The Importance of History in the Rise of the Filipino
George Santayana, “History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten.”
Joseph Freeman, ”Everyone falsifies history even if it is only his own personal history. Sometimes the falsification is deliberate, sometimes unconscious; but always the past is altered to suit the needs of the present. The best we can say of any account is not that it is the real truth at last, but that this is how the story appears now.”
The problem with Philippine history is that we don’t have an account written for the purpose of the ennoblement of the Filipino. It has always been written from either the point of view of our conquerors (Spain and the US) where they presented themselves as the benevolent masters, or from the point of view of the Left which swings to the other side to advocate revolution and to put the blame for all our ills on foreign imperialism.
But history should be viewed from a perspective that aims to point out the dignity and nobility of a people through their struggles and triumphs, through their recorded works and the thoughts of its advocates. When you look at events and the accounts of people making history, one gets a better understanding of man, having a blend of good intentions yet falling prey to his own weaknesses. Somehow, by sheer providence, they participate in key events which determine the making of their country’s history.
Did you know for example that Spain, based on her own historians, found it difficult to find a legal and moral basis to establish colonial rule in the Philippines. The Catholic Church and the King of Spain ruled that it was not right for Spain to conquer any people and subjugate the same.
THE SPANISH CHURCH IN THE PHILIPPINE SETTING
The Controversy over Justification of Spanish Rule in the Philippines , J. GAYO O. P. ARAGÓN
In preparation for the trip to the Indies proposed by Christopher Columbus, the Catholic kings of Spain "consulted the most eminent jurists and ecclesiastics . . . concerning the most convenient manner of taking possession" of new-found territories.
Although at the time it was commonly accepted that the lands of infidels would belong to the Christian nation that first discovered and conquered them, this did not satisfy the Spanish desire for clear title 4 since their own legislation provided that only uninhabited lands could belong to the discoverer. Clearly this was not the situation in the lands discovered by Columbus. Hence Spain appealed to the Roman pontiff for some more plausible legal title. 5
This recourse was in keeping with the prevailing view among jurists and theologians of the time, believing that the pope was universal lord of the world, whose authority extended to the non-Christians and that he could therefore, in a given case, appropriate, transfer, and assign, quite legally, political dominion over their lands to Christian princes. 6 Spain could, therefore, legally acquire sovereignty over an inhabited territory in one of four ways, namely: (1) heredity, (2) voluntary choice of the inhabitants, (3) marriage to an heiress of the realm, or (4) pontifical or imperial grant....
Concerning the right of conquest of the Philippines, Father Rada categorically stated, "I have taken the opinion of all the Fathers who were to be found here. They unanimously affirm that none among all these islands have come into the power of the Spaniards with just title." 20
The opinion of the religious can be outlined in this syllogism: The islands now under Spanish rule are in this state solely by reason of war. This war, from whichever angle it may be considered, was unjust. Therefore, the islands were unjustly conquered.
The mandate of both the King of Spain and the Pope in Rome to explorers and soldiers on their expeditions was simply to open the way to spread the gospel and to do it in such a way that left governance to the native population. The friars who established enclaves in population areas literally courted and wooed the leaders of the locale where they operated. They used pompous baptism rituals and rewarded their early “converts” in order to draw in more of the public and sway public opinion. Eventually, most of the main groups of the population agreed to submit to the authority and rule of Spain largely because of the work of the Friars. After this submission, everything was downhill for the natives of the Philippine islands.
The US had the same issue on how to justify the occupation of the Philippines because it clearly contradicted their belief that “all men are created equal” until they were presented with the doctrine of their “manifest destiny”, the responsibility of the USA to spread their way of life (which includes Christianity) and export their version of “democracy”... which obviously satisfied the conscience of many. But not all, for many (if not most) were in it for the economic benefits of conquest and the race for the rich territories of Asia. After all, most advanced European nations were already enjoying their “empires” in the sun. The Spanish-American war was a convenient excuse. Events led to the purchase of the Philippines by the Americans and the subsequent Philippine-American war.
Spanish-American War and the Philippines (Wikipedia)
In 1898, after the sinking of the USS Maine in the harbor at Havana, Cuba, the United States intervened on the side of Cuban rebels who were fighting the Spanish Empire, beginning the Spanish-American War. Although advocates of Manifest Destiny in the 1840s had called for the annexation of Cuba, the Teller Amendment, passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate before the war, proclaimed Cuba "free and independent" and disclaimed any U.S. intention to annex the island. After the war, the Platt Amendment (1902) established Cuba as a virtual protectorate of the United States. If Manifest Destiny meant the outright annexation of territory, it no longer applied to Cuba, since Cuba was never annexed.
Unlike Cuba, the United States did annex Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines after the war with Spain. The acquisition of these islands marked a new chapter in U.S. history. Traditionally, territories were acquired by the United States for the purpose of becoming new states, on equal footing with already existing states. These islands, however, were acquired as colonies rather than prospective states, a process validated by the Insular Cases, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that full constitutional rights did not automatically extend to all areas under American control. In this sense, annexation was a violation of traditional Manifest Destiny. According to Frederick Merk, "Manifest Destiny had contained a principle so fundamental that a Calhoun and an O'Sullivan could agree on it—that a people not capable of rising to statehood should never be annexed. That was the principle thrown overboard by the imperialism of 1899." (The Philippines was eventually given its independence in 1946; Guam and Puerto Rico have special status to this day, but all their people are full citizens of the United States.)
On the other hand, Manifest Destiny had also contained within it the idea that "uncivilized" peoples could be improved by exposure to the Christian, democratic values of the United States. In his decision to annex the Philippines, President McKinley echoed this theme: "There was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them...." Rudyard Kipling's poem "The White Man's Burden", which was subtitled "The United States and the Philippine Islands", was a famous expression of these sentiments, which were common at the time. Many Filipinos, however, resisted this effort to "uplift and civilize" them, resulting in the outbreak of the Philippine-American War in 1899. After the war began, William Jennings Bryan, an opponent of overseas expansion, wrote that "‘Destiny’ is not as manifest as it was a few weeks ago."
Mark Twain himself, commenting on the Phil-Am war, wrote, "I thought it would be a great thing to give a whole lot of freedom to the Filipinos, but I guess now that it's better to let them give it to themselves."
So both Spain and the US entered the Philippine scene originally with egalitarian overtones.
But, it is clear from history that good intentions never see the light of day when the greed and the natural in man are allowed to have their way. The sinfulness of men is so blatant and so well illustrated, no matter how much we try to hide it. Even if one could point to who is right and who is wrong for each event, the common denominator is that man’s actions are simply manifestations of his true nature –
selfish and brutal, willing even to kill to get what he wants, even those things which do not rightfully belong to him.
That is why the purpose of history and the study of it must be clear:
“The supreme purpose of history is a better world.” Herbert Hoover
“History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.” Robert Penn Warren
“The value of history...is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.” R. G. Collingwood
I think the purpose of history is to help man see himself, in the hope that he takes the steps to seek a solution to his internal malady.
It is also important for us to re-tell our history in the light of our greatest need today – our lack of self-esteem, our lack of respect for what we are and what we can be as a people.
It is important for us to look back and discover the many nuggets of good deeds and good character that we can find in our history and to use them to inspire our people.
If we are to rise up as a nation and as a people in this Asian Century, it behoves us to do what we can do to fuel the Filipino mind and the Filipino spirit that he may find a basis for a noble identity and continue on to pursue nationhood and nation-building as a priority.
We are not slaves and servants of the world, we are better than that.
We are not domestic helpers and care givers, we are smarter than that.
We are not monkeys or candy bars, we have infinitely more valuable than that.
We are Filipinos, once the pride of Spain.
We are Filipinos, valiant in battle, yet magnanimous and friendly to others.
We are Filipinos, once the Rizal that walked proudly upon the earth.
We need to re-discover who we are to see what we can be.
Obviously, this is an enormous challenge and we cannot undo what has been done. But, like the gospel, we can spread the word to others. And armed with the Spirit of God, we can lead people into a life of discovery and upliftment with the freedom and power that is in Christ. The selfish, brutal man can have a new beginning with the life-changing power of the true gospel.
Acts 17:26-27 (NLT)
26 From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. 27 "His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.
History tells us that people have to make so many sacrifices to get people to notice what they stand for. Who amongst us are willing?
History tells us also that people sometimes even have to die to get other people to listen to what they have to say. Who amongst us are the brave ones?
There is a saying, “The seeds of the Church are the blood of the martyrs.” It can also be said of the Philippines, that the seeds of this nation is the blood of the Filipinos who love it.
Post a Followup