Springboard for a new nationalism


This political season, with all its uncertainties and strange turns, may yet trigger the surge of a new nationalism among our people and in this country.

I sense it lurking underneath the popular anger and cynicism about politics and government today under the leadership of President BS Aquino, amid the general sense of expectation from the prospect of national elections in May next year.

I glimpse it in the resurgence of historical themes and subjects in Philippine cinema, as evidenced especially by the critical success of the film “Heneral Luna,” which depicts the assassination of the revered General Antonio Luna, at a critical time in our struggle for independence against America.

I feel it in the fervor with which people are discussing the burning issue of Sen. Grace Poe’s citizenship and divided loyalties, and her evident lack of qualifications for seeking the Philippine presidency.

I notice it in the way the language of nationalism is creeping into the language of politicians, who normally think of self more than nation in their public life.

I notice it finally in the increasing frequency and annoyance of many people with President Aquino’s refusal to wear the flag pin and his insistence on wearing his yellow ribbon instead.

People care about these things lately.

Two pledges of allegiance
I was reading and listening online the other day to Sen. Bongbong Marcos’s speech in Filipino at the formal launch of his candidacy for vice-president in Intramuros last Saturday.

Stirred by some of his words, I quoted some passages to my wife (who is also a writer), particularly the part where BBM spoke of leading “a revolution in heart, mind and action.” He said: “Sa tulong ninyo at ng bayan, pamumunuan ko ang isang rebolusyon sa puso, isip at gawa tungo sa isang tunay at makabuluhang pagbabago.”

(With your help and our countrymen’s support, I will lead a revolution of the heart, mind, and action towards true and meaningful change. I will lead a campaign to achieve our dreams in our lifetime.)

My wife said that the words reminded her of the pledge of allegiance (Panatang Makabayan) which we were all required to recite in school. She could remember the thing almost line by line, so she suggested that I Google it to make sure.

Being an Internet believer, I googled the thing. And in no time, I got a copy in my hands of the original pledge.

But then I got a surprising and unwelcome bonus. It turns out that there are now two versions of the pledge.

From poetic to pedestrian to unconstitutional
Recitation of the Panatà is required by law at all public and private educational institutions for Filipinos or containing a majority of Filipino nationals. This guideline was set in Republic Act No. 1265, one of many national symbols and laws, which were approved on July 11, 1955. The act was implemented in schools through Department Order No. 8 of what is now the Department of Education, which was approved on 21 July 1955.

And so it went for everyone in all schools across the country until November 2001, when an ambitious politician who got appointed for some reason as Secretary of Education, got the dumb idea of revising and updating the pledge for modern times. The politician was the late senator Raul Roco, who ran for president twice and lost.

His idea was to use shorter words and shorter lines than the original.

The original Panata contains the pithy “Sisikapin kong maging isang tunay na Pilipino sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa. (I will strive to be a true Filipino in thought, word and deed.”)

The revised version introduced the wooden and pedestrian, and possibly unconstitutional: ”Naglilingkod, nag-aaral at nagdarasal nang buong katapatan.

Iaalay ko ang aking buhay, pangarap, pagsisikap Sa bansang Pilipinas.” (Serving, studying, and praying faithfully.

I offer my life, dreams, and successes / To the Filipino nation.)

I say unconstitutional because it introduces prayer into our schools, whereas our constitution emphatically decrees a strict separation between Church and state.

Most striking and appalling is this: The original pledge was prescribed by law. It was revised unilaterally by a mere secretary of education and politician.

I don’t know whether President Gloria Arroyo is aware of this, but this all happened during her watch. So even then it was not unheard of for a government official to dictate by whim an alternative version of an official way of doing things.

President BS Aquino had therefore precedent on his side when he came up with “the alternative truth” to the Mamasapano massacre.

No useful nationalism
In his 1988 essay, “A Damaged Culture,” and in his 1994 book Looking at the Sun, the American author James Fallows flung at the Philippines and our people the scathing criticism that we Filipinos do not have “a useful nationalism.”

He wrote: “When a country with extreme geographic, tribal and social-class differences, like the Philippines, has only a weak sense of national unity, its public life becomes a war of each against all.”

He continued: “Individual Filipinos are at least as brave , kind and noble-spirited as individual Japanese, but their culture draws the boundaries of decent treatment much more narrowly. Because the boundaries are limited to the family or tribe , they exclude at any given moment 99 percent of the other people in the country.”

“Because of this fragmentation, this lack of useful nationalism, people treat each other worse in the Philippines than in any other Asian country I have seen.”

In spite of our national revolution of 1896, and the proclamation of national independence in June 1898, in spite of all our sacrifices and losses in the Philippine-American War; in spite of our full achievement of independence in 1946, much ahead of our neighbors in East and Southeast Asia, and in spite also of all the efforts of nationalist teachers like Renato Constantino, we are a people who are curiously wanting of a strong sense of nationalism.

In the film, “Heneral Luna,” Antonio Luna framed it as a choice for every Filipino: “Bayan o sarili.” Country or self.

We face the same choice today as they did yesterday.



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  1. We should have a people power against communist china.We should not allow them to get our sea by force we have to fight to the last of our blood to regain our land and our sovereignty what ever the cost.Who is the the candidate for president have the voice and tell the Filipino people “I will lead the fight for our own country the Philippines” who? stand up now and be the nationalist in heart, mind and action.

  2. Is there a hand-gesture that is used with the Philipino Pledge of Allegiance and if so, what is it?

    No one should stand for nor chant the USA’s Pledge of Allegiance because it was the origin of the German socialist salute and of that type of bad behavior (that is one of the amazing discoveries by the historian Dr. Rex Curry).

    It is bad to teach people to robotically chant on command and en masse to a government symbol (flag) in government schools (socialist schools). It is a form of brainwashing.

    Remove the pledge from the flag; remove the flag from schools; remove schools from government.

  3. about “Panatang makabayan:” the panatang makabayan is not being tought in elementary schools nowadays. unlike during our time (1060s up to the marcos time) that no pupil in elementary can enter the school room without attending the flag ceremony and reciting the panatang makabayan. Now, no more Panatang makabayan, thats why most younger generations have no love of country and not patriotic anymore. this is my opinion.

  4. with the return of the old corrupt politicians the Philippines has gone to the dogs. In a real revolution these animals would have been gone. Is this the result of the people power revolution? we still have many of these thieves in power.

  5. I believe we Filipinos have nationalism in face of foreign aggression . In peace we become tribal or worse individualistic. Re the Panatang Makabayan, I hope the original version is restored.

  6. A President? Who denounced her American citizenship for a government post in the Philippines. Her family being American citizens. Rides on her late father’s popularity.

    A President? Who is known for plundeing as a city mayor.

    A President? Who has no identity of his own. Cannot decide on important issues concerning the nation. Proof. The handling of the aftermath of a super typhoon. The systematic destruction of the mass transit.

    Is there no one better?

    • meron sana, ito si duterte pero ang gulo ng utak ng mamang ito. hele hele pero quierre ba sya?? anyways, his attitude of procastinating and let people guess would boomerang against him. parang wala syang paninindigan. parang tama yung sinabi ni bobit avila ng phil. star na hindi tatakbong presidente si digong at talagang para kay boy pickup sya. sayang na sayang. wala talaga tayong kaswerte swerte sa nagiging pangulo. yung 3 ngayon ay komiko at pabe be

    • Meron – ako and I am better. My candidacy is anchored on creating a military industrial complex as a deterrent to foreign hegemony and aggression which at the same time will create the jobs for everyone to produce a demand-induced economy. It is high time that we earn the respect of our neighbors and that can only happen when we have the military hardware to back up our sharp tongue. The downstream industries that will be generated including support facilities and associated infrastructure together with its financial components will filter to every Barangay so that everyone will be so busy and forget petty politics. I will just let the VP handle all other domestic issues.

  7. I have been your admirer, Mr. Makabenta, for years, even when you were still writing for other papers before you moved to The Manila Times. And I agree 100% with your points in this column, but I strongly disagree with your stating that the late former senator and former secretary of education Raul Roco’s wordy and lame version of the Patriotic Pledge is unconstituitional because it INTRODUCES PRAYER INTO OUR SCHOOLS.
    You write: “I say unconstitutional because it introduces prayer into our schools, whereas our constitution emphatically decrees a strict separation between Church and state.”
    I am very disappointed, and I’m sure millions of Times readers also are, that you do not understand the TRUE MEANING of the principle of separation of Church and State. You should learn from your fellow Times columnist former senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad.
    The essence of the separation principle is to protect the individual’s liberty to worship and pray as he likes and to remove the power of the State to establish a state religion.
    The principle of separation does not mean that the state should be against prayer or against religion in general (like an atheist state) or against a particular religion. You are probably influenced by the thinking of the constitution of the Communist Party-ruled People’s Republic of China which exalts the freedom not to believe as a right equal to believing in God and practicing a religion.
    The Philippine Constitution of 1987 is not against religion, Sir Makabenta. So is the wiser-in-many-parts 1935 Constitution of the Philippines, which became the first Constitution of our Republic after it became an independent country in 1946 and was in effect until Marcos tinkered with it and discarded it after he had used it to declare Martial Law.
    Even the United States, which has the separation of Church and State as a founding principle, does not understand that principle to be a warrant against religion. However, media, academe and some judges in the US –whose mentality you seem to have adopted–have become tyrannically secular and anti-religion and anti-prayer. You should not be guided by them. You should beware of this form of American imperialism, Mr. Makabenta.
    Nevertheless, you are correct, Sir, about the Roco version of the Panatang Makabayan now being recited by schoolchildren is a farce. Brother Armin Luistro of the Department of Education should restore the old and clearer Patriotic Pledge.

  8. Pnoy aquino has trod a crooked path, peppered with uphill struggles for the poor, and downhill trends for integrity, justice, and national dignity.
    It has been littered with potholes of hypocricy, self-interest, and deceit.

    The country needs a new agenda and set of values anchored by key tenets, against which policy, plans, performance, and politicians are judged.


  9. “Bayan o sarili”. I wasn’t born yesterday and I don’t know how many will dispute me when I say that ‘majority’ of our politicians or leaders go for “sarili” and forget about “bayan”.

    First question: How many of these self-proclaimed leader-politicians were elected into office or appointed and remained or had some improvement in their financial status? Second question: Why is it that after being termed out, many of them have family members run for the same office or other offices? In other words, they are addicted to ‘helping people’ and wants to remain in politics as much as possible. Really?

    Wrong. Conclusion: Majority of these self-proclaimed leader-politicians found that there is a ‘goldmine’ in government positions, whether they are elected or appointed, totally forgetting that the ‘goldmine’ belongs to the people. Why is that? Corruption, whether public or involving private individuals. For this, I have yet to see or hear one who entered politics or appointed in government offices, especially those higher poositions, who became poor. Almost everyone became “super rich” and, yet, they have the audacity to hold their heads high. Why is that? Simply because the people look up to the “rich and famous” (and powerful) irrespective of whether where their riches came from, legitimate or not. Why is that? Because, just like their leaders, the people have become materialistic, too.They became ‘amoral’.
    I think the Philippine situation is a hopeless case if we were to rely on all the present politcian-leaders. And, as they say, “you cannot teach old dogs new tricks”! Why? Because they already know all the ticks. (Tricks to get rich quick!) Practically, majority of them are ‘corrupt’ at the expense of the “bayan” and the tax payers..

    The only chance we have are the youths who, according to Rizal, are the hopes of the motherland. The people’s minds should be ‘reprogrammed’ to change the culture of materialism and corruption. Most of all , the lack of nationalism. Otherwise, we will lose our identity as a nation and, eventually, lose even our country.

    It is really an “illusion” to think that the Philippines is the only Catholic country in Asia and with many other sects, with churches and places of worship full of ‘attendees’ on worship days, Why is that? Habit or trend, perhaps? Many are not really passionate about their religion and beliefs that not too many take it seriously. Once again, I’d say, too many religions and sects, but not that many Christians.

    May God Bless the Philippines.

    • Yang sakit ng burokrata kapitalismo ay sakit na ng lipunan na isinisigaw na natin nuon pa bago ang pagbaba ng batas militar. Isang solusyon ay ang paggamit ng kakayanan ng estado upang lumaban sa merkado gamit ang lakas pinansyal at ang kaakibat ng agarang pagpasa ng Freedom of Information Bill na hindi nagawa ng mapanlinlang na pamahalaang benigno.

  10. Ang utakl ng pilipino ay kontaminado na ,dahil sa pagsakop ng maraming bansa, Dugo ,isipan at gawa. Kung hindi kay MARCOS malamang nagkahiwalay-hiwalay na ang bansa , Luzon,Vizaya at Mindanao, mas nangingibabaw ang salitang english ,kaysa tagalog ,dahil ang pride nila ang pinaiiral.Kinalatan ni marcos ng ilokano ang lahat ng lugar kaya hangang ngayon ay patuloy na iisang bansang pilipinas.

    Mapalad ang gumawa ng pelikulang gen. juan luna, patapos na sana, dahil sa may mga taong gustong harangin ang paglitaw ng isapang pelikula na hango sa tunay na buhay, ipinilit nila na buhayin at ipaalam sa lahat ang galing ng pelikulang gen. luna at ginawaran agad ng mataas na karangalan na mapasali sa international award.