Meeting Up, Linking Up

On Monday, May 28, 2007, we finally met up: Manuel Faelnar of SOLFED, Edwin Camaya of DILA and SOLFED, and I, representing Nakem Conferences.

This meeting up is historical, I thought, and I needed to blog it so I would remember it, more for me, for easy recall, for a commitment with memory. I am meeting up with Filipinos with a mind of their own, and with their own sense of what is right and wrong with respect to the homeland, to language, and to culture--no, to all the languages and cultures of this homeland that has been blessed with diversity, and truth and meaning in this diversity.

I got to the monstrous--huge, they say in the United States--Megamall, the megamall of capital and commerce and colonial life at a few minutes before the appointed time.

We asked around, the wife and I and we were told of the Starbucks on the 4th Floor of the bridgeway, and so there we went. I looked around and I did not see any attorney-looking/SOLFED-oriented man. I did not ask how I would get to recognize him, but earlier, I told him I would go on my workman's maong, my blue aloha shirt, and brown shoes.

I thought that I gave a giveaway--Manny would know, Edwin would know me--but I would never know them. If this way a mistake, I never regretted it. I though that I could intuit, and intuit with grace and guidance from the anitos.

And I was not mistaken, although I made a mistake going to the 4th Floor instead of going to the Starbucks on the 1st Floor. By 2:30 PM, and after the frenzied wrist-watch glancing while finishing up my cup of mocha, and after divining from the clear skies I could watch from my seat whether the SOLFED and DILA stalwarts would show up or not, I realized that I needed to figure out whether there are other Starbucks cafes around, and to my surprise, there was another one below.

I did not want to appear the 'indianero' of meetings and to the first floor I rushed. There, in the full and clear light of an afternoon Metro Manila in the heat of summer, there, I saw Manny, in welcoming smiles. I knew beforehand he was Manny as soon as I got past the door.

He was to wait for Edwin in that cafe as well. So he drew his card from his wallet and gave to the guard and instructed him to please give it to Edwin if he comes around to look and ask and find out where we would go.

So we went back to the 4th Floor to view that panorama of an afternoon sun, and feel the refreshing cold of an air-conditioned mall the rich and poor go to, but nonetheless, to my mind, a tropy of commerce men and capital and the colonial way of doing things, with the mall the masked condition of the poor who can only gawk at the wares for the rich, with their prices as priceless as the redemption one wishes in heaven.

We talked a lot, some mouthful, about our struggles, about what we want to do, and our concerns. And then Edwin came, and the talks got to be more animated, always hopeful, always revolutionary. So this is how a linguistic and cultural revolution is fought, in Starbucks cafes?

We strategized, careful not to telegraph our aces, but suggesting to our co-warriors what we should and can do, with Manny texting the people who can rally behind us, or to legislators who can pull some strings so some legislation process could begin.

There is more to this, and I will blog them here. But the linguistic and cultural revolution has begun. At last.

A Solver Agcaoili
May 29-07

Nakem as our Daton

Nakem Conferences as a Gift

(Talk delivered by Aurelio Agcaoili, 2007 Nakem Conference Opening Ceremonies, Batac, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, May 22, 2007)

Daton. Gift. The same word we anchor Nakem Conferences on. The whole idea of Nakem came from a vision, and this vision has been transformed into a mission, and this mission has been transformed into a goal.

When Prof. Precy Espiritu and I began brainstorming what we could do to bring together scholars, academic leaders, policy makers, creative writers, researchers, and language and culture educators, we were beginning right off with this idea of a gift, of daton.

For there is no better way of conceptualizing what we can offer our people except to look at this offering as an oblation for the past, a sacred remembering of the present, and a sanctification of the future that we ought to know.

Be invested with idea with lots of guts and gumption and prayer and perseverance and it is just a matter of luck—or a matter of the force of insight and creative energy that by November 2007, during the 2006 Nakem Conference at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa, Dr. Alegria Tan Visaya, Secretary of the Board of Regents of Mariano Marcos State University, began hooking up with the idea of exporting Nakem Conference and return this gathering of the best of our minds to the place where it is supposed to be.

When we had the administrators conference in November and December last year, with the blessings of President Miriam E. Pascua and the members of the Board of Regents, 2007 Nakem Conference was to be held at this prestigious University, the first ever that we are going to do outside the United States.

To make this idea happen, we have key I wish to recognize for making our gathering happen: Dr. Miriam Pascua, who, with her enthusiasm and welcoming spirit we capitalized on to strategize the holding of Nakem Conference in the Philippines. Dr. Alegria Visaya is a workhorse, and we both burned wires many times to check on developments and on each other, always watching for the time difference between Honolulu and Batac so we can talk to each other. Let me mention Dr Lilia Quindoza Santiago and Dr Ricky Nolasco, two people you can rely on to make things happen, Dr. Santiago for her belief in the peoples of Amianan, and Dr. Nolasco for his openness of heart and soul and his belief in the sacredness of diversity, multiculturalism and multilingualism.

As part of the strategy to seize the opportunity for us to make Nakem a movement, we have put up then international organization that will oversee the activities and cultural directions of Nakem and I would like to mention some of them who are here in the gathering: Precy Espiritu, Dr. Pat Brown, Julius Soria and two international representatives in the Board, Dr. Lilia Santiago and Dr Alegria Visaya.

The story of Nakem is a lesson in humility. We could not have pulled it through without the sacred sacrifices of the many faculty members and academic personnel of the Mariano Marcos State University and the University of Hawai`i. Capitalizing on the idea that the whole of Amianan—its various languages and cultures—has so much to offer in transforming the ideals of the Philippines nation into action plans for linguistic and cultural democracy, we at Nakem believe that today, we must accept with humility, that Nakem is an idea whose time has come.

Because your presence tonight is self-evident proof and there is no other.

Because your coming over to share with the rest of our people that dream that is worth pursuing—that dream about Ilokano language becoming a national or official language of this land, the dream whose pursuit has been postponed so many times, a dream whose pursuit will save us from linguistic and cultural genocide.

For linguistic and cultural genocide is a most immoral act of a people who probably do not intend the consequence but the genocide happens nevertheless, slowly, so subtly, so unlikely but it happens, with all of us not able to see the world with kind and appreciative eyes.

As a people imbued with the vision, mission, and goal of Nakem, our moral duty now is to become a signatory to the rectification of all forms of social, cultural, and linguistic injustices that have been inflicted upon us. Nakem is here to correct the mistakes, Nakem is here to help us reclaim who we are, Nakem is here to remind us that our languages and our cultures and our stories are all we have got and we must at least make good with them.

Because our Amianan languages are our social and mental resources.

Because our stories reaffirm and validate our existence, the sense of our life, the meaning of our existence.

Because Nakem, this gathering that is our gathering, is us.

Because in Nakem, we are going to fight for what is just and fair, for what is linguistically and culturally democratic.

Because in Nakem, we are not going to allow the continuing affliction and social malady that tyrannically lobotomizes us, subject our minds into a terrible linguistic and cultural surgery, and make us believe that there is only one and only one language that is sufficient and intellectually capable to mediate our understanding of the world and human experiences.
At Nakem, the lies of the past we will unmask, and the unmasking is not going to be easy, but unmask and expose the lies we will.

Good evening to all of you.

Ilokano Language Struggle

Ilokano and Amianan Studies:
Philosophical, Cultural, Linguistic
and Epistemological Considerations

Aurelio S. Agcaoili, PhD
University of Hawai`i-Manoa

Paper presented at the 2007 Nakem International Conference, Mariano Marcos State University, Batac, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, May 22-25, 2007

The paper proposes perspectives and paradigms through which Ilokano and Amianan Studies could be drawn up as a mode of knowledge critically reflecting the varying experiences of the peoples of Ilocos and Northwestern Luzon, this latter place made up of various linguistic and cultural experiences but shares Ilokano as its lingua franca in public life and in governance. Arguing from the framework that a real, genuine, and liberating studies on the Philippines cannot come from a hegemonic position provided in a two-tiered way by the “Englishization” and “Tagalogization” of Philippine national and communal experience, the paper sets to put together some arguments for the urgency of Ilokano and Amianan studies as an antidote to the systemic erasures effected by nationalization, neocolonization, and globalization.

These forces have stifled the growth of creativity from the various cultures and languages of the Philippines. Four perspectives—philosophical, cultural, linguistic, and epistemological—will be used to generate the argument needed to advance the claim that studies about the Philippines cannot afford to be a totalizing political exercise in the name of the Philippine nation and Philippine nationalism without at the same time scrutinizing the linguistic, epistemic, and cultural effects of such a totalizing exercise.

Philippine Studies as a Revolutionary Perspective and the Search for the Epistemic Roots of Ilokano and Amianan Studies

There are several ways by which we can look at Philippine Studies (PS) as a paradigm of knowledge, with the concept of paradigm here used following the Kuhnian second sense, “paradigm as shared examples” (1970: 187) or “exemplary past achievements” (1970: 175).

What we have here is that even with Blumentritt’s ethnolinguistic excursus and that of Jose Rizal, we can only have some sort of “Pilipinolohiya” (“Pilipino + lohiya”) that was aimed, at best, to look at the universe of Filipinos as colonial exhibits against oppression; or colonial trophies, with the stress on the “barbarism” and “savagery” of a people as in the St Louis Fair of 1904 in Missouri complete with villages and peoples imported from the conquered Philippine Islands; or that idea of the search for origin, some kind of a genealogy to spite the colonizers’ aim of ‘civilizing’ us, as in the claim of Rizal that the people of the Philippines come from the Malay race (Azurin 1995: 9).

Such slanted aims of Philippine Studies as a mode of knowledge, and as understood in the past, do not warrant a new model of Philippine Studies that we are trying to evolve today. With the University of the Philippines on the forefront for its conceptualization during the turbulent 60’s and 70’s and graduating many of the current scholars who can readily show the change in the cognitive frame being used in those two models of Philippine Studies, we now have a perspective of Philippine Studies that is both critical and committed—critical of the modes of producing and reproducing knowledge about the Philippines and committed as well to the production of a dynamic and continuing because always-exploratory knowledge of Philippine society, its people, its cultures, its languages, its politics, and its economic life.

The stress on the exploratory, tentative, and open-ended nature of knowledge resulting from this view of Philippine Studies is required by the admission of the interpretive nature of all human knowledge, with the recognition and admission at the same time of the mediating power of human language in all these forms of human knowledge.

For the interpretive view of human knowledge grounds itself with the urgent and expedient need to acknowledge that human knowledge, in all historical times, has always been marked by a certain historical ‘situatedness,’ by the requisites of time and place, by the requisites of actors and actions commingling and coming into a human enterprise but always understood, however tentatively, by the prevailing mode of human communication we call human language, thus, the human language that is a dialect, the language that is used in its ‘everydayness.’ Because it is the everyday language—the dialect—that speaks us, that speaks to us, that speaks with us, and to whom to do we also speak about, speak to, speak with, and speak from. Our everyday understanding of the world is thus always-already a result of, and made possible by, this everyday language—thus, in fine, there is no everyday language opening up a world to everyday knowledge that is final, complete, immutable, incorruptible, unpolluted, and pure.

All these factors, when considered with intellectual integrity, helps us realize that Philippine Studies is not about essentialism and about absolutes, but about the desire—the rugso and the derrep—to get to have both a theoretical and practical basis of understanding the world, the self, and human experiences.

The ground of the revolutionary is the need and the desire to keep on renewing our understanding of the world, with the renewal mandated by surprises and terrors of change, but always measured by our ability to come to terms with the constancy of that change, always on the ready to confront it, resist it, rework it, subdue it, or accept it. To understand the evolutionary frame in which Philippine Studies has gone through for the last 150 years of so, we can speak of a heuristics here, a broad segmentation defined by the requirements of social change: (a) a pre-revolutionary, pre-liberating model and (b) a liberating model.

In 1974, the University of the Philippines approved what it called the Ph.D. in Philippine Studies, a multidisciplinal graduate program, with the principal objective of “train(ing) students who are able to look at Philippine problems from a multidisciplinary point of view” in response to the need of the Philippines for scholars trained along multidisciplinary lines” (Bautista 1991: 24).

From a formal academic perspective, this visionary direction taken by the UP at that crucial time in the 70’s indicates the maturation of the same radical and revolutionary ideas the 60’s fermented among the ranks of those who had the courage to say that there was something wrong with the country and that something had to be done. While this institutionalization of this perspective augured a new way of looking at the things that concerned the country, we must understand that this new way finds its roots and connection with the earlier revolutionary struggles of our people that included, among others, the need to break the colonial ties that bounded it with the colonizers.

IAS draws its energy and √©lan from this same revolutionary and radical tradition. The sporadic revolts from the Ilocos is not one among and of the Ilocanos alone, this we see clearly in William Henry Scott’s Ilocano Responses to American Aggression, and in Resistance and Revolution in the Cordillera edited by Delfin Tolentino Jr. (1994) particularly Scott’s “Igorot Responses to Spanish Aims: 1576-1896” and “Bontoc Uprising of 1881,” Luis Talastas’ “The Battle of Lias: Resistance in Eastern Mountain Province,” and Fay Dumagat’s “The Role of the Itneg (Tinggian) in the 1896 Revolution.”

Here in these accounts and many others are the historical, ideological, and liberating relationships among the various cultural communities and indigenous peoples of Amianan, who bound by both the wind direction and by a culture they share with the earlier Y’ami/Ami/Yami peoples and enriched by Hindu, Buddhist, and Arabic culture they have come into an encounter with. Where then do we draw this concept of Ilokano and Amianan Studies in the context of the evolutionary developments of Philippine Studies, with its clearer and clearer direction towards knowledge that is liberating, with the idea of liberation from the very notion of what, in Ilokano “wayawaya” is all about.

The stress on the concept of wayawaya here is accidental and is traceable more to the acknowledgement of Ilokano as a lingua franca in these parts, with the idea of lingua franca tentatively removed from the colonizing intents of dominant languages. For the making of Ilokano as a lingua franca in Amianan is not a result of a legislative or an executive act, and if at all there is manipulation somewhere, these manipulations are not clearly intended but came in as a result of the exchange and diffusion of ethos and language, including the movement of commerce among the indigenous peoples.

For clearly, the Ilokanos are not better off economically from the other indigenous peoples in Amianan, with the people’s resources far more diminished than the IPs in these parts, which was why one of the main reasons fro outmigration is clearly the Ilokanos’ need to clear a new land in order to survive, coax it to fertility and then own it, and then build a semblance of the community they have left behind, by, among others, naming that new land with the name of the community they left behind, thus, a Kavintaran is not far off as a community somewhere in Nueva Viscaya.

What do all these things mean?

Simply put: the Ilocos is not separate from the larger terrain of the Amianan, both as a physical and geographic reality and more so, as a psychological territory of diffused experiences and a long memory of cultural and economic relationship. This simply means that the broader framework for Amianan Studies includes studies about the Ilocos, about the BIBAAK peoples (a term used more as a cultural organization in Honolulu and in San Diego: Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga), and about the peoples of Amianan that outmigrated or have gone to other places and evolved their own communities in these new lands they have settled in. In the end, the IAS is not simply about a local area of studies, but an area of studies that is beyond an area itself but includes those that speak to these and about these peoples and hoping that these peoples will in turn speak to and about IAS.

To evolve an IAS whose subject matter is clear is far easier, one that can faithfully speak to and about the peoples in the Amianan.

But to demand from the Amianan peoples the same sensitivity and sensibility does not come in conversely, as this comes with some epistemic duties based on, largely, the ability to get into metanoia about what a liberating and critical and committed knowledge is all about.

For today, the records are coming in clearer: that so few of our peoples in Amianan have the courage to own up their cultures and languages, with the Ilokano peoples the number one of those who have the lack of wisdom to deny their Ilokanoness. The empirical data are coming in handy, and the accounting of our community activities can only come logically.

How many of the Ilokanos, for instance, have the courage to own up their language?

The answer to this is a kind of a chasm, a divide and rule thing, a consequence of the this new mode of colonization all non-Tagalog peoples are going through at this time.

The challenge comes from the report of academics, from the ranks of public school teachers who say that their pupils and students no longer take pride in their being Ilokanos. Mabainda nga agilokano—they would be embarrassed to speak Ilokano—the teachers would say. This is a concrete report, as factual as one can get.

But real problem comes in when we ask teachers how many of them—these teachers who are making the report—have had the boldness and daring to own up their Ilokanoness.

Indeed, how many of our teachers can speak our Ilokano language with flair and elegance, the educated and formal sophistication that demands a continuous reflection of the vast possibilities of the Ilokano language? How many of our teachers can ever speak the Ilokano language with pride, and with a full acknowledgement of the terrors and surprises the Ilokano language offers?

How many, may I know, of the teachers in our ranks, of the teachers here present in this conference, can speak with pride, of the literary history of our people?

How many, may I know, of the teachers attending this conference can be seen reading Bannawag, Tawid, Saniata, Rimat, and other magazines in Ilokano without feeling insecure, ashamed, embarrassed, promdi, baduy, udong?

How many, may I know, of the academic leaders and cultural workers present in this gathering can speak with confidence and expertise, what our Ilokano writers writing in Ilokano, Tagalog, English, Spanish and many other languages are writing?

How many know Leona Florentino and her sorrows, her daring and her artistic way of owning up her own brand of feminism? How many know Ursula Villanueva? How many know Antonio Rubio? How many know Juan San Pedro Hidalgo Jr.?

How many know many of our hypervaluated writers writing not in Ilokano but in Tagalog and in English, and in a more remote past, in Spanish?

How many know of the Basi Revolt and its translation into a series of paintings, in panels, and displayed, in bad condition, at the Burgos Museum in Vigan?

How many know how our writers continue to plumb the Ilokano soul by plumbing his own soul as well?

How many of our otherwise promising writers we are losing to other trades and industry because we do not read, because we do not take pride in the Ilokano work that we read if we ever read at all, and because we do not care whether the Ilokano language will ever survive and thrive in the next five years?

Many of us academics, teachers, educational leaders, cultural workers, and even government men and women are ignorant of so many things Ilokano even if we are not supposed to be because we are supposed to be knowing better than the average man or woman on the street. History has given us all this rare moral and political obligation, born of our special blessings, to become witnesses to the Ilokano culture and language—to witness to its truth, to witness to its sense and meaning, to witness to each vast possibilities?

But how many among us, indeed, are taking this vocation to witness with truthfulness and courage?

How many of us can ever say with pride, that yes, I am an Ilokano scholar, and I know my Michel Foucault and Hans-Georg Gamader and Jurgen Habermas and Pablo Neruda and Virginia Woolf—and yet I know as well the critical works of Lilia Santiago, Roderick Galam, Adel Lucero, Mario Rosal, and Noemi Rosal, and the masterpieces of our younger writers such as Herman Tabin, Hermie Beltran, Linda Lingbaoan, Aida Tiama, Roy Aragon, Ariel Tabag, Cles Rambaud, and Prodie Padios?

How many can rattle off Hidalgo and his short stories, his novels, his paintings, his poems, and his translation works?

How many have read Greg Laconsay’s translation into Ilokano the former President Ferdinand Marcos’ Today’s Revolution: Democracy, where in there, he translated into a beautiful Ilokano concept what consciousness is all about?

How many can talk of Rey Duque’s early love poems and his mature love poems, Pel Alcantara’s intellectual because intellectualizing poems and short stories? O, how many do we ever know at all? How many know that 100 years ago, Williams came up with a book on Ilokano grammar? How many know that there are many versions of the Christian Bble in Ilokano?

How many know that Precy Espiritu wrote not only one but two books on Ilokano grammar in the last 15 years?

These itemization of what we know and what we do not know is an attempt at accounting and soul-searching. We can easily quote some obscure author in English. We can even quote Willie Revillame from his daily inanities on his inane “Wowowie” and his making a spectacle of lady dancers who do not only know how to sway but also know how to economize on clothing and making commerce out of this daily barrage and deluge of the non-sense. But pray, tell, how many of us know something about our own revolutionary history?

Where would education begin and where would it end?

Are we to exempt our biologists here their ethical duty to not to know about our language, our people, and our culture?

Are we to exempt our educational leaders from not knowing about cultural and linguistic democracy and the cultural and linguistic genocide that is happening to our people at this time?

These issues about the Ilokanos are the same issues affecting the other 2 Ks in the Amianan: the Kordiliera and the valley of Kagayan. I am using the K-form of the sounds in the areas of the Amianan for mnemonics: the Kailokuan, the Kordiliera, and the valley of Kagayan. This simply means that we ought to ask the same set of questions, and using the same measures, must also account the other IPs from Amianan.

But back to the issue of linguistic and cultural genocide and how it is affecting us as a people.

My clear take on this is this: that we must not allow this linguistic and cultural genocide to continue.

The message I am telegraphing is univocal and does not admit of other interpretation: we must put an end to all the forces that are making us as a mass-herd, as a people that has come to value forgetting, as a people that does valorize truth-telling but believes that there is redemption in becoming a party to all this masquerade that is happening all around us.

While in other parts of the globe, there is that humble recognition of the failure of the past, in the disturbing and deadly consequences of ‘massifying’ people and making them speak and talk and see the world only in one and only one language, and in the systemic rectification of the errors of the past by making ‘official’ the other languages from their regions that deserve no less attention than the already ‘officialized’ one by virtue of giving citizenship to this language, we are here in this country trying to make good with the fascistic possibilities of an ideology that did not and will never make our minds and imagination productive, that ideology that has something to do with a singular and only a singular language that encapsulate all what we are.

The idea of a national language is an ideal, as I have always said so in many of the works I have done. But the idea is one that ought to follow the spirit of the fundamental law of the land, a provision, that to me, need no further violation as we have already violated: (a) that this national shall be called Filipino and (b) that this should be a product of all our existing languages. We need not say more on this, even with the errors of history on our side.

The big trouble comes in when in the pursuit of the single linguistic symbol, the terrorizing meaning and effect of that one word, “single,” is masked off with faux unity and faux national cultura and everything faux that attend to it. There is something wrong here and scholars must do two things: (a) help in the unmasking of these lies peddled to us in the last 70 years since Manuel Quezon signed the Tagalog based on, among other things, accommodation and boasting by proponents and the stupid timidity and culpable acquiescence of uninformed and ignorant Ilokano and Cebuano representatives ( Cf. Gonzalez 1990).

I take issue with Tagalog as a national language. It is unconstitutional.

I take issue with Tagalog being used as a mask to account the idea that there is now the existence of a Philippine national language which is called, among others, a schizophrenic name P/Filipino by one academic at the University of the Philippines. It is not morally right and correct.

This linguistic and cultural schizophrenia must be diagnosed, named, and unmasked—and its prognosis stated: it is making a rapid genocide of our Ilokano culture, of our Ilokano language, of the languages and cultures of Amianan.

Now, where does Ilokano and Amianan Studies come in in this linguistic and cultural struggle for freedom, for autonomy, and for authenticity?

The trouble with the isomorphism—this idea that Tagalog=P/Filipino—that has happened in Tagalog as a national language is that:

(a) it has made Tagalog as a triumphal language, marching and marching with the feet of victory, and gaining advocates and adherents, and a military and a navy and thus,a ever-ready to wage a war against all of us, we who speak differently, we who see the world differently;
(b) it has positioned Tagalog as the political and cultural and economic powerhouse, with more profits for movies, magazines, schools, and other media when these are in Tagalog at the expense of the other languages, with more political power for academics and other cultural leaders who can speak Tagalog masked off as P/Filipino, with superiority claims for all other peoples who can speak it;
(c) it has made other languages inaccessible, more remote that ever, because their existence do not matter even if Tagalog advocates speak about a token attitude by including a word or two from language A, another two or three from language B, and another four or five from language C;
(d) it has made many Filipino linguists on the national language blind, preferring to wallow in the blessed thought that to maintain the isomorphism that Tagalog is equal to P/Filipino is a convenient position and a comfortable intellectual discourse;
(e) it has made Tagalog literature as the canon for anything Philippine in of poetics and the linguistically aesthetic, with Tagalog writing being used as a measure for many things, including the perks and pelf that go with Tagalog writing, and including the awarding of National Artists for Literature—practices that are not only tyrannical and undemocratic, but also anomalous in a country that acknowledges the blessings of diversity and multilingualism.


From this perspective, we see clearly the political and epistemic position of IAS. It is not going to allow knowledge that is microwavable but resists all forms of knowledge that offer convenience and comfort, but not critical enough to admit its fundamental lack of integrity and truthfulness.

It is not going to allow the repetition of lies, but will unmask these lies in an effort to forge a broader view of the universe and human experience by using a critical lens to account what makes truth and meaning matters.

In the end, we will speak here of an IAS that looks at the universe of the peoples of Amianan from a political, cultural, and economic perspective: (a) a federated part of the country with full autonomy, with its lingua franca, with its politics that is grounded on a caring concern for the power of the people to define their own destinies in their own terms; (b) an Amianan made up of diverse cultures and peoples and languages, but unifies, in a certain way, by a lingua franca enriched by the languages of the various IPs; and (c) an Amianan that becomes its own hub of investment and commerce, and that has the capability to trade, as in the past, with other nation-states, other federated communities of the Philippines, and among its IPs.

IAS is a whole new epistemology, a new vision, a new way of looking at things.

IAS is a door to liberation, to social redemption, to cultural affirmation of what are the people’s cultural and linguistic rights.


Azurin, Arnold Molina, “Mga katiwalian sa ating kamalayan tungkol sa kaalamang bayan,” in L.Q. Santiago, Mga Idea at Estilo. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1995, pp. 7-20.

Bautista, Violeta V. and Rogelia Pe-Pua, ed. Pilipinolohiya: Kasaysayan, Pilosopiya at Pananaliksik. Quezon City: Kalikasan Press, 1991.

Gonzalez, Andrew B. Language and Nationalism: The Philippine Experience Thus Far. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila UP, 1980.

Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. second ed, enlarged. The University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Philippine Independence and Father's Day

June is a month of many things, like the now perfunctory celebration of Philippine Independence and the equally now perfunctory celebration of Father’s Day.

While both are rites of memory, rites that are sacred and therefore to be always sanctified because we owe a lot to the memory of a race waging a struggle against the colonizers who came uninvited to the homeland, the Philippines, and we owe a lot as well to all the fathers that have come into our lives—yes, Virginia, not only to our biological father but to all the fathers of the world—we have yet to see the connection of these two celebrations in June.

The Philippine Independence fathered our act of freeing ourselves from those forces that spelled doom to a proud people.

The sense of fathering here is more of parenting, of gendering, and of mothering as well, and not the ‘father’ that we know of the past as a function of reproduction and biology and anatomy.

Fathering here is a metaphor, one that tells us exactly the beginning of the things that makes sense to us all.

It is not by accident therefore that in the unique Philippine experience of homeland and nation and family, these terms about our independence and fatherhood come into an intersection, a connection, a nexus.

For the metaphorical father fathers ideas, selves, concepts, redemption, independence, in short, a homeland that includes and not excludes, welcoming and wishing us well, us the children even if some of us have become fathers ourselves, in both the biological and the poetic and metaphorical sense.

But even as we celebrate Philippine Independence, in the homeland as well as in the exilic communities where our countrymen have gone on to search for the good life in strange places, in unfamiliar climes and times, we are not to rest content with the idea that all is well in the home front, that all is well in the country that we imagine in our hearts, mind, and soul.

But even as we celebrate Father’s Day and its suggestions of fecund and fertile and freeing concept of fatherhood, we need to sit down and revisit the ideas and practices of fatherhood everywhere such as the fathering of a country, such as the fathering of a family, such as the fathering of liberating and democratic ideas for ourselves, for our communities, for our peoples, and for all peoples of the world.

A Solver Agcaoili
Marikina, Phils
May 29/07

2007 Nakem Conference- 1

On the day Nakem Conference 2007 was to start on May 22, the first rains of May came. For the Ilokano and Amianan mind, this spelled blessings from the universe, from the anitos, from the cosmos. The thought of the blessing is salving, soothing, saving. Let the butterflies in the stomach go away, I said, in a language withour language, without words, beyond words.

On the road from Manila, detours and all, and with the dark night for a cover initially, I thought of the days ahead, the days of the future, and the language and culture struggle that we must wage and win, not for ourselves but for our people, for our communities, for the country.

Nakem Conference started with the idea of sanctifying the memory of the first fifteen Ilokano workers who set foot in the Hawaiian islands to battle fatigue from economic deprivation and faith in mankind, the man of commerce, and the promise of good life in the plantations and before the atrocious and oppressive plantation bosses.

Forget the debilating heat of the Hawaiian sun in these isles. The Ilokanos, browned by the sea and surf and that same sun of the Hawaiian islands, can forgive the heat and with long-sleeved working shirt to shield and protect them, and with that generation after generation of collective memory, a memory of coming to terms with what the sun can do to the skin, they came to the Hawaiian shores, on the SS Doric, and their eternal memory of that eternal voyage was to be etched in the stone of a people's consciousness.

We started that way with Nakem 2006. Nakem 2006 was to be the beginning of an eternal gratitude, of making sacred the sacrifices of the Ilokano workers in the plantations.

But we knew early on that that was not to be the end.

We knew clearly that this was to be the beginning of more Nakem Conferences to come, the conferences envisioned as the gathering of the best of the Ilokano and Amianan minds, with creative writers in attendance, with performing artists taking part, with scholars presenting their discoveries, and with political and cultural and educational leaders taking the lead in revisiting and in rethinking about policies and political practices especially those concerning language and culture, and the correcting of errors linked with languistic and cultural justice and democracy.

Yes, a revolution and its revolutionary context must frame this new way of looking at the Ilokano and Amianan self and selves, be these in the Philippines or in exile.

And so, in November 2006, we linked up with Mariano Marcos State University to brainstorm the holding of 2007 Nakem Conference.

This University, for historical correctness, is the first ever to take up this challenge, with Dr. Alegria Tan Visaya and Dr. Miriam Pascua seeing that it is worth hosting it. It paid that we were dealing with the Board of Regents at that time in that fateful day in November, at the joint UH Manoa and MMSU Administrators Conference in Honolulu, with Dr. Visaya and Dr. Pascua right away agreeing of the need to bring back Nakem Conference to where it ought to belong--to the Ilokos, to the Amianan, to all the peoples in this part of the homeland.

It was still raining when I hit that Batac crossroads where buses are to stop and vomit the passengers in search of other roads less travelled, or in search of their roots and themselves. I was one of those, and the rains fells as if in a hail, in a deluge, and the waters rushed to the earth, the little rivers sparkling in the early morning sun.

I breathed, heavy and dense and fulfilled, despite the fitful sleep one does when you travel for hours and hours on end.

Tonight is going to be the big day, I thought, and I prayed to the spirits, to the anitos of old, to that energy in myself. Apo a Manangngaasi, I muttered, in silence, talking more to the silent surroundings around me, in this morning light, in this early hour when one's being is so light one can float freely in the air rushed by the rains. "This work is not mine, this work is not ours--it is yours, take it, take it. To you do we commend what is going to come. To you do we commend Nakem and its possibilities.--Daytoy nga aramid ket saanko nga aramid, daytoy nga aramid ket saanmi nga aramid--kukuam daytoy, alaem, alaem kadi. Kenka nga ipabus-oymi ti pagbanaganna. Kenka nga itaklinmi ti Nakem ken dagiti amin a posibilidadna."

I closed my eyes and I saw MMSU and Batac in my mind. I saw the best of our cultural workers, our scholars, our academics, our educational leaders, our teachers. I did not see the numbers but I saw them come--and I said, "Come, come, please come."

I got off the Partas bus and the cold air of the rains embraced me.

I write this from hindsight now, with my ubiquitous notebook for facts, recall, and guidance. More than 180 participants were to come and one with us.

A Solver Agcaoili
MMSU Batac/May 25-07

2007 Nakem Conference-1

On the day Nakem Conference 2007 was to start on May 22, the first rains of May came. For the Ilokano and Amianan mind, this spelled blessings from the universe, from the anitos, from the cosmos. The thought of the blessing is salving, soothing, saving. Let the butterflies in the stomach go away, I said, in a language withour language, without words, beyond words.

On the road from Manila, detours and all, and with the dark night for a cover initially, I thought of the days ahead, the days of the future, and the language and culture struggle that we must wage and win, not for ourselves but for our people, for our communities, for the country.

Nakem Conference started with the idea of sanctifying the memory of the first fifteen Ilokano workers who set foot in the Hawaiian islands to battle fatigue from economic deprivation and faith in mankind, the man of commerce, and the promise of good life in the plantations and before the atrocious and oppressive plantation bosses.

Forget the debilating heat of the Hawaiian sun in these isles. The Ilokanos, browned by the sea and surf and that same sun of the Hawaiian islands, can forgive the heat and with long-sleeved working shirt to shield and protect them, and with that generation after generation of collective memory, a memory of coming to terms with what the sun can do to the skin, they came to the Hawaiian shores, on the SS Doric, and their eternal memory of that eternal voyage was to be etched in the stone of a people's consciousness.

We started that way with Nakem 2006. Nakem 2006 was to be the beginning of an eternal gratitude, of making sacred the sacrifices of the Ilokano workers in the plantations.

But we knew early on that that was not to be the end.

We knew clearly that this was to be the beginning of more Nakem Conferences to come, the conferences envisioned as the gathering of the best of the Ilokano and Amianan minds, with creative writers in attendance, with performing artists taking part, with scholars presenting their discoveries, and with political and cultural and educational leaders taking the lead in revisiting and in rethinking about policies and political practices especially those concerning language and culture, and the correcting of errors linked with languistic and cultural justice and democracy.

Yes, a revolution and its revolutionary context must frame this new way of looking at the Ilokano and Amianan self and selves, be these in the Philippines or in exile.

And so, in November 2006, we linked up with Mariano Marcos State University to brainstorm the holding of 2007 Nakem Conference.

This University, for historical correctness, is the first ever to take up this challenge, with Dr. Alegria Tan Visaya and Dr. Miriam Pascua seeing that it is worth hosting it. It paid that we were dealing with the Board of Regents at that time in that fateful day in November, at the joint UH Manoa and MMSU Administrators Conference in Honolulu, with Dr. Visaya and Dr. Pascua right away agreeing of the need to bring back Nakem Conference to where it ought to belong--to the Ilokos, to the Amianan, to all the peoples in this part of the homeland.

It was still raining when I hit that Batac crossroads where buses are to stop and vomit the passengers in search of other roads less travelled, or in search of their roots and themselves. I was one of those, and the rains fells as if in a hail, in a deluge, and the waters rushed to the earth, the little rivers sparkling in the early morning sun.

I breathed, heavy and dense and fulfilled, despite the fitful sleep one does when you travel for hours and hours on end.

Tonight is going to be the big day, I thought, and I prayed to the spirits, to the anitos of old, to that energy in myself. Apo a Manangngaasi, I muttered, in silence, talking more to the silent surroundings around me, in this morning light, in this early hour when one's being is so light one can float freely in the air rushed by the rains. "This work is not mine, this work is not ours--it is yours, take it, take it. To you do we commend what is going to come. To you do we commend Nakem and its possibilities.--Daytoy nga aramid ket saanko nga aramid, daytoy nga aramid ket saanmi nga aramid--kukuam daytoy, alaem, alaem kadi. Kenka nga ipabus-oymi ti pagbanaganna. Kenka nga itaklinmi ti Nakem ken dagiti amin a posibilidadna."

I closed my eyes and I saw MMSU and Batac in my mind. I saw the best of our cultural workers, our scholars, our academics, our educational leaders, our teachers. I did not see the numbers but I saw them come--and I said, "Come, come, please come."

I got off the Partas bus and the cold air of the rains embraced me.

I write this from hindsight now, with my ubiquitous notebook for facts, recall, and guidance. More than 180 participants were to come and one with us.

A Solver Agcaoili
MMSU Batac/May 25-07

Literatura Ilokana Conference

Ilokano & Amianan Literary Conference and
TMI Convention to be Held in October

An international literary conference and writers convention will be held October 26-27, 2007 at the Philippine Consulate General on Pali Highway, Honolulu, Hawai`i, the United States of America.

The literary conference, to be held the first day, and the Timpuyog Dagiti Mannurat nga Ilokano iti Amerika/Global (TMI Amerika/Global) convention the second day, are under the joint auspices of the Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program, University of Hawai`i at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawai`i, the Timpuyog Dagiti Mannurat nga Ilokano iti Amerika/Global, GUMIL Hawai`i, the Tugade Foundation, and Annak ti Kailokuan iti Amerika. The Nakem Conferences, Inc. and the International Academy for Ilokano and Amianan Studies are also co-sponsoring the two-day event.

On October 27, the Ilokano Writers Guild of America/Global, also known as Timpuyog Dagiti Mannurat nga Ilokano iti America/Global, will hold its regular organizational convention aimed to ratify its bylaws and elect its new set of officers.
Themed “Kammayet-Oneing,” the convention will gather the members of TMI and its crop of successive leaders, including those who are supporting its causes.

The conference, “Literatura Ilokana ken Amianan ken ti Masakbayan/ Ilokano and Amianan Literature and the Future,” aims to explore the ways by which the heritage literatures of Amianan—the contiguous areas of Ilokos, Cordilleras, and Cagayan Valley and the exilic literatures of peoples from these places who have out-migrated to other parts of the Philippines and abroad—could be preserved, promoted, and perpetuated.

Writers and cultural workers as well as individuals who believe in the cause of sustaining and nurturing the languages, literatures, and cultures of Amianan are enjoined to take part in this conference and convention. Some of the topics to be discussed in the conference’s plenary sessions are the following:

• Resisting the global by getting local
• Writing and resistance from Ilokano
• Writing and resistance from the Cordilleras
• Writing and resistance from Cagayan Valley
• Linking up the Amianan: the literary linkages
• Cultural strategies in the preservation, promotion, and perpetuation of the literatures and cultures of Ilokos and Amianan
• Creative writing from the Ilokos so far
• Creative writing from the Cordilleras so far
• Creative writing from the Cagayan Valley so far
• The revolutionary in the Amianan cultures
• Imagining the revolution: the case of Amianan writing
• Translation and its future
• The future of Amianan literatures and creative writing

For the TMI convention, the writers guild is expected to firm up its resolve to pursue the aims of promoting a committed and socially and ethically responsible creative writing culture among Ilokanos and those writing about Ilokanos and the peoples of Amianan or Northwestern Luzon, the Philippines, and about the Ilokanos and peoples of Amianan in the diaspora.

For those interested to take part in the literary conference as speakers and paper presenters, send abstracts to: Aurelio Agcaoili,

A website will be reserved for this conference and updates will be sent to those who will register online on this website.

For more information on the writers convention, please contact: Sinamar Robianes Tabin or Lorenzo G. Tabin,; T. Gabriel Tugade,; or Brigido Daproza,

A Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa

Acido, Acido

(Daton ken Jeffrey Acido, iti panagturposna, May 12, 2007, Universidad ti Hawai`i. Ni Jeffrey ti maysa kadagiti sumingsingising nga adalanmi iti programa; tinurposna ti batsilier ti relihion. Iti sumuno a panagseserrek ken mapan idiay California, USA tapno agmaster met laeng iti relihion iti maysa a pagadalan idiay Berkeley. )

Mapanka kadagiti lukong ti isip
Kadagiti tanap ni dungngo
Kadagiti pantok ti panagsariwawek
Ti puso a di makaidna, agbirbirok
Iti ayat iti henesis dagiti ibit
Iti apokalipsis dagiti saibbek
Ta ditoy, iti kanito dagiti balligi
Ditoyda nga agpalagip.
Anian ta ti isubo a maregmeg
Ken basbas kadagiti amin a panawen
Imortal iti barukong ket sadiay
Nga agruting ti makaisalakan a saem.
Pagturposentay ti panagallaalla ti mata
Kas iti panagtalawataw dagiti daniw
Ta agbirok kadagiti linabag
Dagiti aldaw a mangaskasaba.
Itukittay dagiti balikas kadagiti bengkag
Iti adal a di mamingga, di maungpot
Panagal-allaw iti asido nga ammo
A di met saan kas iti sadiwa nga angin
A mangyepyep iti malmalday a tagainep
Agbirbirok iti sungani ti sennaay,
Ti eukaristia ti panagkawili iti Hawai`i.
Mamatikami: agsublikanto kadagiti isemmi
Ken iti mailiw a kararag iti bendisionmi.

A Solver Agcaoili/UH Manoa, 5-13-07

Ilokano as a National Language, 10

As is expected, the problem with many Ilokanos is themselves. Myopic and lobotomized, they cannot even appreciate the wisdom of their forefathers, this wisdom that is a product of the ages.

In my long years of research work, teaching, and community service, I have come across Ilokanos, in the Philippines, in the United States, and elsewhere who are not happy with their identity as Ilokanos.

One more sinister example is at the universities and colleges, in the Mainland US, Hawai`i or the Philippines where we have academics, who, in their convenient and comfortable ignorance, prefer to be dominated by that neocolonizing idea that Tagalog is the way to go to this dreamed-of 'isang bansa-isang diwa' delusion of grandeur that is as despotic as the Aryanists of the past, who, in their wild fantasies, of course, believe that purity and not pollution is the sure road to redemption. So we have Ilokano academics who would rather be known as someone else, members of some superior tribes somewhere who can lay easy claim to the illusions of a maharlikan civilization as Eddie Ilarde the historically compromised senator wanted us to believe in the 80's.

Some academics at these universities and colleges should have pushed for a clearer understanding of the roles of the multiple languages of the Philippines in the advancing of "Filipino" as defined by the 1987 Constitution but they did not. Sadly, some of them even had played hide-and-seek in their attempt to push for this Tagalogization of all Filipino minds, believing withou questioning that Tagalog has reached the pinnacle of its being P/Filipino without realizing that this thinking is schizophrenic.

We must also say at this point that many language educators are guilty of this wholesale and wanton destruction of Filipino minds mediated by the multiple languages of the country.

But how much are we going to hold the linguists and language policy makers accountable for this lie hoisted upon us for so long?

And since this lie has been repeated for a long time, it has stuck up in the consciousness until such time that now we can no longer think for ourselves. How much can we account them, these accomplices?

This is the problem of one commentator of a previous essay I wrote. This Ilokano does not believe that Ilokano deserves a chance to be recognized and become a national language. One even had the temerity to say that this push for Ilokano as a national language will only divide us further. He does not realize, of course, that this hoisting of Tagalog=P/Filipino has divided us for the longest time.

Let me riposte this 'inferiority complex' that has afflicted these Ilokanos.

This is a syndrome--always and always so--of people who have undergone colonization and neocolonization for a long time.

The colonized and neocolonized will always feel that he is not worth the 'superior' standard of the lord and master and thus, all his life, what he needs to do is make it sure that before the lord and master, his ways are in accord with this superior standard. He lives co conform, and thus, he does not live at all because he does not live his life.

In Hawai`i, for instance, as in the Ilokos based on the reports of academics, the Ilokanos are ashamed to speak Ilokano, believing that English is the primary ruler and Tagalog the secondary one. This report is not new: it had been this way since the 60's, moving on to Martial Law, and now.

Teachers who trained under me in several teacher training institutes that tried to inculcate the value of heritage understanding via Ilokano literature reported to me that their students cannot be caught reading Bannawag or other 'local' magazines that are in Ilokano. These teachers cannot be caught reading the local Ilokano magazines as well, saying, among others, that this is so 'working class,' 'so promdi,' 'so baduy.'

So here, the equation is this: evil/badness/inferiority=Ilokano.

If in the process of educating students we punish them when they are heard speaking in Ilokano in the school grounds and more so in the classrooms, then, the sad fact that students will never admit their being Ilokanos is a logical consequence. But even before we deal with these student issues, we need to deal with the teachers as well. How many of the language and literature teachers do have the pride to speak and read and teach in Ilokano?

Again, in the many training seminars that I helped organized and put up, you end up regretting having asked the question from teachers.

Yes, the teachers are agents as well of this continuing inferiority complex--and with the carrot dangled before the students who can speak English and Tagalog, the inferiority complex gets worse.

This leads me to the issue of the commentator about Ilokano as national language and his insistence that this will only foment regionalism. There is, of course, ignorance here, with that presumptuous presumption that says that Ilokano encourages regionalism.

The argument here is that Tagalog is no longer a 'regional' language but a 'national' language.

But there is nowhere in the fundamental law of the land that says that except in the illusions of the Tagalistas and the Ilokanos who are more Tagalog that the Tagalogs, Tagalog is P/Filipino. This is a blatant lie. It is base as well.

This is the genesis of the lie that we have all along swallowed hook -line-and sinker, the line that Tagalog is now P/Filipino.
And many academics have made us believe so. And many government educators made us believe so.

There is a rule in the theory of acts that says that ignorance does not exempt one from his obligation to tell the truth and that there maybe a modification of his responsibility if his action was done out of ignorance. The crucial part here is this: that even if one were ignorant, he is always held culpable. Modification is not equal to having no responsibility.

The Ilokanos who despise their being Ilokanos are many. All of them do not know the value of language as the instrument for translating into clearer concepts the meaning of social justice.

We have many of them, these Ilokano academics who would rather be called 'Ingliseros' and Tagalog-speaking because to be known as such would give them access to the community of academics and scholars who know what neocolonization and domination and oppression are but could not see themselves as colonized, dominated and subjugated, and oppressed.

This phenomenon is found among Ilokanos, and it has now become common and everyday.

This ability to 'spoking English' and to 'speak Tagalog' is now the rule of the neocolonization game.

But it is safe to say that this phenomenon is found as well among the Bikolanos, the Tausogs, the Maranaws, the Kapampangans, the Pangasinenses, the Bisayans, or the Ilonggos. Oh, well, our tragic lives are intertwined, and there is no redemption here except to say what the Ilokano sakadas in Hawai`i said to the lunas, the oppressive plantation bosses, "Enaf olredi!"

My take is this: If an Ilokano cannot admit to himself that he is an Ilokano, the least he can do is to not to stand in the way of the Ilokanos in their struggle to re-claim themseves, and the identity robbed of them because of this linguistic and cultural lobotomization.

We need clear minds in this struggle.

A. Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa/May 11-07


(Daytoy ti orihinal ti imbasatayo a daniw, kas kiddaw iti 17th Divine Word College Alumni Association, iti paskenda a naangay iti Pacific Beach Hotel, May 5, 2007, Honolulu, HI. Inimbitarannak ni Manong Amado Yoro iti daytoy a panagguummong, ket iti kabayatan ti pannangan ken panagraragsak, inkiddaw ni Bernie Munoz ti innak panagdaniw. Iti nagbukel a lamisaan a panganan ti nangikuradaddengak daytoy a daniw, panagikuradaddeng a sinaksian dagiti katugawko a kas kada Dra. Estrella Pada Taong ken Manong Paul Taong, ni Danny Agsalog, ken dadduma pay.)

manen ken manen

Manglagip iti adayo
kadagiti baybay
ken bengkag

Isu daytoy a lagip
ti maikanatad
iti panawen a kanito met
segundo ti agnanayon
iti lukong ti palad

iti daytoy nga ili
iti labes dagiti allon
adayo kadagiti lua
a maibuyog
kadagiti binatog dagiti daniw
a mayurit iti nakem
a nagalusan itan mabibi nga isem

Italdeng ti bagi
kadagitoy a buya
kas ita, iti daytoy a rabii
nga agbalin nga agsapa.

A Solver Agcaoili
May 5/07 UH Manoa


(At the 17th Divine Word College Alumni Association Banquet at the Pacific Beach Hotel last May 5, memories came fllooding my otherwise tired mind. I had just done the first of the Kur-itan Series--the 3K Initiative, a collaboration betweent the Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program of the University of Hawai`i at Manoa and the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Legal Hotline when I realized that I needed to freshen up a bit and be there at that 'regathering' of the alums of that college that has served as the wellspring of knowledge in Northern Luzon. Divine Word is my high school alma mater where I took the pre-collegiate high school program that included a high school Spanish. The memory of having spent some of my younger days at the now defunct boys high school stirred pride in me and so to the banquet I went, even if parking was many hotels away down the next block, with Atty. and Mrs. Gene Albano for garage and elevator company while we both navigated our way to finding the parking lot of another hotel.

I remember in one gathering when Jose Rizal was asked for verses--was asked to recite a poem. There is an illusion of grandeur here--and I remembered the hero when one of the emcees announced that I have been requested to recite a poem. I do not carry my poems where I go--I cannot even memorize any one of them, believe me. So I had to look for a pen, two pieces of paper I ripped off from my organizer, and there and then, infront of the guests like me, in that table close to the state's left corner, I wrote this piece and recited it. I do not know if it makes sense, as I played it safe reminiscing my days at the Divine Word College Boys High School as well. The alums at the banquets were graduates in the college and I was there recited my poem before the alums who are wiser than me. But poets are not known to get away from the challenges so I recited this piece, unedited, unadulterated. You see what you get, and written in a few minutes.)

We come to gatther
and regather.

We come to remember
the alma mater and the homeland
away from the seas and the plains
our hearts know.

Then again, it is memories
that matter
eternal times in moments
minutes in timelessness
in the hollow of our hands.

We have come this far,
so far,
beyond the waves,
tears somehow,
lines of poems
we ourselves commit
to scenes like this
this evening becoming our mornings.

A Solver Agcaoili
Pacific Beach Hotel, Hon, HI
May 5/07

Ilokano as a National Language-9: Marginalization and Its Methods

The debate on the National Language issue has begun.

Some people say that this debate will open a can of worms on the machinations that happened to pass off Tagalog as P/Filipino, and the kind of role language educators and linguists, not to mention the creative writers have in the perpetration of this gradual genocide against the other ethnolinguistic groups of the Philippines.

The congressman from the first district of Tarlac, the Hon. Gilberto Teodoro, has picked up this debate and has shown interest in looking at the political ramifications of the continued domination of Tagalog language in the political, economic, and cultural life of the people.

The congressman proposes the view that the Philippines should better be looked at not as a 'nation' but a 'state' to allow for the surfacing of the other 'nations' in this homeland of exile, with about 10 percent of the population that have gone away in search of some meanings elsewhere other than in the country, the meanings anchored on some translation of the 'good life' in strange places.

Somewhere, we have proposed the view, that the Philippines must be understood as a nation among nations, if we grant respect to the other ethnolinguistic groups, and if, in broad strokes, this 'nation' concept relates to these groups.

The United States, of course, in its federalist set-up, has adopted this view for a long time, with the states federating to form another bigger state, the 'united' in the name of the country.

All these political dynamics affect, in a broad view, how a language or languages would be adopted to mediate the desires and dreams of an imagined country. Many people have proposed for a repertoire--the amalgamation of the many languages of the homeland, the amalgamation of perspectives, philosophies, passions for a homeland that has yet to offer the real fruits of social justice and democracy.

But what happened in the Philippines is not a 'federated' view of the linguistic and the cultural but a homogenization of a homeland with multilingual and multicultural resources and gifts, and valorizing one and only one language and thus the culture in that language. For seven decades, this method to marginalize a people has gone on and on and no one, except those organization with enlightened view of what a language and culture is all about, is complaining, no one is protesting, no one is calling for a linguistic and cultural revolution. In a country conditioned to accept things as they are, conditioned to kowtow to the whims and caprices of those educated men and women in power and who present themselves as redeemers and masters, and conditioned to not to raise any whimper, and puts a premium on not rocking the boat, to see differently is to invite problems. And when you do not have enough of imagination, the problems that ensue from a more radicalized view of the world as mediated by language become real problems.

This conditioning has become methodic in the way Tagalogization has come about.

No one talked about the sinister effects of Tagalogization.

No one talked about the lobotomization of the non-Tagalog mind.

No one saw that pretty soon, the values of Tagalog as P/Filipino would become the value and non-Tagalogs would soon prefer the Tagalog ways to their non-Tagalog view of things.

No one saw that the colonizing effects of English is the same colonizing effects of Tagalog except that this time, the colonization is localized and that for the non-Tagalog people to have access to the world, they have to get out of the imprisonments of two linguistic colonizations: English and Tagalog.

I do not understand, therefore, why this is difficult to understand, why non-Tagalogs have to keep on asserting their right to exist, to name their experience in the best way they know how.

The methodic marginalization, this methodic deprivation of the mind of many of our people, the denial to own up, in their terms, the sense of country and nation in their own language--this is what this marginalization is all about.

A Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa/May 7-07

Panagrurusing iti Panagkakallautang

Mangted iti ragsak ken inanama ken leddaang ti panagrurusing.

No kastoy a dumteng ti panagsipungtuan ti panagrurusing ken kalgaw, agarriangga nga agbalaw nga aggagarampang dagiti sabong iti bakras dagiti bambantay iti California ken Nevada, dua nga estado nga alisto no kua a pagpallailangan no sumken ti babantot iti barukong ken nakem ken panunot. Kasano a malipatan ti nasurok a tallo a tawen a panagkalkallautang kadagitoy a disso, a no marikna ti panagbudobudo ti dakulap--iti lakkona nga addaan uged a rapas, iti kannigid man wenno iti kannawan--ket manggargari dagiti casino a sadiay ket parmeken a patayen a kettelen dagiti addaan makukuarta dagiti di maturog ken di agpakaturog nga oras?

Malagipko idi umuna a maadakko dagiti kakastoy a buya nabayagen a tawen ti napalabas: ti buya ti ay-ayam dagiti sabong a makigingginnantil iti nabara nga aldaw ken ti ay-ayam nga adda kadagiti uneg dagiti pasdek a pakiginggingnasatan dagiti agar-arapaap a makadiakpat a kas kaniak.

Ayna, adda kararag ken araraw ken lualo iti sabong kas iti kaadda met laeng iti kararag ken araraw ken lualo kadagiti bibig nga agtantanamitim. Kunak iti bagik, kas panangay-ayo iti panagpakada iti manmano a doliar a no agindeg iti petaka ket kunam la no agkasera iti apagbiit ta no mabigatan ket agtalapuagaw a kasla agarog a kawitan.

Kunak iti gayyem a taga-Los Angeles idi kalman kabayatan iti panagen-ensayomi iti Salidsid a sala dagiti Kalinga nga ipabuyami iti Fiesta Fillipino, "Malagipko dagiti bakras ti bantay iti California, dagiti agariangga a sabong, dagiti maris nga agdadangadang, ti natangig ken napalangguad a pannakikarinioda iti angin, bulan, arbis, lam-ek, ken aldaw."

Dati a taga Los Angeles ti gayyem ket kinuna nga insungbat, "Saanmi nga ipalagip kaniak."

Addakami iti Waipahu, iti lugar dagiti kaunasan idi, iti purok dagiti plantasion ken dagiti agin-indeg kadagiti plantasion. Iti lumaud ket ti simborio ti pagdapilan a kuna iti ni Manong Amado Yoro kaniak a pagilasinanda no sadinno ti papananda no kasta a didan ammo ti yanda no addada iti tengnga dagiti kaunasan.

Iti daytoy a panagrurusing, adda angrag iti Honolulu.

Adda dagiti seniales ti panagungar manen ti uniberso ken ti daga ken ti aglawlaw ngem saan a kas iti Kadaklan nga Estados Unidos a makitam ta makitan ti gidiat dagiti klima ken panawen. Napunno siguro itan dagiti agdidigos idiay Palos Verdes, dagiti agparakayda iti danum idiay San Pedro, dagiti agbanbanniit iti Pier ti Torrance, lugar a kankanayon a pappapanan tapno sadiay ket ibelleng dagiti babantot iti barukong, iwasiwas iti umatiwerwer nga angin, ken bulosan iti allon santo sikbaben ti mangliwengliweng a taaw.

Sabali ngamin ditoy Oahu, ti isla a pagsasarak dagiti makipagindeg iti pagarian ti Hawai`i idi un-unana, idi saan pay laeng a sinakbab ti peligro daytoy a peligro, idi ti kapampanunotan ti kaaduan ket saan ti pagsayaatan dagiti nabibileg no di ket ti pagimbagan dagiti maipadpadisi, dagiti maiwalinwalin--adayo iti ugali dagiti nakabaddek iti daytoy a gloria a saan met--mannurat man wenno mannurot--a no mangiluges iti kapada ket kayarigna ti angrag iti kalgaw, ti pannakasiram dagiti bulong, ti panagkuretret dagiti sabong gapu iti isusukoda iti pudot, tikag, ken kinapaidam ti nalamiis a pul-oy wenno ti makapabang-ar nga angin wenno ti bibisbis ti arimukamok.

Iti Mainland, makitam ti paggidiatan nga ibunnang dagiti buya iti aglawlaw: ti sabong, kas pagarigan, a sumirsirip kadagiti rekkang, agbirbirok iti wayawaya nga agtundo iti rayray ti init iti dumaya.

Wenno ti makayepyep a pul-oy manipud iti baybay ket imasem ta imasem ti panangsanglad ti presko nga angin iti barukong babaen ti panangipug-aw iti sabidong nga adda iti aangsan.

No kasta a dumteng ti pannakautoy gapu iti nabayag a panagur-uray tapno mabukel manen ti pamilia a pinanawan, agtamdagka iti tawa iti kakastoy a rabii ti kalgaw wenno iti sardam dagiti linglingay. Iti adayo ket ti narayray a silnag ti bulan.
Malagipmo ti talon, ti bangkak, ti panagay-ayam iti kudisi wenno 'mapanen' no kasta a nalawang ti bulan ket dagiti anniniwan dagiti ubbing ket atitiddog.

Birokek ti Panagrurising iti Honolulu ket makitak ti kambas ti malem a kikkikien dagiti bullalayaw iti pantok dagiti agis-isem a bambantay iti laud.

A Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa/May 7-07

Springtime in Strange Places

Spring always hits me hard.

My heart is heavy the riot of colors remind me of the bundle of contradictions exiles go through. Perhaps the unbearable heaviness is harder for me as I witness the full blooming of the surroundings while I think thoughts of home, the home I remember, the home I miss--the home and homeland mixing up and oneing in my mind.

Today, I decided to pass through the long route to the University for this Sunday work on readings and more readings and research and more research in my office. I have one purpose: to enjoy the view from the elevated airport highway, the April showers with their yellows so proudly jutting out of the edges of the highway and reaching out to the sunny and cloudless skies of Honolulu. It has been a while that I did not take this long route to the University, avoiding the jam on the approach to Likelike and the winding road moving south, past airplanes and tarmacs and cement and the heat. The Red Hill on an alternative route is far better with its trees and shrubs and flowers and country loneliness.

Sundays I got to work. I like the University better when I can claim it is all mine on a Sunday like this, when students are not expected to call even if sometimes some do, knowing my secret that Sundays I come to write, to read, and to post blogs that sometimes I struggle to write.

I like the illusion that Sundays are all mine even if sometimes this statement is not true. The illusion has something to do with the contract--all in the mind anyway--that University teachers are to teach from Monday to Friday. But when you run a heritage language and culture program like I do, forget that illusion. Weekends could not have their Saturday and Sunday names many times, as these are extensions of weekday work.

But the Sundays that no one bothers me, I come to think, pray, read, write.

The solitude is what moves me--I have time in my hands, space in my hands, aloneness all of my own, presumably, with no interruptions.

Well, some friends know that I come to the University to work and they do call as well, making me a 24/7 worker, a 7/31 laborer, and a 12/365 public servant for this new land that has somehow welcomed me as its own.

When things like this happen, I feel like a newly arrived immigrant from England, from Ireland, from Scotland, from all white places of the while settlers trying to tame the wild in these parts. We are kindred spirits now, I tell myself, and I tell that in honor of their memory.

I think of the first settlers of Jamestown in Virginia, they who came from from England in search of materials goods, wealth, and the good life. Oh, these ideas of migration is what drives us exiles and immigrants to seek the ways to pursue these ideas. Knowing the settlers of Jamestown from my trip to that settlement last year and the feature article on Time, I feel the contours of the challenges that settlers went through, with a drought that lasted for a long time, and with the James River providing drinking water, dysentery, death. I walked Jamestown's firefly lit colonial center, the place where the settlers first anchored, the historical marker telling us exactly of the frozen time. Human history, indeed, is eternal, as time is.

But back to this Sunday's morning ceremony.

I took the long road with its tradeoff: the yellow of the April showers that line the stretch of the airport highway.

The flowers are fiery and feisty even in the midmorning sun, with only a whiff of fresh air from the sea to my right and from the mountains on my left. You pull down the visor to block the rays and to protect you from the pearly rays that hit the cement as you gas up a bit to let you the wind be on your face. You take in all the air, fresh in this morning hours, and you remember the fresh air of the Pagudpud see, the fresh air of Davila in Pasuquin where you did your ethnolinguistic fieldwork a long time ago, and the fresh air of the Padsan River in Laoag where the mountains in the east were not yet raped by loggers and rapacious leaders who only knew how to count the commission money for looking the other way around when ancient trees go the way of lumbers and board feets and sala sets, this last one a tropy for the rich and the nouveau rich.

Kur-itan Kontra Iti Kinaranggas iti Taeng--KKK Initiative

Something different is happening in Honolulu these days. Late last year, the Philippine Consulate General's cultural arm emailed me to ask if I was willing to hold some kind of a celebration in commemoration of the Philippine Arts Month, a big event in the homeland.

With the Consulate still a part of the Philippines, and the lead agency in the protection of Philippine nationals in the United States and thus obligated to remind these nationals that they are still duty-bound to love the country however much they hate its useless politicians and the inane actors, boxers, and political pimps who believe that they have gotten some vague message from heaven that they have been called to public service, Mod Villalobos, a cultural staff member, asked me, "Could you do it? Could you do it with the Tagalog program?"

I told the Consulate personnel point blank: I will do my thing, and it will be about the Ilokanos and all the peoples of Amianan.

I told them as well that the program--the Fiesta Ilokano and Amianan--we were going to put together would not be one that talks about the entire homeland even if what we could only show is the tinikling and some such exhibits and an exotic rendering of the "Pandanggo sa Ilaw." I almost lectured to them on my different notion of respect for some people's culture and not one that is colonializing and totalizing.

I was not pretty sure if they understood what I was saying, but my own concept was what was executed, with samplings of the old and new, with dances and rituals of the faraway past, and with modernized renditions of the daldallot, the tadek and salidsid, with no less than Dr. Estrella Pada Taong, Kathleen Aguilar, Virgil and I dancing the Kordi dances in our authentic custumes, woven form the Kordi with the colors as bright as the Kordi rainbow.

As our way of respect for the Cordillerans, there was nothing in there, in those baag, just ourselves and pride, and the legs that pretended they were still spritely even if Manang Ella, president of her own real estate company, is past 60 while many of us were nearing our prime as well, having gone through Martial Law and what it entailed, except for Virgil who was born and raised in Los Angeles but taught himself how to reclaim himself, his reverence for his ancestors, his connection to the anitos through his healing practices and by teaching himself Ilokano. This is one man who by accident of birth could never be Ilokano but refused to be swallowed up by these accidents and thus learned his way back to his own psychic homeland.

But before we had the whole day fiesta, with the Consulate pitching in for food while some of our community groups did the usual potluck, with Manang Rose Daprosa of GUMIL Hawai`i bringing in her pancit and her graciousness, I put together the first-ever 4K Initiative, the Kur-itan Kontra Kanser ken Kinaranggas ti Taeng, a joint creative writing project co-sponsored by the Asian American Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART) and the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Legal Hotline (DVLCH).

It was one morning of fun and delight--an exploration of the myriad issues related to cancer, to surviving this disease, to domestic violence, to surviving this social malady. And the creative writing was done in Ilokano.

Now, I am not too sure why this same initiative could not be done in the Ilokos and Amianan. We did it--and we are doing it over here, this service and training for and with the community in the language they know best.

We talk of how we preserve and promote Ilokano language and culture.

We talk of how important it is to get to transmit that message to our people that it is only us who can do the preserving of who we are.

We talk of how the language is dying--and pretty soon, with the situation among our younger generation one of a warped culture, one that is neither here nor there--the language will certainly die.

The question is, what are doing?

At the Ilokano Program of the University of Hawai`i, we are trying our best to be serious with this business and duty.

Some academics of the universities in Amianan even have the temerity to tell me that they do not have use of the Ilokano among their students and people. What a waste of knowledge, this mis-knowledge, this knowledge that does not even say that these academics are pretty ignorant of what they are talking about. When is it that the knowledge of one's own language and community is useless, has no import, has no business being studied in the hallowed halls of the schools, colleges, and universities?

So today we begin another set of initiative, the 3K: Kur-itan Kontra iti Kinaranggas ti Taeng. In October, we will perform our poems and own creative works, all in Ilokano and at the University or even at the Consulate. In collaboration with DVCLH, we will zero in on domestic violence in the meantime, and in October, we will witness the dramtization of our community's creative works in Ilokano.

And we are not ashamed to do so.

A. Solver Agcaoili
Philippine Consulate/Hon, HI, May 5-07

A Perfect Model for Marginalization and Manipulation: The Making of Tagalog as National Language

The esteemed Bien Lumbera has said it at the 2006 Nakem Conference, with clarity of insight, that the awarding of the National Artist for Literature--a shameless and embarrassing preserve of the English and Tagalog writers--is an anomaly.

That, in my view of how the politics of culture and language is in the Philippines, is a sentiment that should awaken us all to the fact that in the cultural and artisitic life of the homeland, someone--some people--has shanghaied this honor and a cabal of pretenders to serving as the givers of this honor to whoever they pleased must be made accountable to this injustice that has gone on and on for years and years.

In a plenary address by Lumbera at the Nakem and published in "Essays on Ilokano and Amianan Life, Culture, and History," he mentioned the stalwarts of Bisayan, Hiligaynon, and Ilokano literature unable to even get past the recognition of the selection committee, a number of them given that token honor as 'finalist' or 'nominee' while the English and Tagalog writers have lorded it over, with their brand of aesthetics brokering what, in their own view, should be the 'national literature.'

The anomaly is glaring--and one reason brought out by Lumbera is the problem of access by the selection committee to these works. A well-meaning but uneducated solution proposed by many of the monolingual scholars is for these 'regional' writers to have their works translated to the languages the members of the selection committee know.

Translation is in itself laudable. But if the duty to translate what could be called part and parcel of the body of national literature is on the 'region' where these writers come from, what another form of anomaly is this? What another form of creative burden? And whose perspective is this demand to be seen? The lords and masters of national life are again demanding from us this servile, subservient, adipen-like, duty to give them hook-line-and-sinker what they want.

There are two question needing answers here:

1. How is it that the members of the selection committee are people who know only Tagalog and English?
2. How is it that the burden of translating to Tagalog and English is now in the hands of the producers of that body of literature? How come that this same burden is not asked of the Tagalog writers to translate their works to say, Ilokano, Bisayan, Tausog, Aklanon, or Maranao?

Again, we speak here of entitlements and privileges accorded for all times to Tagalog and English. And these entitlements and privileges, to say the least, are not just and fair.

One argument put forward by an academic why he advances the cause of Tagalog is that it is a language with its dictionaries, advanced grammar, informed scholars devoted to it, and its voluminous literary production. But of course! Here again, the little emperors say they have clothes but the light of day tell us they are as naked as the day they were born! Roy Aragon says of them: 'silalabus'. He has another more interesting term: 'butobuto a silalabus'.

The academic, of course, has forgotten, that in 1937, the major lingua francas particularly the first three (Visaya/Sebuano, Ilokano, and Tagalog) were almost in the same footing, with Visaya/Sebuano leading the pack by a good edge.

It was in 1937 that Tagalog was 'selected' by a language institute formed during the Commonwealth administration of President Manuel Quezon, with that language eventually declared as the 'national' language. With 70 years of government backing, support, and institutionalization--not to mention the taxes of non-Tagalogs to develop not their language but the language of another, we wonder how much can we push the argument of that academic who must have been afflicted with the myopia of the victor, seeing only himself with the lens of his eyes filled with the pus of the wounds he inflicted on the other regions.

In this linguistic and cultural revolution--a revolution that should make us sit up and be serious with our creative notion of what a 'nation' should be--we are putting forward the idea that for 70 years, this linguistic and cultural injustice has become the staple of the Filipino minds from the basic education to the university and only a few a making a whimper.

What is so sad is that even topnotch Bisayan and Ilokano academics, scholars, and cultural leaders have been hoodwinked into believing that this ambigiuous Tagalog masking off as P/Filipino is indeed the national language.

This cultural blackmail must be called as such--it is a blackmail that rests on what Tagalog can offer at this time after 70 years of getting all what the other languages did not get--nunca, zilch, ibbung. My grandmother has a way of saying about this: the other langauges did not get anything, 'uray no lugit'.

To add insult to injury, a cursory auditing of the topnotch linguists and writers of the country are clearly a party to this systemic marginalization of the languages of the Filipino peoples other than the sanctified Tagalog.

If the same kind of support, institutionalization, and propping up were done to Bisaya and Ilokano and the other lingua francas, could it have been possible that they now have their own developed dictionaries, literary writings, and grammar?

Despite the total absence of government support, with only the commerial interests of media kingpins providing some faux motive to cultural and literay development and promotion, Ilokano, Bisaya, and Hiligaynon have come to stay. The Bikolanos have, during the past years, realized that they are dying and now they have begun to go through the rite of self-resuscitation, that through grace and gifts, have come to their senses that the last spasms of death need not happen.

One conceptual culprit is the continuing use of "regional literature," a concept that is applicable to all literatures but Tagalog and English. The Palanca as an institution is guilty of this, with its token recognition of the 'regional literary productions' in Ilokano, Sebuano, and Hiligaynon, and the literary work confined to the short story.

Something is wrong here. Tagalog is as regional as Tausog and Ilokano and Ibanag.

The more applicable term is this: 'literature from the region'--and this term applies to all, English included.

For English is a regional preserve of the regionalist we call academics, some better educated political leaders, the priests and their allies, the elites, some passable artistas with the penchant for some cutesy-cutesy ways, the nuns in their mossy convents, the colegialas with their pretensions to taking part in the rigodon de honor and the polite society that uses English among themselves and talks in Tagalog to their househelps and modern-day slaves.

If there is something that we can deduce from all these at this time, it is this: that veritably the declaration of Tagalog as the basis of the national language is a ruse, a lie, a manipulation and that this isomorphism that holds that Tagalog-P/Filipino is one sure way to our marginalization and then to our cultural and linguistic death.

Ask the Ilokanos who are embarrassed to admit that they are Ilokanos.

Ask the Ilokanos who say they only know English.

Ask the Ilokanos who claim they only know Tagalog.

A, these mistakes will go on and on and on.

A. Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa/May 4-07

The Tagalog Son Responds to the Linguistic Injustice

Something curious is happening in the land of the ancestors and the forefathers and the foremothers--in the homeland.

And something like close to bonding is happening between my son and I.

The issues are intellectual and it is about the linguistic tyranny happening in the homeland and in the exilic communities abroad that are bombarded by the idiotic shows on The Filipino Channel being touted as the pulse of the masa, with its boob tube appeal on anything nostalgic about the country we can afford to go home to only once in a while because of the cost of visiting that looks like a runaway inflation each time.

Here is a case of popular culture, this The Filipino Channel, that pampers and massages the nostalgic egos of the kababayan down here, in the various communities where we are and where we are trying to find life despite the odds.

It is the same culprit, I dare say, that has served as the cultural apparatus of the Tagalist cultural appratchik to keep on with that abominable espousal of that adominable ideology that is as imperialistic and colonizing as the enemy they talk about: this little but insidious empire and emperor and colonizer in the WIKA petition for certiorari at the Philippine Supreme Court.

That made a statement--some media mileage--and the press releases earned accolades from unthinking Tagalists and their agents. The victor is here to stay, really, and we are not kidding.

My son writes: I know what you mean even if I was born and grew up Tagalog. Enough of these triumphalism of Tagalogs, he adds.

It pays now that I concentrated on philosophy of language for my philosophy research, he writes. I used to get away from what you were saying all along in your researchers, statements, and even in that Salaysay book that I tried hard to avoid--I resisted to read--but only to realize I could not run away from it if I were to do justice to the discourse of social justice and the philosophical issues in the national language.

I am taking this comment from my son as a compliment, coming from a Tagalog like him whose only claim to Ilokanoness is a small talk with his sister who know the everyday words of Ilokano, can perhaps pick up the conversation here and there, but guilty of not being able to carry through a good conversatiion with anyone.

Birth is accidental, I dare say.

How can it be that this son who comes from an Ilokano-Pangasinense-Spanish and presumably Yapayao father and an Aklanon-Waray-waray-Chinese mother is now Tagalog? The accident of birth, born in a hospital on Morayta Street in Manila. Jus soli, not jus sanguinis.

In the end, it is the sum of all, no, the product of what we are and that, therefore, no one has the right to say that Tagalog and its view of the world, is the supreme and ultimate view of what the Filipino nation should be.

And to think that the Tagalog language does not even have some indigenous concepts of social justice except when it borrowed--and appropriated--the Visayan 'tarong' to spell out the famous 'katarungan' concept in the Katipunan.

Tarong is as Visayan as one can get--and this is one model of the Filipino language that we all must explore and pursue and valorize, not the kind of schizophrenic P/Filipino that WIKA is talking about.

There are many of us like this.

And if would have been all right if there is ownership in these accidents of our birth.

But the trouble among Ilokanos at this time is that they cannot even own up their Ilokanoness, pretending instead that they are Tagalog, that they are half-Americans, that they are hapas and mestizos as the case of the many in Hawai`i.

You talk to many Ilokanos here and they cannot even be proud of themselves--preferring invisibility over assertion, absence over presence, silence and mutedness over dialogue and debate.

In exile, it is now a cultural crime to be identified as an Ilokano because it is more fashionable and high class to mouth the inanities of TFC and all those idiots on the boob tube, preferring the callow and the hollow, the vacuous and the empty, the pulp and the 'popular' from the thinking and meditative and contemplating kind of the languages of the other migrants down here such as the Ilokanos and the Visayan, two of those who labored it out in these islands, in silence and in solitude, in peace and quiet, and never in that capacity to boast that we see from the victors, whether here in this island of our exilic dreams or in the Philippines go on exile because of the double marginalization of the Ilokano children, of the Visayan children, of the massification of the Ilokano and other minds, so that this mass gets to be the mass on the dingy streets of Manila.

Tagalog has corrupted us all--and we allow this corruption to keep on corrupting our souls.

The logic of the times--an illogic--is this: It is embarrassing to speak Ilokano because the whole world of the Philippines, as that firebrand of an essayist in the Collantes Awards has declared, everyone is singing the National Anthem now in Tagalog.

This therefore proves that Tagalog has come to stay as the language of all the people of this god-forsaken country who, apart from the Tagalog, have to go through centuries and centuries of colonization and lobotomization, that, when one ethnolinguistic groups gets to become the colonizer, we have no right to protest, resist, and reclaim our sense of being and becoming, our sense of self and community.

Nakababain ngamin ti agilokano, the people would say.

Ibainda ti kinailokanoda, some others would say.

Mababaindan nga agilokano, others would add, because they are now here in America, and here, in this country, each one is busy learning American English and Tagalog which they are passing off as Filipino.

We realize this sad part of all these linguistic and cultural betrayal because of cooptation and the power of this new form of colonization: Many Ilokanos hide behind English and Tagalog--and they hide from the past that is also their present--these Ilokanos who have given up their right to think about the world in Ilokano, to dream in Ilokano, to express their love in Ilokano.

I share your pain, itay, the son says. Now I see better; now I understand better what you have been fighting for all along.

So you have to go through your linguistics studies then, I tell him. You need to help me in this struggle.

Well, maybe, yes. But I also want to study French apart from Ilokano, he says.

Go for it, I say. You need to open up to the world of the possible. You need to allow yourself to see other worlds. Forget the example of the Tagalista who are like the frogs in the well.

I now think that I have gained one Tagalogized mind to this cause of looking at the national language issue in favor of multilingual national languages.

Only multilingual national languages will do justice to the rich variety of our Philippine languages and cultures.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI May 3/07

Americana Filipina Ilokana, I

(Note: This is a monologue on Filipino American Ilokano identity written for Rachel Aurellano, B.A. Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program, UH Manoa, for her Ms Oahu Pageant Talent Contest scheduled for June 2007, Honolulu, HI)

(Still, silent, looks at the audience. Spots one, gazes one, locks eyes with that one in the front)

You, you, why are you looking at me?

Do you know who am I? Do you know all these layers and layers of me, these layers that are these that are me?



Who knows?

Who knows what is it to be a local born, born of immigrant parents from the Ilocos, from the Philippines?

I am this woman, this skin, this memory, this flesh, this blood, this vein.

Look, look at me!

Listen to my story.

I am tired of these layers and layers of skin!

I am tired of these layers and layers of stories!

I am tired of these layers and layers of memories!

Okininam, says my neighbor. Okininam, okininam!

I heard her screams, and the door banging, and the slap—oh I do not know, the slap, on the face—pak! pak! pak!—and that scream, that primal scream, okininam! Okininam! Patayennakon! Kill me, kill me, but bring my body back to my country, you son of a bitch, you son of a bitch! I feed you with my hand, I work for you, I scrub the dirt on your stinky body, I cook you food, and you make me a whore on my bed.

No, I do not want to think about it.

No, because I have loved.

I have loved the memory of being born in these islands, in the air that makes the leaves dance, the wind that caresses the waves, the mountains guarding all the sorrows residing in my heart.

I want all these to come to an end—all of them, get back on my knees to stand up again, erect, straight, proud.

I take off—this pretension.

This skin.

I take off—this bad dream.

This Americanness that is not me.

I take off—this nightmare.

This Filipinoness that is a fraction of me.

I take off—this desire, not pure—that is not me.

This Ilokanoness that half of me, one-fourth of me.

I take off, all these layers and layers of me.

One more, one more, one more that is not me.

I take off, my being a local born, my being a daughter, my being a dutiful sister—

All these are killing me, and I take off, all of them, I take off.

I want to be me.

Listen, listen—or are you listening?

This is the last of me.

I am a woman, a human being, American, Filipino, Ilokano.

I am one.

A Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa/May 3-07

An Afternoon Talk: SOLFED, Linguistic Genocide and Faelnar

I keep on with this blogging thing to remind myself of the heaviness of my heart at this time. In the last few weeks, so many things have happened, and all these things have something to do with the homeland, the Philippines, pronounced with the "F" sound from its English phonetic form or more historically accurate, its "Felipe" root from the name of the king of the colonizers who came uninvited to these shores, as is the case of all colonizers.

This reclaiming of the "F" sound, of course, is another linguistic proof from the field of the ignorance of the advocates of the Tagalogization of everything and all things Filipinas/Philippines, saying, in their ignorance, that the "F" sound does not exist in the Filipino language, but by which language they refer to the Tagalog which they isomorphized as the--the--P/Filipino, and therefore, is the--the--'national language.'

Something wrong and sinister is happening here, and several things happened in the interim between tonight's blogging and several weeks back. At one gathering of writers in the University of Hawai`i at Manoa where English and Tagalog writers were festured, the whole exercise was called "Philippine literature festival."

Like the go-getter that I am, I told the organizer months before that I would join the festival. I spoke, of course, on the invisibility of the Ilokano writer writing in Ilokano despite the fact that 9 of 10 Filipinos in Hawai`i are of Ilokano heritage. This Tagalogization of Ilokanos, thanks to the boob tube called TFC with its capitalization, on Wowowee, of the spectacle of Philippine misery, is complete.

I am wondering now if, in that "Philippine literature festival" with its presumptuous presumptions on anything "Philippine": (a) I was taken in as Ilokano writer to represent what the Tagalog mind sees as a minoritized language and culture and therefore, only worthy of 'token recognition' so that whoever is responsible for the 'festival' would not be accused of a lopsided view of what 'Philippine literature' is or (b) I was taken in as another of those Tagalog writers, however minor my Tagalog writing is, with a novel in Tagalog engineered with Ilokano warrior-intentions, and some obscure essays, conference papers, and equally obscure short stories and poems that cannot pass muster the standards of the incestuous poets of one ethnolinguistic group.

Insight and hindsight are delightful tools of meditation--and while on the road for these last few weeks, I have been thinking: That this linguistic and cultural genocide has continued since the commonwealth president Quezon whose grandson is now making contradictions out of his columns on Philippines culture regarding the National Anthem sung by the Cebuanos in Tagalog (who says this is Filipino? who are we kidding, pray tell?) and then the Cebuanos doing their cultural presentations in Cebuano (look into the 'exhibit' gaze of Manuel Quezon III the columnist) and talking to him in English.

If at all, such a romantic view is the raison d'etre of our eternal estrangement from each other, such that while other non-Tagalogs strive hard to get into the mindsets of the Tagalogs by understanding their world through their word, it is sadly rare that the Tagalogs even have the courtesy to learn the 'exotic' world/s of the non-Tagalog.

This is the reward of empire, and surely, the advocates of this kind of neocolonization do not recognize that it is so because of their failure to see that they can go wrong even if their deed is done in the name of the nation. And to be an emperor of language and culture of your own land, you do not have to stoop down to the level of the non-Tagalog groups.

This is the problem here. The question is that this Philippine nation is linguistically and culturally 'a nation among nations' and the failure of the advocates of Tagalogization and Englishization is to see this fact. In their exuberance to build up a nation for the Filipinos--but this nation is defined in their own terms, and only in their own terms--they have to conveniently exclude the rest.

Raymund Addun, an Ilokano scholar doing further studies in translation in Spain, got to know of the thankless cause I am doing for and in the name of the Ilokano people, of the Ilokano language, and the Ilokano culture--which a long time ago I have expanded to a more encompassing and a more just concept, Amianan. He hooked me up with Manuel Faelnar, one of the stalwarts of SOLFED--Saving Our Languages through Federalism.

As soon as I got the chance, I hooked it up with Manuel, by email first, and then yesterday, by overseas call. It was their morning, it was our afternoon in Honolulu.

I thought that I needed to clear up the air by talking to a person I can trust with respect to the tactic in this language and culture war that has consumed us for so long.

After several tries, with Manuel out of his home the first time I called, I finally got hold of him.

And then our long talk, as if we had known each other for so long, for centuries and centuries of our colonization and neoclonization and recolonization. There is no letup here in this struggle and the struggle has to find ways to get some energy from all the sources he can get. This was what Manuel and I did: to give and take energy from each other.

Earlier, we exchanged furious emails, our words ferocious in some instances, his words calculating in some instances as if there was a lawyer in the man behind the words, my words fiery and in wild abandon, his convictions as clear as a cloudless sky in the homeland when trees are like guards standing still and their leaves do not have the wind to seduce them into swaying with grace and gusto.

Earlier too, Manuel forwarded my critical but short commentary on the position of Dr. Jose Abueva of the Binisaya. Dr. Abueva was past president of University of the Philippines. It was during his presidency that we as a people, we as academics, and we as euphoric post-EDSA People Power 'renewed and born-again citizens' of the sad, sad republic, got so inebriated by the 'yellow' and 'bloodless' revolution that we had to declare, with the blessings of the supposedly intelligent academics and topnotch writers of the University, that from thereon, Filipino was to be the UP so-and-so medium of instruction for the so and so, and that it was that we learned something from those countries with one and only one national language.

The scheming Tagalog advocates connived with the unsuspecting academic leaders and some of them were so enamored by their EDSA victory that they forgot, that in their imposition of their new will--the will for Tagalog to become P/FIlipino with no ifs and buts--they are bleeing the other non-Tagalog peoples to death.

Dying in the homeland is one of silence, especially if one were poor. The non-Tagalog languages were the languages of the poor, even now. Those who were rich from these places were either 'Tagalog-speaking pretenders' or cut-and-dried English speakers of the 'spokening dollar' type. Blame that on the exclusive schools they go to, with Catholic nuns and Catholic priests giving the coup de grace for their complete turncoatism against their non-Tagalogness.

With Manuel forwarding my critical moments of the Abueva position and later on resulting in a one-liner riposte from Dr. Abueva himself on his readiness to accept comments and enter into a debate with respect to my position, the floodgates of all that we have been fighting were opened.

The most difficult part of a struggle is when you feel that you are a warrior but you are a lone warrior. Loneliness is terrible on the high road and on the snaking roads and on the unblazed trails. You need company--or you need to talk to yourself.
I felt company with Manuel.

Then the WIKA came up with their bravura move by filing a certiorari petition with the Supreme, which will be the subject of my next blog.

That WIKA move made the days in these parts longer and longer and the hours endless as far as I was concerned. The Fil-Am Publisher CJ Ancheto picked up my concepts on the 'nationalization' of Ilokano--its becoming a national language earlier, and recalling it now made my days more delightful.

Then Joey Baquiran, press officer of WIKA sent me a short email. I answered him with a long, long dissertation on what it means to fight for your linguistic and cultural rights in a country and homeland professing freedom and democracy but cannot serve the ends of these two ideals, well, not yet, for the last 70 years since Quezon declared that Tagalog, then not the language of the majority (it was Sebuano at that time), would become THE national language.

I wrote about my advocacy work on the Ilokanos even when I was still one of the few who were crying foul at the University, with me being branded as a reactionary because of my ideas that surely ran counter to what was the mass and herd idea in those times.

But talk we must.

So I wrote to Joey Baquiran, press officer of WIKA, let us talk, let us enter into a con+versation, to which he emailed back, "Yes, I (now) realize where you are coming from."

The anitos are good.

But the struggle for social justice in language and culture has to go on.

The enemy could be us and let us be vigilant, like the many Ilokanos who have been afflicted with torpor and acquiescence and do not now know any better except to believe that they are intelligent because they know Tagalog and they speak English of the Ilokano kind.


A real shame. We have many of them in Hawai`i, some of them, presumably, educated academic, cultural, and political leaders. Well, the homeland has many of them, some of them in the hallowed halls of the University.


A Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa/May 2/07