Preserving the Ilokano Language, Part III

Preserving the Ilokano Language and Other Philippine Languages, Social Justice, and Cultural Democracy

Third of a Series

Aurelio Solver Agcaoili

But these teachers have their own army of supporters, apart from the official sanctions of administrators.

We have a big number of these among our students, among our parents, among our community leaders.

And some of these have so much power they have demonized the few advocates of the Ilokano language in the school system.

They have turned them into opponents of nationalism, into violators of the Philippine Constitution, and worse, into ‘miseducators’ for prohibiting us from exploring what our languages can offer us to mediate our act of reading the word and our act of reading the world with our students.

This leads us to another group that tries as much as it can to hold onto what is left of the vague traces of Ilokano language that, in the near future, if something drastic and revolutionary is not done, will end up like our kur-itan, our way of writing.

This group is a bundle of contradictions too: they espouse cultural democracy when what is needed is remitting the dollar and the dinar to prop up the flailing Philippine economy.

Its members talk about cultural heritage rights when our uninformed political leaders tell us to speak English the way English-speaking peoples in foreign lands do so that we can have our service contracted to English-speaking new lords and new masters—and there, in these foreign lands, we can start to dream about the good life away from all the country that has given us so much sorrow.

They talk about writing the literature of our people when the more current literature is about the exploits of Jake in Na’vi-land in that techno-fireworks but empty movie called Avatar.

Among the Ilokanos, many of them go gung-ho on the latest but do not care a whit about the latest poem in Ilokano even if this poem is about their history of capitulation and cooptation with the dark forces of Martial Law and the dictatorship that came after.

And these people are not afraid to write in the Ilokano language and lend their names to spearhead a renaissance of Ilokano writing.

We have not seen this happening in a long while—about half a century—when those who had the courage to write in Ilokano were also university teachers and college instructors and school administrators and students and ordinary people who knew what kind of a magnificent and luminous and true world is being opened up by their Ilokano language.

Nowhere is the recognition of this ‘courage to create’ by writers of this kind demonstrated than the analysis of a state university president in Ilocos Norte who knew all the problems we are going through and offered her university to be the first headquarters of Nakem Conferences Philippines. Dr Miriam Pascua writes in her introduction to the book, Sukimat: Researches on Ilokano and Amianan Studies:

“…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.”

Published in FAO, June 2011

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