Scarborough standoff: a test of genuine Filipino patriotism

How do Filipinos express their patriotism? The answer to that question varies from one Filipino to another. Some insist that speaking in pure Tagalog, the national language, gives them a sense of nationalism. Some rally behind an American Idol contestant because they say they feel a sense of pride when they see their own kind make it to the finals of an international television show. Indeed, such trivial pursuits occupy Filipino minds in general. In truth, our country’s dire state makes it hard for some of us to feel nationalistic or patriotic.

Our society’s lack of collective success on one hand makes us latch on to any notion that would make us feel proud as a nation but on the other hand also tends to make us suspicious of any outside influence, like the way the idea that speaking in a foreign language is considered by many as unpatriotic or a sign of colonial mentality. Even more bizarrely, a lack of collective success makes some of us root for or cling-on to any Filipino who succeeds abroad. It has come to the point that some of our compatriots will hail even those who did not grow up in the Philippines or have never even been to the Philippines and claim them as one of us when they gain recognition abroad. It’s like having a tinge of “Filipino blood” makes their success a source of that elusive Pinoy pride.

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While our country’s weak economy tends to drive Filipinos away to seek better opportunities abroad, our weak military also gives us very little reason to feel safe and proud. After all, not everyone wants to be associated with a laggard or a losing team. Most people would naturally root for the winner or someone who is obviously going to win any fight.

Let’s face it, when it comes to protecting our sovereignty, our chances of succeeding using our existing military forces is slim. But mind you, this hasn’t stopped some overzealous Filipinos from holding protest rallies against China due to the ongoing Scarborough Shoal standoff. These Filipinos might consider what they are doing a show of Filipino patriotism but they are also risking angering China and giving them a reason to retaliate by withdrawing trade deals. That would be bad for the Philippine economy because China is now the Philippines’ number one trading partner in imports and exports according to Trade Undersecretary Cristino Panlilio. In fact, in response to the indignation rallies, major Chinese travel agencies have already suspended travel tours to the Philippines and they have warned their citizens already in the country to keep a low profile. Let’s just hope that Beijing will not send us a stronger message using their military.

Unfortunately, reports say that President Noynoy Aquino is actually supporting the rallies because he wants international attention to the ongoing dispute. According to PNoy, “it is the Philippines’ best ‘weapon’ against China”. Here’s part of what he said:

“They have relations with other nations around the world which would make other nations think, if we are being treated this way… there might come a time when they would also be treated the same way.”

PNoy’s decision has unsurprisingly divided the sentiments of Filipinos again. Most rational thinking Filipinos know that antagonizing China is not a wise move. Senators like Antonio Trillanes, Loren Legarda, and Manny Villar also think that the standoff should be resolved through diplomatic means.

We cannot make our problem everyone’s problem. We cannot start something that we cannot finish on our own. PNoy may not be thinking straight. He obviously lacks the diplomatic skill to handle such a crisis. Senator Sergio Osmenia even said that the Ambassador to Beijing, Domingo Lee, President Aquino’s family friend is “absolutely not qualified” for the position.

Osmeña said he advised Lee when the latter paid a call on him a month ago to study about China and about diplomacy in preparation for his appearance before the CA.

He said Lee, who failed to answer his questions during the hearing is “absolutely not qualified.”

“He’s not even qualified to become a consul,” said Osmeña.

Osmeña said Lee failed even to enumerate the “three pillars” of Philippine diplomacy which have been in place since the time of Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo. (The “pillars” are national security, economic security and protection of overseas Filipinos.).

Osmeña said he has no doubt of Lee’s loyalty, being a friend of the Aquino family, but said national interest should take precedence over personal friendship.

There is no sign of China backing down on their claim to sovereignity over the islands. According to columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, “China ‘reaffirms its sovereignty over all its archipelagos and islands as listed in article 2 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, which was promulgated on 25 February 1992.’ That law declared as part of China what it called the Zhongsha Islands, which included Huangyan (Panatag to us).”

It seems like PNoy, the only son of “People Power” icon, Cory Aquino is so confident in his hope that street rallies will once again save Filipinos and solve our standoff with China. PNoy does not even bother to consider the possibility that when he encourages anti-China sentiments, resentment towards the Filipino-Chinese community could also grow. There is a risk that the mob can turn against ordinary ethnic Chinese citizens in the country. It’s mind-boggling to consider how our politicians can’t even learn from other countries when it comes to protecting their sovereignty.

[Photo courtesy France24.]

How do most societies protect their sovereignty anyway? If you ask those who have been engaged in military exercises more often than anybody else like the Israelis and the Americans, they will show you their sophisticated military equipment and their military troops’ impressive and deadly combat self-defense maneuvers. Even those who have not been engaged in military conflict for decades feel the need to upgrade or modernize their military capability because they feel safer and prouder as a nation when possessing of a competent military. Sometimes even when they don’t want any conflict, just showing that they have a competent military can help ward off any unprovoked attacks.

In fact, some societies can go to the extreme in their military build-up that international organization such as the United Nations have to step in from time to time just to check and make sure that weapons of mass destructions are not included in their arsenal. That was the case in Iraq more than a decade ago and just look at them now. Whether they had one hidden somewhere or not, a speculation that they had weapons of mass destruction was enough for the US to bomb them close to smithereens.

The United States is the undisputed leader when it comes to wielding military firepower. Undoubtedly, this gives their citizens a sense of pride and security. The Americans are known for patriotism that is unmatched by any other society. This is evident in the way they manage their foreign affairs and export their culture in the form of film and music among others. Yes, the Americans do not need further prodding to show their patriotism.

Yet, Washington is still reportedly concerned about “a rapid military buildup by Beijing, even though it still spends about six times as much on defense as China.” Such is the American’s foresight. You have to admire their ability to prepare for and prevent potential national security risks.

You can’t blame them though. China has become very aggressive in recent years. It is obvious that they are not satisfied with being at the number two spot economically. Because of this, US lawmakers still want a bill passed that would increase their military budget even further.

Meanwhile, the Philippine military has no capability to wage war. The law, which was supposed to ensure military modernization is said to have failed due to corruption even within the military. It goes to show that even our own military is not patriotic enough. What more ordinary Filipino citizens.

63 Replies to “Scarborough standoff: a test of genuine Filipino patriotism”

  1. I do get the thrust/scope/tenor of this story.

    And by far the US military have much better and much more eguipment than we – dutch – do. But on the other hand the Netherlands is not as hated as the americans are. And moreover, it only took a few guys to put the entire American country upside down (9/11) regardless of how huge their military equipment was. And the attacks came from within their own soil.

    The Americans do a lot of “cleaning up” world wide and bec of that trait (sticking their noses in other ones businesses) they are also not very liked (to say it mildly).

    It will make me not more proud when my country has a big arsenal in military equipment. It will make me more proud when the dutch government and all dutch show some class, style, quality, standards and total freedom for all.

      1. I think you are refering to the VOC-era. Maybe the only result of that era is we may still have a kind enterprenurial trait in our genes. But on the other side the VOC was also very known for their dictatorial ways of behaving. Not my style.

    1. Don’t be so naive, your country tried to invade Philippines too, I saw on an inscription plaque in front of an old church in Bataan, Philippines that Dutch Soldiers massacre people of that town in the year 1647!

  2. To add:

    If I am alone facing 10 opponents of which 9 are bare naked having no guns nor other weaponry, I will first (try to) kill the one that has weapons. The one that come bare handed are harmless to me. Why should I kill a person (read: country) that has no ammonition?

  3. If one’s individual or collective pride, dignity and security can only be measured by the country’s military power then that is pathetic. I “am lover, not a fighter”. Fighting fire with fire is useless.

    1. That is easy to say because your country has a competent military. You don’t even know what it is like not to have one.

    2. I don’t see any indication that anyone wants a war only the right to claim it as Philippine Territory lesson’s were learned with the 64 Vietnamese that were slaughtered in the Sprately Islands just off the coast of Vietnam by the Chinese and the video tape of it is on YouTube, if China pulls that one again the US will get involved, after spending 20 years in the Navy I am almost positive there is a complete Carrier group within striking distance to take them out and defend it if need be, that’s the only reason why China hasn’t fired yet.

  4. I gather the elites are saying give Da Pinas to China –it is a profitable business decision. Why rock the status quo when it is economically unwise? It is much better relaxed and safe enjoying the comforts of life; “Who cares when they are hungry? They can not eat freedom!” The good old Makapili lives.

  5. The Philippines should be prepared for a worse case scenario. Red China has a history of attacking neighbors. The border war with Russia, the war with Vietnam, the domination of Nepal and Tibet.

    The Chinese leadership is assuming that the Philippines is easy prey. Their propaganda says now that our country is part of Red China. The Chinese are continuing its present course. The creeping invasion of Philippine territory is just the tip of the iceberg.

    They claim the China Sea area near the Philippines as theirs. The continental shelf of the Philippines is part of its territory under the UNCLOS. Aggressive acts of intrusion will disrupt shipping and will trigger an international incident. They are trying to provoke a reaction from Philippine naval and coast guard assets. The Philippines refuses to shoot first.

    The US and its allies should take a long hard look at Chinese intentions. A major security threat is rising in the South China Sea. American security interests and the free passage of shipping lanes is being seriously threatened. Sooner or later China will try to force the issue. Oil and natural gas is a very strong motive. This will direct the Chinese course of action in the near future and may lead to direct confrontation with US and Philippine forces.

    1. Let’s see.

      Numerous internal protests, mostly undocumented and unreported.

      Internet censorship.

      Wealthy citizens leaving China and looking for foreign partners err I mean citizenships.

      Good luck. They need all they can get to fire up patriotism.

    2. “The Chinese leadership is assuming that the Philippines is easy prey.” —> i think it’s more of them sensing that we have a very WEAK leaadership under bs, so now is the time for them to strike. can’t blame them. i would too.

      we’ve never had a strong military but we’ve never been in this fix before…and the territorial issue is not new. it’s always been there, but it never escalated to this level, and this long.

      i’m all for sovereignty, but i think this should have been handled with more circumspection and diplomacy.

      anyway, can’t we send them our dear leader instead so we can end this stand off?

      1. Good points, ici. The problem does point to PNoy’s lack of diplomatic skill. I’ve predicted something like this from happening even before he was elected. If he doesn’t use diplomacy with his own people, he won’t use it with outsiders.

        1. “If he doesn’t use diplomacy with his own people, he won’t use it with outsiders”
          Why? Yes of course!

      2. “Iactura paucorum serva multus” – Sacrifice the few to save the many.

        Send PNoy on a slow boat to China, bound and gagged so he can’t escape. And tell the Chinese happy hunting.

  6. If you look at the book : “The Art of War”; written by the Chinese Military Strategist Genius, Sun Tzu…one principle that stands out is: “To win a War, it is better not to fight it.” These Principles were written, many thousands of years ago, in China. When the State of Chu, was in war with the State of Wu…We are facing a huge modernized Chinese Armed Forces. Our President is not only incompetent, but is a known coward. Good only in “postura”. However, we have to defend our territories. We have not fought a war, since World War II. The Aquinos never fought any invaders. They collaborated with them…

  7. First Noynoy added more miseries to the Mindanaons by not solving their energy crisis but insulted them instead. Now the island’s banana industry, a major source of employment and government revenue is in danger of loosing the Chinese market because of Noynoy’s continued adversarial stand against China. If ever China limits or stop their banana importation, does he have any other alternative? Another valid reason why Mindanaons should hate Noynoy even more.

    1. @alconce: No kidding! the prices has gone up, the brownouts had become annoyingly bad, there’s still no justice for the families in the Maguindanao Massacre, CDO and Illigan flood victims are still homeless and relying on charity… and again, we see worthless news on Grace Lee and Pnoy.

      Better start the anti-Noy Propaganda

    2. @Alconce

      PNoy is now saying that the Philippines can live without Chinese tourists. He doesn’t even have a plan B but he is very confident about his stand.

      1. “PNoy is now saying that the Philippines can live without Chinese tourists.”

        Some president we have.

    1. I think when there is a will to resolve an issue, there is always a way. It just depends on whether the medicine is too bitter to swallow or not…

    2. @brianitus

      PNoy government did not use diplomacy in the first place. He should start with that and then if it fails, that’s when he should take it to the next level. Whatever that is. But at least no one can say that he didn’t use diplomacy first if war breaks out.

        1. Well apparently Domingo Lee’s nomination is still in doubt. So yes, technically we don’t have an ambassador in Beijing.

  8. Another great read Ilda,

    I never fail to learn something new about the Philippines or my own country from reading GRP’s articles.

    Ilda, Can you share your own opinion on solving the standoff between China and the Philippines?

    1. Well you just have to look at the conflict between Israel and Palestine. After all the years of fighting, the country that wields the strongest military firepower has the last say.

      I think that the Philippines doesn’t have any choice but to try and seek a diplomatic solution to it. A third party has to mediate to maintain objectivity. It is for the best.

      1. I do agree that a competent Military is essential for the security of any country from both internal and external threats but it should not be the major focus in towards solving disputes between countries.

        Malaysia is just average in terms of its military competancy but it had never been a truly stummbling block in protecting the sovereignity of the country because we look for long term pragmatic solutions.

        For example:

        Fostering closer ties with China
        Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said
        “The political understanding between our leaders is very good. Personally, I witnessed my father (the late former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak) about to make the historic decision (to establish diplomatic ties with China in 1974).
        “And I did ask him why he made that landmark decision. He used the word ‘trust’, saying he could trust then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai. ‘For as long as we have that trust and mutual respect, there is no limit to what we can do with our countries’.
        “He said no matter how big the problems, both countries had to face them, and Malaysia would need to approach them in a pragmatic way.
        “If you cannot solve the problem, put it aside and look at other areas that can build on the relationship.
        “If the relationship gets stronger, the problem that you wanted to attend to probably would not be so unbearable when you look at it sometime in future.”
        Within three weeks, a delegation of the first Sino-Malaysia youth exchange programme arrived in China from Malaysia.

        YB. Dato’ Sri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Malaysia Minister of Youth and Sports said:
        “We must be able to see things from different perspectives and see through the bricks, such as who is the architect and what is the driving force to build the wall, so that we can build a country that is stronger than the Great Wall.”
        Shabery added that the programme would encourage the youths to know each other to build stronger ties for the future.
        “We hope these youths will become our future leaders and continue to recognise that Chinese are always our friends,” he said.


        1. It is not only with China that such an approach was adopted:

          Singapore, Malaysia Promote Youth Travel

          The organizers believe that the initiative will help enhance cross-cultural exchanges, promote goodwill and deepen mutual understanding among youths in the two countries


          Between nations, there are some problems that cannot be resolved with a “quick fix” solution. Disputes can take several decades or a couple of generations before one is able to come up with an amicable solution between disputing parties.

        2. Malaysia is just average in terms of its military competancy but it had never been a truly stummbling block in protecting the sovereignity of the country because we look for long term pragmatic solutions.

          I am confident in saying that when you say “average”, it is still better than the Philippine military. And finding a pragmatic solution doesn’t seem to be in the incumbent Philippine President’s agenda.

        3. “@Ilda,

          “I am confident in saying that when you say “average”, it is still better than the Philippine military.”

          Yes, you are correct when I said “average” it is still better than the Philippine Military.

          With all due respect, the Philippine military, due to neglect, is below average in the 21st Century. The BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15)is not even equipped with any anti-ship missiles.

          In times of war, it is likely that many combatants will not even get to see their enemies because of BVR (beyond visual range)warfare.

          But looking at the whole picture,I think it is unlikely that China will go to war with the Philippines. I think China got “pissed” when the Philippine sent the pride of the Philippine navy, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, initially instead of the Coast Guard to deal with the fishermen.

          I suspect the whole charade is more about telling the Philippines not to act tough just because it recently acquired a half a century years old cutter from Uncle Sam.

      2. You cannot win in any diplomatic solution on the point where, we are in. You cannot win in any negotiation on the point of weakness. Noynoy Aquino is a weak leader. He is too much dependent on people, doing jobs for him. We’re in a difficult situation…you have to negotiate, with strength on your side…

        1. Indeed the Philippines is in a very difficult position. It’s like a “Damn if you and Damn if you don’t” situation. I am in no position to comment if “Noynoy Aquino is a weak leader”.

          I can only state my own personal observation that it’s odd to find that the President is not SEEN taking the lead on this issue but rather the ministers and several other lawmakers working of this issue of the utmost national importance.

        2. Noynoy Aquino is a weak leader. He is too much dependent on people, doing jobs for him.


  9. “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
    He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” – Attributed to General George Patton Jr

    The people taking the blunt of the conflict are the one following orders not the incompetent, useless and weak top.

    1. U.S. Gen. George S. Patton is one of my military heroes. He was the best military field commander that came out of World War II…only, he cannot control his temper.. I also admire U.S. Gen. William “Tecumseh” Sherman of the U.S. Union Army. And also , the U.S. Confederate Gen. StoneWall Jackson. These military strategists had made history on the fields of winning wars…

  10. Ilda,
    This is it! Pinoys and PNoy playing the victim card and begging, on a global scale! Not only that, Pinoys are being misled into thinking that protests where the people involved are barking like mad dogs will actually work. Unfortunately, China has a history of not caring what the outside world thinks, and of dealing with dissenters effectively and with finality. Too bad for Pinoys who are all show and no substance.

    Right now it doesn’t matter who started it, but what matters now is how the governments should be ending it: with as little actual military engagement as possible.

    Like what you’ve said above, PNoy can’t handle diplomatically his own people, what more foreign diplomatic relations, diba? Two years into his term, he still hasn’t learned a darn thing! Supporting the protest rallies gave him another reason to go Noynoying; the people have spoken for him, kumbaga.

  11. Fact is..

    There is no one but BS to blame for wrecking our previously mutually beneficial relations with China starting from the Luneta massacre.

    This is not the last. BS, thru his bungling, will continue to drag the country into the abyss. It is an extremely naive mistake for us to believe that this nightmare in our history will end with his term; do you honestly believe the yellow army and liberal syndicate will yield the power they enjoy now, beyond 2016? The PCOS machines will see to that.

    I think it is too late to be talking diplomacy now. The Chinese realize they are in position to finally settle this issue IN THEIR FAVOR, EVEN WITHOUT FIRING A SINGLE SHOT.

    What is the preferred alternative?

    That thru some diplomatic expertise Phl will have sovereignty over the disputed territory which will then yield vast energy resources. Then what?

    Of course the yellow oligarchs and their foreign partners will exploit the resources. Then the successors of the yellow syndicate will use the powers of govt to tax the people who will be forced to consume these resources while profiting immensely from their operations (think Malampaya), thereby bringing further hardship to clueless pinoys (that includes the Akbayad nationalists and yellowtard generations to come).

    So going back to my previous point –

    Should we trust our leaders, and their oligarch masters, with our natural resources?

    If we will be forced to surrender our claims to the Chinese, think of the possibilities:

    1. They have the technology to develop these resources, which we don’t;

    2. Then they will sell the energy back to us cheaper than Napocor (the way they sell just about anything on the cheap); heck, they might even employ OFWs along the way.

    This is a practical view, no partisanship or politics
    here. Phl officially became a failed state when BS and the yellows returned to power.

    Is there such a thing as Filipino patriotism? I’m Pinoy but sorry Phl is not worth fighting for. Filipinos are not worth dying for. Dumbass voters/suckers for ABS-CBN.

    1. True about the possibilities if the Philippines give up its claim. Now I am sure to support China on this one, wholeheartedly. The Philippines should GIVE UP its claim on the Scarborough Shoal to China since China perhaps have a lot more resources and technologies than the Philippines. If the Philippines have the shoal, it will be a waste of resources.

      However, even before this happened, I have supported China’s claim even on the Spratly Islands on two reasons: the above reason and of course, to counter “Filipino nationalism/Pinoy Pride”. If the Philippines get both Spratlys and the shoal, they will shout “Pinoy Pride” for “defeating China”. However, the Filipinos must not rejoice, since China has better policies and better culture than the Philippines. China has always been made up of real men(who usually provided good culture) while the Philippines is ruled by LGBTs(who provide bad culture).

    2. me too..I am Pinoy and yes Filipinos are not worth dying for. What’s there to be proud of?! corrupt government,people are fond of chismis,weak leader, arrogant/ignorant people who are fond of telling the world “proud Pinoy” but when it comes to this matter we need other countries to clean up our mess.

  12. Mr. BS Aquino should read the Chinese Art of War. It is true that he is the Commander-In-Chief. But this is in name only. He is first and foremost a Head of State.

    In the Sun Tzu, the Head of State should leave military matters to his ablest military commanders. He should never directly interfere in military strategy or tactics in directing military operations. Chaos would be the end result should the Philippine Head of State play the role of a military commander. His defined role is to create constructive policies intended to focus on and solve the developing situation.

    As I said before skillful diplomacy is a policy track that should be followed. International press releases and official statements is another policy track. We should inform the international community through white propaganda of the disposition and intentions of the Red Chinese. They are obviously after our strategic resources of oil and natural gas. This is their primary objective. Secondary to this is their theft of our marine natural resources.

    Mr. BS Aquino should sustain and promote the use of peaceable assembly in the domestic scene and abroad as a platform of information and discussion. A communication plan would work wonders. Make the free world aware of what is happening. International protest actions should be continued by Filipinos around the world. The Philippine government should promote and support this. Finally, the Philippine government should bring the matter to the attention of the United Nations Security Council.

    We will never win a shooting war standing alone against the Red Chinese. We can easily win a sustained, well planned propaganda/diplomatic war against them. A shooting war should be considered only as a final option and only through the direct intervention of the United States of America as described in the Mutual Defense Treaty. Let us stand our ground through peaceful action, skillful diplomacy, strengthened alliances and refuse to blink in the face of Chinese unlawful aggression. We can win without firing a shot.

    1. @Der Fuhrer

      The Philippines will not win even a diplomatic war against the Chinese, since the Chinese has always opposed international tribunals/treaties as imperialistic, and imperialism is a no-no to Communism, since Communism wanted emancipation for all people, whether from poverty or from colonialization or even just local and foreign pressure(perhaps the practitioners failed, however, but this thought prevailed).

      1. I think the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei – other Spratlys-claimants are even against the establishment of ITLOS.

        This country partially-implemented UNCLOS as what Bobby Tiglao wrote in his column.

    2. Early Filipinos (pre-colonial Philippines) doesn’t have the idea where these isles are until Spaniards and Americans came…

      China, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan act with restraint regarding disputes. Vietnam and the Philippines does the opposite. Just take a look on how their naval forces behave along the coasts of SCS.

  13. All I wish for the President Pnoy is to start praying and ask for guidance to run honest Government and cleaning up and punish who abuses, and build our defense. To perform this task Pnoy must have wisdom from God and His support or Pnoy would fail and put Philippines into worse situation that what it is now.

    1. @Bacp-I
      The problem is that he doesn’t have any of those qualities that you have mentioned. The only thing logical for this president to do is to step down before he makes our country even worse.

    2. I wish you could ask him for allot more than praying such as more transparency in government and no more hiding of foreign currency, government agencies working together without asking for permission to check on a person’s wealth this should be open to the public and not a subject of debate. Also those that seek prosecution should be clean but sadly I think everyone is on the take it’s the main reason I feel the appointed court is self serving and unwilling to reach a guilty verdict.

  14. Why don’t the Philippines first resolve OVERLAPPING claims with Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei over those inhabitable isles boefore approaching China?

  15. What makes me irked about this issue is that the local media didn’t dare to get the side of these fisher folks who are just fishing along Huangyan/Scarborough…

    Fear of backlash from the government and the dwindling army of Noytard? Probably…

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