May 2018
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The Philippines has never stood on its own feet

Philip II's Law on the PrincipaliaA Bavarian once told me. Was he right? China claims sovereignty over Panatag (link). Duterte seems to trust China (link) just like Aguinaldo trusted the USA in 1898 (link), proclaiming independence “under the protection of our Powerful and Humanitarian Nation, The United States of America”. One wonders how the datus behaved who were made into principalia by decree of King Philipp II (picture). Did they behave like today’s Congress supermajority? There was a sizable group that resisted in 1574 in Manila (link): “all punished with some put to death and others exiled”.

Remontados and Rebels

There were rebels like Bohol’s Francisco Dagohoy (link) – a cabeza de barangay (basically a chieftain coopted into the Spanish system) who initiated an 85-year revolt from 1744 to 1828, with the mountains as protection. Heading for the hills was probably a common way of avoiding the colonial state,  with the topography of the country as an ally (link), one probable example being the Cimarrones of Bikol who: “inhabited the slopes of Mount Isarog and forested hills of Siruma and Camaroan. These groups were cultivators and hunters but were most renowned for the raids they conducted on those in the lowlands. As their names suggests, they were probably fugitives from Spanish control, and as such emerged as a distinct group only in colonial times.” Cimarron means wild cattle in Spanish and was also used for escaped black slaves in the Caribbean, called Maroons (link) in English.

The 19th century brought ideas of nationalism into the Philippines, groups like Filipino priests and Filipino intellectuals (link) brought about the First and Second Propaganda movements. The short-lived Liga Filipina may have been the spark that started the Katipunan, which combined ideas of Rizal which were European in origin with native ideas, including cultic amulets or anting-anting. Revolutionary brotherhood inspired by Western examples plus the kind of brotherhood one sees during the Black Nazarene was the fuel of the 1896 revolution, even if it started only in 8 provinces, only one of which (Pampanga) was not Tagalog-speaking. Aguinaldo, a former cabeza de barangay, quickly made the revolution his own, had Bonifacio killed, and pacted with the Spanish in 1897. The Biak-na-Bato pact even included payments to him in exchange for his voluntary exile in Hong Kong. Aguinaldo came back on an American vessel, later fought with the Americans, probably had his best general killed (link) before finally being captured. The Philippine Republic was completed later on under American tutelage (link) – but that was not its major flaw. Blaming others is easy.

Cuba vs. Collaboration

It was, I believe, the Filipinos themselves. After all, Cuba had its own Republic from 1902 (link) even if was occupied for three years before that and again from 1906-1908. And it aside from its own war of independence from 1895-1898 (link), it fought from 1868-1878 and 1879-1880. Same colonial powers before and after 1898. And possibly the Philippine revolution was also simply a bit opportunistic as Spain was already weakened – and the Spanish-American war made that worse. Manolo Quezon’s “Malakas at Mahina” (link) shows how Filipino politics plays out based on who is “strong” or “weak”. Going back to the beginnings of Spanish rule, it helps to remember that Manila was allied to Brunei, even through family ties. Was the Castilian war of 1578 (link) wherein Spain defeated Brunei decisively the more motivating factor for Filipino datus to fall in line. Malakas!

Or how quickly the Filipino ruling class, with notable exceptions, fell in line to collaborate with Japan when they occupied the Philippines. And then fell back in line before McArthur in 1945. Even Diego Silang (link) – whose wife Gabriela is better known for taking over when he got killed – was allied with the British in his quest for Ilocano independence in the 1760s. There is a Filipino saying about the bird on the back of the carabao – are most Filipinos just that after all? The few dramatic outbursts of nationalism just that – drama – and often just bullying easy targets (link) like Robin Padilla with the Korean recently. Would Padilla dare say that to a  Chinese ambassador? The Filipino UN delegates who once annoyed a Soviet into taking out his shoes probably felt strong as UN founding members and close allies of the USA. Just like I personally experienced how Filipino diplomats acted rude to Germans – when Germany was still divided and they hobnobbed with American diplomats, for example at the US Embassy club in Bonn. Birds on a really big carabao. Not much difference to Duterte being rude to the EU (seen as mahina, documented comments by Andanar on Brexit show that attitude) but subservient to both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump.

Bietnamese bersus Balimbings

Contrast that to Vietnam, which fought the French, then the United States, then the Chinese. Inspite of enormous sacrifices they never gave up. Pretty rude people, not friendly Filipinos. Somehow though I would trust the word of a Vietnamese more, I am very sorry to say by now. Filipinos often are subservient when they think they can get an advantage or think they are weak (mahina) then turn around to be rude, act as if you exploited them when they think they are strong (malakas) – probably with a new ally or backer or someone they have ingratiated themselves with.

Gago, anong year iyan (Asshole, what year was that?) was Senator Gatchalian’s answer to netizens who criticized him for being highly critical of former President Aquino now and praising him to high heavens in 2012 (link). Balimbing, the fruit that easily changes sides, was one analogy used. My first memory of hearing balimbing was in 1986. Well, yes, I guess it is gago to assume that a typical Filipino politician will NOT praise the one who is malakas at a given time. Fool me twice. Even among Filipinos overseas I have seen the kapit mentality of hanging on to people for favors – and dropping them like hot potatoes once these people lost access to resources they could dispense. Possibly I am too Germanic by now, preferring people who deal straight, not caring about favors. Not lick the boots of the current patron and bark at its enemies – or all who are not that powerful.

Aso o Astig

To be a really tough guy, stop being a lapdog. Stand on your own two feet like a human being. Indonesian death penalty is not something I like – but it has due process and therefore much more character than secretly killing people via most probably staged “nanlaban” (fighting back at police) or masked vigilante groups which are most probably off-duty cops (link). Shouting down a lady reporter (link) like Pia Ranada Robles is seen as macho by some (or many?) Duterte supporters.

That is about as macho as the slum bullies who go home to beat up their wives and rape their stepdaughters in Filipino classic movies like Insiang (link) – one good and observant movie. People who laugh at necrophiliac rape jokes like the famous one Duterte made are clearly dysfunctional. Only few admire those who stand up to power like Trillanes. Would Filipinos cheer Tell or Gessler? Yes, Landvogt (bailiff) Gessler as opposed to heroic Wilhelm Tell of Swiss revolutionary legend. Sure, Filipinos have their heroes and are proud of them. But how much solidarity do their heroes get while alive? My impression, more and more, is that Filipinos prefer their heroes DEAD.

Pride Chicken is not Preedom

Because living heroes remind them of their mostly deficient characters? Put heroes in cement and put them in Rizal Park instead of sinking them in Manila Bay, but still letting the next scoundrels rule the country as always, while the majority, as Rizal already noted in the Fili “feel privately ashamed, hearing the growl of their rebelling and protesting conscience, while in public they keep silent and even join the oppressor in mocking the oppressed.. wrapping themselves up in their selfishness and praising with forced smiles the most despicable acts, begging with their eyes for a share of the booty”. Collaboration with a new empire in 1571. Revolution against a fading empire in 1896, as one of the LAST remaining colonies. Quick collaboration with the USA, then Japan, then USA again. What Filipino pride? Pride chicken. Fuck the EU, Mr. Duterte? Bend over for China.

Patriotically deny the French access to research in Benham Rise (link) while letting China (link)? Rizal also said in the Fili: “we must win our freedom by deserving it, by improving the mind and enhancing the dignity of the individual”. But, oh well, he was a Westernized elitist. Not counted. But then again, both fraternities and state often seem to breed subservience, not character (link). The powerful have all the rights (link) and are usually spoiled because they are rarely challenged. True, the frontier elites of Mindanao have faced more challenges  which made it easy for them, in my opinion, to take over Manila (link). But what would Duterte have become without his goons? Datus of old had to prove their mettle in the old warrior tradition, last manifested in Northern Luzon mountain tribe headhunting. Centuries of comfort and hereditary rank, first established in Spanish times and indirectly continued by political dynasties of later on, weakened their class.

Character and Charisma

Strangely, those who criticize the faults of former President Benigno Aquino – which do exist and are because of his growing up in that kind of elite – do not see the even worse spoiled brat faults of both Bongbong Marcos and President Duterte. In fact, Aquino has shown balls on occasion, like showing up at the Dengvaxia hearing – even if there were occasions like after Mamasapano where he did not. Yet many Filipinos take the barking of Bongbong and the bluster of Digong for bravery. Or the stupidity of Robin Padilla for patriotism. For sure, President Duterte has his charisma. It is the charisma of a trickster and a joker. The German word for that is Schlitzohr, a “sly fox” or a “shark” depending on the context. Many Filipinos still believe Duterte is a trickster with the best interests of his people in mind, just wait. Yet to me it seems character and perspective is missing. His “hidden qualities” seem more like wishful thinking of those who do not wish to see what might be the painful truth – that character is mostly missing in the Philippines for lack of being cultivated. Further self-delusion might lead the country to a point of no return. If it has not yet been reached.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 21 January 2018



5 comments to The Philippines has never stood on its own feet

  • sonny

    PiE, am marking this blog-installment as a must-remember subject for much rumination on the part of Filipino posterity; the themes and sub-themes that are touched on are vital data essential to our patrimony. They fall under category of PH hardware, in IT-speak and from which we must derive our national software. Just like the term in real estate: location, location, location; our archipelago: 1) extensive coastline and its diverse and myriad reefs (marine flora/fauna), viz. must save, conserve, husband like forever; the tectonics of the islands, viz. must know & study and gambol with what mother nature has given us; 3) our meteorology, its temperament all-year round, the sky, our land topology, the windward sides and leeward sides of our islands, and MUCH MORE …

    Some historical notes: 1) at the start of American colonial times, the US Geodetic Service immediately sent ships to chart Philippine waters; one ship I read was USS Pathfinder; 2) the first educational institutions established were Philippine Nautical School and Philippine Normal School for now-obvious reasons; 3) the financing of American governance was carried/shared by Filipino money and reported annually by REPORT OF THE PHILIPPINE COMMISSION to insular and continental Congresses. I have copies for 2 years.

    • This was one of my articles which got the least likes – I wondered afterwards if it was too harsh – but looking at recent statements by the President re alliance with China it may have been correct after all. But these are the things I absolutely hate being right about, there is little contentment in that. But re the early American period: of course a new conqueror will take stock of the lands he has acquired. Much like one of the major projects of William the Conqueror after Hastings in 1066 was the Domesday Book, a kind of Census of England. The USA conducted the Philippine Census in 1903, not too long after acquiring control of a major part of the islands:



    [Fair warning: for the first time, i am about to really rant about something]

    I was going to write on this MSR brouhaha again and try to do something that could actually help this government clarify some things they just don’t get, but then I am outraged by a huge hollow-block thrown against the entire FIlipino nation.

    Pres sPox Roque’s claim that Filipinos cannot afford to explore Benham Rise, that “no one can do it”, that the Philippines “needs China” to do it, and “only China qualifies” is completely wrong, based on ignorance, a serious disservice to Filipino scientists in particular and the Filipino people in general, and an over-exaggeration of China’s potential role in Philippine ocean sciences.

    In the first place, FIlipinos have been exploring the Benham Rise Region for years now:

    1) From 2004-2008, then again in 2010, the DENR’s National Mapping and Resource Information Authority sent BRP Hydrographer Presbitero on multiple bathymetric and hydrographic surveys of the Benham Rise Region, producing a highly detailed 3D digital bathymetric model (resolution of 1 meter for an area covering 30 million hectares) of the entire region compliant with the highest quality standards of the International Hydrographic Organization. That was a Philippine vessel with full Filipino crew (mariners of the Coast and Geodetic Survey Division) funded completely by the Philippine government. That batheymetric model was absolutely necessary for the Philippines to support its claim to the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles with 2D and 3D geomorphological analysis.

    2) For the past decade, the DA’s Bureau of FIsheries and Aquatic Resources has been annually conducting fisheries research and experimental fishing expeditions in the Benham Rise Region, particularly in areas between the coast of Luzon and Benham Bank, to determine the tuna fishery potential of its waters. This has been undertaken by the M/V DA-BFAR multi-mission research vessel for so long, that BFAR has confidence in promoting and opening the region as the country’s new tuna fishing ground.

    3) Two oceanographic research cruises have been organized, funded by the DOST, supported by DA-BFAR, and with the participation of the University of the Philippines, De la Salle University, Silliman University, and other academic institutions (apologies as I forget), which gave the Philippines its initial glimpse of Benham Bank, the shallowest portion of Benham Rise. These were done in 2014 and 2016. A third cruise is being planned for this summer 2018 (fingers crossed). All are crewed by Filipino scientists, marine science students, Navy and Coast Guard technical divers, and mariners. Supplementary support/assistance so far was provided by Oceana, a non-government organization advocating marine resources conservation, in the form only of a remotely-operated vehicle unit and technicians to control it, and additional scientists and technical divers to augment the 2nd expedition’s personnel. Both previous expeditions were Philippine-funded, the same goes for the planned third cruise. The first people to actually descend and “touch” Benham Bank 50m below the Pacific, were Filipino technical divers. That’s our “Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon” historical moment.

    4) Since 2016, the UP National Institute for Geological Sciences and UP Marine Science Institute have been collaborating with counterpart institutions from Korea and Japan, namely the Korea Institute for Ocean Science and Technology, and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, to begin initial exploration of the seabed in Benham Rise itself under separate memoranda of agreements. As I understand it, among other things, the Philippines intends to get seabed core samples through this arrangement, which push forward the resource assessment and exploration efforts for the Rise.

    5) Geologists of the UP NIGS have acquired and reviewed available public domain data from multiple scientific research cruises by multiple nations that have passed through the Benham Rise Region, and produced academic papers and analysis of their own, which were used as evidence to support the claim to Benham Rise. The detailed tectonic history, geological characteristics, and underwater topography have been determined and analyzed by these Filipino scientists, and their findings tested and and papers validated by foreign scientific advisors as well as the scientific community through the continental shelf claim process and the academic press.

    6) Marine biologists of UP MSI, UP SESAM, and other schools have been analyzing the many samples and observations that they gathered from the two research cruises, and making some interesting findings and potential discoveries on their own. These are Filipino researchers, earning salaries and wages from Philippine sources, and working in accordance with stringent scientific standards and procedures on par with anyone else in the world.

    7) In addition to the small research vessels of UP, DENR and DA-BFAR, the Philippines now has a deep-sea research vessel in the form of the BRP Gregorio Velasquez that was handed over to the Philippine Navy by the US. This ship used to be the USS Melville, carrying a crew of 23 plus up to 38 marine scientists on board, and was formerly operated by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. It played a key role in US oceanography for over 45 years, and is still going strong. The PN, in collaboration with marine science institutions, is developing its own capacity to operate and maximize the use of this venerable vessel for hydrography and marine science. Last summer, the PN and UP-MSI took the ship “around the block” conducting a running MSR data-collecting cruise spanning the waters of Mindoro, KIG, Southern Palawan, the Sulu Sea and Tubbataha Reef. Even the PN, with multi-purpose ships like the BRP Davao del Sur, has demonstrated that it can operate in the area, and with appropriate crew and equipment, can host all manner of research activities in addition to military purposes.

    8) By the way, the Philippines has yet to explore the possibilities of using new technologies that are becoming fast accessible and affordable. Technologies and techniques for manufacturing floating and underwater autonomous vehicles (sometimes called “gliders” or “drones”) guided by artificial intelligence, each unit costing around USD100,000 each, have been offered for free to the Philippines by at least one friendly country, not China. This could mark a new era in indigenous marine resource exploration in the near future. Other countries are already using these gliders to conduct oceanographic researches in the deep ocean at a fraction of what they used to cost. A small squadron of AI-guided gliders could quickly conduct deep seabed exploration in the deep oceans at much less expense than even current levels. And I have no doubt that the Philippines can do it as well.

    FOR GOVT TO SAY THAT FILIPINOS NEED CHINA TO EXPLORE BENHAM RISE AS IF THERE IS NO ONE ELSE THAT CAN DO IT IS BOTH A BRAZEN FALSEHOOD AND A DISSERVICE TO THE HARD WORK AND DEDICATION, THE TALENTS AND CAPACITIES, OF THE FILIPINO SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY, a number of whom I have worked with and call my colleagues and friends. I have had the privilege of working on international legal claims with these talented people, through the Tubbataha Reef Particularly Sensitive Sea Area Application before the International Maritime Organization, and the Extended Continental Shelf Project which generated TWO claim documents (one for Benham Rise Region, successfully submitted and validated, and another for the Western Palawan Region which up to now has been sitting on somebody’s desk, but that’s another story entirely) for the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

    Although China is indeed a formidable scientific force in the contemporary ocean sciences, IT IS BY NO MEANS THE ONLY ONE. To date, even without China, the Philippines has been able to assemble its own modest scientific expeditions, and continues to develop its capacities and capabilities to do so, both on its own and with willing partners. CHINA IS AN OBVIOUS OPPORTUNITY, BUT NOT AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY. To imply that only China can give the Philippines any hope in exploring and exploiting Benham Rise is a twisted and gross exaggeration of its potential role in cooperation with the Philippine marine science community. While the possible benefits from cooperation with China should be recognized, we should not be fixated with it.

    THE LIMITATIONS UPON PHILIPPINE MARINE SCIENCE CAPACITIES AND CAPABILITIES IS NOT SO MUCH A MATTER OF POVERTY AS IT IS A MATTER OF PRIORITIES. The modest efforts to date demonstrate that with the proper budgetary support from government and clear research goals and objectives, as well as a good vision and great confidence in our own people and expertise, the Philippines CAN do these things on its own. It may take longer, and may be more difficult, BUT WE HAVE SHOWN THAT WE CAN DO IT. We may have relatively few marine scientists and even fewer marine science vessels, but they have done a lot despite limited resources. What more if government actually gave the sector the attention and respect it deserves?


    […but then again, maybe that’s what gov’t means by “change is coming.”]

  • – by Francis:

    “Why did EDSA lost momentum? I do not deny that the spirit of EDSA was transformative. It was radical, revolutionary in its fervant democratic aspirations. I think though, that EDSA lost momentum because we failed to fully appreciate this tranformative spirit.

    We brought back (formal structures of) democracy to the Philippines with EDSA—and stopped there.”

    “..the work of maintaining democracy does not stop at the fall of a dictatorship, rather democracy is a way of life that shall be cherished and lived until the last breath of the people themselves. Democracy isn’t a static state. One doesn’t merely write a constitution, and because it has a democratic provisions: a nation is automatically democratic. Democracy is rather a perpetual process which must continue live.

    If the opposition does not pose a “counter-narrative,” does not clarify its ideological ground, does not offer a holistic alternative view of society and her future, it risks setting up everyone for a repeat of the mistakes of EDSA.

    Winning against the dictatorship, but losing the democracy afterwards.”

    • – Popoy

      “If the objective is to raise the level of educational qualifications among barangay officials who in the early times started no read, no write men and women enjoying the respect, trust and confidence of their communities, what they need is more assistance from DILG for more sophisticated training. NOT stricter and higher educational qualifications. Raising the legal qualifications for barangay officials that will result in the influx of more lawyers could be counterproductive.

      The big word as proven in the Philippines is that EDUCATION is not a pre-condition for development and progress or good public service or governance.. Philippines could have very high literacy rate and very high incidence of corruption at the same time it has also lower living standards when compared with its neighbors which have lower literacy rate.”

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