No, we will no longer use Ilokano as the signifier that expresses our sense of self-worth and self-respect. If we continue to do so, we will have to contend with the signified, in this vicious circle of cultural denigration courtesy of the tyranny of our educational policies and philosophies: we will not become good enough for the universities, not good enough for the social media that bombard us with images that valorize what is not us as a people, and not good enough to face the demands of our teaching profession that demands our competency in other languages but never our very own.
And so while we do not acknowledge our illiteracy in our own language, we accuse and judge our students of being illiterate in the languages of our schools.
We accuse our students of abandonment of their duty to learn through the dominant languages that are not theirs in the first place.
We accuse them of conspiring to learn otherwise, preferring to flunk all national and international standard examinations as if the only metric to national education is the test score.
This whole-scale accusation has always been premised on an educational philosophy and policy that have never been inward looking but always looking to how many of our graduates we can send abroad so they can send back the dollars and the dinars we need to make the sinking economy afloat.
By virtue of these educational regimes, the unjust educational policies valorizing and entitling only the dominant languages in all our educational institutions because of state power, we have failed to teach our Ilokano students how to read the word, and how to read the world.4 With Ilokano students failing to master these strange because ‘foreign’ languages, we use against this failure to penalize them and issue out a verdict that they are incompetent, illiterate, uneducated. We do not tell those things to ourselves because we are the educators.
Our teaching logic is quite simple: our students should be in our own image, our clone. We are the educational gods.
But our students are not like us—or they have registered that tacit refusal, the greater refusal, to be like us, with their brand of language that is called ‘text’ or ‘text messaging’ or ‘short message service’, and they are good at it.5
We are good in English; they are not.
We are bad in the mother language because we are not to allow this to twist our English-speaking tongue, they are worse.
No, they ought to think and act and behave like us. And so they need to fall in line and be punished for all the world to see because this world, globalized and inspirer of everything homogenous, needs global citizens who are ready to serve the ends of the community of the dominant out there, but never, never, the local communities—their own local communities.
And so here is the first symptom of our withdrawal from all that which critical engagement in liberatory education is a necessity. We are withdrawing, and yet we have not done our end of the bargain.
In this panel, we are asked to state with clarity our MLE goals.
“We” here refers to the advocates at Nakem Conferences International, Nakem Conferences Philippines, Nakem Youth, the advocates of the Academy for Ilokano and Amianan Studies, and those academics involved at the University of Hawaii Ilokano Language and Literature Program. We are not going to disappoint you: our task rests in the making of our own road as we travel, as we walk, as we journey, and as we take the first and most difficult step to resist the homogenizing consequences of a bilingual education that has caused us more harm than good. We are all pilgrims in this struggle even if we say that we read what we must do to meet the goals of Education For All By 2015.
As we made the first step to this journey, we began to make our road.
And this road at this early is unpaved, rough, skirting, snaking, and traitorous. There are cliffs and ravines everywhere as there are potholes and manholes. Somebody must be busy collecting his commission in the paving of our educational roads that there is no time left for a real, honest-to-goodness road making.