Why our Independence Day celebrations are so muted

  • Reading time:8 mins read

THERE are several factors that explain our people’s weak sense of nationalism, which is reflected in the fact that our celebration of our Independence Day since the Cory Aquino regime has been muted, compared to those of most nations in Asia.

Among these: a foreign-descended ruling class that doesn’t identify with the mostly ethnic Malay masses; the US colonizers’ successful brainwashing of the elite and the middle class that they are America’s little brown brothers, resulting in massive migration to America; and the ideological hegemony of neoliberal dogma that modern man is, and must be, global citizens and no longer citizens of a nation.

The toppling of the Marcos regime in 1986, glorified as a People Power Revolution, accentuated these factors, and may even in fact have weakened substantially the Filipinos’ sense of nationalism. In fact, the past three Yellow regimes – those of Corazon Aquino, Benigno Aquino 3rd, and Fidel Ramos – strived to in effect make the February 25 EDSA People Power anniversary the most celebrated of our national holidays.

Nationalism is essentially the belief (and intellectual conclusion) that in this day and age, the most important organization that a human is a member of is not the family and clan, not the corporation, not the party, not even the church. Rather it is this modern association we call the nation. Whether we and our descendants (who stay here) live in misery or happiness, depends on how well that organization—the nation—is run.

In turn, how well it is run to a great extent depends on its unity, the strength of its members’ feeling of “togetherness.” 

Much of the strength of nationalism in Asian countries that led to their economic prosperity in the post-war era was ironically the result of the Cold War, the real or perceived threat by the Soviets and China to take over countries using the communist party proxies: US-backed South Korea against the Chinese-backed North; Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia against the threat of a communist takeover in the 1960s; Kuomintang-controlled Taiwan against the communist victors in the mainland.

There was a reverse phenomenon though: Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos steeled their nationalism in their heroic fight against the US imperialists.

We didn’t have in the modern era such episodes on the same scale—the Soviet-backed Huk rebellion of the 1950s lasted only a few years.

The EDSA uprising worsened our divisions, thereby weakening our people’s nationalism.

Despite the lip service to the power of the people as the force behind EDSA, the brainwashing was really that it was due to the heroism of a few individuals and the anti-Marcos clans: Ninoy and Cory Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, and Juan Ponce Enrile as well as the Lopez and Osmeña oligarchs.

Message drummed
The message had been drummed into Filipinos’ minds that without the heroism of these individuals, there wouldn’t have been an EDSA.

Such glorification of these “heroes” obviously isn’t too convincing. So, an additional, even more important, explanation was necessary, easily believed by a superstitious Catholic nation: It was Mama Mary who mobilized Cardinal Sin and the hundreds of nuns carrying Virgin Mary statuettes, who inspired a hundred thousand or more to go to EDSA.

The Virgin was responsible for the liberation of the Philippines from dictatorship. Indeed, we are so blessed that while the Mother of God wouldn’t intervene in the killing of seven million Jews in the Holocaust, the genocide of one million Indonesians by Suharto’s forces, the hundreds of millions killed in the wars and famines in Asia and Africa in the modern era, she made sure the EDSA uprising was almost bloodless.

The monument to the EDSA revolt is not that one near Camp Aguinaldo built in 1993 by renowned sculptor, the late Eduardo Castrillo, which shows anonymous demonstrators of the uprising, led by Lady Freedom.

It is the ”EDSA Shrine” fronting the Robinson’s mall, with its huge statue of the Virgin Mary, which Cardinal Sin ordered built in 1989.

This of course propagates in modern form the mammoth deception our Spanish colonizers promoted, which made the natives docile, allowing them to rule the country for four centuries.

This is the fiction that our togetherness as a people is because of our membership in a Kingdom of God, with His proxy in this temporal world, the Catholic Church. The lie has even been smuggled into our language: “sambayanan” which is a word for “the whole nation.

It originally was the “Samba ng Bayan,” meaning “Worship by the People,” which is what the Spanish friars called the weekly assembly of the natives to hear mass in the town (bayan ), which grew around the church, constructed through the natives’ unpaid labor and materials. (The church also functioned as a fortification, impenetrable to raiding Moros or rebelling indios.)

EDSA thus propagates the fiction that our togetherness as a people is not because we have created a nation-state, but because we are members of a Church, and the Mother of God was even responsible for toppling the dictator. Any religious fiction requires a Devil since without a Satan it is really difficult for people to believe in a God. In the EDSA case, the Devil is Marcos.

Denial of the nation
The denial of the nation by EDSA and its believers is very well demonstrated by its symbol, the Yellow Ribbon, the idea of Cory’s PR advisers from the US and derived from an American folk song about a convict returning to his hometown.

Under Cory, Ramos, and Noynoy Aquino, the Philippine flag—which is the symbol of our nation—has been relegated as a secondary banner: the nation has been dismissed as unimportant.

EDSA rulers and proponents have rejected the necessity of uniting the nation, and healing the wounds of the past. They even refuse to accept the indisputable fact, proven by Bongbong Marcos’ victory—that is, if he had not been cheated in the 2016 vice-presidential race–that vast swathes of the country, especially the Ilocano-speaking provinces, believe that while Marcos may have had his mistakes, even major ones, with his biggest error his refusal to step down when he became terminally ill, the strongman was in the main a good President.

With the country ruled by three Yellow Presidents — Cory, Ramos, and Aquino 3rd— in 18 of the past 30 years, who have all propagated the false EDSA spirit, our country remains divided, and Filipinos’ nationalism on the brink of extinction.

This is in contrast to what happened in many nationalistic nations that toppled strongmen.

Park Chung-hee ruled South Korea for 17 years until his assassination in 1979. Suharto, after ruling Indonesia for 33 years, fell in 1998 in the wake of massive student demonstrations. Lech Walesa during a visit to the Philippines told Corazon Aquino that the movement that overthrew the communists in Poland in 1989 was “inspired” by the People Power uprising she led in 1986. Nicolae Ceaușescu, who ruled Romania with an iron fist for 42 years, fell in 1989 and was even executed, together with his wife.

No ‘EDSA’ monuments
Do any of these countries have their versions of an EDSA monument and a holiday in which they celebrate the downfall of their strongmen, who are demonized? No.

Even the US doesn’t celebrate the Union’s victory in the Civil War, and Americans do not demonize heroes of the Confederacy such as President Jefferson Davies and its famous generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam refers to its victory over the US-backed regime in the South simply as “National Reunification Day.”

Why don’t these very nationalistic countries have celebrations such as our EDSA?

Because they know that for a country to be strong, it has to be united, and it can only be united if it moves on, and puts aside what divided it in the past.

These nations have learned to just let the historians judge their fallen strongmen, and not to demonize them, as the Yellow Cult continues to do so. The leaders of Russia and China today have let historians write books about their ruthless strongmen Stalin and Mao Zedong, rather than demonizing them in state events—because doing so would only be divisive of their nations.

Such a stance is necessary for building the nation since these dictators, precisely because they managed to rule as strongmen for years, represented major sections of the nation.


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