Notes for a prospective article on the emerging politics of a national identity (in progress)


Since 2005 the political situation has been kept at an impasse by the skillful playing off of the provinces versus “Imperial Manila,” and yet Metro Manila (more properly: the expanded NCR) has an opinion quite similar, politically, if not outright identical, to the other large urban centers with the possible (though not certain) exeption of Cebu City.

Yet the reassertion of the provincial basis of power of the administration was done by pandering to, but keeping from achieving anything tangible, of two parallel urges emerging from the provinces: Federalism and a Bangsamoro Commonwealth (minimum) or future State (maximum aspiration).

Hence,entrenching the impasse.

If instincts of the political class is to preserve baronies, could it be the provincial barons are themselves finding their old powerbases fading? Former answer was to gerrymander; but that possibility is running out of territory to further subdivide? While in essence, Federalist urge would reconsolidated subdivided territories, under broader regional-ethnic-linguistic lines?

Assumptions of Federalists and Bangsamoro are themselves challenged by demographic changes due to massive internal migrations taking place, and shifts that in turn are not only changing landscape built up over past 75 years (to consolidate the national territory as much narrowly defined by Filipinos and Americans both), but over centuries. But this could also be a return to the much more fluid approach of prehispanic times, before the definition of provinces and their component peoples as fixed, by the Spanish.

But the return to a more fluid flow of people also challenges the political challenges and advocacies of those calling for Federalism, etc.

Essentially, then, Federalism, Bangsamoro are challenges/proposals from Civil Societies themselves increasingly decimated by both internal and external migration; the political class prefers territorial supremacy for its membership but the cultural/political mechanisms for control are challenged by new residents not bound by old fealties, traditions, even language or economic activity.

The clear contrast between national political opinion and practice and provincial/local opinion and practice suggests the emergence of a truly national approach and cohesion of mores for the first time and it may be on the ascendant.

I. Organic versus Artificial Identities

See The Voyage of the Balangay. Possibility this experiment could have Pan-Malayan cultural impact on par with voyages of Hokule’a.

From Tracing the Migration of Our Ancestors.


Refer WMP area to Spanish “Greater Philippines” map and

II. Regional orientations

trade and influence philippines

Blue: discoveries of prestige goods, suggesting cultural orientation/trade:

1. Luzon = China

2. Visayas = Thailand

Red: Eric Casino on main trading routes, Manila-Moluccas-Malacca.

1. Luzon-Palawan-Mindanao-No. Borneo = Malacca

2. Luzon-Bicol-Leyte-Samar-CARIAGA-Eastern Mindanao = Moluccas

3. Northern Mindanao-North Borneo (Dapitan, Butuan hub?)

Yellow: theoretical cultural orientation of main geographic devisions.

1.Luzon = China

2. Visayas = Polynesia/Oceania

3. Mindanao = Brunei/Indonesia

III. Organic Identity versus Defined Borders

Spanish definition of the Philippines (“Greater Philippines”):

Rough approx. based on discussion with Spanish historian, on Spanish territorial conception/definition of the Philippines. See my notes in A Primer on Philippine Territorial Claims.

IV. Potpourri polity versus Territorial Definition

Definition under Malolos Constitution:

Article 1. The political association of all Filipinos constitutes a nation, whose state shall be known as the Philippine Republic.

Refer to Blumentritt’s ethnological map:


Moro areas in green; Christian/lowlander areas in pink; Uplander/”Non-Christian tribes” (today’s IP’s) in yellow. Areas in green declined to be inegrated into Philippine Republic; areas in yellow claimed as integral by Pink areas, nucleus of emerging nation-state. Note: American political arrangements would merge yellow and green but segregate from pink. See Abinales: Re-constructing Colonial Philippines: 1900-1910.

V. Territorial Consolidation and Expansion versus Regional/Ethnic Autonomy


“New World Order Map.” Potential post-war reorganization of region. Note expansion of Philippine territory to include Moluccas, etc. Refer to Quezon efforts to negotiate an “Indonesian Empire,” map above (1943) corresponds to dates of such a proposal eventually vetoed by Dutch and British (find reference in Who’s Who in World War II edited by John Keegan which mentioned it); see Harrison diary entries.

VI. Centrifugal forces

A. Moro Nationalism:


B. Ethnic Chauvinism: A Country of Our Own: Partitioning the Philippines by David Martinez (vide: Destroying Our Nation Through Federalism)


VII. In contention: Internal and External Migration

The old territorial-linguistic identities are challenged by:

1. Migration abroad

2. Internal migration

Of these, the former much more studied than the latter; also, the former is far more in the public consciousness as a phenomenon than the second.

I. Impact of migration

A. internal

-Quezon: Ilocos/Bicol migration, exodus of Tagalog population

-Depopulation of Ilocos

-Inquire from Dodong Nemenzo:

*changes in linguistic map of Visayas: shifts in Cebuano/Ilonggo speaking areas.

*Cebu now 10% Muslim

*Mindanao: increase in Ilonggo-speaking vs. Cebuano-speaking areas

*ARMM: dispersion of Muslim groups to other areas of Cebu, Manila, Baguio, Pangasinan; dimunition of Bangsamoro image among Moros who fled violence and fellow Moro warlords

B. external, i.e. OFWs and permanent migrants

*depopulation accompanied by cultural/ethnic chauvinism or efforts at linguistic preservation

-Pangasinan language concerns of Popoy de Vera

-U. of Hawaii Ilocano language advocacy

-Observation of priests at U. of San Carlos Recoletos: Cebu has 1st generation of primary Tagalog speakers

C. Urban vs. Rural Divide

-Rigoberto Tiglao 1980s Marxist critique: country’s now fundamentally urban

-Yoly Ong: Urban centers/cultures, Luzon-Visayas-Mindanao: fundamentally similar in political opinion

-Expanded NCR: represents amalgamation of all ethnic groups, with large Visayan component particularly in Metro Manila itself (see Nemenzo comment that Visayan influence is best seen in changes to Filipino/Tagalog grammar in Metro Manila and hence, national media); ironically, this has triggered, as much as a national public opinion has been created, the political consolidation of provincial political leaders and their machines in 2004-2010.

Tie this in with Carino map, and Spanish historical map of “Greater Philippines.”

VIII. Questions/Tensions:

Are we returning to fluid, geographically-dispersed organization?

Is Federalism proposed organic reflection or not?

Is unitary insistence/resistance reflection of modernity or anachronistic?

Manuel L. Quezon III.

8 thoughts on “Notes for a prospective article on the emerging politics of a national identity (in progress)

  1. Useless hodge-podge of various theories and discipline. The answer could be a lot closer to home, possibly within our generation.

    How do you explain that some provincial barons are of chinese descent? The Spanish snobbery we know now and the so-called Filipino-hispanics are recent inventions. What we have are opportunists, like the hacienderos of Negros, taking advantage of backward Filipinos.

    The Federalists? Who among its proponents have real loyalty to their land and who among them will die for their so-called States? Their kids are abroad and if they’re not abroad would be happy to be abroad.

    Even the political dynasties, most of them have shallow roots. They are easily usurped by practical thinkers, Gonzalez of Iloilo is a case in point. I’m sure there are a number of examples in other islands.

    The moros? What is it? How are the moros genetically separate from the Visayans? They are separated by religion but how and when does religion define inheritance?

    “The old territorial-linguistic identities are challenged by”

    Challenged by? My God, according to Pigafetta’s journal they encountered Sabah raiders from Luzon who said he was related to the Sabah king!

    Can’t we just accept the fact that unlike Europe, our history is very, very unreliable? You can have genetic tests nationwide and you’d be surprised how related a Tagalog is to a Moro and different the Lopezes are to one another–not to imply anything.

  2. There is a genetic difference among the social classes. The upper classes are more refined looking, generally fairer in appearance. The lower classes are coarse and, by and large, not very good-looking. Perhaps wealth can open doors to a superior gene pool?

  3. The NCR has the largest share of the formal/informal economy.
    35% share with a approximately 15% of the population. Combined with Central Luzon and the CALABARZOn area the share rises to 50% of the economy with only 20% of the population.

    In earlier times we were sparely populated by nomadic seafarers with small tribal communities engaged in sedentary communal agriculture.

    Fortunately or unfortunately the natural evolutionary process of societal evolution was interrupted by the insertion by Europeans who leapfrogged the country forward under the European style feudal system. The servant/slave system refined.

    It is basic in societal development. Labor will always chase capital and capital will always chase stability and security. All this based on the environmental determinism of countries.

    Nomadic Tribes in the Northern Hemisphere moved in constant search for grazing like fisherman in the Southern Hemisphere moved for ever changing fishing grounds.

    They eventually merged with communities engaged in sedentary agricultural practices.

    However the intrusion of Europeans in the equation changed till today the outbound view of the countries economic model.

    Extraction of resources which today has evolved into the export of human resources. The nature of the nomadic pinoy in search of greener pastures still playing out in the 21st century.

    Today the evolving community of outsiders to the islands the Chinese replacing the Europeans.

    Hence the Pinoy brains are wired still in labor migration since organized agricultural development was primarily in the hands the a few foreign landlords then and now the newest group the Chinese.

    Look at the thrust of the present government is turning its focus to China to keep this model for development going.

    The Pinoy culture being extremely malleable depending on whose capital we are dependent on.

    Prostitution is a way of life in this country for economic survival. Even the Catholic Church in recent years have made itself dependent on state handouts formally and informally to keep its ministries going.

    The military protects the economic structures owned by the private sector, the government dependent on these structures together with the Church.

    Your large middle totally non-existent. They are diffused all over the planet.

  4. Ethnicity has more weight over Filipino citizenship when Filipinos migrate to the United States. It determines where you eventually settle, who you associate with and who you trust. It’s a problem for people who just consider themselves Filipinos (like me) because they are sometimes force to choose an ethnicity out of necessity.
    Most of that ethnicity issue disappears with the second generation either because the first generation is incapable of passing on their ethnic culture or American culture is just too overwhelming.

  5. There’s no sense in making a clear picture of ethnic feeling in the RP, I think. This will only serve as more grist in the mill of soci0-political manipulators. Just choose a side: the side of the majority or the side of the minority, which you are in right now.

  6. BrianB: Useless hodge-podge of various theories and discipline. There’s no sense in making a clear picture of ethnic feeling in the RP, I think. This will only serve as more grist in the mill of soci0-political manipulators.

    – The Save Our Languages for Federalism or SOLFED who would divide the country based on language faces an insurmountable barrier: identity. Which of our numerous dialects should be lumped together in which region? Other federalists who prefer economy and religion as basis for regonal groupings share the same challenges. How they can arrive at a concensus even among themselves is already a big question. Yet they would drag the whole country into a senseless controversy that is purely of their own making.

    J_AG: Prostitution is a way of life in this country for economic survival. Even the Catholic Church in recent years have made itself dependent on state handouts formally and informally to keep its ministries going.

    – For many of our women, it is. Also for the Catholic Church then? No wonder.

  7. The territories drawn up by the Federalists makes people’s blood boil.

    I would like to stick with unitary government, but with the proviso for Tagalog as national language removed. Make it English and I’ll be happy.

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