THE FLAWED LOGIC OF A PEDRO BUCANEG AWARDEE
A Solver Agcaoili
In order to be taken with seriousness, writing of any kind in any language must have some kind of a plausible logic.
There could be some ragged and rugged edges somewhere—that we can grant the writer so that editors and proofreaders may have something to do, which, during the time of the recession of aesthetic values in Ilokano Literature, this ‘something to do’ which translates to employment is necessary to put food on the table.
But the writing that one sends to a list-serve for everybody to gawk at and consume as if there were no tomorrow, and which for the lesser Ilokano writers take as an occasion to get even, in a rumor-mongering fashion, with those whose nerves they cannot tolerate—this form of writing devoid of logic, is, at best, unnecessary.
To be kind, this is done by some old people who flaunt their being more than 60 and their being Pedro Bucaneg Awardees so they can all scare us to our little corner, and there, in the quiet of our fear, we get to learn to say ‘Amen’ to them.
Perhaps this scare tactic worked for some people in the past, but with younger people having access to more possibilities for wit and wisdom today, the old argument of old people cannot hold water any longer.
Some younger Ilokano writers are even wiser than some of these old ones, to say the least, with the body of work of the younger ones more substantive than what some of the older ones can show.
We now ought to account our freedom to write and the logic that goes with that freedom.
The other name for this one is social responsibility especially for people who have reached the age of 60, which, following the undocumented logic of the requirement of the Pedro Bucaneg Award—and the Leona Florentino Award—given by the GUMIL Filipinas, should be the age of recognition, by your own peers, of (a) one’s sustained effort at producing a body of work with a clear artistic vision and (b) one’s effort to contribute to the development of Ilokano Literature.
The requirements are conjuncts, joined as it is by that connective marker ‘and’ that makes the conjuncts inseparable as they are both required.
Otherwise, an ‘or’ could have been used.
We can see the spread—a real pandemic like this swine flu—of almost nameless chit-chats on message boards of internet sites, with one administrator even claiming that he is opening a thread in order to start a conversation on the issue about the Pedro Bucaneg Awards, because, he writes, following his logic, the issue of the Pedro Bucaneg Award is serious. (Why, is the issue of Leona Florentino Awards less serious because them the awardees and nominators do not have anything to wash before the gawking public otherwise also called the lesser Ilokano writers? Let us see.)
My interest in all these is that of a trained teacher of literature, literary history, literary criticism, and practitioner of hermeneutics.
I trust that all of the Pedro Bucaneg Awardees and Leona Florentino Awardees living and dead know what these things are because they all have been awarded for the reasons stated by GF in the handing of these awards, presumably not to friends and compadres and comadres, but to real, honest-to-goodness writers who do not make the mistake of confusing bland Ilokano column writing to serious Ilokano literature.
These are things that I am interested in and I do not care if I am being lambasted when the logic of the lambasting is adequate, and more so when it is forceful.
It is one of those things that I have had the chance to teach in universities, an act that sharpens one’s skills even as you teach yourself persuasion and humility at the same time.
In the academe, the exchange of properly thought-out ideas is common; it is the life of an academic to reside in the world of ideas, test those ideas even as he resides in that world in order to make these ideas fecund, possible, plausible.
It is when the logic of decapitation—that very logic in that first open letter—is deficient or missing that I care about.
For good writing and therefore, good literature, is twin to logic.
If literature—the good kind—does not have the enchanting logic to persuade you to get into its world, what would literature offer in order for the reader to be convinced to get into that world being opened up?
Which brings me to the logic of the first open letter that I received in the mail, with all those names listed also as recipients.
So many people have come to receive and consume that letter—some of them friends and colleagues.
That first letter—printed on a clean bond paper now and properly filed for future use and to remind me of this dark history of Ilokano literature, a history authored supposedly by an 'esteemed' and 'respected' (this claim is dubious) writer to whom we mistakenly look to for courageous inspiration and moral ascendancy—came in the evening when one forces oneself to sit down and gather one’s thoughts and write from the scratch of the day’s toil.
It reads in perpetuity now as this first open letter lies menacingly cold on my desk, peering at me, and taunting me, “We are the GF, remember, fella? What are we in power for?”
One part of that first open letter concerns me: “Ita a tawen, 2009, patiek a tapno maakomodar ni Aurelio Agcaoili a gayyem ken kadua ni Bermudez iti TMI, sinukatan manen da Bermudez ti pagannurotan ti (Pedro Bucaneg Award)! Mabalin kanon a maawardan ti agtawen iti nababbaba ngem 60! (Kano ta agsipud ta agpapan kadagitoy, awan GUMIL Chapter a naikkan iti pagannurotan ken wagas ti panagpili iti mapadayawan iti PBA.”
In the succeeding part, the first open letter says: “Gapu iti dayta a sistema da Bermudez ken Valdez ken dagiti padada a manipulator, patiek a balangkantis dayta a medalia nga iyukkorda! Medalia nga awanan anag, awanan kaipapanan.”
First off, we look into the logic of the convoluted statements of the letter writer.
One, the redundancy of the phrase, “Ita a tawen, 2009”. You do not write that way, sir. Come up with something cleaner, a neat and nifty phrase. My first year student in Philosophical Analysis spots you right off and say, Go back to planting camote!
Next is the phrase, “patiek a tapno maakomodar ni Aurelio Agcaoili…” Who cares about what the letter writer believes in? We are no longer in the Dark Ages where belief is what matters even if one’s belief is about the eternal fire of hell for serial exaggerators and those who cannot distinguish lie from truth. That second concept ‘tapno maakomodar ni Aurelio Agcaoili’ is totally unnecessary and the letter writer commits another fallacy here: hypothesis contrary to facts.
And then this messing up of a causality that is not in there in the first place, thus committing another fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc.
In another light, the writer of the first open letter commits argumentum ad hominem, confusing the issue with the person. How did he receive his Pedro Bucaneg if he is as illogical as he writes? Isn’t that the premise of good writing—which is what is being recognized in the PBA—is good and sound and solid logic?
The fact is: I have not had any communication with any of the Awards Committee; I do not even know who they were to have asked to be ‘accommodated’.
(On the one hand, this writer of the first open letter must have his moles within GF or must have his puppet strings tied to some of them to have known the ins and outs of what was happening such as the composition of the Awards Committee and the names of the nominees. How lucky and well-place can he be, a privilege and entitlement that I do not have, to be honest).
Even if I did know them--and I know them by their good deed and their good work--did that letter writer think that I was so desperate to be a PB awardee as if that was my first recognition? Ha, ignorance is bliss, and he can have all the forms and ways of ignorance he wants.
But the more sinister subtext of the suggestion of that phrase is that the members of the PBA Committee are writers with integrity who can be corrupted!
Ipso facto, as I get to sit down now, I am more humbled by the fact that Prescy Bermudez, Manuel Diaz, and Mario Tejada—three people I have always looked to for inspiration and courage—have honored me so and in the process of doing that, have put their honor at stake for me.
The writings of these three people are part of the literary history of the Ilokanos because their respective works have resonance. I teach their works at the University of Hawai’i. I had taught their works at the University of the Philippines, both in college and graduate school.
I am a student of Ilokano literary history and criticism and I have seen works that can be part of the canon of our literature. The letter writer’s work cannot pass muster. If there is one critical judgment we can offer with respect to his work, this is it: stodgy.
I cannot thank them enough for this belief in me and in what I can do for the Ilokano people and their literature and language.
The letter writer’s question on the age requirement is simply water under the bridge. That is not my ballgame but GF’s. And if he wants some answers, he must honestly read and read again the 2009 Souvenir Program of the GF National Convention.
This leads me to his diatribe: “balangkantis dayta a medalia nga iyukkorda”.
I did not go to the convention to receive the award. What I did is to write to the chair of the Awards Committee Prescy Bermudez to thank his committee for their trust in my body of work.
I also wrote to the GF President Baldovino Valdez and his leadership to thank him. I asked Pacita Cabulera Saludes to receive the award for me.
What about the verdict of the letter writer that this is a “medalia nga awanan anag, awanan kaipapanan”?
Let the literary history of our Ilokano people be the judge.
The letter writer has conveniently forgotten that history has its own power separate from the power holders or from the pretending Ilokano writers.