Ilokano and Amianan Studies, Northern Luzon Cultures, and the Universities from the Regions: Towards a Theory and Praxis (Part 4)

(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)

But here we have to safeguard the inherent rights of the ‘othered’ cultures and languages in a nation to exist, to survive, and to view the world and human experience in accord with the lenses provided by their ‘othered’ cultures and languages. If in the ‘nationalization’ of a language and a culture results in the death of the ‘othered’ cultures and languages, such a nationalization becomes a self-defeating because self-destructive exercise.

This is where resistance comes. We can project this scenario and account here the aggression and invasion of global, imperialistic, and international cultures and languages and the ‘othered’ cultures and languages of a nation suffer another death after a rigor mortis. We add here the histories of colonization and neocolonization and we can only guess why cultures and literatures and languages from the margins ought to raise their voice, already muffled as it is by the dominant culture and language, and demand a fair share of space in the national conversation and national discourse. This is re-claiming of the right of marginal languages, literatures, and cultures to be—as well as their right to become.  IAS, as in PS, is thus a crucial issue linked with the indispensable issue of the being of the Ilokanos and the peoples of Amianan and their response to the challenges of that which is ahead of them, their becoming.

IAS as a Strategy for the Struggle to Survive

The dialectic of being and becoming in IAS is grounded on the reality that with the invasive consequences of national, modern, and global cultures, the ‘minoritized’ peoples and cultures must be vigilant of their right to survive and thus, would need to strategize their way of survival. The consequent extinction of any culture as a result of the domination of a more powerful because mainstream, and more politically and economically entrenched culture is bad enough. But the terrible end of any culture as an exhibit of the museum of the culturally extinct and thus irrecoverable is an unforgivable result of cultural aggression of a dominant culture or cultures.

The Role of the Universities in IAS

Universities, by nature, are state apparatuses, marked for that ideological role of producing and reproducing citizens that ought to know their civics. The universities work with the reproduction of consciousness and operate, in a rather tacit way, through some established canons of human knowledge, generally accepted, or at times, legislated. There is in the universities that propaganda about them being the ‘marketplace’ of ideas, but that is only true for a certain extent as they, unwittingly, become agents of the same manufactured truths and meanings produced and reproduced by society itself.

It is in this context that the universities can either become agents of change or perpetrators of the same ruses and guises and artifices of a dominant culture. The continuing use of a foreign language in the Philippines as the measure of knowledge learned and acquired in the school system is one example of a lopsided view of what human knowledge is all about, the human knowledge that is ‘human’ because it opens doors to liberation, discourse, and emancipation from the bondage of ‘mass’ thoughts and mindsets. The continuing denigration of a native culture and language by the very same people who are expected to nurture, sustain, promote, preserve, and perpetuate their culture and language happens in the very sacred and august halls of the universities, the alma mater of knowledge that has not allowed the virtue of critical reflection to set in.

The question thus for the universities in the Philippines particularly those from Region I, Region II, and the Cordillera Administrative Region is this: How ready are they to take part in this duty of equipping their educands with the skills and tools necessary for critical reflection?

A Note to an Exploratory Conclusion

IAS as a form of knowledge will go the way of interrogation, as it should. It does not purport to possess all the answers to the questions to be raised. But it will have to exhaust the means to raising the questions well and from there, draw the germ to some tentative, exploratory, dialectical answers. The more important thing to do at this time is to prepare the ground for the endless dialectic of question and answer to come about with humility and freedom. If IAS shall have raised the right questions well, then more than half of its task is done. It is the raising of the right questions that matter most in human knowledge that is ‘human’ because it is ‘critical’ and it is critical it is not content with the answers based on the logic of convenience and truth produced and reproduced by a society that does not have the boldness and daring to do what is just and fair toits people. IAS, thus, in sum, is also a work in the pursuit of social justice and cultural democracy.



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