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Heneral Luna Today


Philippine’s true size (source:

The focus in the Philippines is always, and too much, on the President. He or she is expected to be a paramount datu, rajah or barangay captain to deal with all problems in the Philippines, a country of nearly 100 million people, in an archipelago of over 7000 islands with the land area of Spain and stretching more or less, from North to South, at a distance going from Oslo to Rome.

This is crazy. The last President able to handle those expectations was Ramon Magsaysay, the mambo-dancing paramount datu of 20 million people whose burial was attended by 2 million. The Philippines in those days was not only smaller, it was simpler. Those who had a voice then thought similarly and spoke similarly. Now, there are many different groups in the country that speak with different voices and think differently. Mindanao is only one of the places struggling to be heard more, nationally. There is nobody who can be everybody’s national barangay captain anymore.

Mahar Lagmay

Dr. Mahar Lagmay

Well, at least today’s Presidential campaign, which the media is heavily focusing on, is also focusing on the Vice-President. That is an improvement. There is some focus on Senators as well. But is that really the right way to go? Who makes the laws – and drags it feet on lawmaking by rarely having enough attendance for a quorum? Right, the Congress. Who does the actual work of national government? Right, the Cabinet. Good Cabinet members like DFA Secretary del Rosario do good work, mediocre cabinet members like DOTC Secretary Abaya tend to mess things up, quiet leaders like DOST Secretary Mario Montejo are at the forefront of innovation with initiatives like the Automated Guideway Transit and the Roadtrain as well as Project NOAH for disaster preparedness. Quiet organizers like Dr. Mahar Lagmay of Project NOAH are crucial for making the country ready to deal with disasters, and are behind how Lando was handled, which even the UN praised. There are institutions like the PNP, which has shown how far it has changed during the Pope’s visit and APEC, and in dealing with INC recently – and in community policing and Oplan Lambat-Sibat. Inspite of problems, progress is there.

Then you have the local governments. Much of what is done well, or is messed up, depends on local governments. Good local governments, such as Albay under Governor Joey Salceda, or Davao under Mayor Duterte, do their jobs in making things progressive, inclusive and safe locally. Who elects good local governments? The people do. Of what use are good performance metrics for LGUs such as the LGPMS which the DILG has put in place if they are not followed by LGUs? Some LGUs allegedly embezzle money or depend on loansharks, how crazy is that?

It is the people who vote their Congressmen, their governors, their mayors. It is also the people who can check them through citizen’s groups like the Citizen Action Network for Accountability or CANA which I mentioned in an older article. It is the people who can press charges against corrupt officials by going to the Ombudsman. It is also the people who are at fault if  all they do is hope for saviors and then complain if they are not saved. Those who hope for miracles from rulers are living in a mindset that belongs to the Middle Ages. The old belief in Germany was that rulers had magical powers, known as Heil. Heil means healing magic or luck in this context. Something akin to the galing attributed to Filipino faith healers. Something like being “Strong with the Force”, to use Star Wars terminology.  Nobody is that strong with the Force to heal (Heil) the country nowadays. Not Duterte, not even Magsaysay. Besides, Star Wars warns us of the dangers of the Dark Side.

Antonio luna PG

General Antonio Luna

What would Heneral Luna do? He would build solid institutions. He would make sure that professionals like him are at every level. He would make sure laws are followed, without shortcuts. General Antonio Luna was way ahead of his times. He was infected by modern ideas. His countrymen still thought in terms of “I am from Kawit and Aguinaldo is my kababayan”, and even worse, “I take orders only from the President”. Anything bigger than a barrio requires formal, anonymous structures and rules, plus people that simply do their job and follow their designated superiors. Heneral Luna expected this from his countrymen. Being way ahead of his countrymen, he was frustrated and often got mad. I watched the movie in Berlin recently. He was much nicer than most Filipino reviewers made him look like. He did not shoot Captain Janolino when he could have done so, legally, by Artikulo Uno which was a martial law article. It was war, so martial law made sense. Constant emergency solutions – Martial Law, People Power and the like – are symptoms of a system that does not work, and of people who do not follow the system. Only a system that works, and people that follow it, work long-term.

And what would Mabini do today? In his Decalogue, he wrote that people should strive for a Republic, not a Monarchy. A Republic means that people take responsibility for whom they vote. This is something that goes at all levels. It also means following the rules the elected representatives have created for everybody. Voting based on popularity is something for beauty or singing contests, voting people (PLURAL!) who can do the job well is the right way to go.

So voting the right Congressmen, the right mayors, the right governors is just as vital as voting the right President. Making sure all do their part in putting together a modern state machinery is also important, making sure more managers and modern leaders like Dr. Lagmay are there to proactively deal with issues. The days of ancient barangays are definitely over, the days of wannabe datus or rajahs should also be.  The days of always playing it by ear are hopefully over as well.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, 5 December 2015, München

13 comments to Heneral Luna Today

  • Ong-Lo

    Thanks for that great article Irineo. What you laid out is something that each voter should be aware of. Micromanagers should be limited to micromanaging level, putting him above that is like forcing a square peg on a round hole – forcing it in will destroy the frame of this still fragile government.

  • sonny

    Kudos, PiE!!! Absolutely total. This is a very restrained and reflective piece you have written on Antonio Luna and the Filipino nationalistic spirit. Talent, ideal, verve, and heart. May the dream live on.

    • Thanks Manong Sonny… and kapayapaan_1900 as well as nelpomced… for everyone else, this article is also at JoeAms, enjoy the comments there also: – this article by Joe is related, the title in the preview was one inspiration for this article of mine as well

      My father once said we were further in 1898 than we are now… that was in the 1980s… maybe now we are continuing from that point thanks to the movie which made us aware again of those times… and Joe, an American is helping redeem what his folks did to us back then… well America started redeeming itself back in World War 2. 🙂

      • sonny

        PiE, don’t stop connecting the dots about our Philippine story. Even just that simple graphic you made on the geography from the Batanes islands to the Sulu archipelago superimposed on Europe (Oslo to Rome) is a picture that speaks more than a thousands words. The Philippines as the youngest daughter of the Catholic Church via the Spanish conquest and our Euro-centric provenance via our American tutelage is starkly illustrated in that map. The connections you have made so far by chronicling the ins and outs of Filipino life in Europe serve to remind us that we Filipinos must come together and solidify our national identity.

        • sonny

          The Filipino diaspora is approximating its Jewish counterpart in extent but not yet in internal strength. Its Christian heritage will probably make that happen in Christian-friendly countries. The Islamic counterpart is of course highly fluid and volatile. I hope the Indonesian initiative will make any change less painful.

          • The variety of Filipinos that exist now, both at home and abroad, is an asset that has neither been fully recognized nor tapped by the movers and the shakers…

            Now the danger is that of a rift like among today’s Jews… many avoid Israel because reactionary Jewish Orthodox forces are too strong there, could be the same if the ignorant and/or resentful determine the 2016 elections.

  • nelponcemd

    Thank you. We still have the same mentality m

  • kapayapaan_1900

    You, Irineo (PIE), together with Raissa and Joe Am are a gift from God to us Filipinos. You write and we read for truth is on your side. You may not know it but you are leading us and we are following with a much better perspective. Hindi niyo kami inililigaw!

  • Thanks pelang, giancarlo.. Aguinaldo BTW started his political career as a cabeza de barangay. His mentality remained that of a barangay captain, even as President.

  • It has been a hundred years and still it seems the Filipino nation still lags the one envisioned by heneral luna. Hope the quiet leadership from the top continues and not the rule by division of spoils of victors that would happen in an unevolved leader.

  • pelang

    right you are, irineo. i hope you don’t get tired of making kulit until everybody listens. many of us have hearts and mind that mean well, but don’t know how to express them. thanks for people like you.

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