FREEDOM OR FREE THEM? (The Irony of Philippine Independence)

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Image Courtesy of http://www.filipinoflag.net/

 

Independence Day, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated occasions in the Philippines. In fact, we are more concerned about Manny Pacquiao’s bout and Charice Pempengco’s sexual orientation. But that’s a different story to tell. There are more reasons which are posted in my head about the freedom that we enjoy today.

In this day and age, what makes us proud to be a Filipino?

From time to time I see news that applauds our inner ego as a country. We always take pride to those Filipinos who are given a limelight by the international community. Whether they are one half, one fourth, one eight or whatever mix you can think of, we accept and claim them with open arms even if the slightest blood relation to a Filipino is far from being evident. Even if they grin awkwardly while eating our food, we still insist that they are our “Kababayans”.  We hear news about fifteen-minutes-of-fame-brought-by-trending-twitter-hashtags. A short exposure from a Hollywood Celebrity talk show host gives us the right to brag that our talent is world – class. A visit from a foreign actor gives us a reason to claim that our hospitality encompasses any other race’s warmth. And a Guinness world record gives us a feeling of security that we are no small fish in the myriad of states.

On the other hand, whenever we hear negative remarks from foreigners we curse them with our utmost might. It automatically evolves into a national issue. For example, in 2009, Alec Baldwin stereotyped Filipinas as mail order brides and the great Senator Bong Revilla challenged him to a fist fight. If they don’t appreciate the pristine beaches of Palawan or Boracay, we lambast them. If they tag our capital as “gates of hell”, we cry foul. And when Claire Danes told Vogue Magazine that Manila is a ghastly and weird city we declared her persona non grata. There is no doubt that Filipinos are extremists.

This is the post-colonial/social media savvy Filipino’s concept of patriotism. Whoever tries to bother this Golden Calf shall be damned by the heavens. But I dare to say that this is misplaced, if not absurd.

Our invaders successfully made us feel like Indios until this day. Try to cruise along EDSA and you will realize what I mean. Television sets and different ads show that the fair and tall embodies perfection.  Our concept of greatness, beauty and power shows our collective xenocentrism.  Whatever is light and bright is right. That only a mestiza can be an influential star. To laugh about skin color and crack it as jokes to each other is ubiquitous.  These things have seeped down to our consciousness as a nation. Unfortunately, it is already a norm.

Are we really free? I don’t think so.

By always comparing our movies and development to Hollywood or Europe, we only prove that we are an insecure nation. We impliedly deny our own heritage because deep we still think that Uncle Sam is better than us.

The point is simple; we forgot our identity as a race by continuously imitating other countries. Our concept of cultural pride is so superficial that sometimes our actions contradict what we say.

We think that greener pasteur is mutually exclusive.  That a high standard of living for women is tantamount to possession of a Louis Vuitton bag or to men who drink all night with Chivas Regal or to children who nibble on Hershey’s chocolate.

Of course, I know that we are a melting pot of culture. We are full of diverse ethnicities which evolved into what we are today. But the problem does not lie in the fact that we have a lot of shared cultures. The problem lies in our colonial mentality.

I will not be self-righteous here. I will also plead guilty in some of the things I said. But I acknowledge it because I want to change it. After all, we can’t blame ourselves for being colonized for a couple of times. This is my own simple way of challenging the status quo. For the Filipino people is no lesser than any race in the world.

No matter how much we insist that freedom lies in our social consciousness, as long as the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines can dictate our legislators, until a young girl bleaches her skin to make her beautiful and until we base our concept of greatness to bizarre things, we are still that little boy called by a fat and bald friar as Indio.

Freedom is not limited to our capacity to act freely. Liberty, in its sincerest sense, is also the ability of the mind to think freely. If we can effectively set our hearts and minds free from colonial mentality then we can achieve our greatest potential. Look at any first world country and you will realize what I mean. It is not sufficient that we work conscientiously to achieve our goals as a country. We should also realize that our mindset affects our actions. A sense of shared destiny as Senator Miriam Santiago puts it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once had a dream. He said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Somehow it did come true.

As for me, I will also dream. That someday we will all break the illusion of colonial mentality. That we will set ourselves free by opening our minds and hearts as we work our way towards greater development. Until then, I will consider the Philippines as a true free country. 

Today, all I can do is to rejoice. For I know that the Filipino is more than the text – fanatic/twitter addict generation whose main business in life is to make Daniel Padilla more famous than Justin Bieber. 

 

NOTA BENE: The author used the English language to communicate with a larger number of audience and  to practice his writing skills for his future endeavors.

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