Manang Lilia, Manang Lilia

She does not know it, but she is an amazona: woman warrior, the stress on both words. She is a visionary too like Manang Precy Espiritu who, for 33 years, made it sure that the Ilokano language and the culture that goes with that language would be taught at the University of Hawai`i.

When I was a bit younger, I heard her say about the national language--the P/Filipino as the national language--as schizophrenic because it cannot even admit that it is, in fact, Tagalog, and that it is only masquerading as P/Filipino.

Of course, she was then a more senior colleague at the same department where we both taught the cultural and intellectual skills needed to love the homeland, more senior than my sophomoric view of what the national language was. But I had learned philosophy of language earlier, and so many things began to bother me, things that had something to do with arrogating a language with that singular honor that, from hereon, based on the e-mail of the higher ups and the gods from the mountains, from hereon, Tagalog now Pilipino now Filipino should be the national language.

There was abracadabra here. I do not know if in the name-changing, some saliva was used to create some kind of an enchanting moment where all those with brains simply forgot that they had.

So part of my self-questioning about the national language was provoked by statements like the one of Manang Lilia.

I dabbled a bit with those 'schizophrenic' and other psychoanalytic terms when in the walled life, we were taught about the human project, a.k.a. human development and the 'clinical' life of the religious soul.

I like those terms we import from therapy to account the abnormal character and condition of the culture and language situation of the homeland.

For indeed, when a Hiligaynon becomes so busy becoming Tagalog by mimicking the way Tagalog is spoken on TV and in Manila, there is something clinically wrong here.

In our more recent telephone conversation, she told me of the sad fact that our language and culture struggle was being misunderstood by the big shots of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

I have anticipated that our struggle would come to this: that it would come to a misunderstanding and that it would come to a confrontation of the issues that we would like to settle. But I have not anticipated that so many of the brilliant minds of the best university in the country would not see the raison d'etre of this struggle by non-
Tagalog speaking peoples of this land.

Sayang. Sayang.

A S Agcaoili
Narita, Japan
July 31/07

4 comments:

ruel said...

Hi Ariel,

It's good--and I'm happy--to find your blogspot. Dennis told me that the lecture you had in UP Manila was a once-in-a-blue-moon event so we had to be there. But more than anything else, he really wanted to see you. In my case, I was honored to meet you personally.

One thing yet that I'd like to bring out now 'coz I didn't have the chance to say it during the lecture open forum is the issue about "'killing' a language." Of course I have to agree with you that a language meets its death in the hands of a people who doesn't want to speak it anymore (and of course when the last speakers themselves expire with no "heirs" left). But my simple point is there is really no way that a language will die by a vigorous effort of certain so-called "fascistic" forces and hegemonic powers who get into a concerted program to actively and systematically kill a language. Whatever means they actively employ to kill a language will fail. I believe that the first speakers of the language themselves who have been temporarily subdued at a point of time will be as defiant and rebellious as hell and go on speaking their native tongue in the privacy of their conversations and even in the most secret recesses of their homes when safety calls for it. In other words, there will always be remnants.

It's one thing for a language to die a natural death and it's another to pursue its death by an act of killing. The first is possible the second is not.

I hope to see you again next time.

Ruel Pepa of Trinity

ariel said...

Aloha Ruel,
Our thoughts intersect in many ways. Thank you for reminding of so many things I would have easily dismissed. Then again, while we cannot `kill' a language in the way you see it, I must say that the facts of the case say otherwise. How many languages have been `killed'--or,you may say, made extinct, by the same fascistic forces of communities/ societies/states /nations who do not understand that linguistic right is as basic a human right as the right to live with dignity and self-respect? This is where the alarm I am sounding off is to be seen in context. Thanks, and let us keep the struggle. We need each other for this campaign for social, linguistic, and cultural justice.

ruel said...

Yeah, well said, Ariel. I'm on your side. Let's keep the fire of the struggle burning. I still have to read your newly posted papers. Thanks so much for your reply.

ariel said...

Ruel,
The anitos be with you. And the Creator that is just and fair and the giver of Light and Life be with us in this struggle as well. It is not going to be easy. But with courage, with daring, with that fire you said that resides in our soul, perhaps, perhaps, we can do something.