The Philippines’ Han Solo moment: Why the Ayungin drama made Filipinos ‘proud’


It’s all so interesting to note. One moment, Filipinos would giddily cheer the successful resupply of Philippine military personnel camped in the derelict BRP Sierra Madre which was purposely run aground in Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to seal the Philippines’ territorial claim there. Then on another, they’d give each other high-fives over what is essentially a handover of the fate of the Philippines’ claim to Sabah to what may go on to become the Malaysian puppet state of Bangsamoro.

ayungin_shoal_resupplyInconsistent thinking on a national scale at first glance. But, really, for those who know Filipinos all too well, this is classic Filipino Loser Mentality at work.

The Ayungin spectacle resonated well amongst Filipinos because it was a classic David-and-Goliath standoff with the preferred Batang Yagit ending. In this scenario, the Philippine camp did what Filipinos do best — nakalusot while using inferior resources. The heroes of this story used what will probably be claimed as that uniquely-Filipino “ingenuity” (that same one that produced that renowned pinnacle of Pinoy technological achievement, the jeepney) to evade the dark might of the Chinese Coast Guard — much like the way Han Solo deftly maneuvered his clunker the Millennium Falcon through a fleet of Imperial Starships blockading the rebel base on the planet Hoth in the movie The Empire Strikes Back.

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This is the same sort of psychological hook that fuelled the EDSA street “revolution” craze that characterised Philippine political “opposition” posturing between 1986 and the mid-2000s. That now-renowned passive-aggressive style with which Filipinos face off with big challengers has become ingrained in the Filipino psyche thanks to the handywork of media conglomerates that, at the time, owed unparalleled loyalty to the Philippines’ Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan.

On the other hand, the Philippine governments’ on-going debacle with regard to its sovereign claim over Sabah involves a challenge that lies outside of Filipinos’ comfort zone. This is made particularly complicated now that the Manila government rather than remain tuwid (straight) in its mandate to protect the national interests has, instead, done a tuwad (assumed the position, if you know what I mean). Malaysia, of course, helped itself to the invitation. The rest is “Mindanao peace” history — or so we are led to believe.

What to do with Sabah lies outside of Filipinos comfy landscape of thinking because the real next steps invovles a square facing of the challenge at hand: take Malaysia to account for its history of deceit and duplicity. Inquirer columnist Neal Cruz, in his latest piece summarises this history…

When the state of Malaya expanded itself to become the present Malaysia, it annexed Sabah unilaterally. But it continued to pay rent to the Sulu sultanate until recently, when the Sabah issue was revived. Which means that Malaysia recognized the Sulu sultanate’s ownership of Sabah.

When the sultanate asked that the rent be increased because of inflation, Malaysia stopped paying altogether. Until that time, Malaysia was still paying the same amount that the British North Borneo Co. paid to the sultanate centuries ago. Thus, the sultanate told Malaysia to leave Sabah. It refused, and still refuses to do so.

When a tenant refuses to pay rent for your property and also refuses to leave, what would you do? You file an ejectment suit in court. For independent nations that court is the International Court of Justice (ICJ). So the Philippine government gave notice that it would file a case in the ICJ.

Unfortunately, unlike in ordinary courts, in the ICJ, both sides must agree to submit themselves to its jurisdiction. If one side refuses to do that, there can be no litigation. And in the Sabah issue, Malaysia refuses to agree to take the case to the ICJ. But it continues to hold on to—and to claim—Sabah.

…and points out what real nationalism is all about:

If this were Europe or the Middle East, nations would have sent troops to forcibly occupy the contested territory, as Russia has recently done in the Crimea, which is part of Ukraine, but which Russian troops have recently occupied. A century ago, Hitler did the same thing to Poland, occupied a German-speaking region that was part of Poland. That led to World War II wherein Germany and its Axis allies—Italy and Japan—were defeated by the Allied Forces.

Considering that these external threats to the Philippines’ security and sovereignty aren’t new, it is bizarre that the Philippines, for so long, neglected to build and maintain a strong armed forces. 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.

But no. Filipinos prefer the approach of playing the doleful-eyed underdog waiting for a pat on the head from the big boys.

16 Replies to “The Philippines’ Han Solo moment: Why the Ayungin drama made Filipinos ‘proud’”

  1. Our government can’t even eject squatters occupying spaces of other peoples property and those considered as public domain. With the current situation, Malaysia might just have succeeded in annexing Sabah. Both mother and son Aquino are fond of give aways to favored cronies allegedly for free and here comes the present giving away our legitimate claim of sabah to malaysia and a fourth of the philippines to a noisy minority group of terrorist who are now considered legal.

  2. We really can’t expect a government that has a history of being cowardly to handle this mess that Mr.Ampaw caused with the chinese.

    The yellow trolls might think that the previous administration caused it but the fact is that only this ampaw “president” caused this mess.

  3. sabah and spratleys are 2 different topics and 2 very very different situations. You can foul up in one and succeed in the other one since they are separate

    1. vince,

      You are missing the point. The two issues were juxtaposed in the article to demonstrate the inconsistencies in Philippine foreign policy over the last fifty years.

  4. I just noticed everytime you make an guys are always using the word “FILIPINOS”…so you mean in general.If the government is pathetic,then so do i.Is that so?

  5. as far Sabah goes, the fils has no military to speak of, and therefore no claim that will be realized. It just will not matter what Malacanyack says. It will have TO DO, or STFU, that simple.
    The author is correct, the fils relies on the USA (the big boys!) for its military.(and the gov’t. threw the USA out too!!! WTF?)
    btw, Floyd is the LB 4 Lb boxing champ, 45-0.

  6. The Philippines is lead by a Mentally Retarded President with Mental issues. Aquino is suffering also from Depression/Anxiety. Look at how he hide in his hole, during the Luneta Hostage Crisis. Aquino cannot simply lead the Philippines to war. Aquino is pleading to China, And, is begging for support from the U.S.

    You cannot solve this problem by court proceedings. It is either war or diplomacy. Putting an infantry in that Shoal, is the most stupid military strategy; I have seen. It is already the Age of Electronic Warfare. This stupid/incompetent President has still the mentality of a “Katipunan’ military strategy.

  7. Pnoy’s lust for a nobel peace prize will come at a heavy cost, and more so if jojo robles is right and that all pork barrel charges will be dropped in exchange for plain sailing in the Senate. No wonder revilla can saunter abroad for 1 month holiday, and drilon confidently says the bill will be passed this year.
    Maybe no charges will even be filed against pnoy aquino’s campaign contributor and mar roxas friend janet lim napoles. What’s will the delay anyway.

    1. The guy has never done anything with his life then he finds himself president because of the death of his mom. What a catalyst for achievement . So far everything he done he had rigged with smoke and mirrors. If he gets a sniff of that Nobel prize then you know you can have more faith in the results of professional wrestling. Noynoy is a superhero all right. Plastic Man. Mar is Baby Plas.

    2. Guingona to announce today that the pork barrel hearings finished – no abad etc.
      The deal has been done.
      Another waste of taxpayers money and an example of the hypocricy of pnoy aquino.
      No prosecutions

      1. @libertas:

        They are the judges; the prosecutors; and the Thieves; rolled into one.
        So, they absoved themselves; declared themselves: “innocent”…If criminals will become : the judges , juries and prosecutors ; rolled into one…what will you expect?…

  8. Running aground as a way to claim territory. Really, that’s a smart way to look “downtrodden.” You know, paawa effect. Because the ship you need to defend your territory with, you decided to trash it, since you have no navy anyway. Smart. Yeah.

  9. “If this were Europe or the Middle East, nations would have sent troops to forcibly occupy the contested territory, as Russia has recently done in the Crimea, which is part of Ukraine, but which Russian troops have recently occupied.

    The only problem is that if Philippines decides to occupy Sabah, the locals there won’t welcome them unlike what happened in Crimea recently and in Sudetenland in Hitler’s time.

    So this whole thing about Sabah claim, it’s a long shot because the people there will overwhelmingly choose Malaysia over Philippines.

    So the foreign policy of the current administration is pragmatic and sane, accepting the current dynamics rather than subscribing to unrealistic aims of the ultranationalists.

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