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A Condensed Version of Renato Constantino’s Works on Nationalism Essay

NATIONALISM has been a word every citizen had heard not only once but a lot of times especially for a History student like me but this time no longer fulfilling a requirement for an undergraduate degree but to a more prolific one the GRADUATE SCHOOL. Still the definition of Nationalism had not changed over the course of time, it is still equated with the word PATRIOTISM or love for one’s country. The challenge to write a paper on one of the pioneers of PHILIPPINE NATIONALISM has been a herculean task for the reason that the late RENATO CONSTANTINO’s theories is not an easy one to write. He had been a nationalist in heart and spirit.

As one of my literature professors used to say, “YOU CAN CAPTURE THE HEART OF A PERSON BY SWEET WORDS UTTERED BUT NOT IN SPIRIT COZ THAT IS A SEPARATE REALM THAT ONLY YOU, YOURSELF CAN SEE”; with that only RENATO CONSTANTINO can see the spirit apart from feeling it too. For this paper, I will be delving on THREE works of RENATO CONSTANTINO all compiled into one condensed pamphlet entitled “DISSENT AND COUNTERCONSCIOUSNESS”. I will be faced with the task of analyzing the said compilation, giving insights and overviews and the much-awaited conclusion. As a former subversive, I was dogmatized with Karl Marx, Mao Tse Tung and Renato Constantino not because the latter was a leftist like me but more of a nationalist in the truest sense of the word. To understand him and his works, it would be a fair deal to know something about this man.

WHO IS RENATO CONSTANTINO?

He was born on March 10, 1919. He was the eldest among the three children of Atty. Amador Constantino and Francisca Reyes. While in his pre-adolescent years, he had a grand time listening to the stories of his maternal grandmother about the abuses made by the Spanish friars. In one way or another, he had developed an early consciousness of the plight of his fellowmen. All throughout his school years, he was a product of public schools; Arellano High School and University of the Philippines.

He was the youngest editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian (the school organ of UP). He was also a star debater and after providing a critical approach to Manuel Luis Quezon’s speech, Constantino became a fan of the great man, Quezon. He joined the Filipino troops in Bataan during the Japanese regime and luckily was not captured since he went into hiding in Bulacan.

He was a professor in Far Eastern University (FEU), Adamson University, Arellano University, University of the Philippines both in Manila and Diliman. He was also a lecturer here and abroad since it has something to do with being an executive secretary to the Philippine Mission to United Nations from 1946 to 1949. He became an official journalist from 1945 to 1998 on Evening Herald, Balita, Manila Bulletin, Manila Chronicle, Daily Globe and Malaya among others. He was also a well-known historian and writer. He was married to Letizia Roxas since 1946. They have two children; Renato Jr. and Karina who is married to the political commentator Randy David.

He died on September 15, 1999. Renato Constantino’s life had been a sheltered one but his father, a lawyer had taught him about independence. He did not shield Renato from the true realities of life, the existence of oppression and exploitation. At a young age, he had the consciousness of being a nationalist, of someone who wants to uplift the sufferings of his fellowmen. Through his columns at several newspapers, his lectures, his teachings and his works he had reached his goal and that is awakening the Filipinos and I am not afraid to admit I was and still is one of his disciples.

THE BOOK DISSENT AND COUNTER-CONSCIOUSNESS

This book is a compilation of 3 pamphlets of Renato Constantino namely: Origin of the Myth, Veneration without Understanding and A Leadership for Filipinos. It would not be a fair deal if I go straight to the overview of this book without tackling some of the pamphlets related to this book such as Nationalism and Liberation, Synthetic Culture and Development and Identity and Consciousness. Nationalism as defined by Wikipedia “as a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms” and in Renato Constantino’s eyes nationalism has been described as an end-result of a distorted history of colonization. In his pamphlet, Nationalism and Liberation. He traced the history of colonization in the Philippines. From the time that the two superpowers of the Old World; Spain and Portugal had spent money for sponsoring expeditions to the discovery of the Philippines by Ferdinand Magellan to the propagation of Christianity to the natives as a tool of imperialism.

Constantino had been trying to awaken the consciousness of each one of us to what had been the truth all along. A distorted one as he aptly described it. The Spanish colonizers had not only captured our hearts but also our spirits, they imbibed changes mostly negative values which are still inherent up to today’s generation. We have been brain-washed with their ideas and philosophies which in one way or another had created diversity among the Filipino people.

In this line, Constantino had compared us with other Southeast asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia to name a few; the former had not experienced colonial rule but the latter had been a different case since it was under colonial rule from the British to the French yet Indonesia had opted to be independent amidst its diversity. It had adopted political and economic independence through the consciousness among its people starting with one language which is Bahasa Indonesia. Thailand on the other hand been a monarchial rule, blood and class count but still the people tried to gain independence and the class struggle had been one big problem to be solved but at present Thailand managed to be ousted from the list of THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES.

Through History, Constantino wants us, the Filipino people to learn the lessons from the past and that we can never be always dependent on a foreign colony to survive. We have to struggle to be free from oppression and exploitation of foreign powers. He wants us to go back to the grassroots; to be self-reliant in our ways. Economic independence is the goal here and the key is not to depend on Transnational Corporations(TNCs). The government should create programs which would benefit more the Filipino people than the aliens. We have to turn this country from an import-oriented to an export-oriented one. For now, we can see it is still a far-fetched dream but who knows from the lessons learned from History the consciousness of being NEW FILIPINOS will take place from now on.

Regarding the pamphlet “Synthetic Culture and Development”. Renato Constantino had explored the ills of neocolonialism. No society can exist without a culture. As Amilcar Cabral quoted “Culture is the dynamic synthesis.at the level of individual or community consciousness, of the material and spiritual historical reality of a society or a human group with the relations existing between man and nature as well as among men and among social classes and sectors”

But the culture prevailing in our society had been described by Constantino as synthetic which as defined means fake or artificial. The one put to blame here is the MASS MEDIA since it is the main root of COMMUNICATION. Communication means to convey a message and we cannot deny the fact that Media has been a powerful tool in opening the doors of communication among the people. From the information known and unknown to people, we are on guard day by day with the changes. The power of Neocolonialism plays a vital role in our having a synthetic culture. We have been influenced by the foreign power, the United States most particularly. From our love and addiction to imported items, seeking employment and climbing the corporate ladder owned by the Transnational Corporations (TNCs), being an immigrant in the land referred as the “LAND OF MILK AND HONEY”.

We have this western consciousness in each one of us and according to Constantino, if this would be the case where is the Filipino consciousness? Filipino identity? With this fact, as we analyze deeper, the Filipino people are strong propagators of colonial mentality, that we should speak,train,dress, feel like Westerners. In his pamphlet “THE WESTERNIZING FACTORS IN THE PHILIPPINES”, we are demoted to what he termed as PETTY BOURGEOISFICATION which means we are merely shopkeepers,salesmen, professionals,government employees etc. in other words just mass products of a society. That being the CEOs and presidents will only be far-fetched dreams. Our identity has been tied or binded with Western influence and that the latter had used MEDIA to achieve that goal. An example would be we know more about Tom Cruise than Nora Aunor.

We opted to patronize foreign movies than local ones. As shallow as these examples, it still signifies one thing, we are more identified, familiar and attached with western influences than our own. And that is what Constantino had been describing and detailing on the synthetic culture. He wants a People-Culture than a Synthetic one and this can be achieved through: (a) formulation and development of comprehensive national communication policies which should evolve from broad consultations with all sectors concerned (b) removal of obstacles and restrictions which derive from the concentration of media ownership, public or private from commercial influence on press and broadcasting (c) effective legal measures to limit the process of concentration and monopolization (d) strengthening cultural identity and creativity through the establishment of national cultural policies such as going back to the grassroots culture (e) development of essential elements of communication (f) access to technical information and advanced communications technology and (g) democratizing media management. Lastly, the pamphlet “Identity and Consciousness”, Renato Constantino had explored the “whys” there is an absence of consciousness among the Filipino people. He had traced the real truth to two factors namely Elitism and Ignorance.

LITISM

Tracing back to our History lessons there had been the issue of class, of a separation of people in terms of wealth and power. From the pre-colonial times, the barangay form of government had been ruled by the datu and there had been a disparity between the datu and the alipin saguigilid. Then when the Spaniards came, they used the Filipino elite to exploit the resources. They had encouraged the elite to go abroad to study with the likes of Jose Rizal and Marcelo del Pilar among others to form a movement because up front they want to be free from the Spanish rule but still adamant to use revolutionary means to end the struggle. Under the American Regime, the elite this time under Aguinaldo, Quezon until Jose P. Laurel, they have been educated abroad but still imbibed with western consciousness. Under the neocolonial rule, it is still the same ball game, our leaders have been educated and trained abroad but still the identity remains the same, western development had been more attractive and where do we contribute this mistake? This painful result?

To us, the Filipino people. We have not learned anything from History. Until now, we are still ignorant . We are still unidentified and not conscious of being Filipinos. It is like going to school without an Identification card (ID) we are still nameless. The western influence had built us to be this way and they are succeeding, until now we are still under their rule-of-thumb even if we don’t have their military bases here in our territory, still we are clearly more identified with them than by being a Filipino. Constantino had been clear on this topic.

Unless the consciousness develops , identity will follow. But it is an illusion until now because we can see for ourselves that we need the United States to keep our economy going, that we are still dreaming of becoming the 57th state of United States. It had been an inherent dream that we will be spending in US dollars and not in pesos, that we don’t have to go to the US Embassy to get our visas and that the imported goods will be sold at more affordable prices.

Unless there will be an economic revolution which could start from going back to the grassroots, and that we will realize that our country is an agricultural one more than an industrial zone. Until the time that we will have the consciousness that we are Filipinos with less dependency on Western influences. That will be the only time that our identity as Filipinos will be established. That will also be the time that the spirit of Filipino nationalism has been embraced by each and everyone of us. Now in correlation with the book DISSENT AND COUNTER-CONSCIOUSNESS, as I have mentioned earlier it is a compilation of three pamphlets so it would be best to discuss the pamphlets first before citing an overview of the whole book.

1) ORIGIN OF THE MYTH

Here Constantino tried to discuss about the myth regarding United States’ relationship with the Philippines. As we try to recall history, we have learned that United States at first has no interest in the Philippines but when it started to crave for a niche in the “SUPERPOWER” realm, it had realized that colonizing Philippines is not a bad idea but more of a sign that US was ready to be a first class conqueror thus buying us from the Spanish rulers via Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Hongkong, twas the mock battle took place. We were not aware of the fact that US has come not only to conquer but to stay, it was only later after the Hares-Hawes Cutting Law took place during the Commonwealth period that we had this instant realization that United States was a mother colony and we are under their beck and call.

It was not the fault of Manuel Quezon’s ignorance that pushed him to sign the Tydings-McDuffie law since one of the premises there was to grant self-government after ten years. Adding to the fact, that there was the outbreak of Second World War, and that Philippines was in the dumps economically speaking. US was there to lend a hand through foreign aid. The government had not been fully aware of the motives of the US government because of the value instilled by Spaniards within us, the proverbial utang-na-loob. We were now having that idea that we owe them. That is where the myth came in; according to Constantino, that reality cannot be separated from fantasy and that United States had been our knight in shining armor. So a special bond or relationship had been formed.

The only opposing side at that time was the HUKBALAHAP movement headed by the late Luis Taruc and the US government had been wise enough to make Ramon Magsaysay,a pure American boy and the CIA to penetrate and control the HUKS. Every law and treaty from the Tydings-McDuffie law up to the Bell Trade Act shows the control of the US over the Philippines for two purposes as cited by Constantino; he referred to it as the twin premises of the myth: a) that there was no substantial resistance to American rule and b) that the Filipinos were then incapable of self-government. There was resistance and the Filipinos were capable of self- government as proven by the barangay system during pre-colonial times. But US has a different plan for Philippines and it has to be overall control which they did with all the treaties and the presence of the military bases and even the “utang-na-loob” inherent in us by making Jose Rizal the national hero, the foreign aid through IMF(International Monetary Fund) and WB(World Bank), making us a member-country of GATT(General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and UN(United Nations) among others so that we will embark on an open economy adopting Adam Smith’s Free Enterprise but in the end if we look at everything in hindsight, it was more to US’ benefit than the Filipinos.

The United States was intelligent enough to take advantage of our weakness and that is after three hundred thirty three years of Spanish colonialism, we were dying to be independent and it was also our Achilles’ heel to speak of since US was aware of this fact, therefore it had sent the best men like Dewey, Merritt, Taft among others to lead the Philippines towards that “independence” mediocrity. With the help of the Americanistas like Aguinaldo, Arellano, Quezon, Laurel even up to the present Noynoy Aquino. We can say that US is here to stay and I should not wonder if after the term of Noynoy Aquino there will be plan to make Philippines the 57th state of the United States of America. It will not be a big surprise for all of us since as I have mentioned earlier, we are more attracted to Uncle Sam than Juan dela Cruz.

In the end of this pamphlet Constantino tried to discuss the press censorship during McKinley’s administration where the BILL OF RIGHTS under the 1935 Constitution was not honored particularly freedom of press and expression. The US had been wise enough to impose a civilian rule rather than military rule. It was too late for the Philippine government to realize that we were under a military government than a civilian one when most of the troops sent in Vietnam were mostly Filipinos and that we did not have that inkling to wage war against Vietnam since it was US’ advocacy to indulge in wars to achieve more power and to have that steady place in the superpower realm.

When there was the killing of Filipino troops in Vietnam, United States was aware that it will create a chaos within the Philippine government so the latter, wise as he is had groomed a young senator named Ferdinand Marcos to run for presidency in 1965 and eventually won the hearts of the Filipinos as first because of his advocacy for the poor. As they say, in history, it was too late to realize that Marcos was not out to rule fairly but to destroy the preservation of nationalism which was slowly growing in others since here and then he was a boytoy of the US government.

B.) VENERATION WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING

In this pamphlet, Constantino discussed about Jose Rizal as an American sponsored hero and the tracing back of Rizal’s role in the history of the Philippines. Rizal was an illustrado, he was not from an impoverished family so he had the opportunity to study and trained in different schools abroad. He was a genius, a jack of all trades. He was a learned man. For many, he was the way out for independence from Spanish rule. In the long run, the realization dawned that he was an egocentric and narcisstic person who did not give a damn about his fellowmen. He created the Propaganda Movement and La Liga Filipina not because he wanted to end the Spanish colonizers through writing and other peaceful means (what we can termed now as ceasefire). He abhorred revolutionary means because deep inside that learned man lies a COWARD.

In my undergraduate studies about Rizal, I was given the chance to dissect and analyze Rizal’s letters to Ferdinand Blumentritt all in its original versions preserved by the National Historical Institute. There was one letter that cited Rizal’s real reason why he did not go with the plan of Andres Bonifacio’s revolution. He belittled the latter for not having the literacy and leadership which Rizal had been known to possess. He was a hundred percent sure that the revolution will fail not only because of lack of ammunitions and men but more of a poor leadership displayed by an ‘IGNORANT AND ILLITERATE FARMER”.

The response of Blumentritt was different and unexpected which made Rizal furious because Blumentritt cited situations wherein a successful revolution headed by an ignorant and illiterate person had succeeded and and example was the French Revolution. Blumentritt was objective enough to write to Rizal that maybe the latter has this impression on Bonifacio because Rizal was a coward and he simply can’t carry a gun and kill.

It was this reason that Rizal stopped communicating with Blumentritt, because deep inside he knows he should be the one to plan and carry out the revolution and not someone ignorant and illiterate like Bonifacio. In one way or another, we knew that the Cry of Balintawak failed but it instilled something in us; an iota of nationalism and pride that we want to be free from the Spanish rule, that the urge of independence is slowly burning in our hearts. That is what Constantino referred here as “HEROISM” not because you died for the love of your country but moreof placing a “CONSCIOUSNESS THAT WE ARE MEANT TO BE FREE. Sad to say, it was not a continuous process since there was not a brave man like Bonifacio again in the present times no matter how ignorant and illiterate as he is to stand up for our independence, for our freedom. Until now we are still a neocolony of United States and nothing changes even if we are entering 2012.

C) LEADERSHIP FOR FILIPINOS

In this pamphlet, Constantino was brave enough to depict the true leader for the Filipinos. It is a radical writing of the inner mind of Constantino as he tried to look for that leader as he had described: “ someone who is an entertainer, popular, intelligent, sublime and confident in its people”. He had an admiration for Andres Bonifacio because of his will to let Philippines gain independence even if he was an ignorant and illiterate farmer. So with Claro M. Recto who happens to be a populist by heart. It was just the wrong turn of events which did not give any merit or recognition to a great statesman like Recto since the latter was not a member of the elite party of Americanistas. “Recto is not a good speaker, no. He will arouse no mob. But heaven help the one whose pretensions he chooses to demolish.

His sentences march like ordered battalions against the inmost citadel of the man’s arguments, and reduce them to rubble; meanwhile his reservations stand like armed sentries against the most silent approach and every attempt at encirclement by the adversary. The reduction to absurdity of Nacionalista senator Zulueta’s conception of sound foreign policy was a shattering experience, the skill that goes into the cutting of a diamond went into the work of demolition. There was no slip of the hand, no flaw in the tool. All was delicately, perfectly done… Recto cannot defend the indefensible, but what can be defended, he will see to it that it will not be taken.”

This was quoted by Teodoro Locsin and Recto remained to be an inspiration to nationalists like Renato Constantino, Lorenzo Tanada, Jovito Salonga among others.

Recto was able to help in the molding of the consciousness of some Filipinos but he was not given the chance to mold the majority and it was brought by his defeat in the presidential race where Sergio Osmena won who happened to be a true Americanista. Still his subversiveness, patriotism, nationalistic spirit lives on and I admire the person for his being sublime. He was a learned man like Rizal but he never was a coward. The need to be free and independent from foreign colonizers had been a dream of his. It was just a pity he was not given the chance to make it a reality. As Constantino described a leader in the end page of this pamphlet. He cited “A people cannot be great by the posturing of a leader nor by his well-rehearsed speeches but by their own efforts.

They can be great not by becoming worthy of foreign investments but by purposeful work . They can be great not by relying on outside aid as the decisive factor of development, but by sacrifice ,by struggling and gaining confidence in themselves”. He further added that a “true leader is not afraid to struggle if it would be for the common good”. I for one agreed to that, we can still export OFWs for economic reasons but with the country they are in, not for a single time will they forget that they are FILIPINOS in both mind and heart.

After discussing the three pamphlets included in the book DISSENT AND COUNTER-CONSCIOUSNESS, I have the room now to tackle the book and gave an overview about it. DISSENT in layman’s term means to go against. You display an antagonistic attitude if it is not what you believe in or must believe in. Subversion had been a taboo word ever since Man had this dream to be FREE. This word always coincide with terrorism, ambushes, rallies, salvages among others, purely negative in every sense of the word.

As Constantino expresses in this book, “Man in living in a material world and principle is a far thought”. In reality that has been happening, Filipinos are becoming more contented with material needs; anything that money can buy even paying the court, bribing the government agencies so as not to be penalized. With that hunger for material things, the accountability of government agencies go far beyond the principle. Graft and Corruption had been a contagious disease, a new virus with no antidote. Man are slowly becoming wanton and unprincipled because of the yen for material things. It is a sad thing that because of this fact Man has been turning into a commodity. Someone with a price tagged on and maybe if an auction comes along he will be sold to the highest bidder. If we look at the situation nowadays, we are being sold to the highest bidder and that is the United States. It does not only control us in economic and political aspects but in all aspects as well even spiritual.

We have been in their shell of SUPERPOWER REALM for so long and now we are finding it hard to disintegrate or detach ourselves from them. We are now set up as a commodity in a free enterprise economy. Our wits and intelligence were in their benefit because we are working for them. The government whom we trust the most turns out the opposite, the one who betrayed us. Even before as a colony and now as a neocolony, nothing had changed we are still under them. The American will had become the Filipino will. We don’t have that identity that we are Filipinos. Our consciousness as a Filipino is at the bottom.

We desparately need the Americans to survive and that is one malady that is incurable at this point. But Constantino is not giving up. Counter-Consciousness is his answer. It will not be an easy task that is the reason why he used History to trace the root of the problems, to unveil the consciousness of the Filipino people, to dissipate the discontentment of being without an identity. With History, we turn back the time, we learned from the past and most of all it will pave the way on what we should do with our future. It will not be an easy task but it can be a reality if there will be a leader ready to sacrifice himself for not being a commodity being sold to the highest bidder but that he will be of service to the common good.

Where is that leader? He is just there patiently biding for his time and I know deep inside that we can never be the 57th state of the United States because even the latter has not been that complacent in its niche in the superpower realm. It is now in the midst of economic recession and political upheaval. Am I right in saying that “what comes around goes around?”

The answer is YES, it is time for the United States to grant us that independence we have been craving for so long. We deserved to be free and that is our main goal, our direction. We may be working for them, we may be buying imported goods from them, we may be having our money converted into dollars but nothing changes they are all material things that can diminish a day, a week, a year from now but nothing will change the fact that I AM A FILIPINO AND I AM PROUD TO BE A FILIPINO.

With my short stay at the mountains of Bataan during my college days. I know I am a subversive and I am proud to be one. I no longer hide the fact that I was a leftist during my college days and even at present I am in a capitalist society nothing will alter the fact that my consciousness has been in my heart that I am for equality and justice.

Taking up LAW had not been an easy decision because it negates everything I learned in being a subversive but I am not giving up because the LAW will not remain blindfolded forever, eventually it will shred that cloth and will take justice as its fate and I will just be waiting at a corner biding for that time to come.

CONCLUSION:

This paper had occupied a special place in my heart since I do not deny the fact that Constantino had been an icon to reckon with. He has been my inspiration in my career path, most of all I learned to be proud of my being subversive as He was. The book with all the several pamphlets attached to it has been Constantino’s way of reaching out the Filipino people that we cannot stay as ignorant as the United States presumes. We are climbing out slowly from the shell that had been an unsafe haven for so long as we try to give ourselves the chance to embark on a new life.

An independent life as everyone’s goal is. A Life that we can utter with pride that we are FILIPINOS. We are slowly achieving this mark, majority are now going back to the grassroots culture. We may still be westernized in material goods but in line of thinking we are becoming conscious that we are Filipinos and that is how it must be.

Eventually everyone will be aware of Juan dela Cruz than Uncle Sam especially that Uncle Sam is crestfallen at this time with all the upheavals he is now facing I will not be surprised that his all knowing smile will turn into a nasty grin. For my fellow Filipinos, we will stand with pride that we can now identify ourselves as Filipinos and no longer Filipinos with US as our neocolonizer but Filipinos for Philippines alone. Time will also come that the realization of being a subversive is not a ruthless act neither a negative trait but a breathe of fresh air to bring about a CHANGE. MABUHAY ANG MGA FILIPINO…


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