Departures, Arrivals

The son beat me to the draw. His post says it all, this perpetual rigodon we all go into, we families of exiles and contract workers abroad. The ritual for all exilic familiies is the same: first name, sadness; last name, sorrow. One is a cognate of the other, a synonym of ugliness.

Seventy days of being in town, as the American idiom would say, is not seventy. A large chunk of this 'small time' in a warm and hot place like the homeland, in summer as in the calendared beginnings of the rainy season, had been spent doing errands for that language and culture struggle many of us have been involved with in a long while.

Meetings took me to familiar and strange places, with the lowly and with the mighty, and with the co-warriors on the road, nameless now, but their names are etched in the history of peoples deprived of the only thing that has meaning: freedom.

For in the homeland, freedom has become a franchise of the few, the entitled, the privileged. Many of these are culture brokers and powerful academics, powerful because they have the right connections to effect culture and language change in accord with their political aims.

For the many, freedom is something you sell your soul for, something you trade with your ethnolinguistic identiy.

You go through a daily barrage of Tagalogism if your are poor.

You go through a daily appointment with either Wowowee or Eat Bulaga if you are not moneyed.

You go through a daily rendezvous with a nation that has forgotten that it is duty-bound to look after the exiles and overseas contract workers.

Sometimes I think of the absurdity of taking part in a struggle in the homeland when I am here, far away, and in so many ways being made busy by the professional and personal circumstances of my life. An American English with the faux accent would be just fine. You can earn your minimum wage with it by ending up as a per-hour worker in a grocery for the rich. So I can always, 'No can, no can fight the struggle for multilingualism and multiculturalism.'

Then again, there are things that simply do not get settled.

They come to torment you even in your sleep, even in the very moment of escape, like my own escape each time I leave the country for months and months of absence.

Like this struggle for the Amianan languages and cultures--the struggle for recognition and affirmation, the struggle for freedom from internal domination, from internal colonization.

The big trouble in the homeland is this: that the new oppressors of the homeland come from the ranks of the oppressed.

They have won, with their idea of 'nation' and 'national language' lording it over our 'national life.' Now the victors have forgotten the roots of their victory.

Now, we the vanquished have no options but to be believe in the victors' unruly definition of nationhood premissed on the singularity of language and the world-view that attends to that language.

Ah, the victors. They write history. Their history.

I was thinking of all these things even as I was saying goodbye to my family.

It was three o'clock in the morning. Darkness ruled the foothills and mountain slopes of that part of Marikina where we live.

I heard the agitated barking of dogs as if saying, 'someone is fleeing the homeland.'

I held my tear by stroking the head of the older daughter, then the son, then the sleeping youngest, whose childhood is forever marked by my absence.

There was guilt somewhere and the hurt--the hurt--oh, well, how does one ever get to commence a healing for that?

I sat in the back of the car motionless, the silence of my heart my only language.

Soon, I would arrive in another land and there, there in that land, the struggle would take on a new life.

I prayed--and hard: this struggle must be won.

A S Agcaoili
Narita, Japan
Jul 31/07


ie said...

the struggles will be won, itay. and soon.

ariel said...

thanks. 72 years of illusion is too long for our peoples and nations. i hope you become part of this struggle for self-determination, justice, and fairness.