Truth-Telling, Memory-Making, and Bidding Goodbye

For the second year since I arrived in Honolulu, I have had the good fortune of joining colleagues and friends in what could be considered a sacred rite to truth-telling, memory-making, and recollecting the good old days when idealism ruled our lives in the homeland, when dreams were what made our bones and flesh, and blood oozed out of the very veins of our words.

Yes, we were one with the masses, then, that we were sure.

Because we were the masses ourselves, or part of that category to whom any honest-to-goodness concept of liberation is supposed to be offered and on whose name it is called, this business of ending oppression in all its forms, ugly or those that have been passed off as pretty or inevitable.

The 70s for those who were old enough was relived, albeit through the soulful rendition of that famous love for the country—a haunting song written by Andres Bonifacio whose death marked off, and clearly so, a betrayal by the revolution itself, the revolution devouring its children, as is the case of those who call the revolution their own Calvary but profiting from it in the end—by the eminent chair of the UH Ethnic Studies Department Dr Dean Alegado, the scholar who opted out of academic pressure and stress to start life anew in the homeland after more than three decades of absence. He knew the first quarter storm and the eye of that storm, the knowledge certain and committed, despite having chosen to go to the United States to study in the midst of the social turmoil happening in those times.

It was a celebration that was both meant to say goodbye to Dean and to say our greetings welcoming Dr. Lilia Quindoza Santiago, the newest addition to our faculty at the University’s Ilokano Language and Literature Program.

We had fun, but a tinge of sadness was palpable.

For last night’s celebration inaugurated a loss, an active loss.

We are about to lose Dean but to the homeland—and the homeland will regain him, will reclaim him. Or so we hope and pray.

This loss of another Philippine American scholar and leader, the loss widening the wedge in that fact of ‘under-representation’, is not something that is easily bearable.

Faculty descended from the Philippines are not sufficient to represent the demographics of students, with about 16 percent of the student population of the University coming from the ranks of the peoples of the Philippines and yet we have only about two percent of the faculty who can say and prove that they descended from the Philippines.

We sang the Bonifacio masterpiece, that song that makes the exile guilty of leaving and abandoning the idealisms of the 70s, of the FQS, of the other revolutions and revolts that had been staged in the name of that freedom that rings forever.
In that celebration, Dr Lilia Quindoza Santiago--dubbed the last quarter storm--recited her 'children of the storm' piece, her voice trailing her like the wind of change.

That same wind had to double up its speed to hit the two EDSAs and now this imbroglio we are all in: an inept president and an equally inept past president ousted for plunder and then forgiven, pronto, by the sitting president who has forgotten, conveniently, that the masses of the peoples of the Philippines do not know what plunder means and yet are never forgiven for their misery and poverty but instead, are being sent abroad so they can send back--remit is the economic word of the day--their hard earned dollars, sometimes at the cost of their honor, dignity, and lives.

November 30 will always be the day to reckon one rich part of the revolution.

But the revolution is not done and over with.

A Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa/Nov 30-07

No comments: