More nationalistic than all presidential rhetoric!

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - January 2, 2016 - 9:00am

Towards the end of the year 2015, we had a bit of news of an uncommon kind. If I may add, it was of great nationalistic dimension. This was about the trip undertaken by some fifty or so young Filipinos on one of the group of islands of Philippine territory dotting the West Philippine Sea, more commonly known as the Spratlys. On national television, those young men and women, on a boat which could be mistaken for a mine-sweeper relic, were shown to have happily waded ashore and triumphantly visited a town hall in what I believe is the westernmost municipality of our republic.

If we view the trip purely as an adventure, it should be considered as top rated. Should tourism industry officials and stakeholders apply their known standards, the journey could be high up in the scales. Visiting a distant island with so many unknown factors to consider is more exciting than, say, going to Boracay where you are supposed to find everything luxurious and expectedly enticing. In that regard, the voyage was Triple A. That was how Camsur was discovered.  Nothing beats expecting the unexpected in the truest sense of adventure as Hernando de Magallanes had in mind when he sailed to uncharted seas.

Those young exuberant Filipinos might perhaps have purely Christmas frolic in their mind when they planned the trip. We can trust the youth to conjure many unimaginable scenes and work on them. Going to an island is among them. This time, there was something more. It was a superb idea for a group of fun-loving and adventure seeking Filipinos to bring glad tidings to their brother Filipinos who might not have seen how expensive and raucous Christmas is celebrated in the mainland.

Why should I call their journey nationalistic? For many years, our country has been bullied by China. The Chinese drew the 9 dash line close to mainland Philippines and proclaimed to the world that everything within the line was theirs. When I say "everything" China really meant it such that all islands, islets and rock formations within the West Philippine Sea are part of China, in utter disregard of international law! Why could China do it? Simply because these chink-eyed modern day imperialists know we have nothing to offer in any form of resistance.

Sure, our government initiated diplomatic protests. In fact, in the first round of setting disputes, we have gained the nod of an international court to rule that it has jurisdiction over our case. I do not take for granted the legal angle our government is doing but, sadly, beyond paperwork, we have allowed either our fear or our indolence to rein us.

Let me cite an instance of government inaction. When Chinese coast guard vessels (really they were elements of their Navy) trained their water hoses to drive our fishermen's boats away from Philippine territory, we could not even offer any form assistance to brother Filipinos. Our navy boats are vintage second world war and could not face the Chinese even in a non-combative standoff, but, if self-respect were to be the yardstick, our vessels should have come to the aid of our fishermen's boats however they were disadvantaged.

I will ask you to look carefully at the event leading to the recent journey of the Filipino youth to Kalaya-an. They were asked by our authorities not to embark on the planned trip. They were threatened by our own navy officials not to proceed with the voyage for virtual fear of Chinese reprisals! Why should Filipino young men and women be dissuaded from visiting brother Filipinos who are residing on a Filipino island by Filipino officials working in Philippine government and salaried by taxes paid by Filipinos? Believe me, I do not understand the logic behind that attempt by elements of Philippine navy to stop the visit. If the Kalaya-an is part of the Philippine territory and its ostensible local government unit there is part of our system, it definitely must be within Philippine territory!

The visit by those young Filipinos in the Spratleys needs our collective national support. In fact, we should honor those youth for displaying love of our country. Their act is more nationalistic that the motherhood claims of all 2016 presidential aspirants combined.

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