(Last in a Series)
The first three parts of this series of articles identified our serious faults as Filipinos – we sell our votes, we use questionable standards when choosing leaders, we treat elections as if they are popularity contests allowing immensely popular but inexperienced and incompetent celebrities to win, and we either keep restoring from the “recycle bin” the same traditional politicians or replace them with a family member.
Our inability to choose the right leaders is clearly one of the factors preventing us from reaching our full socio-political and economic potential as a nation.
We know that the government plays the most essential role in leading all efforts to make this country progressive. We need the best leaders if we really want to become a “developed nation.” It is our responsibility as citizens to select the best ones to hold the reins of government. Unfortunately, we keep failing to do so.
The funny thing is that after we put them into power – the politicians who won because they have the money to buy votes, celebrities-turned-politicians who are inexperienced and incompetent, and “recycled politicians” and the members of their political dynasties – we expect them to perform well. After every election, we expect a better-performing government.
And why would we expect a different government – a more effective one – when we know that we keep electing the same politicians or use the same old rotten standards when choosing new leaders?
Let us revisit Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity – “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
But assuming that one day we restore our sanity and finally we refuse to sell our votes – finally we learn to elect into office the most deserving and most qualified among candidates – would the wheels of national development start rolling?
Not quite yet!
There’s one more problem, a problem more serious than our failure to vote wisely and conscientiously. The more serious problem of Filipinos, as mentioned in the first part of this series, is the mindset that that the leaders we elect are solely responsible in solving all of our society’s ills and nation’s problems.
We view our relationship with the state at the vantage point of “self-entitlement.” We think that it is the duty of our leaders to give us “this and that.” We say that the government should do “this and that” for us. See, we expect too much from leaders whom we don’t even choose using the best and most appropriate standards.
Is it the duty of the government to provide each citizen with food, cloths, and shelter?
Of course not!
What the government does, generally speaking, is to formulate, implement, and enforce the laws of the land, to build infrastructure, to ensure peace and order, and to create economic and other opportunities that would help its citizens enjoy the conveniences of life and have the best chance to get good education and find or create means of livelihood.
It is also not the duty of the government to provide everybody a job?
One of the functions of the government is to create an environment that would promote economic growth. They have to make sure that businessmen would be encouraged to invest and initiate businesses activities thus creating job opportunities. But jobs are not given in a silver platter. We have to search for job openings and apply and make sure that we have the required qualifications for the jobs we want. Getting ourselves ready for employment is a personal responsibility. The government will not deliver to our doorsteps the jobs that we want.
The government itself is also an employer but it cannot possibly provide each citizen with a job. It is also impossible for the private sector to employ everybody. That’s just the reality. Harsh it may be. Those who won’t get employed, or do not want to work for others because they have better plans for themselves, could perhaps succeed as entrepreneurs.
Not everybody would get a college degree. Not everybody are trained and destined to be in a workplace – either in the corporate world or in the academe. Some of us will be factory workers, sales clerks, farmers, fishermen, plumbers, drivers, gardeners, or what-have-you. It doesn’t matter whatever jobs we have for as long as they are decent and they allow us to earn a living honestly.
Don’t reason out that you came from a poor family and your parents could not send you to school to get a good education and have a better chance for a better life.
This is just how many of us Filipinos are. When we don’t succeed in life, when things don’t turn the way we expect them to, when we are not doing well in the different areas of our personal lives, we are always ready to check our “blame list” to find somebody or something to put the blame on. And our favorite whipping boy – the government. When we are done accusing our leaders for not doing their job well causing us to become losers, we next vent our ire on our parents saying that they did not work hard enough to ensure that we live a good life when we become adults.
We need to throw away that “blame list” for whether we like it or not we are personally responsible and accountable for our success and failure. There comes a time in our lives when we should become be self-sufficient, a time when we, not the government nor our parents, decide for ourselves and take full control of our destiny.
We Filipinos need to realize that unless we recognize our faults and change there’s no way this country becomes progressive and “developed.” We will never gain the respect of the community of nations if we remain the way that we are now.
Something was said by John F. Kennedy that we should reflect upon – “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
We Filipinos need to realize that there are two requirements for a country to become progressive and developed – good government and cooperative citizenry. Remove one and a country is doomed. The citizens and their leaders need to work harmoniously towards achieving national goals. There’s no other way. Both of them need to work hard. They have to work hand in hand.
Filipinos often ask questions like, “What would Philippines be like today had Spain not colonized the island nation? Would the Filipino character developed 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? The 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…
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For a better appreciation of who and what the Filipino is one has to decipher the Filipino psyche and identify the factors that contributed to its formation. An in-depth analysis of the character of these people would require a thorough examination of their history and racial origins. The Filipino cannot be figured out by establishing assumptions based on stereotyping and by magnifying him using a supremacist lens.
The pre-colonial Filipino was a race whose culture and genetic pool was a mix of Negrito, Indones, Malay, Arab, Hindu and Chinese and whose spirit was either strengthened or weakened by the geographics of the island nation and its corresponding climate. There was a genetic and cultural identity flourishing in this part of Southeast Asia before the Portuguese explorer Magellan and his Spanish expedition landed in Mactan in 1521. There was a national identity and character evolving when the Spaniards, led by Miguel Lopez De Legazpi, came back in 1565 to establish a stronghold in what the Europeans would later on call “Las Islas Filipinas.”
What the discovery of the Laguna copperplate in 1989 accomplished was to prove that “a well-organized form of government based on customary law”  existed in the Philippines long before the Spaniards came. The pre-colonial Filipino was not a lost soul rescued by the Europeans from the dark ages. There was an emerging racial entity when they came and it veered away from its natural course of becoming when the colonizers from the West succeeded in subduing the natives.
For 333 years that the Filipinos were under the mercy of the Spanish conquistadors. There were pocket revolts the Filipinos staged in different parts of the country to overthrow the invaders from the Iberian Peninsula but were quelled. The most significant of those uprisings was that one led by Francisco Dagohoy in Bohol that lasted for more than 80 years (1744-1929). Those attempts to vanquish the conquerors from Spain did not succeed because of the following: they were lacking in national character; based on limited geographical scales; and caused by non-encompassing issues. It was only the 1896 revolution that succeeded which eventually led to the declaration of Philippine independence in 1898.
But it was short-lived.
The Americans who the Filipinos thought came to help them establish a republic had other agenda. They duped Emilio Aguinaldo, the leader of the revolt against Spain, into believing that they didn’t need any colony and that they came to free the natives from the yoke of Spain. Then, the Filipinos watched helplessly as the Spaniards, too proud to accept defeat in the hands of the Indios they enslaved for centuries, surrendered to the Americans instead and was paid $20,000,000 for all the improvements they made in the Philippine islands during their colonial rule. That’s one of the conditions set in the Treaty of Paris in 1898 which the two countries concluded without concurring with the Filipino people.
Would the Americans pay the Spaniards that huge amount (which is worth more than half a billion dollars today) and get nothing in return? The answer is a resounding NO. America, then an emerging world power, needed to flex its muscles in the Pacific. The Philippines was the most ideal place for that. So, the Americans, contrary to their promise which Aguinaldo said he naively believed, declared Philippines a territory ceded to them by Spain.
It was a painful experience for the Filipinos. After centuries of struggle against Spain they finally had a chance to chart their own destiny as a nation. But the Americans stood on their way. The Filipinos had to continue their search for that elusive freedom.
When the Spaniards left, the natives fought the more superior American forces. It was a case of a “David” having to contend with a “Goliath.” But in this version, Goliath subdued David. The Filipinos gallantly stood their ground but eventually lost the Fil-American war after three long years of struggle.
So, the Philippines changed hands – from one colonial master to another, from the Spanish yoke to that of the American.
As a consequence of its being colonized by those two countries in the West, into the nation’s cultural and genetic pool, Spanish and American elements were assimilated. Also, the experiences of the Filipinos in those years of foreign domination have undoubtedly affected the evolution of their character. Even the policies implemented by the Spaniards and the Americans when they took turns in ruling the said nation have strongly contributed to that transformation.
The 20th century saw the emergence of a post-colonial identity, a character, that is distinctively Filipino, a character forged by the mixing of Asian and European influences, by frequent battering from natural calamities, and by the long period of colonization.
How did colonization affect the formation of the Filipino character? How did Spanish cruelty and American treachery impact the evolution of Filipino values and traits?