof. Precy Llague Espiritu and to Prof. Josie Paz Clausen for giving almost all of their academic life to the cause of the Ilokano program, even as we witness the awarding of scholarship to two of our rising scholars, Abe Flores Jr. and Valerie Sandi, and even as we honor the sacrifices of our Timpuyog officers and members, we have a struggle to pursue and this struggle is as legitimate as the struggle of all peoples for authentic and genuine freedom.

For if there is one heritage language and culture left to die its own death and uncared for, our work is not done.

Our work as a part of the Ilokano heritage begins with our commitment to the Ilokano language and culture. Yet, we assure ourselves that our work does not stop there but moves on to link up arms with other heritage languages and cultures.

It is the work of our two colleagues, Manang Precy and Manang Josie, that we have all come to celebrate for this evening; it is the work of our Ilokano and Philippine heritage students that serve as the raison d’etre of our gathering; it is the resistance against all forms of social and cultural injustice, all forms of neo-colonizing and imprisoning actions; it is that insistence that all forms of democracy and justice and fairness are forms of recognizing the basic oneness and humanity in each of us.

It is on this note of insisting that we remember and that we commit ourselves to not to forget that I welcome you all to this banquet.

You have honored us by your presence.

Your presence has given us the energy we all need to push for a rethinking of an ancestral homeland that is not only territorial and physical but spiritual as well. That homeland could be in our heritages languages, in our heritage cultures, and in our commitment to diversity in this country.

Ditoy ken idiay Filipinas, nabukelen ti tignayan a manggutigot iti gobierno ti Filipinas a mangbigbig a ti Ilokano ket maysa nga opisial ken nailian a lengguahe.

A consortium and a movement of scholars, schools, colleges, and cultural workers have been formed to push for the Philippine government to declare Ilokano as an official and a national language.

We will see how far we can go with this movement but we will not stop.

Ang pagkilala sa higit na malaking Filipinas na lampas sa makitid na lente ng iisa o dadalawang wika ang siyang ideyal na naghahanap ng katuparan. Ang ideyal na ito ang siya ring susing pangarap ng sino mang nakakaintindi ng higit na malawak na kahulugan ng bansa ng mga ninuno.

Even as we speak of a Filipino nation, in this country and elsewhere, we speak of our indebtedness to the sacrifices and dedication of those whose fruits of labor we reap today. We thus dedicate this gathering to Professor Prescila Llague Espiritu for steering the program for 33 years. We dedicate this gathering as well to Professor Josie Paz Clausen for helping out in making the Ilokano program grow.

Dumanonkayo amin, apo, lumaemkayo, ket makipagragragsakkayo kadakami. Welcome and Good evening to all of you.


rodel daquioag said...

Kabayatan itii innak panangbasa iti daytoy nga artikulo, maragragsakan unay toy numo toy biang ngamin ket ditoy a maimutektekak iti kina-importante ti Ilokano kas maysa nga importante a wagas iti kumunikasyon.

not only that the ilokano heritage is enriched but more so that the younger generations today should appreciate and practice this language heritage that will entitle them to know their roots and culture, most especially.

agbiag dagiti Ilokanos!

ariel said...

Rodel, aloha:
Dios ti agngina iti pannakikammayetyo iti kastoy a tignayantayo a makasapul la unay iti pannakidangadang ken aminen a regta ken derrep ken sirmata a kasapulan iti daytoy a dangadang.