Philippine Independence Day (the original thread)
This is the original thread of the discussion taken from the email list, consolidating my article and responses from Lutie Lee, Art Rivera, Eleanor Umali, and Rowena Torrevillas. Please post your reply elsewhere in this category either by starting another topic or replying to Bong Sabooboro's post elsewhere in this category.
In 1961, I discovered a hitherto unpublicized historical fact that Filipinos did not choose their national hero. It was the second Philippine Commission appointed by Pres. Willam McKinley and composed of Americans that chose Jose Rizal and the supposed primary criterion was that he should be a man of peace. That automatically eliminated all the figures associated with the Philippine Revolution such as Bonifacio, Aguinaldo, Mabini, Antonio Luna and Gregorio del Pilar, to mention a few. I was very angry and wanted to publicize the truth, question Rizal's status and suggest that a new national hero should be chosen among those who led the Filipinos in their war of independence. Against the admonitions of my mentors ("Delicado, hijo") I wrote an article for the student paper of the Lyceum of the Philippines where I was then a 22-year old instructor of Philippine History. In it, I expressed my thoughts and suggested that Andres Bonifacio should be the national hero. Given the rising radical nationalistic spirit of the times, my article drew quiet approval from the right people. For several years I continued my crusade. One of the high points of this crusade happened in 1971 when as a professor in Religious Studies and Homiletics at Silliman, I coached the Divinity School team in a special Dia Eufonia debate against its College of Law counterpart in which the proposition was that Andres Bonifacio should be the national hero. The debate was conducted in Cebuano and my Divinity team composed of Joel Tabada and Francisco Ugsad took the affirmative side. I left the country just before the debate took place but the audiotapes that were sent to me by my wife Ruby, who moderated the debate, revealed that due to the novelty of a debate in the native Visayan language and the highly controversial topic, the debate was a big success. Parenthetically, the Rev. Joel Tabada must have been so inspired by that experience that in the prison ministry that he conducts in Dumaguete, he has made debating among the inmates a regular and exciting part of their program.
Today, as I greet my brothers and sisters of the Filipino Diaspora on the occasion of the observance of Philippine Independence Day, I have a confession to make. I no longer believe that any of the Philippine revolutionary leaders deserves to be the Philippine national hero. Although he may have been imposed from outside, I believe with all my heart that Jose Rizal was the right choice. The true pride of the Malay race, he has earned world-wide respect; his works are translated in many languages and his words are quoted by international scholars, philosophers and statesmen. He is in every respect the model Filipino. And even though he refused to endorse the Philippine Revolution when he was asked, he was the inspiration of the revolutionaries with no less than Aguinaldo himself paying him tribute by making one of his earliest presidential proclamations in 1898 that of declaring December 30, the day of Rizal's martyrdom in the hands of the Spaniards at Bagumbayan, as a day of mourning. When Rizal said "No" to Dr. Pio Valenzuela, who was sent by Andres Bonifacio to Dapitan to obtain his blessings on the Katipunan, it was because he felt that the Filipinos were not ready and he was right. Therefore, in that regard, June 12 should be commemorated as the battlecry for an unfinished struggle for Philippine independence. The war for Philippine liberation in 1896-1901 was unsuccessful not because of the Pact of Biaknabato and not because it was preempted by American occupation in 1898. It was because Filipinos did not have their act together. That was the powerful message in Dr. Rizal's writings and it continues to be. If Filipinos are to determine their own national destiny, they need to first look at themselves, as Rizal suggested, and ask if they have the discipline, the selflessness and the spirit of sacrifice that are needed to build a nation.
In the spirit of peace, love and justice,
The Rev.Dr. Federico I. Agnir
6119 Weatherwood Circle.
Wesley Chapel, FL 33544
813-991-1924 (home) or 813-451-4267 (cell)
From: "Art Rivera"
To: "Federico I. Agnir"
Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2006 20:40:55 -0400
Have to commend and thank you for sharing the blessing of your analysis and knowledge.
The challenge is how to empower the FILIPINO and to learn from its history.
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2006 16:44:42 EDT
Subject: Re: [Tipon-Silliman] Philippine Independence Day
May I respond to your question? It is highly probable that we won't feel empowered even reading our history or even Kuya Ed's analysis. Hopeless? Yes! Reading gives us intellectual enlightenment, then, what? Unless, we go back to the Phil. like what Rizal did and campaign for reforms not revolution, even it will cause us our lives, then we demonstrate we didn't die feeling hopeless. Rizal's ideas continue to ring. But for all of us, in the US and Philippines, to feel there is hope, we must first decolonize our colonized minds. For so long we stay inside our colonized minds, we feel hopeless. People like us in the US, living comfortably with our dollars are the most colonized folks. We are constantly engaged in observing the notion of western standard ways. We are critical of those who fall short of reaching western standard ways. We even despise them. One example of this are kanang dili kaayo mahibalo mag ininglis - spoken or written. Their humanity is devalued. We must regard everyone with high esteem regardless of the language, "pachada" or not; nothing changed in their humanity.
In a year or so, I will be going home and I hope by then, I already succeeded to decolonize my colonized education. I will be going against the current because right now there is a massive exodus to come to the US for greener pasture and to subconsciously live out more colonized minds of Filipinos.
We are still seeking for leaders in our country who will become the voice or the conscience of the nation. Perhaps, this person is not yet born who can unite us into a nation. Since 1898, our revolution failed to become a nation, a united Filipino nation. We are still scattered islands. I blamed the highly educated Filipinos at that time, the illustrados. They were the ones who negotiated with the Americans and when they were given positions in the new government, they were silenced. But Mabini and Aguinaldo forces did not want to bow down to the Americans. (But the educated Filipinos in Manila already did.) After a few years, both were captured. Once again we were a colony of another country.
We need a Rizal in our ranks, who will return to the Philippines not because to retire in his old age but to do something for the country in his prime age. Rizal was 35 years old.
I was carried away,
From: "Eleanor Umali"
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 10:27:19 -0400
Subject: Re: [Tipon-Silliman] Independence Day
Hopeless? Why so?
Is not the Filipino you and I -- and all the community of family, friends, and countless others we've crossed paths with in the Philippines and in the U.S.?
Do we ever stop being Filipino? Regardless of where we are and of how "different" we've become, we remain Filipino. Those of us who came to the U.S. as adults will always be Filipinos, not only at heart but in mind. We respect and acquire a love for our adoptive country, but nothing replaces the innate love for the country we were born and raised in.
What we are, how we see things, how we relate -- are a product of the culture that nurtured us. And, I'm sure, many of us share the conviction that that culture has served us immensely well.
Hopeless? Why so?
I see Filipinos working hard and honestly for their living; teaching their children the Filipino values of hard work, integrity, the love of God, and respect and sensitivity for others; living quiet, dignified lives. When you put all these lives together -- where is the hopelessness?
(Of course, there are those who choose, at one time or another -- to be a disservice to themselves and to society. But, what country/nation does not have their fair share of such men and women?)
The decolonization of our minds?
The questioning of our ability to govern ourselves, the looking to others to make things better, the hoping for that visionary and uniter who is yet to come -- these are not the thoughts of a decolonized mind. We are the Filipino NOW. Whereever and whatever we may be.
Our forefathers bore the indignity of being a colonized people. We owe it to them to move on.
Jose Rizal was a great man with a great vision, as were Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Antonio Luna, Gregorio del Pilar, and countless others of their time. Their vision empowered them. What we hold on to as a people is the enormity of their love of country and their dream of true sovereignty. That a nation can produce men such as they is a testament to its maturity. I do not understand the concept of being unprepared for independence nor of hopelessness.
Senior Project Manager
Professional Publishing Group
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 12:17:00 -0500
Subject: Re: [Tipon-Silliman] Philippine Independence Day
Hello, Lutie. It's good to hear from you. Having come into this conversation
rather late, only through your thread, I can only respond to the concerns
I, too, have lived in the US more than half my life, and I feel fortunate that
there are two places I can call my home. I feel blessed to have two homes, and
I try to make it to Dumaguete every year, without feeling disloyal to one home
or the other.
We expats will always feel homesick, no matter what side of the globe we happen
to be in (wishing we were in the orderliness of the States whenever we're in
midst of the cheerful anarchy of a visit to the Philippines; wishing we had the
gracious pace and enfolding sense of community of our homeland whenever we're
frazzled by the US way of doing things).
Perhaps it's not productive for us to wish for another Rizal, or to mourn over
what-might-have-been if only we hadn't been the subjects of three waves of
colonizing, or to feel guilty and despise ourselves for seeming to have caved
in to the lure of living abroad and sold out to the dollar.
Whether expats or not, we Filipinos are the fortunate recipients of the
linguistic and cultural advantages bequeathed by our colonizers. The colonial
experience has given us a unique adaptability: we are adept at navigating
between cultures, and we know the value of language from having to weigh the
meanings of multiple vocabularies. This is our identity, and our strength.
As for our lacking a sense of nationhood...Nick Joaquin identified the reason
so well: our archipelago topography defined us linguistically, and our
island-to-island separatedness rendered us incapable of seeing ourselves as a
homogeneous unit; our first, and oftentimes only, loyalty is to our family or
clan. The communications base of the current times has changed that premise,
and we are now facing a challenge from the other end of the spectrum: the
linguistic diversity of the Philippines is fast disappearing; I, for one, do
not speak Gaddang, the dialect of my mother's hometown, a language spoken by
less than twenty thousand people, and I fear that its wealth (as a language, as
a repository of cultural history) will vanish some day soon.
As a nation, we've had our moments of glorious unanimity -- most recently, when
we showed the rest of the world how to topple a dictator without bloodshed. The
example of the Philippines inspired countries like Poland when the people at
EDSA created the template for the nonviolent overthrow of tyranny. Perhaps, in
that way, we Filipinos helped realign the forces of power globally, since there
is no more USSR.
We should be proud of that achievement. We ought to be humble, too, in
accepting the reality that such moments, for any people, are rare. As you know,
the matter of identity is always an individual work-in-progress.
I'm sorry I don't agree when you say
> In a year or so, I will be going home and I hope by then, I already succeeded
> to decolonize my colonized education.
We are lucky, Lutie: that so-called colonized education has given us the world.
All good wishes,