Independence, Dependence, Poverty and America

Today, we celebrate The Philippines' Independence Day. Supposedly, our country has been independent for the last 109 years. Wow, that is something!

But I do not know about that. If we are independent, how come the Siamese twins World Bank-Interational Monetary Fund dictate our economic policies? How come American servicepersons entering our territories do not need to acquire visas and need not even present their passports? How come the Philippine government cannot commit Corporal Daniel Smith to its prison system? How come George Bush tells Gloria Arroyo how to run the affairs of our country?

As far as the struggle for independence goes, nobody can beat the Igorots. Unfortunately, they are less known for having resisted Spanish colonization than for being uncivilized. Of course, it is farthest from the truth that Igorots are uncivilized. That was the lie often repeated that became the truth. At least, it is the truth for the prejudiced minds and those who do not have enough gray matter in their cerebrums to analyze history.

While the Spaniards succeeded in lording it over our lowland sisters and brothers (and many of them resisted. Do not forget THE national hero, Andres Bonifacio.), they failed in the Cordillera. Unable to accept their defeat, they gave the word Igorot a new meaning: barbarism and its synonyms. Actually, Igorot simply means "from the mountains" from the root words "i" meaning "from" and "golot" meaning mountain. But that is telling Igorots what they already know. Anyway, I am writing it here for the sake of those who do not.

Then the Americans came. This is where the story shifts to another theme. This is where the self-determining Igorots suddenly become docile without knowing it.

The Igorots warmed to the Americans. After all, the white men came with their smiles, not with rifles as the Spaniards did. They taught Filipinos to be proud of the nipa hut. I remember that song we sang as kids: "My nipa hut is very small, but the seeds that I grow -- See, it houses them all!"

I ask my students: Which was the worse colonizer? America or Spain? Most students say it was Spain because the Spaniards were cruel. The Americans were benevolent. Hmmm. Why not? The Spaniards forced their subjects to pay bandala and render polo y servicios. And they did not even teach Spanish to the indios. They thought our lowland brothers and sisters were not fit to speak a word in Spanish. But the Americans did not shoot at us with guns and cannons. They came and patiently taught us their language (A is for apple.). They introduced us to the American way of life. The Spaniards were around for more than 300 years. But it seems Spain merely made a stopover, farted and left us fuming mad.

America was with us for 50 years. But it seems as if it were around from the time Bugan and Wigan first saw the light of day!

Here I am blogging, not in the language of my ancestors, but in English. I think in English. I argue best in English. And at home, we speak English. I am very American, in more ways than one. And I am not thinking of migrating  to America which became the Land of the Free at the cost of stealing from other people their freedom. When things get from bad to worse here, hmmm...Let us cross the bridge when we get there.

Our gold, our lands and even our soul - where are they? Philex is an American company. Lepanto is an American company. Because of the poverty situation in the Cordillera, many would like to move to America. Is this poetic justice - the parasite will have to play host to the host it reduced to parasitism? For we were born rich but we are poor. In America we can live the good life. The opportunities stolen from us here are there in America for us to embrace.

And the song "My Nipa Hut" which we melodiously sang in four voices as children? If you ask me, I am a bit suspicious of that song. The nipa hut is, to me, a symbol of poverty. The song teaches us to be proud of our poverty. It almost became our national anthem as it sank into our collective consciousness. Now we remain agricultural producing singkamas, talong, sigarilyas, mani, sitaw, bataw, patani, sibuyas, kamatis, bawang at luya. We keep supplying USA with raw materials while it concentrates in the production of electronics and high-tech products. Meantime, when will the Philippines industrialize? When will it be able to produce the safety pins that we need in emergency situations like when a button falls off, or when we shrink in the waistline but can't afford to buy new pants that are two sizes smaller? The Philippines is one of the richest in the world in terms of natural wealth, but why are its people poor?

Anyway, here is something I wrote when I was mad at George Bush. It reflects what I think of US colonization.


They presented to us their friendship;
We accepted and invited an invincible enemy.
They rewarded us with their saccharine smile;
We accepted and misplaced discernment.
They bequeathed upon us independence;
We accepted and became their pliant slaves.
They delivered to us chocolates and honey;
We accepted and found ourselves hungry.

They munificently taught us their urbane language;
We accepted and dropped our collective mind.
They gifted us with free-thinking education;
We accepted and unlearnt our ancient culture.
They introduced us to refinement and civilization;
We accepted and became ruthless barbarians.
They convinced us that dog-eating is brutal;
We accepted and started eating their GMO's.

They persuaded us that tribal war is evil;
We accepted and fought WWII with them.
They bestowed upon us protection from harm;
We accepted and endangered our security.
They told us Saddam Hussein is a mass murderer;
We accepted and killed innocent Iraqis with them.
They offered us jobs in the mines in our land;
We accepted and lost our ancestral domain.

They paid us minimum wage for a day's work;
We accepted and waived the value of our labor.
They lent us generous loans from their banks;
We accepted and squandered trillions of pesos.
They granted us multi-billion dollar investments;
We accepted and wasted our national wealth.
They accorded us free trade and liberalization;
We accepted and gave up economic sovereignty.

13 November 2005

Happy independence month, for whatever it is worth.
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