We beg to differ.

The Philippines is a country by colonial edict — much like the way the old Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were, as well as many African nations. They are meaningless hollow pin-up states cobbled together for the sheer pleasure, vanity, and mercantile ambitions of their former imperial architects. In the case of the Philippines, even the name of the state itself — derived from Philip II of Spain — is a legacy of Spanish colonial rule. So the Philippines is not a nation in any real natural sense. It is an amalgamation of various disparate tribes, sultanates, and kingdoms that submitted to or were made to submit to central government in Manila by Spain and, later, the United States.

For much of its history, Filipinos pretended that the Philippines actually stood for something without bothering to do the hard work of coming up with something to stand for. As such the simple fact that the Philippines stands for nothing even after 66 years of “independence” makes instilling some sense of nationalism — much more, patriotism — a rather exasperating exercise to say the least.

Compare this sad situation to the happier prospects of nations that actually have something about their collective characters to be proud of. Craig Nelson introduces his book Rocketmen, with the story of a 1969 Senate briefing (shortly after Apollo 11 landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon) where Fermilab physicist Robert Wilson is asked how a $250 million atom smasher he proposes be built will contribute to the security of the United States. Wilson responded by saying that it will contribute nothing, but that the American people’s capacity to undertake endeavours like those is what makes the United States of America worth defending.

Indeed, the question is often asked of Filipinos: Is the Filipino worth dying for? Considering the awesome might of the Chinese military now starting to stare down a gun barrel pointed squarely at the neighbourhood pipsqueak trying to stake a claim on the only set of swings in the school yard, it seems that the Philippines may need to start relying on the only resource it can objectively count on — young warm bodies. If it comes down to mobilising the troops and drawing upon reserves, then the obvious thought will pop into the 18-25 year-old average male Filipino mind:

Is the Philippines worth defending?

Perhaps the United States will beg to differ to the most likely answer to the above question. The Philippines after all offers strategic assets to the US’s aspirations to secure its interests in the Pacific. In that sense, the United States is the Philippines’ “friend”. It is in that consuelo de bobo that Filipinos have grudgingly learned to content themselves with defining themselves along with more contemporary roles they now have so readily embraced — the call centre capital of the world, and the world’s labour pool for low-skilled work.

Why, despite its enormous population, has the Philippines for so long remained but a mere sub-element among the big elements that form part of a broader more globally-relevant landscape of influence? Perhaps it is because Filipinos don’t really expect much of themselves. Indeed, the current president of the Philippines, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is an embodiment of this collective psychological condition. While, on one hand, many Filipino nationalist drumbeaters lament our lack of a palpable national dignity, the non-dignity of the Filipino was further baked into the fabric of the society when Noynoy was elected President in 2010. There was no dignity in electing to the highest office in the land the most unqualified, the least inspiring, the most inexperienced, and the least motivated among the candidates at the time.

How then can we claim to be moving forward towards a future of greatness and prosperity when we continue to take significant steps backward? Perhaps it is when we learn to appreciate that nations are built from the ground up and not from the top down that real sustainable change will begin to take hold. Change cannot be “architected” unless people already possess an inherent will to evaluate their present behaviours and attitudes and exhibit an equally inherent ability to execute the solutions the resulting observations beg. Just seeing how Filipinos cannot even be bothered to implement even the easiest and most obvious solutions to the myriad of problems staring them in the face pretty much tells us what our prospects for future prosperity really are.


benign0 is the Webmaster of

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  • Jun says:

    The lack of nationalism is seen in many elements on the society today. People throw off garbage and spit on the road and anywhere. People who love their country won’t do such things. There is no effort as a community to preserve and instill an image of the Filipino identity in aspects such as architecture. In this regard there is no particular sense of culture that Filipinos try to espouse on their national and historic sites. Consider Taft Avenue, a place worthy of such preservation. Imagine if instead of each building stand on its own independently in design, and historic buildings such as the City Hall, Supreme Court, PGH, etc, left to dirt and ruin, a cultural authority carefully designs the whole avenue, building by building, pavement by pavement as a showcase of our glorious heritage, then it would have been something to be proud of and capable of stirring national feelings. Filipinos and tourists would flock down this area and marvel at our nation. Sadly, everyone does their own way without any regard of this. There is still hope though, if we stop doing things which damage our country, students dutifully study their lessons thinking of doing future service for the nation, always mindful and intent of preserving its glorious heritage, and leaders rise up in nation building. It is time for the Filipino nation to feel its being a nation in a higher way.

  • John says:

    I silly article indeed. How do you class the USA then, made from the colonies of Spain, UK, France, Mexico and Russia and peopled from every nation on the planet? The UK, made up of 4 distinct regions, and populated with people extracted from different parts of Europe if not the world. It only takes one generation, growing up looking at a flag on the town hall or in the class room, knowing no other, and you have a nationality. So the article is pretty worthless, the kind that is written expressly to get people upset. Very poor journalism by our standards.

    • MidwayHaven says:

      Care to expound on why this article is “worthless,” when the author has explicitly explained the observable reasons for it?

      And to claim that this article is “poor journalism” is absurd, since this isn’t a news blog in the first place.

    • calista bagon says:

      so true. +100000

      negativity just for the sake of a few views. geesh.

  • Glen Villar says:

    Ask yourselves, am I willing to go to war for my nation? I might have a 50-50 chance of deciding yes. Again, ask yourselves, are you willing to let your families suffer and die in the hands of the enemies? Of course not! With or without guns, I could use my bare hands to kill an invading enemy if I had to just to protect my families. So you see, the feeling of being protective alone can be more effective than being patriotic. If you want to see your children living freely in the future, and raising arms is our only option to do it, then so be it.

    • Johnny Saint says:

      Mr Villar,

      It seems you have missed the point of the article. Putting the question another way: What does it mean to be Filipiino? Or, What does the Filipino stand for?

      Your analogy actually demonstrates the exact opposite of what benign0 was trying to drive home in the article. What you did was to emphasise the fact that there is no national identity that Filipinos can lay claim to. It may be argued that ANY person in the right circumstances will be forced to fight. That doesn’t really mean anything. Even apes and other mammals will fight viciously to protect their immediate family and extended kin. In that sense, fighting for the survival of one’s family, while it may possesses a somewhat romantic — even heroic — element, doesn’t differentiate intelligent humans from other beasts.

      It is only when Filipinos can define and articulate exactly WHAT it is that is WORTH dying for, what it means to BE FILIPINO, then we will have achieved a sense of nationhood.

  • alansmagic says:

    You bring the word history into your article quite often yet forget the history of the Philippines itself. 66 years of independence was brought about by selfish and powerful men. Filipino men. We were given a choice back then, we could have remained a Commonwealth until we had enough infrastructure, know how and maturity to become truly independent.

    The Filipino, the hungry Filipino becomes undisciplined but remains a survivor. The answer to the question is simple. Yes, the Philippines is worth defending. Go back to your history and realize that the Philippines is still a budding nation. 66 years into USA’s independence, they were in the same shape we are in now.

    Feed the hungry Filipino and he will become more than just a survivor. He will do whatever it takes to never be hungry again. Discipline will set in and the Filipino will become proud.

    A sense of pride will force us to make better decisions.

    By the way, are you saying Erap did a better job than Noynoy?

    • Johnny Saint says:

      What is it exactly Noynoy is supposed to have accomplished? Compared to ANY public official, that is.

      • marius says:

        >> “Feed the hungry Filipino and he will become more than just a survivor. He will do whatever it takes to never be hungry again. Discipline will set in and the Filipino will become proud.”

        In my humble experience, if you feed the Filipino, he holds out his hand and ask for more. The reason is, if he stands up and starts to provide for himself, his fellow Filipinos will crush him and make sure he is poor again. So what’s the point?

    • mikee gomes says:

      that is so true.. funny how the ilk of this site degrade its own culture.

  • Jojo Vitug says:

    There is no sense of Nationalism in the Philippines! It is a national aspiration for a lot of Filipinos, to go to school, finish their studies and go abroad and stay there probably for good. In a sense, most Filipinos hate themselves, in the states, they are more “American” than the Americans. We are a country of political chameleons, as we will outdo most natives in the foreign country we are in. Where has one seen a country with a lot of one hit wonders? Only in the Philippines! We were the first country in Asia in a lot of things, first national airline, first national railway, first light rail transit, and a host of other first. Where are all these now? Sadly lagging 20+ years behind our other Southeast Asian neighbors. We now have an international airport in Manila that has lost the majority of its air conditioning. Why is the airport manager not yet resigning? They charge a very high airport terminal fee and yet the basic amenities of creature comfort is broken. Why do we have to pay to suffer? Countless promises have been made, into making the Philippines self sufficient in rice production. Up to now we import rice from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos to name a few rice eating neighbors. And mind you, all their “rice experts” studied at our very own International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Nakakaiyak is to say the least. When will we ever wake up?

  • Gail says:

    Your article is, with due respect, a little bit exaggerated especially that part where you wrote, world labour pool of unskilled workers. Nonetheless, I get your point. Sometimes, you need to embarass or go to the very deep of one’s soul by hurting them to the very core to instill if not instigate change. We indeed should start from ourselves. God bless!

    • marius says:

      Gail, are you a Filipina? I’m surprised to read this:

      “Sometimes, you need to embarass or go to the very deep of one’s soul by hurting them to the very core to instill if not instigate change.”

      Can you explain more how and why this might be effective? Most educated people will debate the state of their own country with anyone, without name-calling and shoe-throwing. True, if you try the same thing in a biker bar, you’ll have trouble, but Filipinos (in general) act like drunk bikers. They just explode with rage and respond with ad hominem nonsense (“what do you know about it?”, “what have you ever done?”, “do you think you’re better than us?”, etc).

      So how do we turn that rage and passion into something productive? Is it possible?

  • Fred Bouwman says:

    There are a lot worse things than not having a sense of Nationalism (although I completely disagree with the article). Lots of wars have been fought over the silly notion that one country is better than another. The Philippines has it right, forget about interfering in other countries business and just focus on your own problems. The U.S could learn a lot from the Philippines.

    • marius says:

      It’s a fair point, but I don’t think the author was talking about that sort of Nationalism (which the Philippines has in spades – exhibit A: Pinoy Pride).

      As far as I can tell, he means a sense of shared national identity and purpose. Something that makes the country more than the sum of its parts, and that makes it a place worth living in (or staying in).

  • Luzviminda says:

    I completely disagree with the opinion of the writer. Don’t underestimate Filipino nationalism on the basis of the lack of opportunities and social security that rooted from 4 decades of incompetent or corrupt leadership. Filipinos are victims of history just like more than half of the world population. They go overseas to seek opportunities not because they are not nationalistic. I can tell you that more than 90% of overseas Filipinos want to go home given the same opportunities back home. People violate laws because of poor enforcement not because they are not nationalistic. This is your world line – .. “Change cannot be ‘architected’ unless people already possess an inherent will to evaluate their present behaviours and attitudes and exhibit an equally inherent ability to execute the solutions the resulting observations beg.” Why then do Filipinos excel overseas? Because they are inherently good.

  • marksman says:

    Is the Filipino worth dying for? Hell no. That’s why I left the country years ago. We can never agree on one issue. We’ve been played around like fools that we are. When we finally “catch” some big fish they get some sort of special pardon. Example? Marcos, Erap & Gloria. It’s like the government is one big show.

    We’re a smart, hardworking and loving people. For some damn reason, we just try to take advantage of each other. Talanka mentality. We all know it. Naalala ko pa yung commercial na ‘yun makailang taon na. It sucks. Even here abroad, it’s not uncommon for me to hear Filipinos backbiting one another.

  • Pessimist says:

    Is the Philippines worth dying for? I don’t know, but I am a Cebuano, I was born in Cebu, it’s my HOME and I will defend this island till my last breath! It’s hard to die for a country with leaders who can’t “come clean”, and continue to ride the waves like nothing wrong has been done.

  • Ysmael says:

    then we have to prevent the total extinction of the sense of what so called “nationalism” among our brothers and sisters. what is the solution? education? im an engineering students and even in college, i see the absence of nationalism among my schoolmates. if education is not enough, then we have start to act by ourselves. give them an example, teach them how to act accordingly, tell them how we should be a Filipino. if you are a true Filipino, you should stop talk like you know everything and do something. be a servant of your nation and expect others will emulate you. Its just like what happen in Israel about 2000 yrs ago.

    i think the true purpose of this article is not only to be read but to motivate us to seek solution to this particular problem.

  • The politicians in the Philippines pretends to serve their countrymen by lipservice..Lies, posted projects that never happen, relief goods that are eaten by worms are donated to theYolanda typhoon victims..The Aquinos made sure that their friends and allies businesses and interests are protected and so is their Hacienda..They will never give it to the farmers whom they promised to Marcos. Marcos filed a case against the Aquinos who refused to yield the farmers lands but when Cory took the seat by People power, she made sure that the Hacienda will be spared by junking the case filed by Pres. Marcos. Ever since then, our economy fell and we suffered hardship..Our money lost its value..We’ve been blinded by the CIA by making Marcos liable to his crimes when in fact he did accomplish more than the presidents after him..Hurt the peoples food supply, make them pay more taxes, make empty promises and this time politicians will bleed..Being a citizen of the Philippines is not being by taxpayer alone..By being involved in her interests and being aware of whats going on is the only way to redeem ourselves and clean up our acts..

  • Look at our Philippine history..It has been manipulated so that the Filipinos will not know the real truth..No one knows that Emilio Aguinaldo killed Andres Bonifacio..Because Aguinaldos legacy lives on being a DOTC secretary Abaya..

  • RFL says:

    Very insightful and objective comments from most. Understanding this piece requires less emotions and egos and more intellect and principles. Our country will always be what it is thanks in part to the historical majority who are easily blackmailed and persuaded by money. It will always be a “ME” society mainly for survival. Its a classic question of ” Who made the mistake first, the people or the gov’t “. Progress can only be attained if the individual pinoy/pinay will start understanding the realities of everyday life and how their daily decisions will impact the future. There is no “VISION” imbeaded in the minds of our countryfolks. Discipline and intellectual upgrading is a must for the whole country to turn around for the good. The author made it plain and simple, this is who most of us are today, change will come if we start thinking right but, until then, corrupt will be corrupt, poor will be poor and rich will still control the future of our nation negatively !

  • filipinosloveusa says:

    The author is wrong, yes there is nationalism — we honor our flag. (Just like calling our country “A Christian Nation”, we go to church then cheat, steal, lie, murder…) Sometimes I ask myself why a piece of cloth is more important to Filipinos than the soil it represents.

  • Sick Amore says:

    The Philippines is still a normal country being far from anything extraordinary. First accept this boring fact and once the terrible bore sink in, people will start looking for a way out of the ordinary. A sense of nationalism is only for those who wanted more, who desire something greater. The Filipinos are happy and satisfied as they are right now.

  • Presidente Emilio says:

    One way of gaining a sense of nationalism is to rediscover our history. We need to acknowledge and accept both the bright and dark sides of it. From there, we can where our forefathers went wrong, learn from it, and everything will fall into place.

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