Do the sacrifices of our forefathers mean very little today?
If suffering makes a people wiser, we Filipinos would be among the most discerning people in the world today. For more than 300 years, we lived through unspeakable oppression under Spain. And for many years after that period, we went through agonizing wars that brought terrorism, massacre, torture by our other colonizers. Such were the struggles that our forefathers faced so that we, their children, may have freedom and live to our potential.
Today, after over a hundred years of freedom, it is fitting to look back and ask: Do we understand the essence of our ancestors’ sacrifices? Do we accept the challenge to live a noble and fruitful life and partake in building this nation as our forefathers had envisioned?
To answer these questions, it is helpful to look at an editorial cartoon of the Free Press in the 1960s, around six decades after gaining our independence. It shows a caricature of our society’s rich and poor, with a cigar-chomping oversized politician clad in suit and tie holding a gun and wads of money in both hands. In the background is thin Juan de la Cruz, dressed in rags and leisurely lounging in a bahay kubo. Whether this satirical piece sat well with readers or not at the time, it unmistakably depicted corruption in the system—the same old rotten practice we’ve had from our colonial times to the present. I am tempted to say we’ve failed to fulfill what our ancestors had hankered after, which is to live freely in a just society.
The picture shows that our appreciation of freedom is grossly perverted, and that the sufferings of our forefathers, if they were to serve as a lesson, meant very little. In the case of the rich and the powerful, freedom is manifestly abused—it is employed to advance one’s self-interests with the least regard for propriety or fairness to others. Thus, we’ve become the perpetrators of the many wrongdoings our ancestors had vehemently detested. We’ve assumed the role of our colonial oppressors. And worse, as if rubbing salt on wounds, we’ve effectively become the oppressors of fellow Filipinos.
On the other hand, Juan de la Cruz, while depicted as a victim of society’s inequality where the rich and powerful are inordinately favored, lives a mostly undisciplined, carefree life. Sadly, he becomes a burden to society as destitution limits him from doing the role society expects him to play.
It is true that, for a long time, we were under the chokehold of those who held power, such that to grow and reach our greatest human potential was difficult. But why is it that until today, the caricature’s plot still holds true, and the characters remain the same, yet we’ve become a supposedly free people?
It is high time we proved to others and to ourselves that we are a competent, responsible people. And it is incumbent upon each of us, whether one is a housewife, jeepney driver, teacher, employee, politician, etc., to join hands and do our tasks and duties as fairly and as properly as we can. Certainly, this will lead to better and brighter things, and bring meaning to the great sacrifices of our forefathers.
JULIUS D. TURGANO, [email protected]
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