That it shows when national identity’s structure is a facsimile of the colloquial phrase ‘the man’s man’, the Filipino is not without his attendant Filipino.
For men, the guy they can openly praise is a close shave against their taut egos and yet they do and easily so because he isn’t just okay by their standards, he is it. In essence he is both one and all of them at any given moment—perfected; escaping elusively, not at all like a single one of them. The structure works this way: X’s X is a person apotheosized by his kind.
And the search boils down to the Pinoy’s Pinoy. The national, the true Filipino, is packaged in such a manner. You need only to look at today’s credit card and membership promotions, the yellow plated vehicles, and the hip new pair of lenses flashing ‘round the metro. Demythologizing the Pinoy’s Pinoy, extracting his existence in any one of us, in all of us, is a method that I would like to try in deconstructing the thousands of years of history, popularized today (see team Manila, etc.) and simultaneously threatened in present’s milieu by globalization and damningly, maybe, define for myself, place you in a position to consider this on your own, what the Filipino is— the question ‘what does it mean to be Filipino’ that until now seems to state a condition and for a specific number you traits you are a certain percentage Filipino.
From somewhere near, sometime recent, reorientation with culture for identity’s sake has sprung talent and influence into the palatable and trendy education of the masses. Movements, consumer products, arts and banners, stenciled heroes are the reformulated subjects out on the streets. We’ve pegged our identity to a lot of variables through the course of our history; persons, events equally the result of deliberation and miscalculation, have served, separately, well to assuage an identity crisis but when comes the point to look at the cohesive picture the cracks seems to stand out against the relief of everything we’ve previously came to identify with.
And now the question itself puts on images and falls in line the visual, commercial, revolution. We’d be foolish to take the shirt where emblazoned our unique geography as the answer to the question of identity itself. Wearing pins, bags, posting stickers and posters on our spatial and material extensions (bedrooms and laptops) are much less answers and yet, more than raiment and status symbol. I believe they have been designed to propel and have opened through more interesting, accessible and aesthetically pleasing portals the critique and question of identity.
When we don such a shirt it comes to pass that you face and have others face the question. The question not of our own conception, not simply the articulations of the starving and confused soul, is now finally understood to come from the outside, a separate entity. His neighbor walking along a pedestrian crossing might awaken a person in stupor. Just like that, this brother of yours has challenged you. He seems to be that entity at that very moment. You have to ask him back:
Is that what it means to be Filipino? Is it he?
You need only to be familiar with the campaign ‘I am Ninoy’ to see how its parallelism to this line of thought—consolidating the general population by the man himself. This is a good campaign; insightful and inventive enough except the construction of such an epitome like Ninoy fails by too much definition of one person who is lost, has escaped in the very asking who is Ninoy? There is too much construction around a person, too much life to speak of to catch by such a catch phrase. This metaphysical argument set aside, bias, sensation, character speculation will get in the way. More, the Filipino as they appear in census is too diverse to rally behind a Catholic, city-bred, upperclassman. Idols and heroes work well for the living; in this way we remain in the same plane, but these people are men and what I am trying to get at, the Filipino, is not a man per se, is human, but not made flesh (not yet, or the my attempt would already be moot).
Their characteristics, say love of country over self might be more effective without the attendant personality. The name of such a historical figure, has its traps strewn and tangled in the green. There is all the merit to gain in a canon of heroes for a nation but when trying to define the Filipino, one person can do more to sully and shroud the conception than a host of heroes can do well for it.
To be sure, I do believe that there is one binding thing, present for every Filipino.
For a long time now, as many the most who was ever concerned, sought beyond the trappings of cultural diversity following only that dull ache, through a history continued to be colonized by the lack of our own written literature, we pursue the dark halls unable to accept that that the history, not of our own choosing is the core of identity. Hear yourselves, those of you who propose this?
What does it mean be Filipino?
To have been colonized half a century [—whose culture is the result of it].
Cry foul men before the white. I do not ignore any facts, the history of school, they are true. I am writing in English; my neighbor’s eyes are a thin line like twilight’s horizon; most I know say bintana vs. durungawan; I am in fact Catholic. Filipinos are the appropriators of the centuries and cultures behind them. But are Filipinos Indians, Mexicans? That dull ache still echoes further down history.
Advertisements claim to hold a mirror to your person every time you see the mock-up of a credit, membership, or discount card. By naming you, by naming us collectively, they seem to make another proposition on yours and my identity.
‘Is that really me?’, I ask. My discomfort and unrest seems to be speaking out.
Plainspoken in innocence, unassuming thereby affable, here is Juan. J. dela Cruz, the proverbial Filipino, yes. Without a doubt, he does exist. He is characteristically the poster-boy of the overlooked. In my search for national quintessence, I have to bypass him all the same because he just does not do it for me; he isn’t my kind of Filipino. He assumes the average Filipino who lives on the fringes. The average-majority or the general is the one with less than $2/day, a statistical number to whose subject (when applied a value-judgment upon: good-bad) it is always indirectly proportional (literacy-low; corruption-high). I would like more out of my guy; I have a right to this, I say. Zarathustra, essentially an Übermensch, man of the Arian race compared to J. dela Cruz?
But none of it is the matter; Ninoy or Rizal’s preemptive deaths and shortcomings have nothing do with why they aren’t the answers to our question of national identity. And while I feel that J. dela Cruz needs a new name (personally, I like Protacio), much more a new job, a different set of goals, and a little more testosterone while still keeping his poetic stance, J. dela Cruz will still be on the same plane of being as Juan Tamad, who as a parody of the Spanish creatio will be still be a burlesque show only that he is our own. Isn’t the victim and poverty when poeticized like this but a lugubrious sideshow still to the colonial grand act? It’s as if because we can’t reverse the deplorable, we romanticize the state and lose our souls finally making everyone of us laughable cynics.
Proverbial, heroic, figurative, these are only and of course, all structures and glaring signs of that search. Possibly those who’ve created them realize just as I do that there isn’t a concept or trait, myth or biography to wholly encompass the expansive geography and extensive diversity of the reality of the Filipino. Because that’s just it, the condition is given but at once; instantaneously it is irrevocable. By the fact that I am Filipino, I’ve eliminated all. You were born Filipino and that’s it. Still, he isn’t man, only human.
At this point the Filipino is but an abstraction, a potential in every one of the population. An actuality only in relation to the next guy: being Filipino. The sentiment of nationality and nationalism is implicitly collective, an idea that exists for a collective because of a collective.
One isn’t a certain nationality but of a certain nationality. Beginning from the plural, from the number two is there a Filipino. Every day, without so much as a word, any and every person you encounter is asking you to lay claim on the your identity and on our national identity. You are in as much as your neighbor is begotten by you.
So it was said that unification was impossible with all the diversity present as if it was dependent on the magic man, first brown-skinned Adam with the trait (genetic, cultural, a chromosome, his rib?) that the German, Spanish or French didn’t have. When truly anything of substance, change, and importance is dependent on unification—our most honest response to the fact of the matter that we were born of no other people but these men who immediately surround us. National identity will continue to be renewed in every relation, in every two people. This active, dynamic quality is what seems to keep eluding us every time. Because it is happening and will continue to happen for as long as we keep at it, it shall continue to be a challenge demanding to be met. And every answer is a call in itself because we have again altered and added to our national identity.
Relations can never be satiated and we will always face the question of national identity. The very first Filipinos knew this by heart thus the value bayanihan. It asks us to raise our brothers, a much deeper and far reaching kind of apotheosis.
by: Louise Albano