The Ilokano Language: History, Culture and Structure: From Language to Philosophy

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, an agency within the United Nations, has declared this year the International Year of Languages.

UNESCO, through the years, has been in the forefront of advancing the cause of language preservation and respect for cultures all over the world and during its Sixty-First General Assembly and 96th Plenary Meeting, it worked on this declaration “to promote unity in diversity, global understanding.”

The Assembly, likewise recognizes that the “United Nations (pursue) multilingualism as a means of promoting, protecting, and preserving diversity of languages and cultures globally.”

With the estimated 6912 languages in the world today by Ethnologue, and nearly all about to go the road to extinction in the next two centuries according to Michael Fairbanks, there is much cause for alarm at this time.

The raising of the alarm is founded on the fact that when we lose a language, we lose the knowledge system of a people, a knowledge system that takes years, even centuries, to evolve. Kenneth Hale, formerly an instructor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says: “When you lose a language you lose a culture, intellectual wealth, a work of art.”

The case of the Ilokano language is an example here.

Very few Ilokanos can now speak the language with confidence; fewer still are those who can say with pride that they are Ilokanos and they are familiar with the language and its possibilities.

In the diaspora and in the exilic communities in California, Hawai’i, and Washington, you will easily find Ilokanos who know other language better—or who are prouder in their own second or third languages that their own mother tongue, first language, or the language of their ancestors.

In the State of Hawai’i, for instance, we see here a lobotomized people, with many parents insisting on their children speaking English far better than them and totally prohibiting their children to speak Ilokano. With the boob tube language that valorizes Tagalog, the patronizing of anything connected to ‘heritage’ is now Tagalog, what with the unjust christening of Tagalog as the basis of the national language and its being positioned today, by way of a conference or some such gatherings, as ‘a global language.’

There is, of course a grand illusion here that is connected, at the very least to three factors: (a) the continuing exportation of warm bodies abroad who have, prior to departure from the Philippines, have been successfully brainwashed into believing that to love the homeland is to love the national language which is Tagalog=P/Filipino, an illusion propped up by academics of the University of the Philippines and other universities of the same mold of thinking; (b) the over-reaching arm of capital and communications, or capitalistic entrenchment of in communications particularly satellite television; and (c) the collusion of all the institutions of government in the Philippines in making us believe that there is, indeed, a national language, that this national language is the conditio sine qua non to our national life, and that the nation cannot survive, grow, develop, progress, and become First World if it did not have its own national language.

Such thinking, of course, does not respect what cultural pluralism is all about—what ‘multilingualism’ requires, in accord with the pronouncements of UNESCO.

For one, what we see in language, what we have in any language for that matter, is a mind.

(To be continued)