Ilokano is the second language in my ear, but really the third or fourth on my tongue. English is first. At home, our parents didn’t speak to us in Tagalog or their native Ilokano. I picked up a few phrases from them and more from my cousins when they arrived from Hawaii and Laoag. And my Ilokano is still stunted, but even the failures–all the busted up grammar and wrong vocabulary–are expressions (I hope) of love. I can say just enough in Ilokano to get around Ilokos or one of the smaller barrios on the outskirts of the region’s cities. I can tell secrets to the women who were among the first to show me to dance freely (Emy and Rose). I can listen a bit.
So I’m proud to have published a poem in my parents’ language in this incredible historical anthology, Dandaniw Ilokano: mga tulang Ilokano, 1621-2014, edited by Frank Cimatu. This is for my mom and dad, my brothers (who learned the language of art in the space where they would have learned Ilokano), and all my cousins in Jersey, Chicago, Cali, Hawaii, Vigan, Laoag.