Sambayanan means nation but also connotes a collection of villages, bayan in Tagalog or banwa in Bikol and the Visayas. There is an online Filipino sambayanan very much like the Filipino nation in its diverse and rapid development. Let us look at some villages, groups and islands.
I know three online barangays, with regular writers, occasional writers and plenty of regular commenters, each with its own kind of flavor:
Get Real Philippines
Get Real Philippines is a group of writers with benign0 and Ilda who both live in Australia leading. It tends to downplay the Marcos era, magnifying bad things about the present administration. It has diagnosed many ills of Filipino society but focuses too strongly on them. It has defined solutions but is not doing much to push them. Some local, younger writers are a bit more open-minded.
It is however not a place conducive to discussion if one has a slightly different opinion than the majority consensus. There is a tendency to put down those who have a different opinion, very much in line with the tone of most leading contributors.
This oldest still active Filipino blog I know has been quite repetitive in the past years, with some minor progress recently.
Society of Honor
Joe America started alone many years ago, an American retiree curious about his adopted country. Now the Society has among its main writers several Filipinos abroad, two other foreigners in the Philippines and one local Filipino. It has even been mentioned by the President in his last SONA, bringing it into suspicion of being a pro-government blog. Yet those who read it closely will see how Joe America arrived at own conclusions. There is a high tolerance of pluralism within certain limits of civility and sincerity of purpose.
Its format is quite appealing, commenters can post links, pictures and videos. Discussion threads have an enormous variety and exchange of opinions. There is the expectation to focus on the topic of the article at hand, even if certain tangential deviations and off-topic comments are tolerated within limits. The more boisterous, Filipino tone can however be found in the next barangay.
Cyber Plaza Miranda
Journalist Raissa Robles – who is strongly anti-Marcos from her own experience – runs a kind of Hyde Park, with free-wheeling but somehow self-regulating discussions, somewhat like the old Philippine democracy which started to end when the real Plaza Miranda was bombed. Anybody at CPM can start a subthread and create his own topic, which does make following issues confusing. It is an excellent source of news, since the contributors usually seem to be Filipino or Manila insiders, with an occasional OFW or migrant in between. It is less international than Joe America.
Bayanihan (links to various sites here) simply means neighbors helping one another, and is unpolitical, more oriented towards daily needs. There are migrant “bayanihan” sites and local “bayanihan” sites with loads of information relevant either for specific migrants or for local Filipinos – the latter with a lot of tips about bureacratic needs and how to deal with them online.
Isolated thinkers usually have islands, some with very exceptional ideas. This blog is also a bit of an island, even if I visit others – and do have some visitors. Some other islands:
- Phileconomy is an excellent blog by a Filipino-American who has spent years as a high-level consulting professional in Eastern Europe. His economic and thinking insights are exceptional.
- d0ctrine is a very strong blog on Filipino traffic, obviously by a traffic expert who might be from UP. It is specialized but provides enormous insights into many current issues.
- The Filipino mind is a comprehensive blog with ideas about the nation – if one wants to know the classic ideas of many Filipino intellectuals, this is the place to go.
Most Filipino intellectuals are not public intellectuals like in France. Some by ivory tower choice, and some because there is way too little reception to them in the public space as of yet.
D. Weaving different Strands
These three major types of group usually have little communication, within the online nation and within the real nation. I think these are the reasons:
- Filipino bayanihan groups are the oldest form of cooperation among Filipinos – based on immediate needs and on a personal basis.
- Normal Filipinos distrust politics, as it is often simply a way of one group to gain more power for itself, not for the good of the community.
- Thinking deeply is not yet part of the Filipino norm, and group labelling is common and annoying, so most thinkers tend to prefer to be isolated.
The process of communication and learning shall continue, with each reader taking different dishes from the buffet available online, like in a Filipino party.
E. Fabrics already woven
Some strands have already been woven into fabrics, after having been separate strands. They come from different directions, some unexpected. There might be more to come in the future.
There are two major online publications by Filipino-Americans. They have obviously found inspiration in American civic spirit, after decades of disunity within the Filipino community there:
The Philippine Weekly Update of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines is a great weekly news digest, obviously geared to the needs of the expat European business community.
There are a few local fabrics that weave many strands together as elegantly as a loom in the Mountain Provinces of Luzon. Some that I know of are:
- The Philippine Diary Project which has a webpage and a Facebook page. It offers amazing insights into the day-to-day of Philippine history.
- It’s XIAOTIME! by history Professor Michael Chua of La Salle, who has a TV show of the same name, many videos of which are on Youtube.
- The Maharlikan – obviously patriotic just the name says it, but not partisan in the sense of being for any group – except the Filipino nation.
- Mindanews which is a collective of journalists, independent of any publisher, with its motto “This is OUR Mindanao” saying everything.
- When in Manila which is a lifestyle-oriented online medium, obviously for the rising middle class, but also with news and events.
There is a rising awareness, growing from very many different sides. It is as diverse and oftentimes as noisy as the 7500+ islands with over 100 languages spoken on them. It is sometimes like a fiesta, sometimes like a wet market, sometimes like a multicolored rainbow. Ideas and issues ricochet like billard balls across cyberspace. Ideas move people. Let us see where this all goes. 🙂
Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 22. February 2016