To Allow Our Ilokano Language to Speak Us is To Resist Forgetting… (Part I)

(Speech delivered at the opening of the Iloko Creative Writing Program, Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University, Open University, San Fernando, LU, Philippines, July 14, 2007.)

Thank you so much for honoring me with this invitation to speak before you today as you launch another program, the Iloko Creative Writing Course under your Open University. I must say that this vision is one of the most laudable acts that I have never seen from the many state universities in Northern Luzon, in Amianan, not  in a long while. For this reason, let me congratulate the Open University of MMMSU, the Gumil La Union, and the many academics and writers of this university and province for their capacity for visioning—for having that vision that our common task is to coax our Ilokano language to speak us so that we will be able to remember ourselves in the eternity of time.

Truly, your act is trailblazing.

And you are peerless in this concerted effort to give honor and dignity to our people by giving honor and dignity to our language despite the onslaught of that chameleon we call, for want of a better term, Tagalog as P/Filipino.

No one has done what you have done—this act of giving respectability and recognition to that body of knowledge you call `Iloko Creative Writing' as part and parcel of the academe, as a legitimate part of scholarship, and as our way of giving back to our people.

I do not want to initiate a comparison from among our universities in Northern Luzon.

But let me tell it straight from the heart.

 I am grateful for these initiatives to finally recognize what is ours — our language and culture.

But even as I am grateful, I am also asking for more, asking endlessly that question, "When are we going to offer Ilokano Language and Culture as part of our bachelor's program, as part of our master's program, as part of our doctoral program?".

Truly, your Iloko Creative Writing Program must be commended because it paves the way to more and bigger dreams for our people. It is high time, indeed, that we asked our universities here in the region to be true to their mandate of serving our people.

Now, to the point of our program.

You have asked me to talk about valuing and preserving of our culture and language. To this I add, with emphasis, with a 1please, please, please' form of plea and pleading: `Please let us do this act together.'

From a personal sense, I am a stakeholder of Ilokano language and culture — and there is no more homing, more welcoming language and culture that I know of except this language and culture of my ancestors. I sure have gone away, I sure breathe a different air now as an exile, as an immigrant of another land, but my commitment with Ilokano language and culture is a commitment with memory.

With lagip—the lagip that is us.

Gapu ta ti lagip ket datayo mismo.

Gapu ta ti lagip ti taeng dagiti sarsarita a datayo met laeng.

Gapu ta ti lengguahe ket lagip.

Gapu ta ti kultura, ti kannawidan, ti kananakem—amin dagitoy—ket kasilpo ti lagip, kananayon ti kinaasinnotayo.

Saan a mabalin a tallikudan ti lagip — awan pamuspusan tapno maaramidtayo daytoy a banag.

Ta ti lagip ket kasingin ti sirmata, rangtaytayo iti masakbayan, saan — saan — saan a rurog laeng ti napalabas.

Iti kastoy a wagas a sirsirpatek ita daytoy a lungalong ti DMMMSU Open University ken ti Gumil.

Iti kastoy a wagas a kumpirmarek ti nakabambaneg a turongen ti kastoy a gannuat tapno maitag-ay, iti lebel ti academia, ti pannakaadal ken panangiyadal iti Iloko Creative Writing.

Ngarud, masapul ti naynay a pannakasustener ti kastoy a gannuat ket masustener laeng daytoy no ikumittayo dagiti laing ken sagudaytayo.

Kaniak a biang, sidadaan ti Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program iti Unibersidad ti Hawai'i a makigamulo kadakayo tapno lallalotayo a maiduron iti pantok ti balligi daytoy a gannuat.

Iti propesional a pannirig, agdardara ti kararuak gapu ta saan nga amin a manursuro ket addaan pammateg iti bukod a lengguahe ken kultura.

Agdardara ti nakemko ta saan amin a mannurat iti Ilokos ken Amianan ket sindadaan ti panangipasindayagda iti kultura ken lengguahe a naggapuanda.

Agdardara ti pusok ta saan amin nga Ilokano ket addaan iti panagpannakkel iti kina-Ilokanoda.

There is a social malady at this time, in this country and in other strange places where there are Ilokanos.

We have lost sight of our being Ilokanos.

We have lost sight of who we are, of our Ilokanoness.

We have lost sight of the song and sound of our language.

And I can only cry.

And I can only wail from afar.

What, indeed, have we become as a people, as truly an Ilokano nation?          

For we are, indeed, a nation, this nationhood that is us, this nationhood that is ours—this we must reclaim.

And the reclaiming cannot be postponed.

The reclaiming must start now.

Two diseases afflict us now.

One, we are too busy making ourselves small-minded, second-class citizens of this homeland, this homeland that is now heavily becoming an extension of the Tagalog nation without us realizing it.

Yes, some leaders of our country are lying to us.

They are saying that in learning Tagalog, as what they do at Jollibee San Fernando, we shall have become more patriotic, more nationalistic, more loving of the homeland.

These leaders are lying because their concept of nation is based on a fascistic, Napoleonistic, dictatorial, tyrannical, 19th century relic of what a nation is supposed to be.

(To be continued)