Weak national identity for lack of history

DID you know that only nine generations have passed since we first felt that sense of nationhood on that fateful date of Feb. 17, 1872, seven generations since Andres Bonifacio started the August, 1896 national revolution and only about four generations since we became a republic on July 4, 1946?

This is such a short time, so short it seems that it is not enough to make us fully aware of our national identity. I suspect this is also the reason why we are more regional/tribal and less national in our attitude and preference.

Prior to the 1896 revolution, we don’t have a history as a nation. All events and revolts that happened prior in the archipelago are local and affect only a particular tribe or personality. What we have for history is the story of our being oppressed and colonized.

The absence of a great and glorious ancient history made it very easy for the Spaniards or the Americans and even the Japanese to some extent to colonize us. This is also the reason why our propagandist heroes then based in Europe like Jose Rizal, Graciano Lopez Jaena or Pardo de Tavera were so short sighted in their goals that their only clamor is to be racially equal with our Spanish colonizers.

It took the courage and foresight of the self-educated Bonifacio to awaken the nation from its slumber and jolt the illustrados from their fanciful dream of becoming Castilians.

Note that when Spanish conquistadores led by Ferdinand Magellan came to our shores in 1521, they came upon small villages (barangays) or tribes each led by a Datu or a Rajah. The absence of a local united leadership and the in-fighting among the villages made it very easy for the greatly outnumbered Spaniards to rule over us for more than 300 years.

After making us the subjects of the Spanish crown using Roman Catholicism and the feudal system, the Spaniards did nothing more. They kept us uneducated and our land undeveloped for fear that education and development could lead to our emancipation. They even refused to teach the Spanish language except to a selected few.

Except for the galleon trade to Acapulco, Mexico the Spaniards closed the Philippines to the outside world until 1815 when the country was opened to world trade.

If not for the arrival of the British and their forcible occupation of Manila from 1762 to 1764 because of the seven years war in Europe between England and Spain, the Philippines could have remained closed perhaps up to the end of the Spanish dominion.

The outbreak of the Spanish-American war led the United States to our shore in 1898. The initial intention of the U.S. is to make the Philippines the gateway to China. However, a debate ensued between the pro and anti-imperialist factions of the American society and the latter won hence the decision to take over country from the Spain in 1898.

In 1899, the Filipino-American war broke out and lasted until about 1913. Because of the superior arms of the U.S., Filipino patriots shifted their struggle to guerilla warfare starting about 1900 costing more American lives. The bloody war prompted the American government to later promise Philippine independence by 1946.

If the Spaniards used religion and feudalism as their main weapons in conquering us, the Americans used language, the public school system and the establishment of governmental institutions patterned after the U.S. institutions to defeat the local nationalist sentiment of our people. The U.S. was determined that we became “little brown Americans.”

Unfortunately, to make the colonization of the islands easier, the Americans deliberately did not break the Spanish feudal setup despite its being anathema to the modern institutions they have setup. In a way the U.S. failed in their experiment that is why we have a mixed, if not misplaced, concept of governance and democracy.

The U.S. failure is also the reason why only 40 families are today enjoying the country’s wealth.

We are a nation trying to know who we are. We have yet to create our glorious history.

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