A FEW THOUGHTS ON FREEDOM AND COLONIAL CULTURE
by Ferdinan S. Gregorio

       According to Esteban de Ocampo, former Chairperson and Executive Director of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, “Filipinos are by nature and tradition a liberty-loving people. The pages of their history are replete with revolts, uprisings, mutinies, insurrections, and rebellions to free themselves from injustices, abuses, vexations, discriminations and oppressions of conquerors, whether Spanish, Japanese or Americans. To borrow Sir Winston Churchill’s phrase, Filipinos have shed much ‘blood, sweat and tears’ in their fight for human freedom and national dignity”.  

      On the 12th of June, the nation will celebrate its 113th Independence Anniversary. Independence Day is commonly associated with the freedom that we achieved after our heroes shed blood for the country by means of an armed resistance and propaganda movements. But for the youth today, the essence of celebrating a date that shaped our nationhood seems have vanished, making it a plain, red printed holiday in the calendar, free from work and classes.

     After more than a century ago, it would be interesting question to ask ourselves if we have totally attained independence? Are we really independent or is it just a concept that we claim to boost our pride as a sovereign nation? 113 years after General Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence, the question remains the same- are the Filipinos truly free?

      We are free from the dangers and horrors brought by the Spanish Guardia Civil or an American Soldier holding a loaded rifle. But we have succumbed to the subtle encroachment of neo-colonialism.  As defined by Merriam Webster, neo-colonialism is the economic and political policies by which a great power indirectly maintains or extends its influence over other areas or peoples. This influence is not merely economic or political, but also cultural. Such a system allows the supplanting of a people’s unique indigenous culture by that another.

       Neo-colonialism has allowed the invasion of globalization, free trade and commercialization in the Philippines, tools by which the transnational companies used to monopolize the world market. Globalization is like a cordon that symbolizes a no escape zone for the Philippines. The Philippines, due to high inflation rates and its devalued Peso, imports a lot of cheaper products from China, killing what remains of our local industries. In truth, our markets are flooded not only with Chinese products but those of other foreign countries, under such economic realities.

      Every morning, we wake up and do the day’s routine. A typical Pinoy breakfast consists of hotdogs, bacons, pasteurized cheese, cereals and beverages, much of these are foreign products. Most of the Filipinos still use toothpaste that was introduced by the Americans many decades ago. Filipinos love to listen to hip-hop songs by foreign rappers and hate not being in on the latest American hit movie. Yes, Filipinos are still shadows of their colonial past, a past that is akin to a leech stuck to the national character.

        Though sad but true, human labor is our main export today. We export our countrymen, families and friends in exchange for dollar remittances. It was our heroes’ dream to liberate the Filipinos from any form of foreign slavery, but today, extreme poverty forces Filipinos to work in foreign lands and ironically serve the same foreign masters who oppressed us before.  

        During the Spanish and American colonial eras, the Philippines was politically and economically controlled by those two countries. The Spaniards labeled the Filipino race as Indio, to underscore our inferiority.  In a debate on the Treaty of Paris in 1898, U.S. Senator MacLaurin asserted that the possible annexation of the Philippines would mean the “incorporation of a mongrel and semi-barbarous population into our body politic, which was inferior to, but akin to the Negro in moral and intellectual qualities…”.   To the Americans, we belonged to the lowest class of civilization simply because we are Filipinos. We admit it or not, this mentality the Whites taught us is like a scar that marks our consciousness. Today, most of us still follow the standards of beauty set by our past oppressors. In fact, Filipinos patronize whitening products to erase their natural kayumanggi complexion and “assume” the skin color of he Anglo-Saxon American.

     Recently, Sarangani Congressman and World Boxing Champ Manny Pacquiao voluntarily deactivated his Twitter account because of foul comments from English-literate critics who seemed to forget that English is not our native tongue. Before the Spaniards and the Americans conquered the Philippines, our ancestors used the Alibata and their respective regional dialects to communicate with each other. It is not a mortal sin if Manny Pacquiao commits errors in English grammar. When he becomes inarticulate to his native tongue, like a so called “Coño”, that is time for us to say boo to Manny.

        Religion is probably the most popular vestige of colonialism that was left by the Spaniards and Americans From animism, the Filipinos were drawn to the Christian doctrine. Islam, a dominant religion in Mindanao was not founded by a Filipino but by an Arab named Mohammad.  Our anitos were replaced by statues with Greek features. Today, a various sects are sprouting like mushrooms to teach Western theology.  

        When we go to the movies, we patronize Hollywood films because our colonial culture has conditioned us to believe that local productions are inferior in all aspects. All of these manifestations of colonial culture and colonial mentality recall the words of Renato Constantino wrote in one of his books;

        “The Americans established a system of education using English as a medium of instruction… English opened new vistas of Western culture to their dazed eyes and enabled them to write poetry about autumn and winter and snow on fir trees… But more important because of greater practical value…their rudimentary command of English enabled Filipino citizens to import Hollywood movies, to purchase large quantities of American publications, and to consume a phenomenal amount of American-made goods”.

        Where Jose Rizal visualized where Filipinos are now in his “The Philippines a Century Hence”;

        “Then began a new era for the Filipinos; little by little they lost their old traditions, the mementos of their past; they gave up their writing, their songs, their poems, their laws in order to learn by rote mother doctrines which they did not understand, another morality, another aesthetics different from those inspired by their climate and their manner of thinking. Then they declined, degrading themselves in their own eyes; they became ashamed of was their own; they began to admire and praise whatever was foreign and incomprehensible; their spirit was dismayed and it surrendered.”

        June 12, 1898 was a milestone event that all Filipinos should commemorate. However, the challenge this event presents before us every year is to achieve true independence. This kind of independence does not stop with the absence of foreign military invasions but starts with the application of nationalist ideas by all Filipinos.

 


REFERENCES:

June 12, 1898 and Related Documents. National Historical Institute. 1993
Political and Historical Writings (1884-1890) Rizal. National Historical Institute. 1978
Constantino, Renato B. Neocolonial Identity and Counter-Consciousness: Essays on Cultural Decolonization. The Merlin Press. 1978.