The 40th Year anniversary celebration of the Center for Philippine Studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa was held on April 9 – 11, 2015. To commemorate the occasion, the center organized an international symposium titled “Philippine and Filipino Studies: Forty Years Hence”. The more than sixty Filipino and Filipino-American as well as American scholars from the Philippines, Japan, Canada and the US read and shared their research papers in various Philippine Studies areas like History, Anthropology, Political Science, Education, Sociology, Filipino-American Studies and Language. The rigorous conference schedule provided a wide variety of paper presentations that catered to the different interests of the participants. Personally, it was a challenge for this writer as there was just a wealth of information to be learned from each paper presentation!
As the only paper read on Language and Philippine Studies, “Beyond Identity–Heritage Language Acquisition and Philippine Studies”, my presentation generated quite a lot of interest among the participants and attendees. The paper examined the symbiotic relationship between heritage language acquisition and Philippine studies by underscoring how Philippine Studies could inspire heritage language learners to engage in a deeper understanding of their language and culture. This deeper understanding could provide the platform for a sounder perception of their role in the Filipino and the global communities. The paper ended with a challenge to the scholars of Philippine-Filipino-Filipino/American Studies. That is, scholarship in Philippine Studies needs to be informed by Filipino language itself. For instance, the Filipino language is rich in vocabulary that has no equivalent to English, which has been the medium of instruction in Philippine education. Thus the Filipino language is a gateway to further scholarship into all the dimensions of authentic Filipino culture, hence, Philippine Studies. The plenary that followed highlighted the Filipino language pedagogy at UC Berkeley, the challenges for Filipino-American students in Hawaii, who for a time were not allowed to use Tagalog/Filipino or Ilocano, in their schools; and the need for language teachers to update and upgrade their Filipino language curriculum based on the robust resources provided by Philippine Studies.
At the end of the conference, one of the resolutions for future symposia was that paper presentations could be read in either English or Filipino!
On a personal note, my gratitude goes to the Berkeley Language Center for the grant that allowed me to read my paper at the conference. My learning on the current issues in the Philippines as well as on the Filipino diaspora experience is truly priceless.
Maraming salamat po sa inyo (Many thanks to you po!) and Mabuhay! (Long live!)