a blog-tribute by a.a.



(Speech delivered by the author at the University of the Philippines Diliman on
Nov 23)

What is an old man like myself doing here, talking about revolution? Hindsight
is the lowest form of wisdom. I can tell you what it was like when your campus
was nothing but cogon waste, when all those trees that line your streets were
just saplings.

I can tell you also, why we were left behind by all our neighbors when in the
Fifties and the Sixties we were the richest, most progressive country in the
region, when Seoul and Tokyo were ravaged by war; Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta were
mere kampongs; when Bangkok was a sleepy town crisscrossed by canals. I never
was in China till 1979, but I know in the Forties that country was always
threatened by famine. It had a population then of only half a billion. Now, with
more than a billion people famine is no longer a threat, although hunger still
lurks in some of its distant regions.

Hunger has always been with some of us, too, but not as much as it now when so
many poor Filipinos eat only once a day. Altanghap, I wonder how many of you
know what that word means.

So then, why are we poor? Why do women flee to foreign cities to work as
housemaids, as prostitutes?

We are poor because we have lost our ethical moorings, despite of those massive
religious rallies of El Shaddai, those neo-gothic churches of the Iglesia ni
Kristo sprouting all over the country, in spite of the nearly 400 years of
Catholic evangelization.

How can we build an ethical society? We must remember that so-called values are
neutral -- that so much depends on how people use them. James Fallows' thesis on
our damaged culture, which many of us understand, is neither permanent nor

Ramon Magsaysay infused public life in the Fifties with discipline and morality,
Arsenio Lacson as mayor of Manila cleaned up City Hall. Even today, shining
examples of honesty among in our public officials exist, but they are few and
far between and they are not institutionalized.

And it is precisely here where the university comes in with its courses in the

Of all the arts, only literature teaches us ethics. Literature presents us with
problems, complex equations that deal with the human spirit and how often the
choice between right and wrong is made. In this process, we are compelled to use
our conscience, to validate the choices we make, and render the meaning, the
pith of our existence.

The university then is the real cathedral of a nation, and its humanities,
particularly its literature department, the altar. But how many possess this
sense of worth and mission?

To know ourselves, to make good and proper use of our consciences, we must know
our own history. So few of us do, in fact, we nurture no sense of the past.

If our teachers know our history, if they soak it in their bones, then it
follows that they also impart this very same marrow to their students.

If this is so, how come that when Bongbong Marcos visited Diliman sometime ago,
he was mobbed by students who wanted his autograph? How come that in La Salle,
business students cited Marcos as the best President this country ever had?

Not too long ago, I spoke before freshmen at the Ateneo and was told that since
so many practice bribery, it must be right, or how could anyone get things done
if palms are not greased?

In this university are professors who served Marcos. Have they ever been asked
what their role was?

We are poor because we are not moral. Can this immorality as evidenced by
widespread corruption be quantified? Yes, about P23 billion a year is lost,
according to NGO estimates.

We are poor because we have no sense of history, and therefore, no sense of
nation. The nationalism that was preached to my generation by Claro M. Recto and
Lorenzo Tanada was phony; how could they have convinced so many intellectuals to
analyze that inward, socially meaningless nationalism.

Recto and Tanada opposed agrarian reform, the single most important political
act that could have lifted this country then from poverty and released the
peasantry from its centuries-old bondage.

We are poor because our elite from way back had no sense of nation -- they
collaborated with whoever ruled the Spaniards, the Japanese, the Americans and
in recent times, Marcos. Our elite imbibed the values of the colonizer.

And worst of all, these wealthy Filipinos did not modernize this country - they
sent abroad their wealth distilled from the blood and sweat of our poor. The
rich Chinese to China, to Taiwan, to Hong Kong, the rich mestizos to Europe and
the rich Indios like Marcos to Switzerland and the United States -- money that
could have developed this nation.

How do we end this shameless domestic colonialism? The ballot failed; the bullet
then ? How else but through the cleansing power of revolution. Make no mistake
about it -- revolution means the transfer of power from the decadent upper
classes to the lower classes. Revolution is class war whose objective is justice
and freedom.

Who will form the vanguard of change? Who else but the very people who will
benefit from it.

Listen, when I was researching for my novel POON at the New York Public Library,
I came across photographs of our soldiers of the 1896 revolution felled in their
trenches by American guns. I looked closely and found that most of them were
barefoot. They were peasants.

The peasant is the truest nationalist. He works the land with his hands, he
knows instinctively what the term Motherland means. He loves this earth, even
worships it. The Ilocano farmer calls it Apo Daga.

But never romanticize the poor. Once, a group of PhDs lamented the futility of
their efforts in organizing and motivating them. When the elections came that
year, the poor sold their votes or voted for Erap.

Understand why they are often lazy, contemptible, fawning, cheating and
stealing. Imagine yourself not having a centavo in your pocket now, and you
don't know if you will eat tonight. There is nothing honorable about poverty --
it is totally dehumanizing and degrading. But once the very poor are roused from
their stupor, they become the bravest, the most steadfast. Remember, those
Watawat ng Lahi followers felled by Constabulary guns on Taft Avenue in 1965?
They believed that with their faith they were invincible.

It is with such faith and righteousness that our peasants rebelled in living
memory, the Colorums in 1931, the Sakdals in 1935, and the Huks in 1949-53.

The Moro rebellion, the New People's Army -- the cadres of both are from our
very poor, just like it was in 1896. And now, here is the most tragic
contradiction in our country. Our Armed Forces -- its officers corps -- many
come from the lower classes, too; they go to their exalted positions through
public examinations and entry to the Philippine Military Academy. Our Armed
Forces enlisted men -- most of them come from the very poor.

When the poor kill the poor, who profits?

Revolution starts in the mind and heart. It alters attitudes to enable us to
think beyond ourselves, family and ethnicity to encompass the whole nation. If
the communists win, and I don't think they ever will, they will rule just as
badly because they are Filipinos unable to go beyond barnacled habits of mind,
hostage as they always are to friends and family and to towering egos. The same
egos aborted the revolution in 1896, the EDSA revolution in 1986, and now, we
see the same egos wrecking havoc on the Communist Party. We see these egos
eroding our already rotten political system.

The core belief that should guide us in redeeming our unhappy country is in our
history, in our peasantry. It is not in textbooks, in foreign intellectual
idols, in Marx. And what is this ideology which Bonifacio believed in? Which
those barefoot soldiers killed by the Americans believed in? Pedro Close, the
peasant leader who led the Colored uprising in Taut, Parnassian in 1931, said is
this: "God resides in every man. God created earth, water and air for all men.
It is against God's laws for one family or one group to own them."

God and country; translate this belief into your own words and there you have it
in its simplest terms the creed with which the unfulfilled revolution of 1896
was based, and which should be the same creed that should forge unity among us.

Who will lead the revolution?

Certainly, not the masa, but one from the masa who understands them, who will
not betray them the way our leaders betrayed the masa. Estrada is the most
shameful example of that leadership that betrayed.

The leaders of the revolution could be in this university who have the
education, but who are not shackled by alien concepts, or the attitudes of
superiority that destroy leadership. Such leaders, like Ho Chi Minh, must lead
by sterling example, with integrity, courage, compassion and willingness to
sacrifice, who know that when the revolution is won, it is time to change from
conspirators to even better administrators, remembering that they must now work
even harder to produce better and cheaper products. And this massive work of
modernization can be achieved in one generation. The Koreans, Taiwanese and the
Japanese did it. It is not the Confucian ethic that enabled them to do this;
they understood simply the logic of government, which is service, and that of
commerce, which is profit.

By what right do I have to urge revolution upon our people who will suffer it?
What right do I have to urge the young to sacrifice, the poor to get even
poorer, if they embrace the revolutionary creed?

I have no such right, nor will I call it such. I call it duty, duty, duty. Duty
for all of us rooted in our soil, who believe that our destiny is freedom.

Not everyone can bear arms, or have the physical strength to stand up, to shout
loudly about the injustices that prevail around us.

Those who cannot do these, who cannot be part of this radical movement, must not
help those who enslave us. Do not give them legitimacy as so many gave
legitimacy to Marcos. Recognize, identify our enemies and oppose them with all
your means.

This will then test integrity, commitment.

Nobody need tell us the exorbitant cost of revolution, the lives that will be
lost, senselessly even as when Pol Pot massacred thousands of his own countrymen
in Cambodia. We who lived through the Japanese Occupation know what hunger, fear
and flight mean.

Joseph Conrad, Albert Camus and Jose Rizal -- writers I admire deeply, all
warned against revolution because it breeds tyrants, becaust it does not always
bring change. But look around us, at the thousands of Filipinos who are debased
and hungry, who are denied justice. Be shamed if you don't act. And as Salud
Algabre, the Sakdal general said in 1935, "No rebellion fails. Each is a step in
the right direction."

Revolution need not even have to be bloody. How many lives were lost at Edsa 1?
Not even 20. So Cory goes around telling the world that she had restored
democracy in the Philippines. Sure enough, we know have free elections, free
speech, free assembly but these are the empty shells of democratic institutions
because the real essence of democracy does not exist here. And that real essence
is in the stomach -- as when the taxi driver in Tokyo eats the same sashimi as
the Japanese emperor, or the bus driver in Washington who can eat the same steak
as President Bush in the White House. Contrast these with that jobless Cavite
laborer whose two children died because he fed them garbage. No, Cory Aquino's
EDSA revolution could not even have our garbage properly collected. Worse, 19
farmer demonstrators were killed near Malacanang because she refused to see
them. True to her oligarchic class, she declared a revolutionary government
without doing anything revolutionary; instead, she turned Edsa 1 into a
restoration of the old oligarchy. So today, we are reaping the results of her
negligence, ignorance and folly.

Yet, even capitalism can be very helpful. South Korea is a very good example of
how capital was formed by corruption, and how a single-minded general lifted
that nation from the ashes of the Koren War, into the thriving economy, which
Korea is today.

Remember the slogans of American capitalism -- a chicken in every pot, a Ford in
every garage. Money is like fertilizer -- to do any good it must be spread
around. Those robber barons at the turn of the 19th century were rapacious, they
exploited their worker, but they built industries, railroads, banks, the sinews
of American capitalism. And the most important thing - they kept their money
home to develop America. Unlike our rich Chinese, our rich mestizos and the
likes of Marcos who sent their money abroad to keep us poor. They are the enemy.

It has been said again and again that we are, indeed, a young nation compared
with other Asian countries whose august civilizations date back to 2,000 years
or more. Indeed, so are the Filipinos who shaped this nation --- those who led
the revolution against Spain -- they were all young, like you are, in their 20s
or early 30s. Rizal was 34 when he was martyred.

How then do we keep young without having to grow old only to see the fire in our
having to grow old only to see the fire in our minds and hearts die? How does
the nation's leading university maintain its vitality, its youth against the
ravages of consumerism, of globalism?

How else but to keep the mind ever healthy, ever alive by empowering it with
those ideas that nurture change and revolution itself, by ingesting the
technological age so that we can use technology for realizing our ideals.

How else but to embrace the ideas that make us doubt technology, society, even
revolution itself, but never, never about who we are, what we should do and hope
to be.

We cannot be beholden to any other nation. Jose Maria Sison doomed his
revolution when he turned to China for assistance; he ignored the "objective
reality" -- the latent anti-Chinese feeling among Filipinos, in fact among all
Southeast Asians who fear a Chinese hegemony.

We must mold our own destiny, infusing it with the strength of a sovereign
people. The Americans, the English, French, Russians, Cubans, Chinese, and
Vietnamese -- all achieved their unique revolutions. We must have our very own,
defined only by us.

How to build it, direct it, use it for the betterment of our lives, the
flowering of liberty -- I see all these as the major function of the university
which, after all, shapes our leaders. I pray that UP will graduate the best
doctors, the best engineers, the best teachers, the best bureaucrats. The
revolution needs them all. But most of all, let this university of the people
produce the ultimate modernizer, the heroic nationalist revolutionary -- we need
him most of all.

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