In the interest of fairness, dear karikna, I talked to Mrs. Elizabeth Madarang Raquel, former president of Gumil Filipinas, regarding the ‘Stupid Quezon’ controversy that has haunted concerned parties in the past two years.
To the uninitiated, just some background. Headlined “University of Hawaii prof calls Quezon stupid,” the news article was about Dr. Aurelio S. Agcaoili who, in good cheer, called the late president Manuel Quezon “stupid” during a Mother Language Education forum held at the MMSU College of Teacher Education. He felt that Quezon’s ‘one-nation, one language’ policy was a nineteenth-century measure that led to the decline of Philippine languages other than Tagalog. The news article said many participants, including teachers and students, were offended by the remark.
Raquel admitted that it was indeed she who wrote and contributed the news article bylined Mark R. Limon, published in the July 27-August 22 2009 issue of The Ilocos Times. She vehemently denied, however, that Limon did not have knowledge the article bore his name. “How can he not know?,” Raquel asked rhetorically in Ilocano, “he used to help me encode my articles, and he typed and emailed that particular article.” Limon, in an earlier interview, told your karikna that his former supervisor indeed used him as encoder but that he was informed of the news article’s byline only after it was published. Confessing to be an avid reader of this column, Raquel said she was hurt by my recent article, “The Lie of Eli.”
But did Limon really allow Raquel to use him as dummy? Definitely, according to Raquel, “Kinayatna met ta kayatna met ti agpopular.” (He agreed because he also wanted to be popular.) She described his former protégé as “ambisioso.”
For most of the conversation, Raquel told me how pained she was that Limon, who now works at MMSU after resigning as a DepEd elementary teacher under Raquel in Currimao town, would turn his back on her. The turn of events was not exactly unexpected though, said the lady mentor, because “it was really in Limon’s character to do so.” “Sippitennaka no nakatalikodka, nakaam-amak ti karasaenna.” (That snake bites your back, his venom is dangerous).
The pain Raquel feels is compounded by the fact that she helped Limon tremendously in his career as teacher. In just three years, she said, Limon had been promoted to Teacher III, a spectacular rise some of his more senior colleagues resent and envy. Moreover, Raquel said, Limon, who finished college as a scholar of the mayor of Currimao town, enjoyed other perks and opportunities not available to most. Despite all these, she lamented, Limon spilled the beans on her. The sixtyish poetess ranted lengthily about Limon’s ungratefulness, how the young teacher is disliked by his peers, how overeager he is to get promotions, and how self-centered the man is. Raquel, who happens to live in a barangay in Laoag City adjacent to ours and who happens to be a good friend of my dear aunt Rosalina Ramos, had one simplistic explanation why Limon had all those qualities: “Bakla gamin.” Apparently, to the mind of Elizabeth Madarang Raquel, to be gay is to be all that she dislikes in Mark Limon.
I have expressed in my previous columns the suspicion that the Limon-Agcaoili controversy may just be a microcosm of the large-scale intramurals between the Ilocano writers groups Gumil, where Raquel was president that time, and Timpuyog, Agcaoili’s group. Raquel, however, denied that there is animosity between the two groups. “Ariel (Agcaoili) is my friend, and so is Franklin (Macugay, Timpuyog Filipinas president).” Granting this is true, dear karikna, a couple of things remain unresolved. Why didn’t Raquel use her own name in the contentious news article? Why did she need to use Limon? Why did she have to castigate her “friend” in public?
“It was nothing personal, it was just a sharing of ideas,” claimed Raquel. It is interesting to note though that the lady was not even present at the forum where Agcaoili made the “stupid” remark. And if Raquel, using Limon, wanted to engage in a battle of ideas, she would have argued why Quezon’s language policy was not stupid after all. She did not.
On the lighter side, I was impressed with the manner Mrs. Raquel spoke. Her Ilocano is poetic, and her voice is sweet. No doubt, she has a following among Ilocano writers. No doubt, she became Gumil president. The rhythm in her language almost lulled me, and this I say in a positive way, to a deep sleep and sound rest.
And rest this issue must. If only Ilocano writers can rise above the divisive pettiness they have unabashedly espoused in years past; if only they would rechannel their energies from traditional politics to boundless creativity and emancipatory advocacy, then there is hope for our language and literature.
Until then, our Ilocano writers and, consequently, we, their readers, bakla or otherwise, all appear, and sadly so, stupid.