From the pens of dead men

There is a book and incidentally a thought going around now reminding people that Western ideas and values were not spread due to their superiority or truth but due to the fact that Westerners were simply more adept at organized violence. A BBC documentary and a biography on Lord Nelson essentially admits to this, at least as far as the British are concerned. People here should realize that, far from the corporate governance, ethics, and democracy spouting people they see in CNN, the British (and most of Europe, including France and Germany), America, Japan, and China arose from a culture of killing. Of course, they perhaps prefer the term warrior culture. Essentially, it's still about killing.

Among the people they killed, humiliated, or conquered were of the Philippines.

The arrogance of these people, the bullying by which they thrived, can be read in Nick Joaquin's book Manila, My Manila. The day "the Manila of Soliman became the Manila of Legazpi", 19 May 1571. That day Miguel Lopez de Legazpi took formal possession of Manila by holding his sword in his hand and yelling "in a voice of fury,

'I have founded the City of Manila in the name of the King. If there be any there who would challenge this, let him come forward and I will measure my sword with his.'"

Of course, none of our forefathers came forward. Rajah Soliman and his men all having been soundly beaten. Repeatedly. This is the culture that we have to contend with, engage with.

So we keep trying. We keep fighting, in one way or another, for our right to be recognized as a people. Gregorio Del Pilar, on the day he died at Tirad Pass, wrote in his diary:

"I realize what a terrible task has been given me. And yet I feel that this is the most glorious moment of my life. What I do is done for my beloved country. No sacrifice can be too great."

He was a young 24 year old. Hopefully, the youth reading his words today would be inspired to be what they are and be Filipinos.

Fresh and stunning too are the words of Fr. Horacio de la Costa SJ, writing in 1971, of the place nationalism has - in the proper and correct sense of the word - in what could be made to apply in today's globalized world:

"We are told, of course, that this ideal is hopelessly out of date. Why cultivate nationalism in a world rapidly moving toward internationalism. If we must dedicate ourselves to an ideal, let it be to the brotherhood of man. As to that, we can readily agree that an international organization within which all men can live as brothers is a consummation devoutly to be wished. But we might point out that the very word 'internationalism' presupposes nationalism. If nations are to be united, there must be nations to unite. Those who have already achieved full nationhood can afford to take their nationalism for granted, can even be highmindedly apologetic about it. But we who, having been colonial subjects for four hundred years, are still seeking national identity and purpose, may perhaps be forgiven if nationalism is uppermost in our minds and boringly recurrent in our conversation.

Would it be thought discourteous on our part if we were to recall that it was once said of England that patriotism was the religion of the English? And that it was not so long ago that American school texts prescribed for use in the Philippines quoted with reverence the dictum of an American naval officer, 'My country, may she always be right, but right or wrong, my country'?

That is not a principle we are prepared to defend. What we are prepared to defend is this: that if we are nationalists it is not because we wish to separate ourselves from the rest of men, but, on the contrary, because we wish to build up a nation that can make its own distinctive contribution to the general advancement of the human race."

On the last, I would have to disagree with Fr. De La Costa, for it always has to be my country, hoping that she is in the right, but right or wrong I side with my country. For what we are is that which we contribute to the world and the human race, and what we are is something that we must believe in. Thus, as screwed up, insane, ridiculous the circumstance that it may be in right now, still my country, always my country.

In any event, we do not have a dearth of history and men to look up to for guidance and inspiration. And we most certainly do not lack it in ourselves that which could make this Philippines of ours a nation.