Time for a ‘Filipino future’
ONCE UPON a time, our archipelago was merely a group of islands in the middle of an ocean. Its inhabitants seemed innately hospitable, especially to strangers and visitors. But they spoke vastly different languages and fought each other in tribal wars. Over time, the islands and their indigenous tribes evolved into distinct regions, defined by language, customs and their unique geography.
In the 1500s, European powers divided the world into East and West. Spain discovered the archipelago, then—with the friar’s cross and conquistador’s sword—christened its population, making it the sole Catholic country in Asia. Spain governed our islands as a colony (which it eventually called “Philippines”) until late into the 1890s, extracting and producing its raw materials at very low costs and shipping these to Europe’s factories for huge profits.
Then the United States bought the Philippines from Spain in the Treaty of Paris and vanquished the Filipinos in the Philippine-American War at the end of the 1890s; then it introduced different versions of the Christian faith and an educational system in which English replaced Spanish, as well as a new form of government called democracy, which made the Philippines Asia’s first democratic nation. But the old colonial practices persisted: raw materials from the Philippine colony (legally named a commonwealth) were shipped to the mother country (United States) so US traders and industrialists could enrich themselves even more.
On July 4, 1946, the United States allowed the conversion of the commonwealth into a republic—opening up new opportunities for Filipinos to take their future into their own hands. But the new elite that replaced the Spanish and Americans did little to change the feudal system, turning the “Pearl of the Orient” in the 1950s into the “Sick man of Asia” by the 1990s. A two-party political system copied from the United States degenerated into a dictatorship in the mid-1970s, and after the 1986 People Power Revolution further deteriorated into political dynasticism and “balimbing” opportunism.
It is hoped that the leaders elected last May will dream of and pursue a better future for all Filipinos, given the tough wisdom of President Duterte and the gentle service of Vice President Leni Robredo. There’s a lot going for Filipinos who are gifted with seemingly inexhaustible natural resources, a well-educated population of over 100 million, more than 10 percent of which are abroad toiling overseas and sending back home to their families some $25 billion. They can be organized into a global network to help Philippine manufacturers export finished products.
Let’s pray that Filipinos seize this opportunity to create global value chains that can lift the majority from hunger and poverty, to show our Creator that He was not mistaken in giving this archipelago so much in natural bounty. Today’s world is seeing—in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia—great movements to “take our country back.” Using the growing BalikProbinsiya countryside entrepreneurship advocacy, the Philippines can show the way in that direction—peacefully, sustainably and inclusively.
—JOSE Z. OSIAS, convenor, BalikProbinsiya, [email protected]
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