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Absurd pro-colonial dispensation

01:09 AM October 28, 2016

I am haunted by the words of someone whom I looked up to for his prodigious intellect and vast unique experience, Professor Manoling Yap, and whom I deeply admired for his deep love of the motherland and her sons and daughters, the Filipino race. I miss him terribly today. Manoling often repeated this:

“We Filipinos are all victims of an absurd pro-colonial dispensation on the verge of chaos… Any President who merely tries to administer this decadent dispensation without fundamentally overhauling and rectifying its pro-colonial character is bound to fail the people and become victim of this dispensation’s built-in contradictions and antagonisms.”

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Manoling predicated much of his prognosis and proposals on the above perspective, and I totally agreed with him coming from our my cultural and historical journey in trying to discover the Filipino. Manoling went through an experience, a life journey, and used his talents in philosophy, economics and politics to package and share his knowledge and insights. I was fortunate to have spent, with others, many hours of listening to his stories and discussing not only the past but the possibilities for the future.

Through my own personal journey and adventure, I found synergy with all Manoling shared with me. His and my circumstances were very different, of course, as were our ages. But we still had much in common because our ideas and insights found convergence despite having taken quite contrasting paths. If I was convinced of the substance of what he shared with people like me then, in the 90’s until his last years, I find only affirmation since then.

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I have watched with keen interest president after president lead our country all throughout my adult years. I also remember boyhood and schoolboy memories, peripheral though most were, of every president from the last year of President Quirino to the full term of President Macapagal. Recalling all these, Manoling’s wise insights were always affirmed, never contradicted. And, today, these same insights are being put to the test, maybe to its limits.
Manoling’s son, Josef T. Yap, with Jose Dalisay, authored a book about the life of his eminent father, entitling it “Lessons from Nationalist Struggle.” I hold that book close to my heart and mind today, as if to keep me grounded yet above the fray. Authors Yap and Dalisay wrote that Professor Manoling Yap was an active player in one of the most significant and turbulent chapters in Philippine history, including a resurgence of a nationalist movement from the late 50’s to the early 70’s. I wonder what Manoling will be saying about today and what is about to unfold in current Philippine history under the Duterte presidency and its impact beyond his term. I suspect he will agree with me that this unfolding can compete with any period, maybe surpass them all.

I would be presumptuous to call myself a nationalist. The word is too big for me, has too many meanings and nuances. Look at the meaning of nationalism from Wikipedia and you can get lost. Yet, I cannot but help feel great attraction for one basic description of a nationalist as someone who advocates political independence for a country. I and many other Filipinos can be categorized as nationalists under this general definition. I know, however, the devil is in the details.

Prof. Manoling Yap gave details, hoping these would separate his nationalist stand from the many other devils. He said:

“We Filipinos should know the historical truth, put aside our petty bickerings and superfluous differences, foster a spirit of national solidarity, make the necessary sacrifices, and vigorously move to build a strong, progressive nation-state that is anchored on five indivisible and indispensable pillars:

1, A strong industrialized modern economy;

  1. A strong, just and democratic government;
  2. A united and patriotic people strongly committed to the principles and practices of universally accepted human values, social justice, and sustainable development;

4.A strong professional armed forces and police force for national security; and

  1. A free and independent foreign relations policy strongly committed to the principles of cooperation and reciprocity, respect for national sovereignty, and territorial integrity, non-aggression and non-interference in internal affairs, and peaceful co-existence in the relationship between and among nations.”

    I realized later that my attraction for Manoling’s advocacy came from his idealism that did not waver despite the ugly realities that he himself experienced and witnessed in the dynamics of domestic and international politics. He had rich firsthand presence in the thawing of relationships between China and the West, between Russia and the West. He was there where the rest of the world can only read history. Yet, he remained an idealist.

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    Our petty bickerings, as Manoling called it, remains our deadliest operational weakness as a people. It takes very little for the shrewd to manipulate the Filipino people, to makes us all quarrel over almost any other issue. Manoling points to our pro-colonial character with its built-in contradictions and antagonisms.

Today, I am reminded of a great man’s clarity of vision and undying love for our motherland, how his highest wishes and brilliant intellect never deviated from the collective and sustainable good of the people. The presidency of Rodrigo R. Duterte would have thrilled Manoling because of its potentiality. At the same time, It could have devastated his dreams as well. Because President Duterte can lead us to the promised land as much as he can lead us from one colonial mindset to another, if he himself falls prey to that embedded partisanship inculcated by centuries of divide-and-rule policies of foreign masters.

This much I know from history and its many lessons, that a people and country cannot become a nation-state from a colonized character. Yet, how, then, can we understand how to dismantle a preconditioned colonial character without unusual disruption, without inspiring leadership to almost force us by personal example towards a needed but elusive transformation?

So near, yet so far, Manoling, dear friend. Like you, many of us may not see the new dawn. Yet, like you, may we never tire of pursuing it.

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