(Second in a Series)
We also need to exercise our right to vote seriously. Refusing to sell our votes is only the first step. It’s about time that we should also set certain standards that candidates should measure up to before we write their names in the ballot – standards that are over and beyond the qualifications set by our Constitution for candidates seeking a particular public office.
It’s time for us to realize also that some personalities are venturing into politics not because they want to serve the people but because they think that they are so popular and such popularity could easily catapult them into a public office. Fame, like power, is also addicting.
An interesting question to answer is, “How many showbiz and sports personalities holding public office now were elected not because they are both qualified and capable to lead but because they are popular?”
There are other questions that we need to answer as honestly as we should – “What did those actors, actresses, singers, TV personalities, basketball players, boxers, and other celebrities who used their popularity to win contribute to the improvement of the quality of life in the localities where they were elected?” Those among them who were lucky to become President, Vice President, Senators or Congressmen (or were given cabinet posts), did they contribute anything to national development?” “What good if any did their ‘star power’ bring to politics and governance in the Philippines?”
If all those seasoned and veteran politicians who have master’s and doctorate degrees in law, economics, political science, public administration, and business administration and have been in public service all their life could hardly move the needle forward on socio-economic development, what do we expect from showbiz, media, and sports personalities who suddenly turned into politicians only because they are immensely popular and that they know that Filipino voters could easily be deceived. Do they honestly think that the skills and knowledge needed to run a public office can be acquired by taking crash courses in leadership and management?
Sadly speaking, this is how politicians and celebrities-turned-politicians think of Filipino voters – they can not only be bought and but they are also unintelligent. Most of those running for public office consider the Filipino voters cheap and ignorant – cheap because they are willing to sell their votes for a small amount of cash and ignorant because they don’t know how to choose the right candidate for a position.
Choosing the most qualified and capable among sets of candidates is not a rocket science. We can evaluate their qualifications corresponding to the position they are seeking. We can check their track record. We can hear them talk during the campaign period both in person and through any form of media. We can determine who among them are eloquent and could articulate their platform of government and who are dumb and merely banking on their popularity so they could get the support of unsuspecting voters or they have truckloads of money to buy votes. If we find those celebrities truly qualified, capable, and sincere in their desire to serve this country and they are the best among the candidates vying for an elective position, then we should vote for them.
We have to separate the wheat from the chaff. We need to exercise due diligence in distinguishing the qualified and capable candidates from a pretenders. Electing leaders unto whom we give the mandate to lead – unto whom we pin our hopes for a better nation – is not a game. Elections are not popularity contests.
Governance is a serious business and should be done on a full-time basis. One cannot be a public servant on a part-time basis who would attend to her/his duties and obligations only when there are no shooting sessions for movies and TV shows or there are no practices or games to play as athletes in any sport.
We should never entrust a public office to clowns.
The last quarter of the 19th century was perhaps the most significant stage in the development of the Philippines as a nation. It was when nationalism started to flourish. It took centuries before the natives managed to put up a united front against their colonizers. Like the sun starting to rise from the east spreading its golden rays to signal the coming of a new day, the emerging solidarity among the natives became a portent of greater things to come (that never came.)
The most important ingredient for national development was finally manifesting among Filpinos at that time. The seeds of nationalism began to sprout. The influx of liberal ideas from Europe, the rise of the middle class, and the martyrdom of Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora (GomBurZa) were among the factors believed to have fan the flames of national unity.
It was a long and arduous journey towards national solidarity made difficult to achieve by a combination of factors – the island nation is geographically fragmented, the people speaking different dialects, and the Spaniards’ employment of “divide-and-conquer” tactics.
The Spaniards succeeded tremendously in employing the “divide-and-conquer” tactic against the colonized people so much so that they reigned supreme for more than 300 years. But when the Filipinos began to develop a cohesive spirit to fill their geographical gaps, when they dismantled the language barriers with their deafening cry for freedom, the days of the Hispanic colonizers became numbered. The colonial masters suffered humiliating defeats from the people they held by the neck for a long time and were forced to retreat to the walled city of Intramuros.
But the next chapter of the Philippine drama unfolded not the way the Filipinos had the script written but the way the directors from Hollywood penned it. And just when the Filipinos were ready to hit the last nail in the coffin of Spanish tyranny, the Americans said, “CUUUTTTT!”
With absolute certainty, the revolution the Filipinos started in 1896 would have finally ended Spanish rule. The natives had them figured out. All they needed was just to march together with their hands tied by the bond of patriotism. The Filipinos were ready to storm Intramuros, the last bastion of Spanish rule but they were stopped on their tracks by the Americans who they wrongly perceived to be an ally in their quest for freedom from Spain. The Filipinos naively thought that the Americans who were waging a war against Spain in Cuba, also a Spanish colony then, came as a friend, not a foe.
Cutting the story short, the Americans occupied the Philippines when the Spaniards left and the Filipinos were forced to wage war against a military far more powerful and more advance in weaponry than their former colonizers.
The natives lost the war and the sprouts coming out from the seeds of nationalism sown by the forebears of the Filipino race was not allowed to grow and bloom. It was forcibly uprooted and trampled upon by the Americans. The new colonial masters extinguished the flames of Filipino nationalism with laws like the Sedition Law (1901) which imposed a death penalty or a long prison term on anyone who advocated independence from the United States even by peaceful means and the Flag Law (1907) which prohibited the display of the Philippine flag in any place. 
Filipino nationalism was nipped in the bud. That period in the history of the Filipino people was referred to as the “Era of Suppressed Nationalism.” While the natives were still licking the wounds inflicted by their former Spanish masters, the Americans started whipping them.
And as everybody knows, the justification provided by the Filipinos’ new colonial masters was the natives were not ready for self-governance and it would have been very chaotic had they been left alone to fend for themselves.
They could have been right…or wrong. Nobody would know now? But what critical thinking Filipinos today know was that the Americans had no right to deprive the Filipinos at that time the opportunity to determine their own fate as people. The natives could have been left to face the consequences of their attempt to stand on their feet. They had no right to deprive the Filipinos of that opportunity to raise their arm in a victory against Spain. It would have been so meaningful had the colonizer surrendered to the colonized. That would have been a huge moral victory for a people enslaved and deprived of their basic rights and freedom for so long. That would have been a big boost to the morale of the Filipinos. But instead of a boost to their psyche, the actions of the Americans wounded the pride of the Filipino and impeded the development of a stronger national character.
The Americans should have taken a page from their history for them to understand how the Filipinos felt at that time. The main reason the American colonists fought for independence against Britain in the 1700s was they believed in the inalienable rights of the individual and them being taxed by the British Parliament without any representation is a violation of such rights . They believed that whatever a government does must have the consent of the governed. The Filipinos did not want another foreign power to govern them, they had enough of the Spaniards already. The Americans did not have the Filipinos’ consent to stay in the country and govern them.
But there was nothing the Flipinos could do, no country could come to their succor at that time. The Americans had France to support them in their drive for indepedence against Britain and perhaps the Fillipinos were hoping that America would be doing a France when they came, but it was wishful thinking.
The Filipinos were on their own and the world at the time was a big jungle where the colonial powers were the predators and the weaker nations the helpless prey.
The Filipinos then cannot even invoke any law to contest the legality of the American occupation of the Philippines. Imperialism has its own laws, and is backed by brute force. Becausu of its armed forces imperial law supersedes international law. “The legality of imperial activity is based largely on the imperial state’s judicial system and its own legal experts . But wasn’t it that America championed liberalism. They know that natural rights are not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable. 
But all those are water under the bridge. One thing that every Filipino needs to understand is the importance of revisiting the hallowed pages of their history in order to understand what have become of them and why they think and behave the way they do.
The Filipinos need to do some tinkering in their system. They have to remove the bad microchips their colonizers placed in their harddrive that cause them to malfunction. Find suitable replacements, then reboot.
Filipinos often ask questions like, “What would the Philippines be like today had Spain not colonized the island nation? Would the Filipino character develop the way it is now had the Spaniards not succeeded in putting the natives in chains for more than three centuries?
What if the Americans observed the principle that “governments derived their just powers from the consent of the governed”  and decided not to stay in 1898 and allow the Filipinos to govern themselves? Americans should have known better. That principle was the driving force of the declaration of their independence in 1776. It is touted to be the model for the right to self-determination, the very right that they deprived the Filipinos of when they colonized the Philippines. The Americans justified their occupation of the islands by saying that the Filipinos were not ready for self-governance. But how sure were they? And even then, the Filipinos certainly would have preferred to have charted their own destiny as a nation no matter what the consequences may be. The world will never know what would have happened to the Philippines had the Americans gave them the reins of their own government. While it is not certain that the Filipinos would have succeeded, one thing is clear, neither did the Philippines become a better nation because the Americans occupied it.
It would have been a big boost to the Filipino pride if only they were allowed to continue their war with Spain which they were winning at that time when the Spanish and American strategists connived to stage what would later become known as the “Mock Battle at the Manila Bay” which the Americans purportedly won. That plan was concocted to prevent Manila, the nation’s capital, from falling into the hands of Filipino revolutionaries. Just imagine how big a victory like that would have affected the Filipino psyche. Its character as a nation would have evolved in a much different direction. But it was not meant to be.
As it was, the Philippines was colonized by Spain and America. The evolution of the Filipino psyche did not go the way it should have had had they not been colonized by Spain and America. And how did that colonization affect the formation of the Filipino character? How did Spanish cruelty and American treachery impact the evolution of Filipino values and traits?
The character of a nation is manifested through the values and traits of its people. These values and traits developed through time and are shaped by the events in the life of the nation. They are also affected by the environment where people live.
Filipinos have positive and negative values and traits. Hospitality and resilience are examples of the positive qualities that can be attributed to these people.
Filipinos are famous for their hospitality. They treat their visitors, especially foreigners, in a very special way, giving them the best of what they have. As host, the Filipino will try his best to make his visitors comfortable and provide them with the best amenities. The Spaniards had a taste of this hospitality when they came to the islands, they loved it and took advantage of it. Although there were places where the natives were hostile to them, generally, they were welcomed.
Sometimes this is mistaken as being subservient. Some contend that their having been colonized for hundreds of years made the Filipinos feel inferior, thus they are gracious to other people especially those coming from other countries. The Filipino is being perceived to have that feeling of inferiority complex, especially in the presence of foreigners because they were programmed by their former colonial masters to obey, serve, and never ask questions. This stereotyping of the Filipino was compounded by the fact that many Filipinos work as domestic helpers abroad.
Those who look at Filipinos in the manner aforementioned are mistaken. They chose to view that trait of these people using a negative perspective.
Filipinos are just naturally caring and friendly. They are very polite and respectful too. Their hospitality is a manifestation of their innate humanity, not subservience. These people from Southeast Asia are highly-relational. They could easily establish connections with other people. They are highly flexible being able to easily adapt to other cultures. Filipinos embrace people, especially foreigners, for the way that they are and not judge them. If people around the world would be tested for what Howard Gardner describes as “interpersonal intelligence,” the Filipinos would probably top.
This trait did not vanish with the coming of the Spaniards, it was actually reinforced. The Spaniards introduced Christianity to the natives and becoming Christians made them discover more reasons to be loving and caring for others.
Genuine care for others is something very natural among Filipinos. Thus, aside from domestic helpers, there are many Filipino doctors, nurses, caregivers, nannies, and teachers abroad. Filipinos are not egotistical. They can take on menial jobs thinking that “any necessary work that pays an honest wage carries its own honor and dignity” . This is the reason many Filipinos accept these kinds of jobs abroad. But Filipino skilled workers and professionals are also being sought in many countries. There are also a lot of Filipino artists working in different parts of the world. All these are proofs of Filipino intelligence and innate talent.
Filipinos are also good at communication. This can be attributed to their confidence in speaking and high interpersonal intelligence. Their good command of the English language, the result of the American occupation, and their being naturally friendly, enable them to easily start a conversation with people from other countries. Their excellence in communication, aside from their being hardworking, makes them attractive to foreign employers. If there’s a profession where the ability to communicate well and deal effectively with other people is badly needed it is teaching. Thus, many Filipinos work as teachers abroad, not just for the subject English but other fields of learning as well.
These people are also resilient, almost unwilling to give up. Both the natural calamities that have plagued this nation since time immemorial and their painful experiences as colonized people hardened them. They always get back to their feet after suffering from serious setbacks. Their ingenuity and resourcefulness enable them to find ways to wiggle out of difficult situations. Their trademark sense of humor allows them to laugh their way out of even the hardest of problems.
Another Filipino value that was preserved notwithstanding colonization was close family ties. Perhaps what the despotic rules of Spain and America did was make the Filipino families closer for in times of sorrow and desperation during those long years of being unwillingly chained they had nothing to rely upon but each other. This Filipino trait is indeed epic. They maintain affinity to their relatives up to almost the 4th degree of consanguinity. Parents also allow their children to stay with them even after getting married.
Strong among Filipinos also is the so-called “bayanihan” (spirit of communal unity). It is something similar to volunteerism. The natives display this trait in many ways but the most famous is the old tradition of neighbors helping a family trying to relocate. Long bamboo poles will be placed under a Filipino traditional house and it will be carried by volunteers to its new location . It did not vanish even now that houses are built using woods and concrete. The concept of “bayanihan” still lives on. It goes on in other forms specially in times of natural calamities. The Filipinos are ready to offer their help, even resources, to their neighbors in need. This is also part of the Filipino’s innate humanity that was strengthened by their having exposed to the doctrine of Christianity.
But Filipinos have negative traits as well.