Pondo ng Panday

Ramon Bong Revillaninakaw sa gobyerno, hindi sa bayan. Ang “gobierno” ba, salitang Pilipino? Hindi! Kaya parang nagnakaw na rin si Bong Revilla sa mga Kastilang mang-aapi, sa mga banyaga! Kabitenyo pa man din si Bong Revilla, Tagalog na talagang matapang at mabagsik! Ipinanindigan niya ang ginawa niya kaya huwag kayong mag-isip nang paninirang-puri! Lalo na kayo diyan, mga dilawan, mga Inglesero, mga baklang Atenista at Makati boys! Akala ba ninyo masosolo ninyo ang pera sa Pilipinas? Subukan niyo siyang kalabanin!

Kayong dada ng dada diyan, puro kayo morals-morals, puro human rights at dimokrasi! Iyan pati sa mga akala ninyong kakampi ninyo talo din kayo, tunay na Pilipino panalo! Batas at katarungan magkatugma na muli! E ano kung tax money ninyo iyan, dilawan? Iyang pera ninyo, ninakaw ninyo sa bayan mula pa noong panahon ng mga Kastila! Kaming mga tunay na Pilipino, hirap na hirap, panahon na para makabawi kami sa inyo! Kita ninyo ang taongbayan na tuwang-tuwa sa pagpapalaya ng Pangalawang Panday?

Iyang si Maria Ressa, hindi dapat bumalik iyan galing sa States. American na iyan. Hindi maganda para sa bayan ang kanyang ginagawang pamimintas sa mga pinuno! Buti nga kung mapaparusahan siya. Parang binawi na rin natin ang kinamkam ng Kano! Si Trillanes naman, ahente talaga ng mga Kano iyan. Contact nila Colonel Saunders. Ano, sino raw siya? Hepe ng Kentucky Fried Chicken? Mali kayo. Jolibee ang kalaban. Tandaan ninyo ang sinabi ni Prinsipe Polong. Ang bee mismo, umamin na sa PNP:

E ano kung si Kris Aquino nasa taas ng listahan ng mga nagbabayad ng buwis? E ano? Good citizen, good manners and right conduct, pati na decorum, de quorum. Tangina! Magbayad ng kahit isang dantaon pa ang mga burgis, mga hasyendero, mga ilustrado! Sila ang tunay na magnanakaw, hindi tayong mga tunay na Pilipino! Bumabawi lang.. anong silbi kung magbayad si Manny Pacquiao ng buwis, imbes na magtayo ng bahay para sa mahihirap? Mga Westerner talaga, hindi alam kung sino ang tunay na bayani!

E iyon namang mga itinatawag na “People’s Champions” nitong si Inhenyerong Salsal? Hindi sila para sa bayan. Iyang rule of law na iyan, para sa gobyerno lang iyan. Diokno? Paano ang tunay na Pilipino kung wala nang joke? Tañada? Walang ñ sa wika natin!  Bam Aquino? Paano naging para sa bayan iyang bachoy na Atenistang iyan? Please!  Basta ako, meron ang akong moral character. Iyong certificate of good moral character. Hindi nalaman ang kabalastugan ko. Kaya doon ako kay Panday Dos. Hindi ipokrito!

Leila De Lima warrant arrestAnong mapapala diyan sa mga ipokritong padasal-dasal? Tunay na lalake, lumalaban! Kaya doon tayo kay Bong Revilla, Panday Dos, at huwag sa mga duwag na dilawan! Darating din ang araw na ikukulong natin silang lahat, iiyak sila sa loob. Buti nga ano. Madanas nila iyong nadanas ng mga tunay na tao, ng mga pinuno at mga artista natin. Tignan ninyo si Leila, angal ng angal, wala na iyang martir-martir, tapos na ang panahon ng mga prayle! Di ba sabi ni Tatay Digong inutil ang mga obispo, at tanga ang mga nagsulat ng Baybol?

Tunay na warrior, hindi nagpapahuli, hindi nagpapatalo. Kaya dakpin natin si Trillanes. Ipakita natin sa dilawan na talunan ang morals-morals nila. Walang liligtas na Diyos. Walang liligtas na Kastila o Kano dahil Tsina na tayo. Sige, kain na, huwag Jolibee ha?

(Satire) by Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 8 December 2018

People’s Champions

Workers on suspended scaffold in Korolyovare appearing in the Senate race: Chel Diokno, Erin Tañada, Samira Gutoc, Gary Alejano, Florin Hilbay, Bam Aquino. Will Villanueva has interviewed nearly all (link) while Samira Gutoc is introduced here (link). Bam Aquino’s Negosyo Centers and his initiatives for improving Internet connectivity are I think known. Each one is different, but each on is about serving the people. Three have a strong focus on improving rule of law: Chel Diokno, Erin Tañada and of course Florin Hilbay. Samira Gutoc has her record in serving the people of Marawi in difficult times. Gary Alejano has his focus on national security and territory as well as avoiding debt traps. Mar Roxas and Macalintal are surely each good in their own ways, but I leave them out as I lack some information.

Community or Command?

All the six I mentioned fit into the people’s champion image Leni Robredo revived. Possibly the first time since Ramon Magsaysay. Probably it was even Mar Roxas who tried to revive it, although the image that remains of him is unfortunately quite awkward. Except for Alejano, none fit into the warrior-like image many Filipinos consider “strong”. And warrior-like would even be OK, in many cases Filipino machismo is just thuggish. From fatal fraternity hazings to UP Regents threatening Ateneo players with injury (link). Or thuggish barangay captains who make the Bagong Lipunan song play inside me. The propaganda art of the Marcos era with strong-bodied datus and their broad swords. Yes, the old barangays raided (each other), traded (with one another) and feasted (link).

From Spanish times onwards, cabezas de barangay and gobernadorcillos (“mayors”) drawn from the co-opted native elite maintained control over their own countrymen in exchange for privileges. Sugar, tobacco and abaca plantations came into play later on. Agricultural and other trade lead to (Spanish- and Chinese-) mestizos getting rich also. The late Spanish period and American colonial times allowed the rich to get educated. Institutions like UP even gave the less affluent but talented access to good education. Seems the idea of bayanihan, effectively a mix of native self-help and American ideas of community service, had its heyday in the 1950s. The barangay, as a more toxic mix of datu culture and Spanish colonial mindset, returned in force when Marcos restored it.

Absolutist or Liberal?

The difference is so very clear when one sees VP Leni sitting WITH the people while Duterte or Imee usually sit on a podium, ABOVE the people. And of course there is a command tone inherent in Marcosian or Dutertian rhetoric. And when one hears how some older-generation Filipino lawyers argue, one wonders how much Spanish absolutism is still in their mindset. For instance the way “sovereignty” is used – more in the old sense of the ruling class having sovereign (or king-like) power than in the sense of asserting national sovereignty by defending borders. One must remember that the Philippines was born in the middle of the Spanish conflict between Absolutists and Liberals. Until the 1950s, you still had Filipino politicians who spoke Spanish fluently.

Whereas (to use a typical Filipino legal word, ha!) Spanish Liberalism was also elitist in nature (link), and the original “liberalism” of Filipino plantation owners seems closer to that than to the ideas of American Democrats. If one wants an analogy of Spanish Liberalism and Absolutism, one just needs to read Rizal’s Noli and Fili. The first is about a snooty elite Filipino who naively tries to apply foreign recipes without thinking about how they can be adapted to local conditions, and without getting local buy-in first. The second is about a Filipino elite master of intrigue and power games who wants to use violence and suppression to achieve his ends. As the adviser to the Governor-General, Simoun is Marcosian/Dutertian, as the one egging on Cabesang Tales, he is a “leftist”.

Arriving in Dapitan

One cannot discount that Rizal’s novels had an element of self-reflection in them. Goethe is said to have avoided killing himself over a young lady by writing Werther. Probably the self-reflection even revealed more about the Philippine character than Rizal intended to. The well-meaning but sometimes condescending tone of reformism from 2010-2016 – and the howling reaction of the “townspeople” – parallels the Noli. Today’s violence is El Filibusterismo – 120 years later. Rizal probably won over his worst instincts by letting them out as novels. By the time he was exiled to Dapitan, he served. The Liberal Party I think has learned from its defeat – and started Project Makinig (link). Probably also the influence of VP Leni, who has continuously been in social work (link).

Quiet, hard work and perseverance instead of showy projects and warlike “heroism”. Tackling the country’s issues one step at a time (Tañada wants to finally pass a Land Use Act, Diokno has great ideas for reforming the justice system – see Will Villanueva’s interviews for more details) instead of building expensive bridges to nowhere (link). Given a clear picture of what the issues are, their causes and the solutions to them, possibly the taongbayan, the citizenry, are ready to listen and return to katinuang-isip or clearheadedness. Even the most warrior type among those I mentioned, Gary Alejano, is not out to jetski anywhere. A man who has truly seen battle is not careless with lives. Yet as a real warrior he knows how to draw lines in the sand. So that people can live.

Vicente Rafael, in his book “Motherless Tongues”, describes the sense of happiness in some villages after some initial revolutionary victories in the late 1890s, and the sense of togetherness when people were on the street in EDSA II. Those who where on EDSA in 1986 know the exhilarating feeling as well. Others will know the anger at things going wrong – the anger of the Katipunan is documented way back to 1892, the anger of left against social injustice, the anger of the masses on EDSA III that Rafael also describes. Neither joy nor anger, nor a sense of unity (which is often short-lived) can build things. “Land of constant beginnings” is what novelist Ninotchka Rosca called the Philippines. Could a new batch of leaders help change that? Are the people ready for that? Hmm..

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 3 December 2018

Malaya na Tayo! Salamat, Pang. Duterte!

President Rodrigo Duterte addressing Filipino community in Bruneiwala nang ibang kailangan ang Pilipino sa ngayon, kapag natupad na sa wakas ang tunay na kalayaan. Ako, bilang itinakdang sugo ni Apo Bathala, ang nagsasabi nito.  May tanong kayo, mga kapatid? Kung ano kamo ang Pang.? Panginoon at Pangulo! Sinong tumatawa diyan sa likod? Ano ang sinabi ng mga malikot na kabataan diyan? Pangit daw! Hawak pa kayo ng maling pananaw at kaisipan ng nakaraang panahon. Ano, hindi pa raw tayo malaya? Ipapaliwanag ko sa inyo ito, mga kapatid.

  • Malaya tayong magmura! Ang manners-manners na iyan, pautot lang iyan ng mga kolonyalista para gawin tayong masusunurin. Ang Pilipino na mataas ang katayuan at matapang, hindi magalang. Hindi lang maginoo at medyo bastos lang! Iyang pa-dise-disente, maling pagtuturo iyan ng mga Kastila, Kano at nila Rizal. Hayaan ninyong matakot at umiyak ang mga dilawan na balat-sibuyas diyan.
  • Malaya tayong pumatay! Bakit, hindi ba ang mga raja natin noon, bawat pinatay meron silang tatu? Matatapang ang mga ninuno natin, hindi mga babakla-bakla. Hindi iyong mga uurong-urong. Mga morals-morals na dala ng mga misyonaryo, imbento ito para gawin tayong mahina! Ngayon, matakot na ang mga puti sa atin! Mga misyonaryong nakikialam diyan na Kano tulad ni Sister Pox, pinaalis natin! Ano, Australian kamo? Pareho lang iyan, mga putanginang gumagamit ng Ingles!
  • Malaya tayong dumiskarte! Bakit, bawal bang yumaman tayong mga mahihirap? Iyang Daang Matuwid na iyan, sagabal lang iyan sa pag-unlad ng pera natin! Walang kuwenta iyang mga dilawan na nagdedepende lang naman sa mga trabaho nila sa mga amo nilang mga puti! Kung wala ang mga puti, walang kuwenta ang pinag-aralan nila, samakatwid bobo sila! Pero matagal ng alam iyan.
  • Malaya tayong humatol! Iyang putanging facts-facts at logic-logic, hindi sila totoo! Mga hatol ng Pang. Duterte, galing sa likas na pakiramdam na nasa loob niya! Misteryo ito na hindi maiintindihan ng mga bobong Westerner maski kailan man! Alam natin kung sino ang mga drug addict, mga drug lord at dilawan diyan! Iyang mga pautot nila na puro Ingles-Ingles, kalimutan na natin, bobo sila!
  • Malaya tayong lumaban! Lumaban sa lahat ng kumokontra sa tunay na Pilipino at sa minamahal na Pang. Duterte! Lumaban sa mga ayaw tumanggap ng tunay na katotohanan tulad ng Rappler na iyan, tulad ng Bishop David na iyan, tangina! Bastos sila pagka’t kinokontra nila ang mga bagay na nararapat para sa bansa! Bakit, hindi ba iyong mga taga-Sentinel ipinana nila ang misyonaryong lumapit? Dapat iyan ang ginawa natin sa Limasawa. Mga swapang pati sila, kapag Bisaya pagkain at inom para sa lahat, sa misa pagkain para sa lahat, inom sa pari lang!

May tanong pa ba kayo? Hay, kayong mga bata talaga. Siyempre ang Tsina, parang ninong natin iyan, parang padrinyo. Dapat gumalang at tumanaw ng utang na loob sa mas nakakataas, sa loob ng barangay man o sa bansa. Buong Kongreso at Senado halos gumagalang kay Pang. Duterte. Iyan ang pagkakaisa ng isang tunay na bansa. Isang bansa, isang diwa, sabi nga ni Pang. Marcos! Kapag nawala ang mga ungas na hindi marunong gumalang sa mga kagalang-kagalang, mabubuo na ang paraiso natin!

Hay naku, ano ba itong gamot na nainom ko? Fentanyl o shabu? Ano, bakit tumatawa kayo diyan? Tangina, naka-on pa pala ang mikropono. Barilin niyo nga ang technician!

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 2 December 2018

Rizal and Bonifacio – Polar Opposites?

The Philippine Islands (1899) (14773138935)How much in the discussions about the “Pepe and Boni” is just projection, first of all? How many who say that Rizal wanted to be a martyr actually want to say that of Ninoy? How many who are for Bonifacio’s alleged shoot first, talk later mindset mean right-wing or left-wing characters in the present or nearer past of the Philippines? How many who are against Rizal’s reformism actually mean the February Revolution of 1986 was not really a revolution, and reforms from then were useless? What is their real agenda?

Bayot o Bayani?

How many of those who criticize Rizal for not being a revolutionary also subscribe to Duterte’s criticism of Mar Roxas (link)? “Wala, si Mar, bayot. Hindi niya kaya. Hindi. Kaya ko kasi lalaki ako,.. Hindi ka lalaki, papaano ‘yan? Takot kang pumatay, takot kang mamatay. Eh subukan mo ako. Maghawak ka ng shabu sa harap ko, pasabugin ko ulo mo…Ikaw bayot, ako kaya ko. Hindi ka marunong pumatay?” The gist is that leaders have to “fear neither death nor killing”. Modern, civilized men aren’t seen as “real men”.

Rizal in fact was a good shot and knew how to fence. If the duel between Antonio Luna and Rizal had pushed through, there probably would have been no Heneral Luna (link) as Rizal was by all accounts better. While Bonifacio was, as many may not know, a well-read autodidact, forced to stop going to school by his being orphaned very early. And this was his conclusion in March 1896 (link): Reason tells us that we must rely upon ourselves alone and never entrust our livelihood to anybody else. Unlike Duterte.

Approach the World?

Unlike also like Sikatuna, also mentioned by Bonifacio for his blood compact with Legazpi, or Aguinaldo, who made his deal with Spain in Biak-na-Bato in 1897 and then tried to become an American protege in 1898. Or pro-Japanese collaborators later on. The ilustrados around Rizal still hoped to be treated as equals by the Spaniards, some wanting representation in the Spanish Parliament or Cortes, others wanted autonomy, but still under the Spanish crown. An arrangement like Australia has with England?

According to Charles Mann’s book 1493, there were already Filipino communities in Mexico City in earlier centuries, but most probably never returned to the country, just like the Manila Men of Louisiana (link). The ilustrados of the late 19th century were able to travel back and forth to Europe thanks to the Suez Canal and steamships. Electricity was one of the marvels of that age, as well as photography. Rizal loved to take “selfies”. Aspiring for modernity is still a Filipino obsession. Was the place a backwater too long?

Differences in Perspective

On the other hand, Bonifacio and the like were middle class people working in foreign firms that had been increasingly setting up in Manila for decades. They had a glimpse of what might be out there, they had the stories of Rizal, but no access to those places. Their view was of the abuses perpetrated by colonial authorities, as mentioned in one of the founding documents of the Katipunan (link): this land has been broken from the stem and withered, and shows no inclination to grow fresh shoots or spring back to life.

Even if Rizal’s novels do mention colonial and friar abuses, there is a major difference in wading in a flood that is waist-high versus a flood that is neck-deep. And though the great respect Bonifacio had for Rizal is known, there is one sentence in the January 1892 Katipunan document which shows serious doubts regarding the many in Rizal’s social class:  The pretensions of the enlightened men (ilustrados) who have education and everything they desire, dear ones, but it can be seen that their habits are coarse.

Battle of Katipunan

Even today one can see truly enlightened, cosmopolitan members of the Filipino elite – as opposed to pretentious rich people or pseudo-intellectual schmucks. One can also see ordinary Filipinos who embody good values – as opposed to vulgar, tacky types. The once strong divide between UP and Ateneo, nationalist as opposed to elitist-clerical has faded somewhat nowadays, with student councils of both universities calling upon the audience to wear black during the “Battle of Katipunan” as a sign of protest (link).

The great divide may be elsewhere now, as an observer of the 2016 elections noted (link): Malapit ba si Duterte o si Binay sa pagiging katulad ni Bonifacio?  Si Roxas, si Poe o si Santiago ba ay kapara ni Rizal? Duterte skipped Bonifacio Day yesterday. Meanwhile, more Filipinos are abroad than ever before. Those who have had the privilege of learning good English of course are more at ease in many global settings. Typical OFWs and some BPO workers may see the world much like Bonifacio once did.

Disown the World?

One must try to imagine how isolated from the world the Philippines was around 1800. Possibly the ordinary Filipino was even more isolated from the world in 1800 than 1521, when the small chiefdoms and the collections of chiefdoms called rajahnates at least traded with the world – mostly on their own terms. The sense of having lost something is what both Rizal’s Philippines a Century Hence and Bonifacio’s Ang Dapat Mabatid ng mga Tagalog exude. Learned helplessness might have been an effect of that loss.

Probably that learned helplessness is the key weakness of all three major founding fathers of the Philippines. Rizal who wanted to rely mainly on learning from abroad, Bonifacio who might have glorified the past too much, Aguinaldo who followed the fatal Filipino tradition of relying on foreign patrons – which Duterte is simply continuing. Different from Japan, whose spirit was never broken, and therefore had the confidence to adopt whatever it happened to see fit from foreign templates – yet staying Japanese.

Being less developed than others at some point has happened to nearly every country. Germans learned from the Romans, Romans from the Greeks, Greeks from Persians. The relative isolation of the Philippines had a more advanced civilization crashing in like alien starships, while continental Eurasians had learned from one another for millennia. Filipinos now travel the world. Disowning the world and joining China in anti-Western resentment – Duterte’s way – may not be the wisest course. Rizal and Bonifacio were 120 years ago. The world and the Philippines are both radically different places now. Travel and communication have gotten even faster and more instantaneous than then. The challenges of today are more important, the past offers lessons at most. Let us see.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 1 December 2018

A Nation Dies (?) – and what’s next? (!)

China Philippines LocatorWith a whimper and a few loud protests, the Republic of the Philippines was buried some days ago. Why seemingly so little feelings? One could see one reason in the fact that the nation was an elite project from the beginning, which never managed to get real buy-in. Certainly the “first Filipino” (link) Luis Rodriguez Varela was an elite, a Spaniard born in the Philippines touched by ideas of the early 19th century. The other colonies of Spain were breaking free as an indirect effect of Napoleon shaking up Europe: Mexico (link) from 1808-1821 while General Bolivar (link) was freeing large parts of South America from 1807-1830, finally leaving Spain with only Cuba and Puerto Rico in the New World (link). In the Pacific (link) there were the Philippines, the Marianas including Guam, the Carolines, and Palau. A Filipino soldier to the Carolines (link) is mentioned in Rizal’s Fili.

The first elites

The ilustrados (link) of the late 19th century evolved out of a number of factors, including new money earned in plantations. Tobacco, sugar and abaca were major cash crops introduced from the late 18th century onwards. Spain was in political turmoil from 1833-1876 (link) with a conflict between Liberals and Absolutists. The liberal Governor-General of the Philippines from 1869-1871, Carlos Maria de la Torre (link) was a result of the “Glorious Revolution” in Spain, treated Filipinos (of all races) in a way not known before, but was soon replaced by someone who was his opposite. But the world was growing smaller then. Steamships started (link). Manila opened to international trade in 1834, provincial ports by 1855 (link) and the Suez canal opened in 1869, so there was a critical mass of Filipino students in Madrid by 1888, when La Solidaridad was organized (link).

Meanwhile, Cuba fought for independence thrice (link): 1868-1878, 1879-1880 and 1895-1898. What Filipino ilustrados wanted was relatively tame. Varela had wanted representation in the Spanish Cortes – possibly an idea born out of what the French had given their former colonies during their Revolution – while ilustrados probably wanted a kind of autonomy, at most. Those in Spain fought for being treated as equals. Antonio Luna was known for his challenging a Spanish journalist a number of times. Jose Rizal, who studied in the far more modern Germany of the late 19th century, was probably treated a lot more equally by German scientists of the day (link) than by Spaniards who were far behind up-and-coming 19th century Germany. Did Rizal also read Wilhelm von Humboldt, who considered Tagalog one of the most advanced Austronesian languages (link)?

An aborted Revolution

Did the freer air of progressive Europe outside Spain give the Luna brothers and Rizal the strong confidence they exuded? Probably Spain only really became a modern country after Franco’s time. Parallel to that, Manila was changing as well. A lot of Filipinos got jobs in the foreign companies that were coming to the city at that time. Andres Bonifacio (link), a warehouse clerk at Fressel and Company, a German firm in Manila, was to become a member of La Liga Filipina (link) formed by Rizal in 1892 before his exile to Dapitan. One can only speculate about how Bonifacio’s biography made him what he was. His being an orphaned son of the principalia, the native elite, forced to take care of his siblings from the age of 14 onwards. Unable to continue studying, he remained a voracious reader. One day after Rizal’s exile to Dapitan, he helped found the Katipunan (link).

Rizal returning, heading for Cuba, then brought back to be executed in late 1896. The Katipunan accidentally discovered and forced to act, the Revolution, the chaos within its leadership, the infamous Tejeros convention where a certain Daniel Tirona managed to provoke Bonifacio at his probably most sensitive point, his lack of formal education, the execution of Bonifacio and his brother, Aguinaldo taking over power, the pact of Biak-na-Bato (link) in late 1897, which gave Aguinaldo amnesty and money in return for self-exile to Hong Kong. Aguinaldo returning on an American ship on May 12, 1898. The Spanish-American War had begun in 1896 and was to end in Spain ceding territories to the USA. Aguinaldo still had declared Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898 “under the Protection of the Mighty and Humane North American Nation” (link).

In America’s Image

Aguinaldo’s resistance was pretty much futile in the end, and after his surrender the remaining groups of Christian Filipino revolutionaries like Sakay and Ola were treated as bandits while the US forces afterwards concentrated on gaining control of the Muslim areas of Mindanao, which never had been fully controlled by the Spaniards, even if they had made some headway in the late 19th century.  The Filipino elites were given some self-government with a Philippine Assembly in 1907, the University of the Philippines was established in 1908, the Philippine Senate in 1916. Mindanao was turned over to the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands in 1920. Manuel Quezon, Aguinaldo’s former aide-de-camp, was Senate President from 1916-1935 and became President of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935. Douglas McArthur organized the Armed Forces by 1941.

The architecture of the Philippine state was established by then. Tagalog had also effectively been declared to be the language that was to be the basis of a future national language called Filipino. The area around Manila Bay definitely was a central area in the development of the archipelago. Many civilizations and great cities grow in mouths of rivers and natural harbors – Manila has both, and is ideally positioned for trade with the Southeast Asia and Japan, Korea, China. The complex grammar of Tagalog which Humboldt already mentioned shows that a certain level was there. Bahasa, used in somewhat different forms in Malaysia and Indonesia, is by contrast quite simple. There was a lot of resistance to Tagalog in the Visayas, but finally Visayan languages, Bikol and Tagalog are all Central Philippine languages, closely related. Ilocano and Pampangan, not quite.

Defining True Filipinos

While the Americans pragmatically defined everybody who was a Spanish subject on Philippine territory on a certain date in 1902 as Filipino, the Commonwealth had a ius sanguinis definition of nationality. Chinese migration, which had existed since Spanish times and had led to many Filipinos of mixed Chinese origin, had stopped during American times due to the Chinese exclusion act (link). After World War 2 and Independence, Chinese were to migrate to the Philippines again, but it was only in 1975 that there was mass naturalization (link) coupled with Filipinization of Chinese schools in the country. Bonifacio’s Katagalugan defined the Philippines as Katagalugan (link), not Filipinas. The Katipunan also had tried to get help from Meiji-era Japan (link) and the highly anti-American revolutionary Artemio Ricarte (link) lived in Japan and returned in 1942.

While Spanish rule had not taught Spanish to most Filipinos, the American system was to be more thorough in teaching English. Even if Filipino elites clung to Spanish and even used it from time to time after the war, such as in the probably misquoted speech by Jose Avelino (link). The trial of young Ferdinand Marcos for the murder of Julio Nalundasan shows the world of the 1930s, where Spanish seems to have still been in common usage within elites (link). Marcos abolishing Spanish as an official language in the 1973 Constitution and mass naturalizing Chinese immigrants in 1975 was probably symptomatic of the shift in concentration of wealth. Nowadays, one can only find the Ayalas and Razons as Spanish mestizos among the richest families – the rest are of Chinese origin. Anecdotes I heard say that many Spanish mestizos left after the war, not only Isabel Preysler (link).

Migrants, OFWs, datus

I quote from memory a figure of about one million Filipinos having migrated to the United States from 1965-1985, after Kennedy opened the country to non-European migrants – a pull factor – and during the Marcos dictatorship – a push factor. These were products of the American colonial education system which was still pretty much intact in the 1950s and 1960s. Filipinos who went to the still excellent public schools of then learned a better English than the majority speak today. Most of them did not return. In 1975, the POEA was founded to manage overseas migration. The Philippines continued to rely on that source of revenue even after the dictatorship was toppled in 1986, in fact the number of OFWs or overseas foreign workers grew. Nowadays, an estimated 10% of Filipinos are working abroad, not counting those of Filipino origin but with other citizenships.

At home, Ferdinand Marcos re-established the barangay (link), which apparently was just a term invented by Spanish colonialism, its hereditary office of cabeza de barangay an imitation of what the Spanish knew of hereditary nobility. That instrument of micro-management for the poor and rural areas was another fatal continuity after 1986. It seems that the barrio of American times was more democratic, and the idea of bayan (in Tagalog) or banwa (in Bisayan and Bikol) more native. What I have seen so far of Lumad leaders from Mindanao is a far cry from the petty despots that many barangay captains are. Marcos according to Adrian Cristobal (link) saw the Philippines as a “society of tribes” and himself as the “great tribal chief”. This fixed idea of how the Philippines was, is and is supposed to be probably shaped a tradition inherited by the likes of Binay and Duterte.

A nation died?

Yet the past years were not only negative. Massive migration formed a certain consciousness among those who were excluded from the institutions of the Republic (schools like UP or Ateneo, the AFP, government offices, political offices, newspapers and publications) by causing groups that did not meet that much before to meet – and usually speak the Filipino of the media and the street with one another. The Filipino media including movies created common narratives within the archipelago. Common folk idols like Manny Pacquiao. An emotional and visual people is highly media-driven. Would February 1986 have happened if no one had had a videorecorder on the plane that brought back Ninoy on August 21, 1983? Would EDSA 2 have happened without the televised impeachment trial of Erap and text messaging to mobilize the crowd? Going back, would Rizal have been that popular without his many “selfies”? And of course Dutertism without Facebook is unthinkable. Bayan indeed means both village and country. The townspeople cheer and cringe to every event. Magsaysay ruled dancing the mambo. Quezon and Marcos exuded power from behind the mike. Yet finally, real threats have often united Filipinos. The Japanese occupation was one such occasion. But this time, the challenges are greater and Filipino improvisation and resilience may not suffice. Not just China, but also climate change, environmental deterioration and overpopulation. Let’s see.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 24 Nov. 2018

Wir sind Helden

Aagostini donquixote 01is the name of a German band (link) and means “we are heroes”. In a somewhat ironic sense, because they said that they wanted to reclaim the word for antiheroes. And somehow also inspired by David Bowie’s well-known “Heroes” song. Helden or heroes became a bit unpopular in Germany after 1945, because Wagnerian pomposity had ended in a Götterdämmerung (death of gods) for many who thought they were being saviors of Europe and ended up destroying half the continent.  People rebuilt quietly from ruins in Adenauer’s era of “Keine Experimente”, or no experiments.

Heroes with doubts

The muscular statues of 1930s heroes of fascism and socialism were outdated. The American heroes of the same generation were Superman and Batman, but the German public I think preferred Donald Duck, or maybe even more Looney Tunes, with more Schadenfreude than tame Disney. America still had no doubts at that time, no conflicted heroes like today’s Jason Bourne, who knows many things are wrong in his country but still is a patriot, according to CIA agent Heather Lee. That was before Vietnam and before the War against Terror, wars which made America doubt itself.

The 2004 movie “Troy” has Odysseus telling Achilles (link): War is young men dying and old men talking. You know this. Ignore the politics. That is probably even more true nowadays than in the olden days, when kings often rode into battle themselves. But were Greek heroes really heroes? Basically Troy was a civilized city raided by pirate upstarts who were still to become a civilization. The Romans who were the next to become civilized did not pretend to be heroic, in fact they had a very clear language: vae victis. Woe to the conquered. And the Germanic tribes who were next?

Jetski to Windmills

They had more of a warrior religion in which those who died well went to Valhalla (link). This mixed with Christian beliefs in righteousness may have led to the idea of the knight in shining armor. The Spaniards had their own pompous variant of heroism, brilliantly ridiculed in Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Like the German words Heldentod (hero’s death) and Heldentat (heroic deed) may also have ironic meanings today. The first can mean overexerting oneself for something that isn’t worth it (not literally dying) and the second can mean creating a fiasco or catastrophe (link).

President Duterte might have had quixotism in mind when he said he would jetski to the Spratleys (link): “Matagal ko nang ambisyon na maging hero ako. Kung pinatay nila ako dun, bahala na kayo umiyak dito sa Pilipinas”  (I have long had the ambition to be a hero. If they kill me there, it is up to you to cry in the Philippines). The sarcasm was so clear then, I wonder how anyone believed it. Obviously there is a jadedness with the idea of heroes among some Filipinos. Senate President Sotto wanted to remove references to dying for the country from the national anthem (link).

Fine, Sunny Days

The last words of anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl were (link): How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action? The question is: what if hardly anyone cares at all? There have been thousands of deaths in the Philippines in the past two years and I really wonder. What I wonder is whether belief in righteousness, in interests outside one’s own group, exists there.

Or maybe the overloaded quixotic Spanish connotations of “heroe” made hero something that Filipinos couldn’t quite relate to. Add the strutting self-aggrandizement of most Filipino elites who will never make a sacrifice themselves, doesn’t have to be death, but at least take some risks also. Magsaysay’s guerrilla past could have been one factor in his popularity, since he walked his talk. But so did Rizal and Ninoy Aquino, who took the risks and faced the consequences of their actions.  Some current discussions insinuate they looked for death to become famous with posterity. What?

The Malay world

Bayani (link) is contrasted as the native, “better” concept of hero who is truly part of the bayan. The closest thing to that in Europe would be Volkshelden (popular heroes) such as Tyrolean rebel Andreas Hofer, or the legendary Swiss Wilhelm Tell, whose story Rizal translated into Tagalog. The story of Kabesang Tales / Matanglawin in El Filibusterismo has elements of a typical Volksheld or Schützen (marksman) story, including the tragic shooting of Tandang Selo by his grandson Tano. Wilhelm Tell of course does not accidentally kill a relative. Being Swiss, he did not miss the apple.

Indonesia also has its folk heroes: http://filipinogerman.blogsport.eu/jago-and-preman/In Indonesian popular culture, the jago is often romanticized as a champion of the people whose acts of violence are motivated by a deep sense of justice, honour and order.” Fernando Poe, anyone? But Indonesia also has its political thugs (same article): The Pancasila Youth that played a major role in the 1960s killings in Indonesia were considered preman or political thugs. There are stories of different kinds of Filipino guerrilas in World War 2, good and bad. It isn’t always that clear.

The Balkan world

The Balkans have the Hajduk (same article): who “is a romanticised hero figure who steals from, and leads his fighters into battle against, the Ottoman or Habsburg authorities…. In reality, the hajduci of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries commonly were as much guerrilla fighters against the Ottoman rule as they were bandits and highwaymen who preyed not only on Ottomans and their local representatives, but also on local merchants and travelers.” Whether a hajduk was considered good or bad may well have been a matter of how one was advantaged or affected.

In Serbia, a collectivistic, ethnic hero cult (more similar to bayani than to individualistic heroe) based on a national mythology plus paternalism led to this (p. 85): Decision-making was left to omnipotent rulers, those personifying heroic martyrs of the Battle of Kosovo, who promised to rule in the best interests of collective Serb society. Paternalism impeded the spread of democracy, the implementation of the rule of law, and the development of constitutionalism. The fierceness of hajduks plus ideology. No place or time is the same, outcomes differ.  But some patterns do exist.

Wir sind Helden

Alltagshelden is a German tabloid term: “everyday heroes”. Non-everyday heros are for the 911. “Pity the country that needs heroes” said Bertolt Brecht. I think it makes a country a lot better if most people are just plain decent. Not “disente“, another lost in translation Filipino word which often means “dressed up to the nines” or “clean-cut”. I once was carrying disente pants on a hanger, coming from a dry cleaner. They fell off, somebody noticed it, picked them up and gave them to me – in the middle of Munich city. Very decent people! Small acts of goodness add up in society.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 17 November 2018

Halloween is coming

Salvador Panelo (cropped)with no escape, and tomorrow, Daylight Savings Time ends. Yesterday afternoon, I walked through a sunny Munich with 17 degrees temperature. Was it climate change or was it just the Föhn wind? Föhn also means hair-dryer in German, so you get an idea of what kind of wind the alpine Föhn is. Hair-dryers mean risk of baldness so I avoid them. I can sing, but I am not running for the Senate. Which does not mean Sen-eight, even if the opposition has 8 candidates. And even if the Latin word is derived from senex, meaning old man, and is related to senile, I think Enrile is way too old now.

But he is indeed scary, while Panelo is at least funny, like a dancing skeleton can be truly hilarious. Back to Halloween. A Celtic feast after the harvest. The Celts believed that the spirit world opened during the shift to winter, and offered food to the spirits to propitiate them. The people of the Alps have all their cows in the shed by then, having driven them all down the mountains by October. Some Alpine people have the superstition that the spirit world opens around New Year, starting with Christmas and ending with Three Kings Day, when the good spirits win against the evil.

The Schiachperchten (the ugly spirits, roughly translated) look shaggy and act rough while the Schönperchten (the beautiful spirits, roughly speaking) look shiny. Some of the evil spirits are called Krampuses, some say that Krampus is St. Nicholas’ sidekick who punishes bad children. Could Duterte be the Krampus come to punish bad Filipinos, an ugly spirit from the other world? Will he, pockfaced Calida and skeleton Panelo return to the netherworld when Enrile goes there? Was it simply Filipino karma that after a President named Benigno, a maligno would come to rule?

Shall the cycle come to another turn when the beautiful spirits, led by a beautiful Vice President, drive out the evil ones and end the reign of the Pangit? They already have been partly driven out of Facebook, so they may found a new place called PangitBook if they want. It would not matter at all. The cycles are: good/evil, Yin/Yang, Apollonian/Dionysian, democracy/tyranny, justice/injustice. Tag-araw, tag-ulan are not only the sunny and the rainy season, it is a Filipino movie and a song. Greeks went from Apollonian rationality to Dionysian excess. Filipinos love tragedy and comedy.

Though the recent events in Filipino courts and assemblies are either both or neither, somehow. Inspite of the social media commentary that follows the events like the chorus of a Greek play. Inspite of the philosophers, some bearded and half-Persian, making their comments on matters, this play is not a tragedy equal to Aeschylus’ The Persians. And even if some politicians in it look like frogs, it is not a comedy equal to Aristophanes’ The Frogs. It is reality, even if it is surreal. Possibly though, I am misled. The Philippines could be on the verge of creating new paradigms.

Albayalde says the Philippines may be the first country to win a drug war. With action men like the Tulfos and Robin Padilla, it could be possible! And inspite of the EU now certifying Dengvaxia, how do we know if Persida Acosta was not right? How do we know that the PNP was unjust in killing? And isn’t Calida a genius in redefining basic questions of existence and non-existence? Finally, the Philippines could be at the forefront of a revolution of knowledge, the greatest ever since Socrates. And the infallible, incorrigible Teddy Boy Locsin. But first, Halloween must pass. Trick or treat?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 27 October 2018

Set in Stone

Volcanic stonesis what many a Filipino thought or sentiment seems to be. A certain stubbornness in sticking to one’s opinions is even seen as a virtue. In certain circles even arguing against all common sense. Whether one is PAO Persida Acosta insisting that as a lawyer, she knows that Dengvaxia kills, or whether one is Solicitor General Calida maintaining that not being able to find Trillanes’ amnesty application means it never existed. Inspite of footage, testimonies and other indications that it did. Probably a Filipino trickster will have respect for Calida’s grin while defending the obvious untruth.

Truth versus Power

Because that could be seen as higher intelligence than Acosta’s believing the nonsense she states. But that would mean that truth matters little, only power and winning – not learning anything. Because learning means having doubts, making mistakes, verifying assumptions and a lot more. That seems to be seen as a weakness in the Philippines. Or why are unverified drug lists published? That is dangerous in a country were even criticizing the government is now seen as destabilizing. But the chickens have come home to roost. The culture always saw words as instruments of power.

In a passive-aggressive culture (link), criticism can be two-faced as innuendo is used for “attack”. Like the part of an iceberg above the water is smaller than what is below, the facts being discussed are sometimes not what is really meant. Criticism of policies CAN indeed mean “destabilization”. Why? Because whether Filipinos cooperate with someone or not can depend a lot on petty moods. Whether the person is liked or not. Dislike for whatever reason can lead to howling condemnation like the one experienced by President Benigno Aquino III for far less mistakes than Duterte made.

Confrontation with certain types of Filipinos are of course to be avoided, as there are not only the passive-aggressive but also the vindictive types. President Duterte towards De Lima, Sereno and Trillanes. Hinting he would destroy “a female official” just after he started (link) – but for what? Simply for pointing out the obvious about him, for investigating extrajudicial killings? That is a culture were face is far more important than the truth, very obviously. Were being wrong is not the issue, even if everybody knows it somehow – being told one is wrong is what destroys ones esteem.

Truth to Power

Black Box Thinking (link) is a book about learning from mistakes. There are a few examples in the book which show when incapability to speak truth to power leads to fatal mistakes. Co-pilots who are too diplomatic in telling the pilot something critical. Nurses not assertive enough to doctors. Due to inborn “respect” for rank – misplaced in situations were seconds can mean life or death. There can of course be power that refuses to accept any version of reality except their own. That can be dangerous to them, as they can execute or fire those “against” them but not escape from reality.

This is especially true in modern situations where reality is complex and hard to intuitively “see”. That is why seat of the pants leaders like Philippine mayors have difficulty in national settings.  Someone who lives in a city can get a “feel” for it without even being mayor: I can “feel” Munich. Mayors will talk to different people and compare what they see with what they are told and then they can balance their picture, decide and immediately see the results. No need for anyone to tell. Better if, but if the culture is one of face and power (link) better not be “shaimed” (sic) too much.

Well, I did think that Duterte was a good leader originally, because of his “listening tours” (link) at a time when President Aquino was criticized heavily for being insensitive to the common people. But was he? Possibly he also had a hard time, as Filipino culture sees criticism as form of attack. Probably even his statement that the people are his boss was the worst thing he could have done. Filipino bosses can be demanding to the point of unfairness, many Filipinos prefer foreign bosses. Some people probably thought they could nitpick on practically anything, thus abusing democracy.

Powerful Truth

A recent article by Dr. Gideon Lasco on The Scholar as a Rebel (link) does stress the importance of challenging received wisdom as an essential aspect of learning: the best thinkers of their day were called “revolutionary” precisely because they helped build their societies upon ideas — ideas that were nurtured in universities, and viewed as rebellious at the time of their inception. Of course not every trollish social media commenter who says “ugok ka” and “mali iyan” is a useful “rebel”. Dissent must be based on proper reasoning – even if it may come from a new and fresh angle.

Criticism of the policies of a leader does not have to mean disrespecting the authority of a leader.  Protests are a necessary corrective to smugness that can weaken a ruling group after some time. Unfortunately the Philippines is still built on face and power, not on ideas, so sophistry rules. Dengvaxia might be OK, but that can’t be, it is yellow as eggyolk, just like the new MRT wagons! The mentality still “be like”: “look at Panot! Poe lectured that WEAKLING about Mamasapano! Our Digong deals with critics quickly!” Actually, mistakes that happened in every administration could have been used as opportunities to learn how to improve the system as a whole – not in finding a culprit. Even the question “why EJKs” could have been an opportunity to learn, as the reason might have been “police investigations too inefficient, courts too slow, customs too porous”. Yet the culture loves finding a culprit or culprits and punishing them in whatever way possible. Those perceived as weak often become the culprits and those perceived as strong assign blame. Truth would make everyone more powerful. But the perspective of many is so short-sighted.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 12 October 2018

 

 

Red Oktoberfest Horse

Oktoberfest-Kutscherdoesn’t exist, just by itself. There is Red Horse, but that beer may not be served at the Oktoberfest. Only beers brewed in Munich, as tradition dictates. But the Oktoberfest starts in September, why? Because the weather is still somewhat better then is what I know, as long as it ends in October, OK. Or passt scho, as Bavarians say. That’s OK is what it more or less means. No need to look further. Red October, or the October revolution, wasn’t really in October either. It was on October 25, 1917 in Russia and on November 7, 1917 – by the Gregorian calendar which most of Europe was using.

Reds turned Red October into Red November when they chose to switch to Gregorian in 1918. Greeks finally decided to go Gregorian in 1919 – for civil purposes. Christmas and Easter still differ for Russians and Greeks, this I know. Why should Orthodox bishops follow a calendar that was decreed by a Roman Catholic Pope? Gregory XIII, to be exact, way back in 1582, had reformed the Julian calendar, decreed by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. – both being the Pontifex Maximus. These priests defined the calendar in ancient Rome, but sometimes misused that power for politics.

Weder-Weder and Seasons

Even Julius Caesar made the year of his third consulship 446 days long in the year of his reform. Being Pontifex Maximus and Consul was like being President and Supreme Court Chief Justice. Might be an idea for Duterte when CJ Castro retires. But even in Roman times, the additional days to adjust the calendar to the seasons (or political weder-weder) were done after February, like now. Except that February was the last month, and September – October – November – December were really still the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months, respectively. After Julius and Augustus.

Almost 16 hundred years later, the 365.25 days used to compute leap years every 4 years proved to be slightly inaccurate. Easter got colder and colder. 365.2425 days is inaccurate every 3000+ years. Pretty accurate though for a Catholic Church that still refused to believe Galileo – at least officially. But on the other hand accepted strong beer as a valid substitute for food during the Lenten season. There is the story that Bavarian monks sent beer all the way to Rome and it was no longer fresh when it arrived, so the Vatican approved it. In reality it is almost as strong as Filipino Red Horse.

Per centum

8% alcohol is what I have found for Red Horse, while the Lenten beers of Munich called Salvator, Maximator, Triumphator etc. have around 7.5%. Oktoberfest beer “only” has 6.4% – not inflation, alcohol percentage. Regular beer like Augustiner Helles has 5.2%, which looks like a little less. Unfortunately, whether we talk about alcohol percentage or inflation, small differences are big. Four half liter mugs of Augustiner Helles make you way less drunk than two liters of Augustiner in the Oktoberfest tent of the same name. Lenten Penance is two liters of Maximator – same brewery.

No October Horse is sacrificed to mark the end of the agricultural season during the Oktoberfest. That was in ancient Rome. There are brewery horses pulling carriages with beer barrels on them during the opening ceremony, but most “tents” are huge wooden pavillions nowadays with tanks and pipes for their beer. The Augustiner “tent” does still use 200 liter barrels though, traditionally. And still the Oktoberfest has a lot in common with other harvest and autumn festivals in Bavaria. Entire oxen roasted, with name and weight indicated, are most remiscent of sacrifice in one “tent”.

Sacrifice

Someone doubted whether one could roast such a large animal in one piece, wouldn’t it take days? After all, lechon takes around six hours if I remember correctly, turkey or goose like three hours. But I have seen that they cut off meat from the outside going inwards, much like with shawarma. Same with gyros or döner, the Greek and Turkish versions of Lebanese shawarma, respectively. Only Greek gyros is pork though, but ancient Greeks were known to sacrifice bulls etc. to Gods. Ancient Greek comedies made fun of the fact that most of the meat was grilled and eaten by people.

So before gyros, there was souvlaki – or similar. But I don’t think that the Greek attitude to sacrifice was imported to Bavaria by King Otto, first King of modern Greece, a Bavarian prince. The Greeks disliked him. Coach Otto Rehhagel was liked, as he helped the Greeks win the 2002 European Cup. Sometime afterwards the Euro crisis came, and Angela Merkel became a new hate figure in Greece. Somewhat like “Panot” aka President Aquino in the Philippines two years ago – for much less than the sacrifices – human and monetary, not animal – they have to endure today under “Lodi” Duterte.

Red Oktoberfest

never existed either, but there was a “Bavarian Soviet Republic” for a short while in Spring of 1919. The house of Wittelsbach, a truly old political dynasty, ruled Bavaria from 1180 until Nov. 7, 1918, when the Free State of Bavaria was declared. A right-wing nationalistic aristocrat killed its founder, a Social Democrat, on Feb. 21, 1919. The Social Democrats managed to get a government together by March 7, but it was so weak that by April, a Communist Republic was declared by somewhat crazy anarchists. A week later, Communists led by three Russian migrants loyal to Lenin took over.

There is a legacy of beer from that short-lived “republic”: the “Russnmaß” or Russian stein which mixes wheat beer (as opposed to beer from malt and hops) with sweet lemonade. Seems the Russn or “Russians” which the common people called all the Communists liked that sweet and sober mix. Didn’t help much. The democratic government had fled to Bamberg and got help from right-wing volunteer paramilitaries, the Freikorps, while the Communists quickly formed an own “Red Army”. Munich was reconquered by early May, democracy restored but true power was with the Right.

Extremists and democrats

Many of those in the Freikorps later became prominent Nazis (link) though some former members of the “Red Army” became Nazis also. Four years later, Hitler attempted a right-wing coup (link). Extremists from left and right clashed in the streets of the Weimar Republic, weakening democracy. Hitler himself got rid of most of the left wing of his Nazi party in the night of the Long Knives (link) in 1934. Non-extremist, meaning non-violent political parties did not stand a chance in those years, even if two became the major right-wing and left-wing democratic parties of postwar Germany.

Democracy is finally about taming our savage desire to hurt the other side, an agreement to deal with conflicts in a civilized, rule-based manner. Just like rule of law is about taming our desire to take revenge – or to just punish those we dislike for whatever reason. We can be very nasty inside. Especially when hungry. So it is better not to go hunting for Red October Horses to be sacrificed. Better sacrifice pigs, cows or oxen, eat them like Greeks or Bavarians, or the Ifugao during kanyaw. Drink Red Horse or Russian beermix. Lenten beer, yellowish Helles, or Cerveza Negra. Prosper!


Romans, Greeks, Filipinos, Bavarians, Russians. Pigs, cows, horses and oxen. Beer and festivals. Politics and calendars. Revolution and sacrifice. Inflation and drunkenness. Soccer and festivals. Greeks sticking to Roman calendars. Communists adopting Roman Catholic calendars. Bogeymen. Christian Popes adopting the title of a pagan priest of ancient Rome. Lodis. Octo = VIII, not X. Finally, just one horse at the Oktoberfest start carries the mascot of Munich, a young lady in a cape. Which lady will be on the Philippine October horse? Smiling, very short, or sharp-chinned? Who?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 2 October 2018

Do you remember?

UP Activists during Martial Lawthe 21st night of September? The Earth, Wind and Fire Song that starts with these lyrics came out during the Martial Law period, in 1978. I was 13. The official declaration of Martial Law was not on Sept. 21 though, but on Sept. 23, 1972 if one is to look at Manolo Quezon’s account of what happened (link):

Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, PLDT, the airport, were shut down in the early hours of September 23. Media, political, and other personalities and activists were rounded up also in the early morning hours.

This is why martial law was announced with silence: people woke up to discover that TV and radio stations were off the air. Later in the day, some stations started playing easy listening music and some stations aired cartoons. But Marcos’ speechwriters were slow, then the teleprompter broke down, and the speech had to be hand-written on kartolina. So it wasn’t until dinnertime that Marcos finally appeared on TV and the country found out martial law was in place.

I do remember – vaguely – cartoons the entire day on TV. At seven years, one starts remembering. Our old black and white TV in a wooden casing. The Bagong Lipunan song on TV accompanying torch marches. Placard for a referendum saying “YES na YES”. Was it the ratification of the 1973 Constitution or was it the 1975 referendum giving Marcos more powers (link)? I don’t remember. In fact even as a child I did not feel like asking. In UP Campus, the sense of danger was present.  Much of what happened I found out only later, in “another life”, already in Europe far from that.

Simpler times?

Unlike in the Philippines today, there was hardly any news in Manila papers about “the provinces”. It was vaguely known that there was a conflict in Mindanao. Samar (link) was spoken of in hushes. Many people were jailed at the onset of Martial Law, and I think most were happy to be let out. Foreigners could be subjected to reprisals similar to those Sr. Patricia Fox is going through today. Though the thoroughly manipulative Marcos regime knew how to dose fear and reward very well. Marcos killed less people than have been killed in Duterte’s drug war, though more were tortured.

And many disappeared, or were subjected to different forms of harassment. And unlike today, there was hardly a way of making things known to a large crowd. No social media, not even Internet. Fax machines came in the 1980s. Try concealing a cassette recorder of those days to record threats. And there was a largely indifferent – by then – population. There had been a First Quarter Storm in the early 1970s, a Diliman Commune, strong opposition. And still, as Joel Pablo Salud writes (link):  Money was a means, not an end to most Filipinos. Martial Law changed that, as Salud writes:

Corruption, once a crime, had turned into practice. In so short a time, Marcos had transformed anti-materialism to a wholly materialistic mindset from top to bottom. Again, it was money for money’s sake. This bought the dictatorship more time..

..the general public had begun to heap scorn on most calls to dissent. Protest marches were marked as a menace to society. The words of the intellectuals, powerful though they may have been, fell on deaf ears.

It would be safe to assume that with the advent of Marcos’ New Society, which showcased, above all, his achievements in the area of infrastructure, economic development, and relationship with the superpowers—all paid for by the taxes of the people—the all-too-visual spectacle turned the public’s attention from any talk of reforms to such pageants as military parades, global events, virtually the sights and sounds and wonders created by this conjugal dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda.
The crass, even cold-blooded materialism of the Martial Law era is clear in my memory. The Filipino got his bread and his circuses. Miss Universe in 1973. The Thrilla in Manila: Ali vs. Frazier in 1975. UNCTAD V in 1979 (link) – which we smart ass kids connected with Voltes V (link):
Each day of the week, different robot shows were aired—“Mazinger Z,” “Daimos,” “Mekanda Robot,” “Grendizer” and “Dunguard Ace,” to name a few. They captured the imagination of a predigital generation..

..It was a wonderful time to be a kid then—until they were seized through a directive by the Marcos government. “Voltes V” and the other robot animes where banned from airing nationwide because of their alleged “excessive violence.”..

My [Toym Leon Imao’s] anger was trained on then President Ferdinand Marcos, who my young mind labeled as the Philippines version of the evil Boazanian Emperor.

Many from the generation that grew up during World War 2 and the Japanese occupation had another attitude to the Japanese warrior spirit shown in those anime. There were indeed protests from some parents and Marcos had responded to them. There was also a videogame ban (link).

Not all that glitters is gold

What I also know by now is that my mother joined the UP Cooperative in the early 1970s, when the first rice crisis hit the country, shortly before my brother was born. The UP Coop had NFA rice.  Good place to buy the basics. Only place with cash registers that also worked during brownouts.

Brownouts were frequent and so was lack of water. It is not as if frequent blackouts were something that started in the Cory years. Things were often experienced during Martial Law, hardly reported. The U.P. Fire Brigade went around distributing water to everyone one hot summer, 1975 or 1976.

When was it that the NAWASA in Balara, the ones in charge of water supply, got foreign money to improve water supply in Manila – but just built a fancy new headquarters on Katipunan? Hmm. Don’t remember the year but I know that it happened that way. Saw the fancy new building.

Just like I recall the often half-empty concert hall of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. And a story of how a foreign conductor stopped in the middle of a performance when Imelda’s people started filming him without a contract. The story I recall is that she herself came down with one.

So she didn’t dare treat him like the Beatles were treated in 1966 (link) after “snubbing” Imelda. Her showing off got a spooky note though when the Film Center accident happened in 1981 (link). Even if international friends of Imelda like George Hamilton were able to add to her glitter then.

It is only a paper moon

But then again, didn’t George Hamilton play in the vampire movie “Love at First Bite”? It is true that Filipinos until today are obsessed with appearing sophisticated and wordly. Even Napoles’ daughter buying her way into the Hollywood party circuit (link) in recent times reflects that. Colonialism I guess created an obsession with trying hard to be like those who came, conquered – and spread the word that their ways and looks were superior. Imelda Marcos’ shoes (link) are an example of the ostentatiousness of people who want to prove something at all costs, to the world.

Nowadays there exist members of the Filipino upper class who truly appreciate culture when they travel (link) – unlike some especially Marcos-era Filipinos who thought it was cool to sneer at, for example, how little Western Europeans spoke English. Or spoke it with an accent, how terrible! Quiet self-esteem looks different from grandiosity and constantly having to insult other people to prove one’s worth. What was also obvious during Marcos times was the huge difference between the too-perfect pictures of places and the real disorder and dirt around them. Only a paper moon.

Lost Golden Age?

Unfortunately the distorted picture of Martial Law seems to consist, among many, of the news that never reached Manila – meaning a seemingly less complex, chaotic world than today – and of the airbrushed pictures of the regime’s “accomplishments” which were mostly hollow – or not lasting. True, there were some good things, for example how Commissioner Mathay ran Metro Manila. Or the Metro Manila Transit Corporation – which unfortunately went bankrupt very quickly. But a regime that lasted 21 years should have done at least a few good things, it would be awful otherwise.

Could it be that the yearning back (among some) for a supposed Golden Age is that the travails of the past 32 years since 1986 have obscured how things really were during the Marcos era? One thing I see is that the Filipino middle class was much thinner back then. Sometimes I wonder if we are bad at counting our blessings, or curse even our blessings until curses come upon us. The 1960s were an economically expansive time, but somehow the dream of Martial Law seduced so many. Same with the Second Aquino Presidency (2010-2016) – it was laying the groundwork for more.

The moment you take your luck for granted, you might lose it – this is a life lesson many can learn. People can tend to forget the bad things about the past and forget how much better things are now. Probably with me, the reason why I don’t forget Martial Law – and I have left out very many things – is that I left in 1982. Maybe some things even got worse after 1986 – but I think because many things just went on due to inertia. Labor export since 1975 instead of industrial build-up. Brain drain since the 1960s. Reactive, not proactive politics. Worst: money as an end, not a means.

Symptoms and Causes

Policies that went at the symptoms and rarely at the root causes of anything. Latest example – EJK or tokhang as what many people thought would create peace and order. Just like Martial Law may have reduced street crime in the beginning (it came back later) but burglary increased, I do recall. But what to do with a people that love show over substance, like Marcos, for whom a “communiqué was the accomplishment itself, the implementation secondary”, as Lee Kuan Yew observed (link)? A people that often place their false pride first and refuse to accept criticism that could be helpful?

Well, I partly understand that sensitivity. Gossip and damaging criticism can damage you badly in a country where many people don’t form their own judgement about a person, but follow the crowd. Which is why trolls have played an important role in keeping President Duterte where he is now. What I myself admit that I was influenced by certain commonly held opinions also. Surprisingly until recently about Mar Roxas. His recent suggestions on rice policy show a man who analyzes very thoroughly (link) and with a realistic focus, not a bumbling theoretician with “analysis paralysis”.

What will happen?

Today is going to be a day of protests in the Philippines. I wonder how many people will come now. What Filipinos finally will decide. Because, as Joel Pablo Salud also wrote (link), the once proud Filipino was again reduced to the groveling, finicky and fearful crofter of Joaquin’s “The Heritage of Smallness” ..by Martial Law. And this after the 1960s.. had began shaping Philippine society into the vibrant, energetic.. constituency it was always meant to be. Or like contributor caliphman on Joe America’s blog more or less wrote, will they decide to stay carabaos? Or will they say no?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 21 Sept. 2018