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The Case of Ilokano as a National Language (Part 7)

The logicians have a name for this: presumptuous presumption. It is a fallacy that perhaps the writer with the small mind does not understand because he simply cannot fathom what this is. And to think that he is an Ilokano writer makes you sad, so darn sad. Idiocy has never been this bad, not among writers who should know more than the man on the street. But then, times change. And they do, in the Ilocos as in exile, in Dagupan as in the diaspora.

Because you are reminded of this writer’s boast, his boast as empty as his head, as empty as his words. Oh, the magic in the smallness comes crawling in the crevices and crannies of the mind now less human because the writer has put his small successes in his head.

The problem with Ilokano language and literature is not within the purview of this writer, pretending as he always is, that he has known all that has to be known, semantics and all, syntax and all, semiotic possibilities and all.

He is no different from many other Ilokanos in the academe who hold on to the view that they did not have to learn Ilokano because they are born into the language, and with that birth comes the full knowledge of the language of his birth.

We cannot blame the country’s language policy makers: if we have a significant portion of the millions of speakers of Ilokano in this ignorance mode, there is no way we can win in the struggle. There is no way the struggle to make Ilokano a national language gains cultural, moral, and political ascendancy.

The solution: we need to weed out the writers who do not know their language, their literature, their history, the politics of their ethnic identity, the righteousness of the cause of declaring Ilokano as a national language. There are so many of them in our midst.

Only if we know the relieve of our causes can we have the power to empower ourselves. Socrates is right: we have got to examine our literary and linguistic practices.

Then and only then can we become language and culture revolutionaries for and in the name of the Ilokano people everywhere.

On April 23, I got a call from Cornelio J. Ancheta, publisher of Fil-Am Observer, one of the more respectable newspapers circulated in the State of Hawai‘i. It is also with the FO that I write a host of issues concerning culture, human rights, and Ilokano language and culture, the very cause of my candor and passion, and the elan vital of my willingness to join the struggle to free our people from centuries of linguistic tyranny and cultural injustice.

For years and years, we have been made to swallow hook, line, and sinker the myopic idea that holds onto to the feudal and medieval belief that to build a nation, all people must speak one and the same language, which is the premise, for instance, of the monolingual emphasis of the United States in its own understanding of what contitutes a nation, patriotism, and human understanding, forgetting that the human understanding of what is just and good is the backbone of what a nation is and ought to be. Somewhere, John Rawls has sketched out for us of the non-negotiable premise for doing social justice: the good life for the most people. And now this call from my publisher, CJ Ancheta, saying, among others, “I am publishing your piece on Ilokano as a national language. You have the right to your opinion, that is your opinion, and I will respect that in full.”

Earlier, Tawid Magazine, through editor Jaime Agpalo, has picked up the concept of pushing for Ilokano as a national language of the Philippines in order to put an end to the schizophrenic iatrogenesis pandemia that has afflicted the people of the Philippines, a pandemic that has been caused by the linguistic and cultural policymakers who never understand what a culture and language is to a people different from those in the center of their own vortex of power and whose solution, this pandemic, it seems now, are the very people who had caused this social disease, including their linguistic and cultural apparatuses and appendages: the media, Malacanang, the shameless and unthinking school system, both private and public, the popular cultural forms including the abominable noontime shows carried over here by The Filipino Channel that can only make a sorrowful spectacle of our lot as a people. You name all of these, and we have a conspiracy to subtly effect a cultural and linguistic genocide on all the rest of the cultures and languages of the Philippines except Tagalog and English.

Let me make myself clear here: that I am not against the Tagalog people and the people who think of English as our economic salvation and our passport to domestic help and caregiving work in Palestine, Israel, Canada, Japan, Iraq, Italy, and Germany. Let me make myself clear: that the cause of our linguistic and cultural troubles is the mistaken notion that in a multicultural and multilingual nation-state like the Philippines, only one national language is sufficient to ‘language’ all the dreams and aspirations of a people who are, in fact, various peoples, with their own sets of world view, customs, traditions.

The ‘isang bansa, isang diwa’ bluff was good propaganda to cow people into believing that their past has nothing to do with the building up of a country from the ruins of errors and more errors.

Here is not a case of one ethnolinguistic group against another—a case of Ilokanos crying foul against the Tagalogs.

Here is a case of saying, with conviction, that the government’s linguistic policy on the national language is all flawed, and the cracks and defects are showing and are swallowing us up, all of us, Tagalogs and non-Tagalogs alike, because, for another round of cultural and linguistic injustice, we are being made to believe that a single language is all that matters to finally pursue the good life for all of us.

The sad and sorrowful history of the Philippine nation has taught us a good lesson: that in all the wars that Filipinos waged against the colonizers and the neocolonizers including dictatorship and abusers of power—the revolutions that include the many revolutions whose gains were snatched from us by the opportunists—these revolutions had to be ‘languaged’ in the language of the people who were taking part. It was only when these revolutions were translated into their own view of the world that they gained the strength to commit themselves and to offer their own lives.To speak, thus, of the Katipunan, as some myopic social scholars tend to dangle before us as ‘languaged’ by and only by, Tagalog, is to become amnesiac.

(To be continued)