Ilokano and Amianan Studies, Northern Luzon Cultures, and the Universities from the Regions: Towards a Theory and Praxis (Part 2)

(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)

IAS is thus a form of studies that is grounded on a political and clearly epistemological intent: one that is intended to re-name the Ilokano and Amianan experience whose name was erased because of many national and extra-national factors, including the factors of extraterritoriality that attends to that aspect of this same experience that is rooted in exile and diaspora. The role of the universities that have interests in this form of knowledge, some of them as a matter of both cultural and moral duty, is to provide a venue for the fermentation and production of such a body of knowledge, with the view that such a body of knowledge ought to be, in accord with a liberating dialectical hermeneutic framework, ‘open in its closedness/closed in its openness.’ As such, this body of knowledge is not to be taken as an end in itself but always to be seen as part and parcel of a bigger whole, and always sensitive to issues and concerns that have something to do always—without any exceptions—with studies about the Philippines. In effect, what we are talking about here is that Ilokano and Amianan studies must have that inherent capacity to re-connect—to have that ‘connectivity’—with other studies about Philippine society, culture, and politics.

Re-framing ‘Studies’

In articulating the ‘studies’ in IAS, there is a need to return to some premises and principles by way of definition. This form of ‘studies’ in the IAS is essentially pre-formed and pre-shaped by the hybrid nature of contemporary knowledge, with an avowed acknowledgment of the cognitive effects and consequences of cultures coming into an interface—of cultures coming into a connection/connexion—such that the nexus of these cultures can no longer be claimed by a single owner but becomes a shared knowledge available for appropriation by a culture needing it.

There is a certain idealization in the notion of ‘nexus’ here, as if ‘domination’ and the ‘empire’ and the ‘colony’ are by-gone realities of contemporary life. IAS holds that domination is ever-present; that the ‘empire’ is much around in various ruses and guises and transformations, and the colony is still as real as the medieval times when the whole world was still in the hands of two superpowers, Spain and Portugal. The dominance of each of these ‘rulers of mankind’ may be a foregone conclusion, but the effects of their rule of that ‘other’ of the world remains intact, albeit in more subtle forms. But the subtlety of these forms does not guarantee the healing of the ‘souls’ of the nations, countries, and other body politics the colonizers, imperialists, and invaders ravaged. Another thing: Spain and Portugal have granted independence to their colonies but other contemporary superpowers have re-claimed the economic, political, linguistic, cultural, economic, and aesthetic spaces these former colonizers vacated. It remains true to say, therefore, that there exists, and in a more sinister form, dominant and dominating cultures and their effects on ‘dominated’ and ‘subjugated’ cultures are layered and multi-hued, in effect made tacit and implicit, but nevertheless not necessarily less powerful, less coercive, less oppressive.

These lead us to the ugly realities of a particular country and nation-state that went through a long history of subjugation by at least three colonizers and invaders like the Philippines. We speak of the almost irrecoverable power of triple linguistic and cultural erasures that produced and reproduced the truths—and by extension, meanings—manufactured and produced by the colonizers and invaders.

Following Constantino’s historical accounting of the formation of a new breed/hybrid of colonizers—the ‘neocolonizers’—the logic of colonization gets a refurbishing in the very logic of a systemic realigning of the same subjugating power of neocolonization and made more powerful by the access to economic resources limited and made accessible only, to a powerful few, essentially an elite economic class, whose class extends to politics, the media, and all other cultural forms, including the imposition of a language of power, commerce, and education.

It is in these difficult structural realities of the Philippines that we come to see ‘studies about the Philippines’ as windows through which we can have a critical reflection of ourselves as a people and as a nation, and through which we draw segments of the same studies in keeping with some acknowledged fidelities and loyalties to the particular culture and language a Filipino finds affinity. In effect, we are here advancing the idea that the twin and complementary ‘studies about the Ilocos and about the Amianan’ are first and foremost part of a body of knowledge, and this body of knowledge, much bigger in scope and political and epistemological direction, is the ‘studies about the Philippines.’ Conceptually and logically, IAS is a slice of ‘studies about the Philippines’—’Philippine Studies’—and cannot be outside it as it draws from it the very seed of its creation, production, formation, and sustenance, inextricable as it is from its tree and ground, even if it is at the same time allowed to grow and bloom and mature as a branch of the same tree, and in that same ground. What we need to do here is to assure ourselves—those who will venture into this form of knowledge—that the felicities and faith in what we are doing are in there and ever-present: the many form of felicities that we have to forge with other disciplines and knowledge/s and the faith that what we are doing is for the greater good and in keeping with the obligation to contribute to the pursuit of the ends of community building as required by the social contract of which, as inheritors of Ilokano and Amianan languages and cultures, we are signatories.

Even as we say that IAS finds its ‘connect’ with Philippines Studies, herein referred to as PS, some clear premises must be stated: (i) that IAS, like PS, must be oriented to a theory and praxis of a liberating world view, away from the neocolonizing effects of consciousness pre-formed and pre-shaped by a neocolonizing way of life authored by, and perpetually reproduced by the apparatuses of a neocolonial state; (ii) that IAS, like the PS, must look at itself as a whole strategy of re-claiming what were erased or made to disappear or destroyed by centuries of systematic oppression, brutal occupation, and ‘satellization’ by other countries or cultures that have played a ceaseless game of domination against the cultures of the Ilokanos and of the peoples of Amianan; and (iii) that the key issue about a Philippine ‘national culture’ must be subjected to interrogation in an effort to account the reality of multiculturalism and multilingualism—a reality that points to diversity and at the same time requiring, for political purposes, unity. How to keep this ‘meson,’ the healthy balance in all of these, is difficult but it is not impossible.

(To be continued)