Doing Justice to the Story of our People

History is both a reality and a state of mind. Comparison and a deep study of past events is the key in distinguishing between the two. For anyone who is either adept in using tools for historiography or has learned from some of the best academics in the country, identifying the truth behind our past should come as second nature. Meanwhile, for those who are either willfully ignorant or afflicted with social amnesia remembering and analyzing the past can be a blurry endeavor.

History as the reality is simply history as it develops. The assumption here is that things don’t happen for no reason at all and that through literary and scholarly tools for analysis, we can rightly take steps in unravelling the several factors which took a role in forming the parts of our history as the way we remember it today. Simply put, when we remember and discuss points in time which have shaped the present the first question we should ask is this: What were the forces present at the time that had interacted, clashed or deviated from one another that resulted into subsequent events? And did the interaction, clash or deviation result into the progression of human society and thought or to its utter regression? Thus, the study of our history is the study of the contradictions at play in our society and history as a reality is precisely the recognition of these contradictions. Take for example the Philippine revolution, what was the political situation of the Philippines in the 1890s which pushed Andres Bonifacio and his colleagues to form the KKK? Certainly, one cannot claim that it was out of sheer whim. So the reason must have been something in relation to the socio-political climate of the country at the time given that the objectives of the revolution was socio-political in character. Following this, did the culmination of the Philippine revolution result into the development or regression of Philippine society? Almost certainly. But the questioning does not end there, in order to determine the ultimate veracity of our conclusions we must find a way to link and compare our assumptions of the past with how it has materialized in the objective external world of today.

On the other hand, history as a state of mind is a product of historical development. Earlier on, it was pointed out that history develops by way of forces in society that clash with one another. And from this clash, one of the forces always prevails against the others. This prevailing group of people, which carry with them interests and tendencies intrinsic to their class, become the decisive element in shaping the future on the basis of preserving their posterity. On a global scale, World War II was a spectacular clash among motive forces of our world: the allies versus the axis powers. And in the Cold War, a grand collision between the communists and the capitalists. On each of these encounters, the emerging forces had reorganized the environment with which they interact in so as to serve their own interest and motives. The reorganization that I refer to includes historical revisionism.

We owe the old adage “history is written by the victors” by no less than Winston Churchill who consistently ensured the utter demolition of his enemies whenever they were spoken of in the pages of Europe’s history. Never mind the fact that it was Russia that ultimately brought Nazi Germany to heel or when the United Kingdom refused to join Joseph Stalin’s Anti-Fascist Front against the Germans. For Churchill, the threat of communists influencing the industrial capitalist system of Great Britain was far too alarming to even consider the proliferation of these historical truths. So that’s how it is, Stalin is forever demonized in the Universities and schools of the UK while the world forgets the fact that if the British had just joined Stalin in his Front, the Nazis could have been less of a threat to Europe.

The same can be said about how the clash of classes in the Philippines had turned out. When the Filipino revolutionaries had risen from their sorry state to fight the tide of foreign occupation, the stakes were raised high in order to secure the victory of the peasantry against the foreign landed elite and their local puppets. In essence, the forces at play in the 1890s and even towards the early 1900s were that of the vast majority of Filipinos, the farming class, against the large land lords and friars that ran the government. But the contradiction between these two forces had not been totally resolved because at the time when the fate of our country was to be decided and the Spanish government was on the verge of collapse, the Spanish were able to maneuver their officials well enough to sell the Philippines to the Americans before they totally run aground. Now the Filipino-Spanish contradiction had developed and transformed into the Filipino-American war: A war that had resulted into the Filipino Commonwealth, a more dignified version of foreign occupation where limited rights are bestowed upon a people worn out by war and poverty. Eventually, the Americans did leave the Philippines had it not been for the growing communist insurgency responsible for the surge of patriotism nationwide and had gained popularity in a short span of time but their influence was embedded in the institutions they themselves constructed and the puppets they installed to permeate their grip over Philippine culture, economy and politics. The United States has secured its presence and involvement in almost every decisive moment in our history post Philippine “independence”: The membership of the Philippines in the World Trade Organization, our active role in the Korean War, the US War on Terror, global climate initiatives that destroy our economy and so on. But to top it all off, the grip of US Imperialism has become so effective that it can now afford to openly oppress the Filipino people in the plainest of ways without fearing public backlash. Today, you will see thousands upon thousands of Filipinos rushing to the aid of US whenever their own government fails them.

It is rather disappointing that we have reached this point: Where we have lost confidence in our own ability to strive and acquire a better way of life by sacrificing our economic and political sovereignty for the sake of piece-meal rewards and lopsided agreements with our foreign exploiter. Imagine, today we have signed laws and policies that transform our youth into graduates for export to a foreign market that does not care about rights and basic human dignity. We have implemented agreements that force farmers to produce at the behest of global demand and forget the needs of a Filipino people wrought with hunger and poverty. We have entertained the idea of forgetting the heinous crimes of the United States in places like Balangiga, Eastern Samar and Bud Dajo in Sulu where thousands of our brothers and sisters were massacred by American troops. For all of these horrific moments in our history, why do we still associate glory and prestige to the United States? Why do equate a life in the US as nothing short of perfect? Why do we strive to work there, unmindful of the suffering and hardships that immigrants face under their laws and culture? And why do we willfully submit ourselves to their way of life?

I recall the time when protesters rallied outside of the US Embassy to detest the presence of US military in the country. There, the Philippine National Police went to all sorts of extremes ranging from using tear gas to running over protesters using a government vehicle. The public outrage over the incident was nothing compared to those who persistently went to the defense of the PNP and called on the rallyists to forward their call in an “orderly manner”.

The design to perpetuate US control over our country is so intricate that it has us turning against each other, modifying our history to suit their interest and abolishing our collective memory of the horrendous past we have in fighting them. Progressives have been called on to tone down their shouting so as not to be too disruptive, but is that not the point? Organized resistance is a right in the face of injustice and when the people speak up against US rule in the Philippines, they do so with the accumulated rage of a million people a hundred years past.

But what are we angry about? To be sure, we’re angry about a lot of things. About the murders in the past, the economic exploitation of the present and the historical revisionism that impacts our future. After all, historical revisionism is historical injustice. Its first and primary aim is to wipe clean the bloody record of the United States in the Philippines in order to allow them to repeat the same old practices they’ve done with a dozen other neocolonies: plunder their natural resources, disempower their government by taking advantage of their desperation in providing lopsided trade and investment deals and stationing off-shore military forces as a last ditch effort to strong-arm the state into subservience.

But there are some who know better. These are the people who have successfully derived the correct ideas of our people’s history by practicing class struggle and choosing the side of the vast majority. These are the people who have decided to be part of the motive forces that shape our nation’s story as it develops over time. These are the activists and revolutionaries, young and old, who have given their time and dedicated their lives to the study of our society in a way that involves both theory and practice. Armed with the national democratic line, they know that the abomination of a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society is the creation of US Imperialism to forever encapsulate the country from its potential to truly grow. And because they carry with them the mass line, they take it upon themselves to expand their ranks and consolidate their forces, so that one day when the time Is right we can finally give justice to our long and inspiring history of class struggle.

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Eastern Vista

Eastern Vista is an alternative media organization in Eastern Visayas. Stories of people in the struggle for justice and aid after super typhoon Yolanda inspired its creation in 2014. Eastern Vista is also a co-producer of Lingganay han Kamatuoran, a Waray-based radio magazine program airing since 2003. From Eastern Philippines, Eastern Vista shares the news and views from a people rising.