I never got around to removing and storing the small Philippine flag I propped up on the canopy of our front window last year. Imagine that, and I have just realized that it is independence day once again in this part of the world. A neighbor, when he noticed the now-faded flag a few months ago, had even casually remarked about how patriotic we must all be in the household. Nope, I had told him, it was just a simple case of me being both forgetful and plain lazy.
Truly, June 12 had always been special. As a child, it meant no classes for all of us kids, and that meant a great time to chase the parade across town. Likewise, it was also the particular time when the most common symbol of nationalism, the philippine flag flew almost everywhere, unabashedly displayed. In the old day celebrations of independence day, politicians were prominently shown on national television, as they solemnly placed ceremonial wreaths on the tombs of dead heroes in cemeteries all over the country. The day’s celebration was also marked with fluvial parades to honor not only the anniversary of independence day, but the war veterans who ironically, while hugging the limelight, sweat it out in the heat and in reality, are still not even justly compensated.
Nowadays, if ever a general feel of national pride or a sense of empowerment seem to fill the air during June 12, that’s merely sentimental overload, likened to just watching media propaganda that comes, complete with a Samuel Jackson narration.
Because, argue it as much as you like, the so-called sense of nationhood and nationalism is practically dead today. As one proof of this, it has ceased to become a primary focus of people’s lives. In fact, it is very closely turning into the proverbial every-man-for-himself out there. A semblance of it may “exist” in the pockets of alliances to political parties, or mouthed by self proclaimed ideologues and so-called nationalists, all of whom possess and push conflicting agenda. Despite these, nationalism in essence, has become nothing but an abstract, like god.
Second, it has ceased to be a primary driving force for economic, political, or even personal behavior. Especially among the new generation, a figment may attempt at sloganeering, but sentimentalism will all that it will ever be. Regarding its potential as a moral force, how can that be when in truth, we are hopelessly a regionalistic, provincialistic, and a deeply-biased people that when pressed, will passionately deny our looking down on others not of our kind or locality. In other words, who would deny that we are inherently racists deep down?
Since time immemorial, our sense of nationhood has only been feebly limited to symbols; like the good old flags, barong tagalog, carabao, tubao. While on one hand, we would rather be korean pop, or american just like the rest of the world, on the other, we romantically cling to our lumad roots, whose very people we seek to marginalize and ridicule no end. If one were to be sarcastic about the whole thing, this might as well be a first step into the global civilization that will mark the next century.
So in the end, knowing the exact date when we were free (from what again?) may not prove to be important after all. We just have to accept that indeed, all things must pass, and we must not be duplicitous, pretending that it matters when it’s already truly dead inside us. As long as respect of others will be maintained and is well-within the pursuit of everyone, all will be alright with this pandemic infested world.
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