Semantics of Colonization and Revolution

Not since Bonifacio has an anak pawis inspired thousands of common folk to pledge their heart, mind, and life to break the chains of enslavement. More than a hundred years after José Rizal composed the kundiman (native love song) that begins with “Tunay ngang umid yaring dila at puso” (The tongue and heart indeed convey nothing), the common folk are still mute, inarticulate and filled with a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

Instead of valor and patriotism, there exists among them a kind of “slave psychosis,” made more tragic because the oppressor is no longer a foreign colonizer but the slaves turned master. The enemy is from within, not easily recognized because they are cleverly disguised.

The next attempt to organize the common folk was among the landless tenants in the central plains of Luzon. One of the active organizers was Luis Taruc, rightly or wrongly charged as a communist, then the worst accusation that can be made against anyone. Thus it happened that when the Americans were caught totally unprepared for the Japanese invasion, Taruc’s people had the only organized groups that can be used to fight the new invaders. They came to be known as the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (People’s Army Against the Japanese) that was shortened to “Hukbalahap” and then simply to “Huk.” Instead of getting recognition for their war efforts in the United States Armed Forces Far East (USAFFE), the Huks became the new enemy—hunted as communists who threaten the established government and democracy. Ramon Magsaysay, the Philippine President described as the “man of the masses,” came up with not-so-brilliant idea of solving the “Huk problem” by wholesale transport of the Huks to Mindanao.

Ironically, the Huks were deported to Mindanao in much the same way that Rizal was deported to Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte. As later events proved, Mindanao as “the land of opportunity” became one of the major causes of bitter enmity between the Muslims and the Christian migrants that would erupt into the Muslim secessionist movements.

From a people’s organization, the Hukbalahap movement gave rise to a political party that came to be known as the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP). One of their members was Jose Maria Sison who headed its youth arm. Sison was eventually booted out of the PKP because he had been “listening to other voices” other than that of Lenin, and he founded his own party that he called Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) inspired by Maoism. Its military arm was the New People’s Army (NPA).

One can very well ask, “What’s in a name?” Sure, a rose by any other name is just as sweet to quote from William Shakespeare. But that is not so in the Philippines. The connotations of “filibustero“ (filibuster), “Huk” and “NPA” made these words more dreadful than what they actually signify. Although “plebian” is somewhat appropriate for Andres Bonifacio, classifying him as “low-middle class” has sinister implications. That is tantamount to saying that the common folk or the masses are incapable of organizing themselves and initiating collective action that could topple a government. Shall the ordinary Filipino be deprived of a hero that came from among their ranks? Who then shall be their voice? (Surely not the “hotdogs”!)

The ilustrado class has been replaced by the Philippine “intelligentsia.” The latter refer to men of letters and those who have gone to the university to get that priceless diploma so they can attach alphabet soup letters after their names. However, they hardly speak for the common folk, not until they can think, speak and write in their national language – the only way they can truly understand the heart and spirit of Juan and Juana de la Cruz.

There is another type of “hotdog,” those who live in the United States of America – the land of the free and the home of the brave – where they can be Filipino-Americans or Fil-Ams who have the option of holding dual citizenship. Frankly, I cannot understand how one can pledge allegiance to two flags, unless in their minds the Philippines is really but an unacknowledged function of the USA.

Andres Bonifacio never took the title “general”; nor did anybody use it in referring to him, even if it was Bonifacio who took charge of deploying his forces, apportioning the scant resources and planning everything from the political to the military and down to the personal needs of families of members of the Katipunan. Bonifacio was called the “Supremo” (supreme head) but that was obviously to distinguish him from the many presidents of the Katipunan councils. It should be remembered that the Katipunan grew too slowly in numbers while they used the three-member cell in recruitment and membership. When they shifted to “councils,” the Katipunan increased its membership.

It is said that Rizal was the first to call himself “Filipino,” one evidence presented being one of his letters to Ferdinand Blumentritt where he wrote that there were many of them in Europe but they just call themselves “Filipinos.” In the memoir of a high-ranking Katipunero, Rizal requested the officer certifying his identity on the morning of the execution that his designation as “Chinese mestizo” be crossed out and changed to “Indio”. That was certainly not a denial of his Chinese ancestry but a clear statement that he was born Indio and will die as one.

In contrast to Rizal and Bonifacio, the two most heroic sons of the Philippines, Emilio Aguinaldo used the title “generalissimo” almost immediately after he was proclaimed President of the Republic. We shall not argue here whether Aguinaldo was president of the Republic of Imus or of the entire Philippines. But before the Tejeros convention that elected him president, Aguinaldo held the rank of captain. It was with an almost indecent haste that Aguinaldo used the title “President and Generalissimo” of the republic. Obviously titles and ranks were as oxygen to certain Filipinos then as they are now.

The saying “let sleeping dogs lie” means that one should not dig up old and ugly issues. To let sleeping “hotdogs” lie, however, could be interpreted in two ways. It could be taken as in the preceding sentence, or it could be interpreted as letting the “hotdogs” continue the lies that they have been feeding the common folk.

However one chooses to understand the statement, one has first to decide on his or her identity: timagua or “hotdog”? Only when a person has decided on his or her identity, who and what he or she is, can one begin to think independently. To quote from Rizal’s essay in “To the Young Women of Malolos,” one has to learn how to use his or her own torch.(

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