PRESERVING ILOKANO AND OTHER LANGUAGES, SOCIAL JUSTICE, AND CULTURAL DEMOCRACY
Aurelio S. Agcaoili, PhD
Nakem and its work could be understood as our own language of critique.
It is also our language of possibility.
Our work of Ilokano language and culture instruction at the University of Hawaii does the same thing.
The simple fact that Nakem Conferences came out of our desire to put in context the centennial celebration of the first 15 Ilokanos to work in the plantations of Hawaii already implicates the intrinsic connection between what we do at our university and at Nakem—and between what our Nakem partners in the Philippines, through the Nakem Conferences consortium and our Nakem Conferences International which is housed at our UH Ilokano Program.
This proves that there is this beautiful but delicate dance that we are doing in our respective organizations and academic institutions.
It is beautiful because we have come to a point where we can now speak who we are, not in the fullness of human speech yet because of constraints that are largely external and systematic.
These constraints are traceable to much ready are our educational bureaucracy such as the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, and the TESDA in listening to what we have to say, things that have been kept deep in our hearts for so long a time because speech is not the best virtue of our educational system but acquiescence, silence, and acceptance without the benefit of critique and reason.
There is the delicate dance in our pursuit of the MLE goals, this we have to admit.
And the dance is delicate because we are walking on new ground even if we resist the old ground and insist on our freedom to walk on this new one.
Certainly, we are learning along the way, even as we try to respond to the challenges of the various MLE goals and its six areas of focused activity.
What we envision and what we want done at Nakem is the evolving of a new educational practice of “being more-so”, a practice that takes into fundamental account the language of the students and the language of teachers teaching these students.
We refuse here to look at language and its reality as something akin to a tool in learning, in education, and in understanding the world.
In our account of the new educational practice of being more-so, we look at language, like the hermeneutist Hans-George Gadamer, as that which mediates our understanding of the world, that which middles, that which is between us and the world.
Thus we can only come to an understanding of this world through language.
There is no other way.
The fact that this language must be always in the concrete, that it must be ours even if we accept that it is also beyond us, makes all the more relevant in understanding the place of MLE in our pursuit of education that emancipates, and that it emancipates because it grounds itself from the humanity of our students and our teachers, a humanity that is always life-long and thus demanding a life-long, continuing, ceaseless educational practice.
Now, we summon the poet Machado and we say: Indeed, there is no road.
But we make the road while walking. We have begun to walk hoping that the road appears.