Last Sunday, while groups under the banner of the National Democratic Movement were having a picket-rally at Davao City’s Freedom Park, another group was holding its own collective action at another public place in the City. And while the national democrats were lambasting the absurdity of the so-called Philippine-American Friendship, the other group which was led by a certain Ely Pamatong was unabashedly pro-American.
I remember very well an Ely Pamatong who was a student in UP Diliman during the pre-martial law days. One summer day during an election season, he came and joined our mass action at the Fuente Osmena plaza in Cebu City. I was then the chairman of the student-youth activists under the CRY or Consolidation for Reforms for the Youth.
He distributed hundreds of ID Cards for a supposed student-youth organization called BRAIN (Brown Race Association of Independent Nationalists) bearing his name and signature as founder. Upon his insistence we allowed him to speak before the crowd. With an affected booming voice he introduced himself in self-stylishly fashion (to our amused displeasure!): I am Ely Pamatong! I have led forty rallies and demonstrations in my life as a student leader. . .!”
But we soon found his organization had only himself as member! Up until now pseudo-leaders and misleaders among the citizenry are not an exclusive predilection of professional politicians.. They also thrive in campus politics as opportunists and crackpots. We did not wait for him to reveal the obvious. Who provided him with funds for reams of bond papers and printing materials and travel expenses was not a mystery.
Many years later, his advocacy was for the Philippines to become a state of the U.S. Since then he has been a consistent out-and-out American boy (Amboy).
We don’t know if he is in the payroll of the CIA. But he is assuredly hardworking in stoking the pervasive colonial mentality that afflicts the Filipino soul.
But he does not need to sound a single clack of his tongue to do that! The propagation of colonial-mindedness among our people has been the undeclared official cultural policy of the Philippine political leadership ever since the creation of the so-called Filipino nation. In the first place, our country is named after King Felipe of Spain, the number one colonizing power in the old colonial era. And of course the obvious reality of the continuous string of puppetry of Philippine political leaderships to American imperialism is a manifest expression of colonial-mindedness among Filipino politicians.
Just to take a brief moment of reflection on what transpires in the cultural realm of our social reality will reveal the naked fact by which one can forthrightly mistake our country as another state of the U.S.of A. Don’t our intelligentsia—and even our semi-schooled citizenry!— speak the language of the Americans? And oh, they speak in the characteristic nasal twang and lingual affect of the native speakers of the language! Listen to a balikbayanspeak American English and you’ll surely mistake him for a full-bloodied caucasian US national!
People like Pamatong are legions in our society. As I have repeatedly averred more than a few times over, colonial mentality is the number one culprit—the most pernicious trait that has caused the chronic social cancer in Philippine.society.
Not so long ago, in one big gathering of literati and cultural enthusiasts, I asked national artist Bien Lumbera if English is destined to be an eternal reality in our society. “Unfortunately” he said, “it will remain with us for a long time.” I said to myself, “In that case our country is doomed to eternal damnation!”
Why? Because the English language—as the main vehicle of elitism—as the great wall of discrimination—as the effective weapon of deprivation and impoverishment—will benefit only a small fraction of the total population of the Filipino people. A small percentage of educated English-speaking Filipinos will never undertake an agenda that will redound to the extermination of poverty! It will never result in an economic equation that will extend benefits to the great great great majority of uneducated non-English speakers. The non-English speakers will always be disadvantaged in all spheres of social life. Labina na gyud ang mga Lumad ug mga mag-uuma sa kabanikanhan?! [Most especially the indigenous peoples and the peasants in the countryside?!] Verily, our own ethnic tribal peoples might just go the way of the American Indians in the continent of the U.S.
Think of it! How can the teeming millions of the poor population buy English, considering that education is for sale? How can they ever get out of the hapless pitfall of impoverishment they are in? And yet they are the ones mobilized for the commercial gimmicks of government, like what they are doing to the tribal communities for the growth of Tourism! But why should Tourism be an industry? What does it produce? It is the single-most national industry given ultra-high premium by the government—instead of the nationalist industrialization that our country most needs. And what has Tourism done to uplift the economic morass our country has fallen into? Well, it has proven to be excellent promoters of prostitution and has bloated the pockets of capitalists with more profits.
And the private sector culturalists have capitalized on this State obsession with Tourism to promote its own cultural bonggahans. Now we areswamped with such decadent exploitative shows as “beauty pageants” and concert-extravaganzas featuring foreign artists. And we are drowned with overwhelming avalanche of trebles and falsettos of American pop-songs performed by American-throated Pinoy artists! Add to these the endless “commercials” that exploit the scantily dressed bodies of our women to promote products invariably linked to sex! And the monotonous “love triangle” telenovelas on TV dishing out values that reinforce decadence and obscurantist outlook.
If all these cultural aperitifs are designed to highlight the versatility of the local artists in aping the Americans, then we have a wide range of cultural menu to cater to the starved souls of Filipinos with colonial mentality. And if the broad strata of the marginalized Filipinos are now third class citizens in our own lands, they shall soon become fourth and fifth class citizens if the manibela of our culture and arts vehicle is driven by puppet leaders and policy-makers towards Western models and standards.
Porbida! When will the Philippines ever have a true leader of the people? One who has the supreme interest of the majority at heart—whose vision is a society bereft of scandalous inequality—whose mission is to carve out a social set-up where poverty and social injustice shall have become strange words the future generations will find hard to find meaning in material reality—whose humanity emanates from values resembling those cherished by President Mujica of Uruguay!
No. The Philippines will never have a leader of Mujica’s example if what reigns in the consciousness of our people is a consuming desire to become Americans and our presumptuous leader adopts always an attitude of canine devotion to American Imperialism. Or if we cannot shun pernicious colonial mentality and abandon the poisonous trappings of western culture that emasculates the Filipino soul of its native vitality and strength.
Yes. We must cherish our racial selfhood as the abiding light in our journey towards development and progress. We should look for models in our Asian neighborhood, such as Vietnam, which survived and defeated the most powerful nation in the world by the sheer force of their nationalism and their unwavering will to uphold their racial independence and national pride. Not puppetry to any colonial power.