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

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