On April 23, I got a call from Cornelio J. Ancheta, publisher of Fil-Am Observer, one of the more respectable newspapers circulated in the State of Hawai`i. It is also with the FO that I write a host of issues concerning culture, human rights, and Ilokano language and culture, the very cause of my candor and passion, and the elan vital of my willingness to join the struggle to free our people from centuries of linguistic tyranny and cultural injustice.
For years and years, we have been made to swallow hook, line, and sinker the myopic idea that holds onto to the feudal and medieval belief that to be build a nation, all people must speak one and the same language, which is the premise, for instance, of the monolingual emphasis of the United States in its own understanding of what contitutes a nation, patriotism, and human understanding, forgetting that the human understanding of what is just and good is the backbone of what a nation is and ought to be. Somewhere, John Rawls has sketched out for us of the non-negotiable premise for doing social justice: the good life for the most people. And now this call from my publisher, CJ Ancheta, saying, among others, "I am publishing your piece on Ilokano as a national language. You have the right to your opinion, that is your opinion, and I will respect that in full."
Earlier, Tawid Magazine, through editor Jaime Agpalo, has picked up the concept of pushing for Ilokano as a national language of the Philippines in order to put an end to the schizophrenic iatrogenesis pandemia that has afflicted the people of the Philippines, a pandemic that has been caused by the linguistic and cultural policymakers who never understand what a culture and language is to a people different from those in the center of their own vortex of power and whose solution, this pandemic, it seems now, are the very people who had caused this social disease, including their linguistic and cultural apparatuses and appendages: the media, Malacanang, the shameless and unthinking school system, both private and public, the popular cultural forms including the abominable noontime shows carried over here by The Filipino Channel that can only make a sorrowful spectacle of our lot as a people. You name all of these, and we have a conspiracy to subtly effect a cultural and linguistic genocide on all the rest of the cultures and languages of the Philippines excpet Tagalog and English.
Let me make myself clear here: that I am not against the Tagalog people and the people who think of English as our economic salvation and our passport to domestic help and caregiving work in Palestine, Israel, Canada, Japan, Iraq, Italy, and Germany. Let me make myself clear: that the cause of our linguistic and cultural troubles is the mistaken notion that in a multicultural and multilingual nation-state like the Philippines, only one national language is sufficient to 'language' all the dreams and aspirations of a people who are, in fact, various peoples, with their own sets of world view, customs, traditions.
The 'isang bansa, isang diwa' bluff was good propaganda to cow people into believing that their past has nothing to do with the building up of a country from the ruins of erros and more errors.
Here is not a case of one ethnolinguistic group against another--a case of Ilokanos crying foul against the Tagalogs.
Here is a case of saying, with conviction, that the government's linguistic policy on the national language is all flawed, and the cracks and defects are showing and are swallowing us up, all of us, Tagalogs and non-Tagalogs alike, because, for another round of cultural and linguistic injustice, we are being made to believe that a single language is all that matters to finally pursue the good life for all of us.
The sad and sorrowful history of the Philippine nation has taught us a good lesson: that in all the wars that Filipinos waged against the colonizers and the neocolonizers including dictatorship and abusers of power--the revolutions that include the many revolutions whose gains were snatched from us by the opportunists--these revolutions had to be 'languaged' in the language of the people who were taking part. It was only when these revolutions were translated into their own view of the world that they gained the strength to commit themselves and to offer their own lives.To speak, thus, of the Katipunan, as some myopic social scholars tend to dangle before us as 'languaged' by and only by, Tagalog, is to become amnesiac.
To speak of Tagalog as Pilipino, and then to speak of Pilipino as Filipino, is running counter to what history has demonstration: a history of linguistic and cultural manipulation that began in 1937 with the presidential prejudice of Manuel Luis Quezon and still prevailing today. For 70 years we people from the non-Tagalog speaking areas have to contend with this lazy and irrational and abnormal idea about our lives and minds and art and literature being measured against the standards set by English and Tagalog, and now more with Tagalog being passed off as Filipino.
There are a thousand and one lies somewhere in this long history of lies and it is high time that we unmasked these lies. We cannot wait for 70 more years to realize that soon, if we did not act now, we are going to lose the linguistic resources of our multilingual nation with the insistence of that myopic and self-serving view that Tagalog is basis of the national language, now called Filipino. That formulation, I dare say, is even running counter to the requisites of the 1987 Philippines Constitution. Any idiot can read the provision in that Constituion to realize that we have been hoodwinked all along.
No, I will tell CJ Ancheta that my position is not only a matter of opinion, in response to his generosity of spirit of asking people to accept my opinion and listen to what I have to say. I insist that facts have been distorted and many language teachers, scholars, and government policymakers including the Surian ng Wikang Pilipino have been shortchanging us for so long.
For 70 years, we endured, we acquiesced, we did not say anything, afraid that some powerful people might get mad at us.
For 70 years, we kept mum, we kept our corner, we accepted that we are not from Manila.
For 70 years, we allowed our voices to be automatically stiffled, or if not, translated to the language of the powerful.
For 70 years, we believed in the 'nationalist' ruses and guises and pretensions, believing that if we spoke our mind in the language we know best, we end up not being nationalist enough.
But I read the Ilokano Katipuneros signing the Katipunan documents in their own blood in Ilokano.
What I am to do with this supreme sacrifice? Should I wait for another 70 years before speaking up?
In sum, it is high time that we rally behind this cause: to federalize the major languages of the country and as a consequence, declare, among others, that Ilokano has every right to be a national language in much the same way that Tagalog, a regional language, has every right to become the lingua franca of Southern Tagalog.
If we are not going to do it now, there is no other time we can ever do it. And if we are not going to do it, nobody will ever do it for us.
Oh well, we will end up the vanquished before we realize it is too late.
A Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa/Apr 26-07