Digging up on old issues of Gimbao (newsletter publication of the defunct DEMS or Development Education Media Services Inc.) I came upon this article by Davao scholar and historian Macario D. Tiu, written 19 years ago. The essay entitled “Culture of Defeat”. strikes me as still throbbing with bloody reality and still very relevant to the present-day crisis in Philippine society. And so I decided to have it reprinted in full here –
Culture of Defeat
We rose in revolt, big and small, 200 times under 300 years of Spanish rule, and each time we were defeated. Only the Dagohoy Revolt of Bohol may be considered successful, although ultimately it would also collapse. In the 1896 Revolution, we were supposed to win against the Spaniards, but the Americans came and imposed their own rule. We fought them and they defeated us. The Japanese also came, we fought them, and they defeated us. It was the Americans who liberated us. (sic) And finally we would win our independence out of the kindness of the Americans.
Some say this historical experience has made us revolutionaries as a people, but I say that this has nurtured in us a culture of defeat. We have never won as a people. Except probably for the Moros who have never surrendered their national and cultural identities, most Filipino are afflicted with defeatism and this is expressed in having low self-esteem, with most of us preferring to be Americans or British or even Japanese. In our dealings with foreigners, we tend to go overboard in obsequiousness, especially if they’re white.
We sometimes excuse this behavior as being polite to visitors, but in truth, we don’t consider them visitors, but superiors.
And our government officials, and embassy personnel behave in the same; manner. Being the elite in our society, they are haughty among fellow Filipinos, but they’re grovelling creatures before foreigners. When the US Bases issue was being debated, they painted the worst scenarios if these were pulled out. They were afraid of going it alone. Well, nationalist senators kicked them out, and we have not collapsed. [highlights provided]
Afflicted with defeatism and servility, our embassy in Singapore, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) , the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and other government agencies would not lift their dainty fingers to save Flor Contemplacion, the housemaid who was hanged by the Singaporean government on March 17, 1995. Why the bother for the sake of a housemaid? So many of them have been tortured, raped and killed anyway.
This servility exhibited by our leaders in government is the major reason why we’ve become the punching bag of the world. Our consul is kicked by immigration officials in Saudi Arabia, we don’t raise a howl. Filipinos worshipping in church are rounded up in Malaysia, we keep quiet. When the US Bases were here we were mistaken for pigs and shot. Not a squeak from government. This is the culture of defeat at work.
It is not only Filipino housemaids and construction workers that are despised. Don’t they have signs in Hong Kong that say “Filipinos Not Allowed”? Philippine passport holders, whether proletariat, middle class or elite, are looked down upon aboard, because our government is utterly helpless; it is only good in suppressing internal dissent and oppressing its own people. [highlights provided]
True, for as long as we’re poor and continue to export slave labor, we open ourselves to abuse, but poorer nationals than us have had better treatment abroad because their government will howl and kick up a storm if their citizens are mistreated. Not the Philippines. Not this nation with a tradition of defeat and a leadership that has mastered the art of servility. [highlights provided]
When will the government really fight for its citizens, and not just respond belatedly because of the people’s overwhelming expression of outrage and protest? When will government realize that when we fight tit for tat, we are not being impolite but asserting our dignity? When will it break the culture of defeat?
Ultimately, the only way to stop exporting slave labor is for the Philippines to become an industrialized country, so that it will export finished products instead of DHs, laborers, TNTs, and Japayukis? Our government leaders and local elite must realize that as a nation we are despised abroad and that includes them, no matter how arrogant and rich they are here. Every time a DH is maltreated, the country, as a whole, is maltreated. They must therefore work to dismantle feudal structures that enslave our peasants and block our industrialization. Only as a prosperous industrialized nation can we all become; proud of being Filipinos.
. . .
Postscript: The concentrated expression of what Dr. Tiu calls the “art of servility” is what we witness in President Noynoy’s “naked puppetry “ to US Imperialism. The EDCA is his worst nauseous act of canine devotion to the American imperialists. (davaotoday.com)