Obscurantism Leaves Unrecognized Those Filipinos Who Peacefully Sought Independence

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Obscurantism Leaves Unrecognized Those Filipinos Who Peacefully Sought Independence

by Manuel L. Quezon III

The Philippines marked 60 years of independence yesterday, July 4. An otherwise splendid anniversary went unremarked upon and unrecognized. Even the day itself is subject to confusion: Traditionally viewed as Philippine-American Friendship Day (according to a now-scrapped Marcos decree), it is really Republic Day. But Filipinos don’t know that — neither do they usually realize that the Philippines achieved independence from colonial rule ahead of its neighbors, and other countries such as India. The Philippine State as it is, and the people that we are, owes its institutions and characteristics to the peaceful independence efforts against the Americans. We may owe the spirit of freedom to the efforts of the Revolutionaries, but the substance of freedom is the achievement of another generation, which deserves credit for its achievements.

Our state and its institutions has covered itself in the trappings of the idealized First Republic. Never mind the silly contradictions that ensue. We have a military with insignia derived from Aguinaldo’s army, dressed in 1950’s style American uniforms, which really underlines the fact that our military and its traditions are utterly American in origin and owe nothing to the Malolos Republic. The ceremonial guard at Malacañang wears the uniform of the Guardia Civil, and while other ceremonial units wear something supposed to be “rayadillo” (Spanish colonial uniforms), they are shod in Word War II-style combat boots. And yet while the army claims to have been established under Aguinaldo, nearly all government offices have to date their genesis to the American era, proving that the civilian power from which everything emanates (including military authority) has a short pedigree indeed — making one suspect that military contempt for civilians has an element of snobbery, since they can claim an earlier foundation however fictitious the assertion may be.

Our Supreme Court had as its first Chief Justice Cayetano Arellano, installed under the Americans. The legislative houses can only look back to Quezon and Osmeña, and its parliamentary procedure is ultimately derived from the First Philippine Assembly of 1907 and the Jones Law-era legislature. The presidency itself claims ancestry from Aguinaldo, but throughout the presidency as an institution is permeated with the spirit, traditions, and can only use for precedence in legal affairs, the example of Filipino officials installed during the Commonwealth, who used, for their purposes, the examples of American governors-general (and even presidents). Even the title of Excellency owes its existence to the fact that this was the honorific for governors-general. The only thing the presidency owes to Aguinaldo is the triangle in the presidential seal.

So we have a government claiming a pedigree it isn’t entitled to, and no wonder schizophrenia which has plagued us since President Diosdado Macapagal declared that the revolution remained unfinished. Aside from his pronouncement being an unsuccessful attempt to steal the fire from the Left (which always maintained that the revolution was finished, thanks to those who had helped set up the Third Republic born in 1946, but which nonetheless hoped to win a re-fought revolution), it was also a declaration of illegitimacy. Presidents from Roxas to Garcia dated the independence of the Philippines from July 4, 1953, for example, was “Of the Independence of the Philippines, the seventh”; after Macapagal the phrase has been discreetly dropped, because how can you reconcile an official birthday in 1898 with the real birthday in 1946? How tiresome it would be to keep distinguishing the country’s official (and yes, only true) birthday, June 12, from its legal date of birth, July 4! Better sweep anything after June 12 under the rug.

Just as supporters of 1946 cannot accept the fact that much has changed since then, Macapagal’s declaration and subsequent attempts to focus things on the revolution while disregarding everything that took place after the revolution and the republic were crushed, ignored the experience and contributions of a whole generation. We have amnesia inflicted upon amnesia, and you wonder why we all suffer from an identity crisis?

There is only one word to adequately describe both attempts to fit the square peg of our national experience into the round hole of a well-ordered, ideologically motivated scheme of things: Obscurantism.

Our old revolutionaries who rebelled against the original obscurantism of the friars, are all gone, of course. In their place is the generation which the old revolutionaries hectored as being ignorant of the lesson of the Revolution, who, among other things had rejected Masonry and all its works and replaced it with a disgusting affection for the Americans who fostered new obscurantism called the colonial mentality. Of course the younger generation thought they proved their elders wrong during the Second World War. Which gave them the moral authority to hector yet another generation. Which, this time, did not take their elders’ lectures sitting down, but instead endeavored, at the barricades and in the hills, to replace their parents’ colonial mentality with the obscurantism of dogmatic Marxism — and are themselves being questioned by the youth, circa 1996.

This all part of the process which Renato Constantino, in his landmark biography of Claro M. Recto, described as “The Making of The Filipino”. Each generation must make — or unmake — itself, which is good; you will achieve nothing substantive, though, if you deliberately ignore the experience of your forebears. The fate of July 4 as a holiday is testimony to this. It was abandoned under Macapagal, transformed into “Fil-Am Friendship Day” and degraded under Marcos, and, together with his other holiday of ill-repute, “Thanksgiving Day,” mercifully abolished by President Corazon Aquino. The date was suddenly remembered when the new hundred-peso bill was issued, because people resented the depiction of a historic photograph which gave prominence to the American flag. We have gone far in our experience as a country and in our experience with the United States, both travails have left their mark.

Still, at a time when we should be evaluating ourselves with more discernment and independence of thought, we are actually more than ever, the slaves of obscurantism. The tragedy is that this obscurantism is of our own making, not the legacy of friars or our past colonial masters.

Ironic that the enduring legacy of 1896, 1946, and 1986 is the struggle to be freed from the obscurantism that afflicts ourselves — a lesson we might have learned earlier had we listened to those whose characters were forged as youths during the revolution, and who considered the independence we have enjoyed for 50 years their life’s work.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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