may have brought Germany much further than the Philippines studying its heroes, buried or not. Are those unworthy of emulation – “huwag tularan” – more important in teaching national lessons? The Philippine cult of heroes always was suspect to me. During martial law, it was suspected that some supposed leftists were mere agents provocateurs to get idealistic youth to show their colors. Working part-time at the Philippine Embassy in Bonn in February 1986, I saw how the new government telexed straight from the Wack-Wack golf course – while people were still at EDSA.
For every young idealistic Isagani or Basilio, there have often been enough jaded, cynical Simouns using them for their own agenda. This has cut through all ideological fronts in the Philippines. Culture of entitlement in fact makes this nothing special for many – it is very much unlike kings of old who led their men in battle, or captains who had the ethic of leaving their own ship last. Good people often get sacrificed in the Philippines – Andres Bonifacio and Heneral Luna, anyone? Or sidelined when no longer needed – think of Mabini, who unfortunately couldn’t walk his talk.
Many in the generation that experienced February 1986 are disillusioned by how the groups that then came into power, and afterwards, continued to mismanage the country. Were the “yellows” too far from the common people, was the left too ideological and power-mad, the right too corrupt and Macchiavellian? I don’t know. But principled leaders were few and usually too weak, I think. Germany also created a new constitution in 1949. It had less lofty-sounding ideals than the Philippine 1987 Constitution. But Germany’s leaders saw to it that its goals became reality on the ground.
Mistakes are there to be learned from. Airline pilots have said that the safe flying of today is due to lots of crashes that happened in the past – and how many lessons were learned by analyzing them. What is good about the present crisis in the Philippines with regards to the burial of Marcos is that the history of Martial Law is being reviewed – what happened, maybe not enough what led to it. The analysis of how post-1986 governments continued Marcos-era mistakes like wholesale labor export and allowing Metro Manila to grow uncontrolled – to learn, not to blame – hardly happened.
And it takes sustained effort to build a country. How often have Filipinos run after mere hope? Or mistaken leader’s vanity for “willpower”? The Filipino youth of today, the Millenials, seem to be more concerned about the future of the country than many had hoped. Now I hope they are less naïve than generations before them. I hope they do not let themselves be used by any group or person. It will be after all their future they are deciding on in times to come. How they will live when they are around 45-55, around 30 years from now. All I can do is wish them strength and perception.
Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 20. November 2016