A Link in Time and Destiny
Pietros Val Rey de Patricio
The oil on canvas masterpiece painted by the Filipino muralist and master of the arts Galo B. Ocampo illustrates a rather frightening than pleasing sight entitled Flagellants, visualizing three hooded men lined after one another facing their backs towards the viewer, half naked and barefoot with white veils covering their faces and their legs and feet bound by ropes, each slashing their own backs with whips as they head towards the light stricken part of the canvas. The rays of light slowly emerge out of the dark clouds of the sky. Dark colors were applied to give the painting a depressing appeal to its audience. The visionary landscape does not demonstrate any cultural scene or natural setting but depicts a dream where ocean and sky are joined instead, leaving an underwater cosmic effect. The sinful men follow a curving arcade of stone that resembles a Roman bridge leading towards the light. They walk upon a marble chess floor punishing themselves for their sins and failures in the search of salvation and the truth to many questions. The arch is an aqueduct to the time and distance of the human destiny. The white corals in the sand that bear a fading texture create rhythmic intervals that indicate the passage of time. The soaking water coming from the tide of the ocean represents the cleansing of one's body from dirt, symbolizing the purification and apology of the soul to free itself from sin. The sunlight is the answer that puts an end to all tribulations of mankind. Ocampo's Flagellants was completed in 1953 when Manila was slowly being rebuilt from the ravages of the Second World War. His painting expressed the wounds and horrors of the recent world war. But it more or less also explains many other things such as the quest and effort of mankind for his sense of being and the gaining of deeper understanding of the unknown.
Black is the burden of the human soul. Its nature has an unconquerable core and a selfish will of endless desires. Over this wide metropolitan cityscape, I see it come. The long awaited destiny that I've been longing for. Long before I understood the ethics of Greek mythology, I already had the desire of a known identity of what I am. My lifecycle has always been a mysterious journey, a dual race between questioning my self being and developing an own character. As a child, I found myself standing on the footstones of the Parthenon in Athens not knowing the hardships awaiting me in the years to come. Years later, I embarked to encounter the material poverty of the third world with my own eyes. Having the thought of how human society can let things like these happen perpetually is just obscure and disgusting. Manila is a capital of huge contrasts and dimensions where the rhythms of these islands submerge together as one heart and soul. But beyond this place of political wrath and colonial legacy, I also encountered the cultural wonders and natural heavens of this hidden place. I left this country at a tender age, early enough to be deprived from getting a divine knowledge of my origins. I've left these mystic islands behind, far in the silent blue waters of the Pacific, to endeavor a new dimension far up in the Germanic north. As years past and I grew older, I began to understand the differences between the spiritual agonies of both the first and third worlds. I've already mastered the pain of each kind of poverty. I developed an own sense of reasoning just as all humans do as their life journey takes them to diverse challenges. I was born in Greece but not as a Hellenic citizen. From that moment on, my birthmark as a stranger in society has already began to take shape.
I never intended that it would turn out into something immense and rebellious. The first time I came to live in the Pearl of the Orient seas, I felt alienated just as a slave of time is locked up in his own labyrinth. How does it feel to be a foreigner in one's own land of origin? Life is short and time is scarce. From the very moment a candle has been lit by fire, so does birth become the beginning of a death. Our existing time for the unlocking of the unreasonable silence of our lives is passing us by. To find the key, we must discover our hidden desires and accept realities of our past and presence that we refuse to take for real. We should understand for once that our own lives are not the center of the entire universe, although we receive a glimpse of it through our own perspectives. We see our lives the way we take it for real. More or less, we are the filmmakers and the audiences of our own lives. Our brain is like a frequently winding camera, a wilderness of life collections. But every scene and fact we cut out becomes lost and remains a mystery. There are some things in life that we often refuse to accept and often tend to look away. What is it that we really want in general? If one would ask a starving individual in the third world, he would look for food. If a minimum wage income worker in every nation would be asked, they would all agree with money. A suicidal individual in the first world would ask for happiness and companionship. A sexaholic man would ask for sexual fulfilment. But what is that one thing we are living for, the very essence of our own lives? What is the sense of leading a lifecycle, what are our obligations after fulfilling all our tasks in life? Where do we proceed after that? Our ability as wondering creatures makes us unique from others and this has made us successful in scientific discoveries and endless progressive explorations. Our brain's ability to think is our deadliest tool that can make drastic changes in an atmosphere. It probably is the most powerful object in the universe after all. This piece of flesh that is destined to rot in short time is more powerful than the hardest solid object existing in the entire cosmos. As said, our fate is like an unknown wilderness in a labyrinth. We never know what will happen next and what miseries will stumble upon us just like the hero Theseus who landed up in a puzzling maze in the island of Crete where he had to face the Minotaur, the most fearsome bull-headed creature in Greek mythology. The journey of every individual's life has a long process of travel, experience and a return. We are responsible for the process of this life journey but not for its outcome. To know what true triumph is all about, we must also embrace the meaning of failure. This is an important tool that will make us successful in future tasks. May it be a triumph or failure, the outcome always sends out a valuable message and countless moral values that will make us richer in every sense. To embark on this journey, we need the wisdom of the self to unlock many keys in life. Only when the knowledge of the self becomes unrecognized do troubles begin to occur.
Do we even know ourselves as a common folk? What do we really want as a people? They say that a dumb people and a dumb country would only lead to nowhere. Why do people here want to unlearn their native accents just to perfect this Anglo-Saxon tongue that originated from the far flung Britannia? Why do we praise this Germanic language that is not even our own? What will we achieve with the whitening of our own Malayan skins, the mentality that we've inherited from our former oppressors who believed that everything with a light tone is more beautiful and superior to anything with a darker complexion? Will we go far with our Eurocentric desires for physical beauty? Why do we aim to be something that we are not? Don't we desire for a nobler sense of our being as a people? I admire my bronze tone; it is unique in every sense. It combines with the colors of this tropical atmosphere. And yet I was still raised in a Nordic atmosphere of freezing frost and snow, it has maintained in me like a birthmark. It is striking and I am proud of it. I am not willing to change it or destroy myself to make my tone that was kissed by the golden sunlight turn into something completely different just like those who are plagued by the colonial mentality we inherited from our colonizers who did everything do degrade and brutalize us to put themselves in a far superior level. I will never put myself in such a low manner for I already know myself and I am aware of who and what I am. I am a Filipino, a hybrid offspring of Mother Malaya, adopted and brutalized by my adoptive parents Mother Hispania and Uncle Sam. I was christened a name diverted from a foreign ruler who led my own oppression. Oh, Philippines, you lovely illegitimate son of King Phillip II of Spain, what has happened to you? Within my veins and traits also run the immortal amulets of other races that have caused the long process of ethnic fusions of creating me into something unique yet I still suffer from an identity crisis. I despise my aborigine Negrito forefathers whose genes have long been gone in my physical traits. I was degraded and denied from proper education. Just look and see for yourself what almost half a millennium of foreign domination can do to a people. Am I after all a bastard offspring of the intermarriage between the imperialist West and the mystic Orient? Is this all what I deserve for being stubborn my entire life? The so far only Asian winner of the American coveted Pulitzer Prize, Carlos P. Romulo, has written a book in the early nineteen forties, which he entitled I See the Philippines Rise. But sadly, it is hard to face the truth that his ambitious vision never came to reality. Instead we have gone the opposite direction. The influential elites in this country are just acting like our former oppressors. They have monopolized all businesses and are sucking up all sources of income and benefiting from it for themselves. So do the unmoral politicians who polarize the natives whom they refer as the masses, their milking cow, whose existence they slowly pulverize as good citizens of their country. They sit on their thrones like clowns arguing and performing hilariously irritating acts in their assemblies, which they see as their private circus. But their comedy has gone too far and contains no humor at all. They have the responsibility of an entire republic and a suffering people of 87 million in their very hands. The government is not a playground and politics is not a tool for a clown to perform his acts. Nor should a monkey monopolize all bananas and ruin everything for all. People still have failed to understand National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose's Filipinos-wake up! call in one of his literary masterpieces. Having access to a sufficient standard of living is a human right that should be internationally recognized. The Filipino is ill. He is still fooled and pushed around by his own self. He is cursed by the plague that has penetrated him centuries ago.
"Is the little Indio proud of his own country?" asks Mother Hispania.
"Well, if he sings his national anthem and swears his oath to the country every weekday, then why not?" Uncle Sam replied.
They both burst out in a mocking laugh.
Mother Malaya immediately breaks in tears and tells her son "Juan de la Cruz, your parents are mocking you, don't you want to prove them wrong? With what anyway, with your fouling slums and nasty politics? Where's your pride by the way? Take that American hotdog off your mouth and look at yourself! Why are you patronizing the American flag so much? You sing the national anthem everyday but you are still sinful towards yourself. All your achievements and natural beauty is worthless if you don't stand up for yourself. A mountain is not hard to climb if you have an ambition of reaching the peak. If someone orders you to stand up, you'd have to stand up on your own. For once, try to listen to what I say if you have some respect and dignity towards yourself and your own mother who has shaped you."
We are all making fools of ourselves while the entire world is just passing us by. Our politics is something that the developed world can only laugh about. It is actually us who are making our own lives miserable. But what can my own parents do if they work so hard yet earn so little? Our story tells how it is to be shifted from riches to rags. Our Malay ancestors have been skilled traders and shipbuilders during the middle ages. Traders from many generations of Chinese and Siamese dynasties, from Indian empires and Arab lands have flocked our shores. Even the Japanese have settled along our coasts. But by the time the Iberian men came to dominate us, they began isolating us and deprived us from almost everything. They made use of us and our resources. They believed that once the Filipino Indio has developed his own intelligence, he could have been a threat to western domination. So did the Americans later on who blocked our efforts towards industrialization. They recognized the industrial competence that we could develop and felt threatened the same way when Filipino migration to the United States was blocked after the massive influx of immigrants in their territorial grounds. They feared that this Christian culture from the Far East would deeply affect their predominantly Caucasian culture. But in the end, everything lies in our hands. I value this Malay-based Hispanic culture with its hints of an Americanized urban way of living a lot. It is unique. It embodies us who we are as a people. To accept one's self-identity is also another meaning of being truly civilized.
Long have I been gone. But now I am back. Manila, here I am, ready to embrace your corrupt world and drink from your polluted veins once again to experience the bitter taste of poverty. Too long have I been cradled by the adoptive and loving arms of Mother Germania who has been materially good and racially harsh on me but now I am returning to you. Please don't be harsh on me. Be kind and tender just as a prostitute is to a virgin young man. I came back to embrace you once again. You don't know what a feeling it is to be here. I haven't felt like a real human being again in ages. I've always dreamed of living among people in a society where I can be free and not discriminated for being different. For I am and will always be different the way all individuals are from each other. I've learned and experienced what racism is all about for a very long time just to figure out how much I love you and how important it is to value one's dignity as an individual belonging to a certain society. Berlin is an iconic city that will emerge in the future. I was fortunate enough to be part of a generation that is currently experiencing the rebirth and revitalization of its past glory as a world center. This place celebrates the human soul of social modernity. It offers so many open doors to the world but unfortunately, it was too small for my ambitions. I knew that I would barely reach any of my dreams remaining an outcast for the rest of my life. I did not want to regret this all my life that's why I made an oath to myself that everything I have started here would have to come to an end someday. I'm sorry that I wasn't born in this world to become a faithful citizen of yours. But all I've ever asked from you was just to accept me for what and how I am, which you have failed granting me. I never set foot here to become a plague on your territorial grounds for I my only intention of being here was the fatalistic will of destiny. Still, this is the place that has shaped me, the society that I grew up with, this place that is not even my own. No one has the right to deny me from claiming this for it is the truth. Nationalism is not a crime unless it is used as a superiority complex against others. Nor is it bound by any measured territorial distances or racial limits. It is about giving and understanding an enlightened sense about the people and nation that has shaped you. It can also be used as an important tool for nation building. A lot of Germans are ashamed of being proud of themselves because they lie on a higher league in this field. They are ashamed because they often link it to racial pride and superiority, Nazism and the horrors of the holocaust but in fact, they should be looking at it on a different scale and recognize their importance to the world, their honorable will and efforts of supporting developing nations and people in need rather than creating warfare, their contributions to humanity by creating new and innovative researches in technological advancements and medicine, and of course their cultural and academic achievements as a people. The Filipino has never produced anything revolutionary to mankind except for the yoyo, the fluorescent lamp, the automatic cooler, the electric grinder, the steiforator, the first plasma experimental device, geothermal energy, the TV telephone, the alcohol-fuelled airplane, the solar oven, the Planas turbo engine that saves more gasoline and causes less pollution, essential oils such as the papaya organic soap and the coconut virgin oil that is applied today in medicine, food, energy and perfumes. Also not to forget are the rice hull power and coco-bio diesel gasoline that could be alternative solutions to the world's energy crisis. Other Filipino scientific achievements include some advances in computer science, medicine and agrarian technology. Despite all that, Filipino scientists fail to gain international recognition because the formulas of their inventions have often either been rejected or bought by foreign research agencies.
Our professionals annually leave the country in masses, a human Diaspora, and are used overseas but they fail to serve their own people who badly need them. We have already become modern slaves of globalization. The developed world benefits from our skills while we can't even be capable of helping ourselves. Seldom have a people recognized their own qualities and failures. Filipinos have long mastered this skill. Yet they still fail to learn from their own mistakes. From now on, I will try to free my own hands and thoughts from the chains of neo-colonialism that has been imprinted on me for many generations. I will not see myself as an inferior human being and degrade myself anymore for I am a human who can think and create new things just like anyone else, a human being who has the capability to convince and mobilize minds. I am just an average human equal to anyone else. Life is beautiful and so is the world. We shouldn't waste all the opportunities in our short lifetime. Various peoples come together like a microcosm to expand their identities in this borderless world. A borderless world opens the door to endless opportunities, although racism is the dragon that will always stop this cause. Thinking low of one's self prevents one from being confident in life. We can all achieve more than we expect. We should not punish ourselves from the shadows of oppression but rather look forward on heading out of the gates of the past. We should release ourselves from the severe wounds of racism. It has already caused the death, oppression and enslavement of millions of people. If it would have gone on an immense scale, all of humanity would have probably been extinct by now. Let us try not to make judgements among one another even for one day and then we will all realize that all graces in life come for free if only we would liberate our ideologies. Based on my own past, it is only truthful to prevent every innocent child of a humble culture like ours from the horrors of any society where racism is widely present. Be kind - for everyone we meet in this life is fighting a hard battle. We all have our own cross to carry. As we tear down the walls of division, we should be optimistic in our ambitions. In the near future, I see all ravages collapse for there will be no more black and white, no longer any rich or poor, no more predators and prey, nor will any man or nation remain an island as we embrace the human light of justice and freedom. Racism is God's immortal challenge to the human race! It is there to challenge all our strengths and weaknesses as human beings. Just cry, my lovely pearl for tomorrow, your tribulations will all be gone.
Copyright © 2005 Pietros Val Patricio, Manila