Essays on the Ilokano Language (2)


A Solver Agcaoili

There is a goldmine of information on what the Ilokano language can offer in terms of how we look at ourselves, at our relationships, and at our sense of kinship.

For want of a better term, we are using the term kinship here to mean who is related to us by blood.

I submit that it is not only by blood that we get to establish a meaningful relationship, and for the Ilokano, the body—the bagi—seems to be more primary than the blood itself.

We have seen that one way to understand who is our brother-and-sister is through the bessat/pessat/kabagis concepts—all relating to a ‘same cut’ or to an acknowledgement that we come from the ‘same source’.

When we push the idea of ‘same source’ from the sense of ‘kabagis’, there are two things that come to mind: (a) the literal bagis (the intestine, the gut) and (b) the metaphorical/tropic one (the bagis as the mother’s bagis as connected to the fetus’ bagis).

It is easier to establish (a) than the (b): we need to prove from the literal to the metaphorical in the latter, and through the dynamic of trans-symbolization, the bagis in (b) stops to become literal bagis but instead becomes the symbolic bagis that connects the mother to her child.

The term for this in Ilokano is the puseg, the navel.

From an anatomical sense, the puseg is the center of the abdomen, and anywhere we go that center remains there even after birth with the boss that does not go away.

The boss remains a landmark of that intricate connection between a mother and her child. And there no fathers here in this landmark!

In (b), the mother’s bagis becomes the constant, the reference.

It is her bagis that connects to all other possible bagis, hence, all possible children that will be born of her womb.

The fetus’ bagis—that umbilical cord connecting her to her mom—is not as constant as that of her mom’s.

When the child is born, she gets separated from her mom, and that bagis connection is lost.

The sense of ‘kabagis’ therefore is not in this initial relationship the mother has with that of her child.

This cannot be sustained.

We therefore need to look for another way to explain where this ‘kabagis’ sense comes from.

We need to assume another fetus here, in its most literal sense.

That second fetus must be connected to that same mother whose cord—her bagis—is constant.

It is the bagis that serves as a source, in that idea of source as origin, as genesis.

The sharing of the same source—the same bagis—of the two children born of the same mother is what makes them ‘agkabagis,’ not in their having their separate bagis.

From the ‘same bagis’ means therefore from the ‘same bagis of the mother’.

Here we see the accidental role of fathers in the fraternal relationship: we do not figure out who is brother-sister to whom on the basis of their father, but on the basis of their mother!

What happened in patriarchy and its claim for children is something that needs explaining here.

From lecture notes on the Philosophy of Ilokano Language, Christ the King Seminary Graduate School of Philosophy, 2000.

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