Nationalism or What do Filipinos Care About?

I am presently working in a foreign country as a temporary economic migrant. Someday, I will return home, but for now, I owe my financial resources to this nation whose culture is as different from mine as night is from day.


I was thinking about my situation when I came across this article from one of the blogs I follow and usually comment on.  It is asking about nationalism, how it can be a bad thing, and finally, what Filipinos care about.


First, the question of whether nationalism is “good” or “bad” is maybe a question of gradient and context.  When I was in elementary, the message I got from my teachers is that nationalism is “good” – and that is something we should strive for. We sang the national anthem and recited the “Panatang Makabayan” every morning without fail so this vague thing called “nationalism” could be instilled in our young minds and hearts. I had this idea as a child that it is a noble quality to be willing to die for one’s country. Back then, I was not aware of the nuances – i.e: what exactly are you dying for your country for?

Fast forward to Now.

Nationalism has taken on a bad rap.  The idea that “nationalism” is a dangerous concept probably started in Europe with its issues about the Nazis; fascism;  the breakdown of Yugoslavia due to the nationalist tendencies of the states that made it up; and now the deluge of non-European migrants into European soil. Presently, the US President is the poster child of the poisonous “nationalist” – a word which has become almost synonymous with “bigot”.


A personal story regarding nationalism & immigration:

My aunts and uncles have all migrated to Canada in the 1990s. They have worked there and paid their taxes and eventually became Canadian citizens. So recently, Justin Trudeau has been welcoming Syrian and other immigrants to Canada. I would think that given their previous positions as economic migrants, my relatives would agree with Trudeau’s policies, in the spirit of paying it forward. But, alas … no. When I spoke with my aunt and uncle, all they could complain about was how the Canadian government policies would mean more taxes for them to pay and how welcoming more immigrants would be such a drain on the economy and how these middle eastern migrants are terrorists-in-disguise etc etc. So I just rolled my eyes and stopped the debate because I love my relatives and I don’t want us to spend their vacation arguing over immigration policies.

So what has this story got to do with JoeAm’s blog post is this: “What inspires Filipinos, broadly? Family, faith in the rituals of it all, gossip, and the practicalities of life: eating and getting around. Where is the MORAL foundation?” — particularly, me, mulling the answer to that question.

F Sionil Jose once wrote that Filipinos are  a shallow people (by the way, FSJ also supported and probably voted for Rodrigo Duterte — go figure).

FSJ said that we are shallow because we are “mayabang” (arrogant), we do not read (hence we are under-educated) and that our  mass media is shallow.

Given this “shallowness”, what inspires us then? I mean what would one expect a child to be inspired of? JoeAm gives this answer “Family, faith in the rituals of it all, gossip, and the practicalities of life”– ouch, but true. If we want to get rid of our shallowness, of this narrow definition of nationalism that we have, then we have to start with the family. And because of this we must consider that the unmet need for family planning in the Philippines is presently at 17.5% — oops, but this is another topic for another blog post  🙂


So, to connect the ideas of this meandering post: do I believe nationalism is bad? Not necessarily, depending on how it is used. I mean, if one will define nationalism as a sense of loyalty to one’s country of birth/allegiance, that is not a perilous thing. That is actually a virtue. However, if one uses nationalism to justify the exclusion or persecution of “the other”, meaning people who are not part of your country of allegiance then that would just be mean. And if nationalism is used to defend one’s laziness and shortsightedness and unwillingness to make the personal sacrifices needed to combat climate change, well, that is just stupid.

Do Filipinos have a sense of nationalism? Yes and no. We have a superficial (“shallow” is the word FSJ’s used) sense of nation. We love our families to our detriment; and we identify with our tribes/regions (i.e Ilokano, Tagalog, Maranao etc), to the exclusion of our identity as “Filipinos”.

Given this fact, the question of “what inspires us?”, with all due respect, is the wrong question. The question should be: “how should that which inspire us translate to love of nation?”

Like, I love my family, my family inspires me. But would my family have existed at all if Filipino nationalists have not asserted our independence from Spain, America or Japan? My grandmother was telling me a story how the Japanese used to bayonet babies in their village. Without Filipino nationalism, she could have been one of the kids who suffered and then I would not exist.

This is a what-if of history (something my aunts get exasperated about when I bring it up, saying it is futile to think of what ifs).  But part of learning history is wondering about what ifs.  And that is what Filipinos lack, I think, why our love of our family does not translate to love of nation. We lack history. Somebody stole it from us (the colonial masters, the fucked up educational system, the present elites, you name it) – and now we fail to be inspired.






I have never learned how to speak Bisaya.

Not surprising; since 99% of my life was spent in Luzon. There are over 150 languages spoken in this country that I call home. And I only know 2 of them! Shame on me.

We did have a culture before King Philip of Spain and Uncle Sam invaded our land. We were a hodge podge of many tribes; one of those tribes were the Tagalogs; and this was their ancient language called alibata. Blame the Spanish friars for eradicating it from modern society. How's that, Pope Francis! Another historical fact, the Catholic Church should say mea culpa for.

We did have a culture before King Philip of Spain and Uncle Sam invaded our land. We were a hodge podge of many tribes, not so different from the different Scottish clans before the English invasion. One of those tribes were the Tagalogs; and this was their ancient language called alibata. Blame the Spanish friars for eradicating it from modern society. How’s that, Pope Francis! Another historical fact the Catholic Church should say mea culpa for?

Once upon a time, when I was a student, the topic of National Language was an emotional and personal pet crusade. I would debate someone, anyone who would dare to malign Filipino and insist on English’s superiority as a medium of expression. Blame it on the university where I graduated. It insisted on equating “love of country” to “love of national language”.

I was (and still am) an expert Filipino speaker. My first articles and stories were in Filipino. The stories I love passionately (Edgardo M. Reyes and Lualhati Bautista’s novels; Gerardo Sicat and Genoveva Edroza Matute’s short stories, to name a few) and the poems that I used to emulate (Francisco Balagtas’s “Florante at Laura”, Jose Corazon de Jesus’s “Ang Pamana”, Teodoro Agoncillo’s “Republikang Basahan” etc.) were all in Filipino.

It was Mr. F. Sionil Jose that made me realize that the Filipino language (much as the Philippine’s official Language Commission would try to deny it) is actually the Tagalog language with some variations.


There is nothing inherently wrong with the Tagalog language. Half of my genes are Tagalog; that must be a reason for my affinity with it. However, I have been traveling to the southern parts of my country for several years now; and I found that a lot of people that I would consider my own, do not even understand me when I speak this language that the academics call “Filipino”.

I first read this book, the life story of a Manila high class prostitute when I was 19 y/o. Re-reading it for the 2nd time was week was an enlightening experience. I learned: 1. This book's values was terribly old-fashioned and Mr. Jose is probably a male chauvinist pig, but I love him anyway!; 2. This book's heroine should have been introduced to Anabel Chong, the pornographic performer who once held the record for the most men fucked in a gang bang; then this book's heroine would have learned something like "she doesn't have the corner on suffering in this world; 3. Virginity is overrated.

I first read this book, the life story of a Manila high class prostitute when I was 19 y/o. Re-reading it for the 2nd time last week was an enlightening experience. I learned: 1. This book’s values are terribly old-fashioned and Mr. Jose is probably a male chauvinist pig (but I love him anyway!); 2. This book’s heroine should have been introduced to Anabel Chong, the pornographic performer who once held the record for the most men fucked in a gang bang; then this book’s heroine would have learned something like she doesn’t have “the corner on suffering in this world”; 3. Virginity is overrated.

Traveling to Cebu, a city in the Visayas, I realized how woefully inadequate my so-called education was because I couldn’t adequately converse in Bisaya! I had to speak to taxi drivers and fishermen in Oslob beach in English!

(Nothing terrible with English … my blog is in English, for one. It is the world’s lingua franca at the moment, true. Scientific and medical journals are written mostly in this language. My favorite writers write in English!

But the roots of this language has nothing to do with my geography. And it is useful and fun and I love it but …

Sunrise in Oslob. Oslob is a southern town in Cebu island. And what's remarkable about it is that every morning, huge whalesharks would swim very near the beach and go so near the fishermen that they would feed them.

Sunrise in Oslob. Oslob is a southern town in Cebu island. And what’s remarkable about it is that every morning, huge whalesharks would swim very near the beach and go so near the fishermen that they would feed them.

Tumalog Falls. a very charming, very pretty waterfall, also in the town of Oslob.

Tumalog Falls. a very charming, very pretty waterfall, also in the town of Oslob.










.. but it is not … entirely mine.

And there is something heartbreakingly sad when a person from Kansas cannot converse with a fellow American from New York because they don’t have the same language, and they have to talk using German to understand each other.) 


So these are just words.

And someday, if I’m really bad, they will be forgotten.


By the way, the term “I love you” in Bisaya is “Ginihugma ako ha nimo.”

Okay, Cebuanos and other Bisaya-speakers  can shoot me now.


Notes to Myself: How to Write a Sex Scene

I no longer had money to splurge on food so I had to go home to Lucy’s vegetable stew my Aunt had taught her to cook. The maid was alone most of the time for my uncle and aunt worked the whole day. She had already finished cooking the vegetable stew. She was dark and a little chubby, but her face was warm, friendly. She had finished high school and had wanted to study in Manila, but she did not have enough money;  she worked instead as a maid for one of Aunt Betty’s co-teachers, but the teacher no longer needed her so she passed her on to my aunt who took her grudgingly although she often complained how difficult the housework was.

“You can eat now if you want to,” Lucy said at the door. I was warm and perspiring for though the rains had started and the brown weeds along the tracks had started greening, it was still humid.

The shower adjoined the kitchen and I started soaping myself with the laundry bar.  I was a virgin. Though I knew all that should be done, the most that had happened was a brief interlude with Marie; she was in section B in our senior year and I often danced with her in our high school parties, holding her so tight her breasts pressed close against my chest, and I could feel the smooth curve of her thighs. But there were few chances for us to be alone and though we had some sort of understanding that we would continue the relationship when she got to college in Manila, her family could not raise the money for her tuition and board.

Anyway, I was soaping myself and had to do it again. It did not take long really and, though I enjoyed it, I looked forward to the time when it would be for real.

When I got out, Lucy was at the bathroom door, her face lighted up with mischief. I was very embarrassed when she asked in a bantering manner, “What have you been doing?”

She was slightly older than I — maybe 25, and I asked angrily, “What do you do when you take a bath?”

“It depends,” she said. “I didn’t hear the shower for some time.”

“You do not rub off the dirt or soap yourself?”

“It was not soaping or rubbing,” she said, looking at me, the grin on her face telling me that she knew.

I  fumbled and did not know what to say.

Then, confirmation, the laughter crinkling the corners of her mouth.

“You peeped!” and I went after her.

I did not want to hurt her and I really was not angry — just embarrassed. I grabbed at her, but she was ready and we were soon wrestling like two children from the kitchen on to the living room. I pinched her buttocks and she yelped aloud, then she grabbed my  arm and bit it so hard, I cried at her to stop.  When she let go, I held her and dragged her to the floor then pinned her down, panting. She glared at me, her breasts heaving; and I had her legs wide apart, my torso between them. Her arms were pinned down and she could not move except to try too bring her head up. Then, suddenly, I felt this stirring and, bending down but still holding her wrists so that she could not hit back, I kissed her breasts. Almost immediately, her struggling ceased and when I looked at her face, the fight was no longer there — instead the unerring light of expectation, of wonder. Bending over, releasing her hand, I kissed her, thrust my tongue into her mouth.

I really did not care anymore if a sudden knock exploded on the door or if the windows were open, which they were not because they were always shut more as a matter of precaution against robbers than for privacy.

I thought conquest would be easy for, by then, the compulsion that were surging in me could no longer be leashed. But Lucy started pushing me, wriggling, and was all arms and elbows and pointed knees — but these, more than anything, served only to heighten my resolve and convinced me in afterthought that there was a latent ruffian and rapist in me. Her resistance, it turned out, was temporary; I do not know if it was just to show that she was no easy prey or she wanted to test how determined I was. Or maybe, she found out how physically strong and well beyond calming I was and there was no further sense in lengthening the struggle which, after all, I would soon vanquish.

My entry was gentle and smooth; through her gasps, she said: “Do not hurry … please. No one will be here … we have all the time.”

She did a lot of housework, but her hands were not rough. They were soft, beautiful hands, exquisitely expert and strong ; her breasts were  firm and after a time she cautioned me for, as she said, they began to hurt.

We went up to my room after we had lain for a delicious length of time on the tiles which were cold but which we had become impervious to, sweetly unconscious as we were  of the world except the rhythm and the warmth of our bodies. We took our time upstairs as she had suggested, savoring each other in the light of day, and then it was dusk, time for her to cook dinner. We were exhausted and it was an act of will for both of us to part.

Everything was not in the script, everything was not as I had read in those guidebooks that passed through our hands in high school — explicit American guidebooks to that mysterious domain which is woman. I had thought that I would be clear-minded and  would recall everything — the step-by-step preparation, the plateau and the peak, the cozy, cuddling type of talk and display of tenderness that would cap it all — but I had merely acted out the hasty and irrational beast. I did not forget, however, to ask her if she was happy and in reply she looked at me — those big, black eyes dreamy and half closed — and she nodded.

From “Mass”, pp. 20-22, F. Sionil Jose, Solidaridad Publishing House, Padre Faura Street, Ermita, Manila, 1983.

Mass_FS Jose


I can’t remember if “Mass” was the first F. Sionil Jose (FSJ) book that I have ever read; or was it “The Pretenders”?

They are both parts of Mr. Jose’s Rosales saga, a 5-book epic spanning 100 years of Philippine history. They are very entertaining reading; especially “Mass”  whose hero Pepe Samson epitomizes the typical (in my opinion) Filipino lower-lower middle class male, virtues as well as faults.

“Mass” also has the hottest sex scenes.

My other favorite author, Lualhati Bautista (LB), wrote a Tagalog translation of “Mass” (she titled it “Masa”), also published by Solidaridad Publishing House which Mr. Jose owns.

Excited is an understatement to describe how I am looking forward to reading the Tagalog translation. I am itching to know how  LB managed to translate FSJ’s more, ehem, raunchy scenes 😉


A few years ago, I went to Hawaii. I visited Pearl Harbor; took a peak at the USS Missouri and at the Marine Corps Base.

At that time, the US was still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. What struck me most during that brief visit was how much the Americans respected and positively adored their soldiers. There is a bit of  envy in me, as well.

Filipino police man a checkpoint. Photo from

Filipino police man a checkpoint. Photo from

I did mention in an earlier post that a person I love very much, was also a soldier. He was my mother’s older brother. And he joined the Army at a time when it seemed unpopular to do so.

My country has a long history of corruption as far as the Armed Forces are concerned. A long history of corruption, and a far longer history of … injustice. Also, as the leftists in my country would add, a long history of human rights violations, as well.

Picture from

Picture from

But I want to be fair here — which sucks because it’s preferable (and easier) to see the world in black and white. Even if, when it comes to those you love, you feel justified in seeing only shades of gray.

In 1896, my country went to war. In as much as a caged parrot can go to war with the human being that considers himself its master. That war has not yet ended. After more than 100 years, we are still at war with “colonialism” in all its forms.

Filipino soldiers circa 1899. Photo from Wikipedia

Filipino soldiers circa 1899. Photo from Wikipedia

I started thinking about soldiers because of a recent disturbance that erupted in what used to be a very quaint, very friendly city in the southern part of my country. That disturbance sent some 100,000 civilians into refugee status.

Mobilization of my country’s soldiers in their old scruffed well-worn boots was done to repel a group of poor criminals who were pretending to be “rebels”. At the helm of these “rebels” are a group of politicians who, of course, will not admit to their perfidy.

The thing about soldiers in my country — as in other countries, most notable of which is the USA — is that, at best, they are used as weapons; and at worst, they are used as pawns. In any case, they are used — whether willingly or unwillingly is up to the men (and women) in uniforms to answer.

The soldier whom I love with all my heart, is called Rolly. Were it not for him and his job, my mother wouldn’t have had an education; and would probably have died an earlier death than she eventually had.

Rolly is no longer on duty. He is currently … disabled.

So, klutzy civilian that I am, who did not even go through citizen’s army training — I would  like to muster all the backbone I have; all the conviction left after all the compromises I made; all that remains in me of that thing called “integrity”; all that I am. I would gather all that, and give Rolly…

… a salute.

Intergenerational Issues

“If we have slipped behind, it is because my generation failed. Mea culpa, maxima mea culpa! We did not transcend ourselves.”

– F. Sionil Jose. Valedictory  December 9, 2007. From: Gleanings From a Life in Literature. UST Press, 2011. pp. 87.


There is an old lady in there somewhere. Can you see her? (Photo was from

There is an old lady in there somewhere. Can you see her? (Photo was from


I have been reading Ms. Consuelo C. Razon’s column from the Philippine Daily Inquirer

The issues she brought up tickled me, to say the least.

Old people can be such drama queens (and kings) sometimes. But since we will eventually grow up to be like them — in fact we will Be Them in the near/far future — what they say can be worth noting.



Why We Write (F. Sionil Jose’s POV)

I love Mr. Francisco Sionil Jose! I’m a huge fan!

One of my bestfriends introduced me to him when she had to ask for his help with our Komunikasyon I/II-project in college.

I first met him in Padre Faura, in his bookshop, Solidaridad. Mr. Jose was an octogenarian with the cutest smile.

He is very insightful, and his writings are imbued with a strong sense of country which I love. He is married to the former Ms. Teresita Jovellanos whose father was a doctor.

This is what Mr. Jose has to say about writing: “It is this search for justification, for the explanation of what we are doing, which will then give depth to what we do, not just relevance which we seek because we want to go beyond the confines of our skins, to participate in the larger drama of existence.” (from the essay Filipino English: The Literature as We Think It, F. Sionil Jose, Gleanings from a Life in Literature, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2011).

He is still writing! And this is from his latest column at The Philippine Star. Food for thought.


The Rosales Saga is a 5-book series and is Mr. Jose’s opus. I have re-read Mass and The Pretenders so many times I can write fan fiction on them!
(picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

f sionil jose

Mr. Jose in his hometown Rosales, Pangasinan
(picture courtesy of