I have certain “Facebook friends”, who are not Filipino natives, who like to publicly criticize almost everything about the Philippines while they’re living in the Philippines. I would like to respond with something like “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?” Unfortunately, it would probably just give them the impression that I’m brainwashed into being just like a Filipino. Most of them try to compare life in the Philippines with life in the United States and that comparison can only work to a small degree. You have to understand the turmoil of the Philippines of the last 400-plus years to fully appreciate how far the country has come since its new constitution of 1987.
The Original Filipinos
The indigenous tribes of the Philippines were the original inhabitants before Spain colonized the country in 1565. Many of the tribes (collectively called “Negritos”) still exist today, outside of the mainstream Filipino culture (living in and around the jungles).
Unlike the reservations in North America, there are no “special” locations set aside for the Negrito tribes. The term “Negrito” actually refers to many ethnic groups, including the Aeta, Agta, Ayta, Pygmies, Ita, Baluga, Ati, Dumagat and at least 25 other tribes of the Philippines. They share some common physical features with the African pygmy populations, including their short stature, hair texture and dark skin. Regardless of appearance, they share more DNA with Asians than Africans.
Spain ruled the Philippines from 1565 until June 12, 1898, the end of the “Spanish-American War” marked by the Philippine Declaration of Independence.
Unfortunately, the declaration wasn’t recognized by either Spain or the United States and the Philippines was ceded to the United States on December 10, 1898 by the Treaty of Paris. The treaty went into effect on April 11, 1899.
Also unfortunately, the Philippines didn’t recognize the treaty and declared war on the United States. The war was declared over in 1901, but pockets of resistance continued to exist until 1913.
The United Stated started a very limited colonial rule in 1905 and converted the country into a commonwealth in 1935 in preparation for full independence. That plan was interrupted by the invasion of the Philippines by Japan during World War II.
The United States granted independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946 (the Treaty of Manila), but the first independence day (June 12, 1898) is the one that is officially recognized by the Philippine government. [The last of the American forces left the Philippines in 1992 when the Subic Bay Naval Station closed.] American rule lasted a little over 47 years compared to more than 300 years by Spain.
Corruption didn’t start with President Ferdinand Marcos, but his tenure as president was the worst period in the history of the country. You wouldn’t believe some of the changes I’ve witnessed while I’ve been living here, since April of 2006, due to the anti-corruption efforts of the previous and current administration.
Marcos was elected in 1965, re-elected in 1969 and then declared martial law in 1972 so that he could remain in power. He was ousted (exiled) on February 25, 1986 by the People Power Revolution, also called the “EDSA Revolution”, the “Philippine Revolution of 1986″ and the “Yellow Revolution”.
The current Constitution of the Philippines went into effect on February 2, 1987. This is the Fifth Republic of the Philippines. The first republic was marked by the first Philippine Independence Day, the second by the Japanese-sponsored republic in 1943, the third by the second independence day, and the fourth by the 1973 constitution under Marcos during the martial law years.
Regardless of the dates involved, true democracy didn’t exist in the Philippines until Marco was removed from power in 1986. As I write this, almost 27 years have passed since the new constitution went into effect. The Philippines still has a host of problems to deal with, including insurgencies in the southern islands.
Apples and Oranges
You really can’t compare the Philippines to the United States in terms of stability and “one people”. The United States has had the same constitution since 1776. The United States was never occupied by another country and has maintained sovereignty since the beginning. The Philippines, in comparison, has only maintained sovereignty since July 4, 1946.
The Filipino colleges and universities continue to denigrate the United States, teaching their own versions of the events of 1898 and later. The older Filipinos, those that lived through World War II, know that most of the problems in the Philippines were not caused by the United States. I just wish the students and graduates of the colleges and universities would take the time to learn what the older Filipinos already know, ignoring the anti-American bias of their teachers and professors.
Both my non-Filipino Facebook friends and the teachers/students are wrong in their assumptions on so many levels. From both angles, they’re making judgments based on only what they observe or are taught. Unless you understand the history of the Philippines, you really can’t make a valid judgment. Things will change, as they always do, and more rapidly than ever and limited only by the speed of economic growth.