Badeng ti Baglan (1)

Badeng ti Baglan

Siak, siak ti baglan iti panawen
sakbay ti panawen. Siak, kadagiti palad,

ditoy dagiti energia ni ayat, kasupadi
ti rikriknaen, sagubanit ti langit

nga iti init ket ti leddaang. Maipusing
daytoy kadagiti lasag tapno iti apros,

naanus ken ingget lamuyot,
ditoy a maipasag ti aggurigor a ragsak.

Iti ablon dagiti ima a maitukit
amin a bin-i ti an-anayen. Ditoy,

kadagiti barukong, addada ditoy
dagiti espiritu a kadagiti bulbulong

ket agindeg, kadagiti ungto ti sabong,
iti petalo dagiti agbukarkar nga aldaw

a mangiwaragawag ti gibus ni patay.
Alaek ti anglem, tiritirek pay maminsan

tapno iti kada singgalot dagiti nginabras
ti daton ket iti surnadan, sadiay,

sadiay a maidasay ti asuk. Parmekenna
ti kimat ken gurruod, pasukuenna

dagiti ballatek tapno ti anak-ti-sal-it
a gasat ti ili ket agbalinsuek.

Hon, HI/
Marso 15, 2012

Essays on Teaching (4)

Hold Your Own Pen When You Write Your Story

One of the methodological practices I have seen to be productive in my writing intensive courses (there is not one that is not writing intensive anyway) at the university is the deployment of one’s own narrative in putting together an essay that makes sense.

There is the word-count requirement at the end of the piece, a graduation from the page requirement that could easily be violated, and willingly, by student writers by just simply making the font bigger, and adding more space between the lines.

And the margins—this could be an experiment in tabula rasa, a la filosopo de empericista extraordinario.

If you have been a teacher, you know these ruses only students can think of. And invent. And reinvent.

There is magic in the way they do things, and this magic can enchant you.

Seduce is a word I like to replace the word ‘enchant’ to avoid the Maria Makiling effect of the folksy, the legendary, and the mystical.

I have had occasions to tell students about how our work as text can seduce readers into entering the world of the text created.

I call this the dynamic of word becoming world—or wor(l)ding. (A side note: I wrote a thesis on this way, way back when I read hermeneutics, and argued for the interpretive possibilities of the world, with or without end.)

There are style, font, and presentation requirements.

I have required American and Americanized students who are so private and so individuated to come into the open and say something about themselves when they make a critique of the issues presented in class.

I call this life writing.

I call this the opening of one’s speech to the bigger speech of the universe.

I call this life-story making and life-story telling as two sides of the same coin to account what makes sense, and thus, to making the classroom lesson and discussion relevant, resonant, and revealing.

Emotions run high in sessions like this one, with students becoming unafraid of what they think and what they feel about many things.

There is such as thing as emotional intelligence, and this is one thing that is cultivated in my classroom.

The cultivation is always governed by respect, civility, and decorum.

And we have not allowed any member of the class to Facebook—this is a verb!—what we do in class.

“When writing the story of your life, don’t let someone else hold the pen,” says a poster going around the Internet.

It is true—and it is exactly the same thing that we do in class: we write our own life stories.

We do not allow another to write our stories for us.

Any other—an other—has not gone through the same crevices that we have gone through.

The dread we have known is ours, true. But we can share it with an another, provided we have the tools to do so.

The fear we have known is ours, but we can share it, provided that we have the boldness and daring to do so.

All these are private, and they remain so, and we will never be able to use them to educate others if they are not said, or told, or written, with clarity.

We need to say them, I tell my students. Well need to tell them, express them into words, word them, extract them from the enchanted world so that in the newness of our language they can seduce us into welcoming life again.

We may not succeed in the saying and in the telling. But the trying is worth it.


March 13, 2012

The Giving of the English-Ilokano Dictionary to Ilocos Norte Librarians

The Ilocos Norte Governor, the Honorable Imee Marcos, gave out copies of the Contemporary English-Ilokano Dictionary written by Aurelio Solver Agcaoili of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Ilokano Language, Literature, and Culture Program. The dictionary-giving ceremony was held at the IN Capitol on March 12, 2012. --Basic data from Jun Gudoy, IN Provincial Capitol

Poems of Exile (10)

Eternally Temporal

Take your time. But hurry up.—A clown at Joaquin Liam Padre’s first year party, Okinawa Cultural Center, Waipahu, HI, March 3, 2012

Three children in tow, the morning becomes
A noontime show at Okinawa, in the middle

Of all memories we can remember
Of plantation men and women who have

Come before us, without these abundance,
Laughter, and gratitude we have in the heart.

He stands there, the lonely, laughing magician
Of words and movements, his farmer’s hands adept

At what the eyes cannot see, fingers hidden
Right before us, not knowing where they move

To blank out filled spaces, all clues, our wandering mind.
We watch, and he tells us, more an admonition

Than a fatherly advice: Take your time.
Take your time. But you hurry up.

In the far right from the gallery are lines
And lines of food untouched, the cake,

In huge slices, creamy and speaking of delight,
Savory as those sweet dreams and chocolate

Smile children reward you with giving your time
Rather than thinking about what next poem

To write hoping it would catch what gift you have
In enchanting a phrase or two so these

Finally tell of what it is to live in the interstices
Of time coming to pass, passing by where we are,

Seated to consume more and more this ruse
The sleight of white-gloved hands produce

So children grow up to become adults
So adults grow up to become children
In this mix bag of family rituals we catch.

Essays on Teaching (1)

On Teaching Anywhere

Teaching anywhere is the same. At day-end, some of the low times give you the feeling that this is one heck of a profession that is endless.

You are not thanked for the good things you do.

You are not appreciated for leading students to a life of the mind.

Instead, what you receive is aggression of the worst kind, like students accusing you of abandonment.

In the Philippines, you had a share of this.

You remember the hundreds of theses that you had to read as a matter of ritual and rite. You had a share of those as adviser, critic, or panelist.

Knowledge is churned out like commodities in a manufacturing place, and you can only take in so much, this claim to knowledge, this claim to a new claim to what one knows.

You brought this knowledge to your point of entry as you eke out a new life in Los Angeles, out of a dream to run away from the aggression and nihilism of a Gloria Macapagal Arroyo rule.

You run away—so you have a reason to return to the homeland.

In Los Angeles, you taught Filipino teachers who have gone on to become mere menial job holders, like manning a cash register at Albertson’s.

You taught them to fight it out, and helped them ace that test they need to get to the first step to credentialing so the life of their mind will have a new life of the mind.

You have seen it, this sense of nothingness that one goes through as a rite de passage to a new, different life in a continent, seven thousand miles away from the islands you have come from.

In Los Angeles public schools, you had to teach those Latin American immigrants and some more with their English and Math.

And now in Honolulu, this story of teaching coming full circle, with people of Philippine descent and a host of others, colored and Caucasian, coming into your room, trying to figure out what you can offer them about your country and your culture, your history and your hysteria of desire to continue teaching until you can.

Of course, in a tongue-in-cheek way, you announce even to those who do not ask that you are seventy-seven years old and going stronger.

This is to make your students remember that that they are not to tinker with what you have stored in your head, when all you could dream of was to own an Olympia typewriter, the kind you can put in your bag and carry with you where the writing bug hit you hard.

After five years to testing the waters, we have come to a point where a dreamed-of critical mass of young scholars of Philippine descent are coming unto their own.

Which reminds you of students you have trained, and now have come unto their own, and in their coming unto their own, are veritably now greater, their thoughts grander, their gaze of the future more far-reaching.

Which makes you happy. Or happiest.

They come to assault you, some of them.

And in the rubric of teacher-student relationship, you listen to the pulse of their thoughts, the pulsing sometimes wrong, and you tell them in a language you think is devoid of equivocation.

They do not like you for not flattering them.

One even said he is not learning because you tell him straight to his face that he is bluffing, that his bluff does not have any place in your scheme of things in a classroom marked by honesty, fairness, and work.

You win him. Or so you think. He writes better essays now, with that kind of logic less equivocating.

You burn whatever oil you can lay your hands on, bringing home every work, and each day you return their work, you feel their panic, its vibe and energy getting to you, striking you in the heart, hitting you in the mind.

You tell yourself, pronounce that mantra: I am a teacher.

You give back those marked papers, x-ed, with tough love notes on the margins.

You remember you have a long way to your seventy-seventh year: so long yet.

The students that come to you will settle with you for a long time yet.

You remember their aggression, their bluff.

You remember you were young once, as young as they are, as young as your own children with their own version of a dream.

You smile.

March 5, 2012

Feature Story: Operation Manong

The Next 40 Years

By Aurelio Solver Agcaoili

On March 25, Operation Manong will hold a big celebration at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu, Hawaii, to mark the fortieth anniversary of its founding.

At this gathering—dubbed a reunion—alumni of OM from all over Hawaii, and some from other places, are expected to take part and renew their commitment to the OM cause.

The alumni of OM have been afforded with a newer, smarter, sexier term: OMers.

OMers, of course, is Operation Manongers, that kind of a Philippine slang that can enchantingly turn a word into something suggesting action and actor.

It is neat and nifty way of affirming what one is part of.

The UH Office of Multicultural Services, now the new name of Operation Manong since 2000, has set the tone of the celebration in its website: ‘Yes, it’s been that long. A lot of memories to share. A lot of catching up. And just a good time to rekindle those days of working with youths and the community to make a difference in people’s lives.’

The forty years of Operation Manong’s narrative of service is history in the raw. It is also a spunkiness, of daring, of boldness.

That was in 1971, when about this time only a handful of Filipino students were enrolled at the University of Hawaii.

This situation only slightly improved in the early 80s, according to Agnes Malate, currently the director of the UH Health Careers Opportunity Program.

Malate says that when she was in college in those years, only about four percent of the entire student population of the university was Filipino.

It was not the university’s fault.

The circumstances did not allow many of the college-bound Filipino students to go to college.

There were bigger issues—as they still are bigger issues today.

The preference of Filipino students to go straight to the workforce is a bundle of contradictions.
But somewhere, it was—and still is—necessary, even demanded of them.

Many Ilokano parents in the Philippines, for instance, would invest on the education of their children even to the extent of mortgaging farmlands and homes just to see their children finish a career.

To have a degree in the old country is not a guarantee of a good life, but it opens a door of opportunity for those who have the diploma to show to prospective employers.

The contradiction is more prominent is Hawaii, with college-bound students ending up in the same menial jobs like those of their parents, many of them unable to transition to what could be considered as mainstream Hawaiian life.

The history of Filipino migration in the Hawaii and the United States mainland has always been like this: a history of shadows, a history of namelessness, and a history of the backdoor.

Filipinos did not have to be in the public space.

From 1906 onwards, they have moved around in the narrow confines of plantation work.

After more than a hundred years, there is no turning back the hand of time.

It is the same story of shadows.

There is comfort in not challenging the status quo, in sustaining it, in making Filipinos believe that their private and public lives are not for the front door, not for the display window.

The activism of the late 60s and early 70s in the Philippines—an activism that is connected in some way to the counterculture of the United States in those times, a counterculture that resisted the Viet Nam war and followed a path to nonconformity—spawned an idea beyond the claims of greatness as promised by then President Ferdinand Marcos.

Life in the Philippines was simply one defined by tragedy as a result of a culture of corruption, a self-serving system of public governance, and a continuing neglect of the poor by the very political leaders who ought to provide the underserved and the disadvantaged access to the resources of the nation.

When many of the East-West scholars came to Hawaii, they saw the same plot of lack of systematic and institutionalized deprivation, the marginalization of immigrants, and the commoditization of their labor.

The new immigrant needed to know the ropes—but there were not enough means and methods made available to them.

The new immigrant needed to navigate the dizzying processes and procedures towards the normalization of their life as potential citizens of the new land.

There were not enough people and support groups to show them how to get by.

OM’s mission says it well in response to these conditions in those times, conditions that remain until today: “(It) conducts student service programs and activities which ensure equal access and opportunity to higher education for ethnic groups and communities underrepresented in higher education.”

With the molting of the OM to OMSS, the goal is not to address the needs of Filipinos alone but “to promote cultural diversity and tolerance in the wider community” though the inclusion of all the underrepresented groups, including the indigenous Hawaiian students.

OM, now as OMSS, has continued to be sensitive to the needs of the underrepresented groups, and today, its mission includes the provision of “access to educational opportunities to the disadvantaged students.”

Julius Soria, an instructor of the UH Ilokano Language, Literature, and Culture Program and a doctor’s degree holder in education, also at the university, speaks fondly of his days as a beneficiary of the programs of OM.

Coming to Hawaii at 15, and completing his high school here, he moved to Leeward Community College and there took his liberal arts. When he moved to UH Manoa, OM helped transition to a broader academic environment.

At the time when he needed all the help he could get to complete his college degree, OM helped him obtain a tuition waiver for two semesters. This was in 1994.

Soria also saw how OM employed many of the Ilokano students enrolled in the UH Ilokano courses, a realization that came to him only much later in his college years, not knowing that his own Ilokano language, an absent discourse in his homeland, is given due recognition at his own university as one of the world languages programs.

“I think that across the years, OM has been able to live up to its own vision and mission,” Soria said in an interview. “All through the years—and I am a witness to what OM has done—it has lived up to its aim, to what it wants done for and in the name of immigrants, to college-bound students, to students needing assistance to transition to college and to a university culture of learning and studies.”

Malate, herself now an advocate of student rights and opportunities to go the careers in health and health care, speaks of OM as she found it, first as a secretary-general of a Fil-Am organization in 1982.

While she is not herself a product of the OM programs but as “a friend of OM” as she puts it, she saw how OM collaborated with other groups in the university in those days, including her organization, the joint language and culture club of the Ilokano and Tagalog programs of the university, and many others that advanced the cause of heritage rights, student development, leadership, career opportunities, and intensive programs in student teaching and youth development.

“I felt at home when I was with OM,” Malate explains. “We felt we had a home to go to. There was something in the welcoming environment that OM provided for us especially during those years that we were searching for what we were, what we could do, what we could offer to our communities.”

Through the years, OM has been involved in the recruitment and retention of students, in holding students conferences, in providing a wide range of exposures to high school to university life, in educating the community and parents of the need to push students to finish their schooling, and equipping students with the skills to give back to their communities.

OMSS remains as one of the many programs under the office of Student Equity, Excellence, and Diversity directed by Dr. Amy Agbayani.

OMSS is run by Clement Bautista as its director.

Adrienne Guerero and Tina Tauasosi-Posiulai, both program coordinators, assist Bautista in running the day-to-day affairs of the program.

In the next 40 years or so, OMSS, the former OM, shall have delivered most of the goods to the underrepresented groups of students.

By that time, they shall have produced more and more generations of leaders who will make sense because they are steeped in addressing the needs of their communities, the needs of their own people, and the needs of students needing guidance, assistance, and nurturing.

March 2012