Nakem Book Intro

Nakem as Imagination and Critical Consciousness,
Nakem as Our Gift: An Introduction

Aurelio S. Agcaoili, Ph.D.

With this volume, a twin of Saritaan ken Sukisok: Discourse and Research in Ilokano Language, Culture, and Politics (2006), the Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program of the University of Hawai`i at Manoa, in collaboration with Nakem Conferences Inc. and the International Academy for Ilokano and Amianan Studies, offers the atang for the anito, the offertory for and in the name of the peoples of Amianan. The atang is this book.

This offering of this book as the atang is done with reverence and respect for all the peoples who trace their heritage from Amianan. It is also done with humility—with humility rooted in the humus, that consciousness of the ground, with the feet firmly planted in the soil, the head close to the earth, bowed because the bowing is an act of recognition of the sacredness of space, of time, of space-time. The ground here is concrete: it is the Amianan ground, territorial and psychic, and material and memorial: the earth of the Kailokuan, Kordiliera, and the valley of Kagayan—the KKK of Ilokano and Amianan Studies; this earth includes the place beyond the boundaries, beyond the beddeng to open up to new territories, new spaces, new places, new sites, new ground, new kaingin—new clearings in order to commence settling, homing, rooting, re-rooting. We thus include here the earth that even if it is not lived in the everyday, it has remained remembered everyday—the act of remembering one of ‘becoming a member again’: ‘re’ and ‘membering’. For it is in the remembering that the distance is bridged, and the exploring begins, again and again, the exploring always tentative, always a play, always a to-and-fro, always an act of approximating the vast possibilities of the lay of the land before us, the land promising some sense and meaning in life. For it is in the remembering that we get to experience the richness of our stories as peoples, the stories of our departures and arrivals, of our exploration and returning to share with the others the lessons we learned along the way, with our stories getting more and more a part of the ‘big story’, complex but not complicated because we have learned to unspool the thread of the beautiful weave of our many stories becoming one because we have learned the ways to, and the virtues of, synthesis and creation.

Let this book take on its role as a humble repository of some form of knowledge that the 2006 Nakem Centennial Conference has so far produced, a form of knowledge that invites discourse and discussion, conversation and clarification, and dissent and debate. In many ways, it plays up on the power of symbols, with its four parts coming into a fusion, the fusion necessary and urgent.

Part I situates Nakem Conference as an intellectual and academic exercise through the remarks of the leaders of the University where Nakem was held for the first time: Dr. Linda K. Johnsrud, Dr. Neal Smatresk, Dr. Joseph O’Mealy, and Dr. Amefil Agbayani; Part II gives us directions that will guide us on what road we are to take in pushing for a Nakem Conference that is committed and dedicated to a cause, hence, the need to go back to the ideas and propositions of the three keynote speakers: Dr. Bienvenido L. Lumbera, Dr. Lilia Quindoza Santiago, and Dr. Ma. Crisanta Nelmida Flores; Part III sets the tenor for discourse, with papers drawn from those presented at the conference: Dr. Aurelio S. Agcaoili, Prof. Elizabeth Calinawagan, Dr. Josie P. Clausen, Abraham Flores Jr., Ms. Ana Marcelo, Dr. Vincent K. Pollard, Mr. Julius Soria, Dr. Alegria Tan Visaya, and the testimonies of our students of the Ilokano program: Jeremy Sabugo, Rod Antalan, James Ramos, and Rachel Aurellano; and Part IV, the dedication part, sets the tenor, temper, and tone of the gratitude Nakem has for Prof. Precy Espiritu, one of the many who made it possible for Nakem to come about, with the papers of Dr. Aurelio S. Agcaoili and Mr. Virgil J. Mayor Apostol.

We are dedicating this book to Professor Prescila Llague Espiritu for the 33 years that she put in to give birth, nurture, and sustain the Ilokano Program—its name that I inherited as coordinator is ‘Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program.’ It is our way of saying the panagyaman even if we know we can never thank her enough for her act of seizing the opportunity to let the program grow from a single course, and then two, and then allowing it to bloom and then nurturing it further and with dedication to become the only bachelor’s program of its kind anywhere else in the world. We are aware of the humus in Prof. Espiritu—of her being rooted to the ground. I asked her many times why did she put up with the Ilokano Program, and always, there was one consistent answer: it was a job ‘I had to do.’

That could have been true.

But there are at least two ways of doing a job we have to do.

One, we can do it without the heart and soul and mind, in a neither-here-nor-there way, in that kind of a bahala na understood improperly, the summoning of the gods in the cry of ‘Bahala na!’ not sincere but a lip service.

Or two, we can do it with full heart and soul and mind. This, I think, is what makes the ‘doing’ different; it is what separates it from an ordinary way of doing a job that we have to do. What makes the act of ‘doing’ extraordinary is the heart in the doing, the mind in the doing, the soul in the doing.

As an ‘inheritor’ of this program, I can only be thankful; I can only be grateful. I allow myself to be awed by the symbols and meanings behind this gift of person, this gift of self, this gift of life—for in this program is the present presence of these three: person, self, and life.

In the coming years, we will continue to gather into books the conference papers presented at the inaugural 2006 Nakem Conference and in the succeeding conferences in the hope that the peoples of Amianan will be able to draw from these researches some inspiration to help critically produce relevant knowledge/s for our peoples in the North and for the country as a whole. In invoking the country, we are not limiting the concept of country as a territory but we are opening it up for exiles, immigrants, and migrant laborers to explore and to ‘talk story’ about the homeland that they remember, the homeland that no matter what, would always have a place in their hearts.

In naming this movement ‘nakem’, we are plumbing the core concept of Ilokanohood and extending the same concept to the other peoples of Amianan even if we are certain that there are many languages and cultures in this part of the country.
We acknowledge with humility—not with a foolish pride—that in the Amianan, Ilokano has become the lingua franca. This phenomenon is a result of many factors, and one of them is the ‘inherent’ and ‘logical’ interaction and commingling—the nexus—of cultures among the peoples of KKK. We admit a certain privileging here, this we acknowledge as well, and the privileging is a prejudice, knowledge before judgment, a prea+judicium in the way hermeneutics proposes this concept as a keyword to human understanding and communication. Gadamer talks of two kinds of prejudices: one that is negative and thus, infertile, and hence to be rejected; and two, positive, because these prejudices lead one to productive knowledge. It is this second sense of prejudice that we invoke the prejudicial in the privileging of Ilokano as a lingua franca of Amianan.
The privileging of Ilokano in the Nakem Conferences and in the issues raised in this volume is a consequence of the historical circumstances that gestated what is now being proposed as ‘Ilokano and Amianan Studies.’ In light of this, we hope to go beyond what the lingua franca offers in order to plumb the wisdom of the ages from the other ethnolinguistic groups of Amianan.

Honolulu, Hawai`i
April 2007

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