"Manifest Destiny and Reality":Musings on the 4th of July)
By Rudy Arizala
In 1898 thru U.S. Pres Mckinley´s "Manifest Destiny," we were supposed to be "civilized" and educated in the "art of of self-government." So, by the fourth of July 1946, we have faithfully copied the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and democratic form of government as mandated in the Tydings-McDuffie Act or Philippine Independence Law passed by U.S. Congress on 24 March 1934.
Yet, more than half a century later, after our last colonial master had left our shores, we find ourselves still facing the same problems of colonialism. While we have political freedom, we are still economically underdeveloped. Most of our people suffer from poverty, our country buried in debts and struggling for survival amidst swirling tides of corruption and problems of security and mismanagement.
In contrast, our fellow Asians, for example Malaysia and India who were also under colonial rule for centuries like us, inherited no "Manifest Destiny" from the British but received a legacy of strong civil service and business acumen. They have attained economic progress and political stability. As a matter of fact, our educated but unemployed countrymen flock to their shores to earn a living and feed their hungry families in the Philippines. How do we explain such historical phenomenon?
Methinks, it could be attributed to the fact that while our fellow Asians have sense of nationhood and imbibed the virtues of their former colonial masters, we Filipinos lack a sense of strong nationhood and failed to assimilate the virtues of our colonial masters. For example the "sense of honor" of the Spaniards; "the enterprise and democratic ethos" of the Americans; and the "discipline and sense of nation" of the Japanese. We instead imbibed their vices.
Furthermore, in the words of Filipino writer and historian F. Sionil Jose, we became "hostage to barnacled habits of mind to ethnicity." Geographically, we are of so many islands and composed of many tribes, fragmented and at times engaged in animosity if not at war on each other. We generally think in terms of being an Ilokano, Bicolano, Visaya, Pampango, Tagalog, etc. instead of one nation, united and indivisible. Yes, the Americans in an effort to unite and educate us, introduced the public school system in our 7, 100 islands. But our people became a group of educated unemployed, without a country or sense of nationhood. This is reflected in our expatriates or OFW´s. Wherever there are large concentration of Filipinos abroad, they usually organize themselves according to various ethnic groups from which they come from in the Philippines.
Our people are full of dreams but when face with a problem to attain those dreams have a tendency to fall into the "Bahala na" attitude. Therefore, on this 4th of July originally called "Independence Day" now known as "Fil-American Friendship Day", let us recall and give true meaning to what U.S. President Harry S. Truman proclaimed in 1946: "The United States of America hereby withdraws and surrenders all rights of possession, supervision, jurisdiction, control or sovereignty now existing and exercised by the United States of America in and over the territory and people of the Philippines; and . . . do hereby recognize the independence of the Philippines
Let us roll up our sleeves and work hard to merit true independence and democracy. It is time for action and face reality.
While illegal gambling such as "jueteng", graft and corruption, clean and honest elections are valid issues which should be resolved, sacrifices to make democratic institutions function for the general welfare of the people are essential. Let us address first the basic issues of poverty, unemployment, education, health, shelter, security and moral regeneration of our people. To effectively achieve these goals, credible leadership and unstinted support of the people are necessary. It may take time. There is no short-cut to attain these goals. Not even by revolution or "manifest destiny". That´s the reality learned from history.