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.

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