Now that we’ve elected a president who talks straight, and seems to be inspiring Filipinos to straighten out our society, is he sounding the drums for “patriotism”? Ordinarily, it’s defined as “love of country.”
If so, the patriotism of the United States is different from our brand of patriotism. And, obviously, from the patriotism of China, or of Japan, and, of course, of North Korea!
It brings to mind our “firebrand” of the Commonwealth, Manuel L. Quezon: “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos instead of a government run like heaven by the Americans!” Or words to that effect.
Our current firebrand, Rodrigo R. Duterte, seems to interpret patriotism as doing away with criminals—quickly by shooting them—drug lords, drug pushers, and drug addicts (who can please surrender and stop their bad habit). He also would like to kill other criminals like rapists, thieves, holdup men, kidnappers, and the like by hanging.
The President is calling on the patriotism of Filipinos to help him clean up our society, which, since 15 presidents ago, has built up filth and scum that make the government machinery not only work slowly but also, and most of the time, miss its target: the uplift of the “hopeless, helpless and defenseless”—
Patriotism varies in definition as the years go by. During Quezon’s time in 1935, it was independence from the Americans. That patriotism was a continuation of the first Asian revolution against colonialism by Andres Bonifacio and his Katipunan in 1896. It was inspired by the “reformers,” notable among them Jose P. Rizal who wrote two novels making fun of the Spanish friars and the Catholic Church.
The revolution, with the same agenda of independence, was put on more formal war footing by Emilio Aguinaldo. The national flag was sewn by the ladies Agoncillo and a national anthem was composed by Julian Felipe. The Filipino declaration of independence, the flying of the national tricolor, and the first public singing of the national anthem took place on June 12, 1898, in Kawit, Cavite.
Our patriotism is awakened every time the flag is unfurled and the anthem sung.
It is far easier to imagine and feel patriotism whenever we have a struggle, a fight with an enemy, where hundreds of thousands of Filipinos die—such as against the Spaniards in 1896, against the Americans from 1898 to 1902, and against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945.
It is a bit harder to feel patriotism when we go about the traffic-choked streets of Metro Manila or Metro Cebu to our workplaces and then go home exhausted at the end of the day. Or when the only break is taking the family to the air-conditioned mall, not to buy, perhaps, nor to eat, but just to savor the cool air, and be rid of the humidity of the tropics. It makes one wish to leave these islands for temperate climes abroad.
Now, for the next six years, a new leader is calling us to fight, not invaders, but our fellow Filipinos—a social cleansing. The initial response to the President’s call to arms is warm: Lots of people presumed to be involved in the trade in illegal drugs, and other criminals, have fallen in this war since the elections in May. And many more will fall; the toll is averaging five a day despite murmurings from the Commission on Human Rights.
At the same time, our patriotism will be tested as Mr. Duterte calls for peace. At the installation of the new Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Ricardo Visaya, he said his main role is to talk to the communists, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Moro National Liberation Front, etc., so peace can come. The soldiers can then fight with the drug lords and others who have not sued for peace.
And with peace—and less traffic, if I may add—there will be prosperity and happiness (i.e., freedom to move about, unmolested by bombing, kidnapping, robbery, rape, cell phone snatching, air pollution, illegal street parking and sidewalk congestion.
This, then, is how I see Filipino-style patriotism, circa 2016: peace and freedom to move about, work, and play. It takes one’s breath away, leading one to wish one could stay put in good old “Pinas.”
Emmanuel Ikan Astillero ([email protected]) is an active member of the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planning based in the University of the Philippines Diliman.
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