Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jose Rizal is Filipino, not Anti-Pinoy

Many people commented on Blackshama's piece entitled "My Anti-Pinoy Hero: Jose Rizal" over at Filipino Voices (I am inclined to write about it as FV's anniversary nears). Blackshama says, and I quote:

Jose Rizal is the quintessential AntiPinoy. He is my hero and probably yours too. His two novels are considered by Leonie Guerrero (himself a translator of the novels and prizewinning biographer of the Hero) as the “Gospels of its [Filipinos] nationalism” While we may think that the two novels are anti-friar, it is also anti-Pinoy. Part of the basis of our national identity is being AntiPinoy!
Though I agree on some of the points raised by Blackshame in his article, it is largely inaccurate.

First, in Rizal's time, there is no such term as "Pinoy". There is, however, a term "Filipino" which was a reference to half-bloods. These half-bloods were sired by Castillians married to indigenous elites.

Second, the term "Pinoy" is of recent origins. It probably became popular during the 60's or 70's when the Second Enlightenment or "Propaganda Movement" occurred. Pinoy is street lingo, which many mean "Filipino".

What Blackshama tried to do is make a philosophical distinction between these two terms, and spark a debate similar to the ones which Rizal and other Ilustrados did in their time. 

The debate I am referring to was the one which somewhat divided the nation back then--the debate between the half-bloods and the pure blooded.

The half-bloods and "nationalist" pure blood described themselves as "Filipinos", or Spaniards living in a place considered as part of the Spanish regime. They were proud to be called "Filipinos" because the term glorifies the name of one of Spain's most beloved and most powerful monarch--King Philip. 

Those not of noble birth or do not enjoy property rights back then were called "indios", a term which Rizal and his bunch of moneyed intellectuals disdain. "Indio" was a derisive term not for the indigenous folk who do not care less if they were called such, but for those who thought of themselves as educated and moneyed enough to be considered "Filipino". People back then were satisfied to be called "Pampangos", "Ilokanos" or Cebuanos.

Like Blackshama and those who consider themselves now as superior over most Filipinos (especially those spending time writing polemics or political pieces over the Net) wanted to say that they are anti-Pinoy, as if it really means much, or is really substantive enough to be discussed online.

Rizal was an accidental hero. He became one not because he suffered at the hands of those cruel or brutal Spanish soldiers but because he wanted to become Filipino. Like others in his time, Rizal was desirous to be one of those pure-blooded weak-minded Spaniards solely because being a Filipino was a "status". The term was not invented to describe a nation--it was used first as a classification. It classified people based on the nobility of their birth or what we now describe as a colonial caste system. If you're born poor, you're an Indio. If you're born in Spain and lived in a colony, you're a peninsular. If you were a half-blood bastard (or not), then you're insulares.

Rizal was neither--he was not born a Spaniard nor was he a son of a pure-blooded Spaniard. He was a Chinese born in the Philippines. His parents were second or third generation Chinese who elected to live in the Philippines, who embraced Christianity and the Western-inspired life.

That was Rizal's problem--he was seeped in Christian and Western philosophies and was so good at that that he agonized over the very fact that in the colonial caste system, his very own person do not count for anything. In his milieu, status was everything.

Rizal was undoubtedly superior over his Spanish classmates but lacked one thing---status. He cannot claim to be an insulares though his maternal grandmother Regina Ochoa was described as "Spanish-Chinese", because to be called one means being born from a union between a pure-blooded Spaniard and an indigenous elite.

Rizal suffered an identity problem, unlike his other Ilustrado buddies such as Antonio Luna and others who were pure insulares.

Insulares such as Luna considered themselves of a different stock. They, themselves, invented the term Filipino, derived from its etymological source "Las Islas de Filipinas". Those born in the Philippines, of half-blood, were described as "Filipinos".

It is inaccurate though to describe Rizal as the "quintessential" Anti-Pinoy because, for the record, Rizal's struggle was exactly one that was directed at owning the very category of being "Filipino." He wanted everybody to be called "Filipino" and not "indio" to spur a sense of nationalism and for everybody to unite and form a "nasyon" or nation. That way, his status was made certain and concrete and his place in society secured.

Now, if Blackshama is trying to distinguish the terms "Pinoy" and "Filipino" differently, ascribing a derisive meaning for the term "Pinoy", cutting it from its original etymological umbilical cord, his attempt falls flat on the floor.

If Blackshama wanted to say that being "Pinoy" is being of an ill-natured brute, uneducated, immoral, un-cultured and wanted the term to serve an anti-thetical purpose, wittingly (or unwittingly) Blackshama is creating a sociological divide that has no rational basis.

If Blackshama wanted to say that being "Pinoy" is equivalent to an "Indio" of Rizal's time, then, his postulate is historically inaccurate.

BY saying that Rizal criticized the "Pinoy" (in Blackshama's world, the term is equivalent to the "Indio" of Rizal's time), Blackshama was actually telling us that Rizal exhibited the same racism as that of the Spanish colonists. That Rizal was a pseudo-hero, even an anti-hero, was something irreverent for Blackshama or by anybody for that matter.

Rizal loved the indios much as he loved the Ilustrados because he desired for everyone to be called "Filipinos." Fact is, the struggle was for the Ilustrados and the insulares to destroy the colonial caste system so that everyone enjoys equal rights and for what? To protect the interests of the moneyed, the intellectual and the propertied classes not of pure Spanish birth from illicit or illegal seizure of property and from cruelty. Had the Spaniards studied sociology back then and did not build a colonial caste system, probably, we would still be a Spanish colony.

Now, if Blackshama wanted to describe those who criticized the attitudes or mindsets of ordinary Filipinos as “Anti-Pinoy” and likened them to Rizal, Blackshama, for all his posturings, is mistaken. These so-called “Anti-Pinoys” are different from Rizal. Fact is, they are not Filipinos.

They are half-bloods who wanted to impose their so-called “intellectual superiority” over ordinary Pinoys. Or, if they are not bastards or sons or daughters of a foreigner with a Pinay wife, or a Filipino married to a foreigner, and just had the chance to live abroad courtesy of their education or were given a job offers, or were granted immigrant status and think of themselves as superior, then, they are not “anti-Pinoys”. They are derisively bastards of their own race.

Whoever rejects the very ethos of the People living in this revered land, whoever says that Western or Eastern ways are superior than us, or whoever says that the Pinoys are the epitome of crassness or that the problems of this Nation stems from the negative attributes of the People are stupid, idiots and racists. They don't know what they are saying and they are only glorifying a term which means absolutely nothing.

The Pinoy is an intelligent one. He is a hard-worker, a follower of the law and a lover of justice. It is the elite of this country that creates these problems, with their brutish natures, a lover of anything easy, a corrupter of morals and a veritable dictator.

It is the Pinoy elite that is the cause of this country's problems. It is they who exploit the resources of this country, it is they who impoverish the people with their anti-people policies, and it is they who think of themselves as messiahs when all they are are false prophets.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Pinoy. Yet, there is something terribly wrong with the elite. And for us to really move forward, let us destroy the elites of this country and build a government that will create an equitable and just society.

Lest I be misinterpreted, I love being called Pinoy and for every blemish that these people see, for every non-civilized manner, for every so-called "crass-ness" of the Pinoy, being called such is still a badge of honor.

Beginning this day, it is better to be called an Anti-Elite, instead of an anti-Pinoy.