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