Filipino nationalism

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - April 15, 2021 - 12:00am

The one Filipino who is the embodiment of Philippine nationalism is the former senator Claro Mayo Recto. In 1957, he ran for president, together with Lorenzo Tañada as his running mate. His platform was basically centered on the nationalist theme that we needed an independent foreign policy and that foreign bases should be removed from the Philippines. This was a courageous stand in a period when the Philippines was still economically dependent on the United States.

Today the foreign policy issues in this country center on China, a superpower who is unfortunately our neighbor. What we now have is a much stronger power that has claimed what is our territory. There are Chinese militia vessels in the Juan Felipe Reef which is within the 12-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

Perhaps it is because of our strategic location at the crossroad in this part of the world. We are also strategically located with our western coastlines bordering the South China. We have become a target for either domination or colonization by so many superpowers in the past – Spain, Great Britain, United States, Japan and now China. In our historic past, the struggle against foreign domination by successive super powers was part of the Philippine story.

Nationalism has always been the battle cry that our past heroes have used to fight colonial and neo-colonial rulers. Recto once wrote:

“The battle cry that animates and sets in motion millions of hearts and minds is nationalism. It is not a passing emotion, not a naïve longing for the trappings of sovereignty. It is persevering, militant and mature.

“Its militancy is evident in its determination to correct the wrongs of the past, to effect changes that shall place the political, cultural and economic life of peoples under their own forging and control. It connotes perseverance because it is consubstantial and as such coequal with country and people. Its maturity may be perceived in its refusal to accept form for substance, illusion for reality.”

I remember talking to a former student of mine who was planning to migrate to the United States. It is a familiar refrain. He told his decision in an apologetic tone for he knew that I had always advocated that those who were not financially hard pressed and possessed the talent the country needs should stay in the Philippines to help build a better future for future generations.

He said he was giving up because he felt that there was no way that the corrupt and powerful politicians who are now largely in control could ever be defeated.

Nationalism is the only emotion that can motivate that former student of mine to continue the struggle to change the corrupt political and economic system we have today.

Unfortunately, there are those who misunderstand nationalism, thinking that it is old fashioned and illogical in today’s world. There are businessmen who believe that globalization is the mantra for the modern society, and that nationalism is accompanied by protectionism.

Recto in a speech “Nationalism and Our Historic Past” said:

“What are the basic components of nationalism? One is the growing and deepening consciousness that we are a distinct people with our own character and spirit, our own customs and traditions, our own ideals, our own way of thinking, our own way of life. What sets us apart as a people distinct from any other are the experiences and vicissitudes we have gone through together as a nation in our own environment. A Filipino cannot assert this identity and call himself a nationalist unless he is one with his people’s history and has enshrined in his heart the precepts and example of our heroes and martyrs.”

There are still people from the so-called educated class who associate the word Filipino or Pinoy with the masses, who they believe are an inferior class.

This was the same situation during our colonial period when the Spanish colonizers believed that the “lowly Indio” was an inferior race. But it was the Spanish colonizers who were responsible for the economic misery of the country and the Indio was the victim.

Nationalism includes pride in being Filipino. Recto said: “A firm belief in the genius of our race and in the capacity of their destiny is another basic component of nationalism. But this belief can be acquired only through an understanding of their struggles and accomplishments, their trials and tribulations, the sum total of their experiences since the dawn of their history.”

Philippine history speaks of so many great heroes who loved their country. There were Rizal, Mabini, Del Pilar, Bonifacio, Aguinaldo and Luna in the fight against Spain. There were Quezon, Osmeña, Laurel and Recto in the struggle for independence. There were Tañada, Diokno, Rodrigo and Aquino in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship and the restoration of democracy. I believe that they were all nationalists.

When historians write about this period in Philippine history, they will write about a new generation of heroes, heroines and nationalists. There will always be Filipinos who will truly believe that love of country and people is a matter of duty and pride. There will always be Filipinos who will continue to believe in nationalism.

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Young Writers’ Hangout via Zoom on April 24, 2-3 p.m. with Neni Sta. Romana Cruz. Contact  writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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