This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its revolutionary army, the New People’s Army, which has engaged in the longest-running communist insurgency in the world. Perhaps it is necessary to point out at this time why it has failed and yet continues to seduce all those young people who feel a compulsive need for revolution. Its attractiveness to intellectuals also lies in its “scientific” deductions, and its perceived historicity and foreordained success.
Indeed, the Philippines has needed a revolution, way before 1968. For so long, we have been tyrannized by a corrupt political system, which the democratic apparatus of elections cannot banish. For Filipinos then, revolution means the end of our ancient poverty and, hopefully, the disempowerment of our oppressor, the oligarchy.
By its very nature, revolution is a class war -- the people against the very rich and the politicians who support and profit from them. This wide social divide, as evidenced by widespread poverty, is in itself the "objective reality" that every revolutionary must understand. From the very beginning, however, the Communist Party and the NPA were blind to this and to the other objective realities in this country. This willful blindness doomed the Party; it was unable to attract the masa because it lacked credibility.
I remember the cadres who came to me fifty years ago, telling me why they were for Mao. I told them each country must shape its own revolution. I myself was very much for Mao, but it was obvious to me that the Philippines is not China. I pointed out to them the undercurrent of anti-Chinese feeling not only in the Philippines but in all of Southeast Asia. They were also anti-American and I asked how is that an argument for revolution when almost every Filipino wanted to migrate to the United States.
They also regarded the Philippine Army as the enemy. Of course, doctrinally, they were correct because it is an instrument of the government and the oligarchy. What they ignored is that the Army, including its officer corps, is composed primarily of the very poor. It is also a patriotic institution, its heroism tested in Tirad Pass, in World War II. It is also the Army, and only the Army, that can hold the country together. The Party should have worked to win the Army to their side.
THE NPA LEADERS also ignored the past, the peasant rebellions that are very much in our nationalist tradition. They did not learn from the mistakes of the Huk uprising, how that movement was weakened by internal dissension. The same dissension would weaken them later on. I asked the late Huk Supremo, Luis Taruc, if any of the NPA leaders had ever spoken with him about history, about organization, and tactics. Ka Luis said no one had ever approached him.
Let me state that during the Marcos regime, I was for the NPA. I saw it as the only formidable opposition to the dictatorship. Besides, it was Marcos, with the tyranny of his regime, who was their best recruiter.
Then EDSA I in February 1986 -- the NPA was not there because its leadership was composed of orthodox communists. They were unable to grasp the difference between Marcos and Cory Aquino, and did not appreciate the objective reality -- the masa supported Cory. Instead, they forfeited an opportunity that may never come again. I believe the outcome of EDSA I would have been different had they marched with the people and the Army. Perhaps the NPA would have been able to temper the restoration of the oligarchy.
After EDSA came the so-called cleansing of their ranks. So many cadres were killed in the internal purges, which could have been avoided had there been more party discipline in the upper levels of command. The NPA has not recovered from this tragic internal hemorrhage to this day.
And now, the supreme irony of the revolutionary tax it collects from capitalists. By exchanging the revolutionary tax for protection, the NPA has emasculated the very foundation of the revolution itself and has joined the ranks of the very enemy it wants to destroy.
THE CORRECT FORMULA for revolution, as I see it, still stands -- the need for a revolutionary party that is grounded in reality and has the support of the people. Remember always -- a revolution unites the people, not divides them. It is important for the leader to study the dynamics of successful organizations like the Iglesia Ni Kristo, to consider always the nationalist and religious underpinnings of the people so that in the end, this revolutionary party creates “the sea,” the masa who accept its credibility.
The Party must eventually be led by selfless leaders like Ho Chi Minh, who are willing to live poorly as their own people, and who are able to let go of power once the revolution has succeeded and let the administrators and the bureaucrats take over.
For all its gross errors and seeming irrelevance, revolutionary communism still resonates with the educated and idealistic young. They should not be reviled for this. They should be reminded instead that the communists, for all the noise and the havoc they have raised, did not invent revolution and that, as already evident in Eastern Europe, communism will collapse because of its own internal contradictions.
Revolutions are humanity's efforts -- sometimes violently pursued, sometimes peacefully achieved -- to create just and humane societies. Thus, it requires epic heroism and sacrifice, often made by men and women of obdurate faith and compassion. Above all, it is really untrammeled love of country that fuels the revolutionary leadership and the cadres as well.
Remembering the many lives and billions of pesos that were wasted in the last half century, I lay most of the blame at the door of the Communist Party leader, Jose Maria Sison, a brilliant ideologue, a narcissist, and a second-rate poet.
First published in The Philippine Star, December 28, 2018
The coming of Christmas in the old hometown was announced by the land itself. The rains had ceased, the fields of living green had slowly turned to yellow, then gold. The grain had ripened and was now ready for the scythe. A coolness had also come upon the land and in the mornings, the two creeks that bracketed the town were covered with mist.
At school, the celebration of Christmas had already begun. We had scoured the nearby fields and brought to our classroom a sapling which we adorned with red papel de Japon and parol we made ourselves. The school festival was capped with exchange gifts that were readily recognizable. If they were round, they were usually apples or Sunkist oranges, luxuries to be enjoyed only in the last month of the year.
I recall three Christmas gifts I received as a child. The first was a small bar of Palmolive soap given to me by an uncle just returned from California. I never really used it. Every now and then, I would retrieve it from our wooden chest to enjoy its fragrance. I eventually gave it to my mother.
The second was a harmonica from a cousin. In two days, I had learned how to play it. I gathered five friends from the neighborhood. One played a tambourine I shaped from bottle caps, another blew on a length of bamboo -- he provided the bass rhythm -- the two others sang the Christmas carols on the harmonica. We went around the town caroling, and continued singing even when we were waved away. We never went to the same house twice, and when we had made ten centavos, we went to the town panciteria for pancit bihon, then called it a day.
MY MOST MEMORABLE Christmas gift was from my teacher, Miss Soledad Oriel, when I was in grade seven. By its shape, I suspected it was a book. I unwrapped it the moment I got home. It was, indeed, a book -- a secondhand dictionary, perhaps her very own. I brought my dictionary to school, and Miss Oriel taught me how to use it to improve my vocabulary. Run your finger down any page, she said, and if you come across a word you don’t know, use it in five different sentences and that word is yours for life.
And so, early on, I used the word "abomination" often. It was only later on that I realized that there are sentences better served with simpler words.
Fire crackers were expensive. For the New Year, I could have only two. But my friends and I did create a lot of noise, beating tin cans and pans. I also shaped a canon from bamboo, a six-foot length of the biggest and thickest variety. I hollowed it except for the last notch, above which I drilled a small hole, the size of a bottle cap. I then poured half a liter of kerosene through that hole. The bamboo is raised at 15 degrees. A flame under a bamboo heats the kerosene, which is then ignited through the hole. The first sound is usually a growl, which then grows into a loud boom as the kerosene is continually heated.
This week, as I was reminiscing about Christmas, a former college classmate, Father Pep, came to mind. I had lost track of him after I left Santo Tomas in 1949, then sometime in the late 1960s, he showed up at my bookshop.
He hadn’t changed much; he was still frail, soft-spoken, and he looked tired and shabby. I remember he was enamored with St. Francis de Assisi, and wrote poetry. He was now a priest of a poor parish in Bicol, and was in Manila to raise funds. He was also a nurse, and a teacher, teaching his flock “how to fish.” He said, “I don’t want them to be a beggar like me.”
IN REMEMBERING this dear, old classmate, I also remember Pope Francis recalling St. Francis de Assisi when he said, “how I would love a church that is poor and for the poor.” I think about the vast wealth of our churches, the elegant panoply of their bishops, their palaces and their laden tables, the communities they serve, the weddings they perform, the people they bless, the deathbeds over which they pray for the salvation of souls. Why isn’t their wealth used to build a church for our poor, invested in efforts that will help overcome rather than exacerbate our poverty, our country’s biggest challenge? It is time our churches are taxed, and their incomes revealed. Then we will know how sincere they are in the practice of the faith.
If Rome is gone as all empires must wither and die, how will we explain the longevity of the Vatican empire, its power? It was Stalin who asked, how many divisions does the Pope have? No, it is not divisions that should matter to the church, but a praetorian vanguard of quiet, dedicated, committed workers like Father Pep -- faithful, strong, and loyal workers who are in touch with the people and who, in their hearts, have built a church for the poor.
So we come to the Christmas story, how there was no room at the inn so Jesus was born in the lowliest of places and laid in a manger. And in his life, He cured the sick, restored sight to the blind, and turned water into wine. Then He drove the money lenders from the temple and declared, "I give you not peace but the sword."
He truly was a revolutionary whose creed was love. He was then reviled, betrayed, and tortured on the cross where he died, for our redemption.
First published in The Philippine Star, December 22, 2018
Literature is important, not so much because it is entertainment but because it brightens our humdrum lives. Journalism -- what we read or see every day in the news, or sometimes the narration of events on Facebook -- is history in a hurry. But literature, by its very nature, by exciting the mind, is history that is lived.
It is, of course, much more than text that makes history come alive. Literature is a great teacher with its artful rendition of so many prosaic lives, with its elucidation of life itself, the resolution of human dilemmas. It is through literature that we learn ethics, a most important component in living, which we cannot get even if we spent years in a seminary studying cosmology and theology.
And the people who write, who tell us stories, and bring us poetry and dramas -- even if they may not be very good at their craft -- they perform a very important function. They are the staunch keepers of memory. Without this memory, there is no nation. We see then how important literature is. Through literature we will know our history, and eventually, we will have a deeper understanding of human nature, of our very selves. And this knowledge of ourselves is the most important knowledge of all. Just one caveat here -- knowledge is not wisdom. How we use knowledge is wisdom.
WE HAVE A VERY STRONG tradition in political criticism, most of it personal in nature, seldom substantive or ideological because of the very personal nature of our politics. Our politicians attack one another and yet, they can remain personal friends for their kind of criticism is superficial and insincere.
We have very little cultural criticism, maybe because cultural criticism requires thinking and analysis, as well as very good background on culture and the arts. Let me put it this way, folk criticism has great validity in the sense that the folk themselves are involved in folk culture. Go to an Ifugao community in the Cordilleras and ask anyone there who is the best weaver, the best woodcarver, and the whole village knows because all the villagers are engaged in the crafts native to the village. Modern art, including literature, has become anarchical. It requires more astute understanding and criticism, after all the function of criticism is to identify excellence and separate it from the mediocre.
When you read a novel or a short story, ask this simple question. Is it art? Then you must be able to define art -- its originality, its creativity and, most of all, its beauty. Is it boring? If so, find out why. It is an artist's job to be interesting and not to be boring at all. Is the prose literary? The syntax, the grammar, are they all in place? Is there logic to the plot? Are the characters believable? What is the meaning of the story, the novel? Does it teach us anything? And, yes, you may also ask, is the story moral. And when you ask this question, you begin in earnest to criticize for you give value to art itself. In the end you may even ask, if God is the ultimate artist, is God moral?
I now come to a very important observation, the relevance of the New Criticism which was a literary fad in the United States shortly after World War II. It influenced the Filipino writer-teachers who went to the United States during that period -- NVM Gonzalez, the Tiempos of Silliman, Franz Arcellana, and the whole generation of student writers they influenced and who are now teachers repeating the tired clichés and teaching those workshops. I advise you not to attend workshops. I never did. They should be replaced by lectures on philosophy, anthropology, sociology, politics and history, even revolution -- all the major themes that make for good literature. And let us not forget that the Bible is great literature.
THERE IS A TERM in technology transfer which refers particularly to this critical fad: inappropriate technology. What did the New Criticism teach? Focus on the leaves and not on the whole tree itself. Technique was paramount, and irony was a virtue that every good fiction must have.
In time, within a few short years, this literary fad disappeared from the American campus, but not in the Philippines, where its tenets persist to this very day, preached by the teachers who were weaned in it. The result is emphasis on form rather than substance, and this has produced fiction that is arid and dull primarily because these writers ignored the verities that make for good literature -- the conflicts, the tensions of everyday living, and the harsh truths of human frailty and of society itself.
It is time then to abandon this outmoded fad, this crippling American influence on our literature, and to echo Emerson, that great American sage who advised American writers to abandon European romanticism and celebrate America instead.
So, then we too must celebrate the Philippines, bring out the Filipino genius, and get our artists truly rooted in native soil.
BUT ART, LITERATURE, is never enough. Beyond our puny lives and our puny aspirations is something much, much bigger than ourselves. This is no other than our community, our nation, without which we are nothing but chaff that can be wafted away by the slightest breeze.
Literature and nation -- with our literature, we define ourselves, our nation, its cultural boundaries, its spirit most of all, for it is a nation's literature which expresses its soul.
We celebrate the land, and in turn celebrate ourselves, give meaning to our very lives, which otherwise is meaningless because it is lived only for ourselves. This is the essence of nationality, of nationhood, that sometimes escapes us, concerned as we are only with our own ambitions. By transcending the self, we reach out and are firmly welded into something bigger than us, inchoate and unrecognized because the imagination has yet to define it.
First published in The Philippine Star, December 15, 2018
We turn this week from high and ghastly matters that is politics to high and ghostly matters that is literature. If we are not writers, we can very well be readers; we need literature from which we learn ethics. With literature, too, we will understand ourselves better so we can live with ourselves.
How does a story, a novel, begin and when should it end? These are crucial problems for writers. Readers want beginnings that will grip them and endings that are neat, conclusive, and satisfying.
As a teenager starting to write stories, I was very fascinated with so-called O’Henry endings. Having read such classics like "The Gift of the Magi" and Maupassant's "The Necklace," I tried to plot out stories with similar surprise endings. All of them were rejected by the pre-war Free Press, The Sunday Tribune Magazine, and The Graphic. Plotting them required so much mental effort I eventually had to stop writing that kind of fiction and ended my stories where they should logically end.
I also had considered Hemingway’s advice never to empty the well, and so the endings of my novels and short stories were sometimes inconclusive. I wanted my readers, given all the data, to make their own conclusions. This is the way my novel, Ermita, ends.
A good read starts with tension. In detective or spy novels, the reader reads on because he wants to know how the crime is solved or how the mission is fulfilled, and how the detective or spy triumphs. This can be reversed. The end becomes the beginning and the tension lies in answering the question why. Tony Samson is dead in the beginning of The Pretenders, and why he killed himself is the story.
SOMETIMES I LEAVE REALITY to venture into the realm of fantasy; fiction anyway is imagination and therefore unreal in the sense that although the events and characters may look like life creations, they are not. I see to it, as does every careful writer, that these so-called fantastic events are believable enough to fit into the logic of narrative.
My last two novels, Sherds and The Feet of Juan Bacnang, are examples of fantasies woven into the narrative. In writing these novels, I must admit that in Sherds, I was influenced very much by that old Greek myth, Pygmalion. In The Feet of Juan Bacnang, however, it was Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey and Albert Camus’s The Plague that influenced me.
As a writer I am not satisfied with the endings of some of the famous works of fiction. If I had my way, I would change the endings of several stories and novels that have gained world popularity.
Rizal's novels, for instance, are required reading in our schools. I do not like the way he ended his second novel, El Filibusterismo, which is a sequel to his first, Noli Me Tangere. The novel is an exposition of Spanish abuses in the last days of the Spanish regime in the country. To hasten the revolution, conspirators brought a bomb to a house, to be exploded at a meeting of the country's elite. The bomb is thrown into the sea instead. I would have had the bomb go off and then reap the conclusion as the fitting end of the novel and the beginning of a new one.
The ending of Don Quixote dela Mancha is undramatic. The sick, old man is dying and he apologizes to his squire, Sancho Panza, for having led him astray with his fantasies. And so he dies and the story dies with him. I would have ended it differently. I would have Don Quixote go to Cadiz, the seaport in Andalucia, where those tiny ships sailed to the New World. Sancho Panza remembers taking him to the quay and it is there where the old knight disappears. Then the story could continue from there -- Don Quixote goes to the New World perhaps, where he continues his crusade for righteousness.
AND NOW, THE BOOK OF JOB, in the Old Testament. In this book, God punishes Job and makes his life miserable. Job loses so many of the things that he had earned through hard work, and all his sons and daughters, all these to test his faith. In the end, when God was satisfied with Job's loyalty, He gives back all that Job had lost. In my version of the ending, Job loses everything and suffers immeasurably, yet he endures and does not lose his faith. With this ending, Job’s story becomes more heroic, more telling in its message and faith.
Fairy tales usually end with “and they lived happily ever after.” This is what we expect and want, endings where all the loose ends are tied together. But this is not what happens in real life, where endings are never really certain unless a person commits suicide.
Would the world be happier, better, and society more compassionate if from the very beginning of our existence we are guided by the knowledge that we won't bring anything to the grave? When Alexander the Great died, his hands were both exposed to show that he was leaving the world as he had entered it, empty-handed.
And this world itself, how will it end? “Not with a bang but a whimper?”
All through the grim Marcos years, I wished I would live to see how the dictatorship would end. I did see that the end was coming when I witnessed the millions that followed the coffin of Ninoy to the cemetery. My expectations became more pronounced with the massive demonstrations against Marcos. Then EDSA I -- it was a complete surprise. I recall that late afternoon when news reached us at EDSA that Marcos had fled. Such joy swept through the crowd. Many wept and strangers embraced one another -- a celebration that will never be repeated.
And what about the Duterte regime? How will this story end?
First published in The Philippine Star, December 8, 2018.
Homage to Justice Antonio Carpio
Much as I abhor communism, I've always admired Mao Zedong for having united China and for establishing the Communist Party, the major institution that drove China’s modernization. The first and only time I was in China was in 1979, after Mao's tragic cultural revolution had already ended. I asked the same question to all the cadres I met: If you had your way, where would you work? Everyone said, wherever the Party will send me. Until Shanghai, when, finally alone with me, a man took back his stock answer and said, "In the kitchen because there, I will never be hungry."
Before 1949, with a population of half a billion, China had famine every year. Now, with nearly a billion-and-a-half people, hunger no longer afflicts the country. This is Mao's magnificent achievement. More than this, with their own genius and brawn, China is now a world power and, as such, it must compulsively expand, seek raw materials, and spread its influence wherever and whenever it can. Now, it has even grabbed portions of our territory in the West Philippine Sea, which it should not have done to a neighbor that is defenseless and poor.
This is the foremost challenge to our country today. Thank God, we have a patriot who sees this -- Justice Antonio Carpio. He warns that at any time in the future, China's People's Liberation Army might be right at our front door. China justifies its territorial and maritime grab as a historic right. While false, the claim is embedded as a national mantra in every child from grade school onwards.
Justice Carpio gathered a vast array of ancient maps -- including ancient Chinese maps -- and even official documents of China, and convinced those wise men in the Hague to decide in our favor. The Spratlys are central to our survival. Much of the fish caught in our waters spawn in the Spratlys. The oil, gas and mineral reserve, estimated to be vast, have yet to be measured. However, we do not have the power to enforce our rights to these resources.
WHAT ARE WE TO DO? We are small and weak, but we have a voice and the capacity to be heard globally. Justice Carpio suggests that we must help make ASEAN formidable and united to counter China's claims. We are not the only complainants; so are ASEAN members Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia as well.
We must urge other countries to understand the implications of China's disregard for international law and of its aggression in the South China Sea. What for instance if India claims possession of the Indian ocean? Or if Italy as the heir of the Roman Empire claims the Mediterranean which that empire dominated? It is important for the world to recognize that the West Philippine Sea is open to international navigation.
Even the smallest and weakest animals are capable of defending themselves. The porcupine has its quills and the skunk its awful smell. As I have said before, we should have built a fleet of patrol boats to defend our territory. We must now hasten to build that capability, taking a cue from the Vietnamese who have, through the centuries, fought Chinese recalcitrance.
To the Chinese, saving “face” is almost everything; it is the very core of their foreign policy. We can dent that face. We have thousands of overseas workers in the world’s capitals. We can harness them to demonstrate in front of Chinese consulates and embassies in furtherance of our national interest.
JUSTICE CARPIO URGES US to educate our own people, to be united and steadfast in the face of Chinese incursion on our sovereignty. This government has collaborated shamelessly, willingly, with China. It should be rejected in the next election. The Duterte aberration is just a tiny wrinkle in our history and it will fade. The Philippines will endure.
As much as we would like to be free from strangling American influence, what China is doing is forcing us to seek even more close ties with the United States, knowing that it is the only power that can challenge China's hegemony. This is perhaps inevitable. Filipinos trust the United States. As recent surveys have shown, Filipinos do not trust China.
For all its bellicose posturing and armed might, China does not really want war. Steeped in Sun Tzu's precepts on war, it wants victory on its own terms with an aggressive aid program and slow, piecemeal territorial expansion. Its occupation of Panatag Shoal off the coast of Zambales is an example. We should have sent our Navy and Armed Forces there at the very start, come what may.
But let us not look at China as the implacable enemy that cannot be appeased. We must broaden and deepen our dialogue with the Chinese and hope for China to become a China that is respected not feared. There is much in the Chinese Confucian tradition to support this expectation. The Confucian precepts of hierarchy and harmony should enable the Chinese leadership to look at countries like ours not as meek tributaries of an empire but as minor partners in the building of a harmonious world.
This nation owes Justice Carpio enduring gratitude. Almost single-handedly, with courage and a magnificent intellect, he has built a formidable bastion for this nation's sovereignty which China's mendacious fiction cannot destroy.
In speaking as he does, Justice Antonio Carpio is the shining, unswerving conscience of the Filipino people. By his singular example, he has exposed the cowardice and hypocrisy of our highest elected officials who have not protected or defended our sovereignty. May his patriotism motivate all public servants who feel helpless in the face of the inaction and apathy of our leaders, and give life and direction to the idealism of the new generation of Filipinos who are eager to serve this nation.
First published in The Philippine Star, December 1, 2018
Ambeth Ocampo asked me the other day why I am still always angry. Another old friend asked me, again, when I would write a novel with a sunshiny ending. I get asked these questions often, and I look back and recall what the late Anding Roces said, that we both would leave a country in far worse shape than when we were young.
When I was thirty, I had already published three novels, novels that I built with short stories written when I was still in my teens. One of these novels is The Pretenders. One of the main characters in it is an entrepreneur who sets up a steel mill. That early on, I already knew that the production of steel was the beginning of industrialization; that is the story of all industrialized countries.
In the 1950s, two naval officers, Commander Ramon Alcaraz and Captain Carlos Albert, and I went to Sandakan in North Borneo. We cruised first around the Sulu Sea, to the Turtle Islands, Tawi-Tawi, and then Balabac in the southern tip of Palawan on a hand-me-down patrol boat from the U.S. Navy. We discussed then the possibility of our having a maritime industry, that we would build ships in the finest maritime tradition. After all, Filipinos built the galleons, the best ships ever built. Their hulls of solid molave withstood the canon of British buccaneer ships.
I remember having a talk with then President Elpidio Quirino, who envisioned a maritime industry. I also discussed this with Mike Magsaysay of the Magsaysay Shipping Company and Carlos Fernandez of Compania Maritima. We were not going to build battleships or aircraft carriers, just merchant ships and a fleet of patrol boats that could not be out-raced by the Moro kumpits in Sulu.
We needed, aside from a steel industry, metallurgists and ship designers.Then, in the 1960s, shortly after the Korean War, South Korea started a shipping industry from scratch. Today, they are the world's biggest builder of ships. If we had started building those patrol boats in the 1950s we perhaps would be able to defend our sovereignty today, the sovereignty that China has mocked.
In the 1950s, as a staff member of the old Manila Times, I covered the Kamlon campaign in Sulu. Hajji Kamlon, with some hundred Tausug warriors, had defied the government. He brought the smoldering Moro problem to the surface. The government sent battalion combat teams and navy boats to blockade Sulu. They failed; the solution was not military. A negotiated settlement ended that uprising, and an incompetent government continued its military response. The problem worsened, culminating in the recent Marawi siege.
OUR MORO PROBLEM has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and billions of pesos, all of which could have been avoided had we looked at the root of the problem and given our Moros the active participation in the development of their own region. This is the solution not just for the Moros but for all Filipinos, particularly our ethnic minorities in the depressed regions.
In the month that I was in Jolo, I visited Maimbung and met with Sultan Ismail Jamalul Kiram and Princess Tarhata Kiram. Both told me that Sabah-North Borneo was ours for it was leased by the Sultan of Sulu to the British North Borneo Company. I remember that in the early fifties, the British governors asked our government to send Filipinos to settle there, and that much earlier, Rizal had suggested the same. But instead we lost Borneo to Malaysia.
I knew personally some of the communist leaders who led the Hukbalahap uprising in 1949. The origins of their grievances go back deep into our past, when the ownership of land was not available to the farmers who tilled the land itself. The agrarian problem too could have been resolved earlier on, by a government responsive to the aspirations of the peasantry.
Then Marcos came. He decimated a whole generation of leaders and wasted that generation, too, although he had gathered around him some of our very best technocrats. He could have modernized this country as the leaders of Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan modernized theirs. Like him, they were autocrats. And the leaders who succeeded Marcos? What was wrong with them, and what is so wrong with us?
Many of our past problems were imposed upon us by colonization. But we are no longer oppressed by a foreign power; we are colonized by our own elites, by our own leaders and politicians. I see all these past opportunities they had failed to grasp and I see how we ourselves are to blame for enabling them to belittle and abuse positions of power that are meant for those committed to service of people and nation. We are truly our own worst enemy.
THERE IS NO SHORTAGE of vision or of expertise to change this country, to make it truly just and sovereign. But we must all transcend ourselves, our petty personal ambitions, and think of the larger community, the nation to which all of us belong.
So I am asked why am I angry? Why are my stories sad?
I am angry because I have seen us squander all our opportunities. Anger can keep us alive for if we are not angry, it means we are dead and can no longer respond to the challenges that portend to wipe out this unhappy country.
Nationalists of the post-Marcos era like Oscar Orbos say that we are waking up, that there’s a new consciousness that now pervades the country and our people — our young, the Catholic Church. Is the long night about to end?
And what about that novel with a sunshiny ending? I am working on one, its title is Esperanza, and I struggle to be hopeful.
First published in The Philippine Star, November 24, 2018