Hon Florentino Penaranda 1908Around seven generations have passed since the idea of the Philippine nation got started. During the times the Spanish East Indies were ruled from Mexico which was until the early 19th century, there was no real idea of the Philippines except as an archipelago, and even then the first to be called Filipinos were Spaniards born on the islands. From this time onwards I see these generations:

  • 1834-1860: opening of Manila to international trade in 1834, the Claveria decree on surnames in 1849, 15 foreign firms in Manila by 1859 (link);
  • 1860-1892: First Propaganda Movement for Filipino priests, mandatory public schooling from 1863 onwards, opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Gomburza execution in 1872, Second Propaganda Movement of ilustrados abroad, La Liga Filipina and the foundation of the Katipunan in 1892 (link);
  • 1892-1916: First municipal elections in 1895 (link), the Revolution, Biak-na-Bato, the Malolos Republic, but also other republics declared in the Visayas (link), the Philippine-American war, Philippine Organic Act of 1902, Moro rebellion from 1901-1913, 1907 elections for the Philippine Assembly, Ricartistas (link), the Jones Law in 1916 and the Philippine Senate established;
  • 1916-1945: Moro territories are turned over to the Interior Department in 1920, major functions of the Insular Government are turned over to Filipinos – BIR in 1918, the Philippine Commonwealth is established in 1935 with its own Constitution, the Japanese invade and are thrown out. This central article (link) contains links to other detailed articles.
  • 1945-1972: the Commonwealth just manages to extract itself from postwar destruction, the Republic starts and seems to be in constant crisis (link), but it is economically ahead in Asia second only to Japan.
  • 1972-1998: Martial Law is declared in 1972 (link), People Power happens in 1986, the Presidency of Cory Aquino is marked by crises and coups, that of Ramos promises new stability (link).
  • 1998-present: probably one of the most difficult periods of Philippine history where it is hard to describe what happened without being accused of factionalism… 18 full years until now.

If each Filipino was to think of what stories he or she knows of the past within his family, I doubt that the stories would go very far. The lack of a national narrative, of a story of the Philippines truly felt and visualized by Filipinos, might also be lack of stories passed along generations. Not just the different and often exclusive accounts each family and each group have among themselves.

Nothing ever learned?

Could this be one reason for several phenomena that I have noticed in Philippine history? They are the following in my point of view:

  1. Patterns repeating themselves. One example: often economically progressive, yet always sliding back. Early 19th century, late 19th century, 1960s, mid-1990s even, present times?
  2. Heroization and demonization. The demonization of the Church, not only Padre Damasos, led to the First Propaganda Movement being forgotten. Rizal vs. Bonifacio among historians.
  3. Persistence of nonsense. The long overdue reform of the Penal Code of 1884, which inspite of revisions is antiquated, has been in Congress since 2014. No anti-dynasty law since 1987.

One cannot really blame people though. Rapid changes have lead I think to lack of words to describe things. Even the slang of every Filipino generation adapts fluidly to a fast-changing reality.

Is there hope?

The present discussions between those who are anti-Marcos, anti-Cory or even anti-both are a good thing in one way. They have reopened the telling of what happened in the last 30 years, maybe even up to 50 years. The movie Heneral Luna and many other recent historical films brought times that are not even old by European standards back to life, more than any dry accounts.

The Philippines Free Press (link) gives amazing insights into the Philippines over about a hundred years.  The McArthur articles by Bill from Oz show the General from an Australian perspective. Seeing multiple perspectives is important for opening minds that are often blocked by doctrinaire readings of who is the hero and who is the villain. Filipiknow (link) has a lot of historical trivia. Pictures of ordinary people in early 20th century Manila show a very simple life relative to now. There also has been much progress. The accurate big picture of seven generations remains elusive.

The Iroquois Constitution (link) says leaders must consider the next seven “spans” or generations. Understanding the seven previous ones even just a little might be a start. Picturing each “span”.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 4. March 2016