Pathologies of Ilokano Poetics 10




One reality, ugly as it is, that Ilokano Literature must now begin to recognize is its deep roots in patriarchy.


Let’s do the definition game.


Ilokano Literature is that body of ‘lettere’ or letters whose written form can be traced back to the 1620/1621 account of the version of ‘kur-itan’, a form of a palimpsest, as found, for instance, in the Ilokano prayer “Amami.”


We know that this body of letters continues up to this day, with Bannawag and the radio as vehicles for its thriving and surviving.


We know that these popular media forms are limited, so limited we need to realize now that the extinction of the Ilokano language and literature is imminent, if we did not do something, if we just believed what the patriarchs are saying that our literature is here to stay.


We know that the country’s educational system, one of the main social institutions and cultural infrastructure that ought to assure us that we can keep our literature forever, is not there to support our effort to make it certain that Ilokano literature will be promoted and perpetuated.


This we know: that television, the most popular and most widespread of the pop cultural forms that is responsible for our collective dumbing down, does not even have sufficient respect for cultural pluralism and diversity in general, what with its skewed interest for profit and the fruits of the commerce of the language and culture of the center of power, essentially a Tagalog culture produced and reproduced in Manila.


This we know: that the educational system, run like a patriarchal institution, with its wrong assumptions about culture and pedagogy, such as its ignorant ramming into the throats of schoolchildren of its ignorant ‘bilingual’ education that favors only Tagalog and English as the tools for progress and development—we know that this educational system needs revamping and the policymakers need to be jolted from their insensitivities of the requisites of diversity as the only true expression of cultural and linguistic democracy in a multicultural and multilingual society like the Philippines. 


Given all these factors, we know for certain: that Ilokano literature, if not sustained, will go the route to extinction.


The symptoms are everywhere:


(a)   Teachers, whose salaries are being paid from our taxes, do not have the proper consciousness to even respect our literature, with their ignorance of their own literature and their discriminatory practices becoming the rule of the game in classroom instruction;


(b)  Students who do not know a whit what their Ilokano literature is all about, and knowing more about Harry Potter than them Padre Bucaneg and Leona Florentino Awardees and their works, if these awardees have something to show in the first place;


(c)   Ilokano writers of the patriarchal mode who do not know the relationship between what they do and the broader struggle to keep their literature and language not out of the classroom but inside the classroom for schoolchildren to have the courage and the boldness and the daring to say that their literature and language are as legitimate as another literature and language;


(d)  Ilokano writers whose claim to literature is the making permanent of trash talks in Internet sites and by coming up with unsubstantiated claims to embarrass others before the gawking public, some of whom do not also understand what the bigger causes are; and


(e)   The general population that do not even have the courage to own up their Ilokanoness, preferring instead to represent themselves as Tagalog or somebody else.


At the root of all these troubles, of course, is the continuing patriarchy in Ilokano literature.


It is that patriarchy in its production, with the male gaze the constant reference to what makes good Ilokano writing.


It is that patriarchy in its reception, with the male gaze the constant reference to the appreciation of life lessons (or their absence) we draw from various works.


Examples of these are replete in short stories about knights, in various forms, redeeming damsels in distress.


Examples too are those trash talks that now populate many message boards and c-boxes and some websites that do not know the connection between social responsibility and freedom of expression.


The trash talks are a form of patriarchy: they reveal the content of a patriarchal discourse that tells us, among others, that:


(a) Only the patriarchs have the right to speech, in their anonymity, in their chameleon power, in their double-triple guises, afraid as they are of the light, afraid as they are to be told that they are, indeed, the patriarchs whose sins have become our daily wages;


(b) The power to judge, convict, and execute are in their hands, and their power is absolute, and thus, they can judge, convict, and execute everyone they do not like in the Internet for EVERYONE to realize that them the patriarchs of Ilokano literature are the most powerful of the lot and that in their hands is the same power to say who are admitted into the enclaves of the patriarchy that is them in the first place, a patriarchy that is itself and old boys’ club, with one even suggesting that an awardee, too young to know what patriarchy is all about, should return his award; and


(c) This continuing publicity trial is the recourse of patriarchs of Ilokano literature to talk about their pretentious moral ascendancy and their right to exclude those whose view of things in Ilokano literature is not one for the senescent but one for a continuing, sustained struggle for and in the name of the Ilokano people.


There is one thing that we need not forget here: the younger generations of writers who have the capacity to do scholarly work for our literature, the younger writers who know the tools of literary history, who know what literary criticism is all about.


We sieve through the trash talks and we say: pity the patriarchs who know nothing but the motherhood phrases of Pharisees.


Let the hand washing of Pontius Pilate in Ilokano literature begin.


Bring out the Ilokano gimbal, the drum, and the rhythmic beats be dammed.  


This is the day of the patriarchs.


Let us bow our heads in perpetual ignorance and fanatic acclamation for in sum, Ilokano literature has become the enclave of ignorant patriarchs who have placed the law into their own clumsy, uncritical hands.     



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