The Philippines will celebrate it’s 166th Independence Day (from Spain) on June 12, with the theme Pagsunod sa Yapak ng mga Dakilang Pilipino, Tungo sa Malawakan at Permanenteng Pagbabago (‘Following the Footsteps of Great Filipinos, Towards Widespread and Lasting Change.’).
After a 377 years rule, the Spaniards eventually sold this country for several millions to the Americans. Sold! I’m not sure which one was more traumatic for Filipinos – oppressive rule under the Spaniards or them putting a price on our heads and selling us. Like slaves! Much of Philippine history is about a people subdued but then out of this emerged the heroism of natives. Filipino writer, F Sionil Jose, recently wrote this article for Philippine Star, Why Are We So Corrupt? He cited the country’s history – trauma from centuries of repression from colonial rule – as one cause. I disagree with his point on this.
My observation is that many of us still blame people and events in the distant past. We haven’t gotten over the past, in other words. Painful as it is for us now, that’s what happened, and there’s nothing we could do to change the past. We weren’t there. Blaming people and events of that time is an exercise in futility.
But we can do something with the present and the future as these are within our time spans. What will happen today, tomorrow, weeks afterward, and few years on are to an extent within our control.
Then why are we so corrupt? I offer that it’s because we haven’t freed ourselves from the grip of the past – it’s practices, attitudes, mindset. We’re reincarnating the abuses of the past. Just look at land reform. This is a hand me down from the Spaniards, but we’re still sitting on it, the exact corrupt practice of the past. Social differences in those times are subtly presented in Rizal’s Noli and Fili, the most glaring being the discrepancy between poor uneducated natives (Indios) and wealthy landed families of mestizo blood. Fast forward to today, we find the same ordering on the country’s landscape. Look at public sanitation. The Spaniards didn’t install anything, the Americans did afterward, and what they built, probably rotting now, are still the ones we have — we sat on this one too.
Corruption stems from self love to the extent that all one wants to do is to get, get, and get, in order to render everything mine, mine, mine. If and when corrupt persons give, it’s so that they get, get, and get more for themselves in exchange. I realized that a human being’s wants and desires are endless, the imagination’s the limit, and it is the individual who has the power to set the limit, a cap on things so to speak. As a nation, much has been taken from us and so little given back. Heroism thwarts that. Rizal braved the threats and finally the guns of the Spaniards not to seek personal glorification (though this came about as a result of his act) but out of real concern for others, for his fellow native Filipinos to know freedom even if this meant death for him. It is this extraordinary sense of the other, self sacrifice, that makes him incorruptible, a hero.
This country needs to set itself free from the corrupting influence of it’s past, and redefine itself, from being a victim to one that primarily makes the decisions about it’s present and future. To do that, it must step out and let go of the prison that is it’s painful and oppressive past and set it’s sights ahead. Free, it must strive for true independence. This entails finding it’s niche in the Region and world, carving it’s own path, defining a better future, a modern history. The country’s taken a few big steps since last year’s independence commemoration, these being the RH Law, removal of the pork barrel allocations, the Senate’s investigation and verdict of the PDAF scam, and pending arrest of public officials involved. Many more of these forward-looking reforms and we’re on toward the future that Filipinos deserve.