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