Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Filipino Nationhood

The definition of a nation given by Jose Aruego and Gloria Aruego-Torres is perhaps the most unrestrained and liberal. Obviously, only the consent of a people, as a "clearly expressed desire of continuing the common life," is enough to constitute a nation. However, in the case of the Filipino political life, the spirit of nationalism came to exist only after the 19th century.` Before this time there was no Filipino nation or a sense of nationalism to speak of. Rather there were only ethnic groups who shared common racial and cultural features. During the Spanish Period, the term Filipino, as applied on someone - more particularly the Spanish insulares - was tantamount to proclaiming oneself or being proclaimed a subject of King Philip of Spain and his progenies.
The term Filipino was originally applied to Spaniards born in the Philippines, but began to include the natives only in 1898 when Gov. Gen. Basilio Agustin sought their aid and loyalty against the United States. Before this time, the natives were derisively referred to as Indios with all the most disparaging and hostile connotations. The Spaniards described the Indio as a "machine that walks, eats, sleeps and exists", "inferior race," a "racial savages," and someone with a "limited intelligence."
Several factors paved the way for the development of Filipino nationalism. The formation was no doubt the consequence of centuries of misrule and exploitation and was hastened by political and economic development in the Philippines and Europe. As noted earlier, the racial prejudices of the Spaniards against the natives had proved to be one of the strongest unifying factors among the geographically separated and linguistically divergent natives. The rise of the middle class among the natives and their subsequent access to the liberal and revolutionary ideas in Europe and America, as well as the secularization controversy that led to the execution of Fathers Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez and Jacinto Zamora were some of the factors that gave birth to Filipino nationalism.
Thus, Filipino nationalism was a belated development. If there had been earlier revolts against Spain they were no more than pocket rebellions against unjust rule, ranging from personal grievances to opposition to excessive imposition, from religious uprisings to agrarian complaints. None, except the 1896 Revolution, was staged in the name and pursuit of a separate nation. And almost all were undertaken by chiefs or religious leaders of the fragmented barangays of Luzon and the Visayas.

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