(A day before the Gawad KWF awarding, I got a frantic call from the homeland--from home--with my daughter saying that I needed to make some kind of an `acceptance' speech as a first prize winner for Ilokano poetry for this year's Gawad. I incidentally won the same award last year, also in Ilokano poetry, and I did not prepare any speech since I was not told but the wife did it on my behalf, perhaps catching some phrases here and there as intelligently and as comprehensively as she could. There was the Vice President of the Republic for a guest and an audience, and being a Mindoreno, Hon. Noli de Castro could not have asked for more, what with the wife a pure taga-Tondo from Waray-waray-Aklanon-Chinese parents.But that was too much imposition for the wife whose role was to be there for me, to represent me at the awarding.
So now I have to correct the blunders I did not commit last year. Surely I was not told; but it could have been difficult for the KWF as well to contact me, this I was sure, what with time zones and that vast expanse of a sea between us. But this time around, I was told I would have to make one--and in the words of the Chair Dr. Ricardo Nolasco, he would appreciate it if a family member could read the speech on my behalf, being away from home, and away from all these.
I have never had the experience of going through all these rites of recognition of being a struggling, nay, starving poet, not at the KWF, since they started recognizing that there are other languages of the country other than Tagalog, the dominant Tagalog, the reason for all this lobotomization many of us are going through at this time. Having been away for four years to eke out a life in another land, in another country, as an exile, I have forgotten that vague feeling of winning an award in a homeland that has last priority for the literary arts in general, and for the literary arts from the regions in particular. Now, of course, KWF is in the right direction, as was the kind of token recognition we get from Palanca which every writer from the region (in Ilokano, Hiligaynon, and Cebuano) is trying to join, and compete, and win.
The acceptance, ah, my family will do it for me.
So here is the piece to be read for me by my son, Aurelio II. I do not know if he had the time to rehearse it since I was able to send it only at past 11:00 PM last night, Honolulu Time.)
Poetic Imaginaries, Our Languages, Our Freedoms
(Acceptance Speech of Aurelio Agcaoili, 1st Prize, "Epistolario ti Exilo", a collection of poems, Gawad Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino 2007, Ilokano Poetry)
It is with great honor and humility that I accept this award in the name of the Ilokano nation in the Ilocos, in the other parts of the homeland, and in the diasporic communities of Ilokano poets, writers, overseas workers, immigrants, and plain exiles.
I must say--and I say this in all honesty--that this collection, Epistolario ti Exilo--Letter of an Exile--is one of the most difficult collections of poetry I have ever written in my entire career as a struggling poet and starving writer in Ilokano, Tagalog, and English, in this order.
I struggled to write this.
I had to tame the various poetic imaginaries going wild in my mind while composing my first lines or constructing my titles.
I struggled in buses while going to some conferences in the provinces.
I struggled in bus terminals with their noise and disquiet.
I struggled in my dreams--I even dreamt one of the pieces, the one I wrote about my last-born daughter.
I struggled on the metro--the train--I like to take to take me from one meeting to another, hating the traffic, hating heat, and hating myself for not being able to come up with the correct turn of phrase.
It was not easy writing this collection and this award is a testimony to that difficulty.
Thank you so much for this recognition which I offer as an oblation to the Ilokano people everywhere and to the Ilokano people in the homeland.
I offer it to the republic as well, this republic of our dreams for cultural and linguistic democracy.
Lubhang napakahirap ang koleksyong ito sapagkat isinasalaysay nito ang tunay na karanasang ng mga katulad ko na kinakailangan pang mangibang-bayan, magbagamundo, magkallautang, magkatangkatang, o maging estranghero kaya upang makalirip man lamang ng katiting na kahulugan ng buhay na binabaratilyo ang kahulugan.
May pagkaexistensialista ang ganitong paglirip at pagsipat sa kondisyon ng exilo, subalit totoong ganito nga ang mga pangyayaring kayhirap itago sapagkat lantad na lantad, subalit kayhirap ding isalaysay.
Metapora din ng pagiging exilo sa ibang bayan ang pagiging exilo sa sarili, ang pagiging exilo sa kinagisnang wika, ang pagiging exilo sa kinagisnang kultura, ang pagiging exilo sa kinagisnang himig, lirisismo, at ritmo ng daniw--ng tula--ng etnolonggwistikong Ilokano at Amianan.
Sa patuloy na paglikha natin ng mga taludtod, naisasaberso natin ang mga hinaing sa isang bansang kailangan mauntog at magising sa isang mapakla at mapait na katotohanan na hinihingi ng karapatang pantao, na hinihingi ng demokrasya, na hinihingi ng hustisya--ang palagiang paggalang, pagbabalik, at pananahanan sa wikang kinagisnan.
At para sa aming mga Ilokano, ang aming wikang kinagisnan ay walang iba kundi ang Ilokano at Ilokano lamang.
At sa kaso ng Filipinas, ang pagbabalik sa sinapupunan ng mga wikang ating, ang mga wikang nagluwal sa ating mga ulirat at kamalayan, ang mga wika ng ating mga tahanan, ang mga wika ng ating mga duyan, ang mga wika sa ating hapag-kainan.
Hayaan po ninyong magbigay ako ng pagpupugay sa Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino sa kanilang makatarungan sapagkat demokratikong bisyon tungkol sa diversidad ng mga wika sa Filipinas, sa multilinggwalismo, sa multikulturalismo, at sa demokrasyang panglinggwistikang kanilang isinusulong.
Isa lamang ang masasabi ko: noon pa sana ito isinagawa.
Pitong dekada nating nakaligtaan ito.
Kailangan nating habulin ang mga nangawalang pagkakataon sa pagsasademokrasya ng ating kapantasan sa ating mga wika at kultura.
Agbiagkayo amin--let the bells of linguistic and cultural freedom ring! Good day to all of you.
Honolulu, HI/August 30, 2007