The Case of Ilokano as a National Language (Part 4)

While other nations, countries, and peoples take pride in what they have got in their hearts and soul, we have a people that have, in sum, an agendum for smallness.

This agendum for smallness has afflicted so many, and has invaded the internet and has used it as if this were their fiefdom, some form of an absolute license that they think they have the absolute use even at the cost of the honor and pride of other people.

Small minds, I call this, and it is the same smallness that we see in that cowering stance we have been doing before the lord of the nation’s powerful languages, Tagalog and English.

No, these Ilokano writers who have in them this affliction of smallness cannot see that there are at least two forms of struggle that we have to wage at this time, and in this order of priority:

One, the struggle to have Ilokano declared as a national language and

Two, the struggle to modernize the Ilokano language in order to serve as the mediating instrument for the contemporary experiences of the Ilokano.

These twin struggles, of course, are not easily discernible to many of the Ilokano language’s pretending writers with their pretense for greatness even if what they have are hardly earned accolades.

Some even have the temerity to decapitate other people so that these bunch of pretenders can rise on the decapitated heads of other Ilokano cultural workers.

We can only cry in pain even as we watch how small we have become because we have believed in this magic in this agendum for smallness as if this were some sort of an oracion, an abracadabra that has gone pfffffft.

This agendum for smallness afflicts many writers in Ilokano whether these are in Oahu or Obando, Hapon or Hawai‘i.

Perhaps they do not know that some writers are not afflicted with smallness but greatness of heart and soul, those writers who take in all the pain, believing that so much can be gained along the way as long as they are mindful of what is happening.

To be small is comforting and comfortable—and it is twin to choosing to be nameless and faceless, like that act of using an alias when dishonoring another writer. This is the best shortcut to the impossibility of being and becoming, an abomination of the highest order, because here, decency and self-respect are not any longer one of the premises for the good life, for the good relationship, for a humane understanding of the world.

You talk of courage here, or boldness, or daring.

The writer who decapitates others cannot see the connection between what he does and the neocolonial strategy for divide et tempera, which he probably does not understand either.

Even as other writers look at the greater things that concern us all, the small-time writer with the small mind can only come up with some vague threats about the ‘rippuog’ and some such destructions, perhaps alluding to the power of the divine who can wreak a temple and on the third day build it up again.

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.

(To be continued)