(Sequel to my article last week, “Worth dying for.”)
The Philippines does not go to war. This is one reason, among others, why I never advocated going to war, just the willingness to risk death rather than endure a life of submission and shame. Of course, many readers (not the majority though) equated the willingness to risk death as going to war. I would advise them to read more closely the next time so they will not put words in any author’s mouth, and so they will not publicly project either their fears or their cowardice.
I cannot advocate war for a people who do not have a history of going to war. That is going against the cultural pattern and will not meet a spontaneous favorable response. But I did advocate for standing up and be counted among those who are willing to risk death over a more ignominious life. I did so because our history in the last 500 years does contain many incidents when Filipinos stood up and actually fought back when their motherland and their honor were being trampled upon.
It was Spain that invaded us – which was an act of war. Many Filipinos thereafter in the next 300 years fought back, risked death or were actually killed by our conquerors. I believe this is not only in our history books but also taught in schools so Filipino children understand the dynamics of conflict, the value of honor, and the fact that fear is natural but can be transcended.
It was America that invaded us – which was an act of war. Again, many Filipinos fought back, risked death rather than modern day slavery. Historical accounts have estimated from hundreds of thousands to over a million Filipinos died resisting the invasion of America. And these included many women and children who risked death and died so they could stay close to their menfolk who were fighting the Americans.
It was Japan that invaded us – which was an act of war. Following a cultural and behavioral pattern that placed a high price of freedom and honor, many Filipinos refused to bow to their Japanese conquerors and risked death, either by fighting or by supporting Filipino guerillas. Many Filipinos did not fight, by the way, but they were killed by the Japanese nonetheless.
Filipinos never declared war. It was Spain, the United States, and Japan that declared war on us, that invaded us and did manage to subjugate us. We not only never declared war, we lost all our wars. Oh, yes, because we fought back, no matter the military superiority of the enemies, but we never won the wars at first. Later, circumstances became more favorable and for a variety of reasons, we managed to remove the invaders. Freedom, even when taken away by force, can always come back when it remains important in the hearts of people. Never, though, from fear or cowardice.
The Philippines celebrates special days. Guess what? Most of these special days refer to heroism and to heroes. All of that and of them were against the odds, against superior military force. We do not declare heroes when they have the advantage, only when faced with a superior enemy or circumstance and almost certain death but would rather risk that than a life of shame.
The fear of death is natural, as natural as the love of life. At the same time, death is a reality that no one escapes from, not the brave, not the coward. Death comes in all sorts of circumstances. In times when a nation is under threat or in a state of conflict with an enemy that invades or tramples on our freedom and honor, death is a sentence for deserters, for betrayal and treason. In other words, as much as we love life, as much as we fear death, life comes to an end and death is inevitable. The value of life or the fear of death must thus be transcended because that is the law of life.
Life, then, blesses the brave more than the coward because death is unavoidable because life must come to an end. The brave will feel a sense of contentment and inner peace, and so will their descendants. The cowards will never have that, and the curse of their cowardice will live on. This is not my opinion. It is simply the way of life.
China can invade us – and that is an act of war. War is not our option, it is the option of the invader. That is why I do not advocate for us to declare war. That is utterly against our culture of peace and hospitality. But I did ask who, besides myself, because that is how I feel, is willing to risk death rather than endure shame or slavery. I thought that if enough Filipinos were willing to risk death in the face of a vastly superior enemy, this fact would give the President a wider set of options rather than just one – avoid risking the lives of Filipinos. Because if that is the singular or primordial value driving our premier decision-maker, all is lost.
I am not a hawk. I am a Filipino like most, someone who would rather celebrate than fight. And I would rather dedicate a good portion of the life left to me in the work to uplift the lives of those who have little or no options in life. That usually refers to the poor among us. But if we fear death above all else, we would lead lives with little or no option as well. I fear that state of life as an individual and as a Filipino. I fear the possibility that our children and grandchildren will inherit that kind of life because we feared death above all else.
I have long admired this saying by Albert Camus, so clear, so honest: “There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.”