Ilokano Language, 4

Standard

The Ilokano Language:

History, Culture, and Structure

 

Series 4, Revisiting the Ilokano Syllabary

 

By Aurelio S. Agcaoili, Ph.D.

    Program Coordinator, Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film

    University of Hawai’i at Manoa

    Honolulu, Hawai’i

 

(This is a series of essays on the Ilokano language. The series—to number 54—hopes to explore, together with the creative writers, the readers, and the Ilokano language and culture teachers, some of the productive ways by which we can explain the structure of the Ilokano language, and the history and culture of the Ilokano people that are embedded in that language. In this age of renewed calls for a Philippine discourse on diversity and multiculturalism as framework for nation building and development, a critical reflection on the Ilokano language is not only urgent but also necessary. This version does away with the scientific format but uses instead the popular version, but with references included within the text so that those who would like to verify the data may have a clue where to look for them. A parallel series in Ilokano is being prepared and will be made available for dissemination by the end of 2008.)

 

 

There has been some confusion on Ilokano orthography in the recent years, with proposals to revisit the kind of ‘popularized’ way of writing of the language that started with Bannawag and other printed media, but veritably initiated by creative writers who had access to the means for popular literary expressions, including the drama form, the ‘komedia’ and the zarzuela. From a diachronic perspective, we can trace these attempts towards the ‘modernization’ of the orthography with the 60’s that somehow traces its roots in the 50’s, with the initial movement for a new orthographic form of the language in the 40’s. One of the small acts to such an attempt is the initiative to gradually phase out of the cumbersome ‘quet’ and ‘quen’ that both saw their abbreviation into ‘qt’ and ‘qn’, respectively, in some of the writings of the creative writers and the letters of people that invariably began with that formulaic first sentence greeting, to wit, “Yaman quen ragsac ti adda kenca no dumanon ti napnuan iliw a suratco cadacayo amin a sangapada. Sapay ta pia quen caradcad ti adda coma amin cadacayo quet babaen ti bendision ti Apo a Namarsua quet taginayonenna coma ti pia quen caradcadyo. Quet no dacami met ti incayo damagen, pagyamanmi met iti Apo ta salun-at quen kired met ti adda kadakami a siiliw amin cadakayo—Thanks and joy be yours upon receipt of my letter to you, a letter filled with the feeling of missing you all. I hope that health and strength are with you and through the blessing of God the Creator may He continue to give you health and strength. And if you wish to ask how we are, we thank the Lord for the health and strength that we have, all of us who miss you all.” This formulaic salutation was common in Laoag in the 60’s and 70’s when the more popular forms of communication were the letter and the radio, and for serious matters, the telegram that was as economic as today’s text messaging except that it was only one way unlike the capability of the short messaging system for a continuing, almost endless to-and-fro of messages that border on the inane to the zany.

 

A rare book authored by Conchita Valdez, was published in Honolulu, Hawai’i presumably right after the Second World War. The book, “Combined Love Letters in English and Ilocano,” does not bear any year of printing but the letters bear the years spanning 1929 to 1946. Dedicating it to General Gregorio del Pilar, “the most romantic as well as the most heroic of all the officers of the Philippine Revolution” according to the author, the book contains the use of the ‘ken’ in its ‘k’ form and has dropped the references to the ‘q’ for the ‘k’ sound altogether, as was the custom of the previous period. We must understand that based on the dates of the sample letters, the printing of the third edition which is in my possession, is probably after the Second World War. The book’s reference to S.S. Maunawili, the last ship that would bring the last batch of workers from the Philippines to the plantations of Hawai’i, suggests that the “Letters” could have been printed in 1946 or a bit later. But we must understand that this book that I have is the third edition, which explains the earlier letters bearing the year 1929. Says the foreword in Ilokano, “Pakauna iti baro a pannakaideppelna”: “Nainayon iti daytoy a baro a pannakideppelna, dagiti sumagmamano a naaramid kalpasan ti gubat, gubat a kadangkukan pay laeng a napasamak ditoy a lubong. Dagiti binalayan ni ayat ditoy Hawai’i, isuda a naipusing, iti saan laeng a lasag no di pay gapu iti saandan a pannakapagsursurat kas bunga ti gubat, a nanguram itoy lubong manipud idi Diciembre 1941 agingga iti pannakaluk-at ti Filipinas idi 1946, adda a masarakan ti katulad sursuratda kadagiti binulong daytoy a pagbasaan…. (Included in this new edition are several letters made after the war, the most atrocious war that happened in this world. For those who have fallen in love here in Hawai’i, those who were weaned away, not only in the flesh but also because they had not been able to write as a result of the war that set the world on fire from December 1941 until the liberation of the Philippines in 1946, here they find a template of their letters on the pages of this reading material….” The English preface, not an exact translation of the Ilokano version, says: “The book was written to meet the peculiar situations in which young Filipino lovers find themselves in Hawai’i, Amerika and Guam. Often the girl friends are thousands of miles away across the sea, in their barrios or neighboring towns in the Philippines. To write them is a problem, and to get them to consent to come to Hawai’i or America, once they succeed in their pursuit to love and be loved is another problem….”   

 

The first letter of March 10, 1929 says: “Miss Maria Bumanglag, Ipakpakaunak met ken ka iti disso a napatak, a nanipod pay idi damo a pannakayammo-ammom kaniak ken apaman a ginuyogymo toy conciensiak a tulongan ka iti tarigagayam, babaen ti panangkitak kadagiti gagayyemko timmauden toy nasam-it a kalikagum a sika koma ti mapagasatan ken mabalangatan a tumugaw iti trono ni dayaw.” The author’s translation runs: “But to be frank with you, in the beginning when you first asked me to help you see my friends in behalf of your candidacy I had only a disinterested desire for you to sit on the throne amidst the applause and admiration of the multitude and this was the reason of my help and sacrifice.” The point of the matter here is that if it were true that the year 1929 was the time the letter as a template for the lover letter-writing pursuits of love-starved Ilokano lovers in the plantations, then we can go back to that year as the beginning of the getting away from the Hispanicized rendition of the ‘ken’ and ‘ket’, two of the most easily spotted ‘indigenous’ words of the Ilokano language that admitted representation in writing using the ‘q’.

 

These issues reflect the kind of a syllabary the Ilokanos had prior to the coming of the Spanish colonizers. That long book, as copied out in full by Marcelino Foronda in his book “Dallang: An Introduction to Philippine Literature in Ilokano and Other Essays,” bears the “Libro a Naisuratan amin ti bagas/ti Doctrina Christiana/nga naisurat iti Libro ti Cardinal a agnagan Belarmino, ket inacu ti P. Fr. Francisco Lopez/padre a Agustin iti Siansamtoy/Ad dandam Scientiam Salu/ti plebes ejus/Cant. Bach.” Foronda says in his note that this book is a translation by Francisco Lopez of the catechetical work of Cardinal Bellarmino, which saw its first printing in 1620, an extant copy of which is found at the Lopez Memorial Museum in Pasay City. Foronda also says that a latter version bearing the 1621, as the year of publication was the first known version before the 1620 version was discovered. We note here that the title of the 1620 version as copied out by Foronda in his note uses the ‘ket’ in the ‘k’ form and not in the ‘q’ as was the custom found in many documents during the longer period of colonization. However, the 1621 version referred to by Rubino in his discussion of the Ilokano syllabary, “an Indic syllabary similar to that used by Tagalog speakers,” has this title with the ‘q’ in the ‘quet’: “Doctrina Cristiana (Libro a naisuratan amin ti bagas ti Doctrina Cristiana nga naisurat iti libro ti cardenal agnagan Belarmino quet inaon ti Fr. Francisco Lopes, padre a San Agustin iti sinasantoy).” We note here the orthographic changes in the following words: Christiana-Cristiana, ket-quet, and Siansamtoy-sinasantoy.

 

Using these are samples to get into the bottom of that difficult task of writing the Ilokano language today—a real problem, indeed—with the lack of an honest-to-goodness body to propose a standardized form of the language’s orthography—and now, its grammar, we can deduce this clearly: that while there was—there is—the Ilokano syllabary, it has not presented itself as capable of reflecting critically the changes of the Ilokano language as a result of its continuing contacts with other languages including the duty to reflect the various opportunities for language development as needed by the speech community of Ilokanos.  This is not to invite a cynical, even pessimistic and dismissive view, as some of the uninformed scholars and researchers tend to do, that holds that there is not yet a ‘correct’ form of writing the language and that there is not yet ‘a legitimate rendering’ of its grammatical structure. This is certainly not true, as I pointed out in our workshop at the Mariano Marcos State University in July 2007 when, in that workshop, someone remarked that there is not yet a standard Ilokano grammar. Such a reckless remark from people who should be in the know ought not to be taken for granted but must be used as a battleground for reminding people that the Ilokano language has since have its various forms of writing and that it does have its ‘standard’ grammar, however inchoate this is. A review of the literature of those who had worked on the Ilokano language tells us that there has been serious researches since the beginning of the 19th century, not to mention the work of preservation, however fragmented and flawed, by the friars and other members of the religious institutions across the Ilokano colonial history.

 

To understand how we decide on the orthography, it is important that we understand the history of the sounds of the Ilokano language in the beginning, how these sounds were represented in writing through the Ilokano syllabary, how the language got into contact with other languages, hence the borrowing, and how the old form of pronunciation and writing resulting from this contact and borrowing created a deficit, and thus, the need to open up the phonetic and orthographic system to these challenges.

 

Rubino, in “Ilocano: Ilokano-English/English-Ilocano Dictionary and Phrasebook,” reproduced the Ilokano syllabary based on the Doctrina Christiana and from there we see the three vocoids (a, e-i, o-u) and the 14 contoids (ba, ka, da, ga, nga, la, ma, na, pa, ha, sa, ta, va, ya). A return to these representations of these native sounds reveals to us the kind of mind operative in the early form of Ilokano. We see that from this fundamental form of the syllabary, it would soon grow to include other words, and other sounds, including the need to adjust the syllabary to reflect the changes due to the linguistic and cultural contact with the colonizers and other socio-economic forces.

 

(To be continued.)

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The Ilokano Language, 4

Standard

The Ilokano Language:

History, Culture, and Structure

 

Series 4, Revisiting the Ilokano Syllabary

 

 

By Aurelio S. Agcaoili, Ph.D.

    Program Coordinator, Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film

    University of Hawai’i at Manoa

    Honolulu, Hawai’i

 

(This is a series of essays on the Ilokano language. The series—to number 54—hopes to explore, together with the creative writers, the readers, and the Ilokano language and culture teachers, some of the productive ways by which we can explain the structure of the Ilokano language, and the history and culture of the Ilokano people that are embedded in that language. In this age of renewed calls for a Philippine discourse on diversity and multiculturalism as framework for nation building and development, a critical reflection on the Ilokano language is not only urgent but also necessary. This version does away with the scientific format but uses instead the popular version, but with references included within the text so that those who would like to verify the data may have a clue where to look for them. A parallel series in Ilokano is being prepared and will be made available for dissemination by the end of 2008.)

 

 

There has been some confusion on Ilokano orthography in the recent years, with proposals to revisit the kind of ‘popularized’ way of writing of the language that started with Bannawag and other printed media, but veritably initiated by creative writers who had access to the means for popular literary expressions, including the drama form, the ‘komedia’ and the zarzuela. From a diachronic perspective, we can trace these attempts towards the ‘modernization’ of the orthography with the 60’s that somehow traces its roots in the 50’s, with the initial movement for a new orthographic form of the language in the 40’s. One of the small acts to such an attempt is the initiative to gradually phase out of the cumbersome ‘quet’ and ‘quen’ that both saw their abbreviation into ‘qt’ and ‘qn’, respectively, in some of the writings of the creative writers and the letters of people that invariably began with that formulaic first sentence greeting, to wit, “Yaman quen ragsac ti adda kenca no dumanon ti napnuan iliw a suratco cadacayo amin a sangapada. Sapay ta pia quen caradcad ti adda coma amin cadacayo quet babaen ti bendision ti Apo a Namarsua quet taginayonenna coma ti pia quen caradcadyo. Quet no dacami met ti incayo damagen, pagyamanmi met iti Apo ta salun-at quen kired met ti adda kadakami a siiliw amin cadakayo—Thanks and joy be yours upon receipt of my letter to you, a letter filled with the feeling of missing you all. I hope that health and strength are with you and through the blessing of God the Creator may He continue to give you health and strength. And if you wish to ask how we are, we thank the Lord for the health and strength that we have, all of us who miss you all.” This formulaic salutation was common in Laoag in the 60’s and 70’s when the more popular forms of communication were the letter and the radio, and for serious matters, the telegram that was as economic as today’s text messaging except that it was only one way unlike the capability of the short messaging system for a continuing, almost endless to-and-fro of messages that border on the inane to the zany.

 

A rare book authored by Conchita Valdez, was published in Honolulu, Hawai’i presumably right after the Second World War. The book, “Combined Love Letters in English and Ilocano,” does not bear any year of printing but the letters bear the years spanning 1929 to 1946. Dedicating it to General Gregorio del Pilar, “the most romantic as well as the most heroic of all the officers of the Philippine Revolution” according to the author, the book contains the use of the ‘ken’ in its ‘k’ form and has dropped the references to the ‘q’ for the ‘k’ sound altogether, as was the custom of the previous period. We must understand that based on the dates of the sample letters, the printing of the third edition which is in my possession, is probably after the Second World War. The book’s reference to S.S. Maunawili, the last ship that would bring the last batch of workers from the Philippines to the plantations of Hawai’i, suggests that the “Letters” could have been printed in 1946 or a bit later. But we must understand that this book that I have is the third edition, which explains the earlier letters bearing the year 1929. Says the foreword in Ilokano, “Pakauna iti baro a pannakaideppelna”: “Nainayon iti daytoy a baro a pannakideppelna, dagiti sumagmamano a naaramid kalpasan ti gubat, gubat a kadangkukan pay laeng a napasamak ditoy a lubong. Dagiti binalayan ni ayat ditoy Hawai’i, isuda a naipusing, iti saan laeng a lasag no di pay gapu iti saandan a pannakapagsursurat kas bunga ti gubat, a nanguram itoy lubong manipud idi Diciembre 1941 agingga iti pannakaluk-at ti Filipinas idi 1946, adda a masarakan ti katulad sursuratda kadagiti binulong daytoy a pagbasaan…. (Included in this new edition are several letters made after the war, the most atrocious war that happened in this world. For those who have fallen in love here in Hawai’i, those who were weaned away, not only in the flesh but also because they had not been able to write as a result of the war that set the world on fire from December 1941 until the liberation of the Philippines in 1946, here they find a template of their letters on the pages of this reading material….” The English preface, not an exact translation of the Ilokano version, says: “The book was written to meet the peculiar situations in which young Filipino lovers find themselves in Hawai’i, Amerika and Guam. Often the girl friends are thousands of miles away across the sea, in their barrios or neighboring towns in the Philippines. To write them is a problem, and to get them to consent to come to Hawai’i or America, once they succeed in their pursuit to love and be loved is another problem….”   

 

The first letter of March 10, 1929 says: “Miss Maria Bumanglag, Ipakpakaunak met ken ka iti disso a napatak, a nanipod pay idi damo a pannakayammo-ammom kaniak ken apaman a ginuyogymo toy conciensiak a tulongan ka iti tarigagayam, babaen ti panangkitak kadagiti gagayyemko timmauden toy nasam-it a kalikagum a sika koma ti mapagasatan ken mabalangatan a tumugaw iti trono ni dayaw.” The author’s translation runs: “But to be frank with you, in the beginning when you first asked me to help you see my friends in behalf of your candidacy I had only a disinterested desire for you to sit on the throne amidst the applause and admiration of the multitude and this was the reason of my help and sacrifice.” The point of the matter here is that if it were true that the year 1929 was the time the letter as a template for the lover letter-writing pursuits of love-starved Ilokano lovers in the plantations, then we can go back to that year as the beginning of the getting away from the Hispanicized rendition of the ‘ken’ and ‘ket’, two of the most easily spotted ‘indigenous’ words of the Ilokano language that admitted representation in writing using the ‘q’.

 

These issues reflect the kind of a syllabary the Ilokanos had prior to the coming of the Spanish colonizers. That long book, as copied out in full by Marcelino Foronda in his book “Dallang: An Introduction to Philippine Literature in Ilokano and Other Essays,” bears the “Libro a Naisuratan amin ti bagas/ti Doctrina Christiana/nga naisurat iti Libro ti Cardinal a agnagan Belarmino, ket inacu ti P. Fr. Francisco Lopez/padre a Agustin iti Siansamtoy/Ad dandam Scientiam Salu/ti plebes ejus/Cant. Bach.” Foronda says in his note that this book is a translation by Francisco Lopez of the catechetical work of Cardinal Bellarmino, which saw its first printing in 1620, an extant copy of which is found at the Lopez Memorial Museum in Pasay City. Foronda also says that a latter version bearing the 1621, as the year of publication was the first known version before the 1620 version was discovered. We note here that the title of the 1620 version as copied out by Foronda in his note uses the ‘ket’ in the ‘k’ form and not in the ‘q’ as was the custom found in many documents during the longer period of colonization. However, the 1621 version referred to by Rubino in his discussion of the Ilokano syllabary, “an Indic syllabary similar to that used by Tagalog speakers,” has this title with the ‘q’ in the ‘quet’: “Doctrina Cristiana (Libro a naisuratan amin ti bagas ti Doctrina Cristiana nga naisurat iti libro ti cardenal agnagan Belarmino quet inaon ti Fr. Francisco Lopes, padre a San Agustin iti sinasantoy).” We note here the orthographic changes in the following words: Christiana-Cristiana, ket-quet, and Siansamtoy-sinasantoy.

 

Using these are samples to get into the bottom of that difficult task of writing the Ilokano language today—a real problem, indeed—with the lack of an honest-to-goodness body to propose a standardized form of the language’s orthography—and now, its grammar, we can deduce this clearly: that while there was—there is—the Ilokano syllabary, it has not presented itself as capable of reflecting critically the changes of the Ilokano language as a result of its continuing contacts with other languages including the duty to reflect the various opportunities for language development as needed by the speech community of Ilokanos.  This is not to invite a cynical, even pessimistic and dismissive view, as some of the uninformed scholars and researchers tend to do, that holds that there is not yet a ‘correct’ form of writing the language and that there is not yet ‘a legitimate rendering’ of its grammatical structure. This is certainly not true, as I pointed out in our workshop at the Mariano Marcos State University in July 2007 when, in that workshop, someone remarked that there is not yet a standard Ilokano grammar. Such a reckless remark from people who should be in the know ought not to be taken for granted but must be used as a battleground for reminding people that the Ilokano language has since have its various forms of writing and that it does have its ‘standard’ grammar, however inchoate this is. A review of the literature of those who had worked on the Ilokano language tells us that there has been serious researches since the beginning of the 19th century, not to mention the work of preservation, however fragmented and flawed, by the friars and other members of the religious institutions across the Ilokano colonial history.

 

To understand how we decide on the orthography, it is important that we understand the history of the sounds of the Ilokano language in the beginning, how these sounds were represented in writing through the Ilokano syllabary, how the language got into contact with other languages, hence the borrowing, and how the old form of pronunciation and writing resulting from this contact and borrowing created a deficit, and thus, the need to open up the phonetic and orthographic system to these challenges.

 

Rubino, in “Ilocano: Ilokano-English/English-Ilocano Dictionary and Phrasebook,” reproduced the Ilokano syllabary based on the Doctrina Christiana and from there we see the three vocoids (a, e-i, o-u) and the 14 contoids (ba, ka, da, ga, nga, la, ma, na, pa, ha, sa, ta, va, ya). A return to these representations of these native sounds reveals to us the kind of mind operative in the early form of Ilokano. We see that from this fundamental form of the syllabary, it would soon grow to include other words, and other sounds, including the need to adjust the syllabary to reflect the changes due to the linguistic and cultural contact with the colonizers and other socio-economic forces.

 

(To be continued.)

Ilokano Language, 3

Standard

The Ilokano Language:

History, Culture, and Structure 

Series 3, Sorting out the ‘loko/luko/look/luco’ controversy 

 

By Aurelio S. Agcaoili, Ph.D.

    Program Coordinator, Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film

    University of Hawai’i at Manoa

    Honolulu, Hawai’i

 

(This is a series of essays on the Ilokano language. The series—to number 54—hopes to explore, together with the creative writers, the readers, and the Ilokano language and culture teachers, some of the productive ways by which we can explain the structure of the Ilokano language, and the history and culture of the Ilokano people that are embedded in that language. In this age of renewed calls for a Philippine discourse on diversity and multiculturalism as framework for nation building and development, a critical reflection on the Ilokano language is not only urgent but also necessary. This version does away with the scientific format but uses instead the popular version, but with references included within the text so that those who would like to verify the data may have a clue where to look for them. A parallel series in Ilokano is being prepared and will be made available for dissemination by the end of 2008.)

 

The question on where does the term ‘Ilocos’—the basis of my proposed contemporary rendering of ‘Ilokano’ to mean both the people and their language—come from had doggedly resulted in some confusion on the part of the Ilokanos themselves and scholars and cultural researchers.

 

In my search of the origin of the word, I have come across a variety of interpretations and the more popular ones are: (a) the riu-kiu/ryu-kiu/liukiu theory that refers to the Ilocos as the ‘island adjacent to the Mainland’, with this Mainland presumably referring to China; and (b) the usual culprits, the Spaniards, who, in their ignorance, and then the equal ignorance of those whom they asked what the place they were in was and the response was the word ‘looc/look’ which meant the cove; the usual Spanish interpretation of the lay of the Ilocos land, the lay revealing a riverine system which has its roots in ‘iloc’, a Tagalog word for river, ‘ilog’, with the terminal contoid ‘g’ beyond the pronunciation ability of the Spaniards, hence, its phonetic rendering into ‘iloc’, from which it came the glorious name, ‘Ilocos’.  

 

Theory (a) was popularized by Resurreccion Calip when in 1957 he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Epic of Lam-ang for the University of Santo Tomas, “The Iloko Epic—Lam-ang: A Critico-Anthropological Analysis.” In his treatise, Calip came across the possibility that ‘Ilokos’ could have come from ‘I-riu-kiu’ and its other renderings based on some characters. He argued that since the Ilokanos have had long history of contact with the Chinese traders, the existence of such characters in the Chinese accounts prove the fact that the Ilokos could have been thought of as part of the idea of a China as a huge land, a huge kingdom with islands adjacent to it.

 

In 1958, George Kerr came up with his study of the Okinawan people, “Okinawa, the History of an Island People.” In this book, he talks about the Ryukyus or the Ryukyu Islands, now known by its new Japanese name Okinawa, although in the earlier times, Okinawa was merely a part of the Kingdom of Ryukyu.

 

Kerr talks of the characters that could be rendered in several ways, mainly Japanese and Chinese but transliterated by historical sources from the West as well: ‘Ryukyu’ for the Japanese and ‘Liu Ch’iu’ for the Chinese. The Western transliterations, one of which was used by the United States in its treaty it entered into with that kingdom in 1854, “Compact between the United States and the Kingdom of Lewchew,” are numerous: ‘Reoo Keoo,’ ‘Likiwu,’ ‘Liquii,’ ‘Liquea,’ and ‘Leung-Khieou.’ And an Okinawan dialect, Kerr reports, had also rendered it ‘Doo Choo.’

 

From this Kerr account, the Calip interpretation now self-destructs: it is not the Ilokos being referred to but the Kingdom of Ryukyu which is now administratively known in Japan, as Okinawa. Another point that makes the Calip account a mere wild guess and therefore, does not admit of urgency and immediacy of ownership—and hence, invalid—is the fact that when a people name themselves, would they get their name—their very identity from some other extraneous, outside, strange source and use that to account who they are, or were, as was the case of the early Ilokanos?

 

This then brings us to the point of the whole scale account of Spanish ignorance of the Ilokano people and who they are. We must remember at this point that the colonial project of the Spaniards—a project blessed by a Vatican pope, through a bull, no less—was not simply an innocent act of ‘announcing’ the Good News to the heathens, the pagans, the unbaptized, and the uncivilized, categories that the West used to prop up their claim of having gotten a message from their white God, and that this white God was commanding them to go to other nations and make them nations of Christianity. We must remember that when the Spanish colonizer came, he brought along with him two kinds of sinister foot soldiers: one kind, to show his earthly might and power through the gun-toting mercenaries; and the other, the soldier of the faith, the bible-wielding know-it-all soutaned messenger of salvation who had the power to baptize in the name of the white God they brought with them. 

 

No, we cannot accept the Calip account and neither can we accept the ignorance of the Spanish chroniclers.

 

This leaves us with no other option except to figure out from what we have got: to understand, on the basis of our own language, on the basis of our own unique history, on the basis of our ecology, on the basis of our own self-understanding of our world and our relationships. In short, we need to go back to the tradition of giving a name to our land, to our homes, to ourselves. Before the coming of the colonizers, we were named in so many ways, one of which was through the acknowledgement of the kind of virtue and gift and promise and talent we could offer, in oblation, to our communities. This is why Calip missed the point altogether when he missed the clue that Lam-ang, himself, named himself, and that he did not need other people to name him.

 

From the traces of the term ‘Iloko’, we can truly break it down into simpler parts: the prefix ‘i’, meaning from, and the root, ‘loko’, which by the virtue of some linguistic transposition, could refer to ‘lokong,’ the lowland, the low point of the lay of the land. This is a most plausible account in many ways: (a) the intercultural and transcommunal relationship between the upland peoples and the lowlanders, with the linguistic clue on the upland, now Cordillerans, another one of those misnomers courtesy of the Spaniards: Igorot or Igorot can be broken down into: ‘i’, to mean ‘from’, and ‘gorot/golot’, to mean mountain.

 

We must understand that in those times, as it is now, people are defined by their places, by their origins, by their ancestral beginnings—in effect, by the very land that sustains them. That itself serves as the main marker for self-identity and the kind of dynamic that is involved in it. From that linguistic sleuthing comes a broad view of a cosmos that the Ilokano and the Igorot people shared since time immemorial: that the Ilokanos were people of the ‘lukong,’ the slopes, the plains, the places that lead to the sea and that the Igorots were people of the hills, the mountains, the uplands and that these references are as tentative as the movement of the ‘amianan’ wind—that wind that brings in all the freshness of the sea, the rain, the fecundity of both the earth of these two peoples who are two only by reason of their residential accidents but not two in the end but one because they share a life-giving nexus, a living connexion with each other, an intersection of their lives in language, rites, rituals, technology, stories, and knowledge in general.

 

The Epic of Lam-ang it itself a living proof: Lam-ang was an Ilokano because he came from the ‘lukong’ but Ines Kannoyan was an Igorot because she came from the ‘gulot/gulod’. The beautiful but tragic life and love of Diego Silang and Gabriela Silang is another proof: Diego was from the ‘lukong’, Gabriela was from the uplands.

 

The lesson we learn from here is simple: we name ourselves and we do not allow others to do that to us. That, I think, is contrary to our ‘panagbuniag’ tradition, with our reference to the god Buni. This is why we acknowledge progress with the allusion to the god of progress, Lung-aw, which is why we say, “Nakalung-aw met bassiten, apo!—We have already progressed a bit, my lord!” This is why we do the ‘ayab’—“Umaykan, umaykan, diak agbatbati!” This is why we do the ‘sirok-ti-latok’, the ritual of naming under a platter. 

 

It is this resisting the naming by other that spells the difference between self-redemption that we can do to ourselves and the kind of redemption that colonizers offer us for a fee: our very souls, our very lands, our very names, our very riches—in short, ourselves and who we are.

 

In short, the Ilokano is plain and simple ‘taga-lukong.’ Indeed, ‘ilukong’.

 

(To be continued) 

 

 

  

STAND BY YOUR ORGANIZATION

Standard

STAND BY YOUR ORGANIZATION
BECAUSE THAT IS THE MORAL THING TO DO

(Address as Guest Speaker, AFHA General Assembly, Pacific Beach Hotel, Honolulu, HI, December 7, 2007.)

Thank you so much, Gerry, for this wonderful introduction.

I wish to thank as well the Board of Directors of Adult Foster Home Association for this invitation to speak before you this evening. I wish to thank your president, Lani Aki, and Mrs. Thelma Ortal for this invitation.

Indeed, I feel privileged to be among you—and to be among friends.

But, I feel more privileged because I feel—and I am confident with this feeling—that I am among co-warriors.

For tonight marks a different AFHA, an AFHA that is far more different than the kind of AFHA that I have seen in the last few months that I have had that rare privilege of being with the Board of Directors.

It is my intimate knowledge of what AFHA has gone through that I wish to share with you tonight in this gathering of members and friends and sympathizers to the cause of care giving in this State, and by extension, in this country.

Let me start by using a metaphor that all of you quite well know, one that is too familiar to you, and hoping that it gets to you right on.

My knowledge of your organization came at the time that is both serendipitous and sacred.

A few months ago, I got a call from Manang Thelma Ortal, one of the key officers of AFHA.

I was in the middle of my creative writing, right in my office at the University, perhaps one early evening.

It was one of those romantic moments that I always cherish each early evening when I have all the time to myself, sit down before my computer, and think thoughts about many things including writing a poem or two about love, about sickness, about dying, even about care giving—about so many things from the daily grind of our human life.

About this time, the students normally are gone.

I sit before my computer, with a window that gives me a view towards the mountainsides of Manoa. The lights are flickering—and that view gives me hope, a hope that each evening gives way to another morning with lots of rainbows and sunshine, at least in the Manoa valley where I earn my living day in and day out.

Then the telephone rings.

I thought that there is something frantic in the way the telephone rang.

I picked it up and said my aloha, and there, at the end of the line, is Manang Thelma telling me, quizzing me, cross-examining me, if indeed I am that smart and brilliant kind of a guy—and if so—can I please come and help AFHA because AFHA was going through heavy rains, hurricane, blizzard, heavy winter snow, and heavy rainfall, and deluge, and storm, and typhoon. And a similar Hurricane Katrina of a calamitous and disastrous kind.

I did not know how to answer Manang Thelma.

What would I say?

I was not the smart and brilliant guy that she way expecting.

But I thought I could help them out go figure what they can do to put things in order.

So I told her: I do not know about my being so good and smart—but I know about you as my Manang, and if that would serve, I could come and take a peep of what are you up to.

That was what I said.

I did not know that since that time I would be forever punished by again asking me to speak before you tonight. I only hope that I would be able to say the right things.

So there—for showing that I could contribute something, Manang Thelma asked me again to come and speak with you.

I know I am in good hands, with smart caregivers and brilliant foster homeowners around—but to speak about things that you know pretty well is not something that is easy to do.

But let me try by starting with the lessons I learned from your organizing work.

I came in to AFHA as an informal adviser—without any appointment.

As soon as I had my hands into the records of your organization, I went to work, burying myself into the crisscrossing facts that sometimes need deciphering and organizing to make logic out of it.

I realized pretty soon that something needs to be done—that AFHA needs to solidify
itself, with all members ideally closing ranks, do some loyalty check if necessary if it wanted to get out of its troubles still alive and kicking.

You had a beautiful ship—some kind of a Titanic in splendor and promise and luxuriant shape—but your ship was in for an iceberg somewhere.

I had doubts—I had misgivings about what to say, more so what to do.

But I knew that I had to say the right things even if it meant earning the ire of some of the members of the Board of Directors, of some of the officers, of some of the members of the General Assembly.

It was about this time that the rocking of the AFHA Titanic got to be more fierce and fiery, with an exchange of nuclear bombs coming from other sides, with one side unerringly throwing a bombshell each day, in a regular fashion.

We hit the iceberg, and lo and behold, the AFHA Titanic went in half—as it is now.

But this is not a cause for alarm, but a cause for joy.

I know this—this split—will end up in something that is graced and blessed somewhere in time, somehow.

With your allowing me to enter into the life—into the intimate and sanctified life of your organization at a time that you did not want other people to get to know what was happening because there was something not so clean and not so pretty that is happening—and that something that is not so clean and not so pretty has caused some kind of an infection among the ranks of the organization’s members, this rare opportunity that you gave me to take part in your affairs as you go through the process of getting infected and then as you go through the process of getting healed from that infection—that to me is a most generous act, a gesture of welcome, an openness of heart and soul that is not given to all.

I feel lucky that I came in at AFHA as one of the informal advisers at the time that our advice was needed.

We can never be happier, we are not happier, and I feel personally, I am never better.

To become a witness to your history as an organization is indeed an opportunity for learning and teaching, for translating our words into action.

It has not been easy, I must say, and it is still not easy, as you might feel.

There is still some hesitancy somewhere.

There is still that ambivalence in some nook and cranny of our head—and believe, some doubts continue to linger as to what has, in fact, happened to this organization that was once one, but is no longer so.

That, to me is a legitimate issue.

But that to me is not the question now.

The question, to me, as you would know, is how to move on from here.

How do we repair the damage?

How do we address the issue of public image of the organization having been damaged in some sort of way?

How do make people see that this Adult Foster Home Association means so well, means business, and that its leaders means so well and means business?

I am pretty sure that the landscape is not yet that cleared, and somehow, some strange elements will continue to sow intrigue and division among your ranks.

Some people with sinister agendum will continue to divide you—you mark my word.

And in the language of organizational management—some people will continue to reap the glory and honor that you all have worked hard for in a long while, crisis or no crisis.

Some people will continue to test your endurance by spreading rumors that run the gamut from some people stealing your money to some people saying that you have no money any longer because your officers have stolen every cent of it.

Do not be fazed.

Do not doubt.

In my work with this organization as your informal adviser, I have seen with my own very eyes, how your current officers have worked so darn hard to be able to address all the organizational problems that you were beset with.

And this I must tell you: They did their best to address these issues with grace, poise, and dignity, allowing no one to rattle them, staying so focused with the issues and with the solutions, and giving off their time and money—and person—to be of service to you.

It was a blessing to have worked with your present crop of directors—and I say this before this assembly: To your present board led by your president Lani Aki, I take my hats off to all of you.

I have seen you all in the worst of times of your organization—and even in these worst of times, you have proven all the time that you have the best of perspectives, the best of patient endurance, the best of patient understanding of how to run an organization that is so huge like yours.

I have seen you all in the best of times of your organization—and in these best of times you have proven that you have what it takes to have self-respect, to have respect for other people even if other people do not know how to give respect, and to maintain calm and happy disposition in the effort to draw an enlightened vision of what you need to do next.

I know that as you went through these numerous trials and tribulations—as you went through the fire—you drew as you keep on drawing—your strength and inspiration from your members, your members who stood by your side, your members who did not simply kibitz but found a way to connect and reconnect with you.

I am certain that without the support of your members who are here, your members who are not here but are here in spirit just the same, you were able to withstand the worst tsunami that you have ever gone through and experienced in your lifetime.

To the members, I say: stand by your officers, stand by your directors, and stand by your organization.

Because this organization is honest.

Because this organization is sincere.

Because this organization is professional in its dealings.

Because this organization means business.

And this organization is going to stay.

To all of you, I give you my aloha.

To all of you, I give you my greetings for the best of the holiday.

Thank you so much and good evening.

Hon, HI
Dec 7/07