Monday, August 25, 2008

THE MYTHS WE LIVE BY (1965) - Senator Lorenzo Tanada

 Young people...... Do not be old before your time, dare to blaze new paths and take your countrymen with you to those heights of freedom and independence which our generation dreamt of but failed to reach. - Senator Tanada

"There is not a nationalistic movement here that has not received its share of witch-hunting diatribes. The danger is that if these attempts to regain full independence are equated with communism and branded as subversive, the right of protest and dissent essential to this movement may be imperiled or curtailed.- Lorenzo Tanada

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" Fear history, for it respects no secrets" - Gregoria de Jesus (widow of Andres Bonifacio)

The following previous posts and the RECTO READER are essential about us native, Malay Filipinos and are therefore always presented in each new post. Click each to open/read

  2. WHAT IS NATIONALISM [Filipino Nationalism]?
  3. Our Colonial Mentality and Its Roots 
  4. The Miseducation of the Filipino (Formation of our Americanized Mind)
  5. Jose Rizal - Reformist or Revolutionary?
  6. The Purpose of Our Past, Why Study (Our) History?
  7. Studying and Rethinking Our Philippine History
  8. Our Filipino Kind of Religion
  9. Our Filipino Christianity and Our God-concept
  10. When Our Religion Becomes Evil
  11. Understanding Our Filipino Value System

NOTE: Recto's cited cases, examples or issues were of his time, of course; but realities in our homeland in the present and the foreseeable future are/expectedly much, much worse. Though I am tempted to update them with current issues, it's best to leave them as they are since Recto's paradigms about our much deepened national predicament still ring relevant, valid and true. In short, Recto saw the forest and never got lost in the trees.- Bert


[The following excerpts came from a Commencement Address delivered by the late Senator Lorenzo Tanada at the Lyceum of the Philippines on May 7, 1965. Senator Tanada is a sincere nationalist whose battles, before and after the death of the great Sen. Claro M. Recto, show his uncompromising patriotism. he fought on the floor of the Senate and outside of it to preserve the sanctity of the Constitution and the patrimony of the people which some Filipinos with a bent mind wanted sold for a few pieces of silver to foreigners - Teodoro A. Agoncillo]

The Myths We Live By (1965) 

- Senator Lorenzo Tanada

We have been living by illusions for such a long time that we seem not to have noticed the changing realities of our time. We belong to neither the advanced capitalist countries nor socialist camps. Our thinking and behavior, however, belie our real status - that we are a developing nation. 

Our habit of self-delusion has been a principal cause of our miseries. Many countries like our own have heroically resisted the excursions of metropolitan powers.Some have succeeded, while others are still fighting the pernicious hold of foreign interests. This determined struggle on their part has earned for them the respect of the nations of the world.

Because we have refused to recognize our real status, we have not only resisted, we have even abetted foreign economic domination. We have been deluded into thinking that this is the correct road, because we are so anxious to establish affinity with an advanced power and because we believe any other road is unwise. 

We have been on this road for such a long time, yet we have not progressed. from this mistaken orientation have sprung all the myths that imprison us. We have lived on rhetoric and ignored reality. We pride ourselves so much on being the most westernized country in Asia that we actually sometimes tend to look down upon our fellow Asians

We have professed to have some links with our brother Asians but we tend to look condescendingly on them because they do not speak English the way we do and have not adopted western ways. This is the first of the myths we live by.

The Myth of the "Free World."

We like to believe that we belong to the free world and we find it difficult to accept that the political life of a nation can be different from ours and still not be evil: that a people's economic, political and cultural life is determined by its own needs and that one cannot just impose a particular way of life upon a nation, for each nation has its own peculiarities. 

A nation that does not have the same form of government and philosophy as ours is not necessarily undemocratic. Democracy admits a diversity of forms, it can be diverse as the number of nation-states.

We have relinquished the sovereign initiative that belongs to an independent state by following America too closely. We rely almost entirely on western, especially American experts for opinion and judgment and we have not developed our own powers of assessment. 

We are enamored of enchanting phrases like "free world," "free enterprise," etc. and we are easily swayed by stirring calls to the defense and protection of "freedom and democracy."

Do we read the news and comments of other countries, even those which are generally considered as part of the free world but which think independently of the United States? Very few of us do.

Instead we are content to allow only the experts of American news agencies to fill the columns of our papers with their own not disinterested view of world events; we are satisfied to see our young people get their intellectual nourishment almost exclusively from American comics and magazines, American TV programs and movies from Hollywood. 

We have not been discriminating at all in our choice of intellectual fare. Consequently, we have not learned to be original.

The Myth of Identity of Interests.

In the field of foreign relations, we have always proceeded on the assumption that America's interests are automatically ours and vice-versa. we have followed her foreign policy closely and sometimes we have even outdone her.

In Asia, our stock is low because we are regarded by our neighbors as America's obedient satellite. 

We are thus viewed with suspicion by fellow Asians. In international conferences, we have always identified with the American position. We have not recognized the communist countries not because we have studied this question ourselves and decided it would be bad for us but because, we believed that by recognition we would be hurting America's cause, even if America itself has diplomatic, economic and cultural relations with most of them.

Thus we find our diplomatic maneuverability severely limited. We can not trade with these countries, while many of the developing nations of Asia and Africa have found it profitable to do so.

Ever since the restoration of our independence, we have ignored the existence of the Soviet union. The policy of non-recognition has grown out of a suspicion of communist intentions, out of a desire to please America and not out of any serious analysis of the objective situation. 

Hence, we have failed to develop our own experts on Soviet Union. We have refused to seriously consider the position of the Soviet union in world events, even after her amazing accomplishments in the realm of science and space.

From the inception of our independent life, Liberal and Nacionalista administrations have been guided by the myth of identity of interests into actions and policies that later proved detrimental to our country. 

We have subordinated even domestic policy to the demands of foreign policy based on this myth that our interests are identical to those of the United States. But a cardinal principle of independent existence is that the foreign policy of a state should merely be a reflection of its domestic policy. 

Domestic policy is paramount and foreign policy is subordinate, or ought to be, to that policy. domestic policy is based on our own needs and aspirations, not the needs, let alone aspirations, of our allies. Foreign policy must hence be a distinctly Filipino response to the world as we see it and not as others with their own biases and interests see it. 

Because it is only under an atmosphere of reduced tensions that we can carry on the building of our nation, the national interest would seem to require a foreign policy based on peaceful coexistence with all nations. But our foreign policy has in fact been just a bit more warlike than that as witness the proposal to send combat engineers to Vietnam.

The Myth of American Benevolence

This is the myth of special relations. For so many years we have been acting as if we were special favorites of America. we feel especially privileged because we have "special relations" with America and America has a special place for us in her heart. Yet, this is not so; I even wonder if it has been so. let us remind ourselves of the bitter start of the American intrusion into our shores. 

Even then of course, words of great emotional appeal were used to disguise the truth. America had a "manifest destiny" to "civilize" us and teach us the ways of freedom and democracy. Later developments suggest that this was not so, that America had ambitions to, in Asia, still has them, and that the Philippines was conquered by her to serve her own interests, certainly not those of our country. 

Similarly, America's attitude towards Philippine independence followed the dictates of her own self-interest. her recognition of our independence became possible only as a result of the confluence of forces in America and these included the dairy industries, the sugar interests, American labor, etc., which wanted to deprive us of our preferred position in the American market because we were competing with their own interests. 

 Self-interest beyond everything also dictated American withdrawal from the Philippines during the last war. The so-called "special relations" were weighted in her favor. When she returned after the war and gave us back the independence we had won from Spain and which she took from us by force and guile, what did "special relations" mean for us? parity? Laurel-Langley [agreement], and bases agreement imposing extraterritorial rights for her.

Parity was imposed in exchange for war damage payments. Free trade was moreover guaranteed for a definite period. What did those signify? The perpetuation of our colonial-type economy and the stifling relations with America are being invoked to give Americans more rights than Filipinos themselves in the case of retail trade nationalizations and to demand the continuation of rights acquired under parity after 1974. 

Under parity, we have alienated huge tracts of our national patrimony to American corporations. Under parity, we have imported billions of pesos worth of duty-free American goods and exported to the united States less than a third in value of our export commodities. the influx of American goods prevented industrialization

Professor George Taylor has observed: " it has to be admitted that the U.S. set up for its citizens monopolistic advantages. Through the American Chamber of Commerce and through the American Embassy, the Americans can bring pressure to bear on a weak government and in some instances, this pressure may well make it more difficult for that government to carry out its own reform."

The Myth of Foreign Investments

I hold no brief against foreign investments as long as those investments are reasonably controlled and made to serve our national interests. No Filipino who genuinely loves his country can be for foreign investments that would ultimately hand over the control of our economic life to foreigners. Loans are therefore to be preferred to direct investments for in the former case we remain in control of our resources and there is less danger of foreign influence on our policies. 

We should be on guard against a policy on foreign investments that has no well-defined safeguards. the urgent nee for vigilance in this respect becomes obvious when we observe what has been happening here. foreign investors have entered fields that can be run and in many cases have already been pioneered by Filipinos. 

There have been far too many cases of foreigners with superior resources edging out Filipinos who have long been in business. On the other hand, many foreign investors have merely set up industries that process already finished goods in order to circumvent our tariff laws. Some unwholesome results are:an excessive production of consumption goods, gasoline companies thriving happily in a country that has not utilized our pharmacological preparations because they prefer to import their own preparations into the country. 

More often than not, too, our banks provide these foreign investors with the capital they need. And then the latter remit their profits without limit thus drawing out of the country the fruit of resources and human energies that could otherwise be utilized for further development and investment. 

Thus the president of a huge American farm implement manufacturing company (USI) has actually boasted that "for every dollar that we have sent out of the United States for any purpose in the past five years we have brought back $4.67." 

The Institute of Economic Studies and Social Action of the Araneta University has made a check of the financial statement of the local subsidiary of this firm and discovered that insofar at least as its Philippine subsidiary is concerned the boast was no idle one but a simple statement of fact. the domestic subsidiary was moreover a heavy borrower from the local banking system besides being a heavy remitter of earnings.

This is by no means an isolated case. The Araneta University study on the borrowing and remittances of aliens and foreign companies reveals that at almost every phase and level of the economy, from petroleum to advertising, foreign business is behaving more or less in the same manner as the company I have cited as an example. 

This means that in effect we are not importing capital through these so-called foreign investments but actually exporting it for the profits derived from our own resources are remitted abroad by our own banks

According to former NEC Chairman Henares, $19,000,000 came in as foreign investments and over $200,000,000 were remitted as profit. he has further revealed that excluding Chinese investments, foreign investments constituted only 2% of total investments and yet these 2% were able to remit millions of dollars, an ironic case of the poor subsidizing the rich. 

Yet the loss of dollars, the siphoning out of our resources is only one part of the harm our foreign investments policy does to our people. just as pernicious is the fact that by opening credit facilities to foreigners we have starved our own businesses of capital which alone can give them a fighting chance to survive competition from the giant companies of America. 

According to the Araneta Institute of Economic Studies, P1.3 billions in credit were made available to aliens in 1964. How many Filipino businesses could have been established or expanded if this tremendous sum had not gone to alien borrowers! 

Moreover, with this capital in Filipino hands, there would not be any problem later on of foreign remittances. Instead, profits would be reinvested or at least spent right here resulting in continued economic benefit for the Filipino people.

Because we appear and are so eager for foreign investments, strategic industries in the filed of communications, chemicals, rubber and petroleum have fallen into the hands of foreign companies. What would happen to us if these companies were to refuse to cooperate with us during periods of emergency? 

Would the United States for example allow a foreign to monopolize her communications facilities such as the telephone? Never, but the Philippines does and justifies the action on the plea that we must not scare away foreign capital.

When the term foreign investment is brought up, the public envision an avalanche of dollars which will transform this country into a paradise on earth. For this, they may seem willing to revise our laws, compromise our independence, barter our national dignity. But if foreign companies only take advantage of our credit facilities, borrow capital from Filipino banks whose funds are composed of the savings of Filipinos and then remit their profits, thus siphoning out our wealth, have we really gained much?

 If these savings can be harnessed instead, if we could get foreign loans without strings, and at low interests as India has from Russia, if we were at the same time willing to make some sacrifice by reducing the consumption of imported goods, we could attain significant economic progress. This will hardly happen, however, as long as we cling to the myth of untold benefits from foreign investments. 

As long as our leaders continue to believe that we can not progress without foreign investments, we shall always be subject to the heavy imposition of foreign investors, we shall never put up adequate safeguards for Filipino businessmen and ultimately for our people. 

In the fight for economic freedom, the Filipino entrepreneur has begun to make his voice heard. Many entrepreneurs have come to realize that their own economic status is tied up with the demands of progressive groups from freedom form foreign economic dictation and control. 

As a class, they must realize that they have a choice to make --either to adapt themselves to the demands of foreign interests and thus be regarded by the people as accomplices in their exploitation, or to resist the easy way and insist on remaining their own masters. If we have chosen the capitalist way of development, then let it be Filipino capitalism. 

But our entrepreneurs must also realize the masses can no longer tolerate further exploitation. They must therefore see their development in the light of a new approach where all sectors under joint leadership attain an economy of abundance without the present mal-distribution of goods which has resulted in poverty for the many.

If our entrepreneurs are really sincere in their nationalistic aspirations, then they should act an example of austerity. Our middle class professionals and intellectuals should do likewise and help to do away with present consumption habits which have been causing tremendous drainage of our foreign reserves. 

The people can not for long continue to suffer poverty and hunger. A time will come when they will move to help themselves and unless the entrepreneurs and the intellectuals are with them they may succumb to the leadership of other forces.

The Myth of Free Enterprise

The road to progress cannot be clear unless we shed another myth that dominates the thinking of our planners; that economic growth automatically means development and that development inevitably results in "democratizing" wealth through its equitable distribution. Surely each administration can show facts and figures attesting to the growth of the national product. 

But growth does not mean development. Nor does it mean that the poor will get a fuller meal or better homes or more adequate clothing or greater opportunity for education. When we talk of growth we should also talk of equitable distribution of the wealth of the land so that those who have been living for centuries under conditions of poverty will get their just rewards, so that those who work the land will not forever suffer from rural penury.

Tied up with the myth is the belief that democracy is synonymous with free enterprise. Complete free enterprise is not good for developing countries. Government in these countries have to have some say in directing the development of their economies.; otherwise domestic businesses could not compete in equal terms with foreign giants. 

Government direction for nationalistic purposes does not diminish our democracy for after all an essential goal of democracy is freedom from want.

Thus we can not simply proceed with industrialization without revising our agricultural structure. Our entrepreneurs must realize that nationalism is not only for the benefit of a few Filipinos. 

Nationalism does not merely mean more profits for the few. Independence under democracy must have a meaning for all sectors of the population, not just one. 

To the masses it should mean higher standard of living, to the laborers, an assurance of employment at reasonable wages, to professionals, the attainment of proficiency in their respective lines of endeavor, to artists and intellectuals, the realization of creative talents. 

Once freed of the myths that imprison our minds, we shall clearly see that it involves challenging many concepts and ideas, institutions and people and all the beneficiaries of the status quo.

The Tasks Ahead

But we must also bear in mind that this struggle is intimately tied up with the question of civil liberties. We can keep up the effort only while we have these liberties and there will surely be attempts to suppress this weapon of the people on the part of those who stand to lose privileged positions. 

Even now, our demands against unequal treatment of employees in foreign firms, our demonstrations against abuses in the bases and our military participation in the war in Vietnam have been labeled as red. There is not a nationalistic movement here that has not received its share of witch-hunting diatribes

The danger is that if these attempts to regain full independence are equated with communism and branded as subversive, the right of protest and dissent essential to this movement may be imperiled or curtailed.

Nationalism at this stage of our history,
because of the myths I have alluded to, is essentially a movement of protest. there is in effect a wave of protest now seeping the world, a protest against inequality, a protest of the desperate poor against the deeply entrenched rich nations of the world.

We belong to this movement because whether we like it or not, we are poor, we are a developing nation. It must seem strange therefore to the rest of the world why in this legitimate cry for international social justice, we have not only joined our voice but far too often than not seem to speak out for the status quo, for the rich nations

Sooner or later, however, we shall have to confront this contradiction, have to come to a confrontation even with the United States in some area of our national life because the United States is now very much present in most phases of our life. 

We shall question the privileges she enjoys but which adversely affect our economy. We may and shall support her in all endeavors where there is mutuality of advantage, but in dealing with her we shall constantly bear in mind our own welfare.

Towards other countries who aspire like us for an independent existence, we must show sympathy and understanding, even should they follow forms of government different from our own. Not all countries can have the same government as ours. people are different. Their methods of governing themselves will inevitably be differ. 

In any case it is of the essence of democracy that there be diversity. it is also of essence of democracy that we tolerate ideas and practices even though they may not be the same as ours. each people has its own needs and idiosyncrasies. They can not be expected to be or act in every aspect like ourselves. There are many political philosophies and systems. 

As true democrats we must respect them. we may try to challenge the practical validity of these systems by example, but never by force of arms. Co-existence -this is the international reflection of democracy. We must not think that a people have adopted other means to achieve progress, they are not free. 

Freedom is a many-faceted goal and every nation works towards it in its own way. Even the United States is still in the process of attaining greater freedom by solving her civil rights problem --the protection of her minorities. But in the developing nations, the first concern of people is livelihood and food.

The substance of democracy in these nations right now is economic freedom., freedom from want. The other freedoms will follow therefrom. We are enjoying civil liberties because of a tradition which America helped to establish but we are still a long way from attaining freedom from want. Other nations are attacking the problem the other way around. And I am sure that the "democratizing" forces can work more easily after they have won their economic freedom.

Our task then today is to escape the captivity in which we have imprisoned ourselves. The weight of centuries of colonialism has made us lethargic. Let us therefore re-examine our position. let us think for ourselves. We are not only building a nation; we are also reconstructing a people who for a long time have lived in a kind of fool's paradise. 

Let us confront real problems, not what are presented to us as problems. Let us solve them as we see fit for ourselves and not as others want us to solve them according to their own pattern of thought. Let us discard the old myths and attune ourselves to reality.

This is the essence of independence. This is the substance of democracy. The magnitude of the task before us may stagger the imagination of my own generation. But it should be a challenge to you. 

Young people do not by nature cling to the past; they embrace the future. They can see further, they can work harder, they should achieve more. Do not be old before your time, dare to blaze new paths and take your countrymen with you to those heights of freedom and independence which our generation dreamt of but failed to reach.

Source: Extracted from the book "HISTORY OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE"
- Teodoro A. Agoncillo & Oscar A. Alfonso, Malaya Books (revised edition, 1967)

"No people can be both ignorant and free." - Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

“The true Filipino is a decolonized Filipino.” – Prof. Renato Constantino (1919-1999)

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Anonymous said...

This was 1965. Fast forward to 2008. Are you saying this is what the country still lives by with?

What's your point? How relevant are these excerpts in today's global economy?


Bert M. Drona said...


I do not know your age, but obviously you are not aware that globalization has been integrated into our homeland decades before the term became hip.

Globalization is a euphemism for absolute free trade; and our homeland has been subjected to free trade (with America) ever since it became America's colony.

The globalization you witness now has spread to many countries via the WTO rules because of America's economic and cultural dominance, this latter through its most powerful media and thus influence.
I have posted several articles on the WTO and its adverse effects on our homeland since 1995, when Pres. Ramos signed on it.

We are what and where we are because of what were practically imposed on our homeland, with the cooperation of our past and present rulers.

Each of our succeeding national governments has followed the same rules of the game, i.e. thinking that following or copying America will be good (since they were good for the latter) and thus with ever-worsening effects to the native majority.

If you live and work here in the States, make time to study and deeply think about then and the present American economic and cultural landscape, you'll realize that globalization for middle class America has not worked well; that the so-called American Dream has become quite unattainable to many; that it has become more a country of shopping malls; and waiters and waitresses; and the manufacturing industries that made the country wealthy and majority middle class have disappeared together with the jobs -to Mexico (NAFTA), then to SE Asia and now mostly to China.

The future generations of Americans will be in misery vis-avis standards of living of their grandparents and parents.

Anybody who took Economics 101 know that without manufacturing a country can not be not be wealthy or maintain wealth. And without nationalistic thinking or decisionmaking, and working towards national unity and national progress; the majority of the citizenry will not progress.

What's my point? If you have time to visit my blog, you'll see my objectives at the very top of the blogsite -- on why I still post or raise issues that are "history."

And unfortunately, we do not even try to study, learn and understand our economic, social and political histories and so our native people in the homeland are perennially and in ever-worsening deep shit.

- Bert

Anonymous said...

I am 55 years old and have lived here in the US close to 35 years practically having visited RP twice.

First, Ramos is a crook. The Philippines what and where it is because of who is and has been running the country the past few decades. So I assume this is USA's fault,too.

My father-in-law retired from J&J in the Phillipines as a senior regional director after 25 years. his take: Union leaders killed alot of operating businesses both local and foreign and forcing them either to close shop or move their manufacturing to neighboring Asian countries.

A lose-lose situation. No companies, no jobs. bad economy.
In a few years, I will retire comfortably. a home that's almost fully paid, kids going to college, two Mercedes, vacations twice a year, healthy and most of all, time to enjoy all my toils, thanks to USA.

Filipinos are one the most hardworking people in the world. It's a shame their government
is almost impotent in improving their lives. They deserve better. Globalization or not.
but do keep spreading the good word. This is just my own perspective.

Bert M. Drona said...


Pretty close I have lived and worked in the USA for 30 years.

Sadly, all our so-called leaders (I prefer calling them rulers) have led our country and people to perdition. All of our presidents would not have become one without the blessing of America. Even the late Pres. Diosdado Macapagal publicly admitted to it. Note that all past and present Philippine President come to America withoin a few weeks after winning and read what they recite and promise to the America Congress.

I am not surprised. Anyone who worked for an American company will tell you the same story. That is why, American companies immediately backed the Marcos dictatorship and praised its imposition of Martial Law, destroying the characteristics of democracy: killing dissent and dissenters, removing the right to strike, etc. as they have been happening since the Marcos Dictatorship, through the presidencies of Cory Aquino, Ramos, Estrada and now Arroyo (under Arroyo, so far over 800 labor/peasant leaders and activists have been confirmed assassinated and cases unresolved). Business flourish under sociopolitical stability but at what cost to the ordinary citizens?

Of course, American and/or foreign companies can always move out and seek the cheapest and most pro-business climate they can find: so they went to Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia all under military dictatorships and these countries economically progressed. But the important thing we seem to forget or ignore is that though a dictatorship, each of them were nationalistic! The military rulers were overall FOR their own homelands and gradually - however slowly- realize to let democracy grow into reality as expressed through dissent, strikes, etc.

Which was not the case with Marcos, which was a dictatorship for his own selfish ends. He was backed by the US because he professed anti-communism; the magic word that guarantees/earns unquestioning American support (as an American president said: "he may be a SOB, but at least he is our SOB.")

Agree. Filipinos who work hard and smart will attain the American Dream, its high standard of living. Not only obtaining material success but attaining the so-called higher human needs, i.e. personal and intellectual growth, etc. We are still fortunate to have the education and thus ability to work on these "normal" societal goals; but in the last 30 years so much has worsened even here.

But Filipinos, now 92 million or so, can not all be here. I write for those "left behind;" for them to understand the roots of their impoverishment and to realize that without knowledge and understanding, they will only and endlessly grapple in the dark, led by unFilipino/traitorous rulers, of existing under false and destructive assumptions. Sure they deserve better as any human being deserves decent livelihood and existence. And globalization will not and has not worked as promised.

I do not seek agreement nor disagreement, like you I just call it as I see it. And I write mainly for those left behind, not those among us who are abroad or at home who are materially successful and supposedly "blessed," and do not truly care --as a former boss and still in the Philippines wrote about most Filipinos who emigrated to the USA; he suggested that I blog-- since back home they do not have much documented information; as I did not have when I was there. My blogging is one small way towards that end.

Thank you for the feedback.