Fridays and Redemption in the Land of Exile

The day reeks of everything Judeo-Christian if you have grown up knowing the cross, whatever this suggests. The day speaks of the divine death that serves as a prelude to life eternal, or the resurrection in the paschal mystery for those who know The Narrative, that grand one that promises resurrection on the third day.

In the land of exile, Friday the 7th carried with it some mysticism drawn from a Hebrew overload of reading some of the Cabalistic texts and the carryover, say a relic and a remnant, of the 'Marcosistic' penchant for the same number. On March 7 this year, this Friday was one that was one of my longest of days so far in my almost two years of stay in Hawai'i. The day commenced with a rather hopeful action of putting together the last pages of a course, Ilokano Plus, that I was proposing to be taught at Maui Community College, one of the University of Hawai'i's community colleges on the island of Maui, less than an hour of plane ride from the island of Oahu where the flagship campus of the University system is.

That proposal--sent in on that day with that prayerful wish that it will be approved--was a result of the concerted effort of a group that included the activist Cornelia Sembrano and the memory-keeper of Ilokanoness, Cornelio Ancheta. Native speakers of Ilokano, plus other Philippine languages, Cornelia and CJ felt the need to do what is right to the Ilokanos (here, we do not lump the Ilokanos with 'Filipinos' as we know for certain the injustice of the parsing in this term, with Tagalog=P/Filipino shanghaiing all of us into that erroneous notion of the nation in its 19th and 20th century reliquary form, the concept sanctified by the popes of 'Tagalog nationalism' that include writers who can talk about Florante at Laura but are ignorant of the stories of the other because 'othered' peoples of the country. The beatification, of course, was performed by Manuel Quezon, the number one Commonwealth man, who declared his preference for the Philippines to be run like hell by Filipinos to being run like heaven by foreigners.

This wistful thinking is funny, as we can see from hindsight. 'Funny', of course, is an Americanism, which runs the gamut of the incredible to the outlandishly foolish. We know now that with decades and decades of corruption, he got what he wanted, this president who did not like the idea that an interpreter would be needed when he spoke to the Ilokanos, as is the case when he went to the Ilocos during his dubious reign as a Commonwealth president.

The beginning of that Friday was a sacrament.

This move to claim and reclaim ourselves--this move to bring back the glory of that Ilokano language that had been suppressed for almost eighty years with the imposition of Tagalog as the national language--this, to me, is a sacrament.

Yes, that is the proper term: imposition.

Tagalog being imposed upon us and in the process making our young people forget who they are, making them too embarassed to admit that they are other people other than Tagalog, and making them see that their own language and culture has no place in that oxymoron we call 'Philippine nationalism."

Let us end that day: an attendance of community celebration of one Ilokano politicians of the city down in Kalihi, that bastion of everything Ilokano, aside from another place, Waipahu.

Imagine the in-betweens: a rehearsal with a student who will read 'Maris ti Bullalayaw/Color of the Rainbow' at the Diversity Matters Week, television taping for two shows, with guests that had to be picked, in heavy traffic, in Ewa Beach, about 35 miles away from Honolulu.

And another: the preparation for the 2008 Hawai'i Association of Language Teaching where I was co-chair of the conference.

It is Sunday and two days had gone by.

I made it--and as I keep thinking about how I made it, I realize enough that there could be some energy somewhere where people get their strength, perserverence, and understanding.

I can only thank that invisible source.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI
March 9/08

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