Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Philippines, Still A Damaged Culture?

Photo from GMA-7
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

The six-week immersion of American journalist James Fallows in Manila painted a bleak imagery of the Philippines worldwide in November 1987 after he published a cultic article in The Atlantic magazine about Filipinos’ damaged culture.

The political environment sets a high note for saintly Cory Aquino, housewife mathematician of the lone winning opposition Benigno Aquino in the 1967 senatorial race, and gracefully slaying the supremacy of power duo tawdry pet dictators Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos in 1986. 

Three decades and two years after James Fallows’ essay, does the existential curse still hounds Filipinos?

Popular and widely approved Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines 16th president, fortifies his power, despite his absence in the ballot, has considerably wiped out the opposition while his allies recently sweep dominance in the midterm elections apparently seen as a referendum for upending a supermajority clout at the chamber with three more years to [un]conventionally pursue his promises to the people under a six-year term.

In a twist of fate, Imee Marcos wins a senate seat for the first time after her former senator brother, Bongbong Marcos acts in limbo contesting a vice presidential recount. The Filipinos’ forgiving culture and short-term memory, recalled by the late venerated Asian patriarch Lee Kuan Yew, comes to realization in the Philippines' maturing democracy.   

Former president Benigno Aquino Jr.’s endorsement has failed to cast magic for his outnumbered Otso-Diretso (straight eight) senatorial slate creating anxiety and fear from loyal followers circulating options of #migration in social media despite decency and maturity from losing candidates to be on guard and continuously fight for the country’s future.

Nine of 12 open seats in the upper house, half of the country’s Senate, supports the president’s most controversial plans. But does this represent our damaged culture? Or what set of values have we imbibed from the exercise to choose leaders?

Anthropologist Frank Lynch who later on renounced his American citizenship to become a Filipino citizen concludes in his 1962 pioneering study that no values are uniquely Filipino. The Lynchian perspective carries the belief that one should not expect every value to be uniquely Filipino because notable differences in value systems are caused not so much by differences in the individual values as by the differences in ranking and emphasis.

Eminent anthropologist F. Landa Jocano wrote a powerful paper on the Notion of Values in Filipino Culture debunking Franck Lynch’s belief that there are no uniquely Filipino values. He is merited for his contributory knowledge on pamantayan or social standards from the holistic and higher echelon of kahalagaan or importance. The line serves as the basis for measuring the level of quality, excellence or sameness in grouping things together.

If the midterm elections show our social standards in choosing our leaders, then what does it tell about our culture and national values?  

The pre-war Commonwealth era under Manuel Quezon, the Philippines second president, gave us the first picture of a country without an opposition, when it failed to win a single seat in the 1938 senatorial midterm polls that allowed block voting; hence, he has had an upperhand at that time in framing the Philippine Constitution.

Is this a prelude to Mr. Duterte’s vision of a federal Philippines?      

‘We are our choices’ admonishes French political activist Jean-Paul Satre to everyone. The election results are our own making caused by archaic and absurd electoral system that patronizes entertainment over excellence and popularity over platforms.

Filipino voters are ably to be blamed for not choosing the best and the brightest despite a number of honest, educated, and candidates with integrity in the unprecedented high voters turnout in 2019; and in spite of a 78 percent average election turnout since 2010 to 2016. Social media along with the traditional media manage to carry politicians from the dominance of the woke generation. 

Honestly, the Philippines still suffers a damaged culture! And it's a shame to all of us!

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