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Friday, June 11, 2010

Happy “Independence” Day to a nation baked by someone else

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 Saturday. 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 we will celebrating this coming Saturday, 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.

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