Time to Fight Dirty


By Manuel L. Quezon III

PhilippineS Free Press

October 26, 1996

We remember so little that our present is actually a continual rewinding of the film of our past. Constant reruns that continue to benefit that politicians of the present, who make the people gasp in wonder when what they are really doing is playing old tricks on us.

Meanwhile, the few people actually trying to accomplish something new are also falling prey to a traditional illness that afflicts idealists in our country: a tendency to be impractical and incapable of getting their message across to the people.

But the Free Press has been around too long to let our leaders get away with such things. And if, in many cases, our collective memory is too short, at least the institutional memory of this magazine, and its readers, should serve as a warning to these people trying to pas off old tricks as new ones. We are continuing our tradition of supporting political change as well.

Three things going on today are remakes of the political crises that the Free Press had commentated on in the past and which we will comment on now–and you can be sure that we will comment on them again if our current crop of politicos persist in their old ways.

The first repetition of the past is the supposed “snowballing” of a move to amend the Constitution. We have written how, back in 1940-41, the Free Press was skeptical toward a president who repeatedly protested that he would not run again or seek an extension of his term. Even as Jose Yulo, speaker of the National Assembly, dominated by the monolithic precursor of the KBL and Lakas–the prewar Nacionalista Party– proclaimed that whether its chief liked it or not, the party would force an extension of the president’s term.

With renewed opportunities for self-gain arising from a restored Senate, and with an extension of the status quo sure to benefit the majority already aligned with the administration, the National Assembly’s approval of the extension of the president’s term was inevitable. It was so sure a thing that the calling of a proper Constitutional Convention was rejected for being “too expensive.” Why call a convention when the legislature could do the job?

And besides, it was argued that the amendments would be subject to ratification in a plebiscite–exactly the same argument used by today’s politicians, who are in the best position to get the out out.

What they did in 1940 they tried to do in 1972, but when it seemed headed for failure…martial law, and we know how that turned out. Not that the experience prevented the third round of constitutional revisions taking place today, for the same reasons as in 1940 and 1972.

The second repetition is the confusion rampant in society as a result of the realignment of forces in the Senate, based on personal alliances rather than party lines. As if this was something new. The wrangling going on within Laban is just the latest episode in the fratricidal history of our political parties: Collectevista-Unipersonalista in the 1920s, Pro and Anti in the 1930s, the division of the Nacionalista Party that gave birth to the Liberal Party in the 1940s.

In the early 1950s the Liberal Party was wracked with dissent when President Quirino was seriously challenged by Senate President Avelino–a scenario repeated in the 1960s when Senate President Amang Rodriguez had a public quarrel that lasted more than a year with President Garcia, regardless of the fact that both were old-time Nacionalistas. Can you see any difference between these incidents and the mutiny Edgardo Angara had staged and the next one he is trying to quell? No? Then why the big fuss about the Senate coups?

And the third repetition of historical experience is the inability of most commentators to see beyond the selfishness and ambition of our politicians. Politicians are interested in getting elected and, as much as possible, moving up in this world, which means ascending the rungs of power by moving up the political hierarchy–mayors and governors want to be chiefs of their respective leagues, congressmen want to be speaker of the House, and senators Senate President. Everyone hopes to be president of the Philippines.

But none of this can happen if someone doesn’t let go of the top position. Put in term limits and you’ve got a real mess: you can’t even stay where you are. No consuelo de bobo.

This is why you find the most unsavory characters suddenly proclaiming their adherence to the Constitution. They want to move on, otherwise they run into political oblivion because they are not even eligible to keep their present positions, let alone rise up to a better one.

It is a disservice to the public to criticize these people for being confident enough to rish a future election rather than change the constitutional rules in a way that will at least keep them in place. Their motivation may be mercenary, but they are, because of that, more dependable allies of the Constitution. Idealistic enthusiasm is fickle.

Had Speaker Perez and Senate President Amang Rodriguez–both the epitome of old-style machine politicos–lived, Ferdinand Marcos would have never have become president. They both saw what was coming: the end of the game at which they excelled if this upstart was given a free hand.

Now what of the idealists of today?

Las week Demokrasya: Ipagtanggol ang Konstitutsyon celebrated its first anniversary. Demokrasya is a movement led by some of the most well-meaning people in national life: former Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, Jovito Salonga, the irrepressible Joe Concepcion, Jose Abueva and that unacknowledged hero of democracy, Christian Monsod (who, for a brief time, gave us elections worth calling by that name). It has the support of Cory Aquino, as well as that of Cardinal Sin.

The problem is that besides Cory Aquino, who can be eloquent, none of the movers behind Demokrasya can get anyone excited about the group’s cause. The leaders are incapable of fighting demagoguery with eloquence of matching self-serving tactics with equally efficient mobilization of people’s organizations. They are nice, but bland. They have the cause, but lack the inventiveness to make it prevail and the stamina to organize for that purpose.

They take the moral high road, which is well, but which is a longer route and tends to prove the cliché  that nice guys finish last.

We know the low character of our politicians. It is time to use this knowledge to the people’s–and not just the politicians’–advantage. They will do anything to gain their ends; we must do everything to stop them. The same reasoning lies behind women’s keeping a can of mace in their handbags. The best antidote to rapists is to spray crap in their eyes; and the only way to fight a dirty idea is to fight dirty.

Cinderella’s invited to the Prom


By Manuel L. Quezon III

Philippines Free Press

October 26, 1996

A dew weeks ago, the leaders of the world’s richest countries wanted to feel good about themselves. They also wanted the world to feel good about them. So they announced that thenceforth the foreign debts of the poorest Third World countries–mostly in Black Africa–would be forgiven by them. Oh, how noble, how generous they were. It was hopeless, they said, to expect these blacks to pay the interest, let alone the principal, on their countries’ foreign debts–mostly stolen by black dictators like our foreign debt was lately stolen by an Ilocano dictator. Also dark.

That was several weeks ago.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund announced that the Philippines had been invited to share in paying off the debts of the world’s poorest Third World countries.

What they were saying was, as if it was a great honor, “Welcome to the club.”

Yes, indeed, like the totally tasteless and parvenu couple John and Marsha, mother Philippines and her beau, our President, have been inited by the nabobs of the IMF to the world debt prom.

The IMF, lest ye have forgotten, was the cruel fiscal stepmother that had our country–poor starry-eyed heroine just recently free of the dictator’s shackles–scrubbing floors and eating dirt to pay the credit card bills of Makiki exiles Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.

At a time when we were the world’s inspiration, heroes of democracies, we were told that we would be bereft of honor if we did not pay–and pay, and pay.

That the debts were dubious and downright immoral did not matter. You did not argue with the IMF, which had the power of economic life and death over an economy struggling to restore a free market. They had the recipe for success, they said, and we had better follow it. Or else.

The receipt was simple: pay up. Pay the debts of the conjugal dictatorship; never mind that the money was stolen or wasted. And then you would, if not get better, certainly feel better about yourself.

And so when Solita Monsod, then NEDA director general, dared suggest that we repudiate at least some of the debts incurred by Imelda Marcos and her husband, a howl rose from the bankers. And they hastened Monsod’s exit from the public service and the conversion of the NEDA into the Merril Lynch of Philippine officialdom. (Today the NEDA regularly leaks GNP figures to the stockbrokers of the Palace inhabitants.)

One day our country looked up from her drudgery and saw former communist nations such as Poland grandly absolved of their debts–absolved by the same demanding gang of overseers that insisted we pay back every penny stolen by the Marcoses. And our nation sighed, is there no fairness, no justice?

How sad it was to see a nice country finish last. If we’d had missiles and belonged to the Warsaw Pact–the alliance of communist powers aimed at Western Europe–perhaps we would have been treated better. Oh, well.

So we slaved on, until we were finally able to say that, despite the onerous burden of illegitimate debts, we were able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

Well, by golly, it seems that the IMF has recognized this fact and invited us to take a seat at the table of lending countries. Well, not the presidential table, perhaps, but a seat at the table somewhere near the swinging doors to the kitchen. But who cares? Cinderella Philippines has been invited to the prom: we have arrived. Now, the IMF tells us, we are in the position to help countries less fortunate than ourselves. This is better than letting the rich countries do it alone.

We hope the government doesn’t get it into its daffy head to accept the IMF proposal. A nation that had the class to stand up for democracy, and that doggedly worked to dig itself out of an unjust economic situation, should not be forced by its lenders to give away the money it has so painfully earned. After all, it still has to pay for its own debt. A debt still due and, oddly, growing monstrously by the month. It has grown to $45 billion and is still growing. But the economy has grown strong enough to meet the monthly installments on time.

To the bankers that means the economy has also grown strong enough to help pay off the debts of other countries who have no hope of paying any part of them.

We may be on our feet, but we are in no condition to throw money away. Ours is still a nation of indentured servants abroad and starving workers at home. We must keep what we have for the benefit of ourselves, and by “ourselves” we don’t mean the slick Central Bank types in league with the IMF.

It is true that there is nobility in poverty, in working to satisfy the demands of heartless people. But there is no nobility in allowing yourself to be fooled. The servant invited to dine at his master’s table–but at a potluck dinner, where he must also bring his own plate–is not ennobled but further debased by the insult to his intelligence.

Hala Bira! Apec na! (Special for MEGA Magazine)

Hala Bira! Apec na!
by Manuel L. Quezon III

(Special for MEGA Magazine)

YES! The Filipino can. If you ever doubted that we’re well on the way to becoming a tiger cub economy, the preparations for Apec should convince you that, indeed, we’re world-class.

Imagine. We’ve told people like Desmond Tutu and Jose Ramos-Horta (Nobel Peace laureates both) to go fly a kite, and we managed to kill off Madame Mitterand, too. Well, okay, so maybe it was only for a day, and only because FVR was pooped, but hey, what chutzpah! We’ve blazed the trail in being generally unfriendly to visitors, too: didn’t Malaysia take a cue from us and crack down on a conference in Kuala Lumpur? You only had to see the footage on CNN to see that Mahathir’s people have learned some lessons from us – right down to sticking maong- and batik- clad activists in jail.

We’ve managed to do a Michael Jackson and produce a video featuring white, brown and yellow faces morphing into each other. We learned a thing or two from the late Soviet Union and will have specially designated lanes on Edsa exclusively for the use of VIP’s. Why, we’ll even transform part of our country -Subic- into something like the East Berlin of ten years ago, complete with a population under virtual house arrest; paranoid security forces complete with moles disguised as bellboys, waiters and (who knows) potted plants; trigger-happy soldiers who’ve vowed to prevent even a single fly from landing on a guest’s head ( the several megatons of firepower that’ll be evident in Subic should reduce any fly -and the person it’s perched on- to vapor); and fabulously expensive villas for visiting dictators.

Not bad.

And just so it’s clear that our being world-class doesn’t mean we’ve lost our soul, traditional Filipino values are being asserted, too. The value of cleanliness (that’s why they’re trucking squatters out of town). The value of land (that’s why the squatters’ shacks have been bulldozed). The value of hospitality (which is why our soldiers aren’t content with turning Subic into a garrison state: they’ve making lists of people to arrest just in case any idiots get it into their heads to exercise free speech). And most of all, the value of kodakan : for all of the impressive things I’ve mentioned are all part of our nation’s gearing up for Apec.

Think of Apec as the Mother of All Cocktail Parties. You thought Ferdinand and Imelda’s parties were impressive? Wait till you see this one unfold on your television screens (that’s as close as you, me, or 99.9% of the Filipino people will get to the party of parties).
From November 22 to 26, Bill Clinton (Gloria Macapagal’s batchmate -it’s said she’s already ordered elevator shoes so she won’t risk wasting her Kodak moment with him), the Prime Minister of Japan (no, he isn’t the Tancho mascot), and the three stooges of repression known as Suharto, Mahathir, and Goh, together with other heads of state and a flood of ministers, aides, assistants and other hangers-on, will be the personal guests of Fidel Ramos.

While FVR and the big shots are entertained by the Singing cooks and Waiters Atbp. (not all of whom will be PMA graduates in disguise), and enjoy the comforts of their brand-new villas in Subic, assorted ministers and aides will be zooming around Manila trying to look busy.
They will be trying to figure out how to make big words like “globalization” and “liberalization”, not to mention “free trade” apply to our little lives. Undertaken, of course, between sips of fine wines and nibbling on assorted appetizers which are too luxurious for you and me but which, unfortunately, people seem to think are good for public servants.

Globalization means that one day, boys and girls, our dreams of a world like the Coca-Cola Christmas ads and the Walt Disney song “It’s a small world after all” will come true. A borderless world in which every single human being will have the freedom to choose between Pringle’s and whatever passes for the local version of V-Cut. A paradise in which Cadbury’s and Hershey’s, Coke and Pepsi, Domino’s Pizza and Kentucky Fried Chicken, not to mention Kia and Audi, IBM and Motorola will be as accessible as Choc-Nut, Sarsi, Greenwich, and uh… Sarao are to us, now.

This will change life as we know it. It means countries can’t be snobs anymore, because anyone, everywhere, will have the right -and the purchasing power- to demand value for money. Say you like pickles. Thanks to globalization, you will be able to buy Polish, American or Lady’s Choice pickles, depending on which pickle tastes best to you (or costs less). Not only that. Our local pickles will have to be world-class if they’re to survive competition from abroad. Result: a satisfied pickle consumer.

As go the pickles, so goes the world. Globalization will also mean the end of protectionism, a sweet idea gone haywire. Protectionism is the belief that a country should try to create jobs for its own people, and then protect them from the nasty capitalists abroad who will try to sell you Mai-Lin luncheon meat at a price cheaper than Purefoods’. Protectionist policies were set up with the understanding that no country can hold its head high in the world if it doesn’t have the capacity to produce its own luncheon meat (plus boring things like steel and tractors). Knowing that foreigners will sell their mothers in order to undersell struggling local entrepreneurs, governments went a step further and passed laws and instituted quotas -or lists of items which can only be imported in small plus highly-taxed quantities. This would hopefully keep foreign products out long enough to get consumers used to the local garbage before foreign garbage was let in.

Let’s go global

Unfortunately, protectionism had some nasty side effects. The car you drive to work everyday is one. Thanks to protectionism, you’ve paid much more for your car than what it’s worth; not that you had any alternative, because all we have to show in terms of vehicle self-sufficiency are those awful stainless steel jeeps driven by thieving policemen. This is what protectionism does, and that’s why people hate it (this is also why despite it’s best efforts, the government can’t stop the rampant smuggling of Mai-Lin luncheon meat).

Still, there are some people who like protectionism. They belong to two groups: the first is businessmen who have actually benefited from protectionism, and who want to keep their hold on market (read my lips: monopoly). The other group are the batik-loving types who sincerely believe that you and me shouldn’t waste our time deciding between 2, 4, even 6 brands of toothpaste when any old brand will do. If you don’t like it you can always gargle salt water or chew on sugar cane. In addition they firmly feel that no one realizes that globalization will lead to many Filipinos losing their jobs; because honestly (here’s the pickle analogy again) once you’ve tried an American kosher deli dill, you’ll never want to try Lady’s Choice again (so there goes the pickle factory in Sucat). Specially if the American pickle’s cheaper (and imported pa! truly a pickle to be proud of).

You don’t have to worry much about the first group because they have their fingers in other pies so they’ll never go broke. The “Leftists,” though, are a tougher nut to crack. They’ve gotten people like farmers, fishermen and the urban poor all upset. They’ve even vowed to be generally rude to FVR’s guests at Apec. Not a good idea, specially with 26,000 soldiers in the Subic neighborhood.
Now the support staff of the VIP’s will also be working on liberalization, too. Liberalization means getting rid of those irritating and stupid rules which, among other things, dictate that you have to pay the Bureau of Customs ten pesos for not opening packages mailed to you from abroad, and paying huge bribes in case they decide to open them. Liberalization means making life easier for you, me, and foreign companies who are dying to make money here. Liberalization means a day when forms in quadruplicate will vanish from this earth, and corrupt government employees with them (to be replaced by greedy businessmen, which is fine; it’ll drive country club shares up).

In real life, liberalization will mean that if you’re a foreigner and want to invest in the Philippines, the government will roll out the red carpet. The traditional way was to take your money, spit on you, and then get angry if the foreigner demanded at least some of his money back. If we roll out the red carpet, chances are that not only will businessmen do business here, but their parents will retire here, and their in laws will come over as tourists, meaning more jobs for us brown folk.

Liberalization also means that we will be sorting out our confusing laws and trashing most of them, so they can be replaced with less confusing ones. Hopefully as similar to the laws of places like Hong Kong and other centers of unbridled capitalism, where the law basically consists of Thou shalt shaft, but thou shalt not kill, blessed be the name of the government.

The big “L” world is the guiding spirit behind “Free Trade,” basically is the process in which businessmen, smart enough to sense the opportunities opened up by globalization, and who are sure they’ll be safe from governmental blackmailing because all those nasty laws have been abolished, can sell what they want to whomever they want, for whatever price the market is willing to bear.

Neat, huh?

This is what Apec is all about. Heavy stuff. Wait: there’s an added bonus, by the way. We get to put up signs saying “Bill Clinton slept here” and “Suharto made wiwi there”, which definitely means more and more tourists will come. Just like they did after Imelda set up that international film festival. Oops, bad example…

Anyway, Apec is all about making a good impression on the ministers who will be doing the real work (and who get to take a vacation after Apec until the next one; hey, globalization takes time), and specially on Uncle Suharto, kuya Bill, etc. Think of Apec as the biggest luau you’ll ever see, and you’ll understand why FVR and company are going all-out to make sure no flies land in the pu-pu platters, I mean ointment, that is this month’s summit. If we pull this off, we earn everyone’s respect and get another Michelin star in the guide books. Investors will come in, there’ll be more jobs, and you will be able to afford all the imported pickles you want.

Best of all, everyone in schools and most office workers get to have another extended weekend from the 22nd to the 26th.

Sounds like a win-win situation to me. Why even the Leftists you thought had all gone out of style get to hold their own version of an El Shaddai meeting. Everybody’s gonna party. We’re the Fiesta Islands after all. And soon, we’ll be nibbling on Singapore’s tail. Won’t that be fun!

That’s what all the sacrifice us Filipinos have been making are all about. Progress and the big pay off.

The beers of our lives

The beers of our lives
by Manuel L. Quezon III

October 9, 1996

San Miguel Brewery Manila: Exclusive privilege of its system of brewing until the year ninteen hundred and ten.

The products of this factory are so well known that there are none beter liked in the market for quality and cheap prices. They are well known in ald the neighboring colonie and are in constat demand.

The said products are recommended by the wele known doctors for all sick and weak persens, especially their PORTER which is of great effacacy for ald those suffering from aenemia and the general debility incident to this climate…

Discounts can be made. For order apply to PEDRO P. ROXAS, Malacañang 151

Commercial Directory of Manila, 1901


AS American soldiers reached the outskirts of Manila in 1945, they came across the Balintawak Brewery, now the San Miguel brewery near Malabon. They promptly liberated the building -and it’s contents. Thirsty G.I.’s swarmed in and emerged, beaming, holding helemts filled to the brim with ice-cold Balintawak Beer.

Thus was liberation heralded by boozy G.I.’s, and thus was born that singular manfiestation of the Liberation Era, representing America’s last colonial gift: the transformation of Filipinos into a beer-guzzling and beer-loving nation which drank to celebrate freedom in the heady days when we felt genuine bonhomie towards those corn-fed G.I.’s and which we got inebriated in order to forget the traumas of the recent past, never mind the frustrating tendency of the future to look like more of the present. Filipinos may not have had homes, and not much by way of independence, thanks to their Liberators, but by golly they had their beer -thanks again, if the apocryphal story is true, to our ally America, who’s symbol inarnate, MacArthur, it was said, did his friend Don Andres Soriano a favor by commandeering C-47’s to ferry bottlecaps from the American mainland to satisfy the needs of San Miguel…

Of course before the war Filipinos already drank beer, but not in the Pantagruelian manner that they do today, in which the success of a night’s drinking session is displayed in the ranks of empty bottles marshaled on tables. Beer was drunk, in the Spanish manner, with lunch; and in those more decorous times, when one could be arrested for appearing in public shirtless, the occassional tale of the amok run wild because of too much bibbling was often blamed on gin.

But with the destruction of Manila, which marked the demise of the cultivated ways of our elders, a younger, brasher generation came into its own. A generation which had reached an early maturity in the buy-and-sell atmosphere of the Occupation, and which held nothing sacred in a land where it had been proven -from the Fall of Bataan to the Last Stand of Yamashita- that nice people who held things sacred finished last. This was the generation which gave up their parent’s white linen suits for the gaudy guayaberas and hawaiin shirts (not to mention Ray-bans) sported by brash leaders like Arsenio Lacson.

Consumed in the city, drunk in the barrios, probably even guzzled down during the anti-Huk campaigns, beer, glorious beer was -is- the drink of choice. I remember the uncles of my cousins sighing, as they drank their Pale Pilsen, even as they fondly spoke of the beers of their lives: “Hijo,” one of them said, pointing to the bottle beside his mug, “I’ve been drinking this stuff for fifty years. Even the bottle hasn’t changed.”

Like the recent San Miguel ad, which purports to tell the story of our society’s love affair with beer through a medley of songs, the hustling of the Liberation Era, which gave way to Mambo Era when the hoi polloi -baptized the bakya- ruled the roost, and thence to the Yeba years which collided in a flurry of placards with the First Quarter Storm -was accompanied with a golden, bubbling, flowing river of beer. Then it came to pass, during the apotheosis of the Filipino people, that they were asked for love of country to give up their beer.

Many a beer-drinker who lived through the days of Edsa will tell you they did just that. Give up their brew, even as their children gave up their Magnolia ice cream and other products targeted as the products of crony-owned corporations. Then came Freedom, accompanied by blessed liberation from abstaining from beer.

We are the only nation which loves its beer to the extent that we are willing to dilute our beer with ice -yet another manfiestation of our Liberation hertage, in which we have adopted the American yen for chilled beer without, alas, the resources needed to guarantee a fridge in every place where beer is drunk; we love beer so much that women, not too long ago restricted to drinks of ill repute like Sangria, have finally taken to drinking beer in public, never mind that doubtful creation Lagerlite, thank you: and do forget the old wive’s tale about cerveza negra being prescribed for lactating mothers. Why even Imelda Marcos, it was said, was fond of a drink called a shandy -equal parts of beer and 7-Up (and this was long before the debut of that beer b-product, Cali).

Our beers, how we love them. Beer -which build friendships and causes laughs; which triggers feats that defy description, such as being able to belch the national anthem; beer, which fosters the solidarity that can only come from helping your barkada puke its brains out; which has built character by making generations of teennagers cover up for each other to explain curfews broken and clothes soiled by youthful beer-related excess; that amber liquid which has shaped the national physigionomy as exhibited in the tummies of our men folk, proudly displayed for all to marvel at on our streets.

Beer drinking is, for us, an educational experience. Gastronomical adventurism benefits from it. Science, too! Everyone has a theory about the effects of beer on the metabolism -from how bdraft beer affects your stools to outlandish chemistry theories which speculate on the formaldehyde content of the beers means for the masses.

With our homey but staggering consumption of beer comes new developments, reflecting our parvenu pretentions to that mythical status called world-class -designer beer, the moonshine mentality as interpreted by Beverly Hills; and generational beer, too. Beer imported from Mexico and consumed with a twist of lime; beer in exotic bottles with fancy names; beer, baptized Texas, for the land of promise, Mindanao; beer, Blue Ice, for that demographic creation of the advertising companies, Generation X, which invaded the hearts of the youth by its being imported from Hong Kong, qualifying it as “imported” worthy of tippling to the extent that when it got to be produced locally, people were too hooked to care. Beer for the yuppies (Dry), and for their elders, Premium; and just so no one feels left out there’s beer for the dipsomaniac equivelent of body builders: Red Horse, for those truly gifted with iron bellies.

Beer, too, to offer you a choice, courtesy of Asia Brewery which fights San Miguel, Labatt for Blue Ice, Beer na Beer for every Pilsen.

The white races used to believe that our tropical climate bred indolence, or at least made us an aneamic race. An odd belief beleived in even by the local breweries at the turn of the century, when they advertised the grandaddy of Cerveza Negra as an antidote to the debilitating effects of the climate. But you only have to look at your countrymen on any night, anywhere, to see that we are a people consumed with a zest for life, particuarly when beer flows down our throats and the alcohol mixes with the blood in our veins. Then we are vibrant; garrolous, funny, charming, witholding no secrets from our friends.

When we drink beer we drink in the stuff of our souls -now if only we could remember this the next morning.



By Manuel L. Quezon III

Philippines Free Press

October 5, 1996


The majority of our population now consists of the youth. This large and amorphous sector, surveys tell us, is growing rootless and wild, alienated in the Filipino diaspora. Their parents and other relatives have been leaving the country in droves in search of work, leaving them behind to shift for themselves, under the feeble hand of doddering grandparents and indifferent relatives.

It is becoming evident that the youth of today are very different from their immediate predecessors, the generation known as the Martial Law babies–the last generation of Filipinos to experience a trace of traditional upbringing. They are now old enough to get married and produce children of their own, even as a yet younger generation emerges whose more puzzle even those just a few years older.

This alienated an alien generation–baptized by advertisers as Generation X or even post-Generation X–has social workers ringing the tocsin. Alarmed parents and school officials have done what they can to help, but that seems to be little.

This is sad but unavoidable.

But politicians, being the opportunities species that they are, have been quick to sniff opportunities in our burgeoning youth electorate. They have plied them with parties and cash, discos and basketball courts, in the process of courting their votes. It doesn’t need a genius to see the correlation between the politicians’ eager mining of this electoral lode and the deepening disillusionment of the youth, and a far worse cynicism than even their elders had despite the corruption they witnessed in their time.

Now comes Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, with a scheme to enlist schoolchildren to spy on grafters. His latest pet project was reveled during a “preconference dialogue” (government jargon for a simple meeting) attended by 40 student leaders. Speaking to representatives of the National Student Consensus, the Student Alliance for National Unity, and a representative of the UP Student Council, Desierto rumbled that “The junior graftwatch program seeks to revive old Filipino values and traditions and a sensible formula to prevent raft and corruption.”

Spying an old Filipino value. Only if you are a Macabebe.

At any rate, his suggestion was seconded by a lackey who said that students participating in the junior graftwatch will serve as the Ombudsman’s “eyes and ears.” Meaning, they will all have their backs turned to him so they can’t see what he is doing.

The idea of having children spying on adults has Orwellian implications–which should keep us from laughing off his idea the way people chuckled over the Kabataang Barangay, the movement of lumpen young that Marcos thought would be his Hitler Youth.

In the first place, having children ratting on their parents and relatives–or worse, the parents and relatives of schoolmates they do not know well but happen to dislike–smacks of communism.

And what will they rat about? How children in short pants, or mere teenagers in high school and college, are supposed to determine cases of graft and corruption hasn’t been explained. Neither has it been clarified how the children are supposed to report any wrongdoings–will there be Maoist-style “struggles”? Uproarious meetings during which children will finger their elders?

And what sort of values will be fostered by having children snooping around during class hours? The virtue of studying hard? The virtue of respect for elders? The virtue of telling the truth?

We can only see the Ombudsman’s idea leading to the propagation of certain types of behavior that are, indeed, very Filipino–such as cowardice, treachery, envy, issuing in behavior that has shamed generations of Filipinos.

Behavior that marked the most shameful and tragic periods of our past, from the stool pigeons and balimbings of the era of Marcos, to the Makapilis of the Japanese Occupation, to the Macabebe Scouts of the Filipino-American war, down to the traitor  who assassinated Diego Silang and the chieftains who sided with the Spaniards.

We can only see duplicity being more ingrained in schoolchildren. We can only predict an atmosphere of mistrust and paranoia coming out of the Ombudsman’s little plan. This is no way to bring up the youth.

Haven’t we seen the Kabataang Barangay mutate under the present dispensation into the Sangguniang Kabataan, training ground for pork-barrel cadres? And this is inly one example of the way greed can be institutionalized; this is bad enough but training in scholastic espionage is the limit.

What we shall end up with are not just the shiftless and empty-handed youth of today who can no longer read or write, but amateur spies who will dare to scribble gibberish as their reports on the conduct of the neighbors. This isn’t just evil. It is pathetic.

Our Centennial Diplomacy


By Manuel L. Quezon III

Philippines Free Press

September 21, 1996


This, the first year of our Centennial celebrations, has served to highlight the gravity of our collective historical amnesia. This loss of memory would be pardonable–because, after all, amnesia is often reversible–if it weren’t exacerbated by the selective amnesia of our officials. They seem to think that  making a lot of noise about Rizal will distract the public from pondering on the gruesome legacy of the Revolution he condemned.

Mercifully, this attempt to blot out the disquieting aspects of our past has been noticed by enough journalists and academics to ensure that instead of the bland Centennial festivals hoped for by the government, a sort of guerrilla war on the cultural front is taking place. And so we are content with the fact that our commemoration of the Filipino struggle for freedom will benefit from the nation’s conscience in the schools.

But the government’s efforts on the diplomatic front seem to have escaped serious criticism. This is lamentable in that the Centennial face presented by our Republic’s leaders will often be the only aspect of our country to be noticed by the rest of the world in the next few years. And that face is one of bumbling confusion, which would be pitiful if it didn’t smack so much of the mendicant foreign policy we’ve had since it was critiqued by Claro M. Recto almost two generations ago.

Our diplomatic tradition is one of subservience, and while we have ceased ot expend our energies on reaming Uncle Sam, apparently we have gotten to enjoy the habit so much that we just had to start reaming someone else: if not Singapore for its authoritarian method, then Indonesia for its spectacular graft-ridden progress, of which, you would think, we had had enough under Marcos. And now it is Malaysia.

Indeed in the case of Malaysia, our diplomatic tack has tended toward finding choice morsels to praise.

The Centennial is supposed to be the commemoration of our country’s struggle for freedom, a struggle that, as Jesuit priest Jose Arcilla pointed out, was the culmination of one great historical cycle and the beginning of another.

Our Propaganda Movement and Revolution were the last of the great upheavals generated by the European Enlightenment, which gave birth to the American, French and South American revolutions and came to end with ours. On the other hand, our Revolution and the Filipino campaigns for autonomy that followed it were the beginning of a worldwide movement to bring an end to Western colonialism–a struggle that had its parallels in the great Indian struggle under Gandhi.

This is a commemoration that obviously calls for the highest dignity, independence of mind and seriousness by our people and our leaders. And it should be marked with greater resolve by everyone to demonstrate pride in our past and present achievements. Instead of this, all we have seen is the usual sycophantic and maladroit behavior on the part of the people entrusted with planning the Centennial celebrations.

Characteristically, to celebrate our Centennial we spotlight on Malaysia: a country that has had the chutzpah to lecture us on democracy while almost every critic of Mahathir is in jail, and that had the nerve to preempt the Philippines in commemorating Rizal, to the extent that it hosted an international conference on our national hero, which humiliated the Philippine government. And yet Malaysia was not even conceivable as a separate country at the time of the freedom struggle in which Rizal figured with glory. A man who has been mistaken as the Great Malaysian–when, at worst, he might be called the Great Malayan; although, the best superlative for him might be The First Filipino.

At any rate, the Malaysian Rizal conference was splendidly organized, serious discussions were held, and it took place a full year before anything concrete was scheduled to take place here (our Centennial energies being wasted, at the time, on Centennial Tower stupidities).

And what did our government do to make up for this slap on its face? Why, it organized an International Conference on the 1896 Philippine Revolution. This may have been international, but it was hardly a conference–and, worst of all, it essentially failed to take up the 1896 Revolution.

The conference took place over three hectic days, the end of which was marked by a speech by Anwar Ibrahim, the deputy prime minister of Malaysia who had organized the Malaysian Rizal conference the year before. But the high point of the conference was the signing of a resolution that criticized the utter (actually merciful) lack of media attention on the conference.

From the start, it struck some observers as strange that on August 23, the centenary of the Katipuneros’ tearing up their cedillas, Ibrahim was being honored with the distinctions pertaining to the Knights of Rizal in a ceremony that marked the conclusion of one full day of lectures on Rizal, during a three-day affair meant to commemorate the Revolution he had, at best, bewailed for the loss of lives it throated, and, at worst, condemned as counterproductive of higher national aims.

The reason for this strange event was simple. The Philippine government had to find a way–any way–to quid Malaysia’s quo, and the conference on the Revolution was the most convenient way.

Never mind the true purpose of the conference–never mind the incongruity of honoring Rizal to the extent of overshadowing Bonifacio and the Katipunan. Malaysia had to be fawned on, and if some people wrinkled their noses at the brown noses of our officials, tough. Pride and nationalism–simple self-respect and dignity–do not build Proton Wiras. And besides, Rizal has been so often honored in the past, a commemoration honoring him yet again would be easier to pull off than one honoring the less celebrated and real heroes of the 1896 Revolution.

In the event, they didn’t even honor Rizal, because the Philippines representative just compared himself to the national hero and confined his speech to drawing parallels between Rizal’s life and his own failures. The Malaysians  again ran off with the prize with a well-prepared, if not entirely credible, interpretation of the national hero.

Repulsion and Colonization

TODAY’s Weekender

Repulsion and Colonization

by Manuel L. Quezon III


            The Wood-Forbes Mission arrived in Manila in May [1921], and was received with some apprehension….

            Many anecdotes were told about this trip…

            In Mindanao, an officer with the Mission approached a Moro and asked him his opinion of the political situation. The Moro answered him: “No, no, I do not want to say a word. If I say I like independence, the Americans get sore. And if I say I do not like independence, the Filipinos get sore. I say nothing.”

                                  Teodoro M. Kalaw

in his autobiography, Aide-de-Camp to Freedom


            THE scene was dramatic. The session hall of the Constitutional Convention, decorated with Filipino and American flags, was brightly lit with klieg lights. The hall itself was filled to capacity. Microphones were conspicuous, as the event that was about to take place was going to be broadcast over the radio. The date was February 19, 1935.

At thirty-five minutes past three in the afternoon, a portly gentleman wearing a bow tie stood up at the Speaker’s rostrum and banged a gavel, signifying the opening of the Convention’s last session. The portly gentleman was the President of the Convention, Claro M. Recto. Beside him was Quintin Paredes; they were soon joined by Manuel Roxas. The Secretary of the Convention then began calling upon the delegates to sign. Recto signed first. One delegate, Gregorio Perfecto of Manila, who was recovering from a paralytic attack, limped up to the Secretary’s table to sign the official copies -in English and Spanish- of the new Constitution. Perfecto was assisted by one of his daughters, and signed the documents with his own blood. Another delegate, Jose Zurbito of Masbate, had been ill for months but managed to show up. The other delegates signed with special gold pens or pens of historical significance. Only one delegate did not sign.

Tomas Cabili, delegate from Lanao, did not sign the 1935 Constitution because he did not vote in favor of it -the only delegate to vote “No,” in fact. During the Convention he had worked for Mindanao to have the right to vote for its own representatives, which up to then had been appointed by the Governor-General of the Philippines. According to Delegate Jose Aruego, who later wrote the definitive account of the Convention, Cabili was convinced that “the province of Lanao -except Sulu and Cotobato- should have been permitted by constitutional provision to have its… representatives elected by the direct vote of the people” (a curious statement; did this mean Cabili was only primarily concerned with Lanao and did not think that Sulu and Cotobato were worthy of electing their own Assemblymen?). Aruego pointed out that,

“Partly because of his efforts, the Constitution as approved by the Convention, on second reading, included a provision permitting all legislators from the island [of Mindanao] to be elected by the direct vote of the people. The Special Committee on Style, however… so amended the Constitution that the representatives of Lanao, together with those from the Mountain Province, Sulu, and Cotobato, should be selected in a manner to be determined by law. Delegate Cabili fought hard in the closing days of the Convention to give the people of Lanao the right to [vote] but his efforts were in vain.”

And so it was that when the 1935 Constitution was presented to the Philippines’ (still quite limited number of) voters, one of the three major groups to oppose the ratification of the Constitution were the leaders  from Lanao, Cotobato, and Sulu -although what percentage they represented of the 44,963 who actually voted against the charter is anybody’s guess.

Here was the Philippines, at the threshold of independence, soon to be free from the colonial yoke of the Americans, and the leaders of this soon-to-be independent state was already laying the foundations for a new kind of colonialism. What an ironic state of affairs; for even as the majority of Filipino leaders exulted over their having finally secured local autonomy and guaranteed independence, they made sure that those  very same things would be denied the Muslims in Mindanao. The Commonwealth of the Philippines was about to embark on internal colonialism -or colonization. The attitude of the leaders of the new Commonwealth was very clearly expressed by the new Chief Executive who wrote in his autobiography (The Good Fight )that,

“In the southern provinces, the most important question of all was the future of Mindanao… which for ages past had been under the Moros. They had never been subdued by the Spanish and were never disarmed by them…

“The American Army officers used alternately to fight the Moros and then to ‘baby’ them. The Moros are very artful and seldom agreed to any proposition made to them on the part of the Government except with feigned reluctance, and only in a manner calculated to put the executive under an obligation. I felt that this method on their part was only bluff, and I now addressed them on various occasions with straight-from-the shoulder declarations. This new method of handling them seemed to work excellently… we are glad to see them at length gradually settling into modern ways.”

Sovereignty over Mindanao had been negotiated -and then enforced, through the invention of the .45 caliber revolver, among other things- by the Americans during several campaigns distinct from the war which had destroyed the First Philippine Republic. Major General Elwell Otis, commander of the US Army forces quelling the “Philippine insurrection,” had ordered General John C. Bates to negotiate a treaty with Sultan Jamalul Kiram of Jolo, which he did, successfully. What came to be called the Bates Treaty was signed on August 20, 1899. The Americans’ English text read that “The sovereignty of the United States over the whole archipelago of Jolo and its dependencies is declared and acknowledged,” while the “rights and dignities of His Highness the Sultan and his datos shall be fully respected,” and that the Americans would not interfere “on account of their religion.” Problems arose when it turned out that the Tausug version of the treaty had not relinquished the Sultan’s sovereignty.

Eventually when the Americans began exercising what they felt to be their sovereignty -by establishing the “Moro Province” in 1903 among other things-  there was war, which added luster to the careers of military men like Leonard Wood and John Pershing, and which resulted in several bloody campaigns which culminated in the Muslims finally accepting American sovereignty in 1915 (the Carpenter-Kiram Treaty).

While all of this was going on, of course, Filipinos could only fret over what they felt might turn out into a separate accommodation with the Moros. Teodoro M. Kalaw, for example, filed a bill in the Philippine Assembly in 1910 which “disapproved the dismemberment of Philippine territory until such a time as the American Congress could define the real political status of the Philippines” -at a time when there had already been four major Muslim uprisings.

The fear, that the Americans would dispose of Mindanao as they pleased since they had waged a separate campaign to subdue it, expressed so early on during the American regime by Kalaw, refused to go away -it actually increased as time went by, particularly during the term of that old Moro-subduer, Leonard Wood, as Governor-General of the Philippines. Even as Filipino officials had a fit over Wood’s thoroughly Republican plan to “run the government out of business,” Kalaw wrote that “There was also talk of separating from the Philippine archipelago the island of Mindanao, and subsequently Americanizing it.” The American chamber of commerce of Mindanao and Sulu had even sent a telegram to President Calvin Coolidge proposing Mindanao’s conversion to an unorganized territory under the American flag.

Matters came to a head when a Republican Congressman, Robert L. Bacon, filed a bill in the US. Congress (H.R. 12772, June 11, 1926), which sought to separate Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan from the jurisdiction of the Philippine Government, establishing a separate and distinct form of government in those areas directly under American sovereignty.  The first bill lapsed, and King filed it during the next session. justifying it on the grounds that,

“1….the Moros are essentially a different race from the Filipinos, that for hundreds of years there has existed bitter racial and religious hatred between the two and that complete union of the Filipinos under one government is distasteful to the Moros, who would prefer a continuance of American sovereignty;

“2. The terms of.. the Bates Treaty…

“3. The lack of true representation on the part of the Moros in the Philippine Legislature, their judges, prosecutors and Constabulary being at the present time Filipinos, in contrast to conditions existing prior to 1913;

“4. …[E]specially since 1916, ill feelings between Moros and Filipinos has increased, leading to frequent conflicts and bloodshed.”

Mass meetings were held in Manila to denounce the Bacon Bill. The Philippine Legislature condemned the bill; even General Aguinaldo, still in retirement, sent a telegram to Coolidge asking him to reject the Bill. The brouhaha died down, but King’s justification for his bill would rankle in the memory of Filipino leaders.

Hence the conviction of the leaders in the 1930s that the Muslims had to be dealt with firmly, if the interests of the nation they were building were to prevail. This was, at best, a confrontational attitude: “us” against “them.” The Muslims (or rather their leaders, this was the time, after all, when political affairs was still firmly in the hands of leaders who were only responsible to a limited electorate) were viewed as half-savage children who needed firm disciplining and tutelage -concepts which used to irritate Filipino leaders when they had begun to agitate for autonomy.

But first, back to the policies of the Philippine government, now that it was mainly in the hands of Filipinos. Quezon went on to explain in his book that,

“…there existed an international aspect of the Mindanao question, of profound importance to the Filipino nation. Unless we fully opened up, protected and settled, and thus made use of this great, rich, only partly developed island, some other nation might some day try to move in and make it their own. For the past twenty years, continued and successful efforts to colonize Mindanao from the north have been undertaken. The modern Filipino is not afraid of his kinsmen, the Moros. Settlers from the north have poured into the rich valley of the Cotobato. I asked General Paulino Santos to take charge of the new colony at Caronadal near Davao, which he did with conspicuous success. Secretary Rafael Alunan in the Cabinet was given supervision over all colonization affairs…”

So it was very clearly spelled out from the very start –colonization , the genesis of what would come to be called “Manila imperialism.” The international aspect of the “Mindanao question” would be confirmed soon enough when a controversy arose over the growing number of Japanese settlers in Mindanao in the late 1930s. Eventually the National Assembly would pass the Immigration Act of 1940 (still in force), to the outrage of the Japanese who complained that it was aimed specifically against them. The Philippine government, the Japanese foreign ministry suspected, even welcomed Jewish refugees from Germany (who were urged to settle in Mindanao) to counterbalance the growing presence of Japanese companies in Mindanao’s economy.

Of course once in power, leaders and policy makers usually reveal that they are incapable of appreciating ironies. They saw no contradiction between the rhetoric they had been repeating for twenty years -that the Filipino people were willing, ready, and able to assume responsibility for themselves- and their policy of refusing to extend the rights they enjoyed to minorities. Filipino leaders were genuinely concerned about Mindanao and began efforts to spur development -but only to relieve agrarian tensions elsewhere in the country (by fostering migration), allow the utilization of its natural resources, and most of all, to guarantee the integrity of the state they headed. The interests of their “kinsmen” was not considered at all.

Or to be more accurate, Muslim affairs were viewed within the context of how they could best be manipulated to the advantage of the new government (after all, the Muslims and their leaders at worst could be viewed as having handicapped the Filipino effort to convince the Americans that they were a homogeneous people desirous of home rule). I think this point better illustrates the Commonwealth government’s reaction to the succession crisis that arose in the Sultanate of Sulu.

Arnold Molina Azurin, in his essay, “City versus Ethnicity.” mentions, as an example of Quezonian egomania, that,

“Quezon was influencing the 1934 Constitutional Assembly to erode the traditional and historic powers of the Sultan of Sulu because he could not bear having another citizen exercising dominion over another territory, that of North Borneo. So, while the area south of Mindanao was incorporated by that Assembly as part of the national domain, the Sultanate’s claim of dominion was ignored -and thus was that vast and rich territory opened to foreign intervention and control, mainly on account of the egomania of the Nacionalista  power-wielder in Malacanang who could not live with the prospect of having another ruler in his ethnic domains.”

Mr. Azurin is referring, of course, to the definition of Philippine territory in the 1935 Constitution, as delineated in the Treaty of Paris and a treaty between the US and England “on the second day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty,” his point being that the framers of the 1935 Constitution chose to accept the definition of the territory of the Philippines made by the colonial powers which ruled the Philippines and had interests in North Borneo; his point hinges on whether this was done deliberately, knowing the Sultan’s claim to Sabah, or if it was done in ignorance of the claim -not only that, it depends on whether it would have been prudent to question the colonial arrangements through a provision in a Constitution that had to be approved by the one of the powers in question. After all, after independence, the Sabah subject was brought up (that old reliable Francis Burton Harrison was hired as a government consultant in the matter; British Foreign Office official was said to have sneered that the claim a rather cheeky one for a newly-independent colony to make).

It is more useful to attribute what Mr. Azurin described to the conviction among Filipino leaders like Quezon that the Muslims were not to be trusted, which may or may not betray an egotistical attitude. Quezon, after all, refused to recognize a successor to the Sultan of Sulu when the last Sultan died during his term, an act which has repercussions to the present, as the heirs of the Sultan have continued quarreling among themselves, allowing Philippine presidents to favor one faction or another . This is, I would think, the origin of the state of affairs which has led Presidents of the Republic to become the attorneys, so to speak,  for the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, as happened under Marcos -meaning that Filipino leaders did seek to eliminate the influence of the Sultanate out of mere pique; it was deliberately done to neutralize what was perceived to be a threat to (in today’s parlance) “national security.”

The end result can all the more be seen as internal colonialism. Flooding Mindanao with Christian settlers -the way Americans flooded the Midwest in the US- became one of the most effective ways of ensuring that the island would stay in the hands of the Republic. By the 1950s, Muslim leaders like Domicao Alonto had become familiar fixtures in national politics, but still the leader from Mindanao who would rise the highest prior to the Marcos years was Emmanuel Pelaez, a Christian. The gradual extension of voting and other rights to the Muslims was accompanied by the gradual rise of Muslim politicians who played the game, Manila-style, or at least in the fashion adopted by provincial Christian warlords who had private armies; the supreme example of this new breed of Muslim leader was -is- Muhamed Ali Dimaporo.

The leaders who played politics Christian-style, whether those from the old ruling families or people like Dimaporo, represent a partial success for the colonial-style policies of Filipino leaders. Equivalent of the success with which the Americans got Filipino leaders to play politics American-style; the thing is that this style of co-optation may have been suited to first half of the twentieth but has begun to display serious limitations over the past thirty years. Just as the traditional means of keeping political power were challenged by the Student Movement and an increasing number of politicized “outsiders” (or outright rebels from the establishment) so did the Muslim leaders discover that their old-style patronage politics failed to satisfy people like Nur Misuari.

Nonetheless, Filipino politicians are if nothing else, a durable and adaptive lot, and as they have managed to survive and even flourish in the air of post-Marcos democracy, so has the Philippine government discovered that old tricks may be resorted to again. This is what we see happening in Mindanao now. Even as some members of the military establishment remain convinced that the only way to end the “Mindanao problem” will take a “Final Solution” (whatever the term may mean, and I suspect it means something grisly), other military men are content to bargain with the Muslims while also preparing for a final conflict if it becomes necessary. At the same time, in true colonial fashion, the Christian majority in Mindanao, or at least the political leaders thereof, yell appeasement and sell-out: or at least they did until Nur Misuari suddenly displayed behavior that was quite recognizably in traditional Filipino political style; then all of a sudden the shrill cries subsided, becoming constant grumbling instead.

It may yet turn out that in one fell stroke the current (Ramos) Administration has achieved something that was half-heartedly attempted before: the co-optation of Muslim leaders by making them “one of the boys” politically, with access to patronage and pork barrel funds. This time, the government has gone all-out and decided to give everyone a share of the loot, in the hope that this attempt to share the wealth will make everyone, Christian and Muslim alike, happy.

Which will lead to the greatest irony of all -the achievement of Muslim integration into the body politic because of the lure of pork. Barrel, that is. Which doesn’t mean that in the end, this will still represent another colonial success story -all the more sweet because it’s home-grown colonization.

Speech: Marcelo H. Del Pilar and the Filipino Youth

National Symposium on the Greatness of Marcelo H. Del Pilar
In observance of his Hundredth Death Anniversary 1896-1996
July 3, 1996 PlazaSan Agustin, Intramuros, Manila

Marcelo H. Del Pilar and the Filipino Youth
by Manuel L. Quezon III

Mr. Marcelo del Pilar Marasigan, Dr. Serafin Quiason, descendants of Marcelo H. Del Pilar, distinguished panelists and guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

I have been invited to talk to you on the lofty subject of “Marcelo H. Del Pilar and the Filipino Youth.” It is difficult to talk about Del Pilar because of an unfortunate state of affairs which has resulted in a painful fact. The painful fact is that Marcelo H. Del Pilar is of absolutely no significance to the Filipino youth at the present time. You see, the Filipino youth know nothing about him. They haven’t read anything written by him, or even about him, unless you count history textbooks which no one reads with attention anyway. The average citizen simply does not care about Del Pilar. His only place in the national consciousness is the fact that he was a gentleman with wonderful twirly mustachios who used to be on the fifty centavo coin. That is all. With this sad state of affairs in mind, we must face the fact that, if we aren’t careful, this symposium might turn out to be the second funeral of Marcelo H. Del Pilar: a gathering of the dwindling few for whom he still means something.

The only way that we will be able to rescue Del Pilar from obscurity is to consider, today, how on earth we can make Del Pilar count for anything in the minds of today’s young people. And we cannot do this until we first clear up exactly how we want to present Del Pilar to future generations. We must consider three things: Del Pilar as a person, Del Pilar and the ideals he espoused, and the significance and value of the Propaganda Movement, of which Del Pilar was a key member.

Marcelo H. Del Pilar, our learned historians assure us, was a gifted writer with the unique ability to move people in two languages: Tagalog and Spanish. His fame rests on his accomplishments as a writer and editor of La Solidaridad.. To use that horrible phrase so much in fashion now, Del Pilar was surely “world-class”, as a pamphleteer and journalist. For most Filipinos, these accomplishments are the things which entitle Del Pilar to fame and veneration. Obviously something is wrong with this justification for considering Del Pilar as great, since it hasn’t resulted in Del Pilar becoming a model for anyone, much less journalists. I will tell you the reason for this. Simply being “world class” is not a qualification for posthumous fame, because it implicitly takes for granted the presumption that not all Filipinos are world-class, and worse, that Filipinos can only be great if they outdo foreigners in things foreign. An analogy in the world of music would be the fate of Jovita Fuentes: widely admired in her time, the greatest Filipina diva, who enchanted people the world over playing Cio-Cio San in Madame Butterfly, no one remembers her now except for the small number of people who study music seriously. She was the first “world-class” Filipina singer, but we don’t even have recordings of her voice in quantity. Her fate, I think, will be the fate of today’s world-famous Filipina singer, Leah Salonga. I suspect Leah Salonga will, in her turn end up a footnote in Philippine Music history, as Jovita Fuentes has. Eventually her songs will be played less and less, as tastes and fashion changes, making her irrelevant. Today’s famous singer is tomorrow’s world-class has-been. The only way she would endure, as a significant figure, is if she had helped to create a radical appreciation of Filipino music among Filipinos, which she didn’t. Her path to glory has been the path of foreign music, at which foreigners excel, and which they will always dominate. She will merely be one who played the game, never an innovator. When credit is given for the popularization of Filipino pop music, her name will always be tied to acts of musical collaboration . Such as recording a single with that forgotten group, Menudo. Or playing a Vietnamese, instead of the Japanese girl Fuentes portrayed, in a musical rehash of the Opera Madame Butterfly , meaning she gained fame for the same reasons that Fuentes did. Or of acting in musicals such as My Fair Lady and Grease, both of which are firmly tied, in everyone’s consciousness, with non-Filipino actors and singers. She has only proved that we little brown people can do a tolerable job imitating Audrey Hepburn, Julie Andrews, and Olivia Newton-John. So what?

The same goes for Del Pilar. If he was a world-class journalist, so what? He would then be merely a precursor to Carlos P. Romulo, who garnered a Pulitzer prize but who, gentleman and credit to the country that he was, has been rapidly forgotten since he died. You have to offer something to posterity other than talent which, of course, must be praised and given credit, but which remains of fleeting significance, because the things that thrill today’s generation will not evoke the same awe in future ones. Besides, the only way to hold up Del Pilar as an example of rare talent, entails his having to be widely read. Otherwise how can we admire his talent if we don’t read the things that earned him a reputation for journalistic skill in the first place? But then this would mean that his works would have to be widely disseminated, which will lead to all sorts of problems, chiefly with Catholic schools. Not to mention that having been widely distributed, you would have to force students to read his works, the surest guarantee for people developing a phobia about Del Pilar.

As a person, let me suggest that the only way to hold Del Pilar up as someone worthy of admiration, is to broadly consider his character, not his particular achievements.

Del Pilar has been considered the supreme political analyst of the Propaganda Movement, just as Graciano Lopez Jaena was its principal orator, and Rizal its foremost thinker. Del Pilar was the accomplished pragmatist of the three, a conclusion borne out by his having been as comfortable in the cockpit, as in the relatively cosmopolitan environs of 19th-century Madrid, where he mingled with the rich and famous and yet managed to shame future generations by practically starving to death out of idealism. This tells us that Del Pilar was the most practical and down-to-earth of the three, and also the most idealistic, second only to Rizal, in retrospect. A well-balanced man, which is also why we are told by historians that the notoriously quarrelsome Filipino community in Madrid chose to elect him their leader.

He is a sympathetic character, in contrast to the wildly gesticulating Lopez Jaena, who went around with food stains on his clothes, and the vaguely prissy and puritanical Rizal. He is a man we can relate to, as we are now a people who expect our leaders to move with equal aplomb in basketball courts (or the perennial cock pits of our towns) as in gatherings of world leaders. Hold an election today, and Del Pilar might just win. In contrast to Jaena who would dazzle, and then irritate -as Miriam Santiago did. Or Rizal, who would impress us, but in the end turn us off with his soaring into the rarefied air of intellectual thought , just as his fellow Atenean Raul Manglapus, a brilliant man, did: people eventually decided he was just too impractical in his idealism.

And yet we also know that Del Pilar was a man of extraordinary devotion, who endured the most miserable circumstances, and who died alone, penniless, and in pain. The way he died tells us that pragmatism and rationality -essential characteristics for political analysts and journalists- can coexist with unlimited adherence to political principles. And that, in fact, one’s being firmly rooted in a pragmatic appreciation of the present equips one with attributes needed to secure the goals envisioned by one’s political ideals.

Simply put, Del Pilar was idealistic without being dogmatic, cultivated without being detached from the majority, a man who had no illusions about the conditions of his day, but not consumed with cynicism, either. A man who literally worked himself to death and endured discomfort while some people in his community embezzled the community’s funds. These characteristics alone qualify Del Pilar to be a model for us all.

Now let me move on to the principles espoused by Del Pilar and his fellow Propagandists. Del Pilar and Co. represented the full flowering of the European Enlightenment among us Filipinos -or so we have been assured. This being the case, we must consider that their ideals, just as much as their individual talents, were great too. If Del Pilar and the Propagandists are to be of any significance, their goals must be relevant over time. And worthy of emulation.

What were their goals? Graciano Lopez Jaena, that disheveled individual, explained them. He said:

“We want a free press so that the truth may shine in all its splendor. we want free trade to develop our resources. We want, finally, voting rights and representation in the Cortes, and we don’t want friars.”

All these things remain contentious issues to this day. What constitutes a free press, and its value in that it reveals the “truth” in “all its splendor,” remains debated to this day. Particularly since a new Propaganda (actually I would call it Counter-Propaganda) movement is afoot in our region, which tells us that press freedom, or any freedom, when you come to think of it, are useless luxuries which retard progress. One writer has pointed out that Del Pilar differed from his fellow Propagandists in that he took it to be an article of faith that we Filipinos were the equals of anyone in the world -he didn’t feel this had to be proved, the way Rizal and the others perhaps did. But either position supports the conclusion that we Filipinos are the equals of anyone anywhere. This conclusion is, as I mentioned, being challenged by the Counter-Propagandists in Singapore and Malaysia, who are actually supporting the colonial view that we Asians are simply unqualified -because of our culture or whatever- to have our personal and political development measured according to Western standards. I cannot see the difference between the racist Spanish friars who howled that we were a race too degenerate to be worthy of education, and Lee Kwan Yew and Mahathir who moo that Filipinos and other Asians are culturally unfit to adhere to liberal democracy. Del Pilar and the Propagandists needed a free press to wage the fight for equality, and later, freedom, just as we need a free press today to continue the fight against attempts to limit those freedoms. Realizing this should give us, and future generations, reason to keep this fight going.

Now as for Free trade, the Gatt-controversy has proved this remains a bone of contention, and I had better leave that issue to the economists.

Let me also briefly consider the Propagandists’ goal of securing voting rights. Voting rights continues to be an issue -never mind the representation in the Cortes part, I don’t care about the lunatic fringe that wants us to annexed by the United States. By voting rights I mean the bitter debate among ourselves as to whether the right to vote means anything, and whether being represented in our home-grown legislature constitutes genuine representation of the people’s will. Not to mention that “voting representation,” is premised on the three principles of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, which we continue to argue about today. What is Liberty? Liberty for whom? What is equality, and equality for whom? And Fraternity -to whom does it apply? Among ourselves? Our neighbors? Both? The issue of voting rights is therefore tied to the issue of civil liberties, which Del Pilar and friends anxiously sought, and which we should continue to expand.

Now for the thorniest of the Propagandists’ demands: the elimination of friars from influence over government. The issue of friars is an embarrassing thing to mention nowadays in a land which gave the Pope the biggest audience of his pontificate, a record, incidentally, in terms of the number of people involved in a mass gathering. But it must be acknowledged that the issue of the existence of a frailocracy, with all its bad influences, is still alive. This is because our Republican institutions inherited a mistrust of organized religion from Masonry. We cannot cover up the fact that many, if not most, of the Filipinos we hail as heroes were Masons. In his writings Del Pilar was viciously antifriar, too. The anticlerical nature of the Propaganda Movement and later efforts to secure freedom, needn’t be covered up, to my mind, even though it embarrasses the Catholic Church, which wields greater influence over national affairs at present, than it ever has since the time of the last Spanish Archbishop of Manila, Bernardino Nozaleda.

The Propagandists blamed the friars for the backwardness and inequities which plagued the Philippines. They wanted them to stop wielding power -and they wanted them out. They viewed the influence of religion over the minds of Filipinos as a bad thing, they even used a word to describe the effects of religion on the people’s minds: it obscured rational thought. They attributed many of our weaknesses as a people to the friars and their fiestas. They said that a lesson of history is that religion has no business meddling in temporal affairs. Of course people being what they are, many of them became anti-religious to boot.

While I don’t advocate anti-religion, and while I do recognize that religion today has a profound and generally good influence on young people, I do maintain that we can benefit from realizing the full extent and the virulence of the anticlericalism of the Propagandists. Simply because this obligates us to reflect on the influence of religion on our history, and the proper role of Churches and the State. We have to realize that religion can be just as much an instrument for secular repression, as it is a means for gaining spiritual salvation. It makes us think over whether we want a society where we can all agree to disagree, or whether we want a society where one single morality and dogma rules.

You can see that I feel the objectives of the Propagandists remain important ones today. Not all of you, I am sure, agree with me. But even if you don’t, I would think we can all agree that the greatness of Del Pilar lies in the ideals he believed in, and that considering him great requires our accepting that those ideals were great too -or at least of such significance that we have to wrestle with their implications to this day.

So now, my last point.

Earlier I said we had to consider the significance and legacy of the movement Del Pilar belonged to. For this purpose, I think it is fortunate, to use the Nietzschean phrase made popular by one of Senator Ople’s colleagues in the Senate, that today’s commemoration of the death of Marcelo H. Del Pilar represents a “confluence of events”. You see, the centennial anniversary of Del Pilar’s death coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the Third Philippine Republic, and of Philippine independence.

Both anniversaries are significant and quite related. Del Pilar died shortly before the Philippine Revolution began. From what we are told, at the time he died, he had made up his mind that the movement in which he had played such a significant role was facing a dead end. The supreme propagandist was going in the direction of deciding, as so many of his less exalted compatriots would, that separation from Spain was the only option left, if Filipinos were to become anything more than slaves. To achieve separation from Spain, a revolution would have to be undertaken. In other words simply from Del Pilar’s example, we can think of the Revolution being the logical outcome of the efforts of the propagandists; but then, conversely we can also view the Revolution as the repudiation of the Propaganda movement.

Which of the two is it? Did mounting a Revolution mean that the Propaganda Movement was discredited? If so, then what about the Revolution having given birth to the stillborn First Republic, which was crushed by the United States? That would be another dead end. It is a dead end, since the only thing our present institutions have to do with the Malolos Republic is the military insignia the AFP uses as a whole and the rayadillo uniforms worn by ceremonial units, and the red triangle in the presidential seal, and perhaps the Katipunan legacy of an appreciation of ancient Tagalog script.

But Malolos having been subjugated by American arms did not mean that revolution, or simply armed struggle, as a tactic and aspiration, stopped being a legitimate tactic for achieving freedom: our experience during World War II proves that. But the simple fact remains that Philippine independence, the independence we enjoy today, was obtained through peaceful means and not through an armed revolution. So does that mean that Philippine independence, when it was finally secured, was a vindication of the Propaganda Movement? Some writers say so, But then you must consider Edsa, which took place ninety years after Del Pilar died and forty years after independence was achieved -doesn’t Edsa constitute a vindication of the Revolution of 1896, since it was based on the premise that citizens have the right to overthrow tyranny?

Confusing, isn’t it? It should be confusing, because it is troubling. It is troubling, because it isn’t easy to weave all these contradictions together into an understandable whole. Catholic apologists and Marxists have tried to provide a framework within which these contradictions can be forced to fit. In this the Marxists have been far more successful and influential. But today even their way of looking at things has begun to be questioned. Sadly, however, those who avidly followed the trail blazed by Renato Constantino and others thirty to twenty years ago, have become Obscurantists themselves, fiercely defending what was once an invigorating new line of thought but which cannot tolerate opposing views today. The result is that general interest in the past has dwindled, even as bold new scholarship continues to be undertaken for a shrinking audience.

Yet this is the time when the so-called youth must be creating their own conceptions about the Propaganda Movement, its significance and its role. This isn’t happening, and if it doesn’t happen soon, this symposium will be, as I feared, the second burial of Marcelo H. Del Pilar. He would have ceased to be, as the movement he belonged to would cease to be, of any significance because an entire generation would simply stop making the effort to wrestle with their significance today.

So this is my plea, if you want the youth to care about Del Pilar. The only way to make Filipinos care about Del Pilar is to propagandize them as he himself tried to propagandize the Spaniards -an effort needs to be made to reveal the condition of the Philippines in past times, and what people then did about it. The conflicts, the ideas which contended with each other, the good and the bad, need to be shown. Most of all, people have to realize that people like Del Pilar stood for certain clear things. And that they were willing to suffer for these things. They need to know that Del Pilar fought indifference and ignorance, which persist to this day. People need to know that Del Pilar chose to make a stand, and from that stand is derived his greatness. The people need to be politicized and made to know that being Filipino carries with it the obligation to politicize everything in one’s life. This extends to history, which only makes sense if you wrestle with it, and which is only of value if you try to grapple with its contradictions yourself, and not have other people make up your mind for you.

George Orwell once said that being non-political is itself an act with grave political implications. At a time when the youth increasingly claim that being non-political is a virtue, they should know that people like Del Pilar considered being political a virtue, for out of positive political action flows freedom and independence. Del Pilar was a fiercely partisan man, and we all need to be fiercely partisan men and women, when it comes to the cause of freedom, civil liberties, and charting our individual destinies. Del Pilar, uniquely among his contemporaries, bridged our two historical traditions: the tradition of agitating for freedom through peaceful means, and the tradition of fighting for freedom through violent means if we are left with no alternative but slavery. Our independence today is as much the fruit of his efforts as a propagandist, as is the glory of our revolutionary legacy, of which he might have been a part had he lived long enough. In Del Pilar we see that ideals, like individuals, may remain consistent over time and yet adapt themselves to circumstances as they arise. In him alone do we find the key to potentially making sense of our past, which we realize more and more, is really the story of parallel paths to freedom which have crossed, and in so doing, have confused us.

Del Pilar offers the key to understanding to future generations, the same way that his efforts, while he was alive, tried to provide the key to understanding the true state of the Philippines to his contemporaries.

Thank you.

Speech: Living History through Heightened Literacy

Living History through Heightened Literacy
Reading History Critically
by Manuel L. Quezon III

Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning.

First of all, I would like to thank Mrs. Elena Cutiongco, President of the Reading Association of the Philippines for having honored me with an invitation, on behalf of this association, to address you today. I would also like to thank Ms. Elena Mingoa and Ms. Felicitas Pado, Secretary of the RAP, for having the patience to follow up the invitation through most of the month of February. I was ill most of that month and it was only in mid-March, I think, that I was able to finally confirm my acceptance. I am very proud of the fact that you have given me the opportunity to share some thoughts with you this Sunday morning.

The letter of invitation from the association mentioned that ‘Having read your columns, we feel that you can help us awaken our participants’ interest in history.’ The letter further informed me that the theme of this conference is ‘Living History through heightened Literacy,’ and suggested that my talk to you today should be on ‘How to Read History Critically.’ And while the President of the Association was gracious enough to give me full rein to ‘repackage’ the topic as I saw fit, I decided that the topic given to me is what the association would want to hear about. So I have decided to stick to it.

I am here primarily in my capacity as a professional: a journalist and opinion writer. But I am also here as a student, which is a particularly thrilling thing for me as it isn’t very often that students get to address educators. So I am here as a writer who likes to attempt to put a historical perspective on some of the topics he write about, and who hopes to qualify some day as a historian, and as student who has to wrestle with the process of clarifying the perspective I will assume when I earn my degree and can be called a historian. Two -perhaps three- hats which I will be assuming today.

Now in academe there is a fashionable view which I reject, possibly marking me out as an outright reactionary -at least from the point of view of the proponents of this view of History. Since History is classified as a Social Science, this fashionable view believes that the subject must be approached in a ‘scientific’ manner, which basically seems to consist of using a lot of jargon when writing historical papers and articles. I suspect that this ‘scientific’ style of writing history is naturally a by-product of a belief in historical determinism and dailectical materialism which has become entrenched in some departments of history. Now before you consider me even more reactionary than I myself admit myself to be, let me make it clear that I have nothing against a socialist orientation in history. It is, by its nature, progressive, and breathed new life into the study of our past. You only have to compare the history written by the old school, say Zaide, and read the history written by Renato Constantino to realize how much more thought-provoking and profound are the works of the elder Constantino.

No what I object to is how the -yes, revolutionary- breakthrough in perspective and analysis begun by Constantino and others, has become entrenched and has degenerated into the sort of stuff that gets published in ponderous, extremely respectable but eminently unreadable academic journals and other publications. These articles come out and are discussed among the equally learned peers of their learned authors, are consigned to the shelves of libraries, and if ever a student must sift through them, he derives no joy from the process -unless, of course, he has been so brainwashed as to enjoy that kind of writing. In which case the student would most likely make sense of his sufferings by thinking of them as some sort of rite of passage which can only have horrible results: a culture of unconcious vindictiveness in which teachers try to maintain a style out of the mistaken belief that since it is inscrutable, it must be intellectual. This is frightening.

It is frightening, because it leads to history becoming a collection of cryptic manuscripts which the average citizen would be well advised to avoid at all costs. Not that he or she would probably even bother to make sense of it in the first place. Who wants to engage in the mind-numbing effort of sorting through technical gobbledygook, even if it is supposed to be about your favorite hero? I mean many people are fascinated by outer space, but who will read a scientific journal or paper on nuclear isotopes? No one in their right mind will. Which is fine. Consider that physics is the sort of thing which can be left in the hands of the experts, because they are the only ones qualified to find practical applications for their theories. Physics, mysterious as it is, I can happily leave in the hands of the experts becuase they know what to do with it.

But what about history? If history evolves into the kind of thing which only experts can understand, and talk about with any sort of confidence, then it will surely disappear or at least become transformed into something like the temple rites of a cult: mysterious, incomprihensible, slightly scary and deeply suspicious. Most of all, it would cease to have any value whatsover becuase history doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t widely disseminated and understood. History, really, is supposed to be the common memory of a race, which provides a foundation for our own individual experiences, or personal histories. It is a set of markers which provides a frame of reference for our journey through life.

Most people are too busy undertaking the day-to-day business of living their lives to pay attention to these markers. Once in a while, though, people get it into their heads that they want to learn something about the past which they never had the time to learn about previously because they were so busy making the extra cash to pay for their vacation. These people suddenly bursting with curiousity (and usually a little extra cash) are called tourists. They might decide to invest in hiring a tour guide to point out all the interesting and entertaining things they never knew. And they are quite happy to be herded from place to place like a herd of laughing cows to look at the sights and be in awe of the stirring events which took place there.

This is the way of the world, and a lucky thing for people who like history and want to make it their vocation. The ability to provide goods and services being the sole means by which a person can hope to food on the table, it’s fortunate indeed that people who like to learn about the past can find a way to turn this knowledge into a means of supporting themselves. It is the rice and fish of the historian. Of educators, such as yourselves, in general, too, with the difference that while general education, and particular academic disciplines are necessary, history isn’t (and yes, many subjects classified under ‘the humanities’ as well).

This may all sound very pedestrian to you, classifying the nurturing and the spread of knowledge as goods and services, but that’s the way things are. We keep hearing all sorts of things about the ‘Third Wave’ of human development, of history, really, which as I understand it can be described as the Information Revolution, in contrast to the two previous waves, the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. Now tell me, how is history supposed to be part of this Third Wave, and a fulfilling vocation, not to mention a desirable good or service, if it becomes incomprihensible? Going back to my little tourist analogy, it’s logical to assume that a tour guide, who talks way above the heads of the people who hired him or her to provide them with information, will rapidly lose business and might even foster a lingering resentment against tour guides in general among his or her dissatisfied clients. This would not only be sad, but unfair to tour guides and their profession as well.

If you carry the analogy a little further, what would be worse about this situation is that it might kill the desire to learn more among the tour guide’s clients. And carried further still, it would be tragic if one viewed it as a worthy goal not just to have people gawking at sights, but people -a citizenry- who would one day stop being a happy herd and actually get into the habit of engaging their tour guides in mutually benificial dialogues: in other words, thinking and involved tourists .

A thinking and involved citizenry: isn’t that the goal of education? thinking and involved citizenry: shouldn’t that be the dream of anyone who loves, writes about, or teaches history? It should be.

Personally I view history as a discipline which does have its own ‘scientific,’ method, by which I mean that there are certain standards within the discipline according to which individual works are created and their contents judged. But this I consider to be in the realm of fact-gathering, facts being merely ‘the brutes of the intellectual domain’ as an American jurist put it. From these facts you create history which is meant to be read by other people of widely divergent opinions and intelligence. You not only want to inform them, but entertain them as best you can. This doesn’t mean pandering to them or talking down to them, or engaging in frivolous discourse -which seems to be an objection held by some in academe to attempts to make history ‘popular’ or relevant. I remember one professor speaking contemptuously of a real historian who writes a widely-read column in another newspaper. He sniffed that that writer only wrote about ‘trivia.’ My reaction was, hooray for trivia! If trivia makes you think and care about the past, I’m all for it. You cannot say (a) the people are too stupid to understand such things, and this subject is too exalted to be treated in such a bakya manner, or (b) the people are too attached to their prerevolutionary ways to understand the way history really is from a perspective masquerading as a progressive ideology. These attitudes are both -and I am sure some people will resent this- elitist, pure and simple.

What I am getting act has to do with the over-all theme for today’s conference: ‘Living History through Heightened Literacy.’ You see if the goal of education is not just to cram people’s heads with facts, but to make them develop a feeling for history, a feeling that history is part of their being, then certain conditions have to be met and the challenge they pose, met. The essential conditions are these: they must know the basics, which gives them the confidence and motivation to think critically, and which fosters the desire to learn more. The challenge facing all of us here today, you the educators and I, the writer, are how on earth do you satisfy these conditions?

First, educators must grapple with a situation which may not be acknowledged, but which I tell you exists. The vast majority of our people, who have been herded from one history and social studies class to another, year after year, emerge, at the end of their academic experiences, knowing nothing -or worse than nothing!- about our history. And some of these people, in their turn, become educators themselves. I will tell you a true, and shocking story.

I have a friend now studying in what is considered to be one of the top three unversities of the country. A couple of years ago, when he was still a freshman, he asked me to help him study for a history exam. So I did. Basic stuff. Somehow, the subject of where the Philippines got its name came up. ‘Wasn’t the Philippines named after Philip of Spain,’ my friend asked. ‘Of course, I said. How can you be a freshman in college and even have any doubts,’ I asked him. My friend replied, ‘Oh no, I was sure, just checking. You see my teacher in fourth year [high school] told us the Philippines was named after Philip the King of Spain and the Pines in Baguio.’ I was dumbfounded. ‘Maybe your teacher was kidding,’ I asked, hopefully. ‘Oh no,’ my friend assured me. ‘She even said it a couple of times.’ Now let me tell you this was a teacher in one of the most ‘exclusive’ private schools in the Southern part of our metropolis. Can you imagine the number of students running around now with this highly eccentric idea of where our country got its name?

Uusually, of course, since teachers are human, too and make pardonable mistakes, courses in school, particuarly in the primary and secondary levels, rely on a basic textbook which contains essential information for the student, and on which the teacher’s lessons are supposed to be based. Any history textbook, if read with attention, would contain the information that the Philippines was named after a grim and workaholic king -and that alone- and that our name isn’t a hybrid contruction composed of that gloomy king’s name and the name of a type of tree which grows in Baguio. Which goes to show you just how attentively the average student reads his or her textbooks.

I don’t blame the students for not bothering with their textbooks. Theyr’e a penance inflicted on students and their parents by schools and book publishers who operate on the assumption that in order to produce something affordable, you must cut costs by printing the books on miserable paper and not care one bit as to how readable and eye-catching they are. Color and innovative presentation are viewed as dispensable luxuries. This is an outrage. I studied abroad from 7th grade to part of 11th grade, and let me tell you that while some of my teachers weren’t exactly bubbly characters, my textbooks were certainly lively. They were full of interesting pictures, extracts, and additional facts besides the main text. Now as to the main text itself our textbooks, particularly the one by Agoncillo, could hold their own against theirs, but it is in the added details that the shortcomings of our own textbooks are revealed. Theyr’e downright primitive, absolutely crude. An insult to the student and the teacher, a slap on education in general.

To be fair, the fact that our history textbooks are appallingly grey and boring is due to several factors beyond the control of teachers and even the schools. The first, as I said, is the view held by the publishers that in order to produce books that are affordable, they have to be crudely printed to keep down costs. Why do they have to keep down costs? Becuase parents aren’t willing to pay a lot of money for a textbook.

Why is this so? Becuase parents have no guarantee that the government, the Department of Education, might suddenly decree that all the textbooks have to be junked because new guidelines have been issued, which in turns leads the schools to issue new lists of required textbooks which parents are meant to comply with. As an aside, another factor may be a persisting colonial mentality among our book-buying public. For a nation with one of the highest levels of literacy in the region and the world, our book-buying sector is quite small, and among this segment of the population a habit persists which can only be attributed to the lingering effects of our colonial mentality. A nice paperback book published abroad costs about three hundred pesos, which is, I agree, a lot of money, but apparently not too much considering how foreign books in this price range have flooded our bookstores. This means that book buyers are willing to buy them at that price. They consider the books worth it. And yet books written and published by Filipinos, often superior in style and of far more relevant subject matter, cannot be sold at that price.

Consider that for a locally-published book to be considered a runaway best seller, it should sell about five thousand copies in its first year of publication, or so I was told. Usually publishers are satisfied if a thousand or so copies are sold, at least they recouped their investment which is usually the only thing they hope for (and note that out of the thousand or so copies the author himself is responsible for selling say, a hundred or so copies alone to his friends and relatives!). In fact most books published seem to be written off as a loss; the only reason they come out at all is because the publishers make enough money selling cookbooks and self-help books to subsidize the publication of so-called ‘serious’ works, fiction and non-fiction. If parents don’t even want to spend what they’d normally shell out for a foreign book for a local book, how much more so will they be inclined not to shell out a decent amount of money for a textbook which their other children may not even be able to use at all?

Still, while these may be the conditions at present, I think it is no justification for coming out with lousy textbooks. We’re a smart and creative people: let us come up with ways to deal with these handicaps. First of all, schools should consider adopting the practice used in other countries, where the school owns the textbooks, which are assigned to the students and returned by them at the end of the year. The student only pays for the book if he or she damages it or loses it. The cost of the book can then be spread out, and it can be said to pay for itself after a while, say three or four years, when it wears out and has to be replaced, which might be the time when the books are due to be updated anyway. So instead of four students -the number who will use one book during its lifetime- shelling out say P150 each a year, you could come out with one nice book which costs, say P350 pesos, and yet each student, through his tuition, would actually only be paying something like 87 pesos! I think this makes sense and is possible, given a little coordination between the DECS and educators.

Another problem of course, and a thorny and controversial one, which involves our strong tradition of centralized everything, is the fact that we have a guerrila war of sorts going on between schools run by religious organzations and the authorities of the State, which is a secular institution. The State attempts to enforce ‘standards’ which are either ignored or evaded through the use of loopholes and deception: this at a time when the basic facts of history are supposed to be taught. The result is some students know their history better than others becuase other students went to schools where the authorities decided that they had their own interpretation to foster and maybe things to downplay if not hide. The clearest evidence for this is presented by the never-ending controversies surrounding the teaching of Rizal’s novels, which, it is alleged, some sectarian schools have reduced to a reading option when their reading has been mandated by law. Later on in life, in colleege, how are you supposed to get an intelligent discussion of Rizal’s works going if you have to devote two weeks to informing people ignorant about the Noli and the Fili about their significance and their contents?

Anyway, let me tackle one more aspect of the problem of textbooks in preparation for my tackling the problem of at what point should people be expected to begin reading reading history critically.

A distinction needs to be made about what is expected of a student when it comes to studying history at a particular age. It’s obvious that one progresses as time goes by -or so it is hoped- and that as one goes through school. one becomes progressively more knowledgeable and discerning. The way I see it, the following are the minimum expectations teachers can have of their students: at the end of the elementary level, students should know the basic facts, things like the more widely-accepted important names and important dates and events. At this age it isn’t bad to be obsessed with names and dates, students are memorizing all sorts of things like multiplication tables anyway. During high school, students are expected to know the context in which the names and dates they memorized during their elementary years took place. They should learn enough background material to add the scenery to the road signs they memorized earlier on in life. It is only in college that students should be expected to relate the road signs and the scenery they learned about in their previous 12 or so years in school, with their own lives and the life of the society in which they are beginning to take their rightful place as adults and responsible citizens.

If this is so, why then do so many college students take History 101 or its equivalent, and use the the same textbook -usually Agoncillo- that they used in 4th year sometimes even 3rd year, high school? This can only mean three things. Either the previous 2 years of high school history weren’t enough, or the one year of Philippine history in college is superfluous, or, considering at the end of all this they end up not having absorbed anything anyway, all the years weren’t enough or were useless.

Please think about this, becuase this should tell you that something is very very wrong about the way history is being taught. The only chance in their lives that students will be made to look at their past as young adults, as men and women on the threshold of productive lives as involved citizens, is squandered by their elders.

But let us accentuate the positive and presume that the students have reached college armed with the basic facts and background about their history. How then will you get them to read critically?

Well, students being what they are, by forcing them read, and read widely, which involves not making it an ordeal for them to find the things you assigned them to read. Time should be spent reading and digesting the material instead of engaging in a scavenger hunt for hard-to-find, crumbling texts. Since the students have already absorbed the
basic facts, and can distinguish the difference in time between the now controversial first mass at Limasawa and the now controversial presidency of Emilio Aguinaldo, now is the time for them to perhaps read an actual eyewitness account by a Spaniard of that mass, and some manifestos issued by Aguinaldo. Not just that, now is the time to tackle the controversies that surround the event and the person. This will force the student to make up his or her own mind about the events and personalities and questions concerned, and will make them relevant to him or her.

You see the student perforce will have to develop a point of view, either diametrically opposite that of the teacher, which is fine and healthy, or in agreement with the teacher, which is nice as well, oe somewhere in between, which I think is best of all, as it reveals that the student is his or her own person. As the eminent British historian Lytton Strachey, who was in many ways the father of the modern biography-as-history, wrote:

What are the qualities that make a historian? Obviously these three -a capacity for absorbing facts, a capacity for stating them, and a point of view. The two latter re connected, but not necessarily inseparable. The late professor Samuel Gardiner, for instance, could absorb facts, and he could state them; but he had no [point of view; and the result is that his book on the most exciting period of English history resembles nothing so much as a very large heap of sawdust.

In elementary, then, we learn facts and how to absorb them; in high school we learn to state them or to use an ugly word, contextualize them to a certain extent. In college we must learn to have a point of view with which to make sense of our history, otherwise it will have as much meaning for us as a ‘very large heap of sawdust.’

How then will you actually foster critical reading of history? By presenting a wide menu of choice reading material for the student to sift through and duscuss with you; you may have to collect these readings yourselves and put them together for your students, sort of your own, personal version of Fr. de la Costa’s Readings in Philippine History . Most of all, you have to prod, challenge, even argue with your students over what they have read and what they think and feel about what they have read. It will require great patience and confidence on your part, not to mention tolerance and sympathy. You must guide their reading, but not read for them. You must discuss the readings with them but not indulge in egotistical monologues. You must correct basic mistkes but accept the autonomy of the student to disafree with you. You must challenge to go beyond mere reading, but understanding and questioning. You must give them the tools to detect bias and yet be unafraid to hold your own biases, so long as they are clearly revealed as such to your students for their own evaluation, acceptance or rejection.

In the end, the challenges are great and handicaps all educators work under in a developing country should stimulate creative solutions. You see if our elders cannot be creative, and show their critical awareness of the situation, how can their students be expected to do so.

Simply put, the only way to foster the critical reading of history is to remain critical readers yourselves, eternal students in a way, eager to share, and, most of all, willing to be partners in the journey toward discovery and knowledge.

Thank you and good morning.

Then & Now: Plagiarized from EMC

Plagiarized from EMC
by Manuel L. Quezon III

Addenda on the Exodus 11:7 issue. I’d like to quote (alas, without their permission; hopefully they won’t mind), two responses -and one reply, from me- I received through e-mail at The E-Mail Company. Readers might remember that I wrote something to the effect that, “I was talking to a friend whos’e scared of dogs and he told me that a whole bunch of people advised him to say ‘Exodus 11:7’ if he was suddenly menaced by a dog… Now he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to just say ‘Exodus 11:7’ or actually recite the verse in question. The funny thing is that according to him, a whole bunch of people gave him this advice. I looked up Exodus 11:7 and apparently it reads thus (I’m not too good at reading the bible so there’s a bit of verse 6 and 8 here too): ‘And throughout the land of Egypt there will be such a wailing as never was heard before, nor will be again. But against the sons of Israel, against man or beast, never a dog shall bark, so that you know Yahweh discriminates between Egypt and Israel.’
Has anyone heard of this belief? Is it a long-standng one, or part of the new Born-Again subculture or what?”
Here is what the irrepresible Rayvi Sunico wrote in reply:
“Not that I’m an expert or anything, but I think that once again, we have an example of the Filipino’s fascination with magical  objects and incantations (anting-anting, AFP IDs, privilege cards and stickers etc. ad nauseam )”

Then I received a note from Ige Ramos, whom I had had the good fortune of meeting during the launching of Chimera Ige wrote,
“About that dog business, in Cavite City the folks would intone the name of San Roque, and say a little prayer to him if a dog is in the act of attacking someone. The prayer goes like this: ‘Mahal naming poong San Roque, Ilayo mo po kami sa matatalas na  pangil ng inyong aso. Paamuhin mo po siya at ilayo mo po kami sa disgrasiya ‘ While you recite this prayer in your head, you have to bite your tounge at the same time. Thinking the dog is doing the same thing (biting its tounge and ‘ becoming maamo ‘ in  the process). Many people (including my mother) says this is a very effective prayer. I don’t subscribe to the idea. Try doing  that to a dobberman or to a german shepherd, let’s see what happens.

“Aside from saving someone from the dog’s fangs of death, San Roque is also the patron saint of dog-owners, people with gashed knees, pan de sal bakers (try and look for a San Roque image, the little mongrel usually has a pan de sal in its mouth), the people of towns all over the archipelago which are named San Roque and carinderias  that serves azucena. [A lady in] Meycauayan,  Bulacan who runs a carinderia which especializes in azucena, has a big statue of the saint in full tableau and full regalia to  welcome the customers. Its so surreal. [Their specialty is] caldereta. ‘ About that dog business, in Cavite City the folks would intone the name of San Roque, and say a little prayer to him if a dog is in the act of attacking someone. The prayer goes like this: “Mahal naming poong San Roque, Ilayo mo po kami sa matatalas na  pangil ng inyong aso. Paamuhin mo po siya at ilayo mo po kami sa disgrasiya” While you recite this prayer in your head, you have to bite your tounge at the same time. Thinking the dog is doing the same thing (biting its tounge and ‘nagiging maamo ‘ in  the process). Many people (including my mother) says this is a very effective prayer. I don’t subscribe to the idea. Try doing  that to a dobberman or to a german shepherd, let’s see what happens.

“Aside from saving someone from the dog’s fangs of death, San Roque is also the patron saint of dog-owners, people with gashed knees, pan de sal bakers (try and look for a San Roque image, the little mongrel usually has a pan de sal in its mouth), the people of towns all over the archipelago which are named San Roque and carinderias that serves azucena. My aunt in Meycauayan,  Bulacan who runs a carinderia which especializes in azucena, has a big statue of the saint in full tableau and full regalia to  welcome the customers. Its so surreal. But I like what they serve best, the caldereta. ‘Talagang nakakapag-painit ng katawan ‘ -best with gin and kalamansi and lots of rice.”
And here’s an interesting tid-bit from Didi Olaguer, the organizer at Juen Kiethley’s Center for Peace (she posted thsi message for evryone):
“A friend of mine was in a Ma Mon Luk branch somewhere in Manila a few nights ago, and noticed one item on the softdrinks menu: ‘Suicide’ priced at 9 pesos, just like the regular soft drinks. When she asked, know what the waiter said it was? ‘Pinaghalong mga iba’t-ibang softdrink.’
“Mga Tanong. Do you think— a) They open up new bottles of different softdrinks to make one ‘Suicide’?  or b) Pinaghalo ang mga TIRA ng iba’t-ibang [email protected]#$%&^!  Yum! Sarap!

And finally,  a message from “ELC” who’se e-mail address I’ll omit as this is was meant for all:
“Top ten things Forrest Gump would say if he was pilipino
10. My name is Porrest, Porrest Goomp.
9. My momma said that life is like a balikbayan box.
8. Lieutenant Dan!  Putang ina mo!
7. Lieutenant Dan! Gusto mo ba ang sorbetes?6.
6. Me and Jenny went together like champorado and isda.
5. Mr. President, iihi ako.  Na saan ang “comfort room?”
4. My best friend Bubba knew everything ther was to know about
bagoong.  “There’s bagoong with rice, bagoong with lemon juice,
fried bagoong, bagoong at puto, etc.etc…”
3. Those look like comfortable shoes.  Sa Payless ba?
2. He invested my money in a prrooot company.
1. Tanga is as tanga does.
And of course one of the nices things about being a subscriber to The E-Mail Company is getting too meet all sorts of people: Marvin Panganiban, Chris Velasco, Doll Disini (the UP mafia), Raymond Santos (lone Atenean), Paul Padilla (from EMC), and Mike from DLSU.  Cheers!

The fabric of freedom, 10 Years After Edsa

TODAY Newspaper Edsa 10th Anniversary Special

The fabric of freedom

by Manuel L. Quezon III

February 25, 1996—ON January 15, 1973, an execution—which, in retrospect, foreshadowed the elements of the rise of Ferdinand Marcos and also of his ignominious fall—took place. The condemned was no hero of democracy; he was a Chinese “alleged drug dealer,” Lim Seng. The execution was staged in the slick style of Marcos’ propaganda machine. It took place in Fort Bonifacio, in front of the reviewing stand. It would be shown on national television, which was unprecedented. The idea was to frighten the living daylights out of the Filipino.

The man had been sentenced to die by a military tribunal, demonstrating the preeminent role that military justice would play in the New Society, in contrast to the agonizingly fastidious civilian tribunals before martial law.

That Lim Seng was to die, not in the hushed privacy of a national penitentiary, but out in the open, at the hands of soldiers, made it clear what martial law really meant. Not surprisingly, Marcos liked and didn’t like the idea. The notion of a civilian shot by a line of soldiers did not appeal to him. Who knew where they would stop?

But Philippine Constabulary chief Fidel V. Ramos, flanked by generals dressed like Nazi officers in flared riding pants and boots, was insistent. He wanted a military execution.

A volley of rifle fire rang out in the gray dawn. Lim Seng, tied to a post, slumped towards the ground. But he was still alive. Traditionally, after a prisoner is shot, an officer administers the coup de grace, discharging a revolver at pointblank range into the skull of the condemned.

According to one account, this did not occur. It was determined that another volley was necessary to finish the job. But the soldiers had not been provided with another round of bullets for reasons of security. Loaded with more than a single round, who knew who else they might shoot?

Another round of ammunition was ordered, but by the time it arrived, Lim Seng had expired. He had bled to death. Assumption schoolgirls rushed to his body to dip their kerchiefs in his blood to show off to their classmates the next day.

Here was a grotesque combination of mailed fist, military inexorability, and characteristic disregard for details. A regime capable of displaying unbeatable cunning but prey to a self-destructive contempt for its opponents, and a tendency to botch things up.

This odd melange of cruelty, casualness and sloppy showmanship would culminate in the final configuration of the Marcos regime as it toppled: a dictatorship propped up by a military composed of phenominally rich generals and common soldiers who did not have decent shoes; buttressed by frustrated technocrats who demanded social austerity for the people, while charging dinners with their mistresses in Washington, D.C.’s Tiberio to the Central Bank. A regime that believed its lies as soon as it made them up; smug about its durability, in the conviction that it had mastered all the tricks of survival—except the one about oneself not being taken in by them.

The truth is that from 1972 to April 6, 1978—the famous noise barrage on the eve of elections for the Batasang Pambansa—Marcos and his men had indeed mastered all the tricks and performed them usually with the desired effect. He took in the Americans with his tomfoolery about a freely-elected dictatorship. And the Filipinos allowed themselves to be taken in by the sham because they did not want to take risks with the truth.

From a President insulted by a populace on his second inauguration with acts of lese majeste unknown in this polite country, he had—with Danton’s verve but Napoleon’s cunning—adopted his motto of “audace, et encoure de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace.” Boldness, and again boldness and always boldness.

The Marcos regime was pure political cancan—a gaudy, garish, prurient show and, for a long while, fun for its beneficiaries.

The supreme act of audacity was martial law: the mass arrest of his opponents, the shutting down of the proud, independently-owned media, and the castration of the traditional checks on executive abuse—Congress and the Supreme Court. He had done it in Asia’s oldest republic,the showcase of democracy. He had done it in the teeth of the republican notables who had once scorned the shortness of his political pedigree.

As Lim Seng’s body was hauled off the field, another execution of sorts was taking place—that of constitutional democracy.

The Constitutional Convention, inaugurated in 1971, had been decimated, leaving only the pliant and frightened. The best were in jail or in exile. Those remained did not have to be, but where nonetheless offered membership in a new parliament if they signed the new constitution institutionalizing martial law and dictatorship. So sign most of them did.

In January, 1973—in a referendum held without regulation—that Constitution was ratified. The proof of it were photos of people holding up their hands in assent, but to what no one dared ask. The rumor was that government officials asked them which they preferred: friend chicken or pancit. “Raise your hand.”

The business community applauded the fact, which the Supreme Court said it was powerless to dispute: a new order was in place. The American Chamber of Commerce hailed the dictatorship:

[The AmCham] wishes you every success in your endeavors to restore peace and order, business confidence economic growth and the well-being of the Filipino people and nation. We assure you of our confidence and cooperation in acheiving these objectives. We are communicating these feelings to our associates and affiliates in the United States.

If anyone did not share these sentiments, they were not saying. Not a peep was heard from the firebrands of the First Quarter Storm.

This is the story of how the opposition—scattered by force, dispirited by self-doubt, divided by jealousy, wavering from fear and opportunism, nonetheless finally pulled itself to together and pulled the rug from under the dictator’s feet, leaving him lying, eventually dead, under a waxen image of himself.

In Filipino Politics: Development and Decay, David Wurfel writes:

“Throughout the late 1970s, martial law prompted essentially three types of opposition: the reformist, the religious, and the revolutionary.” A post-Edsa book—Dictatorship and Revolution: Roots of People’s Power, edited by Aurora Javante-de Dios, Petronilo Bn. Daroy, and Lorna Kalaw-Tirol, gives an ampler account, upon which a great deal of this story is based.


On the eve of martial law, the militant Left, composed of student organizations in the cities and the New People’s Army in the countryside, made enough noise to frighten conservative elements in society and to give Ferdinand Marcos a pretext for emergency government. The First Quarter Storm, the storming of Malacanan Palace, the 12-day Diliman Commune, transport strikes and the spectre of a Red peasantry conditioned the public mind to drastic public measures. No one expected a dictatorship, though.

The press disenchanted the public and itself with democracy by printing Eduardo Quintero’s exposé of the bribery by Malacañang of Constitutional Convention delegates. Bombs went off throughout the city, culminating in the grenade attack on the Liberal miting de avance at Plaza Miranda on August 21, 1971. That the government was suspected of most, if not all of the bombings, merely deepened the public gloom and sense of helplessness.

Rigoberto D. Tiglao, in his essay, “The Consolidation of the Dictatorship,” does not think the Left was prepared—in training or logistics—to fight a proper war. But it had the one thing the milder opposition lacked: the will to fight the military on whom the Marcos dictatorship rested.

In pitiful constrast to the Left were the opposition politicians, who met in different houses after Ninoy Aquino’s arrest, but more to console than conspire. Reminiscent of the meeting of Filipino politicians in Speaker Yulo’s House, as the Japanese were poised to take Manila.

In one of those meetings, the idea of convening a special session of Congress to declare Proclamation 1081 null and void was brought up. The following day the legislative building was occupied by troops who “dismantled the offices, carting away equipment, tables and chairs.” Someone had squealed or the room was bugged.

But the Communist Party, too, was in disarray. Its ranks had been decimated by mass arrests, its unity broken by mutual suspicions of betrayal. The Party’s Central Committee was not able to convene for a year and a half; and while the Armed Forces of the Philippines swelled from 60,000 strong in 1972 to 250,000 by 1975, the NPA’s ranks only increased from 1,230 in 1972 to 1,800 in 1974, and actually declined to 1,200 in 1976.

But there was a  fundamental difference between the Left and the Center—as we might call the politicians—was while both declined in numbers, one increased in strength by sheer physical courage and tenacity in actual combat with the dictatorship.

By 1980, the NPA had grown enough to launch offensives. By 1983, US intelligence analysts concluded that it had achieved strategic parity with the dispirited Philippine army. The Communist Party accepted the US estimate of its mass base at 40,000 people and the military’s estimate of its military strength at 16,000.

In hoc signo vinces

Religious opposition was just beginning at the onset of martial law. The Catholic hierarchy had only just affirmed in 1971 Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, which “clearly delineated the Catholic commitment to social justice.” Jesuit Pacifico Ortiz delivered his “Prayer” at the opening of Congress describing the Philippines as a nation “on the trembling edge of revolution.”

Nothing more was heard from the religious until many years later.

In 1976 Jaime Sin repalced Rufino Cardinal Santos, who was reviled by the youth for his conservatism on social issues. Sin was not a firebrand when he donned the red cap, but he would change.

Wurfel writes that “[o]utrage and compassionate action required no liberation theology when a priest learned of the arrest without charge or the torture of a beloved parishioner…

“And when churchmen did condemn injustice or protest torture, and their activities were halted by the military, both the pastoral and the prophetic functions of milinistry were constrained. Those constraints were resented even by the conservatives…”

This alienation from the government spread to the Protestants, a group which “had also been strongly committed to constitutional democracy,” having its roots in the American democratic ethic.

Of the major churches, only the Iglesia ni Cristo was quiescent. When its radio station was assaulted by government troops at the onset of martial law, it registered its displeasure by giving Marcos a resounding no in a referendum. Then it kept quiet.

Catholic leaders, until the eve of Edsa, remained divided over the best way to deal with Marcos. They worried over the radicalization of the some religious. But government provocation was the most effective catalyst for change among the senior prelates.

An example was Cardinal Sin’s case. One of his first acts as Archbishop of Manila was to issue a pastoral letter condemning the summary arrest of Jesuit priests Jose Blanco and Benigno Mayo. Sin presided over a prayer vigil for the detained priests, “which more than 5,000 persons attended, the largest anti-martial law protest at the time.”

Sin also declared his opposition to a Marcos decree “banning all labor strikes.” US President Gerald Ford was visiting Manila at the time, so Marcos hasty backtracked and limited the ban to strategic industries.

The regime found ways to hit back. Church-owned media, which had escaped closure in 1972, was shut down in 1976-77, among them the weekly newspaper and radio station of Bishop Francisco Claver’s diocese in Bukidnon, Davao’s radio station, and Church magazines in Manila. The government threatened to tax Church properties and subject them to urban land reform.

Sin’s initial policy of “critical collaboration” during this time began to give away to active resistance, as the religious indignation spread over the continuing arrests and more of the clergy became radicalized. Sin may have thought to steal the thunder from the radical priests by hurling the bolts himself. Protestant groups began to rally against Marcos in 1978.

By 1979, Sin was firmly on the path to his preeminent role in the overthrow of Marcos.

“Unity and Struggle”

The political opposition had been the hardest hit by martial law. “It’s “highly personalized structures, based primarily on the expectation of material gain, were suddenly deprived of access to fuel for their machines. They faded rapidly, collapsed even, in the face of arrests, cooptation, and initially severe restrictions. The parties’ fate thus contributed to the illusion, reported by the foreign press as late as 1973, that there was no significant opposition to the New Society.”

Marcos’s most effective weapon against the politicians was their own cupidity. He paid them off and recruited them into the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.

Not all of them. A few voices continued to heard, echoing Ninoy Aquino’s protests from his prison. They were those of Lorenzo Tañada, elder statesman and lawyer to detainees; Jose Diokno, after Ninoy the one detained longest by the dictator; Jovito Salonga, counsel for political prisoners, then a prisoner himself. Raul Manglapus and other Filipino exiles in America denounced the dictatorship to a handful of decent Americans who would listen, among them Stephen Solarz.

Adversity made these leaders into men of far higher principle than they were thought to have been previously. Ninoy Aquino, in particular, transcended a reputation for facile, self-centered brilliance and of being a too-ambitious and fluid politician.

Aquino’s court martial trial for alleged subversion and the common crimes of murder and illegal possession of firearms became a cause celebre, after Ninoy declared that he would not dignify it with his active participation.

His case was temporarily shelved in 1974 and resurrected in 1975, during which he undertook his famous fast. He ended his fast after the 40th day, having become the focus of international attention. The sham trial was started again in 1977, and got as far as the rendering of the sentence of death on November 25. Adverse foreign opinion was again aroused, and Marcos held back the execution for another time.

To shore up his international reputation, Marcos announced elections for an interim National Assembly (Batasan Pambansa) as provided for in his repeatedly amended Constitution. He announced that even Ninoy could run for assemblyman from his jail cell. Marcos sat back and waited for the opposition to prove that it could not win an election, and that his regime, after all, was popular.

A party, Laban, was hastily formed under the chairmanship of Tañada. Ninoy would be its star candidate. Jose Diokno disagreed and argued for a boycott. He was joined by remnants of the old Liberal Party under Gerardo Roxas, upon the urging of Salonga.

Ninoy changed his mind and supported the boycott, lest the elections appear to legitimize Marcos.

But when he was interviewed by Palace hack Ronnie Nathanielzs and Juan Ponce Enrile on television, he declared he would participate. “The fact alone that [Marcos] has allowed the opposition to speak for 45 days and to come out with their leaflets is already to me a tremendous opportunity. And I am taking advantage of that opportunity,” Ninoy said.

“The people did seize that opportunity,” wrote Emmanuel de Dios in his essay, “The Erosion of the Dictatorship.”

On the evening of April 6, 1978, “residents of the metropolis came out into the streets and banged on pots, pans, and washbasins, stoked bonfires in the middle of the roads, drove at random through the city in cars, jeeps, and trucks, honking horns and shouting above the mechanical din, ‘Laban! Laban! ’

“This urban phenomenon was unprecedented and surprised even those who had organized it.

“Until then, the only open and large-scale resistance to the dictatorship had been put up by the armed underground movement… The noise barrage, on the other hand, not only added a new locus to the resistance but also succeeded in enlisting open support from the hitherto unorganized majority of the middle classes, apart from the underground mass organizations.”

This event heralded the rebirth of the “reformist” opposition, and the beginning of the war for the hearts and minds of the citizenry. For the issue came down to this: could the people be made to fight, or at least stand up, for their lost freedoms? Thus was the road to people power laid.

Predictably, the regime rigged the elections. The KBL slate, headed by Imelda Marcos, made a “clean sweep.” Even Ninoy lost to “a nobody from the KBL.”

Still, the exercise demonstrated an access to a source of political power by the common man, particularly the middle class. The Church saw an alternative to radical politics for the faithful.


Steve Psinakis, brother-in-law of detainee, then escapee Geny Lopez, summed up the attitude which became prevalent among conservative elements in the wake of the 1978 sham elections. “The Marcoses left the Filipino people with only one solution: force.”

The “Light-a-Fire Movement” ushered in a period of urban terrorism, of a benign cast. From May to September 1979, members of the group used small incendiary devices to put “symbolic targets” to the torch. Their most famous exploit was the burning of the floating casino in Manila Bay.

In December, one of the group’s couriers was intercepted. By the end of the month, key members were arrested; group’s network smashed by the government.

But another way had been shown, to be followed by those with rather more talent than enthusiasm. “The measure of success achieved by what were obviously primitive and amateurish methods… suggested that the same tactics should be attempted on a larger, more professional, scale.” This was the April Six Liberation Movement (ASLM). Its arrival on the scene was announced by the coordinated bombing of 9 city buildings. The dictatorship was embarrassed by the bombing of a convention of American travel agents soon after Marcos gave a speech.

Less squeamish than the earlier group, this one took less precautions against collateral damage. Innocent bystanders were hurt, like singer Nonoy Zuniga.

Ninoy became worried. If it came to violence, no one was a match to Marcos. This was just what he need to reassert the iron fist. He urged the opposition to dialogue with the dictator. Psinakis agreed to a moratorium on bombings.

“The activities of the urban guerrillas…did contribute to the cause of the traditional politicians. For it was the latter, hitherto shut out by martial rule, who were the most able and anxious to take advantage of whatever chinks of concession were opened in the armor of the dictatorship.”

The chinks indeed began to appear.

But none wider than in the economy. And the health of the dictator.

The Armed Forces itself started to show signs of deep weariness in a fight against an enemy more elusive than strong, and which—if it never fought well—never stopped fighting. But in November, 1977, the army scored a coup. Jose M. Sison and other important Communist leaders were captured, bringing the total number of captured members of the party’s Central Committee to twenty out of twenty-six. But it was too late.

Another wider front had opened against the regime. Sensing the onset of change, Marcos himself announced the start of political normalization with the inauguration of the Interim Batasan Pambansa.

Covenants for Freedom

WITH the yet-unreleased National Security Code in his pocket, Ferdinand Marcos declared, on January 16, 1981, that he was going to lift martial law. He did not need martial law with the Code.

The announcement was carefully timed; it helped distract the attention at a time when (Wurfel notes) “the flight of Dewey Dee, Chinese millionaire, had just triggered the financial crisis.” It also coincided with the inauguration Ronald Reagan, and prepared the way for the visit of the Pope.

The next day martial law was formally suspended, with the proviso that all martial law decrees and instructions remained in force.

As the New York Times opined, “He retains all his emergency powers; he can restore martial law at any time. This is the hard substance beneath the welcome symbol.” He was as powerful as ever.

Graciously, he restored the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, but only with respect to those acts that never needed them. The writ remained suspended over Mindanao and for such crimes as speaking ill of the government, subversion and threats to national security.

The “interim” Batasan Pambansa was prodded into making wholesale revisions to the Marcos Constitution, which had envisioned a patchwork, quasi-parliamentary government, in the style of the French Fifth Republic-style. The changes would go into effect between 1984 and 1987. On January 29, 1981, Marcos announced he would seek reelection. By February 27, the amendments he required had been passed.

The president was to be elected at large, have a six-year term but with no bar to any number of reelections. The president would have the power to dissolve the Assembly, but the Assembly would not have the power to remove him.

The Prime Minister would function as something like a glorified Executive Secretary. An “Executive Committee” was to be established to govern the country in the event of the dictator’s untimely demise. It was the first hint that intimations of mortality were intruding on FM’s phenomenal conceit.

A plebescite was scheduled for April 17, to ratify the amendments. Marcos said the opposition could campaign during both the plebiscite and the presidential election scheduled for June 16. In fact, they had to, they could go to jail if they did not. He had made non-voting a crime punishable by imprisonment.

As De Dios writes, “the plebiscite also served as a test run for the dictatorship’s electoral machinery and as a guage of the people’s susceptibility to threats. A boycott of the plebiscite as well as of the coming presidential election was to be treated as a serious crime.”

But a boycott was exactly what the opposition had decided to do as far back as April 17, 1980. Ninoy Aquino, Lorenzo Tanada and Salvador Laurel (head of the Laurel wing of the Nacionalista Party, which parted ways with Marcos in the late 70s) had agreed to demand, as conditions for their participation in any election, “a minimum campaign period, a purging of the voters’ lists, equal time and space for the opposition, and a reorginization of the COMELEC.” These conditions Marcos refused to meet.

Initially, UNIDO President Gerry Roxas opposed putting up any candidate at all, a view shared by the Civil Liberties Union, Diokno, and other “persons thought to be associated with the National Democratic Front”—the Left. Doy Laurel, Ninoy Aquino, in exile in the United States, and Reuben Canoy of the Mindanao Alliance argued in favor of participation. Ninoy said he would return to be Doy’s campaign manager.

UNIDO first decided on qualified participation, and even held a rally on March 21 at Plaza Miranda. Eight thousand people attended, an impressive number given the times. A rump session of the old Constitutional Convention was convened by Diosdado Macapagal, who had been impotent to prevent aproval of the sham that was the 1973 Constitution. But this time Macapagal’s rump declared that Constitution void. Then UNIDO called for a boycott.

Comments De Dios, “The boycott decision…revealed that it was…more effective, not to mention morally just, to seek forms of resistance outside the realm of electoral politics. The display of unity among all opposition forces, from the old political parties to the Communist Party, in rejecting the election was also unprecedented.” An opposition opinion poll indicated that 50 percent of voters boycotted the election.

A carpet, woven from the thread which Ninoy in his hunger fast, and Tanada and other oppositionists had started to spin, started to take shape. This was the rug that would sweep the dictator off his feet. The rug of mass civil disobedience and people power.

The presidential campaign was a bloody one. Of course, Marcos won “overwhelmingly” against his token opponent, Gen. Alejo Santos, who’s campaign manager was the now-out-of-grace Kit Tatad.

Marcos inaugurated both his new term and his New Republic—to replace the shopworn New Society, and so it would resonate with Reagan’s Republican administration as well—in splendid rites. The sons of old wealth rode past him in their polo ponies, nearly-naked tribesmen blew their conches on the four corners of the PICC building, while the sonorous strains of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus rose around him. The ceremony struck observers as near-sacriligious, if not ridiculous.

Decline and preparation for the Fall

MARCOS looked more firmly ensconced in power than ever, save for the skittish situation of the economy, which was starting to experience the deleterious effects of crony capitalism. But the dictatorship was losing steam.

The expansion of the government and the military, which had been growing at a phenomenal rate—giving bureaucrats and soldiers good prospects for rapid advancement—slowed down. Promotions didn’t come as often, a situation aggravated by the tendency of senior officers to defy age to keep their privileges. Lower-ranked officials turned more and more to petty corruption, following the lead of their seniors. It was no longer, as the businessmen had enthused, centralized corruption. Everyone wanted be on the take.

In 1981, having variously considered appointing Ninoy Aquino (who had hinted that if Marcos made concessions he might take the job), Emmanuel Pelaez, and Arturo Tolentino, not to mention a “gallant proposal” by Enrile that Imelda Marcos be given the job, Cesar Virata was made Prime Minister.

This was meant to signal the country’s foreign creditors that, crony capitalist rumors not withstanding, the country now had the benefit of technocratic government. Even freedom, it was suggested, could now be afforded. Juan Ponce-Enrile told the tightly-controlled media to “snap out of its timidity and sycophancy.” Naturally, when it did, as in Ma. Ceres Doyo’s landmark eyewitness account of Macli-ing Dulag’s Murder—featured of all places in the crony-controlled Bulletin—the writer was picked up and the editor was made to resign.Who magazine writers were daily harassed; Joe Burgos and the staff of We Forum were arrested and the paper shut down.

Inspired by the Pope’s message to safeguard human rights and advance social justice, religious and lay women worked more avidly among the poor. Sr. Christine Tan moved in with a destitute family. Basic Christian Communities in rural areas began to grow, with its reputation with a reputation for being the Catholic version of communist cells. Bishop Antonio Fortich hounded the military to account for the disappeared, even as the savagery of the insurgent war in Mindanao mounted.

In 1977, the same year that their founder was captured, the NDF unveiled a revised program. The party announced that its presence had spread from 300 to more than 400 towns in 47 provinces. This marked the start of their “advanced strategic offensive,” involving assaults on outposts. They claimed 40,000 cadres and the loyalty of 10% of the population, i.e. six million souls. The NPA’s growing offensive capabilities were buttressed by government propaganda, which tried to disguise its own excesses as “NPA attacks.”

The NDF organized rallies in town centers and struck alliances with labor groups which had seceded from the government-controlled trade union, the TUCP, to join the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), formed in 1980.

Steady successes, and the CPP’s ability to come up with leaders of ability to replace those who had been captured, killed, or coopted by the government, buoyed its moral and swelled its sense of self-importance until began that mental condition akin to the hardening of the arteries that leads to stroke and paralysis. As it did when the Left stood stock still while the nation marched to Edsa.

Prescriptions for change

AS the Left boasted of its growing prowess, a new sector emerged in opposition to Marcos—the legitimate businessmen who distinguished themselves from the cronies.

Marcos had plied businessmen with pro-business decrees, and while the economy hummed along no one complained. But when the economy, which had grown by an average of over 6 percent in the first seven years of martial law, began to falter (down to 5.4 percent growth in 1980, 3 in 1981, and 2.6 the year after), businessmen worried about an economy and a country so firmly tied up with Marcos and his friends.

It also became evident at this time that Marcos’s preferential policies towards his friends or dummies had started to take a significant toll on the economy. Businessmen, who just winked at these peccadilloes, now worried that as these bogus, publicly-financed enterprises sank under the weight of mismanagement and plunder, they would take the rest of the economy with them.

Bankruptcies increased, as did unemployment, and some foreign investors pulled out their investments ($100 million worth of equity capital was taken out in 1980).

The Makati Business Club, composed of the Philippines’ top 1000 corporations, was organized and shortly after issued a plenary paper titled “Issues and Prescriptions.” It called for “an environment of honesty, integrity, peace, and greater confidence in the government; a curb to military abuse and government corruption; a stop to red tape, graft, corruption and cronyism; the definition and pull-out of government roles from private sector concerns and business; the removal of lopsided competition from government; and the protection of media in its crusade against injustice and the curtailment of human freedom.” These were uncharacteristically strong words which stuck; the operative words “corruption,” “cronyism,” and “abuse” became battlecries of those social classes who stir when their pockets rather than hearts are touched.

In 1982 the businessmen had summoned up the nerve to present their complaints during the Eighth Philippine Business Conference in 1982. They invited Marcos to be their guest speaker, and were rewarded with a bravura performance by FM who thundered, “This government will, and has the capability to protect itself. The country is presently reeling from world-wide recession and export price slump… but let me warn those who opt to provide further misery to our people: tax evations and frauds in remittances of export earnings will be seriously dealt with the full force of the law. These people are known to me and I have a list of companies right here with me.”

The businessmen blanched. They wanted reform, he would reform them. They had invited him with all the elegant formalities at which they are so good, and he had treated them such as no rabble-rousing labor leader would have dared.

Even as businessmen like Joe Concepcion still fretted about “the danger of punitive action of some kind” as a result of their mild criticism of Marcos, the notion grew that only without Marcos did the country have a chance.

Lone Ranger and the technocrats

THE revulsion among businessmen grew when their stand-ins in the Marcos government were marginalized, as quickly as they had been brought in.

Together with Gerardo Sicat, Roberto Ongpin, and Placido Mapa, Cesar Virata was the compleat technocrat—reputedly honest, certainly proficient in his field. His presence had deodorized the profligate dictatorship with its creditors abroad. Marcos even made him a member of the 14-man Executive Committee, whose ranks took years to fill. In the event of Marcos’s death, Virata was in the running to succeed him. Raised to these lofty heights, the business community was supposed to feel that their own kind were in positions of responsibility and respect in the Marcos regime.

In 1982 Virata asked that the Central Bank stop discounting loans for sugar planters, who had been hard-hit by the collapse of the sugar industry. The planters grumbled that it was all Benedicto’s fault, since he was the head of the sugar monopoly. Virata’s action raised the hackles of the cronies; Marcos allowed them to strike back in 1983.

In April of that year a KBL caucus was held in Malacanang in preparation for a revue of the country’s fiscal performance by its creditor banks. A scene reminiscent of China’s Cultural Revolution took place. After all, Imelda Marcos was an admirer of Chairman Mao.

Leader after leader stood up to shout at Prime Minister Virata and Central Bank Gov. Jaime Laya, accusing them of incompetence, stupidity and cowardice in the face of creditor banks and the IMF. Then Marcos stepped in and chided Virata to “to defend himself.”

He had humiliated the chief technocrat and demonstrated that everyone’s position depended purely on his good will. Virata offered to resign, but he couldn’t forget the perks of his humiliating office. Marcos told him to take a rest abroad.

Thus, these great brown hopes of reform were exposed as toothless fools, essential in making the government look good but powerless to make it so. When Marcos revealed that he had left confidential orders to Gen. Fabian Ver, his chief of security, in the event of his death, everyone realized Marcos respected and trusted only his bodyguards.

Marcos’ Nightmare Year

IN 1983, on the anniversary of the Plaza Miranda bombing, Ninoy Aquino came home to die. The man who was hustled down the side stairs of the airport tube, where his China Airlines flight had docked, was a man far different from the ebullient senator of 1971.

He was a man purified of any suspicion of self-interested action; a proven patriot. He had returned not even to fight, but to try and make peace with the dictatorship and hopefully make it relax its grip. Marcos returned his offer of reconciliation with a bullet.

Except Marcos said it did not come from him, but from the communists.

In front of 2,000 soldiers sent to meet the exiled senator, Ninoy Aquino was taken down by three Philippine Constabulary officers, and before his feet touch the tarmac, shot in the back of the head.

The nation was stunned, first into terror and then into rage.

From the first timid testing of the waters by the people who lined up to view Ninoy’s remains at his old home on Times Street, and followed his bier in the millions, it became apparent that 1983 would be a real annus horribilis for the Marcoses, a real sphincter of a year.

A few days after Ninoy’s death oppositionists formed JAJA—Justice for Aquino, Justice for All and declared:

“We demand the immediate resignation of President Marcos, the entire Cabinet, the Executive Committee, members of the Batasang Pambansa, and top generals of the military. A responsible transition government composed of men and women of unquestionable integrity should be established to pave the way for the realization of genuine democracy in this country. We demand the immediate restoration of the writ of habeas corpus throughout the country, the immediate release of all political prisoners, and the grant of unconditional amnesty to all political dissenters and dissidents. We demand a fair, open, independent and impartial investigation of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. We demand the complete restoration of freedom of speech, the press, of peaceful assembly, and all other constitutional rights and civil liberties. We demand a stop to US or any other foreign intervention in Philippine affairs. We demand an end to the militarization of our society and to repression and terrorism. we demand the restoration of the independence of the judiciary.”

These objectives would remain the aim of the opposition from then on. Whoever thought of it, was a genius for it cut across party lines and personal agendas—if any still remained in the opposition after 14 years in the desert of anonymity.

In no time, these objectives and sentiments catalyzed the formation of what came to be known as the cause oriented groups, and the partisans of the parliament of the streets.

The gap left by the refusal of the middle and professional classes to take part in sordid, not to mention, dangerous political affairs was now closed. From one end of the political spectrum to the other was a solid band of opposition to the murderous dictatorship.

Marcos swiftly resorted to his old trick of divide and rule, but the more he sought to divide the more convinced the opposition became that he was weakening and could not rule. Concessions could only be interpreted as weaknesses.

Writing after Edsa, Ma.Serena Diokno summed up this period as “a movement of unity and struggle—of oneness in opposition to the Marcos regime, it’s authoritarian apparatus, and its abuse of the Filipino people; of differences within a movement colored by various shades of political understanding, at times sadly marked by personal political ambition; and of unrelenting struggle against a dictatorship propped up by the government of the United States.”

Indeed, it took some groups longer to get over their caution in dealing with others. But the Church was firmly in place in the battlefront, the (in fact if not actually title) Primate directing operations ever since he had officiated at Ninoy’s funeral mass, where he had elevated the martyr with the honors of a head of state.

In retrospect this process seems to have been a continuous march, along city streets lined with buildings raining yellow confetti, to the tune of ati-atihan drums and the wailing of police sirens. In reality, it was a series of skirmishes and crises, of exhilarating advance and painful retreat and regroupment.

It’s defining events were summed up by Diokno as, “the early conflict between the Church’s call for national reconciliation, and the people’s demand for the removal of Marcos, the agonizing period of deciding whether or not to take part in the parliamentary (Batasan) elections in May 1984, the failed Bayan congress… in May 1985, and the founding of the BANDILA….” Through it all, the quibbling among oppositionists would continue, without stop, but also without any harmful effects. The movement was unstoppable, even by the pettiness of some of those who comprised it.

Bound by a yellow ribbon

WHILE JAJA embarked on efforts learned from the leftist teach-ins—education campaigns, forums, mass actions like marches and boycott campaigns against crony businesses, and the use of striking symbols and slogans with the color yellow—its members continued to quarrel among themselves over means and even ends.

They quarreled about the ideal form of transitional government and its legal details, about the need or folly of including the US bases as an issue, and about the restructuring of political processes, if not society itself.

The energy unleashed by Ninoy’s death was too much to be contained within a single group, as people experienced the thrill and euphoria of indulging in daring acts of insubordination. Small groups sprouted like mushrooms on the deadwood of the state: ATOM, GABRIELA, CORD, a flurry of acronyms competed with each other in coming up with gimmicks demonstrating opposition: from jogging for justice, to dressing up your pets in yellow, a piece of kitsch meant for the queen of it, Imelda Marcos.

Any conceivable anniversary was marked by the birth of one of these groups and by spontaneous demonstrations, which by themselves excited a public long revolted by the staged spontaneous actions of the Marcos regime.

Added to the sound of ati-atihan drums were the rumblings of a collapsing economy. In the wake of Ninoy’s death, capital flight accelerated; the peso plummeted; businesses failed, and government, on October 14, declared itself bankrupt and asked for a 90-day moratorium on foreign debt payments. World Bank officials revealed in shocked tones that the window-dressing of the Central Bank’s reserves. Was there no honor among thieves?

Taking a cue from Ninoy’s arrival statement, Cardinal Sin proposed, on the 23rd of September, an eight-member national council composed of 4 representatives from within and outside the government. This was the opening salvo of the Church’s effort to steer the irresistible forces of change into peaceful and orderly channels.

The Cardinal’s call was echoed by the Bishop’s Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development (CBCP). Other groups, such as KAAKBAY, soon took up a similar call, “there can be no reconciliation without resignation,” which impelled an Assemblyman to file a motion asking Marcos to resign.

The ears of other organizations more stolidly establishment perked up. Their meetings began to buzz with talk of Marcos’s succession, an issue even the president of the AmCham raised in November, 1983.

Middle-rank executives and employees joined demonstrations during office hours to test the sympathies of their superiors, who joined them. By October, yellow confetti was raining from office windows, as executives and office workers marched along Ayala Ave. The Church began its “bells and prayers” campaign and that most loyal segment of the faithful, the middle class, sat up and listened. It was time for contingency plans in the event of Marcos’s fall.

Convened and reconvened

ON January 7 and 8, 1984, the Congress of the Filipino People (Kompil) was held, in an attempt to unify the opposition groups. It was composed of moderates, and attempted to answer two questions: should the “Marcos Resign” movement go on, and, if Marcoes ever quit, who should be entrusted with running the government?

These questions were eventually shunted aside as a more pressing issue presented itself (but not before a “dream list” of possible candidates was drawn up): what course of action should the opposition take with regard to the upcoming Batasan elections?

Everyone said their piece, including Jose Ma. Sison who sent a message—a prelude to the last hurrah of the Party, which was rapidly being drowned out in the babel of opposition voices.

Joma advocated a united front decision boycotting the elections. Many disagreed. A compromise was painfully reached: participation under certain conditions. The conditions themselves were decided upon by balloting. The Kompil had succeeded in revealing a way for groups to come up with a position they could hold in common.

Marcos, of course, rejected the conditions, which caused a flurry of renewed argumentation among the opposition. Tanada, Diokno and Butz Aquino called for a boycott, citing the same arguments that dated back to the 1978 and 1981 boycott movements. The boycott group eventually formed an umbrella organization, CORD, which included Salonga, Pres. Macapagal, and Manglapus.

Then the widow spoke. Cory Aquino was for participation, even though she had no illusions about the outcome of the polls. In February, 1984, Cardinal Sin called for participation, too.

UNIDO decided to participate in the election, as did regional parties such as PDP-LABAN, which felt that boycott campaigns in the past had actually hurt the opposition. Another organization was revived to help guard against fraud: NAMFREL. For the first time, the opposition would fight fraud with organized vigilance.

The boycott failed, the turnout was high, and for once an organized group existed to catalog and inform the public of the government’s electoral dirty tricks. The opposition took almost a third of the seats in parliament, after a heavy toll from the administration’s massive cheating.

In the public mind, the opposition had proven its strength.

And it was time to plan for bigger things. Around the time of the May 14 elections, a Jesuit and businessmen’s group began deliberating again on the contingencies should Marcos die. This group called themselves the Facilitators. They finally decided on a way to find a candidate quickly. They called it the “fast-track system.” Its aim, to avoid the inevitable bickering and internecine strife sure to attend the selection of a common presidential candidate should elections be suddenly called.

Emmanuel Soriano, Dr. Alfredo Bengzon, Ricardo Lopa, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, and Ramon del Rosario Jr., all members of Manindigan!, were the architects of this process. They met with the Convenor Group, composed of Tanada (representing the “Left of Center”), Jaime Ongpin (representing moderates), and Cory Aquino, the “symbol of unity.”

Both groups met on November 13, 1984,and came up with a list of “potential standard bearers”: Butz Aquino, Jose Diokno, Teofisto Guingona, Eva Kalaw, Salvador Laurel, Raul Manglapus, Ramon Mitra, Ambrosio Padilla, Aquilino Pimentel, Rafael Salas, and Jovito Salonga. A month later these people met with the Facilitators and the Convenor Group, and agreed to sign a Declaration of Unity. Kalaw and Laurel abstained.

Laurel did not sign because to the already tone-down anti-US bases line in the declaration. He did not think the cause of freedom needed to add to its enemies. He also offered an alternative method for selecting a united opposition’s champion, one that sidestepped the cause-oriented groups, relying purely on the politicians. His group called itself the National Unification Committee or NUC.

The Convenor’s Group and the potential standard bearers, in an agreement signed on January 2, chose a system in which the potential candidates would chose in secret ballot the standard bear from among themselves by a simple majority vote. They committed themselves to look for a more creative method, but in the meantime this would do.

The NUC offered a compromise solution, whereby the cause-oriented groups would be entitled to 30 percent representation in the convention that would choose the standard bearer. It invited the Convenor’s Group to a meeting. The Group declined, sending Mitra to read a message politely explaining that it could not abandon the fast track system.

But the negotiations went on, in time-honored political fashion, with a continuing exchange of proposals and counter-proposals. They came to a tentative agreement on the actual selection of a candidate, save for one loose end: what to do about Manglapus and Salas who were abroad.

But a common position with regard to the US bases remained elusive. The original draft was written by Salonga: the opposition would “comply with the US-RP Military Bases Agreement of 1947… which will expire in 1991, and oppose the continued existence of foreign military facilities in the Philippines. No military bases should thereafter be allowed.”

Laurel opposed the draft. He was open to the renewal of the bases agreement, subject to a plebiscite. Diokno was dead-set against recognizing the validity of the bases agreement altogether. And so it went, until, finally, on November 21, 1985, an agreement was reached and the platform approved. The bases provision finally read, “Consistent with our rights and duties under international law and the soveriegn rights of our people, foreign military bases on Philippine territory must be removed and no foreign military bases shall be thereafter allowed.”

The opposition was almost whole. The success of the NUC-Convenor negotiations proved the resilience of the old politicians who would finally agree to anything for the sake of unity and political effectiveness, because ultimately words meant nothing to do them. Hence, they would survive into the era and the new political forces would die. It was now time for the Last Hurrah of the Left.

BAYAN no more

THEIR manifesto was brave, and embodied what they perceived to be the lessons of the struggle of the last decade. Those lessons might be summed up as the need for a new politics, an alternative to the old patronage system, and the transformation of Philippine society as a whole. They were, after all, composed of the activist cause-oriented, the streetfighters who had electrified the nation with their marches. They were the future, the politicians were the past. They wanted respect, their own identity. On March 20, 1985, they formed their own umbrella group and called it Bayan, no less.

“Bayan’s major functions are to unify and consolidate the leadership of popular organizations… and to adopt a broad and comprehensive strategy for a struggle that will integrate all forms of non-violent political action: That strategy will be based on a new politics: the politics of the people, a politics that does not wait for elections to air the people’s grievances and press their demands… [T]heir aspirations [are] for an authentic, popular, pluralist democracy, real and effective sovereignty, a just and human society that cares equally for all and offers a better life,and true national unity, a unity of all social sectors and classes, a unity of the people more than tht of the politicians.”

Stirring words, indeed, and the myriad groups that flocked to Bayan’s convention on May 4 were full of fervor and romantic hopes. In two days, they were reduced to angry, even bitter, tears, their dreams in ruins. It had become apparent in those two short days that Bayan was intended to be a Communist show and nothing else. Entire groups walked out: ATOM, SAPAK, AKKAPA. Finally progressive but non-communist leaders who had helped form BAYAN, and been elected officers, resigned. Diokno lists them as including her father, Jose Diokno, “Justice J.B.L. Reyes, Zeneida Quezon-Avancena, and Edmundo Garcia”. Of the veteran oppositionists, only Tanada decided to say on, the great dissenter, as always.

The disenchanted groups organized Bandila. It would give the so-called leftist elements a chance to be a part of the final push that would shove out Marcos.

And FM?

BY this time he was a sick man behind whose back sycophants were jockeying for the power they thought would survive his demise. Every permutation of ambitious greed was mulled. Imelda and Ver versus Enrile and Ramos, old military officers against new.

Meanwhile, his administration continued to leak technorats. Vicente Paterno, a KBL Assemblyman, in a weepy moment, was convinced to quit the KBL altogether. In the countryside the NPA was at the nadir of its armed might, whether from the brilliance of its tactics or the indifference of any army sensing the command center was ceasing to hold. And while diehard rightists in America toasted him—such as George Bush’s asinine remark, “We just love your commitment to democracy,” which set tongues wagging on both sides of the Pacific—he was actually a pariah among leaders.

His rhetoric had gotten stale, and his old tricks failed to impress anymore. Illness had imposed on him a clinical isolation from the germ-infested world. With this came that fatal retreat from reality that convinced him that he could still pull it off. In November, 1985, he released his bombshell, on This Week with David Brinkley.

Brinkley: Mr. President, are there any catches? Can everyone run in this election?

Marcos: Oh, anyone… anyone.

B: If Corazon Aquino wants to run?

M: Yes…

B: Senator Laurel wants to run?

M: Anyone…

B: Anyone can run?

M: Oh yes…

B: Of course you know the allegation is that you control the judiciary…

M: Oh, come on…

B: Are you then saying that we can expect an election in the Philippines, say in January or February of 1986?

M: Yes, if I can convince the Batasan, and I think I can. We control two-thirds of the membership.

Here, for the penultimate time, was the soft cunning, which could suddenly revert to the mailed fist, but oh how whittled down by age and disease—and tripped again by that fatal indifference to detail as in the execution of Lim Seng. Did he have enough bullets? And who would fire the shots for him? He did not think.

End of one road, beginning of the next

EDSA, the apotheosis of the middle class (in contrast to Marcos’ hollow self-apotheosis in 1981) lay ahead. The inauguration at Club Filipino, which the Left grumbled was a mere restoration, which of course, it was. They had a right to grumble. If they had not been in the last act, their bloody struggled had composed all the previous ones.

But the people who had marched and fought alone in the 70s and 80s should have expected nothing less from those who suddenly swelled the ranks of the opposition after Ninoy’s murder. These people had decided that the time for involvement had come precisely because the things the Left despised but which they valued—order, decency, the safety of property—were in grave peril. They, who were leery politics, had taken over it completely to restore everything to the way it was, and put politics and power again in its subordinate place. These people were the warp and woof of that rug that would be pulled from under Marcos, and would throw him flat on his back.

Canned adobo and other S&T adventures

Canned adobo and other S&T adventures
By Manuel L. Quezon III

Philippines Free Press

October 11, 1995


…With the tremendous amount of money being spent by the government in its industrialization which is being handled by the NDC, there is quite a big field for you who are taking chemistry and chemical engineering to show what you can do for the Philippines. There are many projects and quite a lot of money to spend on different projects. It will be a great future for the Philippines if we can only get the right kind of men to run each project. But I am afraid that the projects are too many and too costly. For example, in the canning of food products, Miss Orosa, whom you know to be an expert in canned goods, is now being offered a position by the NDC with an increase of P200 a month over her present salary in the government and she still refuses to accept the offer with a very potent and sound reasoning. I understand that the NDC in its canning department has spent in goods alone, for example, in canned adobo and several other food products like cooked bangus, etc., around P200,000, and one of the impositions that Miss Orosa put out is to take those canned goods out of the market because it would only spoil their reputation if allowed to continue. This must be true because I understand Secretary [Benigno S.] Aquino bought four or five cans of adobo to be sent to his son who is studying mining engineering at Denver, Colorado, and before he sent them to the Post Office he was wise enough to open one of the cans and he said that even the dogs would not eat t. The adobo that we have been sending you are canned by Miss Orosa…The Caliraya project, which I do not know whether it is familiar to you, is an electric power plant to be developed by water and which can supply sufficient electric power in Manila and the surrounding provinces. This is going to be the main source of power for all the projects of the NDC. I understand they will start immediately a caustic soda plant in Caliraya. Now, that probably will be the beginning of our powder manufacture. From there we might develop the manufacture of sulfuric acid and the building up of smelter plants in the Philippines. With cotton which can easily be grown, we might be able to build up in the future some kind of ammunition plant, which is very necessary for our national defense.
—Gen. Vicente Lim
letter to his sons Luisito and Bobby, July 25, 1940
published in the book To Inspire and To Lead: The Letters of Gen. Vicente Lim, 1938-1942


IN HIS letter, Gen. Vicente Lim (the first Filipino graduate of West Point) wrote of the brave new developments in Filipino science and technology, which encompassed everything from the production of execrable canned adobo, to the setting up of a fish canning plant in Capiz (after the first one failed in Pampanga), to the first glimmerings of a modern textile industry (which met opposition from traditional weavers in Ilocos), the development of the marble industry in Romblon (again, after it had previously failed in the hands of private entrepreneurs), and the Caliraya Project and its ancillary industries. All of which—and this is noteworthy—were due to the government-owned National Development Company’s initiatives: efforts which, familiarly enough, were already tainted with allegations of political cronyism, the foolish waste of money, and incompetence.

It seems almost pathetic to look back and see what contemporary observers considered brave new efforts on the eve of independence; and while canned adobo would seem to be a poor showing indeed (science and technology-wise) for Philippine—and Filipino—scientific prowess, the fact that canned adobo was touted as a technological achievement provides clues that explain the backward state of our scientific capabilities, which persist up to the present.

Soon after formal independence was achieved in 1946, A.S. Arguelles, then director of the Bureau of Science, wrote glowingly on “Progress of Science in the Philippines,” which he generally accepts as having begun with the onset of the American occupation of the Philippines. This is not to say that the Spanish regime was a dark age when it came to scientific achievement (although very many people—perhaps even Jose Rizal himself: who has not laughed over the absurdities of the physics lesson presided over by an ignorant Dominican in the Noli?—would say that it came pretty close!); however most developments were in the areas of botany, zoology, metallurgy, geology, and observations of the weather (that good old Jesuit, Padre Faura). In terms of scientific progress in other fields that have helped usher in the Industrial Age, the Philippines remained an 18th century backwater.

Victor Buencamino, who helped establish the University of the Philippines College of Veterinary Science, supported Arguelles’ view. Buencamino wrote in the 1930s that the scientific age began when “a small building situated on the banks of the Pasig River was commandeered and the first laboratory of the Philippines was established with First Lieutenant R.P. Strong of the US Army in charge.” A Commission for the study of Tropical Pathology from the Johns Hopkins Hospital arrived soon after, signifying the thrust of scientific efforts in this new colony for the next decade and a half—to make the Philippines safe for Americans to live in (while, nicely enough, making it a more healthful place for the natives, too). As Arguelles put it, “We can state that scientific work in the first decade of [the] American regime was largely devoted to the control of tropical epidemics.” One of the first acts of the American authorities was to fill-in the malaria-infested moats of Intramuros—to the eternal gratitude of today’s golfers!

The makeshift laboratory of 1899 was improved and became a municipal laboratory and, by 1901, an independent Bureau of Government Laboratories upon the initiative of Dean Worcester. This eventually became the Bureau of Science. By 1906 scientific papers were already being written and published in the Philippine Journal of Science (which is still being published to this day under the auspices of the Department of Science and Technology). As it battled hog cholera, surra, amoebic dysentery, dengue, malaria, cholera, and smallpox, the bureau naturally found itself devoting its efforts to the creation of vaccines and the monitoring of public health and foodstuffs; the Bureau implemented the Pure Food and Drugs Act and aided the bureau of Health and the quarantine service.

Arguelles provides a list of the scientific achievements of the bureau in the technological field: the manufacture of vaccines and sera; the production of an extract of rice bran (tiki-tiki extract); the production of soybean milk; and the propagation of canning methods for fruits and vegetables (which, as we have seen, would culminate with the canned adobo of the 1940s!).

Scientific achievements of the health-providing sort were undeniably tremendous; at the end of his life Victor Buencamino wrote in his reminiscences that, as far as he was concerned, “The Philippines’ greatest contribution to the world of science” was the elimination of rinderpest, which first manifested itself in the wake of the massive importation of livestock that took place as a consequence of the decimation of the livestock population in the wake of the Revolution and the Philippine-American War. The rinderpest epidemic was reminiscent of the way hoof-and-mouth disease became a serious health issue recently. An aggressive drive to eradicate the disease began in 1906, which included the development, testing, and use of a serum to immunize animals: all of which was accomplished by Filipinos and Americans. The elimination of the disease was “a saga that took all of 30 years and one in which Filipino veterinarians took a progressively more important role as the campaign was intensified.”

It is well to note that an underlying motive—besides, of course, natural, humanitarian ones—can easily be detected when it comes to American efforts: after all healthy, happy Filipinos are happy, productive Filipinos; just the sort of people who would be vital, considering the goals of the next stage in scientific efforts, which Arguelles succinctly described as “the study of the different raw materials for industrial purposes and the exploitation of our natural resources.”

Arguelles lists the major achievements of science, in the period leading up to independence, as:

• “Publication in the Philippine Journal of Science of researches [sic] on sugar, tanning materials, industrial alcohol, vegetable oils… and other products”
• The establishment of cement factories, which “was also largely due to the pioneer work of the early scientists”
• Changes in the sugar industry, yielding more piculs per hectare “by means of better cultivation, fertilization, the use of improved seeds, and…the adoption of modern manufacture of centrifugal sugar instead of the old muscovado”
• The exploration “of a large part of our country for mineral wealth” by geologists and mining engineers.
• Exploitation of the forests, their trees and forest products, such as “commercial oils, resins, and tannins,” research on lumbang tree oil showed that this oil “has a composition quite similar to that of linseed” oil, which led to the establishment “of a Philippine paint industry” (and you wonder why Americans decided against the use of stone facings for public buildings, and decided that ordinary paint far “suited tropical conditions”); forest products also provided tannin extracts used for the production of leather.
• Research on Philippine vegetable oils which showed “the possibility of developing the edible-oil industr[y],” including the discovery that peanut oils and kapok oils are quite similar to cottonseed oil; perfume and flavoring extracts made from flowering plants (ylang ylang, champaca, lemongrass, and the like) was also looked into and,
• The “exploitation of ocean resources, including sponges and seaweed.”

Quite a list of accomplishments—and those are just the ones that resulted in tangible, commercial benefits. A quick survey of the titles of scientific papers being written at the time—in the 1920s and 1930s—which appeared in theJournal of Science, demonstrates that behind the scenes, Filipino and American scientists were quite busy doing original research and experimentation, too:

• in 1922 (May), Janetosphera, a new species of Volvox, by Walter Shaw; Extraction of copra cake with solvents by AP West and JM Feliciano; (in July) Manufacture of certain drugs for the treatment of leprosy, by Granville Perkins,Manufacture of industrial alcohol and alcohol motor fuel in the Philippine Islands by Howard Irving Cole, and The use of sulfur fumes in copra drying, by AH Wells and GA Perkins;
• in 1926 (Jan. Feb.) Dengue: Its history, epidemiology, mechanism of transmission, etiology, clinical manifestations, immunity, and prevention, by Siler, Milton, and Parker Hitchens;
• in 1933 (Feb.) Serologic study of cerebrospinal fluids in Philippine monkeys inoculated with yaws, syphilis, or both, by Onofre Garcia, An arthropod associated with a chronic dermatitis of the face, by Candido Africa; and, (May, at the time the final independence efforts were getting into high gear) Study concerning rat-bite fever in Manila, Philippine Islands by Schöble, Hirano, Vazquez-Colet (first name, Ana: enter the Filipina scientist!), and Arima; Solar ultra-violet radiometry: III, Comparative values for Manila and Baguio, P.I., by Wm. Fleming.

Busy as scientists undoubtedly were, the reader will perhaps notice the absence of scientific investigations into the sort of things an independent country would need: physics, metallurgy, engineering, chemistry of a sort more advanced than that geared towards the production of alcohol (made from—of course!—that great export product, sugar).

The answer lies in the state of the Philippine economy at the time—an economy geared towards the production of raw or semi-processed materials meant for exportation abroad, and the importation of advanced machinery and finished products from abroad. Science continued on the path originally laid out by American soldiers at the turn of the century—towards health and sanitation, the exploration of the countryside and the discovery of new creatures, and scientific exploration for commercial purposes suitable for a colony.

Filipino politicians belatedly made an effort, during the Commonwealth period, to force the pace of industrialization. This included feeble attempts at fostering scientific research and the development of new technologies. These efforts quickly bogged down in a morass of contradictory or half-hearted programs and political infighting: handicaps that plague us to the present day. Arguelles noted (in the 1950s!) that “Although there is a general enthusiasm for scientific work yet considerable difficulty is encountered when funds are requested for research projects. This may largely be due to the fact that research in the various branches of science is not readily understood, unlike projects for roads and bridges the importance of which is obvious.”

Combined with two other factors—that American scientists who played a prominent role in scientific developments could look forward to advancement in the US if they did well in the Philippines, and thus had a positive incentive (while gifted Filipino scientists languished due to official neglect), and that four decades’ worth of accumulated scientific equipment went up in smoke during the Second World War—it isn’t difficult to understand why scientific breakthroughs did little to advance the Philippines toward industrialization, with its vital underpinnings in advanced scientific and technological progress.

The irony is that Filipinos themselves have demonstrated that they are as gifted as any other nationality in terms of potential and actual achievements. Engineers at Elitool (which produced M16s under license during the Marcos era) made refinements to that automatic rifle which improved its performance—which were adopted by the parent company without any acknowledgment or an agreement to pay royalties to the Filipinos involved. Star columnist Antonio Abaya recently recounted that the head of the Malaysian aerospace industry told him that the Philippines could have built its own planes much earlier than Malaysia did—Filipino engineers, the German-trained Malaysian said, were far more advanced than their Malaysian counterparts. Besides the much-touted achievement of having invented the moon buggy, Filipino scientists are employed as nuclear power plant engineers…but they are employed abroad.

Simply put, Filipino science never managed to make the big shift, from its early concentration on a raw material-exploiting orientation, towards serving the needs of an industrialized economy. Handicapped by a lack of positive, sustained government support, prey to pointless efforts, such as Marcos’s dreams of a space program—which led to the stock-piling of volatile rocket fuel on an island near Corregidor, the discovery of which caused something of a panic among Roxas Boulevard residents a couple of years ago—and the brain drain, it is a miracle that any dedicated scientists remain in this country at all.

The sad decline of Philippine efforts in science and technology is readily apparent in the way the country has lost its edge even in the areas of excellence that were its colonial heritage. The Rice Institute at Los Baños was the Mecca of agricultural experts for decades, and produced graduates like the Thais who have increased their harvests tremendously…while the Philippines undergoes a rice shortage. The sad fate of the nata de coco industry is another depressing example of how we’ve been overtaken by our neighbors.

Things are so bad, it seems, that a former science writer for the Inquirer, the (admittedly, rather eccentric) Pio Andrade Jr., suggested (at the time when the US bases treaty was up for renegotiation during the Aquino administration) that the bases should be leased out not just for money, but also in exchange for “slightly dated scientific instruments which are just being junked by the state universities to equip a new Philippine school for science and technology… which is so sorely needed…[And] a science program whereby American engineering and science professors are sent on their sabbaticals to the Philippines to retrain engineering and science faculty of Philippine universities…’

A loony-sounding proposition? Yes. But it is a sign of the depths to which scientific and technological capability in this country have sunk. A tradition of steady, respectable work is in danger of extinction.