Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Domestic Violence Play

Krystel Coloma and Rod Antalan
Domestic Violence Play
IP 362

BOARD ONE – Introduction
Kumustakayo amin apo! Dakami dagiti estudiante ni Dr. Aurelio Agcaoili iti IP 362 Philippine Drama: Art, History and
Literature idiay Universidad ti Hawaii idiay Manoa. Siak ni Maria Krystel Coloma ken siak ni Rodolf Antalan. Itatta nga aldaw
ket ipabuyami ti maysa nga play maipanggep iti domestic violence. Ti kayat mi nga ububraen ket to promote awareness para
iti domestic violence ken to show that victims of sexual abuse can get help.

BOARD TWO – Scene one
Setting: house, they are fighting.

Wife: (screams and falls) Why are you doing this to me?
Husband: (drunk and slurring) Why? You make me like this! This is all your fault!
Wife: (crying) I didn’t do anything. Please stop. You’re hurting me.
Husband: (swears) Saanka nga agtagtagari. Isardengmo ti agibibit. (swears, can hear him hitting her).
Wife: (crying, screaming, falling/hitting stuff)

BOARD THREE – Scene two
Setting: house, it is the morning after the fight.

Husband: call wife a really endearing name, I’m sorry for what happened last night. (He caresses her face)
Wife: aw….(softly) please don’t touch my face it hurts.
Husband: Im sorry for hitting you (he starts crying)
Wife: it’s okay.
Husband: I will never do it again. I promise.
Wife: It’s okay. Stop crying. It will be alright. I’ll put ice and make up on it.
Husband: Here, I’ll go get ice for you and I’ll make breakfast too. You just stay in bed.
Wife: No…no…it’s okay. You’ll be late for work.
Husband: No…I want to. Just stay in bed.
Wife: feels queasy…reaches over to the trash can and throws up.

BOARD FOUR – Scene three
Setting: house, afternoon.

Wife: (picks up phone, dials, calls mom) Nang, he did it again. what should I do. He’s so nice and good when he’s not drunk.
I just wish that he isn’t so stressed out at work so that he doesn’t come home angry. I told him to find another job but he says
he cant. He just gets mad everytime I try to help him or bring up the subject.
I cant tell his parents. They think he’s so good. I don’t want them knowing this side of their son. They are such good people
and they do so much for me and husbands name.
I cant leave him nang. No matter how much I try I can’t. He needs me. I love him. And I know he loves me. He just has a
lot on his mind that’s all. And besides if I leave him I would have to come back home to the Philippines because th papers
haven’t gone through yet so that I can be single and live in the US. and I can’t help you if im there. I need to stay here. I
neeed to work so that we have money.
Wait nang. Throws up again.
No he’snot making me sick. I think I just ate something bad.
No nang, it wont be alright if I come back home.
No nang, who’s going to send ___, ___, ___ and ____ money to go to school. And whose going to help pay for your
(door creeks) husband calls out her name.
Nang, I have to go. He’s home. I hope he had a good day at work. Bye. Throws up again. Husband calling out wifes name
sweetly. Husband sees.
Husband: are you ok.
Wife: Yeah im fine.
Husband: (holds roses out)
Wife: semi-smiles. their beautiful but what are they for?
Husband: Para kenka. Hmmm. Smells good (trying to butter her up and touching her trying).
Wife: Thank you. I’ll put them in water. Let’s eat dinner is ready.
They go over to the dining table and eat.
Husband: says his stress at work. What happens to him. Shows why he puts his anger on wife.

BOARD FIVE – Scene four
Setting: house, dinner time.

Husband: sitting on a chair at the dining table waiting in the dark with a beer in his hand. (make noises, drinking) Where is
that lady. Why isn’t she home. She probably with another guy.
Wife: rushes in the house Oh my im late. I have to start dinner before he comes home or he will be angry. (doesn’t know
he’s at home already…cant see it’s dark.)
Husband: Swears. Where were you. What were you doing. Wife walks backward cause husband is coming after her.
Wife: (pleads) no….
Husband: I come home tired and hungry and you are not here. Where’s my food.
Wife: I got stuck at work. There was traffic coming home. Im sorry.
Husband: hits her. Wife is throwing up in between. Where does the money I give you for food go. You’re probably spending it
on another man.
Wife: cyring no im not. I don’t have anyone else
Husband: bullshit. Why do you smell like someone elses cologne.
Wife: No I don’t.
They are just fighting and there are sounds of hitting. after a while husband gets his things, car keys and wife is crying.
Husband: Im going out to find some food since you are incapable of doing anything right. You lazy old lady. And Put ice and
make up on that. You look ugly. You should take better care of yourself. You have wrinkles and your hair…you haven’t been
combing it have you?
Wife: cries….i cant go to work like this tomorrow.

BOARD SIX – Scene five
Setting: house, just woke up.

Wife: waking up sounds. calls her husband’s name. You’re ready for work already. Why are you leaving so early. Wait I’ll
make breakfast for you.
Husband: Bay-ammon, I’ll just go buy food. She hears husband leaving for work. (wife feels his neglect)
Wife: Throws up. Why am I always throwing up. Oh no….no……I cant be. Wheres that test. Hear wife shuffling around in
cabinet. Hear her pee.
Wife: huryy up huury up you slow test. Oh no…..

BOARD SEVEN – Commercial
Timpuyog – BA only one in the world.

BOARD EIGHT – Scene six
Wife: Calls work because cant go – gives typical excuse of battered woman
Calls mom – talk about how she isn’t lucky because everyone in her family has solid relationshipsand she and her husband is
the first in both the families to have troubles and abuse and fighting this bad.

- make her catholic – how she can’t leave him (can feel beads on rosary for the actual performance). Re-iterate her
promise to god that they will be happy and stay married. Besides no one in her famly has ever been divorced and she isn’t
going to start it.
- reflects on staying in marriage now that she is pregnant.
- Bittersweet feeling – cant be happy because sad.
- Reflects on how the baby needs a good stable father and economic support so re-iterate to her mm that can’t leave him.

BOARD NINE – Scene seven

BOARD TEN – Scene eight
Breaks down and explains to husband of how sick she of beign treated the way she is and asks him why does she deserve it. Is this how you wanna bring your child into this world.
Husband: gets quiet and realizes he's going to be a father. You're pregnant?

BOARD ELEVEN – Scene nine – the end.
Husband gets help. They work things out.

BOARD TWELVE – Conclusion
We hope that you enjoyed our program. We hope that we have encouraged and inspired the women and also men out there
who are being physically, mentally and emotionally abused. Please tell someone and get help. Talk to a family member, a
friend, call a hotline, talk to someone who has gone experienced what you are going through or maybe even a therapist.
Someone can help.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I am the Philippines (Inspired by the movie I Am Cuba)

I am the tourist spot, the beautiful beach, the red light district.
I am the abundant natural resources.
I am all the reasons why they came.
I am all the reasons why they are still here.
I am all the reasons why they won't leave.
I am also the murmurs of hungry children.
I am the crys of mothers knowing their children were born to die before they can truly say they lived.
I am the father that crys at night knowing his labor will never be able to provide for his family.
Most importantly I am you and you are me.
Even if you chose not to see me, if you look away, or close your eyes to avoid the fact that I am your reflection, that does not change reality.
When you are willing to look into my eyes and see yourself, that is when the revolution begins.
I plead to you, my brother and sister, look into my eyes.

by: Michael Schulze-Oechtering Castaneda

Friday, September 21, 2007

Biag ni Lam-Ang

Biag ni Lam-Ang
by Michael Schulze-Oechtering Castaneda

The story of Lam-Ang is important because it provides Ilokanos with an Ilokano hero. In a society where it is hard to find any representations of ourselves, Lam-Ang gives us a textual context where we can look proudly upon our history and culture.

Lam-Ang from birth was born with super powers. At the age of nine months he engaged a group of Igorots that killed his father. Not only did Lam-Ang win the fight, but he slaughtered the Igorots. It was said that “Like unto the river Vigan was the blood that flowed from out the bodies of the dead Igorots.” After Lam-Ang’s return to his village he planned to bath in the Amburayan River, but before that Lam-Ang wished to test his strength against a crocidle, who was “reputed to be the biggest ever known in these regions.” Without a struggle Lam-Ang defeated the crocodile. After the battle with the crocodile Lam-Ang wished to court Dona Ines Kannoyan of the town Kalanutian. Against Lam-Ang’s mother’s wishes continued in his journey to court Kannoyan. After arriving in Kalanutian both the dog and rooster caused a scene that got Kannoyan’s attention. After Lam-Ang’s persistence Kannoyan agree’s to wed, but the stipulation that Kannoyan’s parents provide is that Lam-Ang can match the wealth of their family. This task is done and Lam-Ang and Kannoyan marry. The final task that Lam-Ang faces is the raring. While Lam-Ang is fishing for the raring a monster fish, the berkakan eats him. Lam-Ang is later brought back to life when his bones are collected. The story ends with Lam-Ang and Dona Ines Kannoyan living happily ever after.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Skit Boards for Cancer PSA

by James Funtanilla & Rachelle M. Aurellano
IP 362: Philippine Drama: History, Art Culture
Dr. Aurelio Agcaoili

Scene 1
Station ID/Introduction

Scene 2
Women is about to have surgery.
[She is on the Operation bed].
-Thinking out loud her thoughts, feelings/concerns about life and her family.

Scene 3
Women is at home recovering from surgery.
[Husband walks into the room and asks how she is doing. During the conversation he asks if the doctor has already told her if her cist is benign or malignant. She replies that the doctor is still waiting for the results from the lab].
-She explains that the doctor said that it was good that she had come to see him as soon as she began feeling pain in her breast. But if she had routinely gotten her mammogram test her cist/ lump could have been detected earlier.
-She urges her husband to also get routinely checked, in his case his prostate.
The husband refuses.

Scene 4
PSA #1
[Briefly talk about the University of Hawaii at Manoa Timpuyog Student Organization].

Scene 5
Woman and husband is receiving the results of the test (cyst).
[The test come back negative, she is fine].
-Doctor again reminds the both of them to get routinely checked for their respective areas, i.e. breast exam for women and prostate exam for men.
(read or recite actual facts to get point across)
-The facts scare the husband enough to finally convince him that he still needs to get routinely checked by his doctor regardless if he notices any symptoms.
-Husband calls his doctor’s office to make appointment to get checked.

Scene 6
PSA #2
[Ask for donations for the Timpuyog Student Organization & the BA in Philipine Language and Literature with a Concentration on Ilokano Scholarship].
-call the program directors or advisors for more information or visit

Scene 7/8
Husband at his doctor getting checked.
[Already in the middle of his exam].
-Doctor asks him to bend over.
-Doctor asks him to cough.
Nothing is wrong with him, again the doctor reminds him to get routinely checked.

Scene 9
Signing off.

Modular Paper #1

MODULE 1: Ilokano Literature & Amianan Towards a Definition
by Rachelle M. Aurellano
IP 411: Ilokano Literature in Translation/English
Dr. Aurelio Agcaoili
(September 6, 2007)

The objective of the first module is to introduce the reader to Ilokano and Amianan Literature. Here we learn that the Ilokanos, prior to the coming of the Spaniards, already had cultural and literary forms that revealed the richness and profundity of the Iluko experience. Through the duayya, lallay, badeng, arikenken, dallot, dung-aw, pakasaritaan, burburtia, and pagsasao, the Ilokano had already talked of joy and sorrow, life and death, the world in the here-and-now, and world thereafter without the influence of the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. However, with the coming of the Spaniards, these literary and cultural forms of the Ilokanos paved the way to acculturation and enculturation, almost wiping out a number of indigenous literary and cultural forms. Traces of the indigenous can be found through the burtia/burburtia and the pagsasao. The pagsasao are sayings thought in a philosophical manner about human life characterized by the unique historical and cultural experience of the Ilokano and is reflected in the dallot, a chant during weddings and birthdays, and the dung-aw, a chant narrating the pain and joy of the life of both the living and the dead. And so through these writings, which also include songs, poems, and stories, we see that the literature of the Ilokanos reveal who they are. Also in this first module, we have a taste of what Ilokano literature is about. We have samples of the different kinds of literature writing: Pagsasao (sayings), Burtia (riddles), Dallot (chants), and Dung-Aw.

In the next portion of the module, we begin to understand the development of Ilokano literature and differentiate the terms Iloko and Ilokano. According to Jose A. Bragado, he distinguished the terms Iloko and Ilokano as being two different words. Iloko is the language, derived from the word Ilocos referring to the region that comprises of the provinces in Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, and La Union. Iloko is the language spoken by the inhabitants of the provinces and Ilokano pertains to the people. In this module, Bragado introduces the reader to earliest form of Iloko literature, one that is believed to have started before the Spaniards colonized the Philippines. The oldest recorded Philippine folk epic and the only complete epic to have come down from the Christian Filipino group is Biag ni Lam-ang (Life of Lam-ang). The development of Iloko literature happened in many ways, due to the colonization of the Philippines by the Spaniards, influence from missionaries using religion to convert Ilokanos to Christianity and American colonization, in which printing machines became accessible. Many were ble to learn how to read and write and writers learned to write their literature. During this time, the Ilokano writer felt free to articulate his social and political beliefs through poetry, short story, novel, and drama. An interesting portion of this module is the history and development of the Bannawag magazine, the only Ilokano magazine which the people read. The Bannawag is very important in terms of development of Iloko literature because it was the only outlet of the Ilokano writers to produce their writings through poems, short stories, novels, feature articles, comics, biographies, folktales, and much more. And with that also, you have the development of literary writing contests that continue to encourage Ilokano writers to express their thoughts and feelings through their native tongue.

This first module, I thought, was definitely necessary in terms of understanding the history Ilokano literature and its development. Before even reading any kind of Ilokano literature, it makes more sense to read about the history that way when reading the any form of literature, the reader would be able to understand the reasoning behind why the writer would write about such things. And so after being briefly educated about the history and development of Ilokano literature, I can see why many Ilokano literatures (that I have read) almost always was a sad ending or ended in some kind of death. Prior to taking this course, I was enrolled in the Contemporary Ilokano Literature course last semester and so I have ready a lot of short stories, poems and plays that revolved around the struggles of the Ilokanos, during the Spanish colonization. However, I also found that not only is Ilokano literature about Ilokano struggles, it’s also based on a lot historical and cultural experiences of the Ilokanos as well because prior to the coming of the Spaniards, the Ilokanos already had different forms of literature, which many were destroyed by the coming of the Spanish. However, many were also retained, which is evident through the pagsasao and the burburtia.

One of the things that caught my attention while reading module one is the development of the Bannawag magazine, an Ilokano magazine that existed even before I was born. I thought this was interesting to me because it started back in the 1930’s and has continued to flourish even until now. To learn that the Bannawag has produced thousand of writers until now, you can only imagine how much more are out there, unidentified—waiting for their time to come out and share their writings. Perhaps in some way, the Bannawag magazine could pave the way for Ilokano college students at the University of Hawaii to develop their own magazine and publish writings written by students and someday be able to get it out to the world. In that way, Ilokano literature will flourish in the years to come.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Story of Lamang Review

By Eric Dulay
IP411: Ilokano Literature in Translation/English

Legends are made from epics and a good life story could be told and passed on to future ears. Life of Lam-ang is an epic that is important to the culture of the Ilokos; it has been told even before the Spanish invaded and ruled the land of the Philippines. It is a story that we can be proud of because it was made exclusively form Ilokanos. The part that I liked in the epic is the battle between the checkered Igorot’s and Lam-ang.
First of all, Lam-ang is great at being a fearless and self sufficient child. He doesn’t need anyone to tell him that he can’t do anything. I’m guessing at the time that he was at least eight to nine months old of age he asked his mother Namongan where and who his father was; she said that his name is Don Juan and he went to the blackest mountain to fight the Checkered Igorot’s. What I thought was cool was that instead of shrugging it off and going on his merry life, he decided to go and search for his father in that area. His mother tries to tell him that he is too young to go but of course he goes.
Secondly, I liked the different rocks that he brought. These rocks are very magical in powers that help Lam-ang in his invincibility. Basically they are Talisments that give an extra boost of power to what he needs, which I really whish I had myself. He uses the Centipede stone to swiftly move about and travel to the blackest mountain. This stone would actually be good if we could use it around UH so we can make it to class in time. The other rock that he carried were between birds and cats it is the belief that they posses great powers.
Lastly, the battle itself was made in an unbelievable way. He brought over a shield and sword for his battle with the Checkered Igorots. For being eight to whatever his age actually is at this point of the story, he is strong. He had a dream come to him during his nap telling that his fathers head was being looked down upon and was ready to be mutilated. He immediately got up and went to the area that his father was at and faced the Igorots even though his father was already killed. Now this part was the greatest part of the story to me when he used the lawlawigan the magic of the song bird to gain the power of impenetrability. The Igorot chiefs sent word to others around neighboring villages to send their warriors. The battle itself sounds like the battle of the 300 Spartans that needed to hold off invading forces of the Middle East. The more that charged Lam-ang the more got killed until ultimately Lam-ang killed all but one Igorot which he tourched and made and example to the villages around there. So his main wepons were the magical stones, his borne, and the calling of winds.
Over all, the part that I liked in the epic is the battle between the checkered Igorot’s and Lam-ang because he was a fearless and a self sufficient child, he used rocks to gains some magical powers, and the battle that he perused against the Checkered Igorots. I thought the story in general was good to see and good to read and I think if I still retained my Ilokano speech I would of gotten a better understanding off of the Ilokano side of the story.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Story of the Life of Lam-ang Summary

By: Mark Barba
IP411: Ilokano Literature in Translation/English

Biag ni Lam-ang, which translates into “Story of the Life of Lam-ang”, is the epic story of the Ilokano people. Lam-ang is a man who comes from a prominent family in his hometown in which they all an array of special abilities. The story begins with the preparation of the birth of Lam-ang. It was crucial process by which many traditions needed to be followed in order to have a promising birth. Lam-ang was born an extraordinary infant by which he had the attributes of a matured man. Also, he possessed magical powers in which he is able to anticipate things. He would properly refer to his mother, Namongan, by her first name and also ask many insightful questions for his knowledge. One question that Lam-ang had was why his father absent. Namongan had told the new born Lam-ang that his father went to war to fight the Igorots. This news made Lam-ang determined to find him. He set himself on a journey to find him and on his way he had a dream in which it revealed that his father had already passed away. Startled by his dream, Lam-ang immediately sets forth to where his father was. His dream was indeed true and found himself facing an army of Igorots. During this battle it showcased his dynamic war skills. Lam-ang murdered everyone in sight and for his last kill, he completely disfigured him. After gaining success and a stronger reputation, Lam-ang desired a wife. He was extremely interested in a woman named Dona Ines Kannoyan. This woman had a reputation for disliking even richest of men. Despite this, Lam-ang remained persistent and took another journey in hopes of marrying her. To the surprise of many, Dona Ines Kannoyan agreed to wed with Lam-ang. The final journey of Lam-ang was to dive for rarang. This had been claimed as the monster fish of the sea. Before setting out to the sea, Lam-ang had a premonition of him dying by the fish. He foresaw that if the staircase would topple and crush their stove, he was dead. Lam-ang continued to the sea and his premonition was indeed true. The news reached Kannoyan and left her devastated. This would not be the case for long. The cock and dog of Lam-ang promised her that if the bones of Lam-ang were to be found, they would be able to resurrect him back to life. Marcos, a skilled diver, was assigned to find the remains of Lam-ang and did so successfully. The story ends with Lam-ang coming back to life and living happily ever after with Kannoyan.

Dramatization Scene: Lam-ang’s Horrid Discovery

By: Daniel-Jay Pascual
IP411: Ilokano Literature in Translation/English

I have chosen to dramatize the scene in which Lam-ang encounters the Igorot gathering and discovers that his father has been killed.

As Lam-ang approached the Igorot gathering, he observed as the ten feet tall giants with boils marking their elongated faces paced through the forest. The hairy beings roamed aimlessly through the thick vegetation occasionally greeting each other with a callous stare. In the distance, Lam-ang spots a group of five to seven Igorots gathered around a large pot stained in a reddish-black color. Lam-ang advanced a few strides and scrutinized the Igorots surrounding the pot. He noticed that they seemed to be feasting on the remains of a dead animal. Lam-ang repositioned himself underneath a dead hollow tree stump nearly five feet from the pot and could now hear the Igorots undertakings. The crunching sounds echoed in the stump and grew louder with each chomp of the Igorot jaws. Lam-ang finds a hole in the stump and is treated to a full view of the Igorot gathering. Through that hole he observed as one of the Igorots slurped a lengthy reddish-pink colored chord which looked to be the intestines of a bear. Lam-ang observed as another Igorot chewed on what seemed to be the heart and liver of a boar. The third observation Lam-ang made forced him to cringe in fear, a severed arm which belonged to a human. Lam-ang knew that this feast for the Igorots was provided by his father, Don Juan. In an unexpected turn of events, Lam-ang’s emotions were overwhelmed by feelings of revenge and anger. The tree stump he dwelled in burst into a million pieces and Lam-ang arose to be greeted by yet another horrid discovery. A face lay there in the pot which the Igorots had gathered. The head of his father had been claimed as the prized possession of this feast of the Igorots.

Summary of Biag ni Lam-Ang

By: Daniel-Jay Pascual
IP411: Ilokano Literature in Translation/English

Story of the Life of Lam-ang, Husband of Dona Ines Kannoyan, is an Ilokano epic describing the life story of Don Lam-ang, an immortal being capable of wielding various powers of the supernatural realm. From being born with the ability to speak, to being resurrected by a special group of mystic animals, the story encompasses a wide selection of detailed scenes filled with enticing material. Whether you are of Ilokano culture or not, Story of the Life of Lam-ang, is an exceptional piece that should be read by people of all cultures.

The story begins by introducing the parents of Lam-ang. Namongan (Lam-ang’s Mother) and Don Juan (Lam-ang’s Father) had recently been unified in marriage. Shortly after, Namongan became pregnant and Don Juan performed the various tasks needed to prepare for the birth. Don Juan sets out to engage into a fight with the checkered Igorots. Namongan gives birth to a baby boy who is able to speak and requests to be named Lam-ang. At nine months, Lam-ang discovers that his father, Don Juan, has been gone and sets out to search for him. Lam-ang brings various magic stones on his journey as well as weapons. Eventually, Lam-ang encounters an Igorot gathering and learns that his father was killed and head severed. Lam-ang then engages into battle and wins the fight with the Igorots of the various Igorot towns and villages. Lam-ang then returns home and achieves various tasks, such as cleaning the barn, washing his hair, and defeating the crocodile. Lam-ang then determines that he would like to visit Dona Ines Kannoyan of Kalanutian and attempt to court her.

Dona Ines Kannoyan is described as a “perfect” woman who has many suitors. She is the daughter of Unnayon. Against the wishes of his mother, Lam-ang travels to Kalanutian to meet Kannoyan. During his journey he encounters two people, a man named Sumarang, a man killed by Lam-ang who shared the same task as Lam-ang, and Saridaadan, a woman Lam-ang ignores. Upon arriving in Kalanutian, Lam-ang observes various suitors of Kannoyan. The animals Lam-ang travel with create a disturbance and therefore achieves Kannoyan’s attention. Lam-ang finds that Kannoyan has been expecting him and moves on to meet the parents. Lam-ang asks for the permission to marry Kannoyan. Kannoyan’s parents allow it only if Lam-ang is capable of producing the same wealth the family possess. Lam-ang proves his prosperity and a wedding is planned. Lam-ang travels home to prepare for the wedding and returns to Kalanutian with his mother, townspeople, and wedding supplies. Lam-ang and Kannoyan get married in a church on a Monday and a celebration takes place shortly after. The townspeople of the bride and groom, as well as the family members, travel on the two ships of Lam-ang to Lam-ang’s home town where another chain of festivities take place.

Afterward, Kannoyan’s parents leave Kannoyan to live with Lam-ang and the couple begins their lives together. The town head delegates a task to Lam-ang in which he must fish for raring. Lam-ang attains a premonition of an incident in which the berkakan, a monster fish, consumes his entire body. The premonition also includes an omen in which, “a dancing staircase and the kasuuran breaking into pieces.” Undoubtedly, the premonition and omen become true, and Lam-ang is devoured by a berkakan. Kannoyan has seen the omen and searches for a diver to locate the bones of her husband. Kannoyan brings the animals of Lam-ang to the bones and the white rooster, hen, and hairy dog perform a ritual on the bones which bring Lam-ang back to life.

Story of the Life of Lam-ang, Husband of Dona Ines Kannoyan, is somewhat of a mythical story which portrays the characteristics of an Ilokano. The various recompilations of this story prove that it is one that will remain for future generations to read. Hopefully, the main ideas may be selected and passed to those of the younger generations.

Biag ni Lam-Ang

(Summary of the Ilokano Epic "Biag ni Lam-ang")

by Rachelle M. Aurellano
IP 411: Ilokano Literature in Translation/English

Biag ni Lam-ang is about the adventures of an epic hero, Lam-ang, who is born with extraordinary powers. At the time of birth, he had the gift of speech and chose his own name. When he was baptized, at the age of nine months, he decided to go to war to fight against the headhunters (Igorots), who killed his father. Although his mother, Namongan, opposed for him not to go, brave Lam-ang, nevertheless went. After fighting with a crocodile, Lam-ang embarks on a journey to pay court to Ines Kannoyan, a beautiful maiden who can spin nine skien of thread in one evening. Although his mother advised him not to because many rich natives, and Spaniards have tried, Kannoyan did not care for any of them. But Lam-ang, nevertheless, went regardless of his mother’s advice. On this journey to the town of Kalanutian, he is accompanied by his pet rooster and dog. When reaching Ines Kannoyan’s place, Lam-ang’s rooster flapped its wings which toppled the house, and amazed everyone, especially Kannoyan. Then Lam-ang’s dog barks and the house is back to its original. They get married and Lam-ang gets eaten by a monster fish but is reborn from his retrieved bones.

Note: The epic story of Lam-ang was enjoyable for me, because an Ilokano hero with supernatural sparks a lot interest, considering that I never knew that Ilokano's had their share of Ilokano epics. I've read a number of epics, but I must say this was the first Ilokano epic I've read and it was really interesting, better than American superheroes.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Ilokano and Amianan Studies

Ilokano and Amianan Studies: Philosophical, Cultural, Linguistic and Epistemological Considerations

By Aurelio S. Agcaoili

(Paper presented at the 2007 Nakem International Conference, Mariano Marcos State University, Batac, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, May 22-25, 2007)

The paper proposes perspectives and paradigms through which Ilokano and Amianan Studies could be drawn up as a mode of knowledge critically reflecting the varying experiences of the peoples of Ilocos and Northwestern Luzon, this latter place made up of various linguistic and cultural experiences but shares Ilokano as its lingua franca in public life and in governance. Arguing from the framework that a real, genuine, and liberating studies on the Philippines cannot come from a hegemonic position provided in a two-tiered way by the “Englishization” and “Tagalogization” of Philippine national and communal experience, the paper sets to put together some arguments for the urgency of Ilokano and Amianan studies as an antidote to the systemic erasures effected by nationalization, neocolonization, and globalization.

These forces have stifled the growth of creativity from the various cultures and languages of the Philippines. Four perspectives—philosophical, cultural, linguistic, and epistemological—will be used to generate the argument needed to advance the claim that studies about the Philippines cannot afford to be a totalizing political exercise in the name of the Philippine nation and Philippine nationalism without at the same time scrutinizing the linguistic, epistemic, and cultural effects of such a totalizing exercise.

Philippine Studies as a Revolutionary Perspective and the Search for the Epistemic Roots of Ilokano and Amianan Studies

There are several ways by which we can look at Philippine Studies (PS) as a paradigm of knowledge, with the concept of paradigm here used following the Kuhnian second sense, “paradigm as shared examples” (1970: 187) or “exemplary past achievements” (1970: 175).

What we have here is that even with Blumentritt’s ethnolinguistic excursus and that of Jose Rizal, we can only have some sort of “Pilipinolohiya” (“Pilipino + lohiya”) that was aimed, at best, to look at the universe of Filipinos as colonial exhibits against oppression; or colonial trophies, with the stress on the “barbarism” and “savagery” of a people as in the St Louis Fair of 1904 in Missouri complete with villages and peoples imported from the conquered Philippine Islands; or that idea of the search for origin, some kind of a genealogy to spite the colonizers’ aim of ‘civilizing’ us, as in the claim of Rizal that the people of the Philippines come from the Malay race (Azurin 1995: 9).

Such slanted aims of Philippine Studies as a mode of knowledge, and as understood in the past, do not warrant a new model of Philippine Studies that we are trying to evolve today. With the University of the Philippines on the forefront for its conceptualization during the turbulent 60’s and 70’s and graduating many of the current scholars who can readily show the change in the cognitive frame being used in those two models of Philippine Studies, we now have a perspective of Philippine Studies that is both critical and committed—critical of the modes of producing and reproducing knowledge about the Philippines and committed as well to the production of a dynamic and continuing because always-exploratory knowledge of Philippine society, its people, its cultures, its languages, its politics, and its economic life.

The stress on the exploratory, tentative, and open-ended nature of knowledge resulting from this view of Philippine Studies is required by the admission of the interpretive nature of all human knowledge, with the recognition and admission at the same time of the mediating power of human language in all these forms of human knowledge.

For the interpretive view of human knowledge grounds itself with the urgent and expedient need to acknowledge that human knowledge, in all historical times, has always been marked by a certain historical ‘situatedness,’ by the requisites of time and place, by the requisites of actors and actions commingling and coming into a human enterprise but always understood, however tentatively, by the prevailing mode of human communication we call human language, thus, the human language that is a dialect, the language that is used in its ‘everydayness.’ Because it is the everyday language—the dialect—that speaks us, that speaks to us, that speaks with us, and to whom to do we also speak about, speak to, speak with, and speak from. Our everyday understanding of the world is thus always-already a result of, and made possible by, this everyday language—thus, in fine, there is no everyday language opening up a world to everyday knowledge that is final, complete, immutable, incorruptible, unpolluted, and pure.

All these factors, when considered with intellectual integrity, helps us realize that Philippine Studies is not about essentialism and about absolutes, but about the desire—the rugso and the derrep—to get to have both a theoretical and practical basis of understanding the world, the self, and human experiences.

The ground of the revolutionary is the need and the desire to keep on renewing our understanding of the world, with the renewal mandated by surprises and terrors of change, but always measured by our ability to come to terms with the constancy of that change, always on the ready to confront it, resist it, rework it, subdue it, or accept it. To understand the evolutionary frame in which Philippine Studies has gone through for the last 150 years of so, we can speak of a heuristics here, a broad segmentation defined by the requirements of social change: (a) a pre-revolutionary, pre-liberating model and (b) a liberating model.

In 1974, the University of the Philippines approved what it called the Ph.D. in Philippine Studies, a multidisciplinal graduate program, with the principal objective of “train(ing) students who are able to look at Philippine problems from a multidisciplinary point of view” in response to the need of the Philippines for scholars trained along multidisciplinary lines” (Bautista 1991: 24).

From a formal academic perspective, this visionary direction taken by the UP at that crucial time in the 70’s indicates the maturation of the same radical and revolutionary ideas the 60’s fermented among the ranks of those who had the courage to say that there was something wrong with the country and that something had to be done. While this institutionalization of this perspective augured a new way of looking at the things that concerned the country, we must understand that this new way finds its roots and connection with the earlier revolutionary struggles of our people that included, among others, the need to break the colonial ties that bounded it with the colonizers.

IAS draws its energy and √©lan from this same revolutionary and radical tradition. The sporadic revolts from the Ilocos is not one among and of the Ilocanos alone, this we see clearly in William Henry Scott’s Ilocano Responses to American Aggression, and in Resistance and Revolution in the Cordillera edited by Delfin Tolentino Jr. (1994) particularly Scott’s “Igorot Responses to Spanish Aims: 1576-1896” and “Bontoc Uprising of 1881,” Luis Talastas’ “The Battle of Lias: Resistance in Eastern Mountain Province,” and Fay Dumagat’s “The Role of the Itneg (Tinggian) in the 1896 Revolution.”

Here in these accounts and many others are the historical, ideological, and liberating relationships among the various cultural communities and indigenous peoples of Amianan, who bound by both the wind direction and by a culture they share with the earlier Y’ami/Ami/Yami peoples and enriched by Hindu, Buddhist, and Arabic culture they have come into an encounter with. Where then do we draw this concept of Ilokano and Amianan Studies in the context of the evolutionary developments of Philippine Studies, with its clearer and clearer direction towards knowledge that is liberating, with the idea of liberation from the very notion of what, in Ilokano “wayawaya” is all about.

The stress on the concept of wayawaya here is accidental and is traceable more to the acknowledgement of Ilokano as a lingua franca in these parts, with the idea of lingua franca tentatively removed from the colonizing intents of dominant languages. For the making of Ilokano as a lingua franca in Amianan is not a result of a legislative or an executive act, and if at all there is manipulation somewhere, these manipulations are not clearly intended but came in as a result of the exchange and diffusion of ethos and language, including the movement of commerce among the indigenous peoples.

For clearly, the Ilokanos are not better off economically from the other indigenous peoples in Amianan, with the people’s resources far more diminished than the IPs in these parts, which was why one of the main reasons fro outmigration is clearly the Ilokanos’ need to clear a new land in order to survive, coax it to fertility and then own it, and then build a semblance of the community they have left behind, by, among others, naming that new land with the name of the community they left behind, thus, a Kavintaran is not far off as a community somewhere in Nueva Viscaya.

What do all these things mean?

Simply put: the Ilocos is not separate from the larger terrain of the Amianan, both as a physical and geographic reality and more so, as a psychological territory of diffused experiences and a long memory of cultural and economic relationship. This simply means that the broader framework for Amianan Studies includes studies about the Ilocos, about the BIBAAK peoples (a term used more as a cultural organization in Honolulu and in San Diego: Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga), and about the peoples of Amianan that outmigrated or have gone to other places and evolved their own communities in these new lands they have settled in. In the end, the IAS is not simply about a local area of studies, but an area of studies that is beyond an area itself but includes those that speak to these and about these peoples and hoping that these peoples will in turn speak to and about IAS.

To evolve an IAS whose subject matter is clear is far easier, one that can faithfully speak to and about the peoples in the Amianan.

But to demand from the Amianan peoples the same sensitivity and sensibility does not come in conversely, as this comes with some epistemic duties based on, largely, the ability to get into metanoia about what a liberating and critical and committed knowledge is all about.

For today, the records are coming in clearer: that so few of our peoples in Amianan have the courage to own up their cultures and languages, with the Ilokano peoples the number one of those who have the lack of wisdom to deny their Ilokanoness. The empirical data are coming in handy, and the accounting of our community activities can only come logically.

How many of the Ilokanos, for instance, have the courage to own up their language?

The answer to this is a kind of a chasm, a divide and rule thing, a consequence of the this new mode of colonization all non-Tagalog peoples are going through at this time.

The challenge comes from the report of academics, from the ranks of public school teachers who say that their pupils and students no longer take pride in their being Ilokanos. Mabainda nga agilokano—they would be embarrassed to speak Ilokano—the teachers would say. This is a concrete report, as factual as one can get.

But real problem comes in when we ask teachers how many of them—these teachers who are making the report—have had the boldness and daring to own up their Ilokanoness.

Indeed, how many of our teachers can speak our Ilokano language with flair and elegance, the educated and formal sophistication that demands a continuous reflection of the vast possibilities of the Ilokano language? How many of our teachers can ever speak the Ilokano language with pride, and with a full acknowledgement of the terrors and surprises the Ilokano language offers?

How many, may I know, of the teachers in our ranks, of the teachers here present in this conference, can speak with pride, of the literary history of our people?

How many, may I know, of the teachers attending this conference can be seen reading Bannawag, Tawid, Saniata, Rimat, and other magazines in Ilokano without feeling insecure, ashamed, embarrassed, promdi, baduy, udong?

How many, may I know, of the academic leaders and cultural workers present in this gathering can speak with confidence and expertise, what our Ilokano writers writing in Ilokano, Tagalog, English, Spanish and many other languages are writing?

How many know Leona Florentino and her sorrows, her daring and her artistic way of owning up her own brand of feminism? How many know Ursula Villanueva? How many know Antonio Rubio? How many know Juan San Pedro Hidalgo Jr.?

How many know many of our hypervaluated writers writing not in Ilokano but in Tagalog and in English, and in a more remote past, in Spanish?

How many know of the Basi Revolt and its translation into a series of paintings, in panels, and displayed, in bad condition, at the Burgos Museum in Vigan?

How many know how our writers continue to plumb the Ilokano soul by plumbing his own soul as well?

How many of our otherwise promising writers we are losing to other trades and industry because we do not read, because we do not take pride in the Ilokano work that we read if we ever read at all, and because we do not care whether the Ilokano language will ever survive and thrive in the next five years?

Many of us academics, teachers, educational leaders, cultural workers, and even government men and women are ignorant of so many things Ilokano even if we are not supposed to be because we are supposed to be knowing better than the average man or woman on the street. History has given us all this rare moral and political obligation, born of our special blessings, to become witnesses to the Ilokano culture and language—to witness to its truth, to witness to its sense and meaning, to witness to each vast possibilities?

But how many among us, indeed, are taking this vocation to witness with truthfulness and courage?

How many of us can ever say with pride, that yes, I am an Ilokano scholar, and I know my Michel Foucault and Hans-Georg Gamader and Jurgen Habermas and Pablo Neruda and Virginia Woolf—and yet I know as well the critical works of Lilia Santiago, Roderick Galam, Adel Lucero, Mario Rosal, and Noemi Rosal, and the masterpieces of our younger writers such as Herman Tabin, Hermie Beltran, Linda Lingbaoan, Aida Tiama, Roy Aragon, Ariel Tabag, Cles Rambaud, and Prodie Padios?

How many can rattle off Hidalgo and his short stories, his novels, his paintings, his poems, and his translation works?

How many have read Greg Laconsay’s translation into Ilokano the former President Ferdinand Marcos’ Today’s Revolution: Democracy, where in there, he translated into a beautiful Ilokano concept what consciousness is all about?

How many can talk of Rey Duque’s early love poems and his mature love poems, Pel Alcantara’s intellectual because intellectualizing poems and short stories? O, how many do we ever know at all? How many know that 100 years ago, Williams came up with a book on Ilokano grammar? How many know that there are many versions of the Christian Bble in Ilokano?

How many know that Precy Espiritu wrote not only one but two books on Ilokano grammar in the last 15 years?

These itemization of what we know and what we do not know is an attempt at accounting and soul-searching. We can easily quote some obscure author in English. We can even quote Willie Revillame from his daily inanities on his inane “Wowowie” and his making a spectacle of lady dancers who do not only know how to sway but also know how to economize on clothing and making commerce out of this daily barrage and deluge of the non-sense. But pray, tell, how many of us know something about our own revolutionary history?

Where would education begin and where would it end?

Are we to exempt our biologists here their ethical duty to not to know about our language, our people, and our culture?

Are we to exempt our educational leaders from not knowing about cultural and linguistic democracy and the cultural and linguistic genocide that is happening to our people at this time?

These issues about the Ilokanos are the same issues affecting the other 2 Ks in the Amianan: the Kordiliera and the valley of Kagayan. I am using the K-form of the sounds in the areas of the Amianan for mnemonics: the Kailokuan, the Kordiliera, and the valley of Kagayan. This simply means that we ought to ask the same set of questions, and using the same measures, must also account the other IPs from Amianan.

But back to the issue of linguistic and cultural genocide and how it is affecting us as a people.

My clear take on this is this: that we must not allow this linguistic and cultural genocide to continue.

The message I am telegraphing is univocal and does not admit of other interpretation: we must put an end to all the forces that are making us as a mass-herd, as a people that has come to value forgetting, as a people that does valorize truth-telling but believes that there is redemption in becoming a party to all this masquerade that is happening all around us.

While in other parts of the globe, there is that humble recognition of the failure of the past, in the disturbing and deadly consequences of ‘massifying’ people and making them speak and talk and see the world only in one and only one language, and in the systemic rectification of the errors of the past by making ‘official’ the other languages from their regions that deserve no less attention than the already ‘officialized’ one by virtue of giving citizenship to this language, we are here in this country trying to make good with the fascistic possibilities of an ideology that did not and will never make our minds and imagination productive, that ideology that has something to do with a singular and only a singular language that encapsulate all what we are.

The idea of a national language is an ideal, as I have always said so in many of the works I have done. But the idea is one that ought to follow the spirit of the fundamental law of the land, a provision, that to me, need no further violation as we have already violated: (a) that this national shall be called Filipino and (b) that this should be a product of all our existing languages. We need not say more on this, even with the errors of history on our side.

The big trouble comes in when in the pursuit of the single linguistic symbol, the terrorizing meaning and effect of that one word, “single,” is masked off with faux unity and faux national cultura and everything faux that attend to it. There is something wrong here and scholars must do two things: (a) help in the unmasking of these lies peddled to us in the last 70 years since Manuel Quezon signed the Tagalog based on, among other things, accommodation and boasting by proponents and the stupid timidity and culpable acquiescence of uninformed and ignorant Ilokano and Cebuano representatives ( Cf. Gonzalez 1990).

I take issue with Tagalog as a national language. It is unconstitutional.

I take issue with Tagalog being used as a mask to account the idea that there is now the existence of a Philippine national language which is called, among others, a schizophrenic name P/Filipino by one academic at the University of the Philippines. It is not morally right and correct.

This linguistic and cultural schizophrenia must be diagnosed, named, and unmasked—and its prognosis stated: it is making a rapid genocide of our Ilokano culture, of our Ilokano language, of the languages and cultures of Amianan.

Now, where does Ilokano and Amianan Studies come in in this linguistic and cultural struggle for freedom, for autonomy, and for authenticity?

The trouble with the isomorphism—this idea that Tagalog=P/Filipino—that has happened in Tagalog as a national language is that:

(a) it has made Tagalog as a triumphal language, marching and marching with the feet of victory, and gaining advocates and adherents, and a military and a navy and thus,a ever-ready to wage a war against all of us, we who speak differently, we who see the world differently;
(b) it has positioned Tagalog as the political and cultural and economic powerhouse, with more profits for movies, magazines, schools, and other media when these are in Tagalog at the expense of the other languages, with more political power for academics and other cultural leaders who can speak Tagalog masked off as P/Filipino, with superiority claims for all other peoples who can speak it;
(c) it has made other languages inaccessible, more remote that ever, because their existence do not matter even if Tagalog advocates speak about a token attitude by including a word or two from language A, another two or three from language B, and another four or five from language C;
(d) it has made many Filipino linguists on the national language blind, preferring to wallow in the blessed thought that to maintain the isomorphism that Tagalog is equal to P/Filipino is a convenient position and a comfortable intellectual discourse;
(e) it has made Tagalog literature as the canon for anything Philippine in of poetics and the linguistically aesthetic, with Tagalog writing being used as a measure for many things, including the perks and pelf that go with Tagalog writing, and including the awarding of National Artists for Literature—practices that are not only tyrannical and undemocratic, but also anomalous in a country that acknowledges the blessings of diversity and multilingualism.


From this perspective, we see clearly the political and epistemic position of IAS. It is not going to allow knowledge that is microwavable but resists all forms of knowledge that offer convenience and comfort, but not critical enough to admit its fundamental lack of integrity and truthfulness.

It is not going to allow the repetition of lies, but will unmask these lies in an effort to forge a broader view of the universe and human experience by using a critical lens to account what makes truth and meaning matters.

In the end, we will speak here of an IAS that looks at the universe of the peoples of Amianan from a political, cultural, and economic perspective: (a) a federated part of the country with full autonomy, with its lingua franca, with its politics that is grounded on a caring concern for the power of the people to define their own destinies in their own terms; (b) an Amianan made up of diverse cultures and peoples and languages, but unifies, in a certain way, by a lingua franca enriched by the languages of the various IPs; and (c) an Amianan that becomes its own hub of investment and commerce, and that has the capability to trade, as in the past, with other nation-states, other federated communities of the Philippines, and among its IPs.

IAS is a whole new epistemology, a new vision, a new way of looking at things.

IAS is a door to liberation, to social redemption, to cultural affirmation of what are the people’s cultural and linguistic rights.


Azurin, Arnold Molina, “Mga katiwalian sa ating kamalayan tungkol sa kaalamang bayan,” in L.Q. Santiago, Mga Idea at Estilo. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1995, pp. 7-20.

Bautista, Violeta V. and Rogelia Pe-Pua, ed. Pilipinolohiya: Kasaysayan, Pilosopiya at Pananaliksik. Quezon City: Kalikasan Press, 1991.

Gonzalez, Andrew B. Language and Nationalism: The Philippine Experience Thus Far. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila UP, 1980.

Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. second ed, enlarged. The University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Modernization of Ilokano

Some Notes on the Modernization of Ilokano

Aurelio S. Agcaoili, PhD
University of Hawaii-Manoa

(This work is part of a larger work on Ilokano language, literature, and culture. The Tawid Magazine serialized a popular version of the work in its magazine and in its e-zine; another electric form is found in the author’s website).

O. Preliminaries

These are my own peculiar way of looking at the lively and dynamic exchange of ideas on the Ilokano language at this time. The aim of this paper is to look at this lively and dynamic exchange and refer them back to what has happened in the history of the Ilokano language, the developments of the culture, and the discourses that have affected how we have received and respected and reclaimed the Ilokano language. While the issue on reception is bound-up by the circumstances of birth, the issue on respect for the language is contentious depending on the ‘ideological and cultural’ mindset of the Ilokano in question. The crucial issue that relates to the ideal of ‘reclaiming’ the language is one of a dream, and in the diaspora, the difficulties are ever more present even if we can also say that the Ilokanos in the Philippines are not in a better position to say that they are, in fact, committed to the reclaiming of the language for themselves, for their people, and for the future generations. My hope is to offer some cursory ‘notes,’ some ground to cover in the continuing and evolving discourse on what needs to be done to make Ilokano both a language of the present of the Ilokano people and a language of their future.
There have been a number of positions, voices, and attitudes and all of them are salutary. They all point to a mind that is thinking, reflecting, ruminating, and caring.

For me, serious thinking is thinking hard and critically and allowing reflexivity to come in and reside in the soul, the spirit, and the heart where fusion becomes the principle of each second of our thinking life.

On the matter about the issues relative to the ‘modernization’ of Ilokano language, I have been a witness to such serious thinking by way of the various positions, voices, and attitudes of writers, cultural workers, and thinkers of the Ilokano language. I have seen so much quality in them. As a teacher of this language and one of its practicing users as a writer, there is so much privilege in my having become a witness to this ‘renewed’ interest on things Ilokano even if I would also say that despair and frustration ought to be recognized in other areas such as the teaching of the language in basic education; the lack of respect accorded to the language by the very policy makers of culture and education in the Philippines—by the people in power who should know better; and by the neocolonial attitude of many of its inheritors, both young and old, in and outside the country. To date, to my knowledge, there are only two schools that currently have a program in Ilokano language teaching: the University of the Philippines-Diliman, in the Philippines, and the University of Hawaii-Manoa, in Hawai`i, the United States. While students of Philippine culture in the Philippines can work their way to some form of a ‘specialization’ in Ilokano by way of their courses and their research, such ‘specialization’ takes the form of working through a more elaborate, perhaps less committal, recognition of the importance of Ilokano in the larger scheme of things in the educational directions of the country. The University of Hawai`i`s bachelor’s program in Philippine Languages and Literatures has more teeth in providing a clearer, committed, and conscious direction to the teaching of Ilokano (Cf. Espiritu 2005).

These attitudes, voices, and positions have so much quality that we are reminded that all is not lost, that there is much relevance in this collective act to resist the onslaught of a neocolonizing power that plans to stay forever in the minds of the many who have learned the difficult lessons about the terrible impact of ‘language and culture homogenization’—this systematic act of state power and its agents and executors to make people think only ‘mass’ thoughts, one authored by the center of power and authority. There is a bonus in these attitudes, voices, and positions: there is care, there is a caring disposition which we all see in Roy Aragon, Joel Manuel, Joe Padre, Jake Ilic, Jim Raras, Jim Agpalo, and Nid Anima.

There are, of course, other previous voices we can allude to, refer back, and 'archeologize' and fall back to for guidance: Juan SP Hidalgo Jr, Greg Laconsay, Joe Bragado, the 'Bannawag voice', and scholars from the West who have taken upon this task of helping us help ourselves by looking into how our language behaves. We name some: Prescila Espiritu, Carl Rubino, and Lawrence Reid.

1. The Urgent, Critical Points

In the current exchanges, much of it by way of various blogs, I summarize the themes and provide my own view and/or response to the issue raised:

a) On the 'abecederia' or kur-itan or kurditan or alibata

Various literatures would tell you that the terms for the alphabet are many such as abecederia, kur-itan, kurditan, and alibata. Abecederia is Hispanic, kur-itan is of the Ilocos Norte variety, kurditan is Ilocos Sur (as seen, for instance, in the Candon, Ilocos Sur variety of Reynaldo Duque), or alibata is Greek-Arabic-Hebrew before it ever became Tagalog, or Filipino, or Ilokano as it came from aleph and beta. We note that there is an interesting story on the alif-be-ta/’alibata’ genesis of the Tagalog which can be seen in Paul Morrow’s account in which, quoting Paul Verzosa who became a member of the National Language Institute of the Philippines, coined the term ‘alibata’ at the New York Public Library. Morrow cites Versoza further, saying that Versoza “based it on the Maguindanao arrangement of letters of the alphabet after the Arabic: alif, ba, ta,” with the letter ‘f’ dropped “for euphony’s sake.” Morrow, of course, does not buy this strategy for inventing the unnecessary, as is the case of Verzosa’s, and does not use ‘alibata’ in his works on the Philippine baybayin.

A quick glance at the intersection of at least three languages such as Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic would make us realize the play of concepts somewhere. We see that aleph and beta—the first two letters in Hebrew and Greek, with Hebrew Romanized and sounded off as ‘alef’ and ‘bet’ and Greek Romanized as ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’—could have been fused somewhere to account a latter rendition of the Arabic alphabet, with the first three letters alif, ba, and ta, which, if we believe Verzosa, could have been the basis of the Maguindanao alphabet. Granting that this route to the ‘alibata-ization’ of the purported ‘national language’ at that time, which was, by force of linguistic hegemony, clearly Tagalog, we see that in one instance, the fusing of the sounds allowed the process and power of neologism to come in to account a new linguistic and cultural human experience, for the benefit of the Tagalog language and, without perhaps intending to, at the expense of the other Philippine languages. The sounds, when combined, were made to behave in a Tagalog and/or Ilokano way, hence the word 'alibata', clearly, aleph-beta/alif-ba-ta, mispronounced and miswritten as it were, but now clearly appropriated. The notion of abecederia is the same thing: the a-be-ce of the Spanish language.

Every language is a sound, or more linguistically and anthropologically appropriate, a system of sounds. And the way to account the sound/s in a written form is arbitrary, convention-bound, historical, and cultural. In short, written accounting calls for a system, hence, some sense of constancy. And yet, to be democratic and just and fair, it must be an open system to admit change, some kind of a change that adds quality to human life.

We note here that the aleph-beta are the first two letters in the way the letters of the Greek-Hebrew alphabet have been ordered; the Arabic language appropriated this, in some sense, which is the reason why we caught it as well by force of trade and commerce, possibly by way of the Arab and Indian traders, which accounts for the Sanskrit influence of our language, such as the Ilokano word 'arak'. A documentation of this linguistic and cultural route would be an interesting area of research.

Every 'alphabet' is a linguistic, cultural, and historical convention. And it is also a political act and fact. This means that at some time in the past, some people have tacitly agreed to work things out this way and their way of 'working things out' this way became the convention. In acknowledging the ‘conventional’ in every language, we learn to accept that the way to ‘modernizing’ Ilokano is not through linguistic dictatorship or cultural authoritarianism. There is some kind of a political unconscious in every language and we must, at all times, be wary and ever ready to unmask those aspects of that political unconscious that are meant to deceive us. For language, as it were, is already a lie. We are to create another one and we are done in.

Any attitude that points to a generous and genuine idea of what democracy is, in concept as well as in practice to account an orthopraxis of what we are and what we want to be, ought to be the guiding light, our guiding light to modernize the Ilokano language. When we dream and pursue democracy, we extend that, in toto and thus without exception, to all that which concerns 'life': social, political, economic, cultural, and linguistic.

b) On the letters of the alphabet

There is today a very strong exchange of ideas on the new letters being recognized, for instance, by the Filipino language being passed off as ‘the national language’ even if it continues to also pass itself off as ‘the Tagalog-based national language of the Philippines’ and the incursions the various media, the internet included, into the consciousness of Ilokanos. This ‘globalization’ of sounds—and by extension, segments and elements of languages from all over the world—has created some kind of a linguistic, cultural, and more specifically ‘phonetic’ need to recognizing these new experiences, thus, the need to accept—or reject as the case maybe—these new sounds representing, in a micro-scale, new letters.

My take on this issue is simple: we take all of the sounds. And we have to be bold and daring to do so. In some ways, writers and cultural workers like Aragon, Manuel, Agpalo, and Padre have joined the fray to re-visiting and re-thinking about the letters of the kur-itan/kurditan and their position of accounting new sounds is the right way to go.

In a shrinking world, we cannot deny the drone and dreariness of the 'globalized' sounds of the present, this Present as Presence suggesting sounds from Czech Republic to Hezbollah in Beirut, thanks to the far-reaching arm of CNN on our cable. So what is the way to go? Admit Z in zero; X in X-ray, J in Jesus and Jerusalem, Ch in China, C in pancit Canton and Castila, and all the others. In this way, you enrich the language. Our ethical act should be one that enriches us all and not one that renders us impotent, inutile, and impoverished.

c) On Ilokano being pure

This is an impossible position, and the facts of linguistic and cultural exchange and diffusion do not warrant such a position from some quarters suggesting that we have to guarantee the purity of the Ilokano, the same kind of purity that it had in the past. That idea about Ilokano as a completely fenced off, completely insular, fully isolated linguistic phenomenon, clinically deodorized and Lysol-ed/Gladed is untenable. The facts of the case about Ilokano having had an encounter with various cultures and languages show otherwise.

We need to admit that this position contains some form of ignorance; we need to unmask this ignorance and unravel what a mangled faux meditation on what a ‘pure’ language and ‘pure’ culture ought to look like. To look at one’s own language as having some kind of ‘pristine’ quality is laudable but when the facts of the case say otherwise, we cannot hold on to this illusion for long unless we want to go through the motions of ‘compensation', one way of self-defense in order to hide what we lack. A language is not made richer because it is pure; a language is richer because it is able to meaningfully mediate the world for us to see and see with clarity of vision.

There is no pure language—and neither is there a pure culture, unless that language, in fiction as well as in fact, is so historically and geographically isolated that its speakers have not have any form of contact with other speakers of another language since time immemorial. All of human acts, customs, traditions, and languages are 'polluted'. Here and there we borrowed something and we never returned.

d) On ket/ken—and other remnants of the Spanish language

I present an argument here: That the way to go to modernize the linkers and/or conjunctive markers `ket' and `ken' is not to go back to the way they wrote two generations ago, with their Spanish penchant for the impossible 'Q' for 'quen' and 'quet'.

The way to go to modernize our language is to adopt the 'k' sound more obviously in keeping with the kur-itan/kurditan phones and with the more contemporary usage of many publications, to include Bannawag, Sirmata, Tawid, the Bible with many versions and other textbooks and literary materials. Here, widespread usage dictates.

We have to accept the dynamic of language use and usage: that those who use it in writing will eventually win out, at least for a time, until some other stronger forces will challenge that and unless a real, hard to undermine-kind of standardization has been put in place. The English language went through this a lot; its history of appropriating words and concepts from many source languages is a fountain of lessons for Ilokanos. The argument about allowing linguistic defilement to destroy what the Ilokano language has got is not in keeping with what happens everyday.

The clinicalized and deodorized way of looking at the Ilokano language is borne by a certain nostalgia for that which is untenable and illogical today, but nostalgia nonetheless for a time of that past that is not any longer our own time in the first place. And this time is not even ideal because it evokes the real defilement that we have to resist, and keep on resisting—this colonization and neocolonization of the Ilokano mind.

The principle for relevance of the praxis of language is its ability to express the mind-set/s, world-view/s, and perspective/s of the current users and not the way some people two or more generations ago thought of how the language ought to look like and to be written. Appropriation is the key: we borrow, take it as our own, and do not, not ever, return.

One thing that ought to govern us all in the collective attempt to 'modernize' Ilokano is to figure out a way to economize the way this language expresses itself and not to be extravagant with the expression. With the stereotype about Ilokanos being spendthrift and tightwad, why put in 'qu' when you can use 'k' instead, and more direct at that? Modernizing language is making it short, simple, and to the point.

2. Languages in history/history and language

Old languages tended to be represented in long ways and forms. They can even be reduplicative, verbose, ornate, florid, snaking unnecessarily towards hills and valleys and plains of thought instead of following the route straight ahead. Newer ones tend to economize their expression. Think of text/texting as a form of language. We see a lot of possibilities here.

This is also the principle of good writing, which opens to us a new way of looking at the literary. The 'Qu' is unpoetic; 'k' is. For one, poetry seems to be more exciting because it follows this rule on economy of expression. The prosaic—is—prosaic. That is why it remains true to say that: a good short story should have, first, the kernel of a poem, and, second, the kernel of a novel. The cue and clue here is the required economy of expression as part of the aesthetic strategy.

One example I could tell right off is Roy Aragon's "Indong Kagit". That is one perfect short story: poetic, and containing your novel's seed of creation and construction; his could have been one chapter of a good novel that indicts our society's injustices. The stories that are coming out, for instance, are not in accord with the notions of 'modernizing language' but following the prosaic excursions of the 'scientific world' that tries to explain everything even if some things need no explaining anyway.

Or we revisit the classic Johnny SP Hidalgo piece--classic because it is a pillar in short story writing--"Bituen ti Rosales." We read up on the grammar, the semantic promises, and the vast semiotic possibilities of that piece and we see that here is an aesthetic landmark whose meaning/s escape/s us all. I have probed Hidalgo's art and it escapes me. I have written about his poetic project in his poems and in his paintings and both escape me--the poetic in the painting and the painting in the poetic.

Here, it is not a question of going through the 'motions of Bannawag orthography' and allowing it, before our very eyes, its collective act of 'defiling' our language. Bannawag has its own interests to protect. To accuse this popular magazine of defilement—a magazine that has become an institution in Ilokano literature—is not according to form. Here, we see Nid Anima's impossible--impossible because it is ahistorical--concept of 'defilement'.

We account the subtexts here: (a) a pure Ilokano language; (b) an undefiled Ilokano language; (c) a pristine Ilokano language, untouched by human hands, colonization, pollution, diffusion, cross-cultural encounter and exchange. Tell me about the Ilokano/Tagalog word 'arak/alak' and let us see whether the illusion of grandeur about a pristine and pure and primeval Ilokano language holds water.

We need to see the wisdom of the present, that wisdom that we use to write the words in question. We need to drop the Qu in quen and quet and put ‘k’ instead for the reason that the more economical the expression, the better is the possibility that communication happens. Do we ever recall why in the documents the "Qu" form of our linker and conjunctive marker had become cumbersome, until probably the 60's and so the documents would shorten them, writing them as simply 'Qn' and 'Qt'? This, to me, is the clue to orthographic economy.

Why bother going back to the Doctrina Christiana's imperialist and colonizing agenda when we do not need it in this respect? Unmask the empire and the colony—and in extensu, the imperialist and colonizer in sheep's clothing in the Ilokano language. It is high time that we did this. If we do not do it now, when are we going to do it? We take only what we need along the way as we march on, together with our Ilokano language, to the beating of the drums of Ilokano language modernization and development.

3. The question of a ‘pure’ language and debunking Anima

If we look closely at the arguments presented by Nid Anima in his one-man act of crying foul against the defilement of the Bannawag people of the Ilokano language, we could come up with a riposte that argues as well that his position on the Ilokano language does not offer a plausible perspective on how we are to view the language and how are we to develop it. His position, thus, flawed as it is, eventually self-destructs.

There are certain things that we have to look into here—in the way he presents the logic of his argument.
One, his guerilla methodology or his lack of method in pursuing the logic of his cause, if he has any—or in pursuing both his logic's end and his cause.

Two, his position lacks a neat and nifty understanding of what scholarship ought to look like such that we can hardly believe him when he tells us things that are not backed up by solid research but by ‘impressionistic’ impressions.
Let me point out the facts from the paper he read at the 2002 GUMIL Filipinas-GUMIL Oahu Conference held in Honolulu, Hawai`i and which was reissued by Jim Agpalo in his blog,

a) On the Jose Villa Panganiban directive, he says: “A directive by the then Director of the Institute of National Language, Jose Villa Panganiban, brought about the cause of protest. This possibly occurred in the late 50’s or early 60’s.”

Here we see a classic Anima way of putting ideas together in a manner and fashion that is truly convoluted. If we go back to the meat of the two sentences, we do not know exactly what is being referred to. Is he referring to the Panganiban directive or to the protest that came after or both?

Why, for heaven’s sake, did he use the phrase “possibly occurred in the late 50’s or early 60’s”? How are we to believe him if he cannot even tell us exactly where he is getting his facts? “Possibly” has a lame reference—it has empty claims. It is at best impotent in the context it is used by Anima.

b) On the scope of that directive, he says: “The scope of that directive embraced as well as encompassed all local languages and dialects, including Ilocano. (JVP) theorized that the local dialects derived their origins from Bahasa Indonesia, which uses the letter k, and thus must conform—for authenticity’s sake.”

Here we go again. We see here a confused mind and a confused reasoning. Does Anima really know what he is talking about? Does he know the basic difference between a language and a dialect?

In the first instance, he talks about the Panganiban directive “(embracing) as well as (encompassing) all local languages and dialects, including Ilocano.” In the next instance, he talks about “the local languages (deriving) their origins from Bahasa Indonesia.” We cannot argue along fuzzy lines.

c) I am skipping his vengeful afterthought on Bannawag. The Bannawag people can defend themselves.

d) He then talks about the genesis of the ‘Iluco’ language, which he inconsistently referred to in the first part of his argument as “Ilocano”.

He talks about the flaws of the Panganiban directive, thus: “One, the Iluco as much as Tagalog language did not derive from Bahasa. Rather, they came of their own. They thrived, grew and flourished under Hispanic influence. Two, if the Iluco dialect must be subject to influence at all might it not be better if the influence is wielded by a superior language and not an inferior one? Between Bahasa and Spanish or English, there is no doubt as to which is more superior: it is quite obvious.”
Anima is confused about the Ilokano language “coming of its own” like Tagalog. Here, we see an Anima illusion of grandeur: that once there was a pristine and primeval language we call “Iluco,” his own term.

In the next breath, he speaks of “Iluco dialect.” Here, we see clearly a confused reasoning, sans logic, sans a solid understanding of the concepts of Linguistics 101 that any Tom, Dick and Harry could take in college. He cannot distinguish clearly between “language” and “dialect”—or cannot even explain in what contexts these are being used. In another breath, he speaks of “superior language” such as Spanish and/or English and an “inferior one” such as “Bahasa”.

What are his standards for saying that a language is more superior to the other—or conversely, more inferior to the other?

Here we see a neocolonial mind and mindset in operation, and without that mind and mindset knowing that it has been colonized anew. And then, what “Bahasa” is he referring to? Does he understand the very concept of “Bahasa”? Does he know that “Bahasa” is not only for Indonesia?

e) He talks about the “English language” growing by accretion—and then the dynamic of this accretion such that “the word coiners arrived at the exact term required.”

He then contrasts this with word coiners of the ‘Iluco’ language, saying “their counterparts in Iluco does it through sound association and arrive at something absurd and ridiculous. For instance, they adopted football into putbol. There is nothing in this word that denotes and/or connotes with foot and ball. Ditto with birth certificate locally represented as bert sirtipikit.”

Anima is clearly confused here, mistaking “accretion” for fidelity to the character and behavior of the word being borrowed such that it ought to have that character and behavior as in the original. No change, no manipulation, no linguistic intervention is ever allowed here. Wrong move, as appropriation does not operate this way.

4.0 Initial notes on enriching the Ilokano language

The formation of affixes, the coining of new words via word combination, and the invention of new ones are a product of the times: they are needed which was why they have to be thought out and put out before language users to use—or even to dismiss. To account sound association as ridiculous is to miss a fundamental point in appropriation as the key element in the concentric development and progress of a particular language.

Appropriation—also called borrowing and then owning it without returning to the source—makes sense only when what is borrowed is made to act and behave in the way the borrowing language acts and behaves.

We think of the borrowed words of English here—the words borrowed by the English language from so many sources and which it never returned but eventually made to behave as its own. Did the words ‘completely’ and ‘totally’ and ‘fully’ retain their spelling and pronunciation? Some, but many did not. What was more important is that all of these borrowed words had to conform to the acceptable sound system of the English language.

Anima, in his confusion, denies this same thing to Ilokano. Think of a bundle of contradictions here and we see in the twisted logic of the Anima conference paper that purports to teach us a lesson or two on the “defiling” of the Ilokano language.

What about his claim about football and its rendering into Ilokano as ‘putbol’? And that ‘bert sirtipikit’? I say: why not? His notion of connotation and denotation totally misses the point on appropriating. Do the Japanese have a term for ‘computer’? The answer is, yes, they have. The Japanese term for ‘computer’" has been derived from the English ‘computer’; it has been rendered in the way the Japanese language is sounded off. Who determines whether ‘bert sirtipikit’ will not work? Oh, well, the community of Ilokano speakers determines which lexicon is kept and which one is dropped or thrown away. If they will consider this as something that will make sense to them, they will keep it. Otherwise, it will go the way of words rendered obsolete.

f) Towards the end, of course, Anima’s way of writing, with orthography all his own, is being offered as the salving and redeeming in Ilokano language and writing. Anima says: “I have taken the first step by writing my first book in Iluco, Tartaraudi Ni Bucaneg, in the only manner it should be written. If you adopted the same in the writing of your own books, I strongly believe you and I can restore Iluco to its proper place.”

The huge problem with Anima is the huge ego in his huge project with no regard for the diachronia of the Ilokano language. He has forgotten many things including the fact that in the attempt to offer something redeeming and salving, dictatorship has no place. What he does is to dictate to us the “correct and proper way” to write in Ilokano—and this “correct and proper way” is arrogantly passed off as the Anima way. And he says, "This is the only way to do it." He invokes Bucaneg, of course, forgetting that Ilokano scholarship is not even too certain of Pedro Bucaneg. In fine, he invokes Allah. But this does not make his argument divine and coming from the heavens of his cloudy thought.

5. Responding to the commitment to modernize Ilokano
Why we need to respond to these detailed issues being raised is a commitment to ‘modernizing’ the Ilokano language. By modernization, I mean here the need to adopt the language to the changing needs of the times in order to account the experiences that are currently not ‘sayable’—both in oral and written form--within the context of the linguistic system of Ilokano. The resurgence as well of interests on things Ilokano in the Philippines and in the diaspora is also a factor that adds up to the urgent need to respond to these issues about the language and the culture in the language.

In the many gatherings that I have had the privilege to be part of and participate in the discussions, some as a speaker on the many topics of interest to these participants, the issue of standardization of the Ilokano language has always been of special import to me. It was at the University of the Philippines’ College of Arts and Letters that I had had the first chance to look at the Ilokano language with a certain self-reflexivity.

As is the case of every person born to the language, you get the feeling, high and intoxicating but as empty as an empty boast when you know full well that you have been, by the force of the historical accidents of your birth, to the language born. You get the feeling that you have the privilege, the perk, the pelf—and you can wag your tail and do not care about the world, not a whit. Like a lion, you roar, but the roar, you realize much later on, can suggest some bluff—or could be a real bluff.

When I got to teach a doctoral course on Ilokano literature—yes, Virginia, the literature of the Ilokanos is being taught at the university, in the undergraduate program on a cycle, on a rotating basis; in the master’s program; and in the doctoral—I felt panic as if I have not known what panic was all about. It was, in a tongue-in-cheek way, panic on panic. What to do? The teachers and scholars and writers would be in my class, some of them my colleagues in the department, some of them from the other topnotch colleges or universities. They all came to University of the Philippines-Diliman for the fact that UP Diliman, of all the many universities of the country, has the best of the intellectual resources of the nation, the republic, and the country all rolled into one. The social and intellectual expectation was too much to bear. That gave me the jitters. I did not want to make a fool of myself.

So I had to scour the UP Main Library. I had to look in every corner and when I could not satisfy my curiosity, I went to the Rizal Library of the Ateneo and to the National Library on Kalaw.

In these libraries, I realized many things. At the National Library, I saw a bundle of “Revolutionary Papers”—was it RPI that they called then? —a Katipunan set of documents attesting to the membership of the signatories of the documents to the nationalist movement. One of the membership documents I saw was one signed by an Agcaoili, in an elaborate handwriting, and saying that it was signed, as with the rest of them, in their own blood.

At the UP Main Library, I read up on that famous debate on the Ilokano language by the “Ilokanistas” of old, in the 30s, 40s, and onward. I saw the Ilokano version of the “Silaw” series of novelettes, the same kind that we would revive as Lailo Romances of the ICRI Writers Cooperative, or Juan SP Hidalgo’s literary projects, or another by the Milan Enterprises. At the Rizal Library, I saw Santiago Fonacier’s unreadable—read: unreadable, and unreadable because the Ilokano rendering is too darn bad and incomprehensible—translation of the Noli and the Fili.

This knowledge of the Katipunan documents from the National Archives of the National Library would forever haunt me, and in my writings, in poetry as in the short stories and my ambitious novels, this would inform and shape my aesthetic lifework forever.
In all these old documents, I have come across the Ilokano language written in the way people in those times would look at the grammar and semantics of their own knowledge of who they were and what they wanted to pursue.

In short, I saw all those “qs” and “cs” and all those Hispanicized expressions that, even if they contained some sense of clarity, were also inviting confusion. There was some elegance in the nostalgia of a “beautiful Hispanic past” if this were romanticized and idealized as some kind of a period of Ilokano history where only the good and beautiful and the true things happened.

But the social reality was not so.

The Spaniards betrayed us by conniving with then imperialist upstart United States and we know what the deal was: $20 M dollars for our liberty, for that one fat chance to declare our independence from Spain.

No, the Catholic Spaniards had more sinister notions about empire and religious mis/evangelization and setting us free would make a mockery of their “superior status” as a colonizer, this status the very reason for some of us unenlightened Ilokano scholars and writers to keep on holding to our “qs” in the “ket” and the “ken” and the “cs” in the “caramba” and “carajo”. But who says “caramba” and “carajo” still? I have not heard this in Vigan in a long while and neither in Laoag. Let those who have so much love for the useless remnants of the language cry foul and say, “You, you arrogant young people who never respect the past.”

I imagine I would answer back to the accusation to that charge of linguistic betrayal: “We are easing out the ‘qs’ in the ‘ket’ and the ‘ket’ and in other words because we know more of the social and linguistic history of the Ilokano language than those who insist on the relevance of irrelevant fossils.” I would also add: “We want to think—and we want to think clearly so we want to simplify our Ilokano language the best way we know how. As it is, the language is already difficult to learn even if you speak it. Why add another cross to the already heavy cross of learning your own language because in reality you do not know enough about it?”

That answer, of course, is also addressed to me. I do not know much about the Ilokano language. Perhaps I know enough to have that empty boast and that empty stance. But I am willing to listen and learn if somebody can pinpoint to me a clear logic for doing so, with proofs and persuasive argument. So do we need nostalgia as a principle in the accounting of what ought to prevail in standardizing the Ilokano language?

What do I tell the people who ask about standardizing our Ilokano language? Do I see a problem here? What can I say as a writer? What can I say as a teacher of the language?

I have only one answer: We have a tacit standard Ilokano. Discover it, use it, and listen to it so you can help out in the evolving of a richer and more dynamic repertoire of the language.

And I tell them as well: What we need to do is reaffirm its power and its legitimacy—and we go from there. I admit there is no explicit standard at this time. This is the reason why there are these varying voices, attitudes, and positions. Then again, have we arrived at a point where we have a sufficient repertoire so we can now move on to standardizing our language in an academic sense?

So what do we do with the borrowed words? I argue for the need to spell the borrowed words in accord with the spelling and phonetic system of the borrowing language. This argument is based on the urgency of going through appropriation in a manner that is historically appropriate.

In particular, it argues for the illogicality of retaining the spelling of the borrowed word in Ilokano when such a word admits the possibility and actuality of a spelling in accord with the spelling and phonetic system of Ilokano. It argues further that there can be exceptions to this rule, but the exceptions are, by themselves, exceptions.

6. Appropriating appropriation

In the act of appropriating—a technique, method, and theory espoused in hermeneutics—there is a certain dynamic that needs to be understood properly: that when an existing language happens to not have the term/word—in classical philosophy, these are not the same but I am using these in a generic sense—for a new experience and that another language happens to have it, or happens to have invented it ahead of the others and that invention has gained currency, then we do not have to crack our head to avoid borrowing it but simply borrow it. Coming up with our own is a waste of time, and there could be some cognitive, epistemic, interpretive, and linguistic problems generated if we keep on trying harder just to 'remain faithful' to the terms or words or concepts of the language we are borrowing from.

In a tongue-in-cheek way, we have a running joke about the Tagalog language trying to be faithful to the words afforded by Tagalog, but as always, one cannot always succeed, as is the case of the following foreign words: chair, men's brief, and ladies' underwear.

Your guess is as good as mine in terms of what impossible terms could come out: salumpuwit for chair because we do not want the Spanish cilla/silya. But what about the translation issue about ‘men’s brief’ and ‘ladies' underwear’? People have laughed at this cheap form of clowning that is based on a fallacy of accent and amphibology, in a sense, and one can be irreverent here—but this whole exercise is for a not-so-good fun about translation and its horrific incommensurability problems.
The "Pilipino" method of "kung anong bigkas, siyang baybay--the manner it is spoken is the manner it is written"--is not a franchise of Pilipino or its genesis, as claimed by the uninformed advocates of what Tagalog is in terms of the r/evolution necessary to account a national language for the Filipino people.

That procedure has been used by many other languages long before—and is easily documented by going back to the history of a word or a concept for that matter—and as the whole thing is seen in the context of a bigger dynamic we could call "a study of the history of ideas."

The idea for adopting the spelling and pronunciation of a foreign word in the manner and form a term/concept a word is spelled and pronounced in the borrowing language is the way to go.

Why so?

One, the word/term borrowed gets to assume a more 'naturalized' position/entry in the lexicon of the language and thus, would not any longer looking strange, foreign, and 'unnatural/unnaturalized'. This will pave the way for it to become totally 'natural' in the borrowing language.

Two, this approach would make the borrowing one of ownership, which is a condition for the term/word to get to become a 'natural' lexicon of the language.

Three, the appropriation becomes complete as the borrowed word/concept/term cannot be returned as it has been spelled by the borrowing language such that, the language from which the original word came about cannot any longer claim as its own even if, conceptually and linguistically, it came from it.

When a foreign language/term/concept is retained, you will encounter many problems such as:

a) Can the phonetic system allow it to be pronounced in the original way it is pronounced? It is likely that the borrowed word is pronounced differently, as is the case, of "computer." Check the English dictionary and you will see that the way it is pronounced in its roots/etymology is not the same way the resulting word is pronounced, and this resulting word 'computer', for instance, could not be pronounced in the same way in Ilokano. Our Ilokano ‘r’ is not the same as the English ‘r,’ whether American or British.

b) Can the spelling system allow it? It is unlikely that the spelling system allows it and that is the reason why the borrowed word must be spelled as well in the same spelling system of the borrowing language.

The 'reintellectualization position' of some philosophers of the Ilokano language does not hold water in toto: in some ways, that position can hold but in more ways than one, that simply cannot be sustained.

The gains are less than the losses. And if they do insist on this--on retaining the original spelling of the borrowed word because of (a) nostalgia for things American and Spanish and what not, including perhaps Arabic now where many Ilokanos go and return to the Ilokos with their Arabicized concepts and/or (b) respect for the language from which the word is coming from--then they must account a new phonetic, lexical, and spelling system; and then they must account as well how to go about appropriating in a true fashion a new concept to account our new experience without importing extra-linguistic variables.

7. A take on ‘reintellectualization’

One issue at stake in all these debates, argumentation, and never-ending proposition-espousal relative to the 'standardization' issue of the Ilokano language is what Joel Manuel calls 'reintellectualization.'

Of all the many younger thinkers and tinkers of the Ilokano language—and we thank this present generation of writers, educators, and cultural critics of Ilokano language and literature for taking on the cudgels of showing care and commitment for and in the name of our people—Manuel stands out.

I would come out with a random naming now of who is in his own class, veritably some of our best, with a portfolio of work/s to show that can even shame the older generation, well, some of them, who never read any other works anymore apart from their own and the manuscripts that they are asked to judge, believing that Ilokano literature is in accord with their own and only own image of what literature and art and aesthetics should be, their fossilized view of literature really fossilized. These new thinkers and tinkers—critical and creative—include: Roy Aragon, John Buhay, Arnold Jose, Pete Duldulao, Daniel Nesperos, Aileen Rambaud, Jim Raras, Dan Antalan, Ariel Tabag, and now this Jake Ilac. The fingers are sufficient--you can forget the toes or the Meralco posts in Manila’s crowded streets where Ilokano is spoken side by side with Tagalog, Cebuano, and English, as in the crowded streets of Los Angeles, San Diego, Honolulu, London, New York, and San Francisco.

What do they have in common? They love the language, they play with its possibilities, and they have no love lost in the foreign language and they can even write in it including that Tagalog being passed off as Filipino.

At one point, and as a result of such act of loving and caring for the language, Manuel proposed a method and methodology to the 'reintellectualization' of Ilokano, an intellectual position picked up in some way, in the way I would reckon the blogs and the exchange of ideas in them, by Aragon, Raras, Agpalo, and Joe Padre from Los Angeles.

Let us recall the linguistic, and may I say, ‘intellectual’ position of Manuel to, using his term, ‘reintellectualize’ the Ilokano language.

He says, based on the published/blogged account of Agpalo in “There are proposals for us to use the f, v, c, n, x and others. This is based on the Spanish. Oh yes, this is good because this will intellectualize more the Ilokano language. Like the following: unibersidad-universidad, pasilidad-fasilidad, interaktibo-interaktivo, eksorsismo-exorsismo, kualifikado-kualipikado, rebolusion-revolusion, pormal-formal, birhen-virgen, tekstura-textura, ekspresion-expresion.”

To explain his point, Manuel comes up with an elaborate technique and I quote him in the Ilokano original: “Kayat a sawen daytoy nga amin a natawidtayo a balikas iti Espanol ken English ket marespetar ti pannakabalikasna ken agingga iti kabaelantayo ti ispelingna, saan a kas iti inaramid dagiti Tagalog a nangikkat iti f, ken dadduma pay. Kadagiti napalpalabas a tawen insublida ngem kasla nakupad met ti Liwayway a mangipatungpal iti dayta.” (This means that all words that we inherited from the Spanish and English must be respected in the way they are pronounced and as far as we can accept their spelling, unlike the way the Tagalog removed f and other letters. In the recent past, the Tagalog returned the letters they removed but it seems that Liwayway is too slow to follow that.)

And then Manuel talks of how the revered Juan SP Hidalgo uses the same approach in Rimat, a magazine, now defunct, he used to edit: “Kas iti ar-aramiden ni Apo Johnny (sic) Hidalgo iti Rimat, isubsublinan ti respeto kadagiti balikas a binulodtayo, daytoy ket para iti in-inut a (sic) reintelektualisasion ti Iluko.” (Like what Johnny Hidalgo of Rimat is doing, he is giving back the respect to the words we are borrowing, and this is for the gradual re-intellectualization of Iluko).
The intent of Manuel to speak about ‘reintellectualization’ is laudable.

But there is a huge problem here: his notion of ‘reintellectualization’ follows the same Bonifacio Sibayan notion in his mistake to make Pilipino and its schizophrenic twin Filipino ‘intellectualized’, forgetting that each language, by its very nature, has its own sacred and secret way of intellectualizing the world.

From a philosophical point of view, ‘intellectualization’ suggests the ability of a language to explain what the world is all about, the world in general, in its most lucid and metaphorical sense, in its complexity, in its everyday and extraordinary nature.

I do not understand, therefore, why any language, for that matter, needs ‘reintellectualization’ from the outside, suggesting that the world created by the Ilokano language, for that matter, needs to be ‘reintellectualized’ from the outside and to do so, as claimed by Manuel and Hidalgo, following the Sibayan bluff to make the schizoid Tagalog-Pilipino-Filipino appear like that of any ‘intellectualized’ language of the world, and by that, we can presume, Sibayan was bluffing his way to make one mistake after another because, in his mind, he was looking to Spanish and English as his ‘intellectualized’ model of what an ‘intellectualized’ language should be.

My take on intellectualization and that abominable term ‘reintellectualization’ is that of the inherent quality of any language to have an ‘intellect’, a word from middle English, old French, and obviously from Latin, from the verb “intelligere” forming a past participle, intellectus. Here we see cognates: ‘mind,’ in its most generic sense, and obviously the adjective, ‘intelligent.’
My worry with Sibayan’s schizoid approach of Tagalog spinning off, in a rather forced way, into the schizoid Pilipino/Filipino, is that he did not have enough trust and confidence in what the Tagalog language could do, and rather than admitting that Tagalog—or that language form, Pilipino/Filipino, rammed into our throat—did not have the contemporary terms to account the contemporary experience of the Tagalog people/Pilipino people/Filipino people—what are we really here, who are we?—he called for ‘intellectualization.’ He argues that unless we can have knowledge—and his notion of knowledge is in the academic sense, and in terms of degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate—fully mediated by the schizophrenic Tagalog/Pilipino/Filipino, we can never, according to him, reach an intellectualized ‘national language.’

The question here is: Does the Tagalog language lack the capacity to discuss and explain in an intelligent way what the world is all about? Or was it the case that Sibayan was so linguistically and culturally handicapped when he was confronted with the ‘astronomical’ ‘astronomy’ issues related to the planet Pluto as it is the case now? Has Sibayan forgotten the bigger issues related to the sociolinguistics of the national language and the abominable history of our colonial mis/education via, and because of, the foreigners’ language/s? Here we see that Sibayan did not do his job well: he simply did not understand what intellectualization is all about and here comes this concept again about intellectualization that means only borrowing someone else’s terms in the effort to intellectualize/reintellectualize your language.

Now the huge problem: we are following the same Bonifacio trap and calling, among others, to ‘reintellectualize’ our own.

At best, this is ‘bad trip’—as the vagabond intellectual would call as it suggests the low regard, unconsciously and unintentionally, I am sure, Manuel and Hidalgo have for the Ilokano language. One big problem I have is that I cannot even believe before my very eyes that they do know the consequences of this concept of ‘reintellectualization’ as they are both pillars in their generations of Ilokano language use, being both top-notch literary figures in their own league. We do things with words—and Manuel and Hidalgo might have unconsciously and unintentionally forgotten this reality with words—and language for that matter—as our own mode of action.

The equation being proposed is that ‘reintellectualization is equal to retaining the spelling of the borrowed word as much as you can—an equation clearly proposed by Manuel, following Hidalgo, and in some light, by Joe Padre, one of the better exiles in Los Angeles who think thoughts in clear terms about what and who we are as a people with a language worth our loving wherever we are. Aragon takes up this proposal, and Agpalo as well, and both experiment with their works.

The equation lacks conceptual validity: what Manuel is doing is not ‘reintellectualizing’ but allowing the Ilokano language to open itself to the possibilities of appropriating words that we do not have to account our new experiences.

And this is not peculiar to Ilokano language alone, as this is being done by all languages—and they do not call this ‘reintellectualization’, a demeaning word, subservient, colonial and colonizing, and carries with it the burden of allowing oneself to become an appendage of another linguistic and cultural empire. In the end, we have allowed this new hegemony, cultural and linguistic, to come take hold of our minds, our intelligence, as if our Ilokano language does not and cannot reveal a mind and intelligence.

I could be accused of nominalism here, that philosophical position as ancient as ancient Greece, that position that holds, among others, that the ‘name/nomen’ counts—and is the only things that counts—to account reality.
Then again, I am holding my ground: what Hidalgo, Manuel, Agpalo, Aragon, and Padre are doing and proposing is not intellectualizing but appropriating, that phenomenon in which borrowing is necessary, even expedient and urgent for the ‘contemporizing’—modernization—of language, speech, concepts in order to account contemporary experience by borrowing words, terms, and concepts, and making them your own, and not returning it.

Wrong diction there by the ‘reintellectualization’ group of philosophers. This school of thought follows a Sibayan empty boast of the need to intellectualize and reintellectualize Tagalog. That is Sibayan’s conceptual problem which we should have not picked up and repeated. Let Sibayan’s Tagalog/Pilipino/Filipino commit the blunder there is in evolving a truly Filipino language from a false rhetoric of what ought to constitute a ‘national language’.

In appropriating, we do not have to be subservient to the language we are borrowing the terms from and not returning but claiming it as our own.

We need to be careful here with the registers of the terms we are using, as these registers carry with them the weight that is not only linguistic but extra-linguistic as well: historical, cultural, economic, political, and philosophical. No, we do not allow this to happen again.

But let us see some merits in Manuel’s procedures for appropriating, and I have been doing the same thing myself, in a number of my writings, both in Ilokano and Filipino (not Sibayan’s impossible Tagalog/Pilipino): n, x, f, z, ll.
But you have a problem here: you cannot use them all in all instances when their sounds do not allow for a complete entry into the phonetic system of the Ilokano language.

The first duty is to be faithful to the existing phonetic system and what that system can allow. And when, in the pragmatics of our speech and language, when that sound that we are introducing is not really there but needs to be there, then that is the only time for us to introduce a new ‘phone’, a new sound, but always in keeping with other linguistic and extra-linguistic variables.

The clue here is an intelligent, critical scrutiny, and not some borrowing that is not well thought out, a method and procedure to borrowing that wants to respect the term/word of the language where that term/word was borrowed by not changing it at all. In appropriation, there is more to just respecting the original term/word without taking into account the phonetic system of the borrowing language and its structure of accounting sense and meaning.

As well pointed out by previous critics of the Tagalog language being passed off as Pilipino/Filipino, the problem with the Tagalog imperialists and advocates of hegemony is that they forgot the history and the political imagination present in the word “Filipino” to account both the nation and the people—and thus, the national language, such that, in their ignorance of the dynamics of such a history and political imagination, they rammed into our throats their term “Pilipino” to account for the language and “Filipino” for the people—or is it the reverse now?

If you look at the “Filipino language” program of many universities in the Philippines and abroad, we see clearly a schizophrenic program run and managed by people who have no clear notions on what linguistic imperialism and hegemony are all about and what constitutes linguistic democracy. And these are the Tagalog “imperialists” passing off new notions of “linguistic and cultural empire” without intending to but doing it just the same anyway.

We are crying foul about linguistic empires and emperors and here, in our own midst, are the new linguistic emperors and their linguistic empire. We do not want to repeat the same mistakes even if we want to dream of a richer Ilokano language, with vaster possibilities for the future generations.

It is easier when you do not have the sound and you include that sound in the current phonetic system as is the case of x and z. I use both to account the Ilokano examen, examinasion, text, texto, textual, zero, zeta, zigzag.

The reason is simple: we do not have the x sound, and the ‘ks’ combinatory might account it but it is not it and here again, you are using two letters instead of one, a real waste of ink, energy, and mind,

And the z? Oh, put in there, please.

But does this work with the other sounds, with all the sounds we are borrowing? No. Our duty is not to betray what the Ilokano language offers. Our duty is to make it richer, fuller with meaning, and more open to the vast possibilities of the present and the future.

8. Tentative Notes to a Conclusion

One of the better metaphors and paradigms to understand the r/evolution of Ilokano language is from the religious literatures particularly the main religious texts of the established and organized churches.

In August, the writers Lorenzo and Sinamar Tabin, now based in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Unites States of America, gifted me with their latest translation work of “The Book of Mormons.” While I have not had the chance to look closely at their strategy for translation, I have an initial assessment, however tentative this is: that the translated work has the same elegance of language of the original work.

I am aware of the philosophical issues of translation, even the linguistic dilemmas that every translator has to face and resolve right on the dot.

My experience as translator and as a translation consultant in a number of organizations both government and private and both in the United States and the Philippines has given me a vantage point that made me realize that, to quote one of the pillars of Ilokano Literature Juan SP Hidalgo Jr in our long distance telephone conversation on September 20, 2006 “to translate is as difficult as to write an original piece.”

I remember that in my work as an associate of the Institute of Creative Writing of the University of the Philippines, I was tasked to render to Filipino the Ilokano poems and short stories selected for inclusion to the annual National Writers Workshop.

I admit that some of the entries were good that I did not do much except to discover ways to have the worlds created in these pieces commensurate with the worlds in the translation.

But some were also not so good, and I did not have much choice except to render them better in the translation without losing sight of the core of meaning in the terrible Ilokano original.

My dilemma was whether I would have to endorse a not-so-good work as part of the National Writers Workshop or simply say “No Way Jose!” and our space for inclusion in the national discourse on writings from the regions would disappear fast.

I held out, following more of the strategy for recognition for many of our rising younger writers. I did not mind the mediocrity of some of the works but moved on from there and tinkered with the translation to let it appear that some of these works has some luster, quality, brilliance. I did not tell the younger writers this strategy. I preferred to not offend them at the early part of their thankless writing career in Ilokano.

I thought that my translation was a ‘better’ rendition of their mediocre original—and some writers even had the temerity of saying that my rendition in Filipino/Tagalog was far off from the Ilokano original.

The lesson I got from here is that: a bad original can be rendered good in the translation but you may be accused of making worse than the mediocre original.

I remember that to defend myself in these literary and translation assaults, I had to give a long lecture on the hermeneutic basis of my translation technique and strategy. I do not know if I made sense but I thought that having heard me made the young writers and teaching fellows realize that I learned my hermeneutics well and that I was not absent when I enrolled for my linguistics course.

This leads us to the strategy utilized by the Watchtower Bible Society that published what would popularly be called as the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ version of the Ilokano Bible.

This Ilokano Bible published in 1987 and is widely used by the Ilokano congregations of this religious group in Hawaii and in the Philippines, has the permission as well of the Philippine Bible Society, a kind of a symbol for authoritativeness in the translation.

If we look closely at this version of the Bible—and I must say that I am not a member of the Jehovah’s Witness but I share their passion for getting at the heart of the Word of God in its most general sense—we see two complementing strategies for the two covenants.

The Old Testament has all the orthography of the Ilokano-Spanish variety, with all the c's and q’s all over. The New Testament, however, has evolved a form of writing that is more recognizable today by our access to what may be termed as popular literature: comics, novelettes, the popular magazines, documents, newspapers, and the media.

Those in their twenties today, I am sure, cannot read the Old Testament in that form, and from a visual standpoint, the spelling would not work as it would not register well. Reading is essentially visual and seeing a word being written sometimes reminds us that somewhere that word spelled wrongly visually hints that.

There is an emotional and psychic investment in reading and I would say that I will never read Shakespeare again if the condition for reading him again is to read him in the original medieval Anglo-Saxon spelling used several centuries ago. No, thank you. That kind of English does not sit well with how I look at the literary.
This, I think, is one problem that the ‘reintellectualization’ philosophers of the Ilokano language has to contend with, a position that we see in the extremist position of Nid Anima and tempered, in some ways, by the more enlightened position of Juan SP Hidalgo, Joel Manuel, Roy Aragon, Joe Padre, Jim Raras, and Jim Agpalo.

I surface here a linguistic issue, one that calls for regression rather than progression, a return to Old Testament orthography in an effort to enrich the Ilokano language, forgetting, and being blind to, the rich possibilities for progression to commence with the New Testament approach.

Let me be clear here: I am not espousing the Bible per se.

What I am putting forward is the trope, rich and enriching, that this Bible presents to us from a linguistic standpoint. And this linguistic issue concerns us as this presents to us alternatives to revisiting the manner by which we write, in a modernized way, the Ilokano language.

I am certain of the issues of the content of translation. One issue I have been harking on, for instance, is that point about the “Our Father”, a key prayer in many feudalistic, medieval and patriarchal religious groups.

One thing, for instance, has always made me extra vigilant: In the original Aramaic in which that prayer was recited by Jesus, was there a gendered reference to a God that is all-powerful and almighty? I have a guess: the gendering and sexualization of a God is a result of the gendering and sexualization of that world invented by the West, a world categorized and hierarchized in terms of the male gaze, oblivious of other possible, and perhaps more fecund, gazes.

The same alternative gaze--or gazes--is what we need to properly revisit the issues connected to the standardization of the Ilokano language.


Agcaoili, Aurelio S. “Notes on the Modernization of Ilokano,” series,; also serialized in Tawid Magazine, September- November 2006.
Agcaoili, Aurelio S. “Linguistic Democracy, Identity, and Nationhood,” in A. Agcaoili, et al., Eds. Salaysay: Essays on Language and Literature. Quezon City: Kaguro & Miriam College, 2001.
Agpalo, Jimmy. “Ti kurditan, ortograpia, lenguahe, kdp,” serialized in; also, Tawid Magazine, August-November 2006.
Espiritu, Precy, “2006 Nakem Conference to highlight Ilokano language and culture,” The Weekly Inquirer, United States of America, 27 Oct-2 Nov 2005 V1N18, (B1).
Foronda, Marcelino Jr. A. “A Bibliographic Survey of Iloko Linguistics, 1621-1974 with a Preliminary Bibliography of Iloko Linguistics,” in M. Foronda Jr. Kailokuan: Historical and Bibliographical Studies. Manila: Philippine National Historical Society, 1976, (pp.74-133).
Manuel, Joel D. in Jimmy Agpalo,
Morrow, Paul, “Baybayin—The Ancient Script of the Philippines,”