One reason I love working with young people is that they never seem to tire; these great balls of energy seem ready to go out in a blaze of glory especially when they are convinced that they are doing it for a greater purpose, one outside of themselves. But most of all, it is in their sincerity, innocence and idealism that I draw most of my inspiration.
Despite their age, they are willing to do the unthinkable. They are not afraid to challenge reinforced systems, to speak their mind, to rally against extrajudicial killings even if they’re only in senior high.
At this point, a playful tweet comes to mind: “Mahal ko ang Bayan. Can I take Bayan to the prom?” As noble as the tweet may be, I advise you to not do it.
“Negosyo o kalayaan? Bayan o sarili? Mamili ka.” Commerce or freedom? Nation or self? Choose. I’m sorry but move over, Heneral Luna. While he may have been right in saying it is easier to bring heaven and earth together than for Filipinos to get along, the difficulty is in the fact that the idea of being one nation was never a product of our cultural evolution. We never saw ourselves as a nation, or a group of nations for that matter. It was the Spaniards who gathered us like animals in a trunk and gave us a collective name. Whether they called us Filipinos or Indios first is irrelevant.
As far as I know, this is one reason there is still so much tension in Mindanao: Many of its inhabitants seek independence, if not autonomy. The Spaniards included the island as part of their colony but was never able to “colonize” it in the way they did Luzon and the Visayas. The same can also be said of certain indigenous peoples in the country who just want to be left alone.
And maybe they should be. While granting several places autonomy or independence may appear as either political weakness or treason, and while it can be argued that man is a social animal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to be part of the nation. They didn’t choose to be Filipino. It was forced on them. In other words, maybe there was never a tayo, an “us”. And maybe all communities are illusory and imagined (whether consciously, as in the sake of survival, or unconsciously, as in the sake of being accidental).
Consequently, all forms of nationalism and patriotism are more illusory than real. Maybe it’s difficult to be makabayan (nationalist) because in the first place there was never a bayan (nation). And maybe the only community worthy of recognition is the community that we have consented to, in this case the barangay or the town.
I think what makes Bayan harder for us Filipinos to understand is that by nature — that is, prior to the interruption of our cultural evolution — we were more concrete than abstract thinkers. We were more conscious of face — as in “wala na akong mukhang ihaharap” or “nakakahiya.” Although Bayan may be a collective term for a group of faces, it is because Bayan is more abstract than concrete that it is harder to press through.
But all is not lost. Bayan is a noble idea but it is an idea nonetheless. It cannot hug you, kiss you, or pat you on the back. It doesn’t have a face. But your lover does. Your mother, too, and more so your village. When people go to battle, they don’t bleed for patriotism or nationalism. When they shout “Para sa bayan!” they don’t mean some concept or idea but their children and all the people they care about.
It is for this reason that the people we serve must have a face. It is only by looking at the face, the eyes, the soul, that we will be able to give without counting the cost, fight without heeding the wounds, and toil without seeking rest. I guess this is why Jesuit schools put much emphasis on programs where students can interact with the less fortunate—no, with the very face of Christ. At least this was what impelled Francis Xavier to go as far as India to proclaim the good news; this was the face that impelled Ignacio de Loyola and his men to set the world on fire.
Have I encountered this face? Have I fallen in love?
Can I take Bayan to the prom? Why take Bayan when I can take a human?
Fall in love. Stay in love.
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Kim Valldores, 24, is from Angono.