History as tragedy, history as farce

Sen. Bongbong Marcos in Pangasinan (Senate photo)
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FERDINAND MARCOS, JR. (“Bongbong”) was talking “revolution” last Saturday, October 17. The occasion was his formal declaration during a ceremony in Manila’s Intramuros (walled city) that he’s running for Vice President of the Republic in 2016.

He didn’t sound as if he were running for the country’s second highest post, however, but for its highest. He said he would “lead a revolution in the mind, in the heart, and in action (“Pamumunuan ko ang isang rebolusyon sa isip, sa puso, at sa gawa”). He also said “Hindi pa tapos ang rebolusyon. Hindi pa tayo lubos na malaya (The revolution is not yet over. We are not yet truly free).”

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Reliving the past

Hen. Antonio Luna (John Arcilla) and Col. Paco Roman (Joem Bascom). (Photo by Artikulo Uno)
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IF THE POINT about the study of history is to learn enough about the past so as not to repeat it, it should be more than obvious that what happened in Philippine history has never been quite understood or even widely known, the present being so obviously a repetition of the past. Those students’ wonderment after they had seen “Heneral Luna” over why Mabini was always sitting down speaks volumes about the current state of historical awareness among Filipinos—and condemns the country’s schools for their failure to impart to the young even the most basic information about the past.

Watching one movie won’t change that. But “Heneral Luna” is enjoying an unexpected, continuing run in cinemas across the country, hopefully indicating some interest in Philippine history, particularly that part of it that historians generally describe as the “second phase” of the Philippine Revolution.

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Wrongdoing rewarded

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THEN Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo replaced ousted President Joseph Estrada in 2001. But they have more in common than it seems. Both are the heads of their respective political dynasties. And both are running for public office this year–she for the second congressional district of Pampanga, to which she was elected in 2010, and he for Mayor of Manila.

Convicted of plunder in September 2007, but pardoned by Arroyo a month later, Estrada ran for President in 2010, and, among the nine candidates for the post that year, came in as second to Benigno Aquino III. Estrada amassed more than nine million votes out of the 38 million voter turnout, compared to Aquino III’s 15 million votes. There but for Aquino, the Philippines would have had another Estrada Presidency, despite his ouster through direct citizen action in 2001 and subsequent conviction.

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Dunces and dupes

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WITH the usual irony was June 12 marked this year in a country hardly aware of its history. Benigno Aquino III spoke at Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan, where the First Philippine Republic was inaugurated on January 23, 1899, less than a year after Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence in Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 1898. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was at the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan. Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas was in Kawit, while Vice President Jejomar Binay was at the usual flag-raising at Manila’s Rizal Park.

Aquino spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Mr. Aquino’s presence at Barasoain and that of other officials in the iconic sites of the Philippine struggle for independence was “one way of imbibing the historical significance of these places.”

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Martial law redux

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The shortness of their memories is not the worst attribute of Filipinos; it is the absence of knowledge. There’s much they can’t remember because, thanks to an educational and media system that has been steadily failing them, they never even knew it.

Ironic that it’s never been more evident than in the present, so-called age of information, when the Internet is supposed to be the instrument of empowerment through knowledge. The ignorance is starkly evident in most of the Philippine-based blogs that pretend to be about politics or anything else relevant to life in these isles of confusion (in contrast to those blogs by juveniles who assume that what they had for lunch yesterday, and their pedestrian thoughts on the latest Transformer movie, is of interest to the universe). Access to a computer and the Internet has enabled an entire class of Epsilon semi-morons to throw at the world at large anything that comes into their so-called minds — bad grammar, worse logic, total ignorance and all.

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