TI AKEM DAGITI ILOKANO NGA ORGANISASION ITI HAWAI’I ITI PANNAKAPADUR-AS TI KULTURA KEN PAGSASAO NGA ILOKANO ITI NAGAN TI DIVERSIDAD KEN PUDNO NGA EDUKASION ITI DEMOKRASIA KEN JUSTISIA
Ni Aurelio Solver Agcaoili
(Bitla iti 2009 Cabugao International Celebration, Waipahu, Hawai’i, Enero 3, 2009)
Thank you, so much, Mr. Brigido Daproza, for your generous introduction.
They say that when a true friend introduces you to his true friends such as his friends at Cabugao International, you must believe—you must believe that that is sincere.
On this note, therefore, I wish to say that Manong Brig has honored me tonight, for which, this honor I will take it to heart, and I will take it to heart forever.
I must also give my thanks to the president of your organization, Mr. Ernie Garcia, whom I had the pleasure of co-directing in his acting for a play with Annak ti Kailokuan iti Amerika last year. Manong Ernie, my gratitude for having me over here tonight.
My gratitude also goes to Mrs. Remy Baclig for believing that I can do justice to your celebration tonight as your guest speaker.
Manang Remy knows that the only thing I can do is to write and recite a lousy poem for birthday celebrators of GUMIL Hawai’i.
Even if she knows how limited I am in terms of my knowledge of what you do, she nudged me to come and speak before you believing that perhaps, just perhaps, I would be able to change course from poetry to public speaking.
I know that there are visitors here who are not Ilokano speaking so please permit me to first speak in English, and then switch to Ilokano to conclude my talk.
When I asked Manang Remy what I would talk about, she said, suit yourself, talk to them, talk to the Cabugao International from your heart.
I took that to mean that I could talk to you about anything—and the meaning of anything, for me, is something that is close to my heart, something that is related to the kind of advocacy work I am doing personally, and I am also doing professionally as administrator of the Ilokano Language and Literature Program of the University of Hawai’i.
I must say—for the information of everyone here present—that our Ilokano Language and Literature Program of the University of Hawai’i is the only such program in the world that offers a scientific and academic study of our Ilokano language and culture.
I say this with the hard facts: there is no other University or College in the whole world that does what we do at the University.
Even the Universities and Colleges in the Philippines do not even have the vision and courage to think for our people, to have a vision of Ilokano language and culture promotion for and in the name of our people.
It pains me to tell you that a University that is more than 7,000 miles away from the Philippines has the courage to admit, and the brilliance to execute its plan to promote our being Ilokanos, and proudly so, to the world.
Our program at the University is the only one that offers any of the three courses: a bachelor of arts in Ilokano—the only one in the world; a minor program in Ilokano—the only one in the world; and a certificate program in Ilokano—the only one in the world.
It pains me also to tell you that in the Philippines, there are problems in the educational system. It is not that there are no problems in the educational system of the United States—there are a lot, including students who have the temerity to talk back to their teachers, or even kill them with a gun.
I know: I have been a teacher in Los Angeles before I moved to Honolulu, and I have seen for myself how our students need to be reformed and now.
But the problem with the Philippines is that the educational system is based on a false—a very false belief—that the only way for our people to get an education is to be educated in English and in Tagalog, which they now call Filipino. Filipino, the term for this national language, is of course a lie—the foolish legislators’ and educators’ way of making us believe that Tagalog is different from Filipino.
We know, of course, that they are the same, even if this foolishness has gone on the inane TFC—The Filipino Channel—that airs all those equally inane shows that make mockery of our women in mini-skirts, as in Eat Bulaga, or make commerce of the misery of our poor people, as in the TV show of Willie Revillame, Wowowee.
This kind of use of Tagalog in the TV medium has invaded our own living rooms, and every Ilokano right now has gone on to believe that the only way to become a true Filipino is to speak Filipino, which is, in fact, Tagalog.
I have nothing against Tagalog as a language.
I have nothing against the Tagalog people.
I have everything against this imposition of Tagalog on our souls—and the way this imposition is turning all of us as Tagalog-speaking at the expense of Ilokano, our very own language.
Something is wrong here—and that something that is wrong must be described with determination and daring as wrong.
That which is something wrong is the making of all Ilokano people as Tagalogs-speaking people. This is a most terrible thing.
It is the making of Ilokanos as people that becomes incompetent in their own language.
A people that is ashamed to admit that they are Ilokanos.
A people who would prefer to be known as Tagalog-speaking even if their accent shows simply that they grow up in Libtong.
I call this the “saan-ka-dimmakkel syndrome”—a kind of mental incapacity that reveals that in the mind is that insecurity one feels when one is found out that he is not Tagalog but Ilokano.
I do not understand why an Ilokano has to hide himself, away from the brilliant lights of his being an Ilokano.
I know some people who would almost always come up with a lame excuse that they did not grow up in the Ilocos, even if they were born there, and that is why they do not know Ilokano that much, and that they are more adept at speaking Tagalog.
If you open your radio station in the morning, you will uncover this pretense of Ilokano announcers and disc jockeys and newscasters trying to hide away from their being Ilokanos, and masking off themselves with their absurd and funny way of speaking Tagalog, their pronunciation clearly the hard, guttural Ilokano even if the words that come out of their lips are Tagalog words.
Clearly, this ‘saan-ka-dimmakkel syndrome’ is hitting us so hard—and it is killing our sense of self, our sense of who we are, our sense of being Ilokanos.
Why have we come to this point? What brings us to the point where we are embarrassed to even admit that we are Ilokanos, when we are embarrassed to admit that we know how to speak Ilokano?
I can surmise several guesses.
One, we have come to believe that our being called Filipino is enough. That is not true.
We are Filipinos because we are a people of the Philippines but we are Ilokanos as well. We cannot pretend that we are Tagalogs, even if we know how to speak the language.
Two, we have come to believe that knowing Tagalog means we are civilized, that we know Manila or that we have been there, that we have lived there, and that Manila, only Manila, is the measure of our worth as Filipinos. This is equally wrong.
Before Manila was ever as city that now makes us parrots and zombies and cultural caricatures, there was an Ilokano nation.
Before there ever was a Philippines, as we understand it today, there already was Ilocos, there already was Ilokano.
This means that the Ilocos and the Ilokano language existed first, that we came first, and our language came first, before this political fantasy and invention we call as Philippines came into existence.
How come now that we have lost the pride of being Ilokanos? How come now that we cannot even say with self-esteem and self-respect that we are Ilokanos?
We are a people with a heritage—with a culture and a language—and this heritage is being denied of us, in the Philippines and elsewhere.
Three, we are continuing to fight for our right to our language and culture—in the Philippines and in the United States.
In the Philippine educational system, we are fighting that Ilokano be returned as the medium of instruction in the public schools, from the pre-school to high school, alongside the teaching of English and Tagalog.
Our view of the matter is this: that students who are taught in their own language are able to understand better those things that they do not know if they become competent in their own language.
In Hawai’i, for instance, this experiment is being done by GEAR-Up at Farrington High School, and which experiment is going to be duplicated at Waipahu High School next year. The seven-year experiment at Farrington High School has given you the facts: that those going through a heritage language in Ilokano are able to hurdle better the challenges of going to college and university and to work for their degree.
In the Philippines, what we have got in the Ilokos are students, who like us in Hawai’i, are ashamed of their being Ilokanos.
For one, they cannot even speak in good Ilokano anymore.
Number two, they cannot read in Ilokano anymore.
Number three, they cannot write in Ilokano anymore.
These same mistakes are repeated all over, and in Hawai’i we hear terrible stories from parents.
One parent has argued with me: Why would I send my son or daughter to an Ilokano class? She or he knows Ilokano already? What would he or she learn in an Ilokano class?
Let me translate this insult for you to understand—an insult directed to us at our Ilokano Program in the University, an insult that is also heard among parents in the Ilocos and in the Ilokanized provinces of the Cordilleras and Cagayan Valley region:
Apay pay laeng a pagadalek ti anakko iti Ilokano? Ammona metten ti agilokano. Ania ngarud ti masursurona dita?
Kunada a ti karigatan a makita ti mata ket ti agong, uray no agkarrubada, uray no aginnasidegda.
Paggaammotayo nga agkarruba ti utek ken dagiti bibigtay—ti utek a lugar ti adal ken ti dagiti bibig a paggubuayan ti pagsasao. Ngem gapu kadi ta agkarrubadan ket ammo aminen ti utek ti rummuar iti bibig?
No kastoy ti panagrasrason dagiti Amerikano, apay pay laeng a dagiti naiyanak ti Amerika a ti umuna nga aweng a mangngeganda ket aweng ti Ingles, ken adalenda pay laeng ti pagsasaoda manipud iti pre-school aginggana iti universidad?
Dagitoy akikid a kapampanunotantayo ti maysa kadagiti rason no apay a marakrakrak ti kinaasinnotayo.
Dagitoy saan a nawada a panagpampanunot nga agbalin a pagtuladan dagiti sabali ti mangdaddadael iti nainkalintegan koma a panagrespetotayo iti karbengantayo iti lengguahe ken kulturatayo.
Iti Amerika, partikular iti Estado ti Hawai’i, adda dagiti programa a mangitantandudo iti panagrespeto iti lengguahetayo, kas iti programatayo iti Universidad.
Kadagiti sistema ti korte ken paglintegan, kas pagarigan, adda dagiti pagalagadan a mangdawdawat iti panangusar iti bukod a lengguahe. Kadagiti interpreter iti korte itatta, narugianen ti panaglisensia dagiti amin nga interpreter babaen ti panagalada iti examinasion nga ituyang ti govierno a federal.
Iti bukodmi a biang, bitbitibitenmi ti pannakapadur-as ti pannakaiyadal ti Ilokano.
Itay napan a tawen, nirugianmi ti Ilokano Plus program iti Maui Community College, maysa a programa a pangpangalantayo koma a mangituyang iti respetado a programa ti Ilokano iti Maui.
Kaniak a biang, adun dagiti panggedan a nagpaspasarak.
Malaksid iti panagisurok iti nadumaduma a pagadalan, nagpapaayak pay a periodista, trabaho nga inaramidko met laeng iti panagimigrantek idiay Los Angeles.
Pinanawak daytoy a trabahok idiay Los Angeles tapno sarangtek ti karit ti mangtagibi ken magpadur-as iti pannakaiwayat ti panangisuro iti Ilokano. Diak ammo a kastoy ti karigat daytoy a karit gapu ta saan met amin a suporta ket ited ti govierno.
Malaksid laeng kadagiti sumagmamano nga organisasion a makaamiris iti rigat ti panangpataray iti kastoy a programa, a pakairamanan ti GUMIL Hawai’i, mabilbilang laeng iti ramay dagiti tumultulong.
Awan babalawen ti kastoy.
Umuna, adu dagiti di makaammo nga adda programa iti Ilokano iti Universidad, nga adda kastoy a programa a makasapul iti tulong.
Maikadua, nakurang siguro ti pannakikammayet daytoy a programa iti komunidad iti naglabas a 37 a tawen, ta naipasdek daytoy a program iti Universidad idi 1972, nga inallawatko idi 2006.
Gapuna nga iti panagsaritak ita iti sanguananyo, sapay ta maallukoyko ti liderato ti Cabugao International tapno iti kasta ket tulongandakami a mangtagibi iti daytoy a programa.
Ti dua nga umuna a pakaseknanmi ket ti pannakapataud ti fondo para iti scholarship dagiti adalanmi a numan pay nalalaingda, ket saan isuda a kabaelan a gastosan dagiti dadakkelda. Maysa pay ditoy ti pannakapataud ti fondo tapno maiwayattayo dagiti sabali pay a projekto.
Inton Noviembre—iti daytoy a Noviembre, isayangkattayonto ti maikapat nga internasional kumperensia ti Nakem.
Daytoy Nakem Conferences ket maysa nga internasional a tignayan iti pannakaprotektar, pannakataripato, ken pannakaipromover ti lengguahe ken kultura nga Ilokano agraman dagiti lengguahe ken kultural iti Amianan.
Daytoy met laeng ti mamagtaripnong kadagiti amin nga edukador, agsuksukisok, cultural worker, mannurat ken policy maker iti kultura dagiti Ilokano ken taga-Amianan.
Sapay ta makikammayetto kadakami ti sibubukel a Cabugao International tapn naimballigian a maisayangkattayo daytoy a kumperensia.
The challenge for all of us Ilokanos is for us to make it certain that our language and culture will not only survive but thrive, and last forever.
At the present, there are an estimated 20 million Ilokanos and Ilokano-speaking people of the world. Our population is that of the population of Australia. Our Ilokano speaking population is almost 20 times that of the population of the State of Hawai’i. But pray, tell me, where are we? There is such a thing as the death of language. If we did not do anything to make it certain that our Ilokano language thrives, God forbid, it will die sooner than we least expect it.
At the Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte, there is this streamer that cries out to the heavens that says only English and Tagalog, or what they call Filipino now, are spoken there.
When I first saw that sign in 2007 when we had the Nakem International Conference in Batac, I felt sad, very sad. I could only grieve—I could only cry from within.
Kasano nga iti bukodmo a paraangan, kasano nga iti bukodmo nga ili, kasano nga iti bukodmo a pagtaengan ket maiparit ti panagsao iti bukodmo a lengguahe?
Ania koma a kita ti kararua ti mangipagel iti bukodna a pagsasao iti lugar a dayta a pagsasao ket natural, a ti aweng dayta a pagsasao ket isu dagiti immuna nga aweng ti panagtao, sa panagubing, sa panagnakem?
No, we cannot continue with this injustice against our language.
No, we cannot say that we are going to allow Ilokano to be relegated to the dustbin of history, relegated to the corner, and left there to rot.
No, we cannot allow that the 20 million Ilokanos and Ilokano-speaking people will simply be wiped out by the unjust language policies of countries where we are found, including the Philippines where our language should have found a cultural public space as a matter of our basic human right.
No, we cannot allow that this injustice in our educational system in the Philippines will continue to be the reason for our oppression as a people.
In the State of Hawaii, there is not this Senate Concurrent Resolution 210 that takes very seriously this issue of respecting our heritage right and thus, the teaching of the heritage languages of the Philippines that we initially defined as Ilokano, Sebuano, and Tagalog.
We need each other then to advance and pursue our case of promoting our Ilokano language and culture. We need each other in this act of correcting the linguistic injustice that has been our lot for a long time.
For indeed, there is injustice in making us believe that we are more Filipino if we speak Tagalog, and that we are less Filipino when we speak Ilokano.
This statement is a sham; it is one big lie we must unmask, as our being Ilokano is what makes us Filipino, and vice versa.
Together, we can make this happen—if only we stopped hating ourselves as Ilokanos because we cannot speak Tagalog enough.
This thinking that has become a false and empty value has got to stop.
I hope that Cabugao International will take up this challenge of renewing ourselves as Ilokanos, of helping us with our work of promoting a more scientific study of our language and culture as a people, and of helping our program and our students through their moral and financial support to our various projects.
I hope that in the future, Cabugao International will take up the cudgels, as GUMIL Hawai’i has done, and come to help us so we can help our students.
Dios ti agngina. Naimbag a rabiiyo amin.
Thank you and good evening to all of you.