No patria, no patriot

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

| Photo by Michael Rivera on Unsplash

From 1983, my first experience in a rural, upland community, to 2021, my introduction to Gawad Kalinga, and now in 2022, I am still pursuing the elusive vision of addressing poverty from its roots deterring corruption in governance and society in general.

I cannot blame the blindness of governance because I have seen the same blindness even in the private, academic, religious, and NGO sectors. I have seen little malice, though, except in the perennial corrupt and those who are enamored with power at all costs. I have seen more of simple blindness caused by collective amnesia, lazy minds, and a lukewarm empathy for those left behind. This collective haze has become part of our fundamental assumptions and is so destructive for the marginalized and historically prejudiced.

From our history, I see the descent from dignified productivity even at their more primitive levels to simply still primitive levels without dignity. When our leaders from all major sectors looked, and still look, at poverty, they basically measure the amount of money owned by people. They may not say so very openly, but they do see and treat it that way. For example, a poor, unproductive Filipino who suddenly, by sheer luck (or God’s will, if you wish), finds a healthy sum of money through winning the lotto or substantial remittances from an OFW spouse or child is just as suddenly not considered poor anymore. It’s simply money.

Therefore, leaders of Philippine society inevitably look at money as the main measure of poverty even if they do not articulate this publicly. If money is the answer to poverty, decision-makers in society know those who have money will not share it in quantities that count to attain a relative parity with those who do not have it. Therefore, what is said openly is that the poor, with some level of assistance from the government, business, and advocacy groups, will have to struggle through life to get themselves out of poverty.

“When our leaders from all major sectors looked, and still look, at poverty, they basically measure the amount of money owned by people. They may not say so very openly, but they do see and treat it that way.”

In other words, the poor must bear most, if not all, the burden of poverty they simply inherited by chance – from parents who themselves were born poor. And here lies the blindness of historical assumptions insidiously now becoming part of our fundamental understanding. That the poor are guilty of their poverty. Those who have no guilt in the poverty of others will feel no accountability to dismantle the poverty they think they did not cause. That is the ugly truth – from ignorance, from convenience, from cowardice. Take your pick.

Patria. Patria is a Spanish root word, which means “one’s native country or homeland.”

Patriotism. Patriotism means “devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.” Patriotism is derived from the root word, Patria. That means that patriotism cannot come with a native country without a homeland.

Where is the country of the poor in the Philippines? Leaders who have access now only to general history details can also trace how many Filipinos owned land in the Philippines. I can only guess that, not so long ago, more than 90% did not have title to any land in the Philippines. Worse, the poor not having title to any piece of land had no right to be there as well – and so they were reminded by the government and the landowners, from one generation to another.

Can anyone who knows they had no legal right to be anywhere in this country even develop a devotion to it? Or offer active support to a homeland that is not home to them? And we expect Filipinos to be patriotic? Where will their patriotism spring from?

We have heard one familiar battle cry – land for the landless. It is so sad that even those who have coined and screamed this land-for-the-landless battle cry had not tied it up effectively to a historical anomaly, to the birth of patriotism, to the development of productivity. The political ring around the battle cry more noisily tried to generate a class struggle, as if another ugly error would correct a previous one.

“They will not tell the story of the Filipino people and their descent from dignity, ingenuity, and productivity in my lifetime. It is easy to understand, too, just radical to a blurred or lazy mind or a corrupt heart. Yet, I have seen it so clearly for so long.”

But reality bites. Even for me. I never attempted to initiate a nationwide campaign that could possibly awaken a dulled and blighted national consciousness about the most severe lapses in it. I never tried to reach out to both the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, about the root cause of their basic gap and how to close it with a huge patriotic and development flagship program for nation-building. Maybe because I thought I was alone in a task so overwhelming.

No more, though.

This political season has finally convinced me that if the government, businesses, churches, schools, and NGOs are not doing it, they do not understand it. They will not tell the story of the Filipino people and their descent from dignity, ingenuity, and productivity in my lifetime. It is easy to understand, too, just radical to a blurred or lazy mind or a corrupt heart. Yet, I have seen it so clearly for so long.

Let me begin, then, in my own way, within my capacity. The grand theft of our native land has not been considered a continuing historical anomaly, one we continue to suffer from – our loss of dignity, the stunting of our patriotism, the disabling of our capacity for production, our political disembowelment. The Filipino deserves to know what was either hidden from them or never understood by historians and politicians.

Let me forget about being a lonely voice in the wilderness. It is simply time, and I must not stop. Time to tell dispossessed Filipinos why they have no place in our country, why they scamper like animals being shooed away when other humans come, why they suffer and die as though they are not natives of the homeland. And how blind our leaders remain.

Leave a Comment

X