The Summer of Our Disquiet &


Aurelio Solver Agcaoili

Observer, Sept. 2009

Let it be told: that hope is something that gives logic and sense to the kind of life we live—and lead—nowadays.

Finally, we have an antidote to all this cynicism that has befallen us, we who have come to this land but remained rooted, in a many ways, to the other homeland we left behind: it is hope springing from the soothing days and nights of summer.

We see signs of the American economy bouncing back to health—or so we hope. We are told that the proofs are there to behold.

While some places are still reeling from the untold stories of suffering we have not witnessed in a long while because of this recession holding us hostage, some places, we come to know, have come back to life.

With this news we know we are renewed, in spirit.

With this news comes our resolve to get past this test of our resiliency and enduring power.

The sorrowful stories looked like restatements of a mystery: homes foreclosed, families living in tents, sick people unable to buy the necessary medicine to get the healing they are badly in need of, and soup kitchens mushrooming in depressed places.

Now we look back to Summer 2009.

It was the summer of sun and surf, true—but it was also an extreme: this sorry condition of our lives. The sun was up for all and shone for all but there was this deep blackness as well.

In the Philippines was a death—that of a President dearly loved for the symbol she stood for: the death of democracy and dictatorship.

Cory Aquino was all that: the return of democracy to the people and of the many other things denied of them for so long including dignity, self-respect, and basic freedoms.

The people of the Philippines queued up to bury her as they did in 1983 when they came in droves to bury her husband who came home to confront the dictator who was losing control of the institutions of the country in those times.

The man, Benigno Aquino Jr., was felled by ambition and greed and ill will. But his memory rose to life, a memory that incited the people to reclaim their own power. That act, collective and spontaneous, gave the world a template for resistance and bloodless revolution.

In the United States were two deaths: Michael Jackson, the pop icon, and Ted Kennedy, the ‘greatest senator’ of this land.

These deaths do not come to us as spectacles but lessons in mortality and the finitude of human life.

But these are lessons too of the crooked and rugged ways to greatness—and that shifting definition about what it is all about in the midst of all the shifting realities of our contemporary lives.

The summer, indeed, was worth it: the memory we will hold dear in our hearts is worth it.

But this summer also gave us these occasions of disquiet and discontent.

Disquiet for the jolting and jarring effect of all these events.

Discontent because we have yet to achieve what we have vowed to pursue: this rising from a recession that continues to challenge our resolve to do good in the world despite the odds.

Summer leaves behind warm and sunny life lessons that will linger on.

And these lessons have something to do with the quietude we seek and the contentment we want to have, finally.

Consul Cardenas: A Feature Story



By Aurelio Solver Agcaoili

The Honolulu assignment is a delightful déjà vu, a case of the familiar that went away for sometime but came back and now ever-ready for the summoning at any given time.

Here is this place again by the Pali Highway, grandly standing with its colonial grace, a place welcoming the newcomer who is not new to its premises.

This place, blessed with stories and histories, has been a witness to how Consul General Leoncio R. Cardenas, Jr. together with the other officers and members of the Philippine Consulate General, signed a letter expressing support for then Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and General Fidel V. Ramos when the two decided to declare a revolt against then President Ferdinand Marcos.

In an interview at his office, he says that he is surprised to find a copy of that letter in one of the binders on the shelf.

He showed me that letter, now yellowed by years of having been left alone to become a document of courage and commitment to a cause grander than one’s professional and personal interests. With this document, the Philippine Consulate General of Honolulu, for whatever it stood for in those days of disquiet and distress, became the consulate of the people of the Philippines and not of any regime purporting to represent the will of the people.

In 1985, Cardenas came to Honolulu for the first time as consul, serving under then Consul General Raul Ch. Rabe. This was an assignment with a different set of challenges, a bit different from his work as Third Secretary and Vice Consul of the Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, DC where he served in that capacity for three years prior to the Honolulu assignment.

Those were interesting and difficult times—and the times for difficult choices for people in the diplomatic corps especially in communities where loyalties and sympathies were more pronounced because of political and sometimes, ethno-linguistic, alliances. There was a sense of ‘tribalism’ at its worst and this sundering of a community in a compact place like Honolulu required an extraordinary ability to take part in a delicate dance of competing, oftentimes, conflicting, positions about issues affecting the community and the home country.

Cardenas’ parents did not understand—not initially—why he had to take side with the people, and with Ramos and Enrile, when Marcos needed all the support of the people particularly those to whom he appealed for ethnic and familial loyalty.

But to the mind of Cardenas, there was no way in which the Philippine Consulate General could dismiss the spirit and burning rage of a people in the cusp of waging a revolution whose only condition is the return of their basic freedoms that had been denied of them for decades.

The international media were all over the place and the Philippine Consulate General was bombarded with many media men asking questions, cross-checking facts, wanting updates. When Rabe got too tired attending to the nitty-gritty of facing the media, he assigned Cardenas to face all of them. This added assignment gave Cardenas the information he needed to understand more fully in the round what was happening to the homeland.

And he never regretted having taken part in that collective act of the Philippine Consulate General.

Buddy Gomez would soon replace Rabe and Cardenas would move to Ottawa in Canada as Minister and Consul General of the Embassy of the Philippines there.

For a total of seventeen years, Cardenas would have a tour of duty in many other countries: as Minister and Consul General in Brasilia, Brazil; as Deputy Consul General at the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco, California; and as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at the Embassy of the Philippines in Dili, Timor-Leste.

He looks and says that his coming full circle is a sacrament: you go back where you came from in that perpetual search of beginnings that open up to finalities that do not tell you of empty ends but of more fecund beginnings in that circle of knowledge opening up to more productive and meaningful knowledge.

He says this is parallel to the kind of life he has lived: fruitful as it is a life that has been lived in service to country and countrymen and women.

He counts the years. “In three years, I will retire,” says. “Compulsory. I have to go.”

He has offered me a freshly brewed coffee. I take the cup and taste the goodness of having kind public servants around like this consul general whose dark barong is crisp and speaks well of the dignity of his office that, among others, is entrusted with promoting and marketing what the Philippines can offer to people of other lands.

It is one duty that Cardenas performs with a breeze.

As a marketing man for a pharmaceutical company in Manila, he took the rounds of doctors’ offices, clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies and promoted and sold medicines of all kinds. It was a good life, he remembers. Money was not tight as the commissions and other perks would come flowing. But somewhere along the way, he asked himself, in a moment of serious critical reflection, if that was all he wanted to do: a drug salesman. For years, he was doing well and he did not complain.

But he remembered that he went to the University of the Philippines to earn his Bachelor’s in Foreign Service and he never had the chance to use the knowledge he gained from the state university whose operation was subsidized by people’s taxes.

And so he did the next best thing he wanted to do a long time before the pharmaceutical work gave him that detour: he took the Foreign Service examination. He was one of the very few who made it.

In between assignments—and while holding positions at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila, he enrolled for his master’s in business administration at Letran College, to enhance his administrative skills. At the home office, he served in the Office Personnel and Administrative Services, the Office of Economic Affairs, the Office of Asia and Pacific Affairs, the Office of European Affairs, the Office of Fiscal Management and Services, and the Office of American Affairs as Assistant Secretary.

“What will you do in three years?” I ask him. We have talked about writing, poetry, the revolution, People Power, the Marcoses, the towns we left behind, the towns in Ilocos Norte we both come from.

“I will go back to Badoc,” he says. There is no qualification here, no ifs, and no buts. One straight answer, factual as factual can be.

Here we see the clear road to a circle coming in fullness, rounder and rounder, and the circle is getting bigger and bigger to account new meanings, new syntax, new definitions, new stories, new sense of mission.

“What will you do in Badoc? You have heard of the road chaos yesterday?” I ask, one question after another.

“I will pick up from where I left off. Badoc is a life. Badoc is a story. It is my life, my story. It is my way of coming to terms with finitude, with mortality,” he tells me.

I look at him and give him my book, “Kallautang—Poetics of Diversity, Displacement, and Diaspora: Ilokanos in the Americas Writing.”

“Thank you,” he says, in Ilokano.

“That is our life, Consul,” I tell him. “We go all over but at the end of the day, we go back to where we came from. We are this, this kallautang, this aimless wanderer.”

“Yes, but we know where to find the road back to the nest we have left behind. How do you call this now?”

“In Ilokano, you mean?”

“In our language.”


“Yes, yes, that is it. Mapanak agapon.”

“Yes, you will go home to Badoc to roost, “ I say.

“I will help out. Do civic works. Maybe pick up my music again.”

“What about your children?”

“They have a life of their own now. I have given them all the freedom they need. And the blessing. They let me be.”

Observer, Sept 2009

Statement On the Ilocos Times Story: Aug 21/09


The author of this statement is not allowing the uploading of this material to any other site except at: dadapilan.com and at the author’s blog, asagcaoili-ariel.blogspot.com. Written permission for uploading in other sites required. To request permission, email the author at: aurelioagcaoili@yahoo.com.

Statement on the Mark Limon news story, “University of Hawai’i prof calls Quezon ‘stupid’”, Ilocos Times, July 27-August 2, 2009

By Aurelio Solver Agcaoili, PhD

President, Nakem Conferences International

Trustee, 170+MLE Talaytayan

Program Coordinator for Ilokano, University of Hawai’i

The news story, bylined by a certain Mark R. Limon, who claims that he is representing the Department of Education of the Division of Ilocos Norte, is flawed, inaccurate, and lacking in good and acceptable journalistic exercise.

I ask that this author retract his news story by coming up with a public correction of his mistake and by apologizing for his inaccuracies.

Here are the glaring mistakes:

From the news account:

1. A professor of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa called president Manuel L. Quezon “stupid” for launching the Mother Language Education.

My response: The writer does not have his facts straight here. I never said that Quezon was stupid for launching Mother Language Education. Quezon did not know what MLE was all about so how could I attribute that to him?

What to do with this pretender of a writer? He should be taught how to write as factually as he should.

2. Speaking before an audience of officials and teachers from the Department of Education and the Mariano Marcos State University in Laoag City, Dr. Aurelio S. Agcaoili who is lobbying for the use of mother tongue in basic instruction in local schools said that the declaration of Filipino based from Tagalog language by Quezon as the national language fostered the decline of functional literary in the country.

First off the bat: the writer does not know how to write properly. Just check his sentence. Which one is modifying which? Is he supposed to be a teacher telling the right things to his students? If he is a teacher teaching students to write, he should get out of the classroom soonest.

Next point: if he knows all the government data—and these are empirical evidences—then he should know what he is talking about: that we have gone to the dogs because of the government’s bilingual education policy. This is a flawed philosophy and practice of equitable education. He should check TIMMS. He should read other publicly available data from Deped. He should check the BESRA document. He should check the premise of the Gunigundo Bill. He should check the premise of the Deped Order No. 74 S. 2009. He should understand by heart the intent of EFA of which we are a signatory. And if he does not know where to look because he is ignorant, he can always ask me. My email is: aurelioagcaoili@yahoo.com.

3. Teachers who attended the occasion, while they approved the use of mother tongue in the basic instruction in schools (sic), consider the remarks of Agcaoili as a disrespect (sic) in the memory of Quezon as one of the greatest president (sic) of the country and a contempt (sic) on the Philippine Constitution.

First off the bat again: he should return to grammar school. Just look at the ‘sics’. There are so many. And we call him a writer?

Second: what ‘remarks’ is he talking about when his lead sentence is wrong?

He speaks of me as having “contempt of the Philippine Constitution.”

Is it contempt of the Philippine Constitution, to use his phrase, to fight for the constitutional and fundamental rights of students, their fundamental right to their languages and cultures, their fundamental right to get educated through their own languages? When a government deprives its citizens of their rights to their languages and cultures—and their right to get quality education because it is an education grounded in the language that they know—is this not a fundamental violation of human rights by the same government that makes pronouncements of its respect for these rights? Here is where the sense of citizenship is called for—a sense of citizenship this ‘writer’ does not have a full grasp of.

In following the logic of the ‘writer’, he commits so many fallacies, including a fallacy we call sweeping statement or hasty generalization or insufficient evidence. His use of the phrase, “Teachers who attended,” without a qualifying quantitative marker, is rather unfortunate. He has not learned enough from his argumentation class much less from his philosophical analysis course.

Here is his first lesson in the logic of statement making: an A-statement (which is a universal affirmative, really) is not the same as an I-statement (which is a particular affirmative). We should remind him: One swallow does not make a summer, dear teacher. His logic is convoluted. He writes incoherently as well. He will never make it in my philosophy class.

4. Agcaoili is in Laoag City to attend (sic) the Launching (sic) of the Mother Language Education (sic)…

Wrong: I was not in Laoag simply to attend. I was there to speak and to serve as one of the leaders and organizers of the forum.

If he cannot even grant me this role that I played to hold the forum, what does he know then?

The MLE Forum was a joint project of 170+MLE Talaytayan, the Nakem Conferences International, the Nakem Conferences Philippines, and Mariano Marcos State University.

In that forum, we purposely invited the three superintendents of the three divisions of schools in the province to serve as panel reactors. We involved the local governments units, which was why representatives from the Office of the Governor and from the Office of the City Mayor of Laoag came.

Meaning, the MLE Forum is an initiative drawn up from our concerted effort in the nationwide alliance and that I was not there simply to ‘attend’ that forum. Fact is fact.

We wanted all the members of the community to understand that it is our fundamental right to demand from the socially irresponsible government for what is due us.

We wanted the teachers to understand that we cannot take this wanton ‘lobotomization’ of our people sitting down any longer.

We wanted people to understand that there is plausibility and promise in a political imaginary we call cultural pluralism in education and in the performance of our public lives, a performance informed and guided by our celebration of our diversity as a nation-state.

We wanted to announce that there is hope in Philippine education, that sector that is in the top list of the corrupt government bureaucracy; that light is possible in this darkness that we are all going through and which has been our lot for so long and which we must now refuse and resist in a concerted way; and that social and educational redemption can be had if we all worked together to struggle for the pursuit of what has been denied of us for decades.

I am not sorry that this message fell on deaf ears (such as those of Limon’s) and that the ‘writer’ slanted the news story to suit his ill-conceived motives. I have only some pity for him. He is supposed to be a public school teacher and he should know better.

5. …and to launch the compilation (sic) of researches of the Nakem conferences 2007-2008 entitled SUKIMAT.

Wrong: this phrase does not make sense for its fuzzy ideas, as cloudy as the mind of Limon.


‘To anthologize’ is not the same as ‘to compile’.

Limon, certainly, can compile with his clear books and binders. But with the kind of writing that he displayed with this questionable news account that put me in a bad light, I doubt if he can anthologize.

Sukimat—if he has read it—is an anthology of conference papers Limon is not capable of writing or presenting in an international conference that gathers many of the best minds of the Ilocos and the Amianan, including one paper from abroad. Certainly, with his kind of writing and way of thinking, he cannot be included in this list of the best minds.

His knowledge of book writing and ‘compiling’ is as pedantic as his reasoning.

His use of that inappropriate term ‘compiling’ is rather crude and reveals his lack of knowledge of intellectual refereeing process, editorial work, and book publishing.

The book gathers 12 of the conference papers presented in the two Nakem international conferences; the papers form a unity that is beyond the mental capacity of this public school teacher who should be forced to go back to school and learn the basics of education to human freedom, to the ethics of writing, and to education to democracy and justice. He probably has not heard anything about liberatory education and emancipatory pedagogy.

In my critical introduction of Sukimat and in the foreword of MMSU President Miriam E. Pascua, the historical and thematic contexts—even the ideological perspectives deployed in our choice of articles as editors (Dr. Alegria Tan Visaya, Dr. Anabelle Castro Felipe, and myself)—the philosophy behind this anthology (a philosophy subsumed under a new category of epistemological perspective and engagement we are fighting for and which we tentatively call ‘Ilokano and Amianan Studies’) has been explained, expounded, elaborated. In his short-cut way of informing what the Sukimat is, he ended up telling a half-truth, which is the same as a half-lie.

Maasiak kadagiti adalan daytoy a maestro a din sa met nakasursuro.

And to think that we are paying for his public school teacher’s salary, his action is most abominable.

He is doing a public disservice. He should be held accountable, to say the least.

Honolulu, Hawaii/ August 21, 2009

She freed me from prison

My President is she who freed me from a Marcos prison in 1986. I know that she alone is not responsible for 1986, for the millions were, as well as the thousands who died in the years before that, including my husband, and the tens of thousands who fought the dictatorship and led the revolution, including me. ...Yet it was she who freed me from prison...Mila D. Aguilar, Inquirer, Aug 21, 2009

We gave her the power

To free me from prison,

She freed me from prison.

The dictator and his ambition

His wife and her cursed word

These were all it took

To lead men to perdition

But here she was, yellow

Ribbon without the meaning

Except to hope for what was coming

In the wind as in the bark of trees

We tied this memento of our grief,

We gave her the time

To free us from his prison

From the barbed wires of the man

With the dark premonition

Here she was, we gave her

The chance to free us from prison,

We were freed from prison

We ended up in another.

Did it matter

That there was a promise to return?

It mattered that the men around

Who were all your friends

You drank with your bourbon

Cavorted with your greed for sums

And in the silence of nights

Rare as these were in your rule

Thought of how to appease the poor:

A kilo of rice for the next man

A can of sardines for the next woman

And a bunch of promises

For the wretched as they showed

Their sullied palms.

Man or woman, these leaders

Came after her and they all

Made spectacles of our hunger.

It was for a show, the business of misery

We have memorized so.

She freed me from prison

To end up in another,

My president, this president

Who had also put us asunder.

A Solver Agcaoili

Hon, HI/Aug 20, 2009

Ti Sangabilion a Balay ti Dios

MANILA, Philippines—Apart from his “real dream” of becoming president of the Philippines, El Shaddai founder Bro. Mike Velarde wants to leave his followers a cross-shaped church touted to be “the biggest place of worship and prayers in Asia.” N. C. Calleja, Inquirer, Aug. 19, 2009

Sangabilion a balay ti Dios
daytoy iti sangabilion met
a salaysay ti kinapanglaw, 
iti maysa nga ektaria
a pagimurumoran kadagiti bukel
ti kararag dagiti agur-uray
iti gasat, adu a gasat,
ken adu a kararag tapno
iti aldaw dagiti pannakatungpal
dagiti kari ket ti oras 
dagiti milagro a makeltay.
Kuna ti fundador a para 
iti Dios nga awanan bagi
a pagitukelan dagiti espiritu
ti ayat tapno agsantak daytoy
aglayag kadagiti ulep iti ngatuen
ti altar a balitok
agsirko nga agampayag
kadagiti pasamano, ridaw
tawa, suelo, datar a karuprupa
ti sileng ken ngayed
kinabaknang nga awan kadagiti pobre
a kararua dagiti pasdek a kas itoy
nga iti panawen ket sumuko
tapno iwaragawagna
a ti Dios nga imbalayan ti tagainep
ket awanan iti tumeng
nga agkutukot
boksit nga agbirok iti nilugaw
karabukob a maparkagan
agbirok iti basi a nakaro 
tapno agrambak kadagiti nabilligian
nga aldaw.

Sangabilion daytoy a balay
ti Dios nga awanan bagi,
di makasapul iti pagiladan
saan a kas iti karruba
iti sansaning-i.

A Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI /Aug 19, 2009

Protesta iti Mierkoles

PALACE guards clash with militant students who broke through Malacañang’s gates on Wednesday to protest controversial government spending on foreign trips, among other “excesses,” amid widespread poverty. R. Zamora, Inquirer, Aug. 19, 2009

(Maidaton ken Cristina Guevarra, dadaulo iti protesta, adalan 'toy numo iti universidad)

Mangrugi ti protesta kas iti dati.
Oras daytoy dagiti milagro ti unget
A kadagiti sangi ket ibalunet.
Namak pay ta ipakita iti pulis
Ti gemgem a ti birngas daytoy
Ket ti agkabannuag a karit
A sipud pay idi, iti diktadoria 
Dagiti lagip ket ti agrigodon
A panangat-attit.
Kadagiti saning-i 
Nga iyaleng-aleng
Ti aribai, ditoy ti pamkuatan
Dagiti komplikado a rikna.
Lasag kontra iti batuta
Karbengak kontra iti puersa
Ket daytoy a rapukrapok
Iti dalan ti malmalangan
A ta kasano ti agbiag a pimpiman
No ti pangulo ket agpagunggan
Agbakuar santon met laeng mangan
Mangan santo met laeng agsaruan!

Ket iti restoran dagiti puraw
ti kastoy a buya nga iti imahinasion
Ni marigrigat ket adda laeng
Iti ping-ir ti aripapa. Kasano a magteng
Ni mabisinan dagiti pinggan a naglaon
Kadagiti taraon a di maisao
Ta ti paaweng daytoy ket iti agong
A sumuko tapno iti madanonan 
A panaglalanglang ket ti ribo a doliar
Nga aggapu iti ling-et ti tao?

Mabati dagiti umili
Kadagiti sulsuli ni rigat.
Siglosiglo itan daytoy
A pakasaritaan ket awanan
Daytoy iti linas ti panaggibus. 
Idinto a labon ti lak-amen
Dagiti agpagungga a dadaulo
Kisang ti pagraranudan 
Dagiti din makaisubo
Uray koma laeng makabiag
A balikas nga iti latok
Ket maigao. 
Kasano a lak-amen 
Ti kari nga iti angin
Nga ipalladaw, agampayag 
Daytoy iti dana ti protesta
Dagiti kontra iti am-amangaw.

Maipalek ti batuta
Iti ubing a lasag
Ket kadagiti urat a sumriag
Ti dara ni ayat iti umay a bigat.

Duapulo a daraan iti muging
Kas iti lagip, iti barukong
Kas iti pakasaritaan.

Ngem ita Mierkoles ti protesta
Ket ti agtultuloy a pakawayawayaan.

A S Agcaoili
Hon, HI/Aug 19/09