My father’s 80th birth anniversary is today, I’d hoped to have been able to put together, and publish, his essays from the 1950s to the 1990s (he died in 1998) by today; but the effort remains far from finished. Let me reproduce, instead, one of his essays from the 1960s, perhaps his most productive period, intellectually.
Note: First part of this article was published on July 27, 1966 and the concluding article on August 3, 1966
Culture in the Nationalist Struggle:
A Sense of National Identity
By Manuel L. Quezon, Jr.
SOME years ago, I was asked to define nationalism and I declined, feeling incapable of doing justice to the term on such short notice. I shall not attempt to define it now, but I will say that it involves basically the assertion and defense of identity, the identity of a people conscious of itself as a people. If my reader will grant me so much, it follows that official recognition of the independence of a nation does not of itself mean that the goals of nationalism have been fulfilled.
In fact, nations or states have been created to satisfy the needs or conveniences of international power politics, with the corresponding recognition according to international law. Those political creations have broken apart as soon as circumstances permitted, because the citizens had no consciousness of being a people.
We need not go deep into history to find an example.
Malaysia fell apart almost as soon as it was formed, with Singapore choosing to go its own way and the Bornean territories still undecided whether to remain definitely within the Federation. This has happened because of the absence of any feeling of national identity thus far which would make it possible for those territories to be incorporated fairly easily into a political unit largely Malay. This sense of identity is something which, at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, could have enabled the Visayas to be as easily incorporated into a political system centered on Menado, in the Celebes, as into a political system centered in Manila. Given such a historical development, Visayans today would be proud of being Indonesians instead of Filipinos.
The international recognition of the sovereign status of a territory, therefore, does not create a national identity. The former presupposes the latter, and if that national identity does not already exist, it must be created if the state is to survive the centrifugal forces which tend to blow it apart.
The identity of a people is not something simple. Even identity of race is not the determining factorÃ¢â‚¬â€at least not necessarily the determining factor. France is a perfect example. I doubt if there is a country in the world where differing, and even contradictory, political opinions have been carried to their logical extremes as in France. Yet the consciousness of French nationality has overridden all divisions.
We commonly think of France as a Latin countryÃ¢â‚¬â€I shall leave the accuracy of this idea to the judgment of those better qualified than I, but there is no doubt that there are very large non-Latin strains: Brittany is Celtic, Normandy is Nordic (at least there is a large Nordic element), part of the South is Basque. Nevertheless, every Frenchman is first and foremost a Frenchman, and being of an ethnic strain different from the majority of Frenchmen makes no one feel less of a Frenchman for it, nor do the rest consider him less of a Frenchman.
One of the strongest elements making for this sense of identity, possibly the strongest, is the sense of community in French culture. In other words, cultural identityÃ¢â‚¬â€not to be confused with cultural monotony or uniformityÃ¢â‚¬â€imbibed in the very soul of the French people, is a cement which makes any thought of a French breakup unthinkable. Even if every single state in the world were to withdraw recognition of France, France would still be France.
Concept of Culture
I have dwelt on the case of France at some length to emphasize the role which cultural nationalism should play in our nationalist struggle, which has by no means been won. Speaking of Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Philippine soul,Ã¢â‚¬Â the outcome of Philippine culture, will sound hopelessly intellectual, or romantic to some, and just plain stupid to others, so we had better steer clear of such phraseology. Let us be satisfied with trying to answer two questions, by no means simple, but at any rate more down-to-earth:
Is there a Filipino culture?
What is it?
Any answer we give will necessarily be challenged (at least in their own minds) by those whose lines is the study of culture, since space does not permit anything approaching an adequate treatment of the subject. But never mind.
The modern sociological concept of culture is that of Ã¢â‚¬Å“a way of life common to a particular people and based on a social tradition which is embodied in its institutions, its literature and its art.Ã¢â‚¬Â This view of culture is attributed to T.S. Elliot by Christopher Dawson (both among the most eminent students of culture in our age), and he agrees.
Taking this definition on the strength of the authority of the aforementioned authors, and using it as a standard, can we say that there is such a thing as Philippine culture? I believe we can answer yes.
The negative proof of this reply should be obvious to anyone who has traveled abroad or had extensive contact with foreign communities in our own land. Those Filipinos who have been to Spain (most have liked it) have found it definitely foreign, Ã¢â‚¬Å“different,Ã¢â‚¬Â despite many similarities in our customs and attitudes. Those who have been to the United States (many have disliked it) have also found it foreign, Ã¢â‚¬Å“different,Ã¢â‚¬Â despite some similarities (not very many) in our customs and attitudes. This strangeness persists, notwithstanding our continual exposure to the Ã¢â‚¬Å“American way of lifeÃ¢â‚¬Â through the press, movies, and television and the continuing close national relationship with the United States, a relationship which does not exist with Spain.
I have used Spain and the United States as examples, because they are the two countries which have had the strongest, because most recent and politically dominant, influence on us.
Lest the FilipinoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s feeling of strangeness be dismissed as due to the white faces and to the contrast between Occidental and Oriental, let us consider those who are close to us geographically and in physical appearance, the Indonesians, the Malaysians (those of them who are Malays) and the Thais.
The similarity in physical appearance and in certain social characteristics which seem to be common to tropical peoples masks the differences to a considerable extent, nevertheless the differences are there, and no matter how the Filipino may like those peoples, he will still find their ways foreign to him. If the Filipino finds himself different from all those peoples mentioned, despite all sorts of similarities, it can only be because there is a certain Ã¢â‚¬Å“hard coreÃ¢â‚¬Â of culture which makes him different, something a good deal more basic and permanent than a passport.
The FilipinoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s consciousness of the different way of life of other nations can only be explained by the existence of a standard with which he can compare it, namely, his own, the Filipino way of life.
The positive proof of the existence of a Philippine culture shades almost imperceptibly into the identification and description of Philippine culture, at least in some of its principal outlines.
For the positive proof, or, at any rate, one positive proof, we must appeal to our own experience.
The family is the life-cell of the social organism and certainly there is a common pattern of family life among Filipinos. The almost universal protest against certain patterns of behavior among some of the younger generationÃ¢â‚¬â€in their extreme manifestations, they are what is lumped under the general term Ã¢â‚¬Å“juvenile delinquency,Ã¢â‚¬Â new and unfamiliar to the older generationÃ¢â‚¬â€are an unmistakable sign that they jar the sensibilities of the rest of the population because they do not fit in with what has come to be considered the normal course of family life.
Pakikisama, whose nearest English equivalent is the now rather stilted-sounding word Ã¢â‚¬Å“comradeshipÃ¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬â€not Ã¢â‚¬Å“fellowshipÃ¢â‚¬Â because it allows for a certain amount of insincerity, nor Ã¢â‚¬Å“public relations,Ã¢â‚¬Â because it has an unmistakable ring of commercialism and both degrade the very conceptÃ¢â‚¬â€is so much a part of Philippine social tradition that gang-ism has stolen its credentials and is thus all the more difficult to expel from our midst.
The word Ã¢â‚¬Å“mabait,Ã¢â‚¬Â which I hesitate to translate because of its complex connotations, but which is commonly and most infelicitously rendered Ã¢â‚¬Å“good,Ã¢â‚¬Â magaan ang dugo, which cannot be translated at all; both are universally admired qualities inseparably connected with our social tradition.
With these three instances, significant instances, pervading as they do our lives, I believe the case for the existence of a Philippine culture is sufficiently established.
Now, what is Philippine culture? A culture ordinarily is the outcome of many factors, and as such is a complex thing. It is the product of the interplay of many influencesÃ¢â‚¬â€climate, geography, the meeting and mingling of different ethnic and racial groups, religion, the development of a native civilization and the impact of other civilizations, etc.
A Ã¢â‚¬Å“pureÃ¢â‚¬Â culture almost necessarily is an impoverished culture. A remarkable case in point is the hillbillies of the United States. I think we are justified in treating them as a cultural unit because, up to recently at any rate, they lived in a world apart. The unfortunate situation of the hillbillies requires no comment.
Egypt and China seem exceptions to the general rule of the necessity of external contactsÃ¢â‚¬â€significant contacts, that isÃ¢â‚¬â€for the development of a great culture, since both civilizations appear to have been almost entirely of indigenous, localized origin. But perhaps the petrification and death of both civilizations are the outcome of the absence of streams of renewal.
But the general rule holds: a rich culture requires the concurrence of many factors, and presumably the potential for growth and vitality is greater the more complex the factors involved. However, the process of formation and development of a culture does not take place through a mere putting together, a mechanical juxtaposition of factors.
The cultural process is an assimilative process, an organic process similar to that of nutrition, whereby a living body takes in external elements, of which some are discarded and others become a living part of the living body so that they cease to be externalÃ¢â‚¬â€they become part and parcel of the body, and in turn take part in the process of further assimilation.
Philippine culture has a background so rich that potentially we have one of the greatest cultures possible. What it is, even a thick book could hardly define adequately, certainly not a brief article. I shall limit myself to indicating some of the materials that have gone into the process of its formation, and possibly an idea of what will emerge.
The racial composition of the Filipino people merits serious and extensive study.
Presumably the original inhabitants of these islands were the Negritos. We should be indignant that these, our original Filipinos, are living an existence so completely on the margins of the mainstream of Filipino life. The fact that they are today relegated, as it were, to the status of an exotic plant that has managed to survive should not lead to the conclusion that they have not left definite contributions and influences on our present-day life.
If the touching friendliness of todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Negritos, to the point of their being easily taken advantage of, was characteristic of them in ages past, that may well be the origin of the same trait, although somewhat reduced, in todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Filipinos.
To describe the various pagan tribesÃ¢â‚¬â€those of the Mountain Province, Palawan, and MindanaoÃ¢â‚¬â€ and their possible cultural influences is not here possible, but I imagine that many beliefs which affect our daily lives are due to them and their animistic religion, beliefs which we do not even suspect we owe to them. The very limited territorial extension of each of those groups would naturally limit the extent of their influence on the subsequent inhabitants, except where their various cultures coincided, as in the example cited.
The various waves of Malay immigration are an entirely different matter. The Malays occupied pretty well all areas of the archipelago, and their customs seem to be almost universal in all Malay lands. We may, therefore, consider the Malays and their culture as constituting the raw materials of our present Philippine culture, the basic organism which underwent the cultural process of meeting, impact and assimilation, with its inevitable modification of the original organism.
It is the original Malay population, which has mainly undergone the influences of the East, first of all, the stream of culture and civilization and race. One stream came from China, fairly constant and unchanging through the ages, the other from India, through Indonesia, modified by Indonesia in a very significant manner, since in Indonesia itself the influx of Indian culture had become Indonesian and yet continued to undergo influences that changed as India itself changed, from Brahmanism, to Buddhism to Islam.
A Unique People
It was these influences, which undoubtedly underwent modifications in the Philippines, which had already modified the original Malay way of life, which, assimilated in varying ways and degrees, constituted the way of life of these Islands, when the impact of the West was felt, an impact which has made us a people unique in the world.
I say unique in the world, because we are of the East and the West, but not the East and not the West, we are of the North and the South and yet not the North nor the South: we are ourselves, Filipinos, through a beautiful and also unique process of assimilation of foreign influences to that we were originally.
This process, imperfect as all human processes must be, has given us todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Philippine culture, with a considerable degree of stability, necessary for a process of development and assimilation rather than disintegration, yet blessed with a degree of flexibility which alone can make further progress possibleÃ¢â‚¬â€a culture rich in variety without irreducible or violently conflicting streams, so that we can agree to disagree, yet with an underlying unity which binds the whole fabric together, so that we are definitely one people, with the consciousness of a common national destiny.
How to recognize this basic unity, in what it consists, and how to protect the necessary minimum of stability to enable us to deal with the modern world and its influences in such a way that the result is a healthily assimilative rather than disruptive and destructive, is a very serious problem with which we are faced.
Our survival as a nation depends on our success in dealing with the problem. I honestly believe that failure will turn into a common phenomenon what we find more and more often in individual casesÃ¢â‚¬â€the faceless Filipino.
All over Asia, Africa, and Latin America today, there is a tremendous surge of nationalism at a time when in Europe, the homeland of nationalism, there is a marked trend in the opposite direction. Perhaps a partial explanation lies in the contrasting experiences of nationalism in those areas.
In Asia, Africa, and Latin America, we view nationalism as a constructive force, a movement absolutely indispensable if the developing nations are to survive and grow in freedom, dignity, and self-respect. Our nationalism has already performed one functionÃ¢â‚¬â€the attainment of independenceÃ¢â‚¬â€but a great many tasks remain undone.
On the other hand, the Europeans have found in the course of two World Wars that, unless their nationalism is considerably toned down, it would end by destroying those very nations which it is intended to serve.
The European attitude toward General De Gaulle points up this attitude very clearly. While there is widespread admiration for De Gaulle as a leader and statesman who saved France and reestablished her as a force to reckon with in international affairs, there is even more widespread opposition, to his strong French nationalism as being a stumbling-block to the unification of Europe, which alone can save the various nations that comprise Europe.
If nationalism, which for so long amounted to a frenzy of the European nations, has brought those same nations to the sorry pass where it threatens to destroy them, while nationalism has been such a potent force for good in other parts of the world, it can only be because the term nationalism conceals both a constructive and a destructive force.
As a Destructive Force
It is destructive as it is jingoistic, insofar as it involves a crude belief in the innate superiority of one nation over another or over all others, insofar as it sets itself up against any others and, by implication and potentially, against all others. It is destructive when it reposes on falsehood, fiction, and irrational emotion, especially hate and greed; when its basic attitude is Ã¢â‚¬Å“againstÃ¢â‚¬Â as much as, or even more than, Ã¢â‚¬Å“forÃ¢â‚¬Â.
These qualities grew increasingly prominent in Europe as the 19th century drew to a close and the 20th century dawned. The increasing obsession with national aggrandizement, for a place in the sun, not in conjunction with others but to the exclusion of others or at any rate to an exaggerated overshadowing of others, led to a paranoic self-centeredness and fear of other nations, which in turn led to the build-up of armaments on a scale inconceivable in any previous age.
The Ã¢â‚¬Å“Concert of Europe,Ã¢â‚¬Â instead of producing harmony, degenerated into a Babel in which each participant tried to drown out the rest. The inevitable explosion cameÃ¢â‚¬â€World War I.
It is tragic that Europe had not learned its lesson. The end of the War, and the uneasy peace that followed, merely served to give a respite for the same old tensions to build up to an even greater explosionÃ¢â‚¬â€World War II.
From all indications, Europe has at last learned its lessonÃ¢â‚¬â€that war solves nothing if its objective is national vengeance rather than justice, and that nationalism, in its European form, is the breeding ground of yet more wars. Thus, the impatience with the anti-foreign type of nationalism; thus the willingness to co-exist with communism, not out of approval for communism but in the hope of avoiding another war which, due to the advance weaponry, would end, not in victory or defeat but the peace of common worldwide graveyard. Thus, a general suspicion, whether justified or unjustifiedÃ¢â‚¬â€I believe it is the latter rather than the formerÃ¢â‚¬â€of De Gaulle and his actuations. As far as jingoistic nationalism is concerned, the Europeans Ã¢â‚¬Å“have had it,Ã¢â‚¬Â and want no more of it.
The emerging nations are only now able to participate as actors on the stage of world affairs. They see how nationalism built up Europe. They see the positive, constructive aspect of nationalism and are perhaps less conscious of the disastrous effects of its perversion.
Conscious or not, the newly independent nations of Africa and Asia are, by and large, not building toward the old destructive nationalism of Europe. They are aiming at the condition of national dignity and relative self-sufficiency long since attained by European nations and already taken for granted, like the air we breathe, a condition which would have been attained and which would have been even more widespread in Europe had the unfortunate aspects of nationalism been kept within bounds.
To us, nationalism is a force for the attainment in the future of what Europe attained long ago. If our nationalism at times manifests some of the symptoms of old-style, European nationalism, it is unfortunate, but it is within our power to apply the remedy. The disastrous experiences of other nations should serve as a strong corrective and surely we are not so blind as to fail completely to read and learn the lessons of history.
After such a lengthy warning against the perverted brand of nationalism, it will doubtless sound inconsistent for me to advocate cultural nationalism.
The very term Ã¢â‚¬Å“cultural nationalismÃ¢â‚¬Â brings echoes of precisely the kind of stupid jingoism which I strongly condemn. It spontaneously brings memories of the Nazi claims to a superior Ã¢â‚¬Å“AryanÃ¢â‚¬Â (that is to say, German) culture, the proof of Aryan superiority and the justification for the subjugation and even extermination of lesser breeds. I readily grant the objection to the term Ã¢â‚¬Å“cultural nationalism,Ã¢â‚¬Â but there is no more reason to reject the term because of its connotations in other lands than there is for rejecting the term nationalism itself for the same reason.
At this point, I cannot think of a better term and perhaps the term will be less objectionable if we clarify and delimit it in the same way as nationalism itself and exclude from its idea the same perversions that we excluded from genuine nationalism.
What then do I mean by cultural nationalism? First and foremost, it must be something positive, constructive, and realistic. It must be rational and logical, not excluding sentiment but keeping it firmly under control. It involves caution, but not cowardly fear of anything foreign or new merely because it is foreign or new.
Cultural nationalism demands as unprejudiced mind, so that we may be able to take stock of ourselves and act accordingly, be able to appraise foreign influences so that that contact with foreign cultures may be a process of selective, enriching, assimilation rather than indiscriminate acceptance or rejection, with inevitable cultural disintegration or arrest. We want cultural preservation and growth, but not petrifaction or a loss of identity. The process must be an organic one, as the word assimilation indicates, not one of mere external addition, as one dumps more stones on a pile of stones to make the heap grow.
We speak of preservation and growth, butÃ¢â‚¬â€is there anything to be preserved or to grow? Is there a Philippine culture at all? Only ignorance or stupidity can deny it.
Competent students of culture have not, to my knowledge, denied the existence of our culture, of Ã¢â‚¬Å“a way of life common to [Filipinos] based on a social tradition and manifesting itself in [their] institutions, literature, and art.Ã¢â‚¬Â (Christopher Dawson). It is not surprising that our fellow-countrymen who have made cultural investigations should realize its existence with relative ease, but that foreign sociologists and cultural anthropologists inevitably come to the same conclusion and recognize our culture even better than the average Filipino places the conclusion beyond dispute.
Just what our culture consists of, I am not competent to say. I can say, however, that it is extremely complex. It is that very complexity which often leads Occidentals to classify us either as Occidentals with brown skins or Orientals with a very superficial Western veneer.
It is that same complexity which leads some Asians to say that we are not Asian at all, although Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesians, Nepalese, Syrians, etc. do not deny it of each other, much as they differ among themselves.
It is that same complexity which bewilders us and drives us to attempt a total identification with West or East (in the sense in which Asians sometimes exclude us from it), an attempt impossible in one case, meaningless in the other.
It is the same complexity from which some try to escape by taking refuge in an imaginative reconstruction, more or less accurate as the case may be, of Philippine culture at the time of MagellanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s arrival, setting up that culture as the only true Philippine culture and de-Filipinizing all subsequent generations, including our own.
In my opinion this attitude is untenable. It separates the pre-Spanish from subsequent cultural developments, considering the former as wholly indigenousÃ¢â‚¬â€they were not, in the narrow sense of the wordÃ¢â‚¬â€and the latter as spurious. The attitude gives too much credit to the ability of Spanish and American culture to supplant our previous culture and replace it with something different; the attitude also gives no credit whatsoever to our ancestors for any capacity to transform and assimilate foreign influences, giving them a distinctively Filipino character.
One who holds such a view turns his back to the most significant and most remarkableÃ¢â‚¬â€I would say most admirableÃ¢â‚¬â€fact about our culture and ourselves: that complexity has not prevented unity, nor unity led to monotonous uniformity. Instead of our being proud of our unique cultural achievementÃ¢â‚¬â€it is our achievement, not the SpaniardsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ or the AmericansÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬â€we are ashamed of ourselves, see only the faults and dangers of our culture and see them magnified out of all proportion.
Pride In Our Culture
I can think of few worse threats to a vigorous nationalism than a nation despondent over its culture. The Filipino culture is a monument to our ability through the centuries to master the influences which outwardly seemed solely to master usÃ¢â‚¬â€for to be transformed mechanically is to be mastered, but to modify, to transform, to assimilate, and to give a distinctive character is also in the best, non-destructive sense, to master.
Can we continue to do so? In the past, we had two powerful allies, distance and time. The jet age has nullified distance. Mass media of communications and daily contact with foreigners at all levels of society have robbed us of time, time to transform and assimilate, time to weighÃ¢â‚¬â€for selective acceptance or rejectionÃ¢â‚¬â€the avalanche of influences which press on us and threaten to bury us.
Only a strong cultural nationalism, a pride in our culture and heritage and the determination that we shall not be stampeded into change by anything foreign, that whatever changes we make, of native or foreign origin will be through our own well-considered judgment, through an organic process which will not shatter our culture but strengthen and improve itÃ¢â‚¬â€only such a strong cultural nationalism can save us and serve as a firm anchor for our nationalism.Ã¢â‚¬â€#
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