So once again we are celebrating “Independence” Day — or rather the date we would like to think the Philippines won its independence. I do wonder though why we continue to propagate the notion that we emerged from the year 1898 the winners. Last I heard, winners get to rule. Last I heard, we did not get to rule ourselves since that year until the 4th of July 1946.
So which of the two dates then is our real Independence Day? Is it the 12th of June 1898? Or is it the 4th of July 1946?
The answer to those questions does not really matter. With the benefit of hindsight, we can easily see that the decades that followed 1946 were really no different to the decades that followed 1898. There has never been anything about the Philippines that could even remotely be considered “Independent”. For what exactly are Filipinos “independent” from?
My trusty dictionary provides us with three revealing things about the notion of being “independent”. To be independent means…
(1) to be free from outside control; not depending on another’s authority;
(2) to not depend on another for livelihood or subsistence; and,
(3) to not depend on something else for strength or effectiveness.
Can the Philippines be considered to be described by any one of these, much more all of these meanings today?
The answer to the above question comes so easy that this could just as easily be one of my shortest articles on account of the the point I want to make with regard to the notion of Philippine “independence” being quite clearly made at this point in the piece.
The thing, however, with facing a stark reality is that it reveals a challenge. What is the challenge Filipinos need to step up to given our evident failure to measure up to the demanding definition of true independence? The challenge for Filipinos is to continue to aspire for the distinction of being regarded as truly independent. Of course, aspiration is nothing without a plan to attain it. The plan to attain independence is not really that complicated. In fact this plan is very simple and requires only one sentence to articulate it:
The Philippines need to learn to produce what it needs, live within its means to produce said needs, and regain the capability to fight for its means to produce.
The good news is, at the very least, we are trying our best to attain the latter — the capability to fight for our means to produce stuff. The fact that the Philippines’ newest warship, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz reportedly armed with anti-submarine missiles, is as of this writing sailing from Guam to its new home with the Philippine Navy attests to this.
This is the way to go.
Military spending as a proportion of GDP in the Philippines in 2005 was a measly 0.90 percent, compared to 4.90 for Singapore, 4.50 for Brunei, 3.00 for Indonesia, 2.03 for Malaysia, and 1.80 for Thailand. For a country that prides itself in having the pound-for-pound greatest boxer in the world as one of its own, it is a pipsqueak where it matters. With millions of able-bodied Filipino men just wiling away their time on street corners drinking beer, the Philippines is a society of people begging for a clear purpose in their lives. Military service and the regimentation of a martial tradition can offer just that.
Even without the direct threat from China Filipinos are feeling at the moment, having a strong military gives substance to national pride — substance that no amount of waxing poetic about dead heroes, flaccid flag waving, or song and dance around street “revolutions” will ever come close to offering the Filipino.
The bad news, however, is we are on a development plan that is not consistent with the first two points of the plan — being able to produce what we need and live within said means to produce what we need. Unfortunately, the big “solution” everyone keeps harping about nowadays is old reliable foreign investment. The thinking behind that brainwave is that the number of unemployable Filipinos joining the workforce every year is just too enormous for the Philippines’ flaccid economy to put to good use. So the bright boys chant the “obvious” solution: we need to rely on foreign capital to plug the hole.
Where will that foreign capital increasingly come from? By the looks of it more and more of it will be coming from our new best friend — China. If we thought being dependent on the US, Japan, and western Europe for foreign capital was bad enough, imagine what it would be like being dependent on China for all that.
So much for aspiring to be independent.
Happy Independence Day! 😀
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