The recently concluded 2006 Nakem Centennial Conference is our witness to the intensifiying critical consciousness about what is it to be a people of the Ilokos and Amianan.
More than a hundred speakers came to town--to the University of Hawaii at Manoa--to share with us what they think about the many issues affecting us as a people in the Philippines and in the diaspora.
With 48 parallel sessions going on one at a time, we could just imagine the kind of knowledge production going on at the same time, the sessions ranging from the articulations of what is it to be a people of Amianan to the zany ways through which Ilokanos and the peoples of the Amianan are thought to be known of.
We can only have a quick enumeration of the specialists here, those people who know us despite the fact that they are never from us: Lawrence Reid of Japan and New Zealand who is an authority on many Amianan cultures and languages; Itaru Nagasaka from Niigata International University who knows Piddig and Ilokano more than anyone from the place; Jesus Basuel from Canada who is an authority on assimilation and immigration; Ana Marcelo who spoke of the 150 years of restaurant culture in the United States, a culture the Ilokanos are part of; and Gary Singh who spoke on the issues of Filipino immigration.
Hundred others came including the Philippines' National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera who delivered the main keynote speech on the anomaly besetting the selection of National Artist for Literature, the process, he says, effectively easing out and excluding writers from the regions because of the selection committees' inability to have access to these writings from the regions. The feminist poet and novelist Lilia Quindoza Santiago came and shared with us her concept of Amianan literatures, the Northern Philippine Literatures. So also Marot Flores, the foremost cultural mapper of Northern Philippines, an authority of the popular culture sorrounding the Virgen of Manaoag.
The two countries' foremost Ilokano writers--the pillars of respectable Ilokano writing--also came: Amado Yoro from Honolulu; Loring Tabin from Salt Lake, Utah; Terry Tugade from South San Francisco; Pacita Saludes from Salt Lake, Hawaii;
CJ Ancheta from Maui, Hawaii; Brigido Daprosa from Gumil Hawaii; Artemio Baxa from Maui, Hawaii; Amalia Bueno from Honolulu, HI; Lilia Santiago from Manila; Ely Raquel from Gumil Ilocos Norte; Peter La Julian from Isabela; Joel Manuel of Ilocos Norte; Jaime Raras and Marcelino Soria of Ilocos Sur; and Alegria Tan Visaya from Ilocos Norte.
With the 2006 Nakem Centennial Conference, we feel that we have been so blessed. We feel that there is a small history here--and we all owe it to the anitos of old, the anitos of the puli.
The Nakem Conferences will go on and on, and in 2007, it will go to where it also belongs--to the Philippines. In 2008, it will come back to the United States, and it will be hosted by the UH Leeward Community College.
To all those who had the nakem to join us: mahalo and aloha.
A Solver Agcaoili
U of Hawaii at Manoa