8th NAKEM CONFERENCE ON THE ‘THE CENTER FROM THE MARGIN’: THE 4 KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

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The Hon MAGTANGGOL GUNIGUNDO

Member, House of Representatives

Republic of the Philippines 

 

I am truly honored to introduce our first keynote speaker, the Honorable Magtanggol T. Gunigundo.

 

Of the many gifts and talents of Congressman Magi, the name we use—we who are part of the struggle to fight for the right of our people to their own language and culture in a culturally and linguistically diverse country like the Philippines—one that strikes me most is his sense of humility and his simplicity.

 

In a country like the Philippines where these virtues will lead you to salvation, and therefore to the seventh heaven, it is rare to find a political leader like him who walks with and among us on the ground, we who are there with the people all the time and see the dirt and grime of how to fight, and how to fight with dignity for even the most basic things in life as one’s language and culture.

 

Congressman Magi will be remembered as the primus motor—the prime mover—of the movement to change the policy direction and bad educational philosophy in basic education in the Philippines—the education of our educatees in the basic life-long skills in a language not their own. Now called the RA 10533, or the Enhanced Basic Education of 2013, Congressman Magi was the legislative heart and soul of this movement, joining us in campaigns from Zamboanga to other places.

 

When I first met him—he was the deputy majority floorleader of the House of Representatives at that time—we were on our early morning flight to Zamboanga City. I looked at him from my corner, and he was there, seated in his corner, in that Ignatian silence he probably picked up from his law studies at the Ateneo, a kind of silence that, perhaps, not common at the University of the Philippines in Diliman where he finished his bachelor’s in political science. To enhance his political skills, he want to Harvard for a course on the management of economic reform. We now know that the peoples of the Philippines are the beneficiary of these gifts and talents.

 

I am part of an advocacy group based in the Philippines, and the thinking of this group is that we have in Congressman Magi the making of a good secretary of education. We want him to be the next one because he knows how to become one. Like Valjean in Les Miserables, I want to sing that song, ‘Bring Him Home,’ to ask the divine that opportunity be given to him so that, finally, the Philippines will have a person who understands the implications of diversity and multiplicity in basic education and in state-building. I am proud—and I truly am—to have, one way or the other, worked with a sharp and brilliant mind like Congressman Magi. 

 

Dr Quirico S. Samonte Jr.

Professor Emeritus, Eastern Michigan University

 

There is one thing in Dr Samonte that so few people know: that the University of the Philippines lost him to the Eastern Michigan University, and this American and the American public gained a man, and a proud Ilokano at that, who is oozing with humility and brilliance. There is no other proof than his having achieved the highest honor one can be accorded to an academic, the position of Emeritus Professor, a post he holds at Eastern Michigan.

 

I have had the good fortune of doing a critical review of his two narrative works, Panagani and Not At the Table, Please, for a newspaper. In those works, I saw in him that capacity to describe with ethnographic accuracy and precision the difficult issues of the day—the big and small social problems affecting the Philippines. His studies in sociology, first at the University of the Philippines, and then another at Michigan, and then eventually in comparative education for his doctorate has equipped him with that unique gift to dissect the social problem, and offer a solution. From his stint in the United States both as a classroom academic, and then eventually as administrator, he has seen what it takes to teach and to pass on the same passion for teaching to his students. In some other periods of his career, he was chief administrator of several education initiatives in other countries, an experience that brought him to the very roots of multiculturalism in education, to diversity in public life, and to the richness possibilities of cross-cultural encounter.

 

For many years, he remained in the United States, and established a bicultural family, marry Mrs Judith who is a visual artist by whom he has two daughters now grown. This bi-cultural Filipino-American family would make a trip to the Ilocos, to Dr Samonte’s homeland, and would re-experience what the he had gone through as a child of the rural areas.

 

One country’s loss, another country’s gain. That seems to be the many stories of people gifted people like Dr Samonte—people whose light could not be extinguished. I am honored to present to you, Dr Quirico S. Samonte Jr.

 

 

Dr Belinda Ancheta Aquino

Professor Emeritus, U of Hawaii at Manoa  

There are many pillars of the Filipino-American community in Hawaii and one of them is Dr Belinda Aquino.

 

There are many exemplars Filipino academics at the University of Hawaii and one of them is Dr Aquino.

 

There are many activists in the State of Hawaii and one of them is Dr Aquino.

 

There is not one thing that Dr Aquino has not done, and it is for this reason that I am very proud to present her to you today as our next plenary speaker.

 

At one time the Vice President for Public Affairs of the University of the Philippines when I was just a lowly, unnamed assistant professor, in between her teaching career at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Asian Studies and Political Science Departments, Dr Lindy also served the Center for Philippine Studies as the founding director, and stayed in that position for more than 30 years until her retirement several years ago. She studied English, went on to work for the government, took up an East-West scholarship in political science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and then Asian Studies and comparative politics at Cornell. She was on her way home to the Philippines—and was in Hawaii at that time—when Martial Law was declared. That would become the raison d’etre of her decision to stay in Hawaii until today.

 

One of the few Ilokano public intellectuals in Hawaii, she knows the story of the Ilokano people the way she knows the back of her hand, and today, we are going to pick so many things from her recounting and analysis of Ilokano history. 

 

Dr Alegria Visaya

Professor, Mariano Marcos State U &

Chief, Center for Ilocos-Amianan Studies 

 

Together with Dr Miriam Pascua, president of the Mariano Marcos State University, Dr Alegria Tan Visaya is another primus motor—a prime mover—in the Nakem Conferences movement in the Philippines.

 

We were able to put up Nakem in the Philippines because she made it sure that Nakem will find a place there. I must say that the history of Nakem Conferences Philippines is a history of our serendipitous encounter when she came for the Nakem Conference in 2006 in Honolulu, and I challenged them—she and Dr Pascua—to pick up the challenge of putting another Nakem Conference in the Philippines. They did—and this was in 2007, with Dr Alegria and myself co-chairing the conference. 

 

That is how she has put her heart and soul to this movement.

 

She would call me up about six thousand miles away.

 

I would call her up six thousand miles away—and by the phone lines we would be able to solve issues, concerns, and problems.  The reason is that she knows how to solve all of these.

 

She studied mathematics at the MMSU, finishing on top of her class as summa cum laude; went on to study administration and the social science at both Ateneo and the University of the Philippines, and then finishing her degree in educational administration that would lead her to become registrar of her university, professor of graduate studies, and eventually, secretary of the board of regents on top of her being chief of the newly-founded Center for Ilocos-Amianan Studies. 

 

One of the concerns of the Center is the production of emancipatory Amianan and Ilocos knowledge via museum and the maintenance of a library and information services. This is what she is going to talk about today. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege to present to you, Dr Alegria Tan Visaya.  

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