Tuesday, October 20, 2015

THE MISSION OF FILIPINO NATIONALISM (transcribed from THE RECTO READER, ed. by late nationalist Prof. Renato Constantino)

"This, his message, valid as it was in his lifetime, is even more timely now. For there are still those among us, devoid of sufficient faith in our potentialities, who would in their attitude and thinking, in effect reject the gospel of national dignity, national pride, and the national responsibility of self-reliance. The words of Claro M. Recto may, it is fervently hoped, occasion a change of mind and of heart." - Justice Jesus G. Barrera (1896- 1988)

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


UPDATE 12/04/2020: 

1. Edited to improve readability.

2. The essay is quite dated but retains great relevance then and now as the condiitons for the native majority in our birth country/homeland have not fundamentally improved. Instead, they have retrogressed with each new administration or regime.


Hi All,

There are many fellow native Filipinos who claim or say that our nationalism is dead. It is not. However and admittedly, with the new clothing of the old imperialism via globalization/WTO (with its foreign and aggressive dominance in our cultural, economic, and political affairs) the struggle to keep nationalism in our consciousness is made so much more difficult, tempting us to give up and be completely defeatist/passive.

But let us keep in mind, without native, Filipino nationalism the future of our grandchildren and subsequent generations shall be more of the same, on the road to perpetual perdition. 

For those of us in the present, we are to blame for doing nothing, as we prefer to go on with our merry ways with our typical native Filipino value/attitude/behavior, i.e. "As long as our family and friends are OK, to hell with the rest of native society."  

Let us be different and realize, to join, fight, and work in whichever way we can and willingly, for social justice, the "common good."

- Bert


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The Mission of Nationalism - A Historical Review, THE RECTO READER (1965),
- Selected and Edited by Prof. Renato Constantino (continued as Part 1B of 6)

....the mission of Filipino nationalism is not yet fulfilled. Its achievements in the past has been great and famous. It raised the First Republic as a fortress of equality and liberty among the Filipinos and defended it against two world empires. It kept alive the flame of our love of freedom when the revolution was finally hunted down by a superior foe, and the weak in spirit, disheartened by an overwhelming military defeat, could see no other future than permanent submission to the conqueror.

Filipino nationalism surged back irresistibly in the Nacionalista Party and held aloft the true hope of the people during the long decades of political tutelage under the United States. Never abandoning the ideal of independence and faith in its dynamism and ultimate reality, Filipino nationalism established the autonomous Commonwealth as the laboratory of that independence.

And when the clash of empires swept over our islands, it was Filipino nationalism that, determined to save the Filipino race from certain extermination and refusing to sacrifice its supreme interest in a bloody and meaningless oblation to an absent sovereign that could not for the moment render protection, raised the Second Republic as a shield for the people from a tyrannical and insane oppressor.

History vindicated that wise and prudent policy when our people survived the holocaust to grasp at last the triumph of Filipino nationalism in the Third Republic. Surely Filipino nationalism had a right to expect that such gigantic and glorious achievements had won for its authority, prestige, and devotion without question, and so it had with the masses of the Filipino people who still repose in it their unyielding faith.

Filipino nationalism is the very essence of our Republic; it is what makes us a nation; it is the innermost driving force of our people. Yet it is strange indeed for us to hear, in the very morning of our independent existence, the voices of some of our countrymen, decrying in borrowed accents and servile flattery, the very nationalism that has made us what we are. The great and noble achievements of our nationalism are depreciated; its very desirability is questioned. It is mocked as impractical; it is disparaged as an actual danger to the prosperity of the Republic. (26)

The Task of Nationalism In Rizal's Time And Today

...it is axiomatic that, for a colonial master to subjugate a people successfully and bend them to his purposes, he has but to make them forget their past and infuse in them the thought that they were nothing before he became their master and that everything they came to be thereafter they owed to him. To make subject peoples lose their national identity and hence their national pride and dignity and their consciousness of a greater destiny has been, throughout the centuries, the technique and strategy of colonialism.

It was the great task of the nationalists of Rizal's time to resist this assault. They were fully aware that people without a sense of racial identity was not a nation. For them, the preservation of racial identity was a patriotic duty dictated by necessity, a matter of national survival; because they knew no nationalistic progress was possible unless they were cut off from their colonial mooring. Today we are faced with the same problem and we must approach it in the same manner that Rizal and his contemporary nationalists did.

We must relive our historic past, not precisely the remote era of our Malayan ancestors, but its revolutionary period with its fervent, unrequited propaganda and its glorious climax on the battlefield. We must be steeped in the ideas and events of those times because they were the ones that inspired and galvanized an entire race to seek and find deliverance from their foreign bondage.

The task of the nationalists today, is in a way, to complete what our nationalist forefathers had set before our people and nation. By a strange fatality, the movement which our nationalists started and which culminated in the revolution led by Bonifacio and Aguinaldo was interrupted by the arrival of new colonialist forces. The old Western imperialism appeared in a new garb of benevolence and helpfulness, with revised and "enlightened" methods of approach, but with the same underlying motivation. The only difference was that the first master did not take as much as the second. Ruthless in his ways, the first trampled upon all freedoms; the second sought our economic enslavement through subtle, legal, and constitutional processes. (27)

The present task of Filipino nationalism is perhaps the hardest of all because it is the least spectacular, the least dramatic, the most open to misinterpretation and prejudice. It is to give this Republican an honest and efficient government, a government that will make our independence a real blessing to the people and thus enjoys their trust and support. It is a task that requires patience, quiet determination, the silent sacrifices of peace, rather than the swift and glorious effort of the battlefield. It will require the serene deliberation, the delicate discretion of statesmanship to promote our prosperity without sacrificing our independence, to assure our security without sacrificing our sovereignty.

But I am sincerely convinced that Filipino nationalism is better equipped to cope with the urgent need than a corrupt and bankrupt administration whose only foreign policy is either that of a snob or that of the beggar and the flatterer......nationalism is still the strongest and deepest force that unites the Filipinos....No foreigner or foreign government needs fear or distrust that nationalism, for it, is not directed against him. Throughout our history, it has fought only tyrants, traitors, and fools, and only they need to flee. But it is a force futile to ignore and fatal to resist.(28)

The Anti-Nationalist Campaign

Today the nationalist struggle is far from won. There are elements in both parties that seek to perpetuate colonial rule. Alien economic interests are trying hard to oppose and sabotage the movement. Some enemies of nationalism are fighting it frontally. Others masquerading as nationalists are boring from within, acting as fronts for powerful foreign interests, or seeking to emasculate its meaning by trying to limit its operation to our cultural life alone so that the nation's economic exploitation by aliens may continue undisturbed behind a pleasant facade of cultural nationalism.

But these anti-nationalists must realize that their hours are numbered, that everywhere there are unmistakable signs that the people are experiencing a reawakening of the nationalist faith which animated and gave meaning and substance to the lives of their forefathers, growing awareness and understanding of the vital importance of reshaping our policies with a view of freeing them from alien control, so that, after our economy shall have passed into Filipino hands, this and future generations may at long last come into full fruition of their priceless heritage. (29)

I cannot emphasize too strongly my firm belief and conviction that only an administration which shall have nationalism as the unifying factor and basis of its social, political, and economic policies can solve the grave, manifold problems which afflict our country today. (30)

The Evils of Lack of Nationalism

Lack of nationalism is behind the half-hearted attempts at industrialization because colonial minds do not dare take a step which would undermine the favored positions of foreign interests. Lack of nationalism is behind our continued reliance on a disadvantageous raw material export economy because colonial minds believe only by dovetailing our economy with that of the United States can we survive as a nation.

Finally, the lack of nationalism is behind the weak, docile, and unassertive policies of our government which has resulted in a high degree of foreign control over our economic life, because colonial minds instinctively underestimate native wit, ingenuity, and skill, while self-respect and self-reliance are strange concepts to them.

Since our lack of nationalism has prevented us from using our resources in the most effective way and primarily for our own benefit, we are today a poor nation beset by problems of unemployment, low per capita income, and underproduction. (31)

The Meaning of Independence

In our historical archives, there is no declaration of independence except that of Kawit. But that independence was buried in half a century of foreign domination. When we regained our independence in July 1946, we did not make a declaration for the purpose; we were satisfied with a Proclamation issued by the American President, and it was the American concept, not ours, of Philippine Independence that was placed in the document: a grant, not an assertion of rights.

We became officially independent in the community of nations, but are we truly independent, for instance, in the realm of foreign relations, national defense, finance, and economics? Shall we blame on others for our own shortcomings and complacency?

But we must not despair. A true national awakening shall doubtless come. The ranks of nationalists can not but increase; the collective conscience continues to grow; the day of realization nears because the moving finger continues to write  And someday this nation will realize and will shape in deeds.

Mabini's puissant and uncompromising exhortation which that immortal architect of the First Philippine republic made just before the turn of the century: "Strive for the independence of thy country because thou alone hast real interest in its greatness and exaltation, since its independence means thy own freedom, its greatness thy own perfection, its exaltation thy own glory and immortality. (32)

The first thing we have learned is that political independence is not the end, but only the beginning, and, in another sense, not an end in itself but only the means to an end. Independence, by itself, does not guarantee, and it has not assured, our political rights and individual liberties. Domestic tyrants can take the place of foreign masters. Nor does independence by itself guarantee economic security and social justice.

In comparison with the era of full American sovereignty, we pay now higher taxes for less efficient public services by a wasteful administration; we run our government on a continuous deficit, instead of wholesome supervision; our finances are shaky; our social problem, and its concomitants of peace and order, a thousand-fold more acute, to such an extent that the armed force of the Republic is totally engaged in police work, capturing one Huk commander today and killing half a dozen rank and file tomorrow, at the cost of millions of pesos for every high-sounding "operation," while leaving external perils and threats of aggression to the care of powerful protectors.

There was always superficial logic on the side of those who wondered why we wanted independence than when, under the shield of American institutions, we already enjoyed the substance of freedom and its richest material rewards. "Are we any more secure now in the enjoyment of our constitutional rights?" Perhaps less. By executive fiat, the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus have been indefinitely deleted from the Constitution for one-half of the nation, on the flimsiest of excuses.

Are we any freer in electing our rulers? Surely less, by the standards of the 1947 and 1949 elections. Are we any surer that today and tomorrow our people will have enough to eat? Perhaps not. The cost of prime necessities has become prohibitive and minimum wages can not keep pace with rising prices. Unemployment is more severe than in any period of our history, even though this administration does not seem aware of it.

Shall we then say that independence has been a disappointment; that our foreign policy is a declaration that we can not think for ourselves, and have lost our freedom of decision; that our economic policy is a confession that we can not pay our own way; and that our domestic policy is proof we can not rule ourselves and are ready to surrender our rights to the first bully who can intimidate us with big words, theatrical gestures, and a sonorous voice of command? Can it be said that we are now afraid of, or indifferent to, the independence we sought for so long?

There may be Filipinos who think so, but I am not one of them. For all the tragic mistakes and misadventures...I have kept my faith in the vitality of our nation and the necessity of our independence, with a firm determination to help make it a reality, and I am confident that most Filipinos share that faith and high resolve. There are those of us who expected too much from independence, and there are those who expect too little from our own people. I can not find it in my heart to blame the first.

Among the naive and the ignorant, the ideal of national independence became commingled with dreams of an earthly paradise, in which the Filipinos would live in freedom from fear and want. This is a delusion, but one that was nurtured by the simple faith of the common people who found nothing else worthy of belief and loyalty, and one that sustained the humble fighters on many a battlefield for freedom. Time can dispel it. Time will make it realize if it has not yet made us realize, that independence is not a guarantee of freedom and a life of abundance but only an opportunity to achieve and preserve them through our own efforts and owing little to the magnanimity or sufferance of friends or masters.

Freedom can be guaranteed only by ourselves, by our own vigilance, determination, wisdom, courage, and readiness to make sacrifices. A foreign master may be the kindest, richest, and most enlightened that can be imagined, but he is still a master and by that very token endowed with the power to take away or withhold at pleasure whatever benefits he has conferred or may confer on his subjects. That is the ultimate justification of independence, and also its greatest challenge.

If our political rights are curtailed, it is because we allow it. If our economic position is insecure, it is because we have lacked the wit and the will to make it secure. If our social problem is unresolved, it is our own fault. If we have no peace and order, we have no one to blame but ourselves. These national evils are, therefore, the reason to become disappointed, not with independence, but with our own behavior.

On the other hand, they are no cause for giving up our hopes. It is far worse to expect too little from our own people than for them to have expected too much from independence. The latter is only a sin of presumption, born of excessive confidence. The first is the greater and more terrible sin of despair, born of uncontrollable fear and total loss of faith. (33)

Only when we rise from the knees we have bent in beggary, and stand beside the other nations of the world, not on crutches but on our own feet, thinking and speaking and acting as free men and as free citizens of a true Republic, in name and in fact, with undivided loyalties to our own sovereign nation and people, and under a legitimate regime dispensing justice and promoting the general welfare, then and only then can we rightly claim to have achieved and deserved our independence, and have cause to celebrate in a national celebration of the glorious resurrection of our freedom after the long and mournful season of betrayal, passion, and crucifixion. (34)

Nationalism and Culture

Perhaps because of our seven hundred years of servitude, the traits that will take us time to outgrow is colonial-mindedness, and an indiscriminate imitativeness of whatever we see in our former masters. We took after the Spaniards in many of their predilections, often to excess --witness Dona Victorina de Espanada in Rizal's NOLI - and we behave in the same fashion under American influence. This undiscerning imitativeness is especially notorious in our youths, notably in what they acquire from American movies. You can hardly take ten steps in any of our streets without running into a swaggering, brown would-be James Dean.

And if you come across any number of our female teenagers, it is certain 90 percent of them are crazy over Elvis Presley. We are disturbed and embarrassed when we are charged with being pro-Western, particularly in our manners and habits that are patently American or European. But we also are disturbed and humiliated if criticized for apparently returning blindly to, and reviving, our faded oriental traditions as rooted in our ancient past; in our embarrassment, we seem to be the first to laugh at ourselves.

We apologize for our western customs because we know we are orientals. But we are ashamed also of what characterizes us as orientals, fearing that such traits are old-fashioned and backward. I feel that we should not pretend to be occidentals when everybody knows we are orientals. On the other hand, it is a shame to regard older and more backward eastern ways as genuinely Filipino, because no matter how much we love our own we can not go back to the year 1300. (35)

The education of our people for more than half a century has been based on alien standards with complete disregard for our idiosyncrasies and indigenous habits. Cultural channels have been crowded with American bestsellers, American movies, American music, and American comics. The simple fact that fourteen years after our independence, English is still our medium of instruction and our national language has still to struggle to keep its humble place in our educational system, is the best evidence that our minds are yet those of bondsmen. (36)

The indiscriminate assimilation of the grossest aspects of a foreign culture; the aimless Americanization of our ways, our customs and attitudes; the disregard, bordering on contempt, for all things native; all these attest to the near fulfillment of Rizal's melancholy forebodings and premonitions. "Their spirit was broken and they submitted," said Rizal of the Filipinos under Spain. I may paraphrase this sentence in the light of current events: "their understanding was clouded and they acquiesced."(37) Because of our neglect and perhaps our disregard of Rizal's teachings, it seems that we are wittingly offering ourselves to total foreign domination.

Already we are allowing our minds, our beliefs, and our economic life to be enslaved; we have even allowed our tongue to be enslaved. Because of this tendency of ours, the distinguishing traits of our race will gradually disappear, as will the native customs bequeathed to us by our ancestors, and the natural resources that Divine Providence destined for the enjoyment of our race.

Was not one of Rizal's most valuable admonitions that we should not behave as if we were strangers in our own land? If we analyze our present situation, we shall find it the very opposite of what the hero had advised! We are indeed strangers in our own country --in our appearance, our customs, our economic life, and our language-- even many of our shortcomings appear to have been imported...It is well that we follow the march of progress and civilization. We can imitate and adopt the laudable usages and customs of other peoples; ....but we can do all that without having to surrender what is peculiarly our own. We should cherish, bless, safeguard, and develop all that is our own.

Let us comport ourselves like true Filipinos like Rizal wanted us to be, and take pride in it, just as Rizal did while traveling and residing in foreign countries. When all of us shall have become true Filipinos by following the example and teachings that are Rizal's precious legacy to our people...only then shall we be redeemed from this situation in which we seem to be strangers in our own country. Let us strive to put our country in its proper place because of the security and dignity of a state rest on the security and dignity of its citizens. (38)

Our Duty as Patriotic Citizens

Our patriotic duty as citizens of this republic is clear and inescapable. Politically, we must reassert our national rights, drawing inspiration from the nationalist spirit that animated our heroes of 1896. Economically, we must unshackle ourselves from the chains of a colonial economic system which can bring us nothing but poverty and economic stagnation. For both tasks, we need only the capacity to make a thorough reappraisal of the economic realities of the nation, the courage to implement decisively the resulting program of action, and a dogged determination to reach our chosen goal, no matter what the cost. I have always had faith in our people.

A race that can boast of the intelligence of a Rizal and a Mabini, the courage of a Bonifacio, the abnegation of a Marcelo H. del Pilar, and the devotion and spirit of sacrifice so magnificently displayed by the whole nation in its three epic struggles for freedom and independence, is a race that can, with the right leadership, perform such feats of nation-building as will command the respect and admiration of the whole world. (39)

I trust that a generation from now, the Filipino people may stand with legitimate pride before the world and before history as a paragon of democracies; and that it may be said of us that, in adversity, we were united and undismayed; in prosperity, magnanimous and prudent; against dictators, whether fascistic, or communistic, or just opportunistic, relentless and uncompromising; against demagogues, aloof and contemptuous; in fulfillment of our duties, earnest, and self-exacting; in the love of country, pledged with "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor," and practicing a firm but restrained nationalism illumined by the thought that this world is one world and we are one with humankind. (40)

Recto's Faith in the Filipino Nationalists

I shall conclude by firmly asserting that, as in the days of Rizal, Del Pilar, Bonifacio, Aguinaldo, and Mabini, and as it shall be in the future, this inspiring and heroic movement for complete independence and sovereignty and for national dignity and honor must be credited to the Filipino nationalists, whoever they are, wherever they are, and whatever their beliefs and ideologies on other matters may be.
These men --the Filipino nationalists--shall remain steadfast in their nationalism, the firm rock on which our heroes and martyrs establish this new nation, and it is my fervent prayer and my unshakable faith that the forces of imperialism, if I may paraphrase the Scriptures, shall not prevail against it. (41)


26.Speech delivered at the Independence Banquet under the auspices of the Philippine Professionals' club, July 4, 1949.
27.Nationalism and Our Historic Past, February 27, 196028.Speech delivered at the Independence Banquet under the auspices of the Philippine Professionals' club, July 4, 1949.
29.Our Political parties before the Bar of History, April 17, 1960
30.Short-sighted Economic Goals, September 3, 1957
32.Economic Nationalism, March 28, 1957.
33.The Challenge of Independence, July 3, 1952.
34.Our Lingering Colonial Complex, June 24, 1951
35.Sovereignty and nationalism, November 6, 1955.
36.Nationalism and our Historic Past, February 27, 1960.
38.A True Filipino is A Rizalist, August 30, 1959.
39.Nationalism and Industrialization, July 30, 1957.
40.The Challenge of Independence, July 3, 1952.
41.They Shall Not Prevail, April 29, 1959.


"For a people to be without history, or to be ignorant of its history, is as for a man to be without memory - condemned forever to make the same discoveries that have been made in the past, invent the same techniques, wrestle with the same problems, commit the same errors; and condemned, too, to forfeit the rich pleasures of recollection. Indeed, just as it is difficult to imagine history without civilization, so it is difficult to imagine civilization without history." - American historian Henry Steele Commager (1965)

"I believe that if we had and would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar soaked fingers out of the business of these [Third World] nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own... And if unfortunately, their revolution must be of the violent type because the "haves" refuse to share with the "have-nots" by any peaceful method, at least what they get will be their own, and not the American style, which they don't want and above all don't want to cram down their throats by Americans."- General David Sharp, former US Marine Commandant,1966

“Nations, whose NATIONALISM is destroyed, are subject to ruin.”

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

"Those who profess to favor freedom
and yet deprecate agitation
are men who want crops without
plowing up the ground;
they want rain without thunder and
They want the ocean without the
awful roar of its waters.
This struggle may be a moral one
or it may be a physical one
or it may be both moral and physical
but it must be a struggle.
Power concedes nothing without a
It never did, and never will." – Frederick Douglass, American Abolitionist, Lecturer, Author and Slave, 1817-1895

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