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Independence Day 2023 Series: National Identity and Modern Nationalism, Final Part

The Philippine Independence Day celebrations on June 12, 2023, have come and gone and everyone has pretty much moved on – a charade that happens every year. During the event’s celebration, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. (PBBM) said that “the flag, national march, and proclamation in writing affirmed the victory that was brought forth by battles won and sacrifices made, which gave the mighty Filipinos the guidance and confidence to move forward united.”

Marcos added that the “Filipinos remained defiant with the new oppressors and challenges, which affirmed that it is in the Filipinos’ core to defend what is ours… In everything we do, let us pursue excellence and integrity with the knowledge that we are living out the visions our predecessors held on to and the comfort they toiled for,” he said.

PBBM’s oratory was full of feel-good words but lacked realism. We can’t blame him for making a pitch for unity by making Filipinos feel good about the past through such words but only for a passing moment. If we parse through his speech, we will find that they are not true in a deeper sense. Note that the line “Affirmed the victory that was brought forth by battles won and sacrifices made,” refers to battles won and not the war against Spain.

“Which gave the mighty Filipinos the guidance and confidence to move forward UNITED,” is rather hyperbolic given the fact that just about every elected president of the republic always aspires to unite the country. The bare fact is that the Philippines did not win the war against Spain nor with the Americans, much less gain its independence “through battles won.” Philippine independence was granted by the United States after nearly 50 years of taking advantage of the country’s natural resources.

Trying to achieve national unity is a charade because it will never happen, unless the country is invaded militarily. Undoubtedly, Filipinos will be defiant as Marcos alluded to, and will resort to guerilla warfare, if they have to. In peacetime, Filipinos do not give a hoot about nationalism but are strongly regionalist. Understanding this fact will go a long way to indirectly achieving “unity in purpose.”

Modern nationalism, then, ought to focus on developing regions rather than trying to take a big bite on achieving it for the country as a whole. Modern nationalism should include taking a look at the proposal for federalism but from a regional perspective. Each region should look for what is best for them because in doing so, they are actually contributing to the country by making it whole. Efforts to switch to a different form of government will always fail because Filipinos are always looking at it from “what’s best for the country.”

Bangsamoro is a case in point. When the Muslim south pushed for their autonomy, they did so by considering what is best for them. Even if there were constitutional infirmities, politicians and the Supreme Court found a cure for them. In a nutshell, if each autonomous region (as in federalism) prospers, the net sum will be a prosperous Philippines.

Filipinos need to stop killing fellow Filipinos on the altar of capitalism. The government is bent on “defending” itself and by extension, democracy from insurgent Filipinos. Insurgent Filipinos kill government forces in an effort to free them (and the country) from the tentacles of capitalism and achieve true democracy.

A regional approach to the insurgency should be part of the agenda of strengthening the autonomy of regions. If every Bicolano (Rightist, Centrist or Leftist) works together to help improve the economy of the region, then everyone will be invested in a successful outcome. Perhaps modern nationalism then can include both regional government forces and cadres of the New Peoples’ Army as a regional self-defense force whose mission is protecting the region’s patrimony.

Think about it. Politicians themselves are often involved in harming the environment through their own pursuit of capitalism. Add the word “illegal” to fishing, mining, land conversions, and others; and for every endeavor, a politician could be behind it. Now, the NPA for sure will act as a balancing force to prevent such corrupt intentions.

Why can’t regions, if they have not done so already, form a regional development board to hasten economic prosperity of the region. In Bicol, for example, each province has a tourist spot to offer but are needing capital infusion from outside the region to modernize their facilities and better protect the environment. Rather than competing with each other, the regional board can work on securing investments for the region based on an established regional priority.

Each region should look at Taiwan, a small breakaway province of China. By prioritizing regional interest, the region, in essence, is breaking away from “Imperial Manila” and being autonomous. Taiwan was able to stand on its own despite the towering shadow of Mainland China over its affairs. Today, Taiwan has the latest weaponry from the United States arsenal and a citizenry willing to die defending its small nation.

Philippine independence is a mirage and citizens who think otherwise are engaged in wishful thinking given the strong influences of foreign powers i.e., United States, China) to how the country is run. Filipinos can continue to believe constitutional provisions that the Philippines “renounces war” as an instrument of national policy as envisioned by the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928.

In reality, the Philippines is duty bound to engage in war because of its Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States. The drumbeats are getting stronger and picking up a faster cadence that China will invade Taiwan. It will be foolish for China to do that, but delusional leaders do foolish things to their own detriment. The additional bases required under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) ensures that in one form or another, the Philippines will be complicit in the war that will breakout between the two superpowers.

Philippine presidents can continue to wish and say that they are pursuing an independent foreign policy per the country’s Constitution, but in truth, however, Philippine foreign policy will always be dictated by these foreign powers. All they can really do is wish that war will not break out during their term.

In fine, Filipinos need to arouse their nationalistic fervor and think of how to strengthen their regions. The president can be more effective helping regions if the regions themselves are helping promote their own interests. Bicol, which is predominantly agricultural, is blessed with having its own state agricultural college, but it is yet to find the courage to have a new generation of modern farmers.

The challenge, therefore, is for the new generation to develop a love for agriculture. The current generation, however, has the duty to develop such fervor. Political and community leaders, parents, and teachers need to stop romanticizing marquee professions and help the new generation see the value and importance of pursuing professions in aqua and agriculture.


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