The Long View: The new Filipino


The new Filipino

The students who gathered at Edsa Dos were Edsa babies, products of the post-dictatorship society, imbued with the expectation that betrayal of the public good carried with it the threat of public protest in the streets. In other words, they were the product of their era, which was decidedly anti-Marcos in orientation. With their elders, they caused the fall of Estrada who, it should be remembered, was also heir to the Marcos coalition, Estrada being not only a Marcos admirer but ally, too. When, a few months after his fall, Estrada was arrested and jailed, the Estrada loyalists (often but not always, Marcos loyalists, too) revolted and the urban insurrection frightened Metro Manila enough to dampen any future ardor for People Power. Combined with disillusionment over People Power as an instrument of change, it meant that by the time People Power failed in 2006, a kind of bargain had been struck at great cost to public idealism: GMA would stay; and governments would change only by means of elections or other constitutional means (though every possible loophole in the post-Edsa impeachment route was swiftly blocked).

But something else seems to have happened beyond our being able to bookmark the era of People Power to having lasted from 1986 to 2006 and the Aquino ascendancy in public life from 1986-2016. I believe that something was a change in the system of education that thoroughly set apart the generations that reached maturity from martial law to the Edsa Dos era, and those who came after.

The first signal came in November 2001, when the Department of Education under Raul S. Roco modified the “Panatang Makabayan” or oath of allegiance dating back to 1955. Superficial as it seems, you can basically divide Filipinos into those schooled from 1955 to 2001, and those educated since. The fundamental, because most basic, articulation of citizenship remained superficially similar but different in orientation. As a reader, chances are you belong to the generation familiar with the old version; ask someone in school to recite the new version and judge for yourself.

Of course things had started to change much earlier, when the “Panunumpa ng Katapatan sa Watawat” or pledge to the flag was instituted by President Fidel V. Ramos on June 12, 1996, which ends with the kilometric national motto no one seems to know to this day (“Maka-Diyos, Makatao, Makakalikasan at Makabansa”). Things don’t happen overnight; so add to the 1955-2001 and post 2001 divide another subdivision: those who only knew the Panatang Makabayan from 1955-1996, those who had to learn two pledges from 1996-2001 (the Edsa Dos generation?), and those who have learned the 1996 and post-2001 pledges.

A more fundamental change happened after 2001. In 2002, the education curriculum was revised and formerly separate subjects were combined to create “Makabayan,” which some educators at the time pointed out wasn’t quite clearly articulated as to what it was supposed to be: was it a catch-all for formerly separate things like history and social studies, arts, music, and so on, with a dose of civics, or was it a values formation course which used formerly separate subjects as illustrations? Whatever one’s position on Makabayan was, what it meant was the overall time devoted to topics that had once been separate, was now reduced.

It would be interesting to look into this and see if there is a correlation between the reduced time and attention given to what used to be separate courses, and the effectiveness of the Marcos campaign of rehabilitation that kicked into high gear, by all accounts, around that time. Being taught less, students would be much more susceptible to stray information particularly if presented in places students prefer to go, such as YouTube and Facebook.

Last June 4, the Inquirer Briefing section laid out the new K-12 Curriculum and by all accounts, there will be much more time, and attention, given to history and social studies than before. Combined with efforts by educators not to let matters slide –which means actively ensuring there’s no whitewashing of the Marcos years—this promises a reversal of what may have occurred roughly from 2002 to 2012.

But this points to another cause for concern that should have compensated for the reduced hours devoted to history and social studies in the lost decade of 2002-2012: the lack of activities that foster civics. Gen. Vicente Lim, writing to his sons before World War II, criticized proponents of military service as a means to inculcate good citizenship. Being a good citizen was something the Boy Scouts should be doing, he said; the purpose of military service is to train soldiers and nothing more. One has to ask if such organizations even care about civics today.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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