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:
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.