Response to Dr Abueva

(Note: This is my response to Dr Jose Abueva, former president of the University of the Philippines and now president of Kalayaan College in Marikina. Dr Abueva believes in multilingualism and has seen the cultural denigration that is happening to the Sebuano people. Together with other advocacy groups, he has come to be a voice for the education of our people in their languages. Today, he wrote to me to ask for testimonies pertaining to the claim of one member of the Presidential Task Force on Education that claims that 'only the Visayans are complaining' about the the Tagalog language; the 'Ilokanos' are not complaining. The subtext is that we are happy about this state of affairs. My response is this letter that I have made available to the public (originally part of our private communication). Now, Dr Abueva needs our help to prove that we Ilokanos are not happy about this internal colonization that is happening. I am thus calling all cultural organizations in and about the Ilocos to help support this cause of linguistic freedom and cultural democracy not only among the Ilokanos but of all non-Tagalog peoples of the homeland and in the diaspora.--Aurelio Solver Agcaoili, Honolulu, Hawai'i, November 5, 2008)

Dear Dr. Abueva,

Thank you for involving us in this struggle. 

First, that member of your Task Force is probably a reincarnation of the same 'Tagalogized' mindset that infected the members of the 1935 Constitution. I dare that member for the lack of substance of his/her argument, a lack that is based on something that is baseless, a contradiction in terms indeed, that he/she cannot hold onto. He/she probably is not attuned to the facts of the case, and he/she is conveniently and comfortably callous to the cultural denigration that is so widespread in the Ilocos-land at this time. If he/has any sense at all, he/she has to offer proof. Failing to do that, I say: he/she is a clanging cymbal and has no place in an august body such as yours. 

In sum: how can an argument based on ignorance be passed off as an argument in the Presidential Task Force on Education? 

Second, we have been fighting for recognition and public space relative to our linguistic and cultural rights for so long, and in our country, and in the Ilocos and in the Ilokanized parts of Amianan, the Northern Philippines. In Ilocos, how can it be that we are fighting for our right to be educated in Ilokano? What is the explanation for this except to admit as absolutely true the statist notion of nationalism from the center that valorizes the language and culture from the center? This is one evil that we have had to contend with--and which we continue to contend with. I do not know how long are we going to continue fighting for our basic human rights--for our right to our language, for our right to our culture.

In sum: are we Ilokanos--and by extension, our various ethnolinguistic communities--part of the national conversation?

Third, our 'Ilokano case' is not a matter of 'complaint'--as that honorable member of the Presidential Task Force is saying. The word used is not even correct. The correct phrase is 'we are fighting for our right' to exist, with this existence mediated by our language and our culture, in the homeland as well as in the diasporic communities where we are found. There is a single word for this: struggle. But the real problem is that when we have people in the Presidential Task Force--uninformed and ignorant as that person seems to be--this struggle takes on a new angle, a new form, a new substance. We cannot forever be playing second fiddle to the statist notion of nation that derides our sense of a culturally plural society that takes on, as one of its founding principles, cultural nationalism. Let us remind that person who seems to be misplaced: that cultural nationalism is a form of nationalism that admits plurality and recognizes as undemocratic the cultural and linguistic tyranny of the center. And one more reminder for him: that cultural nationalism that invokes and summons the energy we draw form cultural pluralism is the way to go in creating a liberatory practice of social justice and equality, the cornerstones of a real and honest-to-goodness democratic way of life. 

In sum: we cannot even dignify that dismissive act of your member. He/she does not know his/her facts.

Fourth, the Nakem Conferences, an advocacy group designed to combat this cultural denigration that has defined us, not only us Ilokanos but every ethnolinguistic group of the homeland colonized internally by this vicious philosophy of nation-building and state-crafting called Tagalogism, is one of the first to support the Gunigundo initiative, HB 3719. Our statement of support, in the form of a conference resolution and signed in May 2008 by participants of the Nakem Conference 2008, was given in July 2008 to Hon. Gunigundo personally by me as a convener of the 2008 Nakem Conference and by Dr. Alegria Tan Visaya as president of Nakem Conferences Philippines. The scanned copy of that resolution is on This show of support disproves the claim of your honorable member. That member, by the way, needs to explore the field, ask the the universities and colleges, and ask himself/herself clearly if it is right to effect linguistic and cultural genocide among our young. 

In sum: we are going to continue to struggle for our right; we are not going to allow this to happen.

Fifth, I want to stress this: that member of your Task Force is guilty of at least one fallacy, and he/she should review his/her logic: hasty generalization. His/her statement has one quality: sweeping.

In sum: the member of your Task Force argues on the basis of illogicality and lack of evidence. I wonder if the claim to the fantastic is one of the basis for decision-making now. 

No, sir, that person in your Task Force is not in the know. He/she needs to be educated on the various sensibilities of people, on our dream to build a common homeland that respects the many that is us, and our duty to translate into action what social justice is all about. This education that we all ought to have as a condition for our community building is non-negotiable. We non-Tagalog peoples have given up so much. It is high time that we also asked--'demanded' is the right word here--our linguistic and cultural rights from this homeland that never regarded us with dignity and respect. 

I am going to be sending you position papers from our various communities, from our advocacy groups, and from our various studies on the need for a culturally plural society, for mother language education, and for multi-cultural education. I am going to be submitting essays from our scholars that state with clarity our position relative to our position on our inherent right to claim our language and culture. Our Ilokano nation--and all the nations of our homeland--deserve every right to exist side by side with everyone else.

Here are two initial position papers that respond to the falsities vended off as truths by that member of your Task Force. Please expect position papers from various cultural groups.

We are going to be mindful of your deadline--but we will submit to you position of support for your position. 

In the name of our struggle, and in the name of all our peoples,

Mahalo and aloha,

Aurelio S. Agcaoili

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