Filipino nationalism is a contradiction in terms.
Nationalism, as defined by Anthony D. Smith, is an ideological movement for attaining and maintaining autonomy, unity and identity on behalf of a population deemed by at least some of its members to constitute an actual or potential "nation". Among the peoples of Asia and Africa, the nationalism that emerged and developed in the late nineteenth century and in most of the twentieth was a specifically anti-colonial form of nationalism, as the experience of colonial rule helped to create a "national consciousness" and a desire for "independence" or "national liberation". To make themselves a free nation, a people had to break the shackles of colonialism. "Nationalism," declared Claro M. Recto, possibly the Philippines´ foremost nationalist statesman, "is the natural antagonist of colonialism."
Filipino comes from the word Filipinas, of which Philippines is the English translation. Felipinas was the name given by the Spanish explorer Ruy de Villalobos to Tendaya (Leyte or Samar) in 1543 in honor of the Spanish crown prince, Philip (Felipe in Spanish), who later became King Philip II (r. 1556-98). Villalobos later applied Felipinas to all the islands of the (Philippine) archipelago. After Miguel Lopez de Legazpi began the colonization of the islands in 1565, Felipinas became Filipinas. The natives literally became subjects of Felipe.
From their very origins then, Philippines and Filipino are colonial names, and as such, are contradictory to the term nationalism. Simply on the basis of the colonial roots of Philippines, it can already be argued that the country´s name should be changed. Indeed, many former colonies have discarded their colonial appellations and adopted titles that are of more indigenous or un-colonial derivation: Burkina Faso, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe.
Name Change: Old Hat?
But then, it can be countered, the idea of a name change is old hat. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos attempted to foist upon the Filipino people the name Maharlika. In pre-colonial Philippines, maharlika denoted a warrior-noble who belonged to the lower aristocracy and who rendered military service to his lord. But Maharlika also happened to be the nom de guerre that Marcos, vaunted to be the most bemedalled Filipino soldier, used as an anti-Japanese guerrilla soldier in World War II. It was also the name of the guerrilla unit that Marcos claimed to have formed and led in World War II and to have grown into a 9,200-strong force in 1945. Marcos´ sycophants tried to appeal to the Filipinos´ sense of nationalism, arguing that Philippines merely reflected the victories of the country´s invaders. They cast aspersions on the competence and character of Philip II, pointing out that he reigned badly and precipitated Spain´s decline as a world power, and that he succumbed to venereal disease, a scourge of royalty and nobility then. To drum up support for Maharlika, the Marcos regime concocted and peddled the "Maharlika culture", which was purportedly based on pre-colonial native traditions and values. The search for national identity and culture became the search for the "maharlika qualities" of the Filipino.
Those who took up the cudgels for Philippines likewise sought to evoke nationalist sentiments, but did so perhaps more ardently and convincingly. The name Philippines, according to Remigio Agpalo, was enshrined in the country´s poetry, essays, speeches, letters, state documents as well as in patriotic music, and was "a symbol of a saga of nation-building, a struggle for freedom, a history written in the blood and sweat of Rizal, Bonifacio, and many other national heroes and in the sweat and tears of ordinary citizens". To replace Philippines with Maharlika, argued Agpalo, is "to cut ourselves from the historical, emotional and ideological roots of our national identity, leaving us without vital sources of purpose, meaning, and life" and "to break faith with our fathers and grandfathers who fell in the night". Upholders of Philippines subjected Maharlika to ridicule, claiming, for instance, that the term, which was of Sanskrit origin, actually meant "big phallus".
The main reason why Maharlika did not pass, however, was that people saw it as Marcos´ ego trip. Some Filipinos recalled with bemusement how Marcos, in pre-martial law days, had attempted to have a film about his war exploits entitled "Maharlika" produced, with Hollywood starlet Dovie Beams playing the part of Marcos´ "leading lady". (The film was never finished. A scandal broke out when Marcos´ amorous affair with Ms. Beams was exposed.) It wasn´t funny anymore when Marcos decreed Maharlika for exclusive government use and when he had a highway, a government-owned radio-TV company and even the reception area of the presidential residence, among others, all re-christened Maharlika. Some saw something more ulterior and sinister. Reuben R. Canoy warned: "[S]hould the country and its leader be known by one name and the people conditioned to the idea that the President/Prime Minister not only represents but is the state, there may come a time when to assail Marcos would be construed as an attack against the state itself and, therefore, within the purview of treason or any of the crimes against the public order or the stability and security of the nation." (Underscoring Canoy´s.) Even among Marcos´ own supporters, there were only a few outspoken advocates for Maharlika. By the last few years of Marcos´ rule, Maharlika was a lost cause. To cap it all, in 1985, the Maharlika guerrilla unit as well as Marcos´ much-ballyhooed war exploits were exposed as hoaxes or at best exaggerations.
Since the Maharlika episode, there have been several attempts to have the country´s name changed. Among the alternative names submitted to the Constitutional Commission of 1986 and to the Philippine Congress were Rizal, the name of the country´s national hero; Bayani, an indigenous Tagalog term which means "hero"; and Luzviminda, short for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, the names - of pre-Hispanic origins - of the three main island groups of the Philippine archipelago. Almost each time, the main argument presented for the name change was that Philippines is of colonial origin. The new proposals have all been shot down, and Philippines has prevailed.
In the opinion of columnist Ricardo Malay, it is only a small but vocal group that "ritually calls for the changing of the country´s name after something that is more ethnologically acceptable". While lauding the patriotic intentions behind the initiative to rename the country Rizal, Malay nonetheless maintained that such a move would not make any difference. "We can´t wish away our colonial past by eradicating the name of King Philip who, despite his venal reign and venereal disease, was the sovereign at the time of the conquista," he wrote. "There is no real stigma to the name Philippines any more than there is to America, named after the Italian Amerigo Vespucci."
Is the name Philippines indeed the veritable symbol of a saga of nation-building, a struggle for freedom, a history written in the blood, sweat and tears of the country´s heroes and people? Is it a true emblem of the nation and of national identity? Is there indeed no real stigma to such a name of colonial extract? Or have historians and other social scientists failed to look hard enough or worse, chosen to gloss over the blot?
In over a century since Rizal conceived of the country as an independent Philippines, millions have proudly identified themselves as Filipinos and hundreds of thousands have gone in battle or even died in the name of the Philippines. Nonetheless, Philippines and Filipino are both tarnished terms. There is more to their being colonial than historians and other social scientists have perceived or cared to admit. They in fact represent what Frantz Fanon referred to as the internalization or "epidermalization" of inferiority among peoples subjected to colonization or prolonged oppression. Moreover, in different stages of the country´s history - and not just during the Spanish period - Philippines and Filipino have been associated with racial, class, ethnic/national and religious discrimination.
Far more than just "a vocal and small group" have actually been opposed to Philippines and Filipino. For some time already, a significant section of Muslim "Filipinos" have been raising objections to these terms, precisely on the grounds that these are of colonial origin and insulting to their creed. Some objectors have gone even further, rejecting Filipinism, the ideology that "Filipino nationalism" has spawned. Many other Muslims and members of other minority ethnic groups have taken an ambivalent attitude. The Muslim objectors have not bothered to campaign for a change in the country´s name because they have been busy doing something else - like fighting a war of secession. In this writer´s view, Philippines and Filipino are reflective of the ethnocentric bias of the Christian majority and the ethnocratic tendencies of the Philippine state.
While the name Philippines cannot by any means be considered as the matrix of the so-called "colonial mentality" that persists among many Filipinos, changing it may provide added impetus to the process of the country´s cultural decolonization. And while the roots of the armed conflict in southern Philippines are much more complex than terminological issues, the process of replacing the country´s name with a new national symbol may help in righting historical distortions about Muslims and other ethnic groups, reconstructing a truly multi-ethnic and multicultural national identity and resolving the long-standing armed ethnic conflict in the South.
I. COLONIAL NAME
By European standards, Philip II was not as bad a monarch as he has been portrayed to be by some advocates of the renaming of the Philippines. It is true that under his rule, the Spanish empire did suffer certain great failures - the revolt of the Netherlands, the defeat of the Great Armada and, during his latter years, the economic impoverishment of Spain. But these failures were offset by such achievements, among others, as the acquisition of Portugal and its vast colonial empire, the destruction of the hitherto invincible sea power of Turkey at Lepanto, and the growth of literature, art and science. Philip II bequeathed to his son Philip III the same legacy of war and bankruptcy that he had gotten from his father Charles V. Although Spain´s decline did begin in the latter part of Philip II´s rule, it was nevertheless under his rule that, as Norman Davies put it, Spain stood at the pinnacle of its political and cultural power. The claim that Philip II died of venereal disease appears to be without much basis. Like his forebears, Philip II suffered from the gout. As he grew older, attacks of the gout recurred with increasing frequency and were compounded by other ailments. A modern-day diagnosis of Philip´s condition suggests that in his last years, he suffered from both arteriosclerosis and nephritis.
For Filipinos (outside of the Muslims in southern Philippines, whose case will be discussed later), the stigma of the name Philippines has nothing to do with the person of Philip II. In fact, in Spain, Philip II, who was also called Philip the Wise, has generally been regarded as a great king and his reign as the culminating glory of Spanish history. Spaniards could very well argue that he is much more deserving than Amerigo Vespucci of a tract of land being named after him. What Philippines has that America does not have, however, is the colonial stigma. The Philippines, christened after a Spanish monarch, was colonized by Spain; America, named after an Italian navigator-geographer, was colonized by Spain, Portugal, England, France and the Netherlands, but not by Italy nor the small kingdoms, principalities and republics that preceded it.
In the analysis of T.J.S. George, the Philippines´ obviously colonial name has emphasized the Filipino´s hispanization, which "by definition has meant a degree of de-Asianization, a certain debasement of native nationalism." Each time a Filipino refers to himself as such, he is unconsciously proclaiming his former allegiance to Philip II and his descendants. George continued:
Ex-colonies the world over have marked their liberation by casting off the names given to them by colonialists. Only in rare instances was this done out of emotional parochialism: in most cases the colonial names were so patently colonial that they just had to go. The Philippines was an extreme example, being one of the few colonies named after an individual colonial monarch. This made the name, in the post-colonial era, both derogatory and anachronistic. (Underscoring supplied.)
From filipino to Filipino
The colonial coloring of Philippines has been deepened by Filipino. When the Spaniards arrived in the sixteenth century, they named the land Philippines but they did not call the natives Filipinos. Originally, the term filipino (spelled with a small f) was reserved only for Spaniards born in the Philippines. The natives were called indios (Indians), the very same term that Columbus used for the indigenous population of the New World.
The Spanish colonialists pursued a blatantly racialist policy in their colonies. Their treatment of the indios, whom they regarded as belonging to the "primitive" and "inferior races" and as fit to be to be enslaved or subjugated, is already well known to present-day Filipinos. What is less known is that the Spaniards were so obsessed with the question of race that they were unrelenting in their efforts to track down one´s lineage, and that apart from differentiating among Spaniards, indios, negros (blacks) and mestizos, they even made all sorts of distinctions within these categories. The Spaniards attached such a great deal of importance to one´s being "of unblemished birth" that a single drop of indio blood was deemed enough to leave an indelible stain on a person. The blemish associated with indio blood stained even those of pure Spanish descent unfortunate enough to have been born among the indios. A distinction was made between españoles-peninsulares or simply peninsulares (full-blooded Spaniards born in the Iberian peninsula) and the criollos or creoles (full-blooded Spaniards born in the colonies). In the same way that the Spaniards originally used the term españoles-americanos or simply americanos to refer to criollos in America, the term españoles-filipinos or filipinos was applied to criollos in the Philippines. Being island-born, the filipinos were also called insulares, as distinguished from the peninsulares.
In Spain, the terms criollo, americano, filipino and insulares soon came to have a pejorative ring to them not only because they were associated with the primitive indios but also because the colonies were considered the dumping ground for the misfits and dregs of Spanish society. No less than Miguel de Cervantes referred to Las Indias (America) as the refuge for Spain´s desperados, rebels, murderers, gamblers, prostitutes and the like. Much farther from Spain and offering no prospects for easy profit, the Philippines was worse off. Only a small number of Spaniards cared to settle in the Philippines and they were, in Philip III´s assessment, of "poor quality". Las pobres Filipinas had to content itself with the cast-offs of Mexico.
Like the peninsulares, the filipinos did not feel at home in the Philippines, as they shared the same dream of striking it rich in the colony and making it back to Spain, the land of their fathers. The peninsular and insular Spaniards stayed in their walled preserves and made no effort to mingle with the indios, as this was viewed as descending to an inferior level. The indios themselves - or at least the indio masses - did not make any distinction between peninsulares and filipinos/ insulares. As far as the natives were concerned, both were white, both were Spaniards. The racial caste system that the Spaniards perpetuated in the Philippines fostered what Manuel D. Duldulao referred to as "a hierarchy of inferiority": the mestizos bowed to the criollos, the criollos to the peninsulares, while the indios knelt before everyone.
The criollos in Spain´s colonies (americanos as well as filipinos) did not enjoy the same political, clerical and economic opportunities as their Spain-born brothers. Often thwarted in their ambitions by the policies of the peninsulares, the criollos grew increasingly resentful especially since they increasingly saw themselves as hijos del pais - the true sons of the country. Thus, in Latin America, the criollos developed the early conceptions of nation-ness and led the revolutionary wars that eventually transformed Spain´s colonies into independent nation-states. In the Philippines, however, it was the native elite - the ilustrados - and not the criollos who came up with the first conceptions of nation-ness. The criollo community in the Philippines was too small to play a significant role. Unlike in the Spanish colonies in Latin America, where the Spaniards and Spanish mestizos had become a sizeable part of the population and, in some areas, even constituted the majority, their counterparts in the Philippines never amounted to more than one per cent of the population.
Constantino explained how the term filipino evolved to include all inhabitants of the archipelago:
From a term with narrow racial and elitist connotation (only for Spaniards born in the Philippines), Filipino [i.e., filipino] began to include Chinese mestizos and urbanized natives whose economic ascendancy in the 18th and 19th centuries gave them the opportunity to acquire education and Hispanic culture. This made them socially acceptable to the creoles especially since progress had given both groups a common economic base to protect. Later, through their propaganda work, the ilustrados, offspring of this rising local elite, wrested the term Filipino from the creoles and infused it with national meaning to finally include the entire people. Thus the term Filipino which had begun as a concept with narrow racial application and later developed to delineate an elite group characterized by wealth, education and Spanish culture finally embraced the entire nation and became a means of national identification.
According to Anderson, after 1900 (i.e., after the success of the anti-Spanish revolutionary movement of 1896-98), filipino quickly acquired a primarily political meaning, referring to all the "sons and daughters of the country" ... and it went upper case. Floro Quibuyen rightly points out, however, that Rizal and others had already been using Filipino (spelled with a capital f) as a general term for the varied inhabitants of Las Filipinas much earlier.
Filipino historians in general have portrayed the change from indio to Filipino as an event for glorification, often even as the turning point in the development of indios´ nationalist consciousness, i.e., their realization of being a nation and not just being Tagalogs, Visayans, Ilocanos, etc. Constantino´s account does acknowledge that the appropriation of filipino had not been all that commendable. Filipino had been discriminatory in terms of race and class. At first, filipino had distinguished the white, Philippines-born Spaniards from the brown indios. Later, filipino had marked the non-peninsular elite in colonial Philippines - insulares, Spanish and Chinese mestizos and ilustrados - from the indio masses. Nonetheless, there still appears to be a significant element missing. Was it indeed simply a matter of the ilustrados wresting the term filipino from the criollos? For over three centuries, filipinos (i.e., Spaniards born in the Philippines), together with Spaniards born in Spain, were the oppressors of the natives of the Philippines. Nearly up to the very end of Spanish colonial rule, the filipinos (insulares) saw themselves as superior to the mestizos and ilustrados, and behaved accordingly. Even in the community of filipino exiles (i.e., insulares, mestizos and ilustrados) in Spain, the distinction mattered and the ilustrados eventually felt compelled to set up their own organization, La Solidaridad, rivalling Miguel Morayta´s insulares-dominated Asociacion Hispano-Filipino. In spite of the fact that filipino was the name of the indios´ oppressor in more ways than one (i.e, Philip II and the insulares), why did the native elite still choose to first appropriate it for themselves and then later apply it to the entire population of the archipelago?
There is a deeper racial element here that is unaccounted for. Such an element was absent when the criollos of Latin America continued to use americano in referring to themselves. Latin America´s criollos were indeed the original white-skinned americanos. In contrast, the brown-skinned ilustrados of Las Islas Filipinas took on the name of the white-skinned criollos: filipino.
The Epidermalization of Inferiority
In the course of studying the writings and personal evolution of the revolutionary black psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, psychologist Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan developed a theory of identity development in situations of oppression, particularly colonialism and racism. Under conditions of prolonged oppression, wrote Bulhan, there are three major modes of psychological defense and identity development among the oppressed: compromise, flight and fight. He further discussed these three modes as stages, tendencies or patterns, to wit:
The first stage, based on the defensive mechanism of identification with the aggressor, involves increased assimilation into the dominant culture while simultaneously rejecting one´s own culture. I call this the stage of capitulation. The second stage, exemplified by the literature of negritude, is characterized by a reactive repudiation of the dominant culture and by an equally defensive romanticism of the indigenous culture. I call this the stage of revitalization. The third phase is a stage of synthesis and unambiguous commitment toward radical change. I call this the stage of radicalization.
... It should be emphasized that one can talk of these not only as stages, but also as tendencies or patterns ... But whether considered as stages, tendencies, or patterns, it is important to note that none of them exists in a "pure state" nor is any one in a way exclusive of the others. All three coexist in each individual and among each generation of the oppressed, with one or another being dominant at a given moment, era, or situation ...
Frequently it happens that ordinary persons remain in one or another phase that is prevalent in their time and social milieu. Thus, for instance, some individuals and even their generation may remain fixated in the stage of capitulation. Others may go beyond this and enter the stage of revitalization with all its charged affect, vehement denouncement of the present, and marked romanticism of the past. Still others may attain the stage of radicalization on their own or find themselves in a revolutionary era with potent influences they cannot resist. (Underscoring Bulhan´s.)
According to Bulhan, Fanon traversed all three phases in his development, as did the likes of Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral and Malcolm X. In his 20s, Fanon, a native of Martinique, a French colony in the West Indies, was still in his capitulation stage, personally identifying with the oppressor: "I am a Frenchman. I am interested in French culture, French civilization, the French people ... What have I to do with a black empire?" He moved on to the revitalization stage when he embraced negritude, rejecting assimilation into the French culture and at the same time asserting his African heritage. As a student in France, Fanon experienced a daily encounter with racism, got drawn into political debates and became radicalized. While working as a psychiatrist in Algeria in the 1950s, Fanon secretly joined the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), the Algerian guerrilla movement that successfully waged a liberation war against French colonialism.
Reflecting on his own and other blacks´ experiences, Fanon stated that every colonized people are a people "in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality." Coming face to face with the culture of the mother country, the colonized "is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of the mother country´s cultural standards" and "becomes whiter as he renounces his blackness, his jungle." The inferiority complex of the black man is "the outcome of a double process:
- primarily, economic;
- subsequently, the internalization - or, better, the epidermalization - of this inferiority."
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