Historical accounts narrate a proclamation of an independent Philippine Islands by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo on June 12, 1898, at Kawit, Cavite, shortly after the American naval force of Admiral Dewey reportedly "defeated" the Spanish Armada in the Battle of Manila Bay. Neither the United States nor Spain recognized Aguinaldo’s autocracy. Instead, the U.S. paid for the Philippines from Spain in the 1898 Treaty of Paris that concluded the Spanish-American War.
Apolinario Mabini (remembered in Guam) found it offensive that the declaration actually put the archipelago under the sovereign care of the United States, rectifying it in the Malolos Convention. While at it, Aguinaldo’s dictatorship was replaced by democratic republicanism.
It was 48 years after, on July 4, 1946, when the archipelago was reeling from the devastation of Imperial Japan’s WWII occupation, that the United States found it less expensive to relinquish the rebuilding the area to native oligarchs.
A glance at the membership of the 1935 Philippine Commonwealth reveals that the majority of the current Philippine Legislature comes from the same families blessed by their American mentors who held their hands after the market crash of ’29.
The long shadow cast by the Clark Air Force and Subic Naval bases before Pinatubo covered it with ashes include the Bush’s covert operations in Mindanao to the present swagger of Leon Panetta showing hawkish talons in his sunset years, Hillary adding pounds spouting belligerent State Department lines, and President Noynoy’s acquiescence to oil interests in South China Sea.
This is not written in anger-we trained Peace Corps volunteers in Manila in the '80s, was a faithful cleric to the Midwest’s United Methodist Church for 40 years, and a beltway Mr. Mom to a USAID program officer for a decade)-but in lucid light that Philippine sovereignty, similar to post-colonial nations, remains a definition of the colonial period, and in Pea Eye’s case, Uncle Sam’s flirt with the theology/ideology of Manifest Destiny.
The oligarchic management of Philippine economy guided by landowning extended families who control 60 percent of the real estate sent 10 percent of the nation’s population in diaspora around the world, a curse and a blessing to the national identity, or the absence of one, to become a world-wise street-smart Pinoy scattered around the planet.
The historical date of long ago Kawit does not grab our existential attention. It is rather the wonder of the happy-go-lucky celebrative Pinoy/Pinay whose hearty laughter and demure giggle echo in every menial and professional position in the world that catches our fancy. This diaspora and its foreign remittances have since been acknowledged as the sole force that keeps the homeland economy afloat.
Some Pinoys prominently run the affairs of many Pacific Islands, not excluding those in the Marianas. At one time, the population of Nauru was divided between the Pinoy office functionaries and manual laborers, and the Cantonese traders who kept the remaining rotund and laid back Nauruans (kin having migrated to places like Brisbane and Honolulu) happily revving up their huge Japan imported motorcycles. Cognizant of this, Tonga found it convenient to limit Pinoys in Nuku’alofa to only six families at any given time!
Its quadricolor red, white, gold and blue hoisted in Kawit long time ago this calendar day made June 12 Flag Day awhile. Whether in fact the Filipino really claimed his/her independence from any foreign sovereign is highly questionable.
AmCham’s hold on Makati and the bourse, VoA and Roxas Blvd.’s influence on the culture, the patriarchal guardianship of various religious groups whose decision-making loci extends all the way to places like Nashville and Atlanta, Pittsburgh and New York, Kansas and Seattle, points to a heavy reliance on Uncle Sam’s role and dole. But the alien hand’s finger on the cookie jar is not all American.
Culturally, we froze Sino face by insisting that Guo Huang Guo become Cojuangco but the Guomindang schools of the '50s continued to use Hanja, keeping the Chinatown of the mind intact while Binondo serviced many Hispanic vices. In Marcos’ time, it housed the unofficial central bank of the islands.
Malayo flourished in the south but the Sultanate of Sulu ceded sovereignty to its divisive European colonizers. The Bahasa had a short-lived life in the Maphilindo movement of the '50s. Closing my eyes while listening to discourse in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta in the '70/'80s made me realize that I could easily recognize the cognates of Indo-Malay languages and speak them in due time given the chance. Meeting a multi-lingual Filipina nanny in Singapura leaves one in awe and wonder.
Bombay bazaars have long been mainstays on Rizal St. Japan’s ¥en funded the national highway from Aparri to Zamboanga. Korean electronics and appliances with their Protestant pastors sustain Koreatowns in Davao and Cebu. China’s bid to transmit telecommunication wavelengths was aborted after it was revealed that Malacañang received a cut.
So what of the Pinoy and its soul? As is customary in Philippine story-telling, abangan ang susunod na kabanata [Watch out for the next episode]!