Who Are The Filipinos? (Sino Ba Ang Mga Pilipino?)

via Flickr - SoPHie
via Flickr – SoPHie

“Sweet the hours in the native country,
Where friendly shines the sun above!
Life is the breeze that sweeps the meadows;
Tranquil is death; most tender, love.
Warm kisses on the lips are playing
As we awake to mother’s face:
The arms are seeking to embrace her,
The eyes are smiling as they gaze.
How sweet to die for the native country,
Where friendly shines the sun above!
Death is the breeze for him who has
No country, no mother, and no love!”

Canto de Maria Clara (Song of Maria Clara), translated from Spanish by Nick Joaquin

Before asking who the Filipinos are, the first question that we must ask to ourselves is what does it mean to be a Filipino? A classic Filipino musical film, considered as the quintessential masterpiece regarding the definition tried to ask the same question through the perspectives of its characters; the Chinaman defined the “Filipino” as the Spanish creoles or the insulares, a veteran of the Katipunan defined the “Filipino” as a name to be applied within the inhabitants of the archipelago and the lawyer who considered himself to be an ilustrado defined the “Filipino” to refer to his own kind, the educated class which would rule the country and serve as its guardians.

All of them have their respective assumptions about the “Filipino” and while the film left this as an open ended question and for the sake of elaboration, let us leave this linger on for a while. Fast forward into the present, no one even bothered to care or to ask themselves about the same question that people would dare to ask more than two centuries ago. In the age of globalization, integration and cosmopolitanism, Identity and Nationality are merely distant memories of the past that must be discarded.

Nationalism by itself is now a taboo subject especially in the West, in which its excesses had resulted to the abandonment of this concept in favor of solidarity and internationalism. For them, the idea of the nation-state is now confined within the fringes, an irrelevant or a trivial pursuit which only resulted to bloodshed. With these prevailing mindsets, it is easy nowadays to dismiss nationalism as simply incompatible and foolishly outdated.

But do we even know how the “nation” was formed? Mainstream explanations would try to point out its natural evolution, a primordial one which started from the clan, to tribe, to community, to society, to civilization and finally the nation. In spite of this attempt, the nation is still an abstract concept with little practical utility to our modern day duress. We have forgotten that indeed, the nation is nothing more but an abstraction, a myth and an imagination! In the contemporary lexicon, these three words to define the “nation” are already tantamount to its dismissal, but this is how nations are formed in the first place!

As Benedict Anderson have pointed out in his seminal work aptly titled Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism;

“I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community-and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion…. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined…. Finally, [the nation] is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately, it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willing to die for such limited imaginings.”

We must understand that the “nation” is not a product of evolution or any organic conception, but it is rather constructed both politically and socially. Therefore, the nation is merely an imagined community, an entity which depends not on rational and reductionist concepts but merely on the grounds that in spite of a lack of a face to face interaction, the nation could be defined as a community with the same interests tied by a vernacular dialect which translates itself as the common language of achieving a shared destiny. Like how we imagined ourselves as “world citizens”, being a “Filipino” is also not different from it.

But if this is just a figment of an abstraction or an imagination, why do I still consider this as a good, if not an excellent notion? Both Marxist and Liberal theories of nationality failed to explain this phenomenon and they cowered instead on their respective political biases. They are not competent enough; in short their definitions are not enough.

Our nationalism however is quite different and unique and must not be confined within the lenses of Western concepts. Rather, it was forged both by a utopian interpretation of Folk Christianity and the liberal tenets of the Enlightenment. Our forefathers, whether a creole, an ilustrado or an indio had fought against the Spanish colonizers with different purposes but with the same interests; to separate ourselves and create a nation.

History however is not kind to our people; A Father being slain by his own sons on false charges of treason, the establishment of Republic which tried so hard to seek international recognition while denying and depriving the people of popular and internal sovereignty, recurrent Jacquerie rebellions of the peasantry here and there as a reaction both to governmental negligence and poverty; American responses to our quest for liberation which included torture and concentration camps among others. We have suffered much hardship, a fact which persists even to this day but these memories were already forgotten and struck from our collective memory, a reminder of an effort which all ended in vain.

To be a “Filipino” for many is now simply to follow the bandwagon or to seek refuge in false pride and patriotism which are nothing more but the refuges of the scoundrels. What pride do we speak of in spite of a people who have forgotten their own history and will only constantly remember it when some film or some show in television have brought them to light, where being a “Filipino” is merely just a trend and where everyone treats it as some fad that can be discarded?  Do we only become a “Filipino” during a Pacquiao fight? Do we become a “Filipino” if we speak the archaic language which pretends to be the national preference of our people, but merely as an invention of the politicians who therefore used this to enslave their own countrymen in the process? Our society has become apathetic to the idea as a Nation, but who doesn’t?

Increasing calls for federalism and for further ASEAN Integration becomes the more viable option for them. The so called APEC is better for most of them, as they found it more viable to subjugate themselves to Wall Street’s interests than to stand on their own. Such disgusting sights are both intolerable reprehensible, as many are prepared to throw of their Identity in exchange of false security and prosperity, comforts which we neither deserve to gain at all.

So what does it mean to be a Filipino? Our history is a history of subjugation and oppression. Our Identity is still wracked by uncertainty and confusion, both as an offspring of Spanish hypocrisy and American consumerism and degeneracy. Our public memory has been a subject to continuous perversion and distortion. Those who continue to struggle for our emancipation are branded as rebels and traitors. Who shall we comfort ourselves with even though we ourselves have caused our very own demise as a people as we march forward to our collective self-destruction?

But it is also us who will be responsible for its re-creation. It is us who now has the Hour of Decision. This responsibility is now handed to all of us; the Millenials who must be awaken from the perpetual slumber of conformity and illusion. In an age of rapid anxiety about the future of not only our country but also of all humanity, our task will be of immense and gigantic proportions. We cannot escape from this, for this is a historical duty that we must fulfill,

Our struggle and our war is both a national and a spiritual war. The Great Recession is currently our lives, being succumbed into the pretensions of modernity within the world-city and living in an increasingly disconnected and anomic society. This is a call to arms to all of us. The rebirth of the Filipino will not be achieved by looking at the past, nor could be realized at the present but it must be fought for the future. The end of the film that I have mentioned earlier already had a clear message; the main character went to the hills to continue the fight instead of being stuck in a perpetual mosaic of shallowness and vice.

As Kierkegaard would have said, we must take the leap of faith. Uncertainty is an ally of rebirth, so is freedom an ally of anxiety. A true Filipino as Renato Constantino would have referred to is a decolonized Filipino. To achieve this liberation of ours, we must be willing to commit the greatest sacrifices for our kind.

Regardless of our ethnic classifications, the imagined community needs to be preserved and fought for because it is we who shall in the end would benefit for it. We just need to fight the right enemies who are despoiling the country of their incompetence and arrogance. As we observe the events surrounding our land embroiled in perpetual servitude, we must prepare for the inevitable. May this serve as a fuel for the embers which will be in turn, would become the fire that shall purify and cleanse our motherland! TC mark

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