Sunday, June 29, 2008

Reflections on two friendship days

The Chairwrecker Mac Esposo reflects on the coming Philippine-American Friendship Day on July 4 with this op ed piece in the Philippine Star.

Mac writes

"At best, Philippine-US relations can be considered a mixed blessing. The US introduced public education here as well as the US brand of democracy which we follow to this day. But if we are to weigh what they gave versus what they took — we will find that they took more than what we could afford to give."

Well for our younger readers that's what colonialism is exactly all about whether it was for the Christianization of the islands by Spain, making the islands in their own image by the Americans, the Japanese idea of "Asian for Asiatics" etc.

Our colonial history is unfortunately a part of where we came from. It is in our best interest and sanity to remember its legacy, which is at best mixed.

That's why I think that it is of childish "nationalistic" spite that the Philippines removed from its calendar of holidays and official commemorations "Philippine-American Friendship Day". That day in 1946 is of immense historical significance for the us and the Americans. Perhaps the name should have been changed to "Republic Day" as during the term of President Fidel Ramos. After all it really wasn't our independence day, but love them or hate them, Quezon and the Americans set us on the road to republicanism on that day. The neo-colonial history of the US and the Philippines is odious and that has to be , but it is our take now to build and live the republic we dream of.

The other friendship day is on June 30, El Dia de Amistad de Hispano-Filipina. We celebrate the gentlemanly end to our war with Spain with the surrender of the Baler garrison in 1899. This article in English and Castellano narrates the whole episode when President Aguinaldo issue a decree declaring the Spanish soldiers not as prisoners but friends. This article narrates the day en la lengua Castellana.

Years afterward we Filipinos have almost no ill will against Spain. But most of us have some degree of ill will against the Kano! I have. The Americans killed as prisoners of war some of my ancestors who fought against them in the Philippine-American War. But why can't we get over the past?

In an earlier post, I wrote that it is considered rude to be anti-Spain today. Their Catholic Majesties Juan Carlos and Sofia have visited us first on our centennial ten years ago and sometime later for the inauguration of the Sentro Oftalmologico Jose Rizal at the PGH. The Spanish Queen even visited the Greenhills tiangge without generating much fuss.

In contrast when US President George W Bush with a dour Condi Rice in tow visited us and spoke to our Congress, the whole of Metro Manila was shut down.

Perhaps the last incident with our 400 year relationship with Spain placed a closure. In the early 20th century the friar and Filipinization issue was still a burning issue but not against Spain but against the Roman Church who still looked at Filipinos as incapable of high sacerdotal office.

In short, Spain after June 30, 1899 let go. After July 4, 1946, the Americans couldn't let go. They can't even return those Balangiga bells to the church from where it was taken.

Also there is a fact that has been consistently ignored by Pinoy op ed columnists. The Spain of more than a hundred years ago is no longer the Spain of today. From an imperialist and colonial power, Spain has become a liberal democratic and inclusive nation in the European Union. While there are tensions within the Spanish state, Spain seems to work and its regional identities recognized within its national identity. The King has defended the liberal democracy against coup plotters in 1981 and the Principe de Asturias has taken an oath of allegiance to the Cortes.

In contrast the United States of William McKinley is in many aspects not dissimilar to the United States that Barack Obama and John McCain are trying to lead. While there was a Philippine problem in the early 1900, they have an Iraq problem in the early 2000s.

While there have been developments in American society leading to a more liberal and inclusive democracy, the tensions that brought on the Civil War still remain.

And as Mac Esposo writes

"Two things deter our becoming a strong nation. One is that we remain a collection of tribes and have never really become a nation. The other is that, for a small country, we seem to have the misfortune of breeding too many Quislings"

We have Filipinos who think Filipinos cannot make their nation work.

We still need to have the real Filipinos that will put their country above else. But historical myopia which we are all at fault is not the way to go.

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