Our Land And Seas

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

What is the difference between big islands and small islands? Basically, nothing except for size. And where they are located. Their location defines them, just as they define their inhabitants.

The islands and the seas of the Republic of the Philippines define their inhabitants, the Filipino race. Without these land and seas, there would be no natives, no Filipino people. If these same land and seas belonged to another country, like Indonesia, Malaysia or China, there would be no Filipinos, just more Indonesians, Malaysians, or Chinese.

Our relationship with our land and seas is primary and fundamental because it is the source of our identity. The Philippine islands and seas are the Motherland, and we are her children. She is the Inang Bayan, the Philippines, and we are her sons and daughters, the Filipino.

The Philippines has thousands of islands, small and big. Where our identity is concerned, the size of the islands are of no consequence, only their location. If they are part of the motherland, we belong to her and she belongs to us, every part of her, every one of us.

What is the difference between Luzon and Tawi-Tawi? Nothing except size, because both are part of the motherland. What is the difference between Mindanao and the Kalayaan Islands? Nothing except size, because both are home to the Filipino people, both are part of the motherland, both are the source of our very identity.

Identity is fundamental. A people cannot exist without knowing whom they belong with. In that belonging is the context of a race, how its members will survive, grow, and ultimately raise their identity beyond the location of their sovereign territory to their collective human potential.

After identity, the natural resources of the motherland define the quantity of life. To a certain extent, these natural resources also define the quality of life. Survival and security are first dictated by the capacity of the motherland to feed and shelter her sons and daughters. This capacity or natural resources influence the kind of growth and development that the people will go through. The more abundant the natural resources, the more security and opportunities they will give to the Filipino people.

The Philippines is considered among the richest, if not the richest, in bio-diversity or life forms. Identity and security should not be issues with Filipinos, not when our territory and natural abundance put us ahead of the rest of the world. But, unfortunately, that is not the case. Historical domestic dynamics and external threats now have the Philippines, and the Filipino people, in a delicate bind.

Internally, we have a motherland whose sons and daughters, in the vast majority, cannot relate to land and seas that they have been told were never theirs. From colonial times to a present reality drowned in historical amnesia, the mother was torn apart from her children, exploited and held hostage by foreign masters and local collaborators. The orphaned majority know only one reality in the last few centuries – that the land and seas do not belong to them.

It is the task of government and the elite who hold power, wealth and authority to initiate the reunion of the motherland and all Filipinos, to reconnect, not just by messaging, but by living reality, a people and their land and seas. Simple patriotism must have basis more than just random circumstance. There should be a deep and intimate relationship between people and their home, their identity, their security. If we want to experience fraternity between Filipinos, if we want a palpable sense of nation, if we want people to sacrifice for the common good, then the orphaned children must be able to relate to motherland.

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