On Ending an Empire

Teddy Boy Locsin argued in favor of an Imperial Manila. Even before he wrote his opinion The Truth of the Myth of Imperial Manila, I’ve long been convinced that he was not an ally even while his father fought the same language policy I am fighting to reform. Even then, their rhetoric was more out of disgust for Filipino rather than a cause for the survival and prominence of all Filipino Languages. But language activism is my own particular bias; and Imperial Manila isn’t so limited. The problem isn’t just a problem of culture, of history, or even of power. Locsin was sure to elaborate on each with his usual acerbic wit.

In his sarcasm, his intent was a wholesale justification in favor of the Myth that is Imperial Manila. Not to dispel, no, but to maintain the construct. Imperial Manila, in his words, is necessary, and his logic is as insistent as his choice of imagery is visceral. His venom brought to mind such a clear reminder of Conrado de Quiros that I expected Locsin’s picture to share the latter’s smirk. It did not surprise me at all, then, to know that this man was utterly convinced that the Philippines could not exist without Manila. His impatience with the issue resonated as well. In just eleven paragraphs, Locsin admitted to an Imperial Manila, argued for its continued existence, and sought to secure its posterity. These the thoughts of an educated man making it clear that Imperial Manila was built on a strong intellectual base, its position absolute.

But it is also doomed. Locsin’s rhetoric was one that alienated the very principles that brought this country together. The Philippines is not an empire; it is a republic. So how can Manila even justify acting like one? How can there ever be a pretender to the throne when there is no throne. Ours is a country of free men for free men; and every time Manila acts as empire over free men, we the free are bound to chafe. Republics defy empires. When first we fought against one, it was not to replace it with Manila. We did not fight for Manila alone. We struggled and shared in the shaping of this country and to direct its future is our due. Manila has no claim to what we all paid for with blood. Our flag carries three stars in the wake of the sun’s eight rays and not one. Ours is a shared history and not just one written by Manila. And that is the problem with Locsin’s argument.

Locsin sees the glory of Rome but ignores the days after when Irish monks sacrificed their lives to maintain its legacy. He calls Manila our one true home, the source of all our comforts and security, but what does that make us who live and struggle outside of Manila? Are not our contributions just as significant? Does Manila not live on our produce? Does not Manila take its soldiers from our peoples? Someone must remind him that Manila is not the Philippines, and yet it acts as if it is: hence the call for secession.

Locsin’s version of history demands unity but commits to only its own experience. Ninoy Aquino may have been shot in Manila International Airport, but Evelio Javier was brutalized by assault rifles in Antique while guarding the very votes that spelled the end of a dictatorship. Does that make the latter’s sacrifice any less dear? Yes, the cry was in Balintawak, but the Spaniards surrendered at Plaza Libertad in Iloilo. Does that make the struggle in Iloilo any less legitimate than that in Cavite? Emilio Aguinaldo fought for Manila, but Araneta fought for Negros and Delgado fought for Panay. Does that make Araneta and Delgado’s cause for freedom any less real?

Is the only claim to our history that of Manila’s? What of our claim? Is our claim forfeit? This reminds me of Renato Constantino’s condescension when he saw the regions’ experience of history to be fit only for chauvinism and ill deserving of a place in building out country. This is dangerous.

If we allow Locsin his logical conclusion, we forfeit our right to our country. The Philippine’s belongs to all of its people’s and not just to one place where everything is expected to be found. Such is the product of a rotting system, an oppressive and abusive set of rules that allows Filipinos to colonize Filipinos in their own country. For if Manila is empire, does that not make us second-class citizens, our homes mere tributaries? We are free men, citizens of a free republic, and it is as free men that we must end an empire.

Manila must change; and we will change it.

Advertisements