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

3 thoughts on “A Nation Dies (?) – and what’s next? (!)

  1. http://www.kasaysayan-kkk.info/foundational-documents/-casaysayan-pinagcasunduan-manga-daquilang-cautosan-january-1892

    “Casaysayan; Pinagcasundoan; Manga daquilang cautosan,” January 1892
    Source: Archivo General Militar de Madrid: Caja 5677, leg.1.37.

    ..Most histories say the Katipunan was born on July 7, 1892, and they may be right, but that was not the date it was conceived. The news circulating on July 7 of Rizal’s deportation to Mindanao may or may not have been the final catalyst that brought the society to life, but it had been plotted a while earlier.

    Transcribed below is a draft of the foundational document of the Katipunan, written in January 1892. The original text is penned in a small booklet of 44 pages fashioned from 11 sheets of paper folded together, and is divided into three sections – “Casaysayan” (Narrative); “Pinagcasundoan” (Covenant); and “Manga daquilang cautosan” (Principal orders).

    The ambition in the document is colossal. Separation from Spain is proclaimed not just as a goal, but as an action taken, a status in a sense attained by the very act of its proclamation. Plainly and unequivocally, independence is declared: “from this day forward these Islands are separated from [Spain] and …no other leadership or authority shall be recognized or acknowledged other than this Supreme Catipunan.”

    Nor is there any doubt or equivocation about the extent of the territory over which the Catipunan is to govern. It is to be the entire Archipelago, “which in time will be given a proper name.” The Spaniards will not be ousted, the document recognizes, by peaceful means; the fight ahead will demand courage and selfless sacrifice, and in due course the Catipunan will direct its leaders in the provinces to raise an army.

    The first part of the document, the “Casaysayan,” enumerates the reasons for taking the momentous decision to separate from Spain. More directly and specifically than any other document that has yet come to light, it sets out the response the initiators of the Katipunan would themselves give to the question “What were the causes of the Philippine revolution?”

    Students nowadays confronted with that question in an exam might best be advised to skip it, and to look on the paper for easier options. But if it can’t be dodged, where to start? With the propagandistas of the 1880s; the execution of Gomez, Burgos and Zamora in 1872; or the liberal aspirations of 1868? Or further back, with Hermano Pule’s revolt of 1841; the opening of Manila and other ports to foreign trade; the mutiny of Novales in 1823; the economic reforms begun in the 1780s; or even, and most logically, with the initial Spanish conquest? Are we to consider just the outbreak of 1896, or to look at the whole decade of revolution that followed? Manila and the nearby provinces or the whole archipelago? Should greater weight be attached to economic or to political causes? Social, cultural or religious factors? What about the technics of translation?..


    Statement of the reasons for separating this Archipelago from the Mother who possesses her.

    We have been impelled to separate from Sp… by her abusive behavior, hard-heartedness, treachery and other degradations that no Mother should inflict upon any child, like the following:-

    1. The pitiless imposition of high taxes upon us, even on our bodies, even upon our produce or wealth.

    2. The expropriation of our meager profit if we practice any industry, so that we are kept weak and prevented from bettering ourselves.

    3. The imposition of a high tariff on any goods that pass through the Customs.

    4. The refusal to permit our Archipelago to enter into treaties with Mother Sp…. and other powers like America in relation to the export and import of any and every item of commerce. As a consequence, initiative is stifled and we remain in poverty.

    5. If we are unable to pay taxes to their Treasury due to hardship, especially if investment in industry produces no profit and even deepens our debt, and if we have no money, our possessions are confiscated and there is no investigation into whether there was any profit, or exemption granted if there was a loss.

    6. Allows our means of livelihood to be snatched away from us by any nation, above all by the Chinese, from whom we cannot learn or glean any enlightenment regarding decent behaviour, but only trickery, thievery, and misery.

    7. Does not treat us like her children, except in relation to punishment for any misdemeanor.

    8. Does not grant us any privileges like those she gives to her children, who are the only ones she loves.

    9. Does not create positions with salaries that are high unless they are for her children, whilst our monthly pay is meager.

    10. Does not like us to participate in congresses or for us to have representatives in the Cortes, who could defend and assert our rights in our name, denounce the mistaken decisions of the leaders, relate how we are oppressed as a result of all their abuses and submit proposals for the welfare of this distant Archipelago.

    11. Does not give us any freedom to produce or distribute any book or document in our language that would open our eyes to beneficial pursuits and enlighten our thinking on the Arts and Sciences and other things that are not holy, so that thus we remain in blindness, and wherever we are led we are prevented from glimpsing reason and other virtues.

    12. Deems to be illicit and against the King anything that resembles a lament about her, or enumerates the mistakes, abuses and public misdemeanors of her children who are supporting her power and authority here in this Archipelago.

    13. Denounces as inimical to the Catholic Religion anyone among us who circulates writings that expose and protest against the errors committed by that organization.

    14. Halts or delays whatever plans come from this land.

    15. Does not require her children to observe the laws given to order our affairs, so that any guilt is entirely ours.

    16. The publication of orders which solely concern the newly discovered territories, or to the people there who have not yet been subjugated, like the Joloanos. One of these orders is the new Decree which again gives still more power to the High Chief here in the Islands, so that whenever something happens that disturbs the tranquil existence and sensibilities of her loving and beloved supporters or fellow residents, any one of us who is envied because of a little learning of accomplishment or, even more so, someone who recognizes and feels the wounds, the suffering of all, or has come to understand that mistakes and abuses must be fought whenever they are seen, is immediately charged and prosecuted on some pretext. Nothing will be done to investigate the allegations against him to establish whether they are true or false, because the bare allegations alone will be sufficient for the accused to be dispatched forthwith into distant exile.

    16 [sic]. Does not allow us to publish any newspaper, especially in our language, that is not passed first to the Censor, because it is he, fellow conspirator, who is responsible for detecting whether what is said reveals the errors of the chief. That is why the news about the abuses that are committed here does not reach others, especially in Sp…., regardless of who is aggrieved. If someone has funds they could sail there and press charges, but they will not be given a hearing so as to avoid any confrontation, and still they will achieve nothing.

    17. Gross injustice, such as happens in the Office of the Ruler of these Islands, where the underlings and copy clerks are all Tagalogs and the so-called Officials and Chiefs are solely Spaniards, even though few of these chiefs know what to do. The majority do not even turn up and are out just roaming around, so the clerks are the ones left to attend to their duties. If necessary, they just add their endorsement or signature. What a great way to earn a salary….!

    18. 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. If the Tagalogs participate in any meeting with the Spaniards they are counted as unworthy, and sometimes even if they are as brilliant as the others they are not given a place of honor, especially if they go to visit Spanish homes. But if the Spaniards are the ones who visit Tagalog homes they expect to be received with all due honor and respect, and to be treated almost as if they are Gods. They demand this from every Tagalog they speak to, but in return they show no respect at all. Regardless of our status, regardless of whether our hair has turned white with age, they address us familiarly as “Tu”, and even insult us by calling us “blacks” or “monkeys.” Does this behavior show fraternity? It does not. It breeds anger, and incites enmity or conflict.

    19. Honors as glorious conduct the pitiless cruelties of the officers of the Guardia Civil, both inside and outside their barracks in this capital of Manila towards the people they arrest, whether they are guilty or not, mostly men who are peaceful citizens, in order to intimidate them if once in a while they do not comply with their wishes, whether bad or good.

    20. If sometimes one of these prisoners dies, without any justice, it will always be pretended that the victim was forced to admit the denunciations or imputations against them. If they get a confession by such means, the case will be referred to the corresponding Judge or whatever authority and these Chiefs will accept that confession.

    21. Allows the friars to fornicate with women, so that in the provinces it is rare for the majority not to have children, and it is rare too that they have not violated the young women.

    22. The parents and other relatives of these women who detest this conduct have to say immediately that it did not really happen, because otherwise they will be deported far away.

  2. https://screamsfromthepoet.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/eleksyon-2016-ang-bayan-kontra-sa-nacion/

    Eleksyon 2016: Ang Bayan kontra sa Nacion

    John Gabriel Pabico Lalu | Editor-in-chief, The Muralla

    “..Ito mismo ang paliwanag kung bakit ang masa ay nasa likod ni Duterte at Binay, at bakit ang mga estudyante at mga intelektwal ang pawang sumusuporta kay Roxas, Poe, at Santiago. Si Duterte ay nagbibigay ng pangako ng isang magandang kinabukasan, matapos ang pamumuno ng isang elite, na para sa karamihan ay wala hindi naman nagbunga ng maganda. Si Binay, nagsasabi na kaya niyang ayusin ang problema, bilang isang taong nanggaling sa hirap. Takot ang mga negosyante na suportahan ang kandidatura ng dalawa, sa kadahilanang populist o maka-masa ang plataporma nila — at walang basehan o kasiguraduhan na aandar ang mga plano nila.

    Si Roxas ay nagsasabi na itutuloy ang pagpapa-unlad sa ekonomiya, habang ang iyak ng masa ay ang mga nasa nacion lang ang pawang nakakaramdam. Si Poe, na nagsusulong ng sabay-sabay na pag-unlad, ay hindi sigurado sa pagtanggal ng contractualization na umaapi sa mahihirap. Si Santiago, ibinabalandra ang kanyang mga napag-aralan habang minamaliit ang mga hindi nakapag-aral, sa pamamagitan ng pagsasabi na mas mahalaga ang boto ng mga edukado.

    Ibig sabihin ba nito ay palaging matapang, mapagmahal sa bayan at sa mahihirap ngunit padaskol-daskol, marahas, at hindi nag-iisip ng mabuti ang Bayan at si Bonifacio? Ibig sabihin ba nito ay palaging mapanuri, lohikal, ngunit makasarili at ganid ang Nacion at si Rizal?

    Hindi ba maaaring misrepresented lamang ang mga lider ng bawat paksyon? Kung pag-uusapan ang galing at moralidad, at kung pamantayan si Bonifacio bilang pinuno ng Bayan, at si Rizal bilang utak ng Nacion, gaano ka-lapit o ka-layo ang mga kasalukuyang tumatakbong para maging pangulo?

    Malapit ba si Duterte o si Binay sa pagiging katulad ni Bonifacio? Si Roxas, si Poe o si Santiago ba ay kapara ni Rizal?

    Naniniwala ang mga dalubhasa na darating ang panahon at mangingibabaw muli ang Bayan. Pero kung sila ang kandidato ng mga nasabing ideya, mukhang matagal pa bago mabuhay ang Haring Katagalugan. Pero magiging mabuti rin nga ba kung ipagpapaliban ang pagbabalik ng Bayan at bumoto ng kandidatong mula sa Nacion?”

  3. https://books.google.de/books?id=uF6WDAQHu08C&pg=PA42&lpg=PA42&dq=nacion+bayan&source=bl&ots=z2zHwe7pzc&sig=SItcMAOiGAdOhJ1qc3gveRUFC7w&hl=de&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj6hbaSvO_eAhUQ-qQKHf8aDtgQ6AEwBHoECAUQAQ#v=onepage&q=nacion%20bayan&f=false

    Philippine Studies: Have We Gone Beyond St. Louis?

    p. 42: ..The evolution of bayan in the 19th century pointed to changes in thinking as well as language. Bayan was conscripted to convey the idea of a national entity, and later, the national entity itself..

    p. 43: ..As Bonifacio wrote of the coming of the Spaniards in “Ang Dapat Mabatid ng mga Tagalog” he spoke in terms of mga lupaing ito (these lands here)..

    p. 43: ..The Cartilla of the Katipunan, published in 1896, explained that Tagalog referred to “all born in this archipelago”..

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