Some Notes on the Modernization of Ilokano (Ninth part)

One issue at stake in all these debates, argumentation, and never-ending proposition-giving relative to the ‘standardization’ issue of the Ilokano language is what Joel Manuel calls ‘reintellectualization.’

(Aurelio S. Agcaoili, PhD, teaches at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and coordinates the Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program of the Department of Hawaiian and Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures. You can email him at: [email protected] or log on to his website: for other articles on Ilokano life, culture, and society. – Ed)

One issue at stake in all these debates, argumentation, and never-ending proposition-giving relative to the ‘standardization’ issue of the Ilokano language is what Joel Manuel calls ‘reintellectualization.’

Of all the many younger thinkers and tinkers of the Ilokano language—and we thank this present generation of writers, educators, and cultural critics of Ilokano language and literature for taking on the cudgels of showing care and commitment for and in the name of our people—Manuel stands out.

I would come out with a random naming now of who is in his own class, veritably some of our best, with a portfolio of work/s to show that can even shame the older generation, well, some of them, who never read any other works anymore apart from their own and the manuscripts that they are asked to judge, believing that Ilokano literature is in accord with their own and only own image of what literature and art and aesthetics should be, their fossilized view of literature really fossilized: Roy Aragon, John Buhay, Arnold Jose, Pete Duldulao, Daniel Nesperos, Aileen Rambaud, Jim Raras, Dan Antalan, Ariel Tabag, and now this Jake Ilac. The fingers are sufficient—you can forget the toes or the Meralco posts.

What do they have in common? They love the language, they play with its possibilities, and they have no love lost in the foreign language and they can even write in it including that Tagalog being passed off as Filipino.

At one point, and as a result of such act of loving and caring for the language, Manuel proposed a method and methodology to the ‘reintellectualization’ of Ilokano, an intellectual position picked up in some way, in the way I would reckon the blogs and the exchange of ideas in them, by Aragon, Raras, Agpalo, and Joe Padre from Los Angeles.

Let us recall the linguistic, and may I say, “intellectual” position of Manuel to, using his term, “reintellectualize” the Ilokano language.

He says, based on the published/blogged account of Agpalo in “There are proposals for us to use the f, v, c, n, x and others. This is based on the Spanish. Oh yes, this is good because this will intellectualize more the Ilokano language. Like the following: unibersidad-universidad, pasilidad-fasilidad, interaktibo-interaktivo, eksorsismo-exorsismo, kualifikado-kualipikado, rebolusion-revolusion, pormal-formal, birhen-virgen, tekstura-textura, ekspresion-expresion.”

To explain his point, Manuel comes up with an elaborate technique and I quote him in the Ilokano original: “Kayat a sawen daytoy nga amin a natawidtayo a balikas iti Espanol ken English ket marespetar ti pannakabalikasna ken agingga iti kabaelantayo ti ispelingna, saan a kas iti inaramid dagiti Tagalog a nangikkat iti f, ken dadduma pay. Kadagiti napalpalabas a tawen insublida ngem kasla nakupad met ti Liwayway a mangipatungpal iti dayta.”

And then Manuel talks of how the revered Juan SP Hidalgo uses the same approach in Rimat, a magazine, now defunct, he used to edit: “Kas iti ar-aramiden ni Apo Johnny (sic) Hidalgo iti Rimat, isubsublinan ti respeto kadagiti balikas a binulodtayo, daytoy ket para iti in-inut a (sic) reintelektualisasion ti Iluko.”

The intent of Manuel to speak about “reintellectualization” is laudable.

But there is a huge problem here: his notion of “reintellectualization” follows the same Bonifacio Sibayan notion in his mistake to make Pilipino and its schizophrenic twin Filipino “intellectualized”, forgetting that each language, by its very nature, has its own sacred and secret way of intellectualizing the world.

From a philosophical point of view, “intellectualization” suggests the ability of a language to explain what the world is all about, the world in general, in its most lucid and metaphorical sense, in its complexity, in its everyday and extraordinary nature.

I do not understand, therefore, why any language, for that matter, needs “reintellectualization” from the outside, suggesting that the world created by the Ilokano language, for that matter, needs to be “reintellectualized” from the outside and to do so, as claimed by Manuel and Hidalgo, following the Sibayan bluff to make the schizoid Tagalog-Pilipino-Filipino appear like that of any “intellectualized” language of the world, and by that, we can presume, Sibayan was bluffing his way to make one mistake after another because, in his mind, he was looking to Spanish and English as his “intellectualized” model of what an “intellectualized” language should be.

My take on intellectualization and that abominable term “reintellectualization” is that of the inherent quality of any language to have an “intellect”, a word from middle English, old French, and obviously from Latin, from the verb “intelligere” forming a past participle, intellectus. Here we see cognates: “mind,” in its most generic sense, and obviously the adjective, “intelligent.”

My worry with Sibayan’s schizoid approach of Tagalog spinning off, in a rather forced way, into the schizoid Pilipino/Filipino, is that he did not have enough trust and confidence in what the Tagalog language could do, and rather than admitting that Tagalog (or that language form forced into our throat Pilipino/Filipino) did not have the contemporary terms to account the contemporary experience of the Tagalog people/Pilipino people/Filipino people (ano ba talaga tayo dito, ha!), he called for “intellectualization.”

The question here is: Does the Tagalog language lack the capacity to discuss and explain in an intelligent way what the world is all about? Or was it the case that Sibayan was so handicapped when he was confronted with the “astronomical” “astronomy” issues related to the planet Pluto as it is the case now?

Ha, Sibayan did not do his job well: he simply did not understand what intellectualization is all about and here comes this concept again about intellectualization that means only borrowing someone else’s terms in the effort to intellectualize/reintellectualize your language.

Now the huge problem: we are following the same Bonifacio trap and calling, among others, to “reintellectualize” our own.

At best, this is bad trip as it suggests the low regard, unconsciously, I suppose, Manuel and Hidalgo have for the Ilokano language. One big problem I have is that I cannot even believe before my very eyes that they do know the consequences of this concept of “reintellectualization” as they are both pillars in their generations of Ilokano language use, being both top-notch literary figures in their own league. We do things with words, and Manuel and Hidalgo might have forgotten this reality with words, and language for that matter, as our own mode of action.


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