- Many different but related ethnic groups and languages. Difficult national communication.
- Cultural influences from many historical periods, with different impacts on different subgroups.
- A history that is told very differently by different interest groups, no overarching national narrative yet.
So how can a national identity be defined? There are two things I would consider very important:
- Tradition is not worshipping the ashes – it is keeping the fire burning, said famous German composer Gustav Mahler. Culture changes over time, is a living thing with many manifestations.
- There are many nations with diverse subgroups. Accepting differences can be a better way to increase the buy-in by the diverse communities in a nation than forcing them to go by a standard dictated centrally.
Modernity and diversity are therefore essential in defining any nations’s identity – accepting it as what it is.
19th-century definitions of nation and people are outdated. The modern definition of a nation that I like the most is that of a Schicksalsgemeinschaft, a community united by fate. This is probably THE definition best suited to define what a Filipino is. The people descended from those who were shaped by a common destiny of:
- being those who settled in the islands, whatever their origins were
- having been subjected to varying cultural influences to different degrees
- having been part of – or opposed to – a state formed by Spain then the USA
- having lived as part of a nation that became the Republic of the Philippines
- now facing the future and trying to find out how it will look like for everybody
For better or for worse, this is where the Filipino nation – seen from far away by me – is in my humble opinion. What the people now part of this nation will make out of it is their call – and their identity theirs to define.
The Americans have the motto “E Pluribus Unum” on their national seal. Out of Many, One. When the great Bulgarian Khan Kubrat was dying more than a thousand years ago, he ordered his sons to break a bundle of sticks tied together. None of them managed. Kubrat untied the sticks and broke them one by one. Unity makes strength, he told his sons – Съединението прави силата is on the Bulgarian coat of arms to this very day. It will be up to Filipinos, as a community united by destiny, to find a way to become one out of many and find strength in unity.
- to find a way to tell their history in a way that acknowledges all influences and all groups involved
- to define their culture and traditions, not to worship the ashes, but to keep the fire burning
- to find ways to communicate, teach and learn in a way that acknowledges diversity and modernity
There are many different approaches to achieving this, why not try to put the best of all approaches together? Different groups can talk to one another, listen to one another, try to understand and learn from on another to achieve enormous synergies. The country has enormous talent. To weave a bright multicolored fabric. Identity.
Irineo B. R. Salazar, Munich, 14 May 2015
Tradition ist nicht die Anbetung der Asche, sondern die Weitergabe des Feuers