Pathologies of Ilokano Literature-11


A Solver Agcaoili


One of the problems of Ilokano Literature—both in the aspect of production and reception—is the dearth of decent critics who are willing to go into the lions’ den and say the word that says, without equivocation, that something is awfully wrong when a supposedly decent literature is now being fiercely guarded by pretenders and patriarchs who are connected to each other by an affinity system heavily dependent upon the spirit of alcohol, adventurism, and allowances for junkets galore.


The pretenders are not easy to spot, as their mien and countenance can be lamb-like, their smile the cool smirking of a rapacious lion looking for someone to devour.


The pretenders can be fatherly too, and can afford to pat you at the back, and take you in as their protégé provided you are willing to say Amen to their view of the world and truth, and you are willing to stroke their back even as they stroke yours in that endless psychological blackmail of patriarchs and protégés stroking each other’s back.


But these pretenders are people who like to father untruths that they wrap with flimsy arguments that are calculating and calculated: (a) calculating because the intent of their arguments is to deceive the vulnerable public; and (b) calculated because the effects of their shallow arguments are so productive they can even convince award-giving bodies to give them “the highest recognition” of their writers organization, but not necessarily the recognition of their peers; the acolytes of Ilokano Literature vow to them in wordless reverence; the neophytes blindly follow their wishes even when they are being verbally abused; their novices are so awed they are immobilized and stupefied by their mere presence in cyberspace and by their verbal threats; and other writers become so awed they cannot speak, they lose speech, they lose their language, they forget they have their own anatomical tongue. Oh, the lesser writers get to know the meaning of silence whose synonym is cowardice!


There is the silence that is the fullness of language, true, as in that silence one has to have before his real God, not them these godlings whose claim to writing is that they know how to worm their way up to the corridors of organizational power.


But there is something sinister in this silence of the better writers.


This silence of writers before these pretenders is a silence of acquiescence, the silence that gives rise to the tyranny of selfish values in Ilokano Literature as in every society; it is the silence that makes it possible for the dictatorship of self-righteousness—the vice of patriarchs who know only their brand of truth and their version of individual justice. It is the same silence that gives rise to the dictatorship of shallow poets and minor writers who cannot see art beyond their own practice of shallow poetry and meaningless, irrelevant Ilokano writing. 


We can spot the patriarchs of Ilokano Literature because they look like the God of Adam in the Genesis account of a Sistine Chapel painting: long beard, stern look, and the heft of a huge personality, made huge because of a puff of hot air on their skin and garment—and perhaps in their mind and imagination. 


The image of that God in the Sistine Chapel account reaching out to that mortal He created, of course, is too physical for comfort. He is white, he is European, he probably is Jewish in an anthropomorphic sense.


So we need to transform these physical attributes into something ‘metaphorical’, something beyond the form, in that original meaning of that term to mean the people who:


(a) can write ad hominem statements against others; 


(b) have evolved an exclusivist attitude to parochial and provincial awards reserved for the old people—a sense of undue ownership to these awards, whatever these are;


(c) have won an award or two and now flaunt them for the public to know, and if the public is not in the know, them the patriarchs make it a point to remind the unknowing and uninterested public that they are, indeed, the patriarchs of Ilokano Literature because, really, they have won one award or two and then stopped writing seriously—if they ever were serious at all in the first place— because they might be found out eventually that they have patrons and that they simply cannot write and their winning such awards was by virtue of powerful alliances or plain luck.   


All these constitute the tragic-comic in contemporary Ilokano Literature, these power-tripping actions and perpetual stranglehold of patriarchs in the practices that lead to Ilokano writing.


Other literatures of the Philippines are so seriously concerned about resistance, revolution, renaissance, and rebellion—in their metaphysical and literal forms.


Other literatures of the Philippines are committed to the reclaiming of the people’s fundamental rights to their languages and to the people’s rights to educational access through their languages.


On the one hand, here is Ilokano Literature that is so mired in parochialism, in patriarchy, in provincialism.


Here is Ilokano Literature with its ever-narrow view of literature, aesthetics, and writing practice, a view that is directed towards the self to the point of selfishness and individualism, to the point of self-glorification, to the point of self-aggrandizement. 




I began to read Ilokano Literature with interest in the 70s as a very young boy in the grades, and then more seriously as the years went by.


Even when Bannawag and other Ilokano literary pieces were not one of the required readings in high school, then in college, and then in graduate school, I remained schooled in the wonderful surprises of this literature of a people who are also at the same time my people.


I reveled in this literature: written or oral or any other form you can imagine, including its performance genre, especially that annual rite of the comedia at the foot of then Gilbert Bridge--then made of hard wood and what looked to me like suspension cable wires like a cheap imitation of San Franscisco's Golden Gate--in Laoag where I accidentally discovered prompters shouting the long lines for the actors to shout back to the enthralled audience: “Daanam ti espadak a natadem/ No dimo madaanan, biagmo ti maiwalang!” (Be prepared with my sharp sword/Or your life will then be cold!)


With that kind of an experience, I began to see, like Carlos Castaneda under Don Juan the burro's tutelage: seeing as understanding.  


In the seeing was the recognition of what is termed in the Ilokano language as “panuli”, the corner posts that we need to build the house of Ilokano Literature.


As they years went by, the seeing became one of familiarity, that easy recognition, that name recall, indeed, that investment in public perception, to borrow the terms of social marketing and communications. 


As the names became familiar, they eventually became household names.


Then along the way came a new episode in the literary history of my people: the intrusion and invasion of new names, names that are not familiar, names whose substantive connotations in my literary perception of things are not simply there.


In short, the names of Johnny-come-lately pretending writers whose sense of commitment to a cause much grander than the self-aggrandizer’s view of things, names that do not matter, names you can easily drop when you begin to account what matters to the literary history of your own people.


These are names that in turn would dominate the Ilokano public sphere in the recent years, names created by accidents, shadows, alliances, patronage—in short, names courtesy of patriarchy in Ilokano Literature.


These are names that are akin to puffed pillows by Uratex or plastics like Orocan; they puff and they are not for real as they are plastic.


Literary history is one discipline within a larger discipline we call cultural criticism or cultural studies.


It is a discipline that you do not await the patriarchs to tell you to wade into but a discipline that interests you because you see patterns, trends, landmarks, cornerstones, and corner posts in that long journey we call the history of the artistic practices of a people such as the Ilokano people.


One day, this assaults you: names that are not part of these “panuli” began to dominate the patriarchal conversation—the only kind of conversation your literature can afford to have anyway.


And then these names began to hold the sticks and the carrots of a literature that has grown so accustomed to the Marcosian tactic of making everyone kowtow to the dictator’s wishes, with the carrot of travel and junket for those who can dance the curratcha with them, and with the stick for those who refuse to sell their soul to them.


And so it happened: that in these days of challenges for Ilokano Literature—as in the days of the conjugal dictatorship, only a handful came to the temple of truth.


Only a handful came to say, My silence, my silence, is cowardice.


Only a handful came to say, the patriarchs are my compadres and comadres and therefore I cannot afford to lose them the carrots and the junkets.


Imagine a literature this way—and we can rightfully and aptly imagine the end of Ilokano poetics.


When this silence continues, Ilokano Literature will soon come to an end.


The ‘silence of the lambs’ among contemporary Ilokano writers, indeed, is pathological of our years of kowtowing to the wishes of the big bosses of literature, them who can call the shots because they are powerfully connected in that network of compadrazgo politics of Ilokano writing practices. 



Sukimat, 4th Nakem Book

Nakem Conferences to launch SUKIMAT


Published jointly by Nakem Conferences International and Nakem Conferences Philippines, SUKIMAT: RESEARCHES ON ILOKANO AND AMIANAN STUDIES IS the 4th book of the Nakem Conferences.


Edited by Aurelio Solver Agcaoili, PhD, Anabelle Castro Felipe, PhD, and Alegria Tan Visaya, EdD, with a Foreword by Dr. Miriam Pascua, President of Mariano Marcos State University and a Critical Introduction by Aurelio Solver Agcaoili, PhD, President, Nakem Conferences International.


The Philippine edition is published by Nakem Conferences Philippines.


The Commission on the Filipino Language of the Republic of the Philippines provided partial funding for the publication of the book through a grant it awarded to Nakem in 2008.


The book, made up of 12 select essays from a pool of more than a 100 essays presented during the 2007 and 2008 Nakem Conferences held at Mariano Marcos State University and St. Mary’s University, respectively, is Nakem’s contribution to the growing national and international conversation on issues related to cultural pluralism, linguistic democracy, education to democracy and freedom, and mother language education.


The production of a liberatory form of knowledge based on linguistic diversity and cultural pluralism in a country that has grown so accustomed to both external and internal colonialism is one of the challenging cultural works in our globalized world. It demands the deployment of critical tools and the engagement of culture advocates in the effort to evolve a new form of consciousness that is ready to announce the good news of cultural and linguistic democracy. Sukimat—the work of scholars, academics, and cultural workers committed to the exchange and diffusion of knowledge and information on Ilokano and Amianan Studies—offers a way to rethink of education to democracy and freedom.



Kallautang: Poetics of Diversity

Launched in June 2009 and to be re-launched at the 4th Nakem International Conference, University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Excerpts of the book have been uploaded in this site as well as in Edited, translated, and with a critical introduction by Aurelio Solver Agcaoili (TMI Global Press 2009). Partial funding for publication from a competitive SEED grant awarded to the author in 2008-2009. For orders, write to: 

Some of the poets in the diaspora included in this work are Melchor Agag, Mario Abinsay, Jeremias Calixto, Cristino Inay, Prodie Padios, George Pagulayan, Pacita Saludes, Perlita Sadorra, Cresencio Quilpa, Francis Ponce, Razi Quiamas, and Amado Yoro.


Excerpted from the book, "Sukimat" (Nakem Conferences Press 2009). Eds. Aurelio Solver Agcaoili, Anabelle Castro Felipe, and Alegria Tan Visaya. 

To Name Ourselves Once Again—

and To Know Why We are Doing It:

A Foreword



Miriam E. Pascua, Ph.D.

President, Mariano Marcos State University



             When the Nakem Conference based at the Ilokano Language and Literature Program of the University of Hawai’i proposed that we at Mariano Marcos State University hold the 2nd Nakem Conference at our university, I had it in mind of one thing, clear and simple: that it is high time we named ourselves once again and claim this name as our way of looking for our self-redemption as a people of the Philippines and of the world. In the interest of a political project to render us all “Filipinos”, we have forgotten that there have been other ethnolinguistic groups that have existed prior to this political identity we call the Philippines. These ethnolinguistic groups, we now know, come close to the broad notion of “nation”.  


Given this kind of a premise, we know deep in our hearts as a people of the Amianan that we have had the Ilokano nation, as the other nations have had that kind of identity and self-knowledge, before we ever thought of claiming our new political identity as Filipinos as a result of the outsider—and invader and colonizer—naming us. At the 3rd Nakem Conference held at St. Mary’s University, the Honorable Carlos Padilla said that we are not to imagine that we have an Ilokano nation but make this nation work because there is, indeed, the Ilokano nation beyond our imagination. 


             When I took over as President of MMSU, I have always been cognizant of the holistic way to produce human knowledge by that productive union between the scientific and the artistic, between the empirical sciences and the cultural sciences, between the hard sciences and the sciences of the human, as the interpreters of human knowledge tell us today. In the many innovations and initiatives that we do at this university, I insist—as do all our university researchers and instructional faculty insist—that the kind of knowledge that we do produce and are able to validate is a kind of knowledge that we can diffuse because useful for our local communities and for our end-users. We are aware of our university’s commitment to the cause of the people of the Ilocos and Amianan.


When that opportunity for us to host the 2nd Nakem Conference came, the first outside the United States, we took it seriously. There were no ifs and buts, even if we knew that the task was not easy. 


We were to take part in this idea whose time has come, this idea that in the act of resisting our homogenization in the interest of an abstract project of Philippine nationhood, we ought not to lose our names, we ought not to lose our sense of self, we ought not to lose our nation in an ethnolinguistic sense, as it were. We know that cultural diversity and the political agendum towards cultural pluralism are terms that cannot be used for selfish ends but are to be pursued to ascertain that the ends of cultural and social justice are being served. Indeed, we are a nation among nations, as some scholars on Ilokano and Amianan life have asserted. We must make a vow to make it happen that the “nations” in the equation in the bigger notion of the “nation” are not to be left out but are included as terms in that equation. In failing to do that, we shall have failed our people, we shall have failed our communities, we shall have failed the Ilokano and Amianan nation, we shall have failed the Philippine nation as well.


              Through this anthology, we get a glimpse of the kind of engagements of our various intellectuals from our various colleges and universities that have aligned themselves with the cause of Nakem Conferences. These engagements provide a backdrop to the kind of knowledge that we need to deploy in order to resist our homogenization, in order to make meaningful our quest for knowledge, and in order to announce to ourselves the less-traveled road that we have taken to name ourselves once again. 


             We continue to plumb the promise of the Ilokano and Amianan nation to the Ilokano and Amianan people to offer alternative ways for our self-reflection and self-knowledge, alternative ways to make us realize our duty to offer something more substantive because meaningful knowledge to our people and eventually to make us commit our intellectual energies and resources to the pursuit of a liberating form of knowledge that we can proudly offer to our Amianan nation and to the Philippine nation.


             In this sense, this anthology culled from the papers presented at the 2007 and 2008 Nakem Conferences, is a testimony and a testament to that kind of intellectual engagement we wish to sustain among the colleges, universities, organizations, and independent scholars who share the vision of Nakem Conferences International and Nakem Conferences Philippines, a vision for cultural pluralism, cultural democracy, and linguistic justice.


            The task ahead will be full of challenges.


            But these essays here give us a clear clue to where we are going. 






(Excerpted from the book, Sukimat, Nakem Conferences Press 2009, eds. Aurelio Solver Agcaoili, Anabelle Castro Felipe, Alegria Tan Visaya)



This anthology, the fourth in the series of Nakem publications since 2006 and a combined publication effort of Nakem Conference Philippines and Nakem Conferences International, would not have been possible were it not for the financial and moral support of the Commission on the Filipino Language of the Republic of the Philippines.  

The Commission, then chaired in an acting capacity by Dr. Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco, provided partial funding for the publication of its publication.


Dr. Nolasco made it certain that Nakem Conferences—even at its initial stages in the Philippines, when the cause of cultural democracy and social equity in language was still an intellectual discourse that is not worth the time of many academics, even those espousing nationalism and freedom—would get the necessary support from the Commission. During his watch at the Commission, Nakem Conferences was able to learn the ways to organizing work and to identifying issues that matter to the people of the Amianan. He also made it a point to come and inspire the Nakem participants in the two conferences held at Mariano Marcos State University in Batac in 2007 and at St. Mary’s University in Bayombong in 2008.


             We wish to acknowledge the help of two university presidents who made it sure that the Nakem Conferences held in their places were to be the best that they could offer: Dr. Miriam E. Pascua of Mariano Marcos University and the Rev. Fr. Dr. Manuel Valencia of St. Mary’s University. We can only thank them enough for opening the doors of their “intellectual and academic homes” to the pilgrims of Nakem Conferences.


The first Board of Directors of Nakem Conferences Philippines deserve our thanks for making this organization a reality to reckon with in the advancing of the cause of Nakem, of the cause of cultural pluralism and diversity, and of the cause of advancing the promotion, protection, and perpetuation of the mother, first, and native languages of the Amianan. In particular, we owe our thanks to the following members of the board: Nancy GB. Balantac (Mariano Marcos State University), Zacarias A. Baluscang Jr. (Apayao State College), Carmen P. Centeno (Department of Education), Josephine R. Domingo (MMSU), Edil H. Duran (DepEd), Norma L. Fernando (DepEd), Andres Malinnag Jr. (University of Northern Philippines), Bonifacio V. Ramos (St. Mary’s University), Marie Rose Q. Rabang (UNP), Jaime G. Raras (UNP), Noemi U. Rosal (University of the Philippines), and Elena C. Toquero (Isabela State University).  


            So many have made Nakem Conferences happen: the teachers and academics who began to believe that, yes, together we can explore the ways to rethinking about ourselves as a people of the Amianan and to revisiting the ways in which we have to know ourselves; the cultural workers who tirelessly supported our conferences including the working committees of both the 2007 and 2008 Nakem International Conferences; the individuals and political leaders who came to support us even when we have yet to show our force; and to the education leaders and thinkers who believe in what Nakem stands for in the area of education to freedom and democracy. To all of you, our endless utang a naimbag a nakem, our endless gratitude and thanks.



Aurelio Solver Agcaoili

Nakem Conference International

University of Hawai’i


Anabelle Castro Felipe

Nakem Conference Philippines

Mariano Marcos State University


Alegria Tan Visaya

Nakem Conferences Philippines

Mariano Marcos State University




Sukimat: A Critical Introduction






Aurelio Solver Agcaoili

University of Hawai’i




Search for Contexts


This volume of the Nakem Conference proceedings, originally presented during the 2007 and 2008 conferences of Nakem Conferences Philippines and Nakem Conference International held respectively at the Mariano Marcos State University and at St. Mary’s University, gathers the representative knowledge and information we want exchanged and diffused in the name of the people of Amianan.


In 2006, the Ilokano Language and Philippine Drama and Film Program started the first-ever Nakem Conference to celebrate the centennial of the coming of the first 15 Ilokanos to Hawai’i to work in the sugarcane and pineapple plantations, the twin industries that soon provided economic infrastructure to this United States territory which was its new territory at that time. In a poetic rendition of that coming (“Ti Maika-75 nga Aniversario/The 75th Anniversary”), the award-winning Ilokano writer Mario Albalos, talked of the 15 Ilokanos as “shadows” to render into a metaphorical language the kind of experience these Ilokanos had to go through even as they presented themselves to the plantation bosses, barefoot and all, including their cowering soul (Agcaoili 2009). The Albalos poem, written to commemorate the 75th year of the coming of the Ilokano workers, was soon to be followed by a poem by Melchor Agag Jr. twenty-five years after, in 2006, to commemorate the centenary of their sacrifice and their wandering into an unfamiliar and strange terrain in order to sow the seed for the migration of many Ilokanos—and thus, Filipinos—to Hawai’i. Historically, two of the ethnolinguistic groups came to Hawai’i to help spur the territory’s plantation economy, the Ilokanos in 1906 and the Visayans in 1909.  The two groups have since been joined by other ethnolinguistic groups, but with the Ilokanos still presently representing the majority at between 85-90 percent of the Philippine population.


The spirit of the centennial could have been lost as a legacy of the sacrifice of the Ilokanos were it not for the efforts of many individuals and organizations to insist that there is a need to also represent this centennial of a hundred-years of sacred sacrifice as something that began with the coming of the 15 Ilokanos. This was the broad context of the 2006 Nakem Conference. It was also the first time that the Ilokano Language and Philippine Drama and Film Program, now renamed Ilokano Language and Literature Program, gathered cultural workers, researchers, educators, policy makers, writers, teachers, and advocates of Ilokano language and literature in an academic conference that zeroed in on issues concerning the Ilokanos, and by extension, about the people of the Amianan.  When the Nakem Conferences International was organized in December of 2006, we broadened the perspective of the advocacy we are fighting for to include the whole of the issues concerning the geographic, cultural, aesthetic, political, historical, and linguistic matrix of the Ilokano people to evolve a broader term we now call as Amianan, and the broad inquiry issuing from it, Amianan Studies. This is in recognition of the fact that Ilokano Studies cannot be extricated from the broader discursive frame of Amianan Studies.  


The 2006 Nakem Conference and after


             Let it be on record that the 2006 Nakem Conference, its conceptualization and execution, was the result of the concerted effort of the instructional faculty of the UH Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program; Prof. Prescilla Espiritu, then coordinator of that program at the start of the conceptualization and planning; the UH Leeward Philippine Studies Program through its instructional faculty, Dr. Raymund Liongson; and myself. At that time, I was based in Los Angeles as an educator and editor-in-chief of a Filipino-American newspaper, The Weekly Inquirer. Espiritu and I burned the wires and, apart from her invitation for me to give a series of lectures—which I did in early 2006—to commemorate the centennial of the coming of the Ilokanos (UH Manoa, UH Hilo, and the Philippine Consulate General), and a side lecture at the UH Leeward Community College, she asked me to put together the concept, the name, and the strategic plan to execute the conference; I was to take charge as well of preparing the proposals for grants that we were to submit to various grant-giving offices within the University of Hawai’i. By August 2006, I had the good fortune of replacing Espiritu as coordinator of the renamed Ilokano Language and Literature Program. By this time, the 2006 Nakem Conference planning was in its full swing, with Espiritu serving as chair of the steering committee, with Dr. Liongson (UH Leeward) and I assisting her. The steering committee designated me conference director, a duty that gave me access to so many scholars, cultural workers, organizations, and education leaders. This rare access I would use to solicit the help of others in the hosting of the succeeding conferences. I immediately went on to work and coordinated the nitty-gritty of the conference. In the meantime, Liongson took the initiative of putting together a cyberspace presence for the 1st Nakem Conference, even offering to host that website through his own website. 


             In late 2006, an administrator’s conference between the University of Hawai’i and the Mariano Marcos State University was held at UH Manoa; in this conference, the possible areas of cooperation and exchange between UH and MMSU was identified, with Ilokano Studies as one strong area the two universities could share. By then, I have come to know Dr. Alegria Tan Visaya, Secretary of the Board of Regents of MMSU and professor of the university, and Dr. Miriam Pascua, the University President. At a certain point, I asked the two university officials to host the 2nd Nakem Conference; they promptly accepted the challenge and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. Let history be told that the openness of MMSU to host an otherwise pilot movement to raise consciousness on Ilokanoness and being a people of the Amianan paved the way for the acceptance and growth of Nakem Conferences in the Philippines, an intellectual movement with a social commitment.





2007 and 2008 Nakem Conferences: MMSU and SMU


             With MMSU, through Visaya and Pascua, getting involved with the issues of Nakem Conferences, Nakem thus took on a life of its own in the Philippines. It is largely through the efforts of these two people that the first seed of Nakem Conferences outside the United States was to take root. Other people would come in to help, including the first Board of Directors of Nakem Conferences Philippines, the organization that would soon take up the cudgels of advancing the cause of the people of Amianan. We are not going to enumerate them here, as this is not meant to be a history of Nakem Conferences but to invite the reader of this volume to see the context why we have to keep on sustaining this struggle for and in the name of the people of Amianan. Dr. Nancy GB. Balantac, then Vice President for Academic Affairs of MMSU, deserve our gratitude for mobilizing the resources of her office to help Visaya in putting together the 2007 Nakem Conference, the first-ever conference that was held outside the United States. It is at this conference that we learned to come to grips with organization work, with the putting up, at last, of the Nakem Conference Philippines. 


             In June 2007, Dr. Ellen Toquero of Isabela State University invited me to grace their international conference, also concerning linguistic rights and cultural democracy. Dr. Romeo Quilang, President of ISU, made it sure that his university was to be in the forefront of all these initiatives in the interest of cultural pluralism and linguistic rights, one of the crucial community engagement concerns of his university. It was during this gathering that I had the good fortune of meeting the Rev. Fr. Manuel Valencia, President of St. Mary’s University; Dr. Bonifacio Ramos brought Fr. Valencia to the conference at ISU, and there, the seed of the 3rd Nakem International Conference was born.


             These two conferences held in the Philippines and hosted by these two universities located in two different regions where Ilokano is either a native language or a lingua franca but where there exist, at least forty other languages, provide the backdrop of how Amianan knowledge is being produced using a critical perspective, and with the lens of cultural pluralism and diversity as its overarching framework. Of a key concern for this production of knowledge is the critique to the inutile bilingual education policy of the country that has entitled and privileged only two languages in the Philippines, English and Tagalog, with Tagalog being passed off as the basis for Filipino, the mandated language. It is in the interest of diversity and education to democracy that we issue out here this critique that this continuing disrespect of the educational system and the institutions and organizations attached to it for the lingua francas and mother languages has given rise to a rampant cultural denigration in the Philippines. This disrespect is also a violation of the fundamental rights of people to their languages and cultures. In a multicultural nation like the Philippines, this violation is not only a violation of human rights but is also illegitimate and illegal.


The Advocacies of Nakem Conferences


             Nakem Conferences, whether in the United States or in the Philippines, is conscious of an ethical as well as a critical obligation to assure all the people of the Amianan to not only make their languages survive, but thrive, and thrive forever. This two-pronged obligation is not easy to do. The road to cultural democracy and linguistic justice—in a country that is so used to internal colonization and cultural tyranny—is paved with sharp thorns and rough stones, and one of the first enemies in the call for change could be the cultural workers themselves. Many of these, for instance, are teachers who mean so well but are distracted by their false knowledge of the fundamental principles in education, more so in education to democracy and justice. We have been hoodwinked for so long by the executors of pedagogical policies that lead to a cultural homogenization of all people of the Philippines, a homogenization that is built upon a monolithic view of culture and language, a view that reinforces the false idea that other Philippine languages and cultures are not necessary in the building up of a nation built upon cultural pluralism and diversity.


             It is still a long way from seeing the coming of a nation like this one that we actively imagine we are going to have, a nation that celebrates all of its languages, all of its cultures, and a nation that can serve as a model for the world in celebrating diversity and cultural pluralism. Nakem Conferences started as an idea of surfacing knowledge and information on the Ilokanos, in the Ilocos, in the homeland, and in the diaspora.


             But Nakem Conferences also realizes that the body of knowledge on the Ilocos and the Ilokanos cannot be extricable from its immediate context, the Amianan, and thus, for Ilokano Studies to be a body of knowledge oriented towards freedom and democracy, it must include as well the rest of the languages and cultures of this part of the Philippines as its most immediate geographic and area consideration, without, of course, losing sight of the broader perspective of looking at Philippine issues in the Philippines and elsewhere (cf. Azurin 1993).  But even as we make Ilokano Studies more expansive in scope, even as we give this body of knowledge back to the people of Amianan and recognize that its roots and reason and resonance are from the Amianan, we must also recognize that Amianan is a concept that is not only physical, material, and geographic but also psychological. Thus when we say that Amianan is also a psychological space, we are acknowledging here the difficult fact that the Ilokano and Amianan people have gone away from their physical surroundings and ventured into the unfamiliar spaces and geographies outside their otherwise familiar places. Hence the need for Ilokano Studies to evolve into a broader body of knowledge we now call Amianan Studies. 


             In the accounting of this new form of knowledge—new in the sense of its being an epistemological initiative and innovation aimed to resist the onslaught of a form of Philippine Studies that entitles and privileges the knowledge produced and reproduced by and in the center of power and profit and political authority—we need to hold on to the virtues of pluralism and to the productive power of cultural democracy in order to critique the cultural and linguistic hegemony of that center.


Sukimat, Mennamenna, Sursuro—Research, Reflection, Knowledge


             Twelve essays have been selected to represent the kind of knowledge and information awaiting exchange and diffusion through this volume. The essays, true to the spirit of the two conferences held in the Philippines, follow a variety that range from language issues to cultural criticism including the tragic consequences of diaspora. There are also studies on multicultural education, on education with the first language and lingua franca, and on the multicultural experiences of the people of the Amianan.


             The work of Anabelle C. Felipe and Natividad E. Lorenzo (“Overseas Ilokanos’ Houses: My, What a Beautiful Home! But Where is the Owner?”), for instance, suggests to us the social implications—even the tacit social drama involved—in the Ilokano experience of the diaspora, with trophy houses to justify the Ilokano’s absence from his place, and with his trophy house to stand for him, erect, even phallic in some sort of way because of its dominance in the rustic landscape of farms and villages, a physical edifice that can perhaps initially withstand the ravages of time, but will, in turn succumb to forgetting and decay once the owner no longer has the energy nor the drive to keep on with the token ritual of claiming and re-claiming his house for a trophy. This almost meditative approach to empirical and cultural research represents the kind of research direction that we strive for in the evolving of Ilokano and Amianan Knowledge. This approach endeavors to be critical and creative even as it searches for, and makes use of, the appropriate tools in doing a sukimat, the ‘searching again’; in doing the mennamenna, the needed self-reflection; and in the drawing up of the sursuro, the lesson and knowledge to be learned.   


             We know that the Ilokano people, perhaps motivated by both the allure of adventure and the idea that given the right mix of good luck and industry they can transform their life better in another place, left, and continues to leave, the Ilocos, many of them for good, but many of them keeping on returning as well, as if in a perpetual pilgrimage to their birth land. It is here that the concept of  “soul-land” comes into the picture, with the references to the need to go back to their place of birth, to the land of the afterbirth (the placenta, literal, and psychical).  In that search for a chance at a better life, of course, is the belief of the  “kadagaan”—that suitability of place for the newcomer. The declaration that the place as perpetually present in the psychic spaces of the mind is nowhere stated more clearly than in the family account by Annabelle Marcelo (“Annak ken Apo ti Batac: The Odyssey of a California Ilokano Family”) of a people from Batac moving into many places in the United States but always remembering the “ili”—the topos, the place, the town, the nation—where they come from. 


             In two of the essays here, we see the fruitful encounter between cultures even as the Ilokanos go their way of moving into other strange and unfamiliar grounds, and peacefully coexisting, even intermarrying, with the members of the host communities, thus giving rise to a kind of a new culture from that mingling of the Ilokano and the host culture. The host culture, of course, is that place and condition where the Ilokano goes into in his search for something better, something grander and “greener” (with a reference to a pasture land) than what the Ilocos can offer him (Antonio I. Tamayao, “Ilokano Culture in an Ibanag and Itawes Landscape: A Bourdieunian Analysis”).


             In another essay, we see a historical exposition of the role of the Ilokanos in the political life of the host culture (Stanley F. Anongos, “Conduit of Igorot Pacification: The Ilokano Migrants in Colonial Administration in Bontoc, Mountain Province”) and the role played by the Ilokanos in the eventual Ilokanization of Bontoc and its environs. This Anongos study is an informed template for the study of the out-migration patterns of Ilokanos to the Cordilleras and to the Cagayan Valley areas. In the area of education, particularly that which concerns Mother Language Education, the work of Eric Joyce DC Grande (“The Mother Tongue Proficiency of the Yogad Constituents of Ugad High School [SY 2006-2007] In Echague, Isabela”) proves that two indigenous cultures can come into a fecund encounter with each other.


             The use of the lingua franca, mother language, native language, or first language as the first medium through which the educatee ought to have a firm sense of the world, is here again proven by Gloria D. Baguingan in her research on the native language or lingua franca as a bridge to learn other life skills, competencies, and languages (“Silencing Indigenous Language Damage Divergent Thinking and Colorful Diversity”). Her essay was first published, with an Ilokano translation by Aurelio S. Agcaoili, in Nakem: Essays on Amianan Knowledge (Agcaoili 2008).


             Even as the Ilokano goes into another place, he brings with him his own culture, language, and tradition, including his healing rituals, which rituals share a commonality with other healing traditions in the Cordilleras and in the Cagayan Valley. This is seen in the paper of Ramos on the “suring” (“Suring: A Folk Healing Ritual Among the I-Vintar Ilokanos in Nueva Viscaya”). The essay by Ernesto C. Toquero and Elena S. Toquero (“The Yogad and Gaddang Rituals of Isabela: Meaning and Significance”) reveals a complex world lived in by the Yogad, one of the more than forty ethnolinguistic groups of the Amianan. In many of the aspects of their rituals are the similarities and convergences with those of the Ilokano rituals in the lowlands.


             The account on Ilokano indigenous last names by Alegria Tan Visaya (“Indigenous Ilokano Anthroponym”), an attempt at a productive unraveling of the context of indigeneity in the critical production of Ilokano and Amianan knowledge by a return to the stories of family names, corrects the impression that the Claveria decree of name-changing was one wrought in stone. It is not. These last names tell us that even in the act of  “self-naming,” we can see traces of the potential for—and the actuality of— resistance, rebellion, and revolution if only to impress upon the future generations that not everyone was kowtowing to the rapacious and abusive colonizer, and cowering in fear of the eternal damnation of his concept of Hell, a form of a psychological blackmail he used against the natives for more than three hundred years.  


             The reclaiming of the indigenous as it encounters with the present is what grounds an ethical knowledge imbued with social responsibility and a sense of justice and fairness because it serves the ends of liberatory knowledge. This is suggested in the Elizabeth A. Calinawagan discourse (“Ti/Ni Ilokano ken Ti Pakbet”) on the “pakbet”, a vegetable dish the Ilokano is known for, but which dish is a metaphor for what the Ilokanos are as a people, a nation, a community. This leads us to the challenge of reclaiming one self, as seen in the Monica Supnet Macansantos’ personal testimony (“Crossing Geographic Boundaries: Transporting the Ilokano Homeland”) on what does it entail to lose one’s heritage because of the circumstances of one’s birth and growth. In her study of the material culture of  “burnay” production (“Panagburnay: Imaging the Ilokano-Filipino in a Philippine Ceramic Tradition”) including the political economy involved in it, Mary Jane Rodriguez-Tatel leads us to archival data that are not commonly known; these data make us realize of the wealth of historical connection between the burnay producers and other places, economies, and even countries and cultures, such as Japan. If we were to look for inspiration for cross-cultural relationship between the Philippines and South Asia, perhaps the burnay culture can give us a clue on how to proceed with our research for this kind of knowledge.   


             By no means are these works fully representative of what the Nakem Conference as a movement to draw up Amianan Knowledge is only all about. For the two conferences where the editors had culled the essays for this anthology, we have a pool of more than a hundred essays, all of them deserving to be published in a book form.


             But we are mindful of many limitations, including the oft-repeated scarcity of resources that is our lot in the Ilocos, and in the Philippines for that matter, what with skewed governmental priorities.  This is the lot as well of the exoticized, marginalized, and peripheralized cultures of the Philippines and human studies in general. We are resisting these, of course. We are rejecting this rendering of Amianan Knowledge, as in the other forms of knowledge on the Philippines, into something exotic, into an exhibit of the rare, the marginal, the peripheral. With the limited resources Nakem Conferences has, we can only include twelve of the essays from a large pool. In the coming years, we will continue to regularly publish the other conference papers in the interest of making them more available in printed form.  


             The selection of the twelve essays is a collective decision of the board of editors. The final responsibility, thus, rests with us.  




Agcaoili, Aurelio Solver. 2009. Kallautang—Poetics of Diversity, Displacement, and

             Diaspora: Ilokanos in the Americas Writing. Honolulu: TMI Global Press.


Agcaoili, Aurelio Solver (ed, trans, with critical intro by). 2008. Nakem: Essays on

Amianan Knowledge. Honolulu: ILLP. 


Azurin, Arnold Molina. 1993. Reinventing the Filipino Sense of Being and Becoming:

            Critical Analyses on the Orthodox Views in Anthropology, History, Folklore

            and Letters. Diliman, Quezon City: CSSP Publications and the University of

            the Philippines Press.