The Case of Ilokano as a National Language (Part 6)

But this is tokenism, and no amount of language engineering based on tokenism will ever correct the cultural and linguistic injustices inflicted upon millions and millions of peoples—in the plural—in the Philippines, with Sebuano still lording it over as the ‘national lingua franca’ in the Visayan and Mindanao, and Ilokano, as the ‘national lingua franca’ in Northern Luzon, and for history’s sake, in the diaspora. For the historical language of the diaspora is none other but Ilokano, but the muffling of the enemy has been so effective, the muffling making it appear that the Ilokano in the diaspora has no voice of his own, has to find that voice in other languages not his own but those of others, such as Tagalog and his pidgin/Hawaiian English that you cannot even recognize as English at all, if the basis is the one you hear from television—from the CNN headquarters.

This tokenism is the culprit—and this is the cause of this systemic masking off that is making it appear that we have, in fact, already a P/Filipino.

The other culprits to these are well-meaning academics, who, operating from a particular linguistic base, comes up with a totalizing strategy to account everything. Virgilio Enriquez’s “sikolohiyang Filipino” is one prime example, when, in his exuberance to find something called “native psychology” or the more stylish term “indigenous psychology”, called the Tagalog experience of “psyche” the “sikolohiyang Filipino.” There are other academics of this mold, such as Prospero Covar’s “araling Pilipino” and Zeus Salazar’s “p/filipinolohiya”. Include here the philosopher Leonardo Mercado and we have a quartet that pushed for a totalizing view of the national experience based on one linguistic experience.

Mercado, for instance, in his metalinguistic approach, tried hard to put together the possibilities of loob-nakem-buot coming together but did not succeed, or so I think. The premises are never the same for arriving at that forced conclusion in order to account what, in abstraction, is called “Filipino philosophy’, which had nothing to do with the nation but only with some select ethnolinguistic groups representing themselves but never the nation as a whole.

The big intellectual problem—and a huge one at that—in the Philippines is that logical equation being done to account the nation: Tagalog is equal to Pilipino; Pilipino is equal to Filipino.

There has been this shorthand way to make things ‘national’ for political reasons, part of which is that almost fanatic view that says that when the center has spoken, the whole thing is finished. There is a formula for this in the medieval church, which medievalism still pervades to justify religious moral standards: “Roma locuta est—Rome has spoken.” And because Rome has spoken, no one has the right to make a speech again. The word Rome has uttered about anything at all is final and there are no ifs and buts.

The linguistic arrogance in Tagalog began when it did not recognize—it did not have any intention to recognize in the beginning—the other sounds of the other languages only to find out that this linguistic position to account the alphabets of the national language is ultimately wrong.

The sense here is this: that if the equation — this isomorphism — continues, then we have sold our souls to the neocolonizers.

With more than 20 million people speaking Ilokano all over the world, what do you with this continuing rendering of a people into one of systemic and programmatic invisibility?

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.

(To be continued)