To Be Filipino

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

The New Year is really new, exciting, and, if enough of us pull towards the same direction, it will be more fun in the Philippines!
2011 did not end with the great tragedy of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan – it gave birth to the greater response of sympathy, generosity and solidarity of Filipinos worldwide. And how 2011 ended, with that surge of fraternal concern, is how 2012 is beginning. This is one special moment in Philippine history, a moment heavily pregnant with change, dramatic change, disturbing but truly meaningful change.

I cannot call it any other term but “Filipinism.” I certainly did not coin that term, and frankly, I am not really sure what meaning the word has been originally given. But when I want to describe what it is that I have been witnessing these last few years, both here in the Philippines and with Filipinos in the United States, only the word Filipinism seems the closest enough to capture it. I am trying to label an energy, an emerging consciousness, a tipping point, a great confrontation between a dominant mindset and a long-suppressed angst that is now demanding to be felt, seen, heard – and given due value.

I had written about this unfolding in the past from a very personal perspective because I wanted to share the message of what I was witnessing. To some, my actuation came across so political because the death of Cory Aquino and the sudden candidacy of Noynoy Aquino became the focus of one moment. All that I had written about a new day, a new dawn for Filipinos, all these were overtaken by political developments that had, and still have, one personality in the center – Noynoy Aquino. I saw so clearly that the journey of the Filipino towards the kid of future he longs for is inexplicably married to the destiny of the son of heroes. My sense is that the path ahead for our people and a nation begging to be built is full of turbulence because the old and the new are now racing towards the mother of all battles.

My imagery of the word Filipinism has several interwoven threads. These include our spirit as a people, our history and culture that have molded a native spirit to what it is today, our dream of what we want to become, the future of our race and the motherland, the favorite expressions of life and how we sing, dance, pray and play. It is who we are in our depth and who we are as that depth manifests in the light of day. It is our fears and our hopes in daily interaction, the drama of our lives. Filipinism, to me, all these and some more.

It takes special events and personalities to draw out what is in our gut and push it towards the surface. The presidential campaign, the elections and the presidency today of P-Noy have been our special events, and Noynoy Aquino, to the vast majority who trust and approve of him, and the small percentage who take every opportunity to bash him, has been the single most significant personality over two and a half years. Every so often, other events and personalities weave in and out of the Philippine drama. Today, Gloria Arroyo and Chief Justice Renato Corona have joined P-Noy in the center, just as Cagayan de Oro and Iligan will be continuing points of national interest. Dumaguete and Compostela Valley were hit by disasters as well, but somehow the focus remains riveted on Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

It does not matter what side of any drama we take; what is important is the drama and where we go from there. If we concede that corruption is a key concern of Filipinos and even a crusade of P-Noy, then the drama will consist of confrontation and turbulence. Corruption will battle anti-corruption efforts and people, and society will be disturbed. How disturbed? It depends on how corrupt it has been, and how determined is the move to eliminate it. If we concede that poverty is another major concern, the drama will be a face-off – traditional social and economic values on one side versus social entrepreneurship and massive pro-poor initiatives. But whether corruption or poverty, the virtues of truth and justice must reestablish themselves as fundamental anchors of our society. It is not just about stealing, it is also about lying. It is not about what is legal or not, what is constitutional or not, it is about right and wrong.

It used to be that what was most important was the political and economic platform of politicians, political parties and governments. What is emerging puts something in the center of what is important – character. Filipinos want to trust again. From that trust stems the security of society, it is not the law. However it was done, or mangled, Filipinos do not trust enough the law, the lawyers, the judges and the justices. That level of distrust is more than enough to shake the sense of security as far as the law is concerned. If the Chief Justice has taken a bad hit in the trust department, it is not all his fault. It is the fault of everything and everyone who has sabotaged our justice system – including Corona who has not been seen as a reform crusader of a distrusted system.

But the turbulence will not be all triggered from moves to reform but from powerful initiatives that transform as well. The spirit of volunteerism symbolizes the aspirations of Filipinos and remains very high, very strong. We will continue to witness this as rebuild efforts take place in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. We are witnessing it now with the launch of the Tourism department’s “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan. It’s not really about just fun, it is more about who and what we are as a people, about who and what we want to be before our eyes and the eyes of the world. It is about our deep wish to get out of the darkness and do our bit in letting the light through.

It is simply our time to be Filipino.


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