Guess what’s coming up: “Independence” Day. More precisely, it is the could-have-been day of independence unilaterally declared by General Emilio Aguinaldo back on the 12th of June 1898 that we are celebrating this coming 12th of June. Many who see that day as a day that defines “Filipino nationalism” are right. We are a nation because someone said so. It began way back in the 16th Century when Spain by royal edict came to administer the archipelago as a colonial administrative unit — more commercial in nature than political. That was the century that the “Philippines” came to be recognised as something bigger than a collection of tribes living on a geological accident.
Come to think of it, I don’t really know what exactly Aguinaldo’s flag waving or Bonifacio’s fist pumping actually meant in the sense of actually having achieved anything original of enduring quality. Just shortly after that date, Uncle Sam came in and threw a wet blanket over the revelry of these erstwhile “revolutionaries”. Tinapay na nga naging bato pa, kung baga (bread in hand turneth to stone). That pretty much set the theme for the rest of Philippine history. Subsequent history would go on to reveal a truth about “Filipinos” consistent with this experience — that much of the “bread” that we get our hands on was for the most part baked by someone else.
Indeed, Fatherland España did most of the grunt work that went into uniting (even just for commercial purposes) the lot of volcanic rocks that make up today’s “Philippine” archipelago. They even had the foresight to name them after their infamously Inquisitous king. That’s what I call foresight — the name actually stuck and went on to routinely describe the very many ironies surrounding the “nation” it identifies!
Look around and we will see ourselves enjoying traces of the bread our colonial masters baked for us. To this day, two legacies of the marvels of human achievement that are American engineering and administration remain the premier playgrounds of the Philippine Elite — Baguio City and the former Subic Bay Naval Base. In Manila, Intramuros, Dewey (now named “Roxas”) Boulevard, and Corregidor — all colonial remnants — are pretty much the only sites of consequence within that metropolis that show up on tourism radars outside the islands.
There is no short answer to the short question that is begged:
What exactly have “Filipinos” built?
Imperial Spain and, later, Expansionist America may have been motivated by interests less noble than the “nationalism” that supposedly motivates our modern-day “nationalists”. But here’s the thing: those less-than-“noble” intentions that our emo historians whine about did the job of politically and economically uniting the islands now known as “the Philippines”. Key word here: results. Results are a by-product of a job getting done (I highlight it because that simple concept is news to most Filipinos).
Today, we hear a lot of calls for “unity” coming from bozos who see themselves as possessing of far more “noble” intentions than Big Bad Spain and Big Bad America. But ask the simple question…
Where are the results?
… and we get either deafening silence or quaintly amusing platitudes.
Here is one of them (my boldface included for emphasis):
We have nothing but hope for the Philippines, […] and we know that with transparency, opportunity for all, and education, this country will continue to bloom.
One question though: Hope in what exactly, Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr?
Considering the way something historically fundamental as our real Independence Day has been euphemised into the “Philippine-American Friendship Day” it’s no longer a puzzle how bullshit has become such a banality in Philippine society.
So was independence really won on the 12th of June 1898?
The whole effort of the Philippine Revolution of 1898, as history does reveal, was simply poo-poohed by the global movers and shakers of the time as Randy David in his article “On our nation’s birthday” himself concedes to…
At the point of our emancipation from Spanish colonialism, however, Spain ceded to the United States the fiction of its remaining sovereignty over the islands and its people. America seamlessly took over and scoffed at our claims to being a sovereign people. While we had become aware of our shared fate as a people, we were far from being sovereign in our own land. We remained subjects, a conquered people all over again.
The Filipino revolutionary war against America was short-lived. It was decisively crushed by American troops with superior arms. Total US hegemony was accomplished subsequently by the tools of public education. Mis-education, as Renato Constantino termed it, swiftly produced a docile population. But pockets of resistance remained, becoming the nurturing ground for new generations of anti-colonial Filipinos.
A few key words:
“scoffed at our claims to being a sovereign people”
“crushed […] with superior arms”
“Mis-education […] produced a docile population”
Why did they do it?
Because they could.
Why were we granted independence by America in the 4th of July 1946?
Because they had it in their power to do so.
It’s not too different from the reason why people in those Cordillera and Mindanao regions are considered “autonomous”. It’s because we, the Filipino Nation have it in our power to allow them to be so, much the same way as we allow the cultures of all indigenous people within the islands, and all other communities who wield arms vastly inferior to those held by our government, to endure within our sovereign territory.
So, for all the “moral” ascendancy expressed in what are really nothing more than pathetic boo-hoo words that assure us of our “right” to be independent in the world order of today, consider first that this world order was won in battle by the United States and its allies in that last Great War at the cost of millions of lives of their own citizens.
If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is that there is much the Filipino needs to learn about the real sense of what it means to win. Only when we learn this lesson can we truly honour Manny Pacquiao and other real fighters amongst us.
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[Based on articles “The real sense of what it means to WIN independence” and “Happy ‘Independence’ Day to a nation baked by someone else” written by the author for AntiPinoy.com, both of which are archived here and here respectively.]
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