3rd Nakem International Conference held
Nakem Conferences, a movement that saw its inauguration during the 2006 Centennial Celebration of the coming of the first 15 Ilokanos to Hawai`i, held its 3rd international conference on May 28-30 this year.
Attended by 165 scholars, academics, cultural workers, writers, university and college administrators, educational leaders, government leaders, and researchers specializing on Amianan languages, cultures, and literatures, the conference was held at St. Mary’s University in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines.
Enthemed “Panagkakannayon: Kultural ken Lingguistik a Diversidad iti Masirsirmata a Nasion iti Amianan iti Pagilian ken iti Exilo/Continuity: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in the Imagined Amianan Nation in the Homeland and in Exile”, the three-day conference draw more than 60 conference papers on a variety of topics that hewed on the need to celebrate the Amianan nation mediated by the Ilokano language.
Scholars speak of a variety languages and cultures in the Amianan, with as many as 48 according to one estimate. Of the 48, the lingua franca is Ilokano.
The conference had as keynote speakers Dr. Miriam Pascua, president of Mariano Marcos State University; Hon. Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco, chair of the Commission on the Filipino Language; Hon. Saturnino Ocampo, commissioner of the Commission on Higher Education; and Hon. Carlos Padilla, member of the Philippine House of Representatives.
Pascua, whose university, MMSU, first hosted the Nakem conference outside the United States, spoke of the need to go back to our cultures, to our languages, to our literatures in an effort to truly come to grips with who we are. Failing to do that, she says, would make us directionless. She promised to turn MMSU into a university that is sensitive to the pursuit of multiculturalism and diversity as a ways of life not only in the academe but also in the communities her university is found.
Nolasco extolled the need to go back to the mother language of the child in basic education, a novel approach to Philippine education and in response to the challenges posed by the bilingual policy of basic education. The policy is also seen in tertiary education at the expense of the diversity of languages and cultures of the country, and thus resulting in cultural denigration, failure in basic education, and widespread illiteracy.
Ocampo, for his part, spoke of this diversity in the Amianan as a social and educational resource, insisting that to speak one’s language is to express the soul.
Padilla reminded the conference participants that the ‘imagined Amianan nation’ as mediated by the Ilokano language is not an imagination but is, in fact, a reality. “The Amianan nation is here—it has always been here, and it has been here longer than we think,” he said. “To say, therefore, that we are still imagining it is a bit late.”
Three presidents of higher education institutions graced the occasion either as speakers or paper presenters: Dr. Zacarias Baluscang, Apayao State College; Rev. Fr. Manuel Valencia, CICM, St. Mary’s University and the host institution; and Dr. Miriam Pascua.
Other topnotch leaders of the Department of Education from the regional offices joined the conference as speakers and paper presenter, with the Deped Ilocos Norte under Dr. Norma Florendo bringing in the biggest number of participants, as they did at the 2007 Nakem Conference.
Nakem Conferences is part of an international advocacy for cultural pluralism as a way of in the Philippines in among the exilic communities of Filipinos abroad including Hawai`i. In Hawai`i, majority majority of the Philippine population are Ilokanos, with roughly 85 percent.
Dr. Bonifacio Ramos of St. Mary’ University; Dr. Alegria Tan Visaya of Mariano Marcos State University; and Dr. Aurelio Solver Agcaoili of the University of Hawai`i convened the 3rd Nakem International Conference.
Nakem Conference International, the overseeing body of the Nakem Conferences, is under the auspices of the Ilokano Language and Literature Program of the University of Hawai`i.