The Philippines: A true nation, or an historical accident?

03 May 2002

While it's easy enough to say that filipinos as a people are dysfunctional, it's difficult to say whether this dysfunctionality is rooted within the culture itself. Even if it is, it's not easy to tell whether culture alone could be blamed, the politics, the economy, or any combination thereof. These comprise different cross-sections of the problem. But it's not that easy to tell which aspects of the problem constitute the root and which aspects are but manifestations and consequences of these root causes. The cause-and-effect interdependencies are not easy to work-out.

One thing for certain, is that filipinos are woefully unhappy or discontent about things regarding themselves as filipinos. Another thing that's evident is the abject lack of consensus on just about anything from type of leadership, to issues of a social nature, down to trivialities.

No hierarchy of values could be worked-out that would provide a framework from which decisions and plans could be defined. Particular subgoals couldn't be laid out, since, common goals, be they long or short term, are not even clear and concrete to inspire definitive action.

The only thing that seems common amongst filipinos is their disunity. Oftentimes, the only thing that binds filipinos are relative proximities - e.g. same region, same ethnicity, same school or institution, same church, same tradition, same restaurant, same car, same profession, same color of underwear, etc.. These things do not inspire self-conviction - they come and go. They should be grounded on some authentic "collective spirituality" ( not necessarily in the religious sense, but moral, social, and political ). Even [i]de facto[/i] religious practices are geared towards fulfilling private or personal concerns, relegating a mere utilitarian role to the social component. The collective is for the individual no matter how idiosyncratic. The filipino society is non-monolithic but pluralistic in a self-destructive sense of the word.

We need to have something that would prove that the Philippine society is just more than an historical or fortuitous accident in order to justify its continued existence. We have to formulate some deeper ideology shared by all filipinos that would inspire personal or moral conviction beyond mere emotionalism or sentimentalism. Patriotism could only be sustained if it's rooted on more timeless principles and yet peculiar only to the filipino people. Anything else, would be fleeting.

Many filipinos wish some kind of acceptance and recognition from other cultures as basis of their own self-acceptance. What happens is that, because of a lack of some clear, stable, objective, and independent benchmark, they measure themselves in terms of criteria relative and workable to other cultures. Sometimes, they think that assuming the native traits of people of other cultures would be route towards universal acceptance, thus, lose themselves in the process. Filipinos have to redefine themselves. We need to reinvent ourselves in terms of a clear ideology or ideal, sufficiently universally acceptable to all filipinos regardless of subgroup, subculture, or other inherent diversities.

In other societies, the agreed aspects overwhelm the conflicting ones. While in some societies such as ours, it appears that, the conflicting aspects overwhelm the agreed ones. And when we do agree, nothing uplifting and progressive seems inherently sustainable, stable, or enduring.

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