Ilokano to Speak Us

To Allow Our Ilokano Language to Speak Us is To Resist Forgetting and Remember Ourselves in the Eternity of Time

Aurelio S. Agcaoili, PhD
University of Hawai`i at Manoa

(Speech delivered at the opening of the Iloko Creative Writing Program, Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University, Open University, San Fernando, LU, Philippines, July 14, 2007. I would like to thank the DMMMSU Open U Director Dr. Bederio, SPADE Exec Director and GUMIL LU President Djuna Alcantara, and Dr. Edil Angco for the invitation.)

Thank you so much for honoring me with this invitation to speak before you today as you launch another program, the Iloko Creative Writing Course under your Open University. I must say that this vision is one of the most laudable acts that I never seen from the many state universities in Northern Luzon, in Amianan, not in a long while. For this reason, let me congratulate the Open University of DMMMSU, the Gumil La Union, and the many academics and writers of this university and province for their capacity for visioning—for having that vision that our common task is to coax our Ilokano language to speak us so that we will be able to remember ourselves in the eternity of time.

Truly, your act is trailblazing.

And you are peerless in this concerted effort to give honor and dignity to our people by giving honor and dignity to our language despite the onslaught of that chameleon we call, for want of a better term, Tagalog as P/Filipino.

No one has done what you have done—this act of giving respectability and recognition to that body of knowledge you call `Iloko Creative Writing’ as part and parcel of the academe, as a legitimate part of scholarship, and as our way of giving back to our people.

I do not want to initiate a comparison from among our universities in Northern Luzon.

But let me tell it straight from the heart.

I am grateful for these initiatives to finally recognize what is ours -- our language and culture.

But even as I am grateful, I am also asking for more, asking endlessly that question, "When are we going to offer Ilokano Language and Culture as part of our bachelor's program, as part of our master's program, as part of our doctoral program?".

Truly, your Iloko Creative Writing Program must be commended because it paves the way to more and bigger dreams for our people. It is high time, indeed, that we asked our universities here in the region to be true to their mandate of serving our people.

Now, to the point of our program.

You have asked me to talk about valuing and preserving of our culture and language. To this I add, with emphasis, with a 1please, please, please’ form of plea and pleading: `Please let us do this act together.’

From a personal sense, I am a stakeholder of Ilokano language and culture -- and there is no more homing, more welcoming language and culture that I know of except this language and culture of my ancestors. I sure have gone away, I sure breathe a different air now as an exile, as an immigrant of another land, but my commitment with Ilokano language and culture is a commitment with memory.

With lagip—the lagip that is us.

Gapu ta ti lagip ket datayo mismo.

Gapu ta ti lagip ti taeng dagiti sarsarita a datayo met laeng.

Gapu ta ti lengguahe ket lagip.

Gapu ta ti kultura, ti kannawidan, ti kananakem—amin dagitoy—ket kasilpo ti lagip, kananayon ti kinaasinnotayo.

Saan a mabalin a tallikudan ti lagip -- awan pamuspusan tapno maaramidtayo daytoy a tanag.

Ta ti lagip ket kasingin ti sirmata, rangtaytayo iti masakbayan, saan -- saan -- saan a rurog laeng ti napalabas.

Iti kastoy a wagas a sirsirpatek ita daytoy a lungalong ti DMMMSU Open University ken ti Gumil.

Iti kastoy a wagas a kumpirmarek ti nakabambaneg a turongen ti kastoy a gannuat tapno maitag-ay, iti lebel ti academia, ti pannakaadal ken panangiyadal iti Iloko Creative Writing.

Ngarud, masapul ti naynay a pannakasustener ti kastoy a gannuat ket masustener laeng daytoy no ikumittayo dagiti laing ken sagudaytayo.

Kaniak a biang, sinadadaan ti Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program iti Unibersidad ti Hawai'i a makigamulo kadakayo tapno lallalotayo a maiduron iti pantok ti balligi daytoy a gannuat.

Iti propesional a pannirig, agdardara ti kararuak gapu saan nga amin a manursuro ket addaan pammateg iti bukod a lengguahe ken kultura.

Agdardara ti nakemko ta saan amin a mannurat iti Ilokos ken Amianan ket sindadaan ti panangipasindayagda iti kultura ken lengguahe a naggapuanda.

Agdardara ti pusok ta saan amin nga Ilokano ket adaan iti panagpannakkel iti kina-Ilokanoda.

There is a social malady at this time, in this country and in other strange places where there are Ilokanos.

We have lost sight of our being Ilokanos.

We have lost sight of who we are, of our Ilokanoness.

We have lost sight of the song and sound of our language.

And I can only cry.

And I can only wail from afar.

What, indeed, have we become as a people, as truly an Ilokano nation? For we are, indeed, a nation, this nationhood that is us, this nationhood that is ours—this we must reclaim.

And the reclaiming cannot be postponed.

The reclaiming must start now.

Two diseases afflict us now.

One, we are too busy making ourselves small-minded, second-class citizens of this homeland, this homeland that is now heavily becoming an extension of the Tagalog nation without us realizing it.

Yes, some leaders of our country are lying to us.

They are saying that in learning Tagalog, as what they do at Jollibee San Fernando, we shall have become more patriotic, more nationalistic, more loving of the homeland.

These leader are lying because their concept of nation is based on a fascistic, Napoleonistic, dictatorial, tyrannical, 19th century relic of what a nation is supposed to be.

No, the Philippines is a nation among nations for truly, it is high time that we serve the ends of cultural democracy and linguistic justice.

For the Ilokano nation has as much right to exist as a nation alongside the Tagalog nation. The Tagalog nation, we must say, has become has become our newest colonizer.

We cry foul about Spanish colonization.

We cry foul about American colonization.

We cry foul about Japanese occupation and invasion.

But we are not even raising a whimper against the whole scale onslaught of Tagalog in our daily lives, its onslaught on television and the media, its onslaught in our schools, colleges, and universities.

Speak English and Pilipino, boldly announces a huge billboard at the Laoag International Airport. What right does this billboard have to insult us, we the members of the Ilokano nation?

There it is, this sickness. There is the problem.

This country does not understand that in instilling love for the homeland, to love English is A-ok, to learn Tagalog is A-ok, but not at the expense of becoming ignorant of Ilokano language, literature, and culture.

To be ignorant of our own people's self-understanding and self-reflection is the most abominable crime of all.

We all have become criminals—unwillingly, unknowingly, perhaps not volitionally. we have become criminals because we are taking part in this linguicide—in the killing of Ilokano language.

We are all criminals because we have taken an active role in newest `culturicide’, the killing of our Ilokano culture.

I say this because of what we need to do as a people in order to reclaim ourselves: WE NEED TO RESIST.


We need to understand and learn English and Tagalog, but if these are all the things that we know, then we do not know anything at all because we do not know who we are. The premise for a real and honest-to-goodness knowing of things is self-knowledge, the knowledge of our people, the knowledge of who we are.

I am always troubled by our growing incapacity to resist linguicide and culturicide.

I am always troubled by our growing incapacity to realize that what is happening in this country is veritably a case of genocide and its twin, linguicide -- the killing of the languages and cultures of this country because of Tagalog.
I grant that you can call Tagalog `Pilipino’.

I grant that you can call Pilipino `Filipino’, and the schizophrenia continues and is not cured.

But call Tagalog `Pilipino’—with a P or with an F—I do not care. You have not two languages but one for they share mutual intelligibility, with the same grammatical structure, syntax, lexicon. We cannot be fooled all the time, even if at some point, we took part in the social drama of this shanghaiing of ourselves and our self-knowledge by the intelligentsia of this country and the political, commercial, economic, and cultural leaders conniving with them. There is a complicity here and let us expose the cultural injustice and linguistic tyranny that is happening.

I am not against Tagalog.

I am against Tagalog as the reason for the wholescale Ilokano linguicide.

I am not against the Tagalog people and nation.

I am against the educational, linguistic, and cultural policies of this country that nurture and assure the flourishing of English and Tagalog -- and yet discredit the teaching of Ilokano and all our languages.

What right from heaven or from the earth do we have to have given citizenship to Tagalog, making it a 'national' and 'official' language while the rest of the country's lingua francas are left in the cold?

Whose narrow mind pushed for the notion that a country that is multilingual and multicultural like ours can only have ONE language?

Somebody is lying here. Somebody is making us a fool.

I tracked down the legal documents pertaining to the abominable concept of 'Tagalog as the basis of the national language'.

There is nowhere in two proceedings of the 1934-35 Constitutional Convention that glorified Tagalog except in that 'insertion' in the final draft of the abominable phrase 'common national language based on one of the existing native language(s).' The deliberations said, in the first, second, and third draft -- that the national language was to be based on "existing native languages" -- and that phrase meant all of the native languages and not only Tagalog.

Now, some people made a fool of us in 1935, and 72 years, in 2007, we still believe in this lie.

This is an anomaly we want corrected. And we are going to fight -- and fight we will, with your help. We are doing a lot of political work now to check the errors perpetrated by ignorant Tagalistas, and ignorant Filipino as well.

We are not going to take this sitting down, and resist we will.

We will resist forgetting. Our commitment is to remember, as always, as what Iloko Creative Writing is all about.

We have put up Nakem Conferences International, the Nakem Conferences Philippines, and the International Academy for Ilokano and Amianan studies to help us correct the errors of history and to push for the continuing production, preservation, and perpetuation of the languages and cultures of Amianan.

We have made a headway in this struggle, and the universities and organizations from Region I, II, and CAR helping us, the fight will continue until the battle is won.

What we are fighting for is for Ilokano, along with other lingua francas, to become a national and official language of this country.

With the DMMMSU Open University's Ilokano Creative Writing initiative, the battle, I am sure, will be won. But we need more state universities and private academic institutions to have the same vision as DMMMSU. Please send this message that we urgently need them.

And we need them now.

Good morning to all of you.

San Fernando, LU/Philippines
Jul 14/07

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