EDITORIAL: “Malaya nga ba tayo”–why do we still ask this question?

Aside from the more prominent role of the Chinese government in official ceremonies, this year’s Araw ng Kalayaan generally followed its previous forms in the last few years, at least on social media: government officials made public appearances, we threw either appreciative or deprecating comments on their actions, and then we quipped with our own ‘greetings’, where we attempt to be witty, inspirational, philosophic, or a weird mix of all three.

And in a seeming bid to keep with ‘tradition’, well-meaning netizens, trying to be reflective on our collective history, still didn’t fail to deliver with the annual jab—”malaya nga ba tayo?”.

Boy, if we get a piso everytime that question is posted in social media June 12 every year, we’d now be comfortably insulated from today’s rapidly rising fuel and food prices (we’d say rich, but with the weak peso that’s a bit of a stretch).

Kidding aside, we think such originally well-meaning question has gone so passe it has officially accomplished the other meaning of ‘pilosopo’, if not ‘corny’, in the Filipino language. So, in our Independence Day article, we will spare our readers from another such introspection and start with a pragmatic resolution to that question: yes, we declared statehood over a century ago from the Spanish regime, and decades before from the US Americans.

Our issue is that after all these years it looks like we still have a tenuous grasp of our nationhood.

For starters, our pervading trend of expressing ‘nationalism’ seems to be either superficial declarations of ‘Pinoy pride’ or by stretching the significance of certain relics in our pre-colonial past (FYI, the baybayin should be preserved but why be downright impractical by insisting everything gets translated into it?). Then there’s the weird ‘promotion’ of aspects of our culture but without the practical steps to support it—we’re looking at you DOT and your expensively mind-boggling ‘Buhay Carinderia’ video.

It seems the practical cores of a good, functioning society—for example, well-managed transport and communication systems, equitable economic opportunities, and fair education pathways—aren’t part of what should make us all belt the Lupang Hinirang loud and proud.

Jose Rizal did say we should look into the books of our past to guide us towards the future, but we doubt he meant consciously avoiding a deeper examination of our most recent conditions. The larger bulk of ‘lessons’ are in our most current realities, where the most pressing call is to find coherence in our diversity as a nation—in our varying ethnic backgrounds, geographic location, predominant language, skin color, facial features, religion, values, aspirations and ultimately, our visions of the future.

The way things look right now, it is ultimately unprofitable to keep asking if we’re still free. We’ve gained independence a long time ago, but it continues to crumble from our grasp. It will do us good if we start from that starting point, agree?

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