The Ilokano Language, 5

The Ilokano Language:
History, Culture, and Structure

Series 5, Lessons Learned from the Ilokano Syllabary

By Aurelio S. Agcaoili, Ph.D.
Program Coordinator, Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Honolulu, Hawai’i

(This is a series of essays on the Ilokano language. The series—to number 54—hopes to explore, together with the creative writers, the readers, and the Ilokano language and culture teachers, some of the productive ways by which we can explain the structure of the Ilokano language, and the history and culture of the Ilokano people that are embedded in that language. In this age of renewed calls for a Philippine discourse on diversity and multiculturalism as framework for nation building and development, a critical reflection on the Ilokano language is not only urgent but also necessary. This version does away with the scientific format but uses instead the popular version, but with references included within the text so that those who would like to verify the data may have a clue where to look for them. A parallel series in Ilokano is being prepared and will be made available for dissemination by the end of 2008.)

The story of the 2006 Nakem Conference, initially as what it name implies, is that of putting up a centennial conference to honor the plantation workers, many of them Ilokanos, who came to Hawai’i since 1906 to eke out a life here on the premise that life in this land would be a bit better than the one our Ilokano people had got, our people who formed part of what we could call, in broad anthropological terms, the Ilokano nation. Nakem, of course, has since grown as a kind of an intellectual, aesthetic, cultural, and educational movement, with advocates coming from the ranks of the best brains the Ilokano nation can offer, with these advocates not only coming from the Philippines but in other places including those who have migrated to the United States, to Hawai’i in particular.

But the story of Nakem is replete with historical, cultural, and linguistic lessons which I wish to document here as it concerns with the lessons that we can draw from our act to claim and re-claim the Ilokano syllabary as our contribution to the cultural and intellectual history of the Philippines. The brainwashing that continues to occur in the Philippine education system that teaches only a ‘victor’s’ perspective of Philippine culture and society—and the hyper-valuation that this brainwashing does, for instance, of the culture, language and history of the center which is fundamentally a Manila-centric/Tagalog-centric view of things Philippine—has (a) substantially erased the basic multicultural and multilingual character of the Philippine nation and (b) permitted the systematic forgetting of the liberation agendum for the evolution of a pluralist society. In the erasures that happened in history and which erasures that continue to happen, other cultural and linguistic expressions have relegated to footnotes, if lucky, with only the Tagalog-Manila world view being recognized as the legitimate one, this world view having been accorded a ‘national’ and ‘nationalist’ status while the rest of those other cultures and languages are only ‘regional’ and worse, ‘regionalistic.’ The 2008 Conference on the Filipino as a Global Language put together by the Tagalog Program of the University of Hawai’i and participated in by many Tagalog scholars and researchers and advocates of the unexamined ‘national language’ carried with it, as part of its goal, the idea that a conference that talks about the ‘global Filipino language’ will avoid ‘regionalism.’ Such presumptuous claims are not new. It has been around for almost eighty years.

The ruckus on the linguistic and cultural superiority claims of the 2007 film of Jose Javier Reyes, “Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo” is another example of the ‘massification’—the mass production—of the Filipino mind, with its penchant for racist remarks that downplays the contribution of other ethnolinguistic groups and valorizes only the Tagalog view of things, not to mention the continued valorization of English at the expense of the indigenous languages of the Philippines. As written by Dr. Joey Dacudao for the “Western Visayas Informer,” the film, one of the entries of the Manila Film Festival, with the festival drawing a crowd of multilingual peoples of the country, there are these uncalled-for remarks of the mother of a child, to wit: (a) “Ay, naku, Ma, nakuha niya ‘yon sa yaya natin. Sinabihan na naming si Susan na huwag niyang Binibisaya si Rafa. Dapat Tagalog” (Oh, my, Ma, she got it from her maid. We have always been telling Susan not to speak with Rafa in Bisaya. It should be in Tagalog.” and (b) “Hayaan niyo na sa eskwelahan matutunan ‘yon, Ma. Dapat Tagalog kasi Pinoy ang anak namin eh (We will just let her learn that in school, Ma. It should be Tagalog because our child is Pinoy).”

These seemingly disparate statements are not by reason of accidents of history nor of historical lapses of national heroes. Nor are they lapses in judgment of those who are supposed know of the redeeming truths of pluralism, as has always been the goal of the various ethnolinguistic groups of the country even prior to the naming of these islands as the Philippines by the colonizers. To illustrate this point, at the time that we were in the throes of executing the 2006 Nakem Conference, I had the good fortune of (a) naming the conference and (b) conceptualizing its visual representation—a kind of a logo—by including boldly asking an artist to use the Ilokano syllabary to spell out the word ‘Nakem’ but not to totally follow the way it was supposed to be written in either the 1620 or 1621 version of the Doctrina Christiana. I told the artist to spell out all the letters of the word, and at the terminal letter, put in that mark, a plus sign on the ‘M’ so it would not admit any vowel sound following the behavior of the syllabary. The logo has been retained in the many documents of the conference, including its website.

This approach to the syllabary created a commentary from at least three people who had been themselves students of the Tagalog alibata, with one Tagalog teacher even telling me outrightly that ‘Nakem’ as written following the Tagalog syllabary is read as ‘Naakeem’ and not ‘Nakem.’ The commentary was correct, following the Tagalog rule, and following as well a fossilized view of that syllabary but it did not take into consideration the experience of the Ilokanos insofar as their own syllabary was concerned, even if the similarities between these two syllabaries are strikingly close. It did not take into consideration as well our need to ‘renew’ the syllabary and make it work in accord with our new purpose linked up with our own contribution to the struggle for cultural and linguistic democracy in the Philippines. My decision to tinker with the Ilokano syllabary was for a purpose: (a) to make it known to Ilokano scholars, researchers, teachers, and writers that we had our own syllabary, a knowledge that is not popular and thus requiring a strategy for popularization and (b) to make a symbol of this indigenous experience of the Ilokano form of writing in order to resist forgetting—to resist the massification of the minds of the peoples of the Philippines by putting a premium on the unique contributions of the other ethnolinguistic groups.

The old form of explaining the syllabary was that the contoids were already automatically sounded off with the ‘a’ to them, such as the contoid ‘N’ admitting already an ‘a’ phone, with a dot on top of the ‘N’ to account an ‘e-i’ phone, and a dot below that ‘n’ contoid to account the ‘o-u’ phone. Such an approach, however, was understood when the Ilokano language had not had much of the contact and change as it has prior to the Spanish colonization. The addition of a ‘plus’ sign at the end of a contoid, for instance, is an arbitrary mark—an invention of a Spanish grammarian—to account that a contoid is a terminal contoid and thus, does not admit any more phone after it, especially a vocoid.

Two other scholars came back to me to ask about my tinkering with the ‘sacred’ Ilokano syllabary. I came back to them to them to remind them that their notion of the syllabary adopts a fossilized view while my own opens up to the possibility that language—any language for that matter—must open up to the possibility of change and to the difficult challenges that attend to that change. This simply means that we need to recognize where the Ilokano language comes from—from its Indic, Southeast Asian form—but must also recognize that this same language cannot close itself to the changes occurring in the history of a people owning it.

Languaging the Loneliness of Exile, 1

(For all the children of exiles, the children of the Philippine diaspora, and the children of overseas Filipino workers. For Nasudi Francine who asks a lot of questions.)

Each time I call home since days before Christmas day, the youngest daughter, who sometimes picks up my call, have had these moments I call ‘the wages of exile.’

I am thus writing this piece to assuage her hurt feelings. Let it be said, and this is to remind her, that the wounded feelings of a father who goes away are no different from the wounded feelings of children left behind.

When the daughter, at six, shall have grown up a bit and will be able muster her emotions and sort our the emotional deficits that have attended to our exilic lives, I hope that she will get the chance to read this piece, read between the lines, and read the harrowing loneliness that is hidden in the first laughter I try to blurt, painfully, each time I dial the numbers home, the thirteen numbers needed to hear the ringing of our home phone more than seven thousand miles away.

Like the clown, I laugh to hide away the pain. I guffaw so the children would not sense that on the other side of the vast sea separating us is their father trying to eke out a life for them all and trying to chase a dream whose contours come in vagueness at times, as vague as the dark clouds that have visited Oahu for since many weeks ago, with our share of flash floods and raging rain and roaring thunder.

Hello, I say. Aloha, darling daughter.

Hello, papa. Malungkot ako ngayon. Malungkot talaga. (I am sad now. I am rally sad.)

I laugh. It is now the second time she tells me this. The first time was a horrible experience. I was caught off guard and I did not know what to say, initially at least.

Why so? I ask her.

I try to shoo away her feelings.

Now, now the children, all three of them, have always been emotionally intelligent.

Her brother is the same, that one boy who at seven months came into this world hurriedly and catching us unprepared of so many things including the training that we needed to give him the special formula for three-pounders like him, his weight at birth at 3.14 pounds one reason why we nicknamed him Mr. Pi.

And because her brother was born pre-term, he did not have all those special gadgets that we have to procure, baby bottles included before that day, two months in advance, that he was supposed to be born.

The boy came into the world during the turbulent times of pre-Marcos rallies and and street demonstrations, a number of which I participated in as a concerned citizen and aware of the politics of callousness that had been holding us hostage and shanghaiing our rights as hardworking people, not ‘smart’ like the ways of the ‘smarter’ others perhaps, if we go by the vision of the writer Manlapat, but diligent, tax-paying, and law-abiding ‘ordinary’ members of a country that was all too wrong--a country that was not the correct one for us but which was the only we have got nevertheless.

For at that time, I had seen the big dramas: Pope John Paul II had come to bless us and beatified our Lorenzo Ruiz; the same pope had come again the second time around to visit and blessed of our faithful and country and offered us our first saint, the martyr whom he beatified; President Ferdinand Marcos had lifted Martial Law and the summary execution continued; and then the first-ever People Power revolution in the whole of human history courtesy of the peoples of the Philippines who have grown so tired of the social injustices and all forms of tyranny they had to endure in a long, long time.

The first-born was just a few months old when you opened your mouth and the following you are imprisoned or salvaged. Knowing the fragility of the political situation, I had my share of parental worries, with my instructor’s salary unable to fend for our needs, and with the cost of living in Manila the blighted city spiraling everyday. The infant formula almost doubled without me knowing and the Catholic university where I was teaching was depriving us of our legal share of the increase in tuition.

Those were hard times, harder than any other time I could remember, not even those times that I spend years and years in a walled, convent life trying to entertain a delusion of grandeur that I was ‘called’—yes, the mysterious word was ‘called’—to the vowed life.

That was not true, of course, and I soon realized that my world, my authentic world, was to be one spent in the classroom for years and years, which, even in exile, is the only work that I know, and the only one that I know how to do it with grace and patience.

Her sister, their age difference almost fifteen years, is the same. She is emotionally intelligent, and always demonstrative and expressive of her feelings, telling you in brutal frankness what she feels about things and how she feels about issues, complete with gesture and the pitch and tone of the voice.

So there, when children are emotionally intelligent, you can never tinker and play with their hearts. You ought to be always on guard, on the move, on defensive side.

Bakit ka malungkot? I ask her, the youngest that is my phone pal almost everyday. Why are you said? (I take a mental note: why did I have to ask her that. I call myself a moron for the first time in a long while. I know, I know: I am stoking a fire here.)

Kasi po wala ka dito! Papaano ko mararamdaman ang pasko? Sabi sa school ko, di mo raw mararamdaman ang pasko kapag wala ang tatay mo. (Because you are not here. How will I feel the spirit of Christmas? In my school, they say that when your father is not around, you cannot feel the spirit of Christmas.)

Oh, is that so, I tell her. But this is only temporary, darling daughter. You know…

Pero wala ka nga dito, papa. (But you are not really here).

Oo nga, pero next year, dito na tayo lahat. Magpapasko pa tayo sa Disneyland sa Hongkong! O yes, but next year, we will all be here. We will spend Christmas in Disneyland in Hongkong!)

Gusto kong mga laruan ko pink lahat-lahat! (I want my toys to be all pink!)

Ok, I will send them to you. All of them pink.

Kelan mo ipinadala ang box? (When did you ship the ‘balikbayan’ box?)

Soon I will send it.

Kelan darating? Pero sana, nandito ka sa bagong taon? Nandito ka ba sa bagong taon, papa? (When is it arriving here? But, will you be here on new year’s day? Will you be here, papa?)

No, I don’t think so, I say. I turn the lights of my office off. I am using my cellphone so I can easily move to the entrance to turn off the switch.

Sige, anak, I say. (Ok, child, I tell.)

Sige, papa, I love you, I miss you, Merry Christmas! (Ok, papa, I love you, I miss you, Merry Christmas.

I love you, baby, I say.

I permit my tears to flow profusely in the deep, deep dark.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 30/07

Baro a Tawen ti Ochoocho

Kadagiti dragon ket ti apuy a mangsilmut
kadagiti kapanagan. Iti nagan ti pitak
ken ti tapok ket ti alikaka dagiti lungon
ti panagindidi dagiti panteon
ti panaginsasaan ti punebre
numan pay patit ti kampana iti soltero a torre
ket daytay musika ti maitanem nga ay-ay.
Kastoy ti abstraksion ti masungad a tawen.
Kas iti sala ti adipen, agkurratsa nga agsaridaddeng.
Agarikenken met kas prologo dagiti paddak
santo agkulagtit iti napardas
mangsala iti sabali nga ayug
a mangawag kadagiti amin a birtud:
ti panagsubli iti bagas manipud iti ugaw
ti panagpakita manen dagiti dalag iti banggera
ti panagapu ti asin iti tubong
ti panagungar ti paglutuan manipud ken kissiw
ken patay ken aminen a pannakasebseb
ti arimukamok man a nadawel
wenno ti katay ti lalaki a nalaing
nakapatig wenno nakakurbata
a ti dila ket naggapu iti apokalipsis
tapno kadagiti buteng iti sellang
sadiay a rugian ti maraochoocho a panagaddang.
Ited amin a talek kadagiti kanito ti tawen,
amin, agraman ti riwriw a panagbabawi nga umuna
saan a maudi kas iti panangontra
iti lusis a suyot wenno ti bawang a di met aglibbuong
no di ket agpangato iti tangatang nga agpuligos
santo met laeng agdisso iti nagiparabawan a lata a lussok.
Kuitis kadi ti pangbugiaw kadagiti mannamay
ti panangpadisi kadagiti mangmangkik
ti panangpapanaw kadagiti agsinanbuaya nga ansisit
a nagkaporete iti anus ti leddeg ken bukasit?
La ket ta ilukat dagiti tawa
ket ikkam iti bitinbitin a pisos
wenno doliar a naiwawa. Anting-anting dagitoy
para iti nabunga nga aldaw ti din panagpagungga
dagiti babaknang a silalabus no mangan iti ostia
dagiti marigrigat nga agidulin iti tedtedda.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 29/07

The Ilokano Language, 4

The Ilokano Language:
History, Culture, and Structure

Series 4, Revisiting the Ilokano Syllabary

By Aurelio S. Agcaoili, Ph.D.
Program Coordinator, Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Honolulu, Hawai’i

(This is a series of essays on the Ilokano language. The series—to number 54—hopes to explore, together with the creative writers, the readers, and the Ilokano language and culture teachers, some of the productive ways by which we can explain the structure of the Ilokano language, and the history and culture of the Ilokano people that are embedded in that language. In this age of renewed calls for a Philippine discourse on diversity and multiculturalism as framework for nation building and development, a critical reflection on the Ilokano language is not only urgent but also necessary. This version does away with the scientific format but uses instead the popular version, but with references included within the text so that those who would like to verify the data may have a clue where to look for them. A parallel series in Ilokano is being prepared and will be made available for dissemination by the end of 2008.)

There has been some confusion on Ilokano orthography in the recent years, with proposals to revisit the kind of ‘popularized’ way of writing of the language that started with Bannawag and other printed media, but veritably initiated by creative writers who had access to the means for popular literary expressions, including the drama form, the ‘komedia’ and the zarzuela. From a diachronic perspective, we can trace these attempts towards the ‘modernization’ of the orthography with the 60’s that somehow traces its roots in the 50’s, with the initial movement for a new orthographic form of the language in the 40’s. One of the small acts to such an attempt is the initiative to gradually phase out of the cumbersome ‘quet’ and ‘quen’ that both saw their abbreviation into ‘qt’ and ‘qn’, respectively, in some of the writings of the creative writers and the letters of people that invariably began with that formulaic first sentence greeting, to wit, “Yaman quen ragsac ti adda kenca no dumanon ti napnuan iliw a suratco cadacayo amin a sangapada. Sapay ta pia quen caradcad ti adda coma amin cadacayo quet babaen ti bendision ti Apo a Namarsua quet taginayonenna coma ti pia quen caradcadyo. Quet no dacami met ti incayo damagen, pagyamanmi met iti Apo ta salun-at quen kired met ti adda kadakami a siiliw amin cadakayo—Thanks and joy be yours upon receipt of my letter to you, a letter filled with the feeling of missing you all. I hope that health and strength are with you and through the blessing of God the Creator may He continue to give you health and strength. And if you wish to ask how we are, we thank the Lord for the health and strength that we have, all of us who miss you all.” This formulaic salutation was common in Laoag in the 60s and 70s when the more popular forms of communication were the letter and the radio, and for serious matters, the telegram that was as economic as today’s text messaging except that it was only one way unlike the capability of the short messaging system for a continuing, almost endless to-and-fro of messages that border on the inane to the zany.

A rare book authored by Conchita Valdez, was published in Honolulu, Hawai'i presumably right after the Second World War. The book, “Combined Love Letters in English and Ilocano,” does not bear any year of printing but the letters bear the years spanning 1929 to 1946. Dedicating it to General Gregorio del Pilar, “the most romantic as well as the most heroic of all the officers of the Philippine Revolution” according to the author, the book contains the use of the ‘ken’ in its ‘k’ form and has dropped the references to the ‘q’ for the ‘k’ sound altogether, as was the custom of the previous period. We must understand that based on the dates of the sample letters, the printing of the third edition which is in my possession, is probably after the Second World War. The book’s reference to S.S. Maunawili, the last ship that would bring the last batch of workers from the Philippines to the plantations of Hawai’i, suggests that the “Letters” could have been printed in 1946 or a bit later. But we must understand that this book that I have is the third edition, which explains the earlier letters bearing the year 1929. Says the foreword in Ilokano, “Pakauna iti baro a pannakaideppelna”: “Nainayon iti daytoy a baro a pannakideppelna, dagiti sumagmamano a naaramid kalpasan ti gubat, gubat a kadangkukan pay laeng a napasamak ditoy a lubong. Dagiti binalayan ni ayat ditoy Hawai’i, isuda a naipusing, iti saan laeng a lasag no di pay gapu iti saandan a pannakapagsursurat kas bunga ti gubat, a nanguram itoy lubong manipud idi Diciembre 1941 agingga iti pannakaluk-at ti Filipinas idi 1946, adda a masarakan ti katulad sursuratda kadagiti binulong daytoy a pagbasaan…. (Included in this new edition are several letters made after the war, the most atrocious war that happened in this world. For those who have fallen in love here in Hawai’i, those who were weaned away, not only in the flesh but also because they had not been able to write as a result of the war that set the world on fire from December 1941 until the liberation of the Philippines in 1946, here they find a template of their letters on the pages of this reading material….” The English preface, not an exact translation of the Ilokano version, says: “The book was written to meet the peculiar situations in which young Filipino lovers find themselves in Hawai’i, Amerika and Guam. Often the girl friends are thousands of miles away across the sea, in their barrios or neighboring towns in the Philippines. To write them is a problem, and to get them to consent to come to Hawai’i or America, once they succeed in their pursuit to love and be loved is another problem….”

The first letter of March 10, 1929 says: “Miss Maria Bumanglag, Ipakpakaunak met ken ka iti disso a napatak, a nanipod pay idi damo a pannakayammo-ammom kaniak ken apaman a ginuyogymo toy conciensiak a tulongan ka iti tarigagayam, babaen ti panangkitak kadagiti gagayyemko timmauden toy nasam-it a kalikagum a sika koma ti mapagasatan ken mabalangatan a tumugaw iti trono ni dayaw.” The author’s translation runs: “But to be frank with you, in the beginning when you first asked me to help you see my friends in behalf of your candidacy I had only a disinterested desire for you to sit on the throne amidst the applause and admiration of the multitude and this was the reason of my help and sacrifice.” The point of the matter here is that if it were true that the year 1929 was the time the letter as a template for the lover letter-writing pursuits of love-starved Ilokano lovers in the plantations, then we can go back to that year as the beginning of the getting away from the Hispanicized rendition of the ‘ken’ and ‘ket’, two of the most easily spotted ‘indigenous’ words of the Ilokano language that admitted representation in writing using the ‘q’.

These issues reflect the kind of a syllabary the Ilokanos had prior to the coming of the Spanish colonizers. That long book, as copied out in full by Marcelino Foronda in his book “Dallang: An Introduction to Philippine Literature in Ilokano and Other Essays,” bears the “Libro a Naisuratan amin ti bagas/ti Doctrina Christiana/nga naisurat iti Libro ti Cardinal a agnagan Belarmino, ket inacu ti P. Fr. Francisco Lopez/padre a Agustin iti Siansamtoy/Ad dandam Scientiam Salu/ti plebes ejus/Cant. Bach.” Foronda says in his note that this book is a translation by Francisco Lopez of the catechetical work of Cardinal Bellarmino, which saw its first printing in 1620, an extant copy of which is found at the Lopez Memorial Museum in Pasay City. Foronda also says that a latter version bearing the 1621, as the year of publication was the first known version before the 1620 version was discovered. We note here that the title of the 1620 version as copied out by Foronda in his note uses the ‘ket’ in the ‘k’ form and not in the ‘q’ as was the custom found in many documents during the longer period of colonization. However, the 1621 version referred to by Rubino in his discussion of the Ilokano syllabary, “an Indic syllabary similar to that used by Tagalog speakers,” has this title with the ‘q’ in the ‘quet’: “Doctrina Cristiana (Libro a naisuratan amin ti bagas ti Doctrina Cristiana nga naisurat iti libro ti cardenal agnagan Belarmino quet inaon ti Fr. Francisco Lopes, padre a San Agustin iti sinasantoy).” We note here the orthographic changes in the following words: Christiana-Cristiana, ket-quet, and Siansamtoy-sinasantoy.

Using these are samples to get into the bottom of that difficult task of writing the Ilokano language today—a real problem, indeed—with the lack of an honest-to-goodness body to propose a standardized form of the language’s orthography—and now, its grammar, we can deduce this clearly: that while there was—there is—the Ilokano syllabary, it has not presented itself as capable of reflecting critically the changes of the Ilokano language as a result of its continuing contacts with other languages including the duty to reflect the various opportunities for language development as needed by the speech community of Ilokanos. This is not to invite a cynical, even pessimistic and dismissive view, as some of the uninformed scholars and researchers tend to do, that holds that there is not yet a ‘correct’ form of writing the language and that there is not yet ‘a legitimate rendering’ of its grammatical structure. This is certainly not true, as I pointed out in our workshop at the Mariano Marcos State University in July 2007 when, in that workshop, someone remarked that there is not yet a standard Ilokano grammar. Such a reckless remark from people who should be in the know ought not be taken for granted but must be used as a battleground for reminding people that the Ilokano language has since have its various forms of writing and that it does have its ‘standard’ grammar, however inchoate this is. A review of the literature of those who had worked on the Ilokano language tells us that there has been serious researches since the beginning of the 19th century, not to mention the work of preservation, however fragmented and flawed, by the friars and other members of the religious institutions across the Ilokano colonial history.

To understand how we decide on the orthography, it is important that we understand the history of the sounds of the Ilokano language in the beginning, how these sounds were represented in writing through the Ilokano syllabary, how the language got into contact with other languages, hence the borrowing, and how the old form of pronunciation and writing resulting from this contact and borrowing created a deficit, and thus, the need to open up the phonetic and orthographic system to these challenges.

Rubino, in “Ilocano: Ilokano-English/English-Ilocano Dictionary and Phrasebook,” reproduced the Ilokano syllabary based on the Doctrina Christiana and from there we see the three vocoids (a, e-i, o-u) and the 14 contoids (ba, ka, da, ga, nga, la, ma, na, pa, ha, sa, ta, va, ya). A return to these representations of these native sounds reveals to us the kind of mind operative in the early form of Ilokano. We see that from this fundamental form of the syllabary, it would soon grow to include other words, and other sounds, including the need to adjust the syllabary to reflect the changes due to the linguistic and cultural contact with the colonizers and other socio-economic forces. (To be continued.)

Inventario ti Leddaang

Agsaludotayo iti sietesiete a tawen
ket iti publiko a pannusa
maysamaysa nga ibagatayo
ti inventario ti leddaang
nga indulin iti maar-aradas a nakem.
Di ketdi agmawmaw ti panagsisinnangdo
a kunam la no nakagaruttayo
nga agpuerong nga aso.
Awan mailaksidmo iti kastoy
a buya. Iti daga a nakayanakan
a mismo ket ti komedia a pataranta
dagiti agisibbo iti pagan-anay
a daton ti ili kas iti bileg nga aggapu
amin iti ling-et ni Maria ken Juan
ken Procopio, marinero kadagiti baybay
nga agnagan kadagiti pirata ken ranggas
patagtagaboda amin kadagiti Arabo
a no agmando ket kabuyogna
ti panagkay-od kas iti panangiwekwek
iti mabagbagi a pangtulad iti panagiwekwek
iti tubo dagiti langis iti disierto dagiti amin a panagrabngis
wenno ti panagsuek ti tudo kadagiti rekkang
iti kataltalonan ditoy Stockton
a manipud pay idi ket sinangsangitanen ni Bulosan
inladawan ni Buaken a kas purgatorio ti gagem.
Saan a maungpot-ungpot dagitoy
ket awananda iti gibus.
Napipia pay dagiti estoria
ta agbanagda iti tuldek
ngem ditoy, dagiti imventario
ni ayat ket maysa pannakaimameg:
lamlamiongenmi ti amo tapno dinto agunget
ikinni ti patong tapno yarikap ti kliente ti yen
aramiden a kasla helikopter ti panagpuligos ti bagi
tapno iti pus-ong ket ti cheke ti maar-arakattot nga artek.
Adu pay: ti panagmartsa ti padi
ti panangipalkag manen ti naimbag a damag maipapan iti hunta
ti ebanghelio ti panagbirkog iti bulsa dagiti agpalpalama
ti puersa ti tangke ken kanion tapno maudatal
amin a kontra, amin a nakurapay, amin a palpalagip
maipapan iti engkanto ti hustisia
a para iti isu amin a pinarsua.
Dakkel a sao ti kastoy. Ditoy met ngamin
ti pakakiddisantayo iti adal tapno makita
ti rupa ti rebolusion a saan ket a puro diskurso ti langgong
wenno ti senador nga agmauyong.
Kas koma ti pagbirokan tapno saanen nga umadayo
ti ina a kakaisuna tapno ti anak ket di agbirok
iti sandi dagiti ulpit kadagiti rabii a nasipnget
a ditoy ket ti asuk a mangkulkullaap iti sirmata.
Dillawento manen ti mannaniw ti leddaang
daytoy a daniw. Ngem kunaekto: ikkanak
iti innapuy iti biag aldaw malem
tapno agsardengakon nga iti leddaang mangilalaem.
Kas koma iti daga a pagimurumoran
kadagiti amin a kita ti panarapato
iti nakaparsuaan ket ti pannakasaksi ti panagruting
amin nga itukit nga imbag. A ngem ta panguataanda
met amin a di mangan-ano, agraman ti dayaw ti mannalon.
Kumarkarappetda la ngaruden iti pitak ken bingkol,
aramiden pay laeng ti kabusor ti witiwit a pang-or.
Kas koma ti wayawaya. Nabayag idin a nagpauyo.
Addan kadagiti karsel, kadagiti kalkaltaang.
Maysan daytoy nga alimuken a no tukmaam
ket innakan itarayan. La ket ta di agbalin
a bugbugian a karasaen a gitana ti sindadaan.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 28/07

Obituario para iti demokrasia

(Ket nagawid ni Benazir Bhutto. Ket babaen iti tallo a kalbit iti paltog, natay. Dec 26, 2007)

Saan ngamin nga iti hustisia ti ili
ti nakaibalabalaan ti panagsubli
kadagiti an-anek-ek. Anansata
kaskasdi met ti panagtabugga
dagiti awanan iti man ilik
wenno iti Riwaldi a nakapasagam.
Kasta kami met: agiyatangkami
a naynay iti biag ken anges
ken adu a pammagbaga
tapno koma agsublitayo
iti innarayat wenno pinnadigo
ket agsalatayo kadagiti kallaysa
saan nga agdung-aw iti pannakaipatli
manen ken manen ti demokrasia.
Diak ammo a saritaen dagitoy a rikna
itatta. Iti kinaagtutubo iti kabisera
ti ilik ket ti lengguahe met ti rali
ti panaggikkis dagiti kalsada
ti panangisalda iti turog tapno kadenna
ti aspaltado nga idda
kaatag dagiti aminen a buteng
iti rifle man wenno iti bugtak
ti diktador wenno ti heneral
isuda makaam-ammo ti pusipos
ti madusdusa nga alipuspos.

Kasano a saritaek ti panagkakaarngi
dagiti rugi dagitoy a lamentasion
iti naunday nga agpatnag?
Di met ta uray dagiti monghe ti Tibet
ket labusanda iti kararag?
Di met ta uray ti rebolusion ti safron
ket ti panagpukaw dagiti kumakararag
isuda a kaing-ingas dagiti kappia
nga agindeg kadagiti nainanaan a lasag?
Ket iti ilik ti narrativo met laeng
ti kinadaksanggasat, kas iti ipupusay
nga ammom nga umay iti di agbayag.
Ngem kas kadagiti natakneng
nga exilo, inyawidmo ti balikas
a kayatmi a mangngegan, umili man
wenno estranghero a kas kaniak.
Agkullay-ong ti kullapit a tian
ket ti nakain-inaka nga alikaka maidiaya iti balitang:
ditoy a maipasngay ti umuna a mannubbot
a darikmat, agtalinaayto nga agindeg
iti daradaran nga ilim nga awanan labas.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 28/07

Benazir is dead, democracy is born

Benazir is dead but democracy is born.
We had the same story years ago.
The people will live forever as we do.
Only that those who command the killing
Are alive as well even if they bomb themselves
To nothingness. Except that, of course,
Presidents know how to squander our chances
Because they do not know what life
Is in the streets, with our changing
Going wrong most of the time
As what comes of our lips are lamentations
And the dirges of mothers, fathers
And the thieves of spirits.
We saw the blood, and it is in the news
Fresh with the message of turmoil
As well as courage. These extremes,
What do we get indeed, from murdering
Our dreams to murdering other people's
Dreams? What do the shrines say, the mosques
The angels? How soon do we call everyone
Martyrs except those who are condemned?

Benazir is dead. We are alive for the kiss.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 27, 2007

The Ilokano Language, 3

The Ilokano Language:
History, Culture, and Structure

Series 3, Sorting out the ‘loko/luko/look/luco’ controversy

By Aurelio S. Agcaoili, Ph.D.
Program Coordinator, Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Honolulu, Hawai’i

(This is a series of essays on the Ilokano language. The series—to number 54—hopes to explore, together with the creative writers, the readers, and the Ilokano language and culture teachers, some of the productive ways by which we can explain the structure of the Ilokano language, and the history and culture of the Ilokano people that are embedded in that language. In this age of renewed calls for a Philippine discourse on diversity and multiculturalism as framework for nation building and development, a critical reflection on the Ilokano language is not only urgent but also necessary. This version does away with the scientific format but uses instead the popular version, but with references included within the text so that those who would like to verify the data may have a clue where to look for them. A parallel series in Ilokano is being prepared and will be made available for dissemination by the end of 2008.)

The question on where does the term ‘Ilocos’—the basis of my proposed contemporary rendering of ‘Ilokano’ to mean both the people and their language—come from had doggedly resulted in some confusion on the part of the Ilokanos themselves and scholars and cultural researchers.

In my search on the origin of the word, I have come across a variety of interpretations and the more popular ones are: (a) the riu-kiu/ryu-kiu/liukiu theory that refers to the Ilocos as the ‘island adjacent to the Mainland’, with this Mainland presumably referring to China; and (b) the usual culprits, the Spaniards, who, in their ignorance, and then the equal ignorance of those whom they asked what the place they were in was and the response was the word ‘looc/look’ which meant the cove; the usual Spanish interpretation of the lay of the Ilocos land, the lay revealing a riverine system which has its roots in ‘iloc’, a Tagalog word for river, ‘ilog’, with the terminal contoid ‘g’ beyond the pronunciation ability of the Spaniards, hence, its phonetic rendering into ‘iloc’, from which it came the glorious name, ‘Ilocos’.

Theory (a) was popularized by Resurreccion Calip when in 1957 he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Epic of Lam-ang for the University of Santo Tomas, “The Iloko Epic—Lam-ang: A Critico-Anthropological Analysis.” In his treatise, Calip came across the possibility that ‘Ilokos’ could have come from ‘I-riu-kiu’ and its other renderings based on some characters. He argued that since the Ilokanos have had long history of contact with the Chinese traders, the existence of such characters in the Chinese accounts prove the fact that the Ilokos could have been thought of as part of the idea of a China as a huge land, a huge kingdom with islands adjacent to it.

In 1958, George Kerr came up with his study of the Okinawan people, “Okinawa, the History of an Island People.” In this book, he talks about the Ryukyus or the Ryukyu Islands, now known by its new Japanese name Okinawa, although in the earlier times, Okinawa was merely a part of the Kingdom of Ryukyu.

Kerr talks of the characters that could be rendered in several ways, mainly Japanese and Chinese but transliterated by historical sources from the West as well: ‘Ryukyu’ for the Japanese and ‘Liu Ch’iu’ for the Chinese. The Western transliterations, one of which was used by the United States in its treaty it entered into with that kingdom in 1854, “Compact between the United States and the Kingdom of Lewchew,” are numerous: ‘Reoo Keoo,’ ‘Likiwu,’ ‘Liquii,’ ‘Liquea,’ and ‘Leung-Khieou.’ And an Okinawan dialect, Kerr reports, had also rendered it ‘Doo Choo.’

From this Kerr account, the Calip interpretation now self-destructs: it is not the Ilokos being referred to but the Kingdom of Ryukyu which is now administratively known in Japan, as Okinawa. Another point that makes the Calip account a mere wild guess and therefore, does not admit of urgency and immediacy of ownership—and hence, invalid—is the fact that when a people name themselves, would they get their name—their very identity from some other extraneous, outside, strange source and use that to account who they are, or were, as was the case of the early Ilokanos?

This then brings us to the point of the whole scale account of Spanish ignorance of the Ilokano people and who they are. We must remember at this point that the colonial project of the Spaniards—a project blessed by a Vatican pope, through a bull, no less—was not simply an innocent act of ‘announcing’ the Good News to the heathens, the pagans, the unbaptized, and the uncivilized, categories that the West used to prop up their claim of having gotten a message from their white God, and that this white God was commanding them to go to other nations and make them nations of Christianity. We must remember that when the Spanish colonizer came, he brought along with him two kinds of sinister foot soldiers: one kind, to show his earthly might and power through the gun-toting mercenaries; and the other, the soldier of the faith, the bible-wielding know-it-all soutaned messenger of salvation who had the power to baptize in the name of the white God they brought with them.

No, we cannot accept the Calip account and neither can we accept the ignorance of the Spanish chroniclers.

This leaves us with no other option except to figure out from what we have got: to understand, on the basis of our own language, on the basis of our own unique history, on the basis of our ecology, on the basis of our own self-understanding of our world and our relationships. In short, we need to go back to the tradition of giving a name to our land, to our homes, to ourselves. Before the coming of the colonizers, we were named in so many ways, one of which was through the acknowledgement of the kind of virtue and gift and promise and talent we could offer, in oblation, to our communities. This is why Calip missed the point altogether when he missed the clue that Lam-ang, himself, named himself, and that he did not need other people to name him.

From the traces of the term ‘Iloko’, we can truly break it down into simpler parts: the prefix ‘i’, meaning from, and the root, ‘loko’, which by the virtue of some linguistic transposition, could refer to ‘lokong,’ the lowland, the low point of the lay of the land. This is a most plausible account in many ways: (a) the intercultural and transcommunal relationship between the upland peoples and the lowlanders, with the linguistic clue on the upland, now Cordillerans, another one of those misnomers courtesy of the Spaniards: Igorot or Igorot can be broken down into: ‘i’, to mean ‘from’, and ‘gorot/golot’, to mean mountain.

We must understand that in those times, as it is now, people are defined by their places, by their origins, by their ancestral beginnings—in effect, by the very land that sustains them. That itself serves as the main marker for self-identity and the kind of dynamic that is involved in it. From that linguistic sleuthing comes a broad view of a cosmos that the Ilokano and the Igorot people shared since time immemorial: that the Ilokanos were people of the ‘lukong,’ the slopes, the plains, the places that lead to the sea and that the Igorots were people of the hills, the mountains, the uplands and that these references are as tentative as the movement of the ‘amianan’ wind—that wind that brings in all the freshness of the sea, the rain, the fecundity of both the earth of these two peoples who are two only by reason of their residential accidents but not two in the end but one because they share a life-giving nexus, a living connexion with each other, an intersection of their lives in language, rites, rituals, technology, stories, and knowledge in general.

The Epic of Lam-ang it itself a living proof: Lam-ang was an Ilokano because he came from the ‘lukong’ but Ines Kannoyan was an Igorot because she came from the ‘gulot/gulod’. The beautiful but tragic life and love of Diego Silang and Gabriela Silang is another proof: Diego was from the ‘lukong’, Gabriela was from the uplands.

The lesson we learn from here is simple: we name ourselves and we do not allow others to do that to us. That, I think, is contrary to our ‘panagbuniag’ tradition, with our reference to the god Buni. This is why we acknowledge progress with the allusion to the god of progress, Lung-aw, which is why we say, “Nakalung-aw met bassiten, apo!—We have already progressed a bit, my lord!” This is why we do the ‘ayab’—“Umaykan, umaykan, diak agbatbati!” This is why we do the ‘sirok-ti-latok’, the ritual of naming under a platter.

It is this resisting the naming by other that spells the difference between self-redemption that we can do to ourselves and the kind of redemption that colonizers offer us for a fee: our very souls, our very lands, our very names, our very riches—in short, ourselves and who we are.

In short, the Ilokano is plain and simple ‘taga-lukong.’ Indeed, ‘ilukong’.

(To be continued)

The Ilokano Language, 2

The Ilokano Language:
History, Culture, and Structure

Series 2, Revisiting ‘Ilokano’ and its convoluted logics

By Aurelio S. Agcaoili, Ph.D.
Program Coordinator, Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Honolulu, Hawai’i

(This is a series of essays on the Ilokano language. The series—to number 54—hopes to explore, together with the creative writers, the readers, and the Ilokano language and culture teachers, some of the productive ways by which we can explain the structure of the Ilokano language, and the history and culture of the Ilokano people that are embedded in that language. In this age of renewed calls for a Philippine discourse on diversity and multiculturalism as framework for nation building and development, a critical reflection on the Ilokano language is not only urgent but also necessary. This version does away with the scientific format but uses instead the popular version, but with references included within the text so that those who would like to verify the data may have a clue where to look for them. A parallel series in Ilokano is being prepared and will be made available for dissemination by the end of 2008.)

Certainly, the exchange from various sectors that are all advocates of the Ilokano language and the kind of culture that it preserves and perpetuates have a legitimate right to ask about what to do with the variants that seem to be standing in the way of self-identification of the Ilokano. What is he really of all the many names that have been cropping up, in the literature and in the life of his own people? Is he Iluko, Ilokan, Iluco, Ilocan, Yluco, Ilocano, Ilokano?

Mario Rosal, in his book “Zarzuelang Iloko” (takes off from that simpler variant that does not make use of the redundant ‘ano’ suffix which, some scholars claim, is a tautology as both the prefix ‘i’ and the ‘ano’ function the same way and mean the same thing. In the introduction of that book, as translated into ‘Tagalog’ (note that I am using here the more appropriate linguistic label ‘Tagalog’ to account that, one, this is not Tagalog as claimed by its translator Noemi Rosal but a rendering into Tagalog what was originally an English material, with the Tagalog rendering automatically labeled ‘Filipino’ as claimed by many scholars like Noemi Rosal, who, unable to distinguish the two, make Tagalog automatically Filipino), Noemi Rosal distinguishes the term ‘Iloko’ to mean the language and the culture and ‘Ilokano’ to mean the people, an approach that was followed by some people including Jose Bragado, who served GUMIL Filipinas as president and lectured extensively on this ‘distinguo, amico’ approach to separating the person from his language and culture (and being unable, therefore, to see that a person can be—and it should be—his own language and culture).

Of the many scholars who take this view about the convoluted logic of the term ‘Ilokano,’ Faye Dumagat has launched a historical and linguistic criticism that points to the need to revisit the term ‘Ilokano’—and this term includes its variant, ‘Ilocano’—and reminds us, like some other scholars who have pointed this out in the past, that the word reeks of a tautological construction since the ‘i’, a prefix marking off ‘a place of origin’ in the sense of ‘from’ is, somehow, synonymous to ‘ano’, a descriptive marker that is referring to, and is a borrowing from, the Spanish suffix ‘an’ or ‘ano,’ as in the case of ‘Mexicano’ for the people of Mexico and ‘Americano/Amerikano’ for the people of America, whether North or South, but popularly (and this is a misnomer as well) only referring to the people of the United States of America. While there is some truth to this tautological construction, a second look would tell us that there is something elided in using only one, and dropping it off invites, in contemporary context, the description of the people as we can see in ‘ano’ and the sense of ‘origin’ in the ‘i’, in which case, we have, in either Ilokano or Ilocano, a contextualized concept that points to this sense and only this sense: “a people that comes from the ‘lokos/locos,’ this place-name needing revisiting as well, as this since been the subject of many discourses that run the gamut of the etic way of self-definition to the more liberating ‘emic’ approach, depending on the scholarly purposes of the one researching and writing. A chapter of this series will be devoted to this continuing, unsettled and unsettling discourse on where the Ilokanos ever got their name, both for their place and for their language.

From the scholarly works of Marcelino Foronda, to wit his “Dallang” and his “Kailokuan: Historical and Bibliographical Studies,” he notes on his discussions of the ‘interchangeable’ quality of the following terms: Iloko, Iluco, Iloco, Ilocos, Ilokano, and Ilukano and for which he asserted that these are all terms that “designate the region, the people, and the language of the Northwestern Luzon provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra and La Union, the so-called ‘original’ Iloko provinces, and the inhabitants and the language of the Mountain Province (i.e. the present day provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao-Kalinga (note: has since split into Kalinga and Apayao and independent of each other), Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, Nueva Ecija, Cagayan, Isabela, and Nueva Viscaya, the so-called ‘Ilokanized’ provinces, whose mother tongue is Iloko.”

Other works that implicitly takes a position on what to call the language—and by extension—the people, are those by Emma Bernabe, Virginia Lapid, and Bonifacio Sibayan’ s “Ilokano Lessons.” Together with Ernesto Constantino’s twin works, “Ilokano Dictionary” and “Ilokano Reference Grammar,” the term “Ilokano” gains currency—and is, as a matter of fact, a communal notion except for those who can afford to split hairs and who can afford to count how many angels can dance at the tip of a needle. Ask around and you would invariably do not get that subtle divide between what to call a people and what to call his language, as is the case of the Bragado-Saludes position, which, at a certain point especially during the presidency of Bragado at the GUMIL Filipinas, became the dogma, and which, eventually was what was being mouthed by those coming from the ranks of the younger generations.

In an attempt to appear Hispanic, with that reference to a ‘glorious’ past with the Spanish colonizers that made the Ilocos open its legs to the white colonizers with their white god and white saints, Amelia Valdez Ramos, as publisher, launched in 2000 the one and only issue of “Yloco” Journal, and in this journal was the declaration of the use of three existing Philippine languages that included English, ‘Filipino’ (the quotes are my addition in an attempt to register a protest here), and ‘Iluko.’ Somewhere is that distinction that Iluko is the language while Ilokano is a term to designate the people.

When I was an associate at the Center for Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines, I made it a point that we used ‘Ilokano’ to mean both the language and the people for consistency. This action was not meant to deny the historical background of the term neither was it meant to use only one term. As is the case of any cultural advocacy work, consistency sometimes point to the ways to solve constraints traceable to practice without denying that such a position invites contrary opinions. But here is a case of asking for that which is productive to the advocacy work each Ilokano writer is supposed to do—and in extensu, by each Ilokano, whether natively or ‘Ilokanized.’ I strongly urge the ‘Ilokanized’ Ilokanos, however, to teach us of the ways of the non-Ilokano peoples in the Amianan so that when Ilokano gets into a confluence with these languages, Ilokano is enriched, and the other Amianan languages get to be enriched as well. The young scholar Eric DC Grande has proven of this possibility in his work among the Yogad and Ilokanos of Echague, Isabela, in a paper he presented at the 2007 Nakem, “The Ilokanos Amidst the Yogads in Echague.” The courses that we taught, both the language and the literature, at the University of the Philippines at Diliman—the only University of the country that has the courage to teach the language and literature of the Ilokano people and yet the University is at the heart of Tagalog-land and Manila empire—bore, and still bears, ‘Ilokano’ to mean the language, the people, the culture, and the literature and no splitting of hairs.

Now, on the need to ‘orthographically’ render it as with a ‘c’ or a ‘k’ as some of the writers are wont to ask, I say, One is a variant of the other and feel free to use which of the variants suits your taste. Personally, I have no problems whether we write it with a ‘c’ of a ‘k’. But if we did want to work on a consistent ‘lexicographic’ entry—and if we did want to go back to what the Ilokano syllabary can teach us, we can glean from the “Doctrina Cristiana” as was reproduced in the work of Rubino, “Ilocano-English/English-Ilocano Dictionary and Phrasebook,” that the ‘c’ sound, veritably a Spanish introduction, is natively rendered by the ‘k’ sound, and that, therefore, in that problem term ‘Ilocano/Ilokano,’ the splitting of hair that tackles as if it were a problem of the world, whether we need to write it as ‘Ilocano’ or as ‘Ilokano’ is safely settled by either invoking a Hispanic influence and thus granting respect for that colonial influence whatever merit that colonial experience has over our lives. Or, the other equally legitimate way, rather convenient and ‘nativist’ in some way, is to summon the anitos and ask them once again the imploding power of the Ilokano syllabary as this syllabary comes into a head-on encounter with language change, and yet sticking by the indigenous pride that syllabary can grant to the consciousness of the Ilokano, a consciousness that is also imploding because expanding, and is expanding because becoming critical and reflexive.

I presume this is the only way we can settle scores: end the divide between a language and the people behind that language and therefore say, once and for all, that what we are referring to is plain and simple ‘Ilokano’ to mean both; and write ‘Ilokano’ with a ‘k’ (using the Ilokano syllabary as the reference point), but without pain of being accused of impurity and linguistic pollution when using the other variants. At the University of Hawai’i’s Ilokano Language and Literature Program, we are consistently using, in our classrooms and well as in our publications, ‘Ilokano.’ The score has been settled for us—and we try to become as aware as everyone else of the uneasy and difficult history behind this need to settle it.

(To be continued)

The Ilokano Language, 1

The Ilokano Language:
History, Culture, and Structure

Series 1, The Search for Roots—or the meaning of ‘Ilokano’

By Aurelio S. Agcaoili, Ph.D.
Program Coordinator, Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Honolulu, Hawai’i

(This is a series of essays on the Ilokano language. The series—to number 54—hopes to explore, together with the creative writers, the readers, and the Ilokano language and culture teachers, some of the productive ways by which we can explain the structure of the Ilokano language, and the history and culture of the Ilokano people that are embedded in that language. In this age of renewed calls for a Philippine discourse on diversity and multiculturalism as framework for nation building and development, a critical reflection on the Ilokano language is not only urgent but also necessary. This version does away with the scientific format but uses instead the popular version, but with references included within the text so that those who would like to verify the data may have a clue where to look for them. A parallel series in Ilokano is being prepared and will be made available for dissemination by the end of 2008.)

Why the need to study Ilokano?

Why not, indeed?

In the Philippines, Ilokano is spoken natively by millions of people especially those coming from the Amianan. Some estimates put the native speakers of Ilokano in the Philippines at roughly 12 percent of the Philippine population of 89 million. This does not include the Ilokanos abroad and those who speak Ilokano as their second or third language. In 1989, an estimate by Carl Rubino put the speakers of Ilokano at 9 million. Another estimate that includes those who speak the language as a second, third, or foreign language in and outside the Philippines such as the one done by Professor Prescila Espiritu, a retired professor of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and former coordinator of the Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program of that University, puts the speakers at about 20 million.

In the United States, Ilokano is historically the language of the diaspora. This means that those who brought it upon themselves to go abroad to seek better opportunities the Ilocos would not afford them brought with them their language and culture and these people have been found in the plantations of Hawai’i, in the canneries of Alaska, in the corporate farms of California, and in the service and health sectors of the United States. Some accounts even antedate 1906 as the coming of the first Ilokanos, with 1906 the historical mark for the coming of the first fifteen plantation workers via a ship ride, on S.S. Doric from Port Salomague and then off to the camps in Hawai’i.

And if there are languages that continue to resist the onslaught of internal and neocolonization happening rampantly and without our knowing in the Philippines, Ilokano is certainly one of them. We must understand that this internal colonization is happening before our very eyes under the guise of a concept of a ‘national language’, which is as ambiguous as the concept of ‘nation’, with its proponents using a concept that they inherited from Europe and fundamentally Quezonian in perspective in what a national language is supposed to be. A Quezonian perspective of what a ‘national language’ is all about is this: (a) an insertion of a provision of the fundamental law of the land, the Philippine Constitution of 1935 to be precise that says that the ‘national language’, contrary to the spirit of the deliberations and consensus of the delegates of that constitutional convention, shall be based on “one of the existing” native language on not on the proviso that was agreed upon which was rendered as a national language “based on the existing languages” of the country; (b) a presidential perspective that reveals a laziness of the mind and a flawed character that does not make any attempt to speak with the Ilokanos in their own language and if he did want to speak with them, the Ilokanos should speak with him in his language, the heavenly and Manila-powered Tagalog, which leads us to the next point: (c) that for practical purposes, we ought to talk about see the constraints of looking to a national language other than Tagalog, as what Benilda Santos has reportedly sad as her complimentary position to the shanghaiing mechanisms of the WIKA proponents of the Tagalog language as the constitutionally mandated language of all peoples of the Philippines, because, it is the language of Manila, the economic center of the country. Here we see the flaws of this decades-old argument of people who have benefited from their monolingualism at the expense of all the peoples of the Philippines. Of course, as in my previous exposes, Claro M. Recto, that once-touted ‘father’ of all our nationalist sentiments, worked with then Commonwealth President Manuel Luis Quezon to effect their notion of what a national language should be. Today, that partnership is now going on its eight decades and if we are to go back to that letter of Quezon to the Akademiya ng Wikang Tagalog in 1930, we are going to be hitting the 78th year of systematic rendering of all the other ethnic groups of the Philippines into invisibility. The fact that this action is state sanctioned, with the blessings of the cultural, political, and economic institutions, this act renders it more atrocious and its violence on the consciousness of our peoples is incalculable.

But why this long history of taking it in stride, this taking it as a matter of fact of this violence inflicted upon us? But why this absence of wit and wisdom pertinent to the active recognition that this country is a homeland of many ethnolinguistic groups—legitimately ‘nations’—before the Propaganda Movement ever thought of seizing the concept of ‘nacion’ from the Spanish colonizers?

But why this long history of resistance and struggle of the Ilokano language against all forms of colonial incursions and against all forms of linguistic and cultural oppression? But why this learned silences from the ranks of all other ethnolinguistic groups of the Philippines such as the Bisayans, the Ilonggos, the Warays, the Pangasinenses, the Bikols, the Kapampangans, and the like?

Where does that seemingly endless capacity to resist come from?

Where does that capacity to remain faithful to that collective memory embedded in the language come from?

Where does the term ‘Ilokano’—the term being used at the University of Hawai’i to account its own language and literature program dedicated to recognize the contribution of the Ilokanos in the history of the State of Hawai’i and in training the future Ilokano and Ilokano-descended leaders of this State and this country of destination of many peoples of the Philippines particularly those coming from the Amianan?

There are conflicting and complementary theories on how the word ‘Ilokano’ and its variants came about.

Depending on who you talk to, the terms can come in many also-known-as ways that run the gamut from Iloko, Iluko, Ilokano, Ilocano, Yluco, Yloco, Y-liukiu to Ilocan.

The lexicographic work done by Fray Andres Carro, O.S.A. and reedited by Fray Mariano Garcia, O.S.A. in 1888 that is at the San Augustine Museum in Intramuros, Manila, had the title Vocabulario Iloco-Espanol. The work done by Fr. Morice Vanoverbergh, C.I.C.M. and published in 1957 had for its title: Iloko-English Dictionary, Rev. Andres Carro’s Vocabulario Iloco-Espanol, translated, augmented and revised by Morice Vanoverbergh, cicm.

In these titles, we see a shift in the use of the ‘c’ in Iloco in Carro and in the ‘k’ and ‘c’ use in Vanoverbergh, but both were using ‘Iloco/Iloko’ as understood still by many of the Ilokanos to account their language. The revised version of the Vanoverbergh version published by the CICM Missionaries in 1993 and authored by another CICM missionary priest, the Rev. George P. Gelade and entitled Ilokano-English Dictionary. Here we see that the Carro and Vanoverbergh terminology has been dropped to account a latter-day meaning-in-context of the term ‘Ilokano’ to account both the language and the people speaking it.

In another lexicographic work published in 1993, Gregorio C. Laconsay’s work, Iluko-English-Tagalog, also based on Vanoververgh’s work but was written initially as installment pieces for Bannawag, supplies us with yet another rendition of the Ilokano self-knowledge with the term ‘Iluko.’

M. Jacobo Enriquez and J. Ben Quimba in 1989 came up with their own pocket dictionary, English-Tagalog-Ilocano.

In 1980, another trilingual dictionary by B. Barlahan-Dagdagan and translated into Pilipino by Jose O. Bautista has this for its title: Trilingual Dictionary: Iloko-English-Pilipino.

Carl Galvez Rubino consistently uses the term ‘Ilocano’ in two of his major works on the Ilokano language: Ilocano-English/English-Ilocano Dictionary and Phrasebook published in 1989 and the Ilocano Dictionary and Grammar: Ilocano-English, English-Ilocano published in 2000.

In all these accounts, we see a varying terminology but always, there is a certain consistency in the root of all these: loco/luko/liu-kiu. From these roots come theories that run the gamut of the outsider looking in, as in the case of the concept of ‘liu-kiu’ which roughly translated into the ‘islands adjacent to the mainland’ which obviously refers to the description and accounting of the Ilokano people by other people particularly that theoretical ‘mainlander’ whatever this term implies.

There is, of course, that usual Spanish act of mishearing the term used by the native when asked about the name of the place, such as that rendition of the ‘looc’, which roughly translates into ‘cove’.

How these and other names got into the popular consciousness of many Ilokanos is something—but all these require scrutiny.

One account even talks of that bastardized version, Samtoy, which, unwittingly, valorizes the perspective of the colonizer and dehumanizes the experience of the colonized, a term that until this day, has yet to be criticized for what it is and yet still being swallowed hook, line, and sinker by many writers and cultural workers.

One popular version that remains entrenched in the minds of the older generation of creative writers such as Jose Bragado of the Philippines and Pacita Saludes of Hawai’i talk of the distinction of Iloko from Ilokano, with Iloko to refer to the language and Ilokano to refer to the people.

In one of the seminars held by GUMIL Hawai’i, for instance, Saludes articulated this distinction and insisted on it. In that seminar as some of the speakers were Prescila Espiritu and myself.

The issue of the distinction was raised and Espiritu asked me to answer the issue and which I told in frankness that today, I do not buy the distinction between the Ilokano language and the speaker of that language in much the same way that I do not see the difference between the English language and the English people, even if certainly, there are other peoples speaking in English but are not themselves English people.

My take on the distinction is more for economy of thought and expression. Why belabor the obvious—that obvious fact that we can logically lump the language and the people together because a people, by cultural parameters, are known first and foremost by the common language they speak natively?

The exchange Saludes and I had stirred some minds, and I had to be tactful and firm in saying my piece without losing sight of the fact that that is one way we can look at the Ilokano language with a dynamic view to how we can make it evolve and adapt to the changing human condition of Ilokanos in the Ilokos, in the Philippines, and in other Ilokano communities in the diaspora.

For the purpose of this series, therefore, Ilokano is a term that is both for the language and the people, and the culture that these people socially produce and practice.

There are many ways, however, by which we can account the Ilokano language’s history and culture; some of the accounts do tell us so many things with plausibility, some with dubious merits, and some with questionable premises and/or conclusions.

(To be continued)

The Ruses of Redemption

It is the story of Christmas
recited over and over again
until one believes what all
of the commerce men tell.

The gift wrapping, for instance,
red in its promise of merriment
green in its revelation of joy
coming to life.

Or the snow on trees felled
for a couple of days of display
and then death comes
takes residence in its leaves
that when one is not looking
fall one by one on their carpeted grave.

It is the scene, not what it means
that matters most now. Not the narrative
pf a manger whatever was it all about
and that flight away from that murderer
of a king and his paid hacks.

We just have to look out the window
in its frost of a romantic night.

Here is a picture perfect frame
and the mass of mindlessness
such as the star of Bethlehem that bleeds
of oil and blood and greed and collateral damage
from Baghdad or desperately drips of sweat
from those who work on the fancy papers
to create grandeur out of delusions
such as what we have got now.

Whoever began this other story
they play on us, trick us into seeing
that profit is not about first world capital
but love and love and love in abundance.

In some ways, we get into the same
game in the country we ran away from.

Parents with their abiding guilt
pay up for lost times, like all
OFWs and exiles on sabbatical from the nurturing
of children who would come to sing carols
for the exercise of the cord in cold nights.

Or children with their thanksgiving
to fill up the holes of an absent heart
because they have been away
more than the hours, more than the days
more than all the songs at christmastime.

Or lovers, if you will, sending in the clowns
and comedians the way the country's politicians do:
the congressmen with their bonuses of tragedy
the senators with their commissions of grief
the presidents with their daredevil but senseless act
to lead a homeland without a memory, needing
no leaders, no myth-makers, no cheats.

It is this ritual of redemption each December
that I think of and that makes me see nothing
of the grammar of saving one's own skin and kin.

It is the same world all over again
and again each time we hear those lousy
recitals about white snows and santa clauses
coming to town on their ecology-friendly rides.

In the meantime, at the struck
of twelve on the next midnight,
the cycle of business begins
and we welcome the beribboned lies.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 25/07

Sangre Immaculada

Blood immaculate.
As if our eyes do not know color
In war as in peace, if at all there is.
Today the arguments for rumor-mongering
Are different. Jail is jail time as in downtime
So you can write about PTSD, this sickness
Of warrior and soldiers in the name of freedom
And say a quick hello and goodbye
To red ants that go come give you company
In your solitary confinement minus the sun
As in the revolutionary Monico Atienza
Many years before he died.

Sangre immaculada,
And this is blood sacrifice
And we offer everything in rushed oblation
Kind words, rare wisdom, joyous wit.
But not our fellowmen's blood, blue in the fashion
Of the monarchs in Manila and Marikna
Where only those of the same bloodline
Rule, now and forever more.
As if the red blood of vampires matter much, really.
Who cares about colors when money is tight
And your wage is not enough to pay
A night of boundless love?
Sangre immaculada, dios mio, as if
In this film you watch, this Blood of My Brother,
All about America going to war, or Iraq not knowing
What to do with its own blood on cement floors
And walls and mosques and religion.
And those arms going akimbo, as if in a dance
Like coffins going to waste on graves
Of stone, away from the earth
That gave the dead life and lust.
We think of wine here, this Christmas night,
Red and sparkling, and you know
You can never be drunk.
Like a Canon camera work, your mind's
Eyes pan: excess of noche buena meal
For those in the Forbes, the nothingness
On the tables of the poor in whose name
The priests and their churches rejoice.

We can never go wrong with this sangre
Immaculada if we talked about our own people's
Sad sad songs, in mangers or in mansions
In reality as in illusions, in the homeland
Or in the stretches of our springing hopes.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 24/07

Ti Raman ti Tupig

(Ken Mrs. Pacita Cabulera Saludes, kas panagyaman iti sangasupot a tupig, Dec. 24, 2007)

Napait a lua ti raman ti soltero a tupig.
Iti laksid ti nanam wenno imas
Ti daton a makan, nagtalapuagaw
Ditoy ti diro ket kadagiti otel a nagpakni
Kadagiti restoran, puni wenno bukayo.

Ita nga inawatko iti manang a mannurat
Ti bitbitna a naimbag a gasat.
Nakasupot nga ayat ken lagip iti Badoc
Ken binungon ti nailanet a bulong
Iti beggang dagiti kailiw man a bisperas.
Birbirokek iti ungto
Ti apagdarikmat a panagkita
Kas iti panaginnallawat iti kablaaw
Ngem ditoy, iti adayo a nakaitawatawan
Ti bagi kas iti kararua, dikamin aginudo
A kagiddan ti panagtuno. Baliksenmi
Lattan ti gumangganat a 'Naimbag a paskuam!'
Uray no aramidenmi pay laeng ti nakairuaman,
Kas iti dati. Narigat no ti puso di dumlaw agpauyo
Agtalakias santo met laeng agkawili
Kadagiti ayug dagiti kubrador iti aginaldo.
Idi kalman, inaramidmi ti rumbeng:
Ti panangited iti pammakawan kadagiti amin
A dumawat iti sensilio. Awanen ti kaibatogan
Ti doliar a pagrigrigatan dagiti umad-adayo
Ket kaskasdi a ti pateg ti galunggong
Ket dagiti tupig a maipaima kadakami ditoy.
Umanayen ti buya ti diket a mailaok
Iti niog santo igamer kadagiti linabag
Ti kinaubing, sa iti kinaagtutubo.
Mano a balay ti nagkankantaan?
Mano nga akimbalay ti nangted iti manok
Kas met iti panangpaay iti kiddaw?
Mano a balay ti nangitaog iti bendision
Tapno mairanud ti adu iti aroskaldo
Dagiti kayat a lipatan a panagbanbaningrot?

Insakibotko't dara ti tupig a regalo ti kakaen
Kadagiti amin a pannakidangadang
Kadagiti pangngarig ken panagan-anus.
Inarikapko ti promesa ti makan iti siglot
Ket amin a pakainaigan ti pannakaisalakan
Nga awit-awit ti ubing a mangiwanwan
Iti ili kas kadagiti amin a naiwawa a kailian
A kadagiti daga a dayo ti pakiseremoniaan
Kadagiti bellaay ken innandingayan.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 24/07

This Honolulu is on a Holiday

Honolulu is on a holiday today.
And the Ilokano workers hire out their hands

By the hour, hour after hour before
They catch the ride home to commute

What suffering there is in these days
Of abundance and luxury and want.

Tomorrow, the workers are back
To their tasks and these hired hands

Are Ilokanos who need to think
Of balikbayan boxes in exchange

For the hours of mopping tired floors
Mopping liquid rage on their foreheads

So tourists with or no accent would be glad
To bring good tidings to this green island

Come again the following year and the next
To escape the snow & aloneness in big cities

And here, in this Honolulu on a holiday
Watch the sun rise watch the sun set

Enjoy the night's hula on the Waikiki
But would never know that the workers

That clean your dirt and lighten up your heart
You tourist with the accent without the accent

Straigthen the crumple of your tired tense bodies
Throw away the condom on your moist blankets

And destroy all the evidences of your grief
Those Ilokano workers who know about you

But do not tell anyone except to their brooms
Their vacuum cleaners with their constant whirl

Except to their callused hands that do all service:
The mute phone on its place on your headboard

So you can call the night goodnight
So with the sleight of the magician's

Can they hide away tissue papers with the odor
Of loves and their secrets, loves not here not there

But to burn in hell and to destroy all the ruins
Of the opposite of felicities loyalties promises

The hot soup the Ilokano workers give you
To perk up your late day and your forever

So you can think about freezing mornings
In this tropics of wanton greed and need

The greed for the capitalists who see this land
In the contours of men on a diet of reslessness

The R and R not the byword but that communion
With the universe as well as its sickly shadow

So you cannot, never will, think of others
The need of the workers afraid of fear

Because it is more courageous to do so
Because to be afraid is to have the bloody dollar

That will buy the proofs of this America
To their kins thousands of miles away

This Honolulu is your city now, stranger,
And it is on a holiday. But the Ilokano workers

Will come back to wash away the grime
The laughter of the night that comes after

Will stock up sweet sins in rooms no one remembers.
This is how a Honolulu is on a holiday like this.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 23, 2007

Poetics in a Faraway Land

Doubt not, O poet, but persist. Say, "It is in me, and shall out."
Emerson, "The Poet"

It is your way of blurting it out.
Saying, even the unsayable
As if the words are not to the liking
Of the police and the moral men.
There are priests in the imagination
And they come with their whips
Their bribe for salvation or doom.
Even then, this curse is more
Than what it is because, one,
You have to be a poet, man,
And two, you have to be a man, poet.
In the faraway land, your mind go wild
With imaginings of nearness and distance
And the abstractions are clear enough
To spell pandesal at home with a quick call
On a phone line, working or with the hiss-hiss
Of absence and incompetence.
You see all these and your heart breaks
The way the words form out of blood
In your nape, you loin, your sex.
The evening will not read your lines
And all that you have for company
Is that sadness refusing to be named
Resisting all that which can be resisted
Like one flower on a cliff near a ghetto
Of your soul. You cannot give it up,
This liaison with language.
You die too soon cavorting with demons
And demigods if you miss a day
Not thinking about loves without beginnings
Or beginnings without loves.
Such play is in you, your wandering
Meandering in brooks whose location
You keep for you to know alone.
It is the brook becoming your well
Becoming your water becoming your eternal spring
Becoming you your poem your love your life.
You take it now to the twilight, this contract
To create a world from words. In this world,
Life is red, pulsing with the green of the universe
The blue of the skies, the violets of evenings
You cannot call out to ask for blessings
Because, one, you are a poet
And two, you remain a poet
And to redeem yourself, you need to resist
Resist resist.

O poet, your grace, your honor, you prophet!
O poet, your honor, your grace, you rebel!
O poet, your rebellion, your eminence, you dissident!
O poet, rebel, prophet, dissident, and no priest of phrases!

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 23, 2007

Awis ti Arbis Ditoy Adayo a Lugar

Agipasimudaag iti panagin-in
Iti idda ti arbis ditoy nakaisadsadan.

Iti wangawangan dagiti daan a rekkang
Kadagiti danum nga alad nga agtunda

Iti maseggaan a Pearl Harbor, mangngegko
Dagiti bomba a di napakpakadaan.

Amin dagitoy ket masirpatko iti malmalday a tawa
Nga inlukatko a kas panagimbag-a-bigat

Iti Apo Init a gumawgawawa, mangikakaasi
Iti indolhensia kadagiti bantay iti daya.

Mano ngata a taaw ti dalliasaten
Dagiti raya santo makitinnibnok

Iti agmaya nga arbis santo agpaarayat
Iti daga? Buyaek ti aglua a langit manipud

Iti siled a nalamiis, iti bangkay
Nga idda, iti ulimek a tumukno't

Sadi law-ang sana kunaen, Siak, siak
Ti ulimek dagiti amin nga inauna a ringgor

T darundon a ringgor dagiti amin nga ulimek
Ket iti buttaw a bakrang a nangidiaya

Iti tadem iti tadem, sadiay nga agindeg
Dagiti managanan nga aligagget.

Kas iti panagsuek ti agpaparaw a pirpiroka
Wenno ania ditan nga agarakattot a billit a tuleng

Tapno iti maipumpon a puseg ti law-ang
Isalakanda ti natalimudaw a samiweng,

Daytoy induldlin kadagiti amin a bolsito
Ti nabiag a balikas dagiti arimukamok

Nga iti agmatuon aganiwaas, agragut.
Balinglingek ti pungan, manen ken manen.

Siglotek ti ungto ti abel Iluko nga ules
Tapno ti maradara a garit daytoy

Ket agbalin a pangontra ti dakes a tagainep.
Ditoy adayo, asideg dagiti sinansantilmo

Ngem, a, ta ipennekmo ti agidda
Wenno agtugaw wenno agballusong

Sakanto agpayubyob iti rungrong
A no agsellag ket ala agmauyong.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 22, 2007

Sukutsukot a Bullalayaw Ditoy Manoa

Kastoy ti mito dagiti didiosen:
Ti bullalayaw ti pasmok dagiti gasat a napintas

Kas iti rama a pagaponan dagiti gurami
A nagpapauyuam naminsan ta rinaut

Ti pusa iti karatay. Binukelmo idi iti panunot
Ta pakabuklan ti panagtulakak dagiti babaknang

Iti ili a kunam la no dida ammo ti kayat a sawen
Ti dalikan a nakadalikepkep, din maar-aronan.

Adda pagsungrod, sangsanga dagitoy a madalapus
Masiksikkarud, wenno siitan nga iskarlatina a no agayam

Ket derosas amin a daga wenno kumarit iti kalgaw
Ti labbasitna, karitenna ti asul ti tangatang a di mangrikna

Iti pudot wenno rikki dagiti talon iti kuaresma
Dagiti lisay, a ta kas kadagiti kolonisador, tagikukuaenmi

Dagiti pagmaisan, aramidenmi nga entablado
Ti pagbabakalan, rinnaut, ubing a panaglalaaw.

Kabusor ti bangir, bannuar ti sabali a pangen
Ket iti uni ti 'Mapanen', rugianmi ti pinnapatay

Nga aggibus iti panaguper iti karayan.
Maupran ti uray la a di maan-ano.

Agkalamri ti kararua, kas iti panagkupit ti barukog
Wenno ti tian: awan maisubo iti uray ania a kita ti dangadang.

Agpigerger ti lasag ket uray ti kugitan a mabagbagi,
Sumanod a siaatap iti sellang, ta ania ngarud,

Kastoy met ti kapay-an dagiti ar-araraw uray
No yatang amin a kurrarayan wenno burias.

Di ngamin mapaglaok ti panagpukaw ti boses
Iti sidadata a pudno: manglangan amin a di mangan-ano:

Ti dulang, ti dakulap, ti eesman, iti man ngiwat
Wenno iti luppo. Ngem ita, ditoy Manoa.

Ayna, ta agkabannuag dagiti lagip a nangliwat.
Araken ti bigat dagiti napalabas a padpadaanan.

Ket baliksek amin a sao a diak inyes-esngaw iti siniglo
A panagkapkappuyon dagiti sakak, abagak, barukongko.

Saan a kas karina ti agbagkat kadagiti maris
Dagiti bullalayaw. Numuna ta no agpigsa ti bayakabak,

Agpukaw ti kari dagiti mangrabrabaii a mannanakaw iti aldaw.
Ikabesak dagiti sukutsukot a maris. Napia la a sukal ti ulaw.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 22, 2007

Salamangka ti Imud

Saritaan iti Agosto, iti panawen
Ti abal-abal nga ur-urayen ti banga
Pangep-ep iti bisin ken selebrasion ti ubing
Ti imud. Adda salamangka iti pay-od
Kas iti panang pakabuklan ti imud.
Araken dagiti

Lana ti Pauli

Dapadapem ti gurigor iti muging
Ket bay-am a dagiti amin a darikmat

Iti kaliado a ngudo dagiti ramay
Ket ibagada dagiti insakibot a panaas.

Naliday dagiti daniwmo, kunaem kaniak,
Ina a mannaniw. Ngem uray ti saludsodmo

Ket pagmurumoran dagiti maapiki a kanito
Dagiti maamitan nga agdaldaliasat

Masammukol ngamin dagiti agbaliwangga
Nga ayat iti agdardara a panid a kas met iti puso.

Sumuknor ti inauna a bara iti pispisko
Sa iti teltel ket mangliwat ti isem a bumarito

Kadagiti agmamayo a bibigko nga agbengbeng
Iti lamiis dagiti linawas nga awan dagiti pagel:

Dagiti bulintik iti lakko ti agragut nga ima
Wenno ti kudisi iti salikad ti umuna a lagip

Dagiti kasadar iti kalgaw a makugit ti isip
Kadagiti agrengrengngat a bengkag

Tapno sadiay ket bugtakenda ti dingnguen
Kas iti panangbugtakda iti agpakpakada a malem

Tapno siguden ti bulan ti agpabuya
Iti karkarna nga anal-al dagiti anniniwan

Kadagii suksuksok a paglilinnemmengan
Kas kadagiti natebba a lambaan

A testigo dagiti darang nga agkamang
Kadagiti urat, sa iti gumawgawawa a pus-ong,

Sa kadagiti mapartuat a pangsukal
Kadagiti dumteng nga an-annong.

Alaen ti lana ti pauli iti sagumbi
Arikapen iti banglo daytoy

Ti agas ti agsaksakkidol a bagi
Tapno kadagiti mababain nga alimpatok

Ti maalay-ayan a kari iti agpatnag
Sadiay a biroken ti matagibi a ragsak.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dis 19, 2007


You are a renegade, wherever you are.
Linda Lingbaoan Bulong

Awatek daytoy a kas alabansa
Pangay-ayo man iti bagi
A kutkutimermeren ti pannakabibi.
Renegadoak kadagiti amin nga inuugma
Kas iti panangibilin iti kasimpungalan
Iti panangkurusna iti muging dagiti annak
Kadagiti parbangon a di pay nakaimukat.
Iti amin a wagas, mannaniw, a makitak
Dagiti pammakawan nga agkibaltang
Kas iti ili a pinimpiman dagiti baro a damag
A, kas 'tay kunamon, kadagiti met laeng
Sakaanan dagiti rukapi a dios
Ti nagkamangan. Madama ti nepnep
Ditoy ita, adayo kadagiti paggaak
Dagiti annak a no dumawat
Iti pakaasi ket mabatiak a nakamulagat.
Kawaw ti pusok, agkawaw ti kararuak
Kadagiti amin a sungani a mabasbasa
Iti man diario wenno iti horoskopio
Ti isu amin a ranggas. Iti laksid dagitoy,
Iti labes dagiti amin a pupokan ti utek
Ket 'tay panangisawangtay manen
Ti imbag. Mangpabaro daytoy kadagiti talon
Ket iti panagayos dagiti waig, agsala
Dagiti bugbugian a dalag
Dagit kippi ket arakenda dagiti dakulap
Ket ti alat agpagungga iti karkarna a ragsak.
Masirmatak a kanayon dagiti pinanawan
A kinaawan: ti trapik dagiti kinadaksanggasattay
Amin, kas pagarigan: agsasamusam a panagsambuambo
Dagiti matay gapu ta nakisang ti biag
Wenno dagiti natured ket nagbalindan
A mammapatay kadagiti kontra ken panggep
Ket iti dissuor dagiti lua, ay, mannaniw,
Ipasnektay ketdi koma ti agkararag.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dis 18, 2007

Umuna a Puni para iti Pagilian

Umuna, alaentay ti kalendario
Iti pagpupurokan. Datayo amin:

Babbaket, ub-ubbing, lallakay.
Datayo amin: agpampanunot

Ken agtabtabbaaw. Uray dagiti mannurat
A kawaw ti utekda, mairamanda

Tapno addanto agisurat kadagiti pammadayaw
A ngem, ngem saan kadi a, nga isuda

Ti adda kadagiti linabag
Ti nabalitokan nga aldaw

No di ket amintayo, datayo nga umili
Datayo a nabayagen idi ket din nakakita

Iti puni, wenno nakirinnay-a kadagiti malabi
A no masakduan ket agubbog kadagiti parek

A mangpasam-it iti baak a basi
Mangpasanger iti arak tapno iti lamuyotna

Iti karabukob ket kas met laeng lamuyot
Ti agsala a pus-ong, lasag iti lasag

Dagiti aginnayan-ayat a mangikarkarawa
Iti ragso kadagiti nginabras ti pakasaritaan

Nga ikut ti maudi a puni dagiti maikanniwas
A taraon, kas koma iti pukpuklo a para

Kadagiti babaknang, ti gamet ti Bangui
A para kadagiti kabagian idiay Hawai'i

Ti darangidangen a mangga a kasla pingping
Ti balasang ngem maisagut iti daga

A nakaimulaan dagiti amin nga ulpit.
Makipuni dagiti kaibaan ket italawda

Dagiti ugaw sada ipalladaw iti ungto
Dagiti ballasiw-taaw a rugi ti panaglagaw

Dagiti pangrabii a nagabay.
Mansuentayo ketdi ti agpanunot iti potahe:

Igado dagiti amin a raman a nalipatanen
Kas iti silet nga ingkipasen ti panglakayen

Wenno ti Hawayano a no gumatang
Ket kasla arsab ti dingnguen.

Wenno 'tay pinakbet a no gawen
Ket kasla man sidaen ti sangapangen.

Iramanmo ti insarabasab a no malagipmo
Ket ti bakam nga inaggaagab dagiti malalaki

Iti rehimen dagiti mannanakaw
A no mangngaasida ket agam-amangaw.

Masapul a panunoten ti aros-Valenciana:
Bannog daytoy dagiti amin a marigrigat

Ti sili ket ti amin a kaasi nga impaay ti santo patron
Ti rekado a sabali ket ti idaton a kansion

Kalpasanna ket yayab ti pannangan
Ngem unaentayo, raemen a kailian

Dagiti tattao a babaknang
Dagiti natuturay a mangbasbas

Iti kinakurapay. Sirmataentay ti imas.
Ganasentay ti mabati no di makipas.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 17, 2007

When ‘Those Who Do Not Pray’ Are Asked To Pray

This is something that could somehow ‘ethnographize’ our life down here, in this Paradise that is now in peril, or so I pray it is not going to be. The number of the peoples of the Philippines that are here in Hawai’i is now about to hit the one-fourth mark of the total one million population and some pundits and experts on population growth or its opposite are saying that in a few years, the peoples of the Philippines shall overtake the Japanese. We doubt, however, if our peoples have that capacity to overtake anyone in terms of political clout and economic power, given the entrenchment of capital in these islands, with investment in the hands of the Japanese, the Koreans, and the well-funded United States Mainland chain of hotels and tourism-related establishments.

The peoples of the Philippines, however, have remained entrenched in the service sector, with about eighty percent of all tourism-industry related businesses staffed by them as busboys, waiters, waitresses, room attendants, valet parking attendants, food service crews, and other glorified but invented job positions whose descriptions could be elaborate but nonetheless tell us of how we have not radically altered our position from plantation workers in the fields to some sort of ‘plantation workers’ in other fields of capitalist enterprise. We are still counted over here as ‘hands’—hands still—and that painful reality has not changed so much from the ‘farmhands’ that we were more than a hundred years ago. We are still reified and commodified in this big machine called tourism. And about eighty percent of us are Filipinos, and about ninety percent, by some standards, are Ilokanos.

I was told that in the 70’s, there were only two or three Filipinos who had doctoral degrees and who were in the forefront of uplifting our people from all the profiling and the stereotyping that were prevalent in those days: wife-beaters, wife-grabbers, knife-wielders, and plain ‘bukbok,’ plain farmhands who had not other better thing to do or could think of anything better other than toiling under the sun, under the watchful eyes of the lunas.

The late 70’s, with Operation Manong and other initiatives, the situation and public impression changed somehow, with more and more of our peoples going to colleges and universities, and somehow changing that attitude that education does not matter because ‘kuarta met laeng ti birbirokem, adda man adalmo wenno awan—money is what you are looking for, whether you are educated or not.’

The succeeding decades brought in more intellectuals in the academe, political leaders, and public servants who learned to value their being Filipinos, immigrants or local born. Of course, even until today, those who perceive themselves as local, whether for real or by virtue of an active illusion as some Ilokano writers pass themselves off to be, have that temerity to look down upon the immigrants particularly those who just arrived—‘kasangsangpetna’ is the term in Ilokano but the English, ‘fresh off the boat,’ is more indicative of the hardship our peoples went through.

One of those who in the 70’s changed that public impression about us, by her commitment and scholarship, not to mention leadership in Philippine Studies is Dr. Belinda Aquino, one-time vice president for public affairs at the University of the Philippines. At the University of Hawai’i where she has held the reins of the Center for Philippine Studies for many decades, she has distinguished herself as one of our few no-nonsense and topnotch scholars in the social sciences. Her expertise in Philippine Studies is a legend, and if a fly-by-night scholar does not know his ABC and is before Lindy, this reincarnation of feistiness and keen mind we have seen among many of the Ilokano and Amianan women of our remote and contemporary history.

But do not talk about faith or religion with her. She does not give you a chance. Not a whit. Not even a whimper. And do not even try.

Then on December 15, 2007, at the GUMIL Hawai’i Christmas Party and Presentation of Candidates held at the Daprozas that GUMIL Hawai’i has informally invaded and colonized as its headquarters, Brigido Daproza, our Manong Brig who is president of this GUMIL chapter that has remained unsurpassed in terms of literary production—an honor that even the mother organization cannot lay claim to—asked Lindy to bless the food.

You guess what happened to the blessing that began so well, one that began in that so-Catholic of an epiklesis we read on those Last Supper reproductions when we were younger: "Bless us O Lord and these thy gifts..."

And then the blessing trailed off to something else.

Now, I can have something to remember Lindy by while I am on the road to chase the dreams in this Paradise. When you are with intellectual giants, you can only count your blessings--and the good old fun.

A Solver Agcaoili
Waipahu, HI
December 16, 2007

Umagibas ti Paskua Iti Dayo

Umagibas ti paskua iti dayo.
Agrapiki ketdi ti daan a templo

Ket kunam la no agpaypayapay
Ti lubong. Kunaem iti bagim:

Sumakmolka latta iti ladingit, dungngo
Maysa a subo kada aldaw

A maalisan iti puni
Wenno mapitotan ti sirmata

A partuaten dagiti nagal-alusan
Nga ayat a nasudi kadagiti lukong

Iti malmaldaang a dakulap.
Iti sumuno nga aldaw ket ti tupig

A sangabugsong, baduya

Nga aglansad iti tian ta sadiay
A kablaawanna dagiti imaima

Dagiti iti nabayagen a panawen
Ket din naayaban iti pannakiranud iti atang.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 2007

The Loneliness of Exile

Anybody who has gone away
Chasing dreams
In full color and sensurround
Knows the meaning of nostalgia
In E minor.

It is music, yes, but it is
Stories we miss each day
The language of children
Trying to see life in black and white
And the boundaries of our joys
Are in shades of gray.

To those who went away
To spaces unfamiliar,
To you we give this message,
Hidden and true:

There is no home here
No homeland even if dreams
And plans come in surpluses.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 2007

Obrero nga Adipen

Masapulmi ti tulongyo iti panangirupirmi iti kalinteganmi, dakami a mangmangged kadagiti otel. Ita, dimi ammo no ania ti sumuno a mapasamak kadagitoy a pamutbutengda kadakami.
Randy Villanueva, obrero iti otel, Waikiki, iti programa ti radio, Dis. 8, 2007

Arikapek ti tibbayo iti barukong.
Adda sadiay ti unget.
Dimon ikkan iti naganna, kabagis,
Kuna ti unget. Bay-am a dagiti siled
Ti agparikut kadagiti rumbeng
A mayebkas tapno dagiti ling-et
Ket maagasanda man iti agnanayon
A pitik kadagiti pulso a mabibi
Ta awan ta awan
Dagiti agsampaga a kayanga
Wenno naridam a kalunadsi
A kaang-angot ti talon a mamuriski.
Braso, ima, pispis, teltel,
Luppo, ken ken ti isem:
Dagitoy man dagiti igam
Iti binigat a panagmalmalanga
Tapno pabus-oyan ti rikna
Nga agawis iti pagilian.
Babaen ti tamudo nga ilibas
A pangitudo iti langit
Nga estranghero met,
Surotem ti agtayab a pulkok.
Napipia pay nga agas daytoy
Ti dagensen wenno pakarikutan.
Biroken ti mapa ti Ilocos
Iti pultakpultak a tangatang.
Sadinno kadagiti kimmapas
Nga ulep ti rugi ti kanibusanan
Tapno obrero ket aginana?
Kadagiti sumuno nga aldaw
Agawidto iti sidong dagiti aginaldaw
A rigat a no agpaarayat
Ket agbalin nga indulto amin a kararag.
Anusan kadi lattan a yilad
Ti bannog, yunnat ti ranggas
Tapno iti kasta ket mabigatan
Pay laeng ti anges?
Bannuarkami kano kadagiti amin a rigat.
Bannuar ti ili a no agawid ket kasingin
Dagiti amin nga ipasarabo a

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
Dec 13/07

Panagkatangkatang iti Sabali nga Ili

Some eight million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), still citizens of the country, left to seek work abroad, attracted by jobs with salaries that far exceed those in the Philippines. Others left simply because there were no more jobs available in the country. To survive, the Filipino Diaspora became inevitable. Manuel Amora, Inquirer, 12-12-07

Naganantay iti husto daytoy a pasamak:
Agkatangkatangtayo kadagiti sabali nga ili
Ta kasta ngarud ti kapay-an
Dagiti daksanggasat a kakabsat, ila, iliw,
Ken aminen a kaibatogan ti panaglangan
Iti man padaya wenno ti innala dagiti rikna.

Kastan idi.

Kasta pay laeng ita

Iti di mamingga a panagkurri
Dagiti atiddogen nga estoria ti ipapanaw
Ken panagsubli.

Ti ipapanaw a din panagsubli.

Di la ket ta ditay patien ti nangisit a waragawag
Iti nabungsot a ngiwat dagiti marabuaya.

Mensahero amin dagitoy iti sutil nga ayat,
Daytay man nagpaiduma a panagwaywayas
Iti ubing a sellang dagiti idda
A no agkulibagtong ket sakmalenda
Amin a saning-itayo.

Iti kapitulo uno bersikulo dos ti waragawag,
Ibagana dagiti nagtengnga a sasaiddek
A ditay naganan, ditay kayat a naganan
Kadagiti kakaisuan a kanito ti panaggargarakgak.

Adda engkanto ti agkakannayon a patpatiray-ok
Dagiti pangamaen ken panginaen ti ili a no umagibas
Ket tang-ed ken tung-ed laeng ti inda kasukat
Ket addadan kadagiti tangatang
Ket addadan nga umagak-agek iti tapok
Ti ili a pagsangbayan. Kasanotayo ngarud
Dagiti pada nga asi-asi, kinnaasi amin a di mangan-ano
Ti ikut a papel ket iti maris ti berde a pasaporte sadiay ti inggana
Ti linteg dagiti amin a linteg agraman ti panagbaybay-a
Dagiti balikas napnuan turay?

Bungonentayo dagiti lulua
Ket ipenpentay iti karton a balikbayan.
Ilukontayo dagitoy iti surat a kadenna ti tsokolate,
Dolse, ay-ayam, tualia, segunda mano a lino
Ken ti makidkiddis a puso.
Iparipiriptay ti ibit dagiti pungan
Ngem saantay nga ibaga a ti talimudaw iti basin
Ken bain ken di manglanglangan.

Bannuartayo iti ili. Kasta kadi lattan.
Idulintayo iti lansad dagiti lagip ti kapay-an.
Iti panagsagawisiw, intayonto latta ikantan.

Ta kasta ti kayat ti ili, dagiti panginaen, dagiti pangamaen.
Awan rigrigat, ken amin ket nam-ay ti adda kadagiti pasarabo.
Bay-an nga iti barukong ket ti bumbumtak a dudungso.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI