The ‘Filipino dream’


Last May 4, the Economist, a conservative weekly magazine  in London, commented on the “Chinese dream” as articulated by China’s new president, Xi Jinping, and related it to the “American dream.”

According to the Economist, Xi first mentioned the “Chinese dream” on Nov. 29, 2012, two weeks after his appointment as the Chinese Communist Party’s general secretary. It was the last step to his being named president of China by the National People’s Congress last March.

In a visit to the National Museum next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Xi told the Chinese media and museum workers that the “greatest Chinese dream” was the “great revival of the Chinese nation.” Following this declaration by the nation’s presumptive leader, the Chinese media, schools and bureaucracy started widely discussing the Chinese dream.

The Economist noted that Xi defined the Chinese dream while visiting the “Road to Revival” exhibit of the National Museum. “Its aim is to show China’s suffering at the hands of the colonial powers in the ‘century of [its] humiliation’ and its eventual glorious recovery under party rule,” said the Economist.

“Mr. Xi’s words implied that the Chinese dream, in contrast to its American namesake, was about something more than middle-class material comfort.” As a communist, Xi was referring to plans for the attainment of a “moderately well-off society” by 2021, the party’s 100th birthday, and the creation of a “rich, strong, democratic, civilized and harmonious socialist modern country” by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, the Economist explained.

Thomas Friedman, author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, earlier wrote in his column in the New York Times that for China’s emerging middle class, the dream should be different from the American dream which he described as “a big car, a big house and big Macs for all.”

Indeed, a nation’s dream changes in the course of its history. Under British rule, the dream of the Americans was to be free and independent. Its revolution was a model for the world. In the following years of settling continental America, the dream of most Americans was to own a piece of land.

After the frontier was settled, the American dream caught the virus of Empire under its watchword “Manifest Destiny.”  It challenged the tottering Spanish empire first in Cuba and then in the Philippines, whose inhabitants, on opposite sides of the globe, were separately about to win their freedom through revolution.

US Sen. Alfred J. Beveridge, in a Senate speech in 1900, defined the American dream in relation to the Philippines, while its ragtag army under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo was still fiercely resisting American colonization. “The Philippines are (sic) ours forever,” he orated, “territory belonging to the United States. And just beyond the Philippines are China’s illimitable markets.  We  will  not  retreat  from  either.”

Prophetic words, it appears, as more than 100 years later, the United States pivots its unchallenged military and naval might away from the Middle East to the Pacific, in what some pundits say is an effort to contain China, using the Philippines once more as one of its Pacific bases.

The Filipinos also have their dream. In the late 1800s, after 300 years of Spanish rule, a group of Filipino students in Madrid articulated the dream of equality with the Spaniards through representation in the Spanish parliament. But their petitions for “reforms,” expressed through the newspaper La Solidaridad, were ignored, and their leader Jose Rizal arrested, exiled and eventually executed.

Frustrated, the dream for equality exploded into a demand for independence through revolution. The Katipunan (Society) of workers and farmers led by the laborer and intellectual Andres Bonifacio took up arms. Defeated temporarily by superior Spanish forces, the revolution resurrected and changed into a war for liberation when the new American colonialists replaced the decrepit Spanish empire.

Under the American occupation, a peaceful struggle for “immediate, complete and absolute independence” was waged by the Philippine Assembly led by the Nacionalista Party of Quezon and Osmeña which dominated the Commonwealth government until the American “grant” of independence in 1946. The dream of Rizal and Bonifacio was still alive.

Meanwhile, the Filipino dream was subtly undergoing changes. Three years of brutal Japanese occupation during World War II made the Filipinos hanker for “benign” American rule. Filipinos yearned for the return of General MacArthur. American Liberation brought with it relief clothing, chocolates, bubble gum, K-rations, and jeeps. “Americanization” colored the Filipino dream, and gripped the middle class, as it did in Europe, after the Allied victory against Germany and Japan.

A brief interlude of nationalism emerged in the 1950s, aroused by Sen. Claro M. Recto and President Carlos P. Garcia, and expressed itself in a fit of industrialization and economic independence. But the dream fizzled out in the 1960s under President Diosdado Macapagal, who eagerly embraced globalization, liberalization and privatization, promoted by international financial institutions directed from Washington.

Under globalization, the Filipino dream is “to go abroad” in search of employment. The population has grown much faster than jobs. More than 10 million have become labor migrants, with thousands more queuing daily at foreign embassies, applying for visas.

In the early American years, Filipino workers dreamed of harvesting pineapple in Hawaii and gutting fish in Seattle.  Today their dreams embrace the globe, from Europe to the Middle East to North America and, closer to home, Hong Kong and Singapore, as job havens to feed their families at home. Neither war nor racism would deter them.

Many of these dreams have gone bust: Some returned in caskets, or jobless and penniless, as a new financial crisis hit the once prosperous United States and Europe. The dream of the Filipino middle class of owning a car, a home, and eating at McDonald’s, in humble imitation of the American dream, is fading, as the Filipino middle class sinks and disappears among the marginalized masses.

The dream of the informal settlers or squatters, a fast growing breed, is for their shanties not to be demolished, and themselves not banished to the urban wastelands where there are no jobs and no amenities. The dream of the ruling elite is for more First World condominiums, and more GDP growth that would make them richer and the poor poorer.  The rich are realizing their dream, the poor are waiting.

“What happens to a dream deferred?” asked the American poet Langston Hughes. “Does it explode?”

Manuel F. Almario is a veteran journalist, semi-retired, and currently spokesperson of the Movement for Truth in History (Rizal’s Moth).

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  • Simon Ward

    Pheeew! I think you sum up very nicely the failure of the Filipino dream to be realised. But remember it’s happening everywhere, in its own way, even in wealthy countries. The British dream, my own, is now beyond reach of most Brits. The only difference is that the British or American or Japanese or German dream seemed within grasp until a couple of decades ago. The Filipino dream has never been within grasp for almost all Filipinos. But the reality is very few of us can now grasp it.

    • anermarcelo30

      I disagree,,,the Filipino dream is alive living abroad in UK enjoying your British dream that is reachable….UK system is far better many times over than the rotten system of Pinas…the author keep on about foreign occupants and the struggle from Spaniards, Japanese and Americans (no dispute)…he did not mention that it’s the Filipinos who corrupted their own dreams because they let these bastards to run the country….I’m sure lots of poor Filipinos asked the question what would have been their life now if the foreign occupants stayed… otherwise they won’t be queueing for visas to go to Japan, Spain and America….Independence is good but to put your own kind to live like slaves in poverty, hunger in shanties make me wonder if the sacrifice of our heroes went in vain…my blood boils to see criminals in high office….there are million of us (OFW’s) whose dream came true and will always be alive in hope…never give up…you can dream anywhere as a Filipino

      • EC

        Correct! How could the average Filipino ever realize his dream in his homeland when he keeps on voting to office thieves and clowns like Gloria Arroyo and sons, Joseph Ejercito and sons, Enrile, Vicente Sotto, Ramon Revilla, etc. etc. What does it take for the average Filipino to learn to vote wisely?

      • Fulpol

        Filipino dream in a foreign land??? what the heck is that??

        you must say, “my dream”… not Filipino dream… kanya kanya..

        hindi buong bansang pangarap… kanya kanyang pangarap..

        you are well off in UK, so be it.. that is your dream.. never a Filipino dream..

        kung yung Filipino dream ay lahat ng Pilipino ay gustong manirahan sa UK at Amerka, ano pa yung tinatawag na Filipino.. ano pa yung bansang Pilipinas…

        another Pilipino with no identity… wala sa compass…

      • anermarcelo30

        Bobo…inggit ka lang…unlike me ….you are hiding from your identity by using stupid alias…at least Filipino dreams of Filipinos abroad can come true ….unlike yours ….

  • Edgar Lores

    This is a perceptive overview of where we are now at the start of the 21st century. It
    covers more than a full century, starting from the end of the 19th century to the present. In five scores and thirteen years, the Filipino Dream has been traced from a demand for national equality, first with the old colonizer Spain, then with the new
    colonizer America. With that equality achieved in mid-century, the Dream has morphed to one of economic equality. The pursuit of that equality has seen Filipinos spreading to the four corners of the world.

    I think the overview, in its identification of the strands in the warp and woof of the fabric of Philippine history, is accurate. However, I am a bit more optimistic than the
    writer about the realization of the Dream. The Filipinos working abroad are acquiring houses and cars and, for certain, they are eating at McDonalds. I would add to that Dream, not only the enjoyment of the fruits of liberty, but liberty itself.

    The Nightmare, for the most part, is comprised of (a) the informal settlers beside the railroad tracks and muddy rivers and in private and public spaces; (b) the unspiritual leaders of varying religions; and (c) the ne’er-do-wells – largely composed of self-serving dynasties — in government service. But the Nightmare can be transformed into the Dream with good government and a watchful citizenry. And with technology, the government auditors, the media and the citizenry at large are now armed to keep watch. Eternal vigilance is not only the price of liberty; it may be the root of a persistent Dream that can come true.

  • josh_alexei

    There is a Filipino dream, a Better Future for his Children that His…I have seen many, very many of them, caregivers, Nannies by waves came to Canada in the early Seventies, settled in, brought their families and now well established with their Canadian Raised families who are well integrated into the Multiculturalism Society..and not dissimilar with Millions of their fellow Canadians from all corners of the world who braved the Oceans before them to find a better place for their children, the Dreams along with hard work and belief that together, they can make this once inhabitable frozen North a truly True Strong and Free where dreams can Come True. Where Tolerance and Acceptance and Equality are among the Qualities of life, our very own unique style of Democracy and in harmony with our Natives, the First Nations and the Inuit…

  • Fulpol

    when you say Filipino dream, that must encompass the whole country.. not only constrained to few elites who offer their own view..

    what is the dream of Bonifacio and Rizal? bonifacio is revolutionary.. total removal of Spain control.. Rizal on the other hand, reformation.. Spain stayed but changes in their rule must take place…

    Rizal died, but his idea remained because the Americans declared him as the national hero fitting to their imperial dream.. Aguinaldo continued the revolutionary movement against Americans.. but he lost the battle..

    this idea of full independence and dependence to foreign control is still alive in today’s Philippine society.. the CPP-NPA, the revolutionary party against the present gov’t as puppet to their American master… why controlled Philippines?? to penetrate China.. no wonder, the US never helped the Philippines to grow and prosper like Japan and South Korea, amid the loyalty of Pilipinos to Americans, even acted like a dog to his master..

    the dream of Pilipino for prosperity will never happen unless the fundamental dream will not achieve.. full independence and Pilipino’s control to their country, not controlled by only few, the elites and oligarchy…

    Filipino dream??… for individual Pilipinos.. kanya kanyang hablot na yan.. wala ng pakialam sa isa’t isa.. sarili mo, hatak mo..

  • boybakal

    Author narration of facts of Filipinos seeking betterment of their life, freedom and liberty is not really a dream…..
    But filipinos way of life…..

    Only native Indians of America can achieve their dreams….they have this thing called Dream Catcher.
    Filipinos dream……Nangangarap ng Gising.

  • Eugenio Pulmano

    The implicit or explicit assumption of Manny A. is, there’s a “Filipino dream” to start with.

    Nick Joaquin was asked what is the Filipino identity. His response was: “It
    is in the process of becoming,” which is a way of saying it is not yet
    become, or a clever way to evade a very difficult question.

    We are the sum of our colonial and pre-colonial experiences and have not
    yet transmuted those experiences into one coherent nation; they remain disparate elements or strands that are quite evident for all to see wherever we are, at
    home or abroad. As David Martinez expressed in his book “A Country of My
    Own,” we are not one nation, but many nations, forced to live together
    by external historical events, which means, we’ve not grown
    indigenously and organically, hanging together precariously, divided in
    so many ways and driven by centrifugal forces in so many different

    Thus, the Filipino dream–which suggests a nation that has come together,
    bound by collective consciousness and unconscious, of which we’re not
    yet, and in fact is still in the “process of becoming” (when, oh
    when, will it ever come?)–is an illusion. For there can be no Filipino
    dream when the dreamer is not yet.

    A Filipino dream to be a dream as such has to be a collective dream.
    Until then it remains a nebulous and atomic dreams by individuals like
    you and me, like the dreams of Rizal, Bonifacio, etc. Until the various
    strands of our colonial experiences and pre-Hispanic history/culture are
    interwoven and transmuted into a tapestry of new creation, exhibiting
    unity in form and substance, there is not…even a Filipino dream
    deferred to speak of. There is only a dream that may be…or may be not.


  • Nathaniel Carreon Jr.

    Filipino dream is not much different from most people in the world including americans. It is fast vanishing and will remain just a dream for most.

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