OPINION | MATURITY NOT GREATNESS
by Salvador del Mundo*
Halfway towards the end of his inaugural speech in 1965, then newly elected Ferdinand E. Marcos in his first term as President of the Philippines proudly asserted: “This nation can be great again…the first modern republic in Asia and Africa. It is our nation. Thus Kawit and Malolos are celebrated in our history as acts of national greatness.” (www. officialgazette.gov.ph) And yet the Malolos Republic did not last a year for another imperial power never had any second thought in occupying our territory. Except for a few like Apolinario Mabini who did not swear allegiance to the United States, the rest of the Filipino elites capitulated before the American forces and for their collaboration, they were gifted with administrative positions in the new colonial civil government.
What was so great in that capitulationist government? A government that while it proclaimed independence, its substance remained on paper. A government that was divided by class interest and personal ambition. “Bayan o sarili” shouted Antonio Luna in that scene from the film Heneral Luna captured this dark predicament. A closer look at the events that transpired leading to the unnecessary and unjust execution of the Bonifacio brothers and the horrible, barbaric assassination of Gen. Luna simply shows us that nothing can be more sinister and evil than a Filipino murdering a kababayan with such barbarism and impunity. Impunity that victimized fellow patriots seems like an indelible curse in our nation. Rizal was more fortunate for he died in a manner worthy of the respect of the Spanish Empire and the world.
The victory of a populist candidate like Duterte last 2016 and his wayward authoritarian government confirms our nation was born not out of greatness of its political leaders as that Marcos’ inaugural address would want us to believe. The majority of those cabinet members of the Aguinaldo government and Emilio Aguinaldo himself were so unprepared for the daunting task of nation building that it took another colonizer molding us to fit its newly proclaimed propaganda of self government. Until now unfortunately we have not matured enough to get rid of the schizophrenic traces of our colonial political heritage. We became independent in 1898 but it seems we did not know what to do with it. As film artist Lav Diaz cogitates on our dilemma, “the era of martial law under Ferdinand Marcos — the Filipino nightmare” and Filipinos have not awaken to their power as a people. We still continue electing into office self-serving greedy scions of political families. Political dynasticism is that recidivist virus of our social system we long want to extirpate.
During election campaigns we are so caught in the middle of the meaningless spectacle of the boodle fight and Tiktok dance that we really have not come to a full understanding of what democracy is and the process which entails its best practices and relevance in our daily struggles in life so that we realize our collective potential. We are easily seduced by spectacle, favoring form than substance. With our country’s elite always ready with their bench of candidates, calendar elections are empty rituals of choosing new master oppressors.
Greatness is a Marcosian myth and a form of revisionist narration, nay, of historical distortion. There is no such thing as the Golden Age of a Presidency in our history. We all know the atrocities committed against a generation of Filipinos during Martial Law and the dark years of the dictatorship. What we badly need to attain as a people is maturity. Political maturity of people’s autonomous will power. Democracy requires it.###
* Num-de-plume of a scholar in history who wrote an essay thesis on the Bureau of Science during American colonial regime in the Philippines.
– Photo credit to Varsitarian