Isabela State U, Miracles, Dr. Quilang, and the Amianan Question

I am writing this piece from hindsight.

This distance in time gives me some kind of a perspective that is less prone to the personal, even if I can say that this piece remains a highly charged personal reflection on what grace and glory mean.

Between the time that I spent two days with Isabela State University and now, I have learned to love a phrase that captures what happened: "miracle moment".

No, this one does not have anything to do with "oras ng himala"-- on television for the spectacular value of miracle whether with divine intervention or with someone/something else or among the miracle workers down the road. I speak here of miracle you become a witness to in the most unopportune of moments.

It is the miracle moment with Dr Romeo Quilang and his ISU and the Norther Luzon cultural consortium he heads.

By way of thanks, this could be the title of this piece.

And rightly so.

Because I must thank Dr Romeo Quilang for the warm welcome he extended to me during my two-day conference with the Northern Luzon Consortium for Culture and the Arts, a consortium made up of the leading colleges and universities of Region 2.

I had in the audience as participants several university and college presidents including a number of topnotch culture and arts leaders in both the academe and in the local government units.

I had in the audience cultural workers who know the meaning of our cultural work and language struggle, however inchoate the meaning we all understand is and however primal the commitment to such a struggle is.

I feel blessed, many times blessed in the midst of these colleagues, friends, and co-warriors. It is that feeling that is sudden and with one full sweep of a moment of miracle, you realize that you have comrades in the war against that which is socially unjust, and that you realize as well that you need to humble yourself before this altar of cultural and lingustic justice.

My Response to Boy Iniego

At the 2007 Nakem International Conference held at the Mariano Marcos State University in Batac on May 22-25, so many things happened. The euphoria and/or its absence after the elections was a given so that at the banquet held with solemnity and sacredness at the newly-refurbished Fort Ilocandia in Currimao, some personalities were missing.

On the second day of conference's plenary session, Dr Lilia Santiago, Dr Ale Visaya and I dished out three perspectives on the directions Ilokano and Amianan Studies is taking. Lilia talked about translation and its promise; Ale talked about the role of the universities in the regions in advancing IAS; and I talked about the philosophical ground of this 'new' knowledge Nakem Conferences is advancing, a new knowledge about us 'peoples' of the Amianan.

During the open forum that lasted beyond the allotted time, one young and rising scholar on Philippine culture and currently assistant professor of the University of the Philippines stood up to ask, with finality, what would become of "Tagalog" a.k.a. "Pilipino" or "Filipino." I am rephrasing him, of course. The gist of his question, the first of the many questions that would come after, was related to the place of the 'national' language in Ilokano and Amianan discourse. There was an unsaid text, a subtext insisting spelling out--and I spelled out for him, for Professor Boy Iniego Jr.

When I was putting together the final list of those papers accepted for presentation at the conference, Boy's two proposals came: one on translating Arguilla's 'local color' issues and another, this time a film called "Manang Biday."

We had only a room for one paper from each presenter; we already had about forty papers at that time and so many abstracts had yet to be evaluated, tweaked, returned, critiqued, or asked to be revised.

I asked Boy to please rush the translation of his abstract, originally written in Tagalog, into English. I told him that some scholars from abroad were coming. I reminded him that some of these scholars did not know Tagalog--or that they did not care to know.

I think of that session now--and I imagine the tense moments Boy held his ground when the moderator asked him that the session was about to be over and Boy said, terse and clear, "Hindi puwede." I could imagine the words that were not said, but they were there, taking their space in the exchange, "I am not going to allow this discussion to stop. I want to say my piece."

In the exchange I had with Jane Rodriguez Tatel, also of the University of the Philippines, and one of our rising scholars on the 'ili/pagilian' and now on the 'burnay,' she said she admired the boldness and daring of Boy, how he stood his ground, how he retained the fire in his speech and talk and silence to which I told Jane, "Yes, indeed! If only we have the minds of people like you!"

Boy, Jane, other UP Diliman scholars present at the Nakem and I had long years of having been together, some of us members of the teaching staff of the same department, others becoming our colleagues because of scholarly pursuits and interests. Some of us were linked up by the same professors and thinkers--not mental technicians--who molded us in and outside the classroom.

I was at the podium, with the big, bold "2007 Nakem International Conference" behind me, the billboard an exercise in artistic imagination. Boy was in the middle aisle in the gallery where the microphone for the Q&A was.

Earlier, I had strained my vocal cord with my usual fire-and-brimstone way of speaking which some people mistake for rage, anger, and lack of civility. Not many people know that I teach senior citizens how to act on stage and that to have a commanding voice is the only way to get the primo dons and prima donnas of Honolulu to act.

I looked at Boy after listening to him, as intently as I could.

We were probably thirty meters away from each other but both our voices were booming. Boy's had a faint trace of crackling, almost tense, but certain as certain could be with meanings he wanted to share. My voice was giving way to same coarseness I felt when during the second day of the EDSA People Power II, Veneracion Rallonza and I took part in emceeing, making sure that those collegialas who came to throw their support for the new revolution against the corruption and excesses of the Erap administration did not just go there to kibbitz and to be seen on national television.

"No, Boy," I told him. "No. Ilokano and Amianan Studies are for all languages of this country, no more, no less. We want to be poorer, we permit one language to be lost. We cannot afford that.

"Nang-iwan ang Tagalog, Boy. Iniwan ang iba pang wika sa Filipinas. Pinahalagahan lamang ang sarili. Pero ang politikal na posisyon sa wika ng Nakem Conferences at ng Ilokano and Amianan Studies ay ito: Na walang iwanan. Na lahat ay nagbibitbitan. Na hindi niya uulitan ang gahum na ginagawa ngayon ng Tagalog na nagpapanggap na Pilipino/Filipino. Hindi."

A Solver Agcaoili
Marikina/Hun 2007