Editorial & Opinion

A Portrait of the Filipino as a hero: In search of himself

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I am haunted by one of my late father, Maximo V. Soliven’s beautifully written column about Philippine Independence entitled: A Portrait of the Filipino as a hero: In search of himself.



This column was written a decade ago on June 12, 1990. I had always kept it, waiting for a perfect day to share it with you. As we read this piece, his words thru his mighty pen will echo in our hearts bringing back nostalgia as he inspires us to continue to dream and hope for a better tomorrow.


As we celebrate the week of Philippine Independence, it is good to recall and remember the heroes who brought this country to victory, so that our new leaders can master such spirit and bring us to a better place in time.


He wrote: “There is something about June 12th, that neglected day, which brings out the cynic in the Filipino. It is regarded as the moment for dreary speeches reaffirming the same old platitudes. Independence, we tend to scoff. What independence? We have not freed ourselves of colonial mentality – we haven’t even freed ourselves of our faults.


On the other hand, there is something glorious and nostalgic about the word, ‘Katipunan.’ It recalls our finest, and most frustrating hour – in which men banded together to seek a liberty they did not fully understand (except that they had been deprived of it for centuries), armed with little else but a bond of brotherhood, steel of heart, a forest of ‘bolos’ – those sharp long knives from the field and bamboo spears.


There is a place in San Juan boldly called ‘Pinaglabanan’ (“The Place Where They Fought”) which commemorates, as too often in our history, a valiant defeat instead of a victory. Andres Bonifacio’s ‘Katipuneros’ attempted to seize a Spanish government armory and ammunitions depot there, but having no riffles, they were repulsed with heavy casualties. It is typical of the Filipino greatness of soul in those heady and perilous days that he raged against fate. It is the measure of our diminished state that today, we rage only against bureaucracy.


Just as Rizal was thrown into Fort Santiago to await his first sentence of ‘deportation’ on the night of July 7, 1892, a handful of plotters met in the home of Deodato Arellano (a brother-in-law of Marcelo H. Del Pilar) to establish a secret society (that replaced Rizal’s La Liga Filipina) dubbed the ‘Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Highest and Most Respectable Society of the Sons of the People). The founding fathers were Andres Bonifacio, Arellano himself, Valentin Diaz, Teodoro Plata, Ladislao Diwa, Jose Dizon and a number of others.


The aim of the organization was to mobilize others through a cautious method unknown as the ‘triangle’ until each district would have a branch. It is instructive that the old ‘Katipunan’ stressed not just the martial arts, including fencing and the use of explosives, but the teaching of ‘democratic’ morality, good manners, hygiene, religious tolerance (a backlash against the ‘Catolico serado’ fanaticism of the hated friar overlords). The ‘Katipunan’ abhorred the weakness of character and obscurantism that the Spanish friars had inflicted on the Filipino people. Alas, the proud name of ‘Katipunan’ has deteriorated, while the weakness of character has been commemorated. Not to mention that stupid dictum that ‘democracy’ is demonstrated by vulgarity and bad manners, lack of respect for others (and respect only for one’s selfish, “self”).


In any event fired by the ‘Katipunan’s noble and uplifting aims, Roman Basa, vice-president of its Supreme Council secretly printed and circulated a leaflet, entitled ‘Kalayaan’ (Freedom) in which he enumerated the rights of man as enshrined in the French Revolution. None of the charter members of the ‘Katipunan’ as the late historian Teodoro Agoncillo love to expound to me, came from the middle or aristocratic class. I used to argue with him that he was wrong. Bonifacio may have been a poorly paid ‘bodegero’ (warehouseman) but he was no illiterate proletarian. His heart was set aflame by reading the European books which spoke glowing of liberty as man’s God-ordained heritage. His job required a rudimentary skill in accounting. He was surely not a ‘laborer’.


By the same token, Arellano, Plata, Diwa, and Diaz were court clerks. Dizon was a small merchant.


True, none of them could be classified as ‘intellectuals’. Perhaps this was why, unlike our ‘filosofos’ who delight in engaging in seamless coffee shop gossip and endless discussion and debate (the current fad is to do it on TV), those ‘Katipuneros’ were doers and not talkers.


On this day, what sort of ‘Katipunan’ does our President envision? A league of talkers – or those who dare and do?”


He further wrote: “Apolinario Mabini, whose memory is maligned by that corny sobriquet, ‘The Sublime Paralytic,’ was certainly not paralyzed by shibboleth, but possessed a bold script capable of soaring far beyond the bonds of his infirmity. In his ‘True Decalogue,’ penned in 1898, Mabini handed down a legacy which we seem to have forgotten. I commend it to us all now in these confused and confusing times:


Thou shalt love thy country after God and thy honor and more than thyself; for she is the only Paradise which God has given thee in life, the patrimony of thy race, the only inheritance of thy ancestors, and the only hope of thy posterity; because of her thou hast life, love and happiness, honor and God… Thou shalt strive for the happiness of thy country before thy own, making of her the kingdom of reason, of justice, and of labor; For if she be happy, thou, together with thy family, shalt likewise be happy.


Somewhere along the line, we lost our way. This day will not be lost if we resolve to retrace our steps and find the true path again…


… What “cause” can we embrace today that can give meaning to our disappointed lives? Until the Filipino’s search is completed, until he finds himself, we will have neither happiness nor rest.”


Our past will always remind us of who we are and who we have become. As my father always quipped, “We were meant for higher things in life. We can do it, if we only relearn to dream, to hope – to dare and to aspire.” (The Philippine Star)

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