Domoguen: The big things are the small things

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream and live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success. It is the way great spiritual giants are made.” – Swami Vivekananda

LIKE William Faulkner's Mississippi, the Cordillera is my “little postage stamp of native soil.”

But unlike the great Nobel Laureate, I have yet to write a notable exegesis of the Cordillera, an invaluable book about a people’s history, their culture and traditions, passions, aspirations, achievements, and trials in a rugged land with its limited resources.

All I can show, in comparison, is a compilation of my articles published in book form by the Department of Agriculture (DA). The book is entitled “Best Practices for Agricultural Crops Production and Resources Management in the Highlands of the Philippines’ Cordillera.” It came off the press some 10 years ago. In that same length of time, Faulkner would have churned out a couple of books and short stories about Mississippi.

Well, I may yet have another set of articles ready as a follow-up to my first book to serve as a reference on agricultural and natural development in the Cordillera over the last decade.

I have been a co-author with experts in writing other technical books. It has been my lot with these great souls to write about the Cordillera in these books, as I have known the place and its people in this lifetime. Should I do more?

I am tempted to wish I have gained fluency in writing using my native dialects and their expressions. But I know, it would open up a string of wishes for me down the lane; that like English, these multitudes of tongues are globally understood and used in the pursuit and the practice of the sciences and the arts, for instance. It may take several generations, investments, purposive, unflinching, united, and acceptable struggle for that to happen.

In the Philippines, no local language is so far advanced, dominant and accepted to take on a responsive role, as “mother tongue” for all the myriad of tongues spoken by hundreds of tribes and citizens of the archipelago, in spite of the fervor and tendency of nationalist movers to impose the use of “Tagalog” for the purpose.

Failing that quest, some Tagalog speakers and like-minded nationalists have resorted to taunts and despicable ascriptions including lack of nationalism by non-speakers who are at the same time seen to be inferior to their stature. That may explain why their thrust fails.

Experts of the Filipino language want to make Tagalog and some few words from the different dialects as the national language. That pursuit has since been made more accommodating: Its Tagalog and all the other tongues together. How are national languages formed?

In truth, every Filipino has taken their time to learn and speak Tagalog in the last fifty years. It is their burden and expense while the Tagalog speakers have not taken any step to learn the dialects of their fellow Filipinos. Ultimately, speaking and using a national language must be fair and helpful to all citizens.

Meantime, I am stuck with English, my writing language and tool, in spite of the difficulties and challenges I encounter using it.

First, the challenge is fine and inwardly rewarding with me. To learn English, one has to know how it is used. I learned to speak and write in English mostly through reading books.

On top of learning the language, you also get an education reading books. The finest works of art, philosophy, science, man’s struggles and achievements were either first written, if not translated into English. I know several writers and great men and women, who did not have a college education but learned enough, getting their education from reading, like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and the list go on.

Writers like Louis L’amour left school at the age of 15. But he was a lifetime reader of books. Before his death, more than 200 million of his 86 novels, 16 short story collections, and 3 works of non-fiction were sold worldwide.

William Faulkner is known as the greatest American writer. He was a “reluctant student. He left high school without graduating but devoted himself to “undirected reading,” first in isolation and later under the guidance of Phil Stone, a family friend who combined study and practice of the law with lively literary interests and was a constant source of current books and magazines.” – Encyclopedia Britannica.

Faulkner was a Nobel Prize-winning novelist and short story writer. He depicted the people, history and settings of his native Mississippi in most of his works, including the literary classics The Sound and the Fury, 1929; Absalom, Absalom!, 1936; Go Down, Moses, 1942; and The Reivers, 1962.

“Absalom, Absalom!” is believed to have done much to educate the white American and other peoples of the globe about the civil rights’ movement.

This should not go down to a debate about the importance of going to college or reading books. It is more about having an education when you are unable to go to college and achieving some relevance in life even with the little things within one’s means – the stuff of life.

Like Faulkner, the small things are all I got in the home, workplace, and the community. It has been alright with me struggling with the little things.

It is said that all Faulkner really knew was two or three square miles of Mississippi. I guess that is what I want to do too. My peers, who have the big things in life, travel all over the globe for studies, for trainings and other official purposes. I give up any aspirations in this direction and instead try to know more about a few square miles of the Cordillera, as I have been doing all these years. I want to know this small postage stamp of native soil like I know my body from head to toes.

To the Benguet State University Alumni Association Incorporated, there you have me, among your centennial awardees, minded and struggling with the small things. Thus, I am humbly so honored by your gesture.


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