WHAT IS FILIPINO NATIONALISM?
- Mrs. Leticia R. Constantino
Nationalism has had a long history in our country. In our struggle for freedom, there have been periods when strong nationalist feelings fired our people to action and other periods when nationalism seemed to be forgotten. Not only did nationalism as a sentiment have its peaks and valleys, nationalism as a political concept has been espoused at one time or another by different sectors of society which projected particular nationalist goals as their own interests and historical circumstances demanded.
The ilustrados who led the Propaganda Movement were expressing the nationalist goals of the Filipino elite when they demanded reforms which would give them participation in political rule and a greater share in economic benefits. The people, led by Bonifacio, went further than the ilustrados. They demonstrated the highest nationalist fervor when they spontaneously heeded the call of the Katipunan and fought an anti-colonial revolution against Spain. They had practically won their freedom when they were confronted by a new colonizer.
Nationalism again sustained the people in their fierce resistance to American rule. Many from among the masses fought for a decade more, even as most of the ilustrado leaders changed sides and collaborated with the enemy. Their goal, their ideal was independence. They equated independence with a better life, and rightly so, although they had no clear idea of the economic dimensions of the independent society they aspired for beyond the immediate demand for land to the tillers.
Nationalism at that time was mass nationalism. It was clearly anti-colonial; its dominant goal was political independence.
American colonial policy suppressed Philippine nationalism by military campaigns against resistance groups - the members of which is branded as brigands and outlaws –and by the Sedition Law (1901) which imposed the death penalty or a long prison term on anyone who advocated independence from the United States even by peaceful means. The Flag Law (1907) prohibited the display of the Philippine flag, that symbol of Filipino nationalism, from 1907 to 1919.
As for Andres Bonifacio, the leader of the anti-colonial struggle, it was only in 1921, when Senator Lope K. Santos authored a law making his birthday a national holiday, that he was recognized as a national hero. On the other hand, with Governor Taft’s approval, Rizal has been proclaimed a national hero as early as 1901.
The American administration gave every assistance to this recognition because, in the words of Governor-General W. Cameron Forbes, “Rizal never advocated independence, nor did he advocate armed resistance to the government. He urged reform from within by publicity, by public education, and appeal to the public conscience.” Rizal became the symbol of "safe" patriotism. (my quotation marks - Bert)
American public policy further undermined Filipino nationalism through the educational system which imposed the English language as a medium of instruction, projected American society and culture as models to be emulated, omitted all mention of Filipino resistance to American conquest and the cruel suppression of that resistance, inculcated the idea that Filipinos must undergo tutelage in self-government to deserve independence, and presented the United States as our generous benefactor.
Although the beneficiaries of American education began to imbibe American values and culture and to like American consumer goods, the majority of Filipinos remained faithful to the ideal of independence. Politicians therefore had to declare in campaign speeches that they would work for “immediate, complete and absolute independence”, in order to get the people’s votes. But this independence was now to be requested from the colonizer who had promised to grant it in due time.
Actually, the major political leaders, representing as they did the landlord class which grew rich on...