The damaged Filipino culture of today is said to be the product of 400 years of Spain and 50 years of Hollywood.
Spain brought us Christianity which bordered on the ritualistic, sometimes pagan rites and the almost deification of the clergy. The Spanish bureaucrats and the soldiers subjugated the tribes into small fiefdoms and then ruled them. Divide and rule.
For 400 years, Filipino generation upon generation was made to believe we were near-slaves, incapable of governing ourselves and that not embracing the Spanish brand of Christianity was a one-way ticket to hell.
The Americans made us believe that we owed our Independence and freedom to them. The Americans felt that they “liberated” the country from Spain by destroying the Spanish armada fleet in Manila Bay. Thereafter, after 400 years of Spanish oppression, a jubilant Filipino armed leader Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Philippines’ independence from across his house balcony in historic Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898.
But the greedy Americans were not to easily give up this country which became then the second most progressive nation in Asia (next to Japan). We were then an extension of America’s interests in Asia- “a virtual fiefdom” without its being called so. Regardless.
It was only when the Americans again liberated the country from the Japanese Imperial Forces in 1946 that we were we granted our true independence specifically on the 4th of July, America’s own Freedom Day.
To the credit, then, of former President Diosdado Macapagal that he changed the Philippine Independence Day celebration from July 4 to June 12 beginning 1962 which is indeed the more appropriate date.
Dates aside, how free sometimes indeed are we now as to say we can truly celebrate our Independence Day tomorrow?
The first freedom is the freedom to live and therefore freedom from want otherwise the idea of freedom is merely an abstract concept for Juan Dela Cruz.
For indeed a free man must have both economic freedom and political freedom.
Twenty-one million Filipinos still wallow today below the poverty line and the nation lives in an inverted pyramid where 10% of the population controls 90% of the nation’s wealth. It is a dangerous social volcano.
For Filipinos to be economically free, they must be either gainfully employed or runs their own business as entrepreneurs. In a capital-starved country like ours, the savings rate versus the GDP growth rate is simply not there for the simple reason that everything Juan de la Cruz earns he consumes for his sustenance. Very often, his expenditures exceed his income. Usually, he ends with your famous usurer and not all of them wear turbans, we tell you true.
He cannot go into business because the Banking System does not always give credit where credit is due. Except in some cases for some SMEs.
The Banking system apparently only gives credit to those who don’t need it. Has it therefore sometimes become unwittingly an instrument in the perpetuation of the inequality of wealth distribution and opportunity?
Others look at Education as the goose that lays the golden eggs. But how many can afford Philippine quality education today? The K-12 program appears good on paper but the quality of both materials, teachers and procedures leave much to be desired. Worldwide, Philippine education except for a few universities and colleges is not given much respect. We are in the pits.
And even with a college diploma in town, he joins the ranks of the 1 million new graduates every year searching for scarce jobs competing among themselves and the unemployed. It is no wonder that the Department of Foreign Affairs approves papers for 1 million Filipinos every year to get a chance for them to be workers in a land not our own.
Are we economically free, therefore? Politically free?
Are we an independent country when people who have the money buy people’s votes, those who have the guns terrorize the results of the election and those who have the political clout force command votes and coerce people to vote like slaves without will and power?
Are we free when warlords and family gangs rule the community where their word is the law and those who object are seconds away from being six feet under the ground?
Are we free with the snail’s pace of justice and with many of the courts manned by judges derided as hoodlums in robes? Can a justice system thrive with such a minuscule budget for the Judiciary when it is one of the three independent branches of government?
Are we really free when some Media men themselves sell their press badge and dignity for thirty pieces of very dirty silver? Who will give us then that freedom of choice or freedom of thought?
Are we totally free when RP is considered one of the riskiest places for media men- and they get badgered daily by threats, libel cases, and (the silly charge 0f) inciting to sedition?
Are we free when social platforms dictate what we see and hear based on algorithms that make people behave like robots influenced by the science of cyberspace and lose their freedom to think freely?
Are we free when the scores of extrajudicial killings and disappearances have not been solved? And NO established truly independent foreign policy that kowtows neither to China nor the West.
Are we free when the country is dubbed one of the most dangerous places for media men outside of war-torn Iraq and Syria? Are we “worse than free” as Vergel Santos’s famous book is titled?
Our hard-earned democracy fought for and defended from Mactan to Balintawak to Bataan and Corregidor, Tirad Pass and EDSA is a work in progress. But we just work on it like laggards. Such a pity.
Let us henceforth value our independence by acting like we are free. Shall we?
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