AB-TO on Philippine Independence Day 2018
Reference: Inaj Mae Abalajon, Chairperson, Anakbyan-Toronto
The year 2018 would be the first to witness Toronto celebrating June as Filipino Heritage Month”, generally considered a significant gesture for the fastest growing immigrant community in Canada in recent years. This is also anchored on the 120th year since Philippine independence was declared on June 12, a date that signalled the breakaway of the country from the chains of Spanish colonialism.
Anakbayan-Toronto calls for critical reflection of these development in contrast to the ongoing bloodshed under the US-Duterte regime–thousands dead in the so-called drug war, indigenous populations displaced, rising costs of living with neoliberal policies kept in place, and a bumpy peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to strike deep the socioeconomic roots of conflict.
This Independence Day would be a great opportunity for retracing how matters came to be as they are now, and the implications for the Filipino people, including a new generation of youth who grew up in diasporic settings like here in Canada.
Over a century ago, one of the earliest successful anti-colonial revolutions in Asia, would be hijacked by the new imperial power flexing its military muscles in the region, the US. The newly-established Philippine Republic fought and lost a bloody and still under-discussed war that would determine the direction of the country a century and two decades hence. Manifold cross-country conditions like the persistence of cash crop farming controlled by a landed elite, a domestic market flooded and dependent on foreign goods, presence of American military bases, and an English-based education system could all be traced to US occupation. After being granted formal independence in 1946, one puppet administration after another ensured these neocolonial ties.
During his rule, dictator Ferdinand Marcos systematized sending off workers abroad for revenue through remittances and lower unemployment rates. Presidents after 1986 EDSA People Power uprising would only build up on this tactic to keep the economy afloat. Several state agencies facilitating migration coupled with narratives of overseas foreign workers (OFWs) as heroes are glaring indications of a labor export policy.
Canada is generally viewed as a top destination for OFWs. Despite majority of workers being deprofessionalized and stuck in low-paying and precarious sectors, pathways for residency give the the country a favorable impression, away from the backward conditions in the homeland. However, Canada also has well-kept imperialist interests. This includes trading arms to countries with notorious human rights records (A recent scenario is a cancelled helicopter deal with the Philippines due to public pressure). Canadian mining companies has a reputation for harassing communities in countries where they operate.
So what of “independence” can the Filipino celebrate? Our people can no longer afford to overlook these ghosts of the past that continue to haunt us. While it is important to be nourish with the visual arts, food, dance, fashion and culture, we must remember. History teaches us that since pre-colonial times up to the contemporary, the people of what we now know as the Philippines have resisted.
This is our beautiful struggle. Our heritage to the world is a revolution to win. ✊✊✊