Our Land, Our Seas, Our Identity

By Jose Ma. Montelibano

Ako-ay-Filipino.2It is always good to begin at the beginning. This sounds simple enough, but not for a vast majority of Filipinos.

To test about how intimate Filipinos are about their knowledge of the beginning, I asked a group of young men a simple question, “What makes you Filipino?” There followed an interesting exchange of views and sentiments. Then, one of them, in his Facebook page, posted the same question to his friends.

The answers did not take long in coming, more than a hundred of then in less than a day. Of course, the answers were all correct. They mostly mentioned traits and culture, love of country, love of the Filipino people. But few, an embarrassingly few, gave the most succinct and fundamental answer, the most important of all correct answers. And that is, “I was born in the Philippines.”

Why would such a seemingly simplistic answer be the most fundamental, the most correct? Because it is true, that’s why, and without that basic truth, all the other correct answers cannot be correct. Because if there is no Philippines, there is no Filipino people, there is no Filipino race. Our land, our seas, they gave birth to the Filipino race. Simple, fundamental, true, yet few ever give it a thought.

If our islands now known as the Philippines belonged to Malaysia, or Indonesia, or China, we would be Malaysians, Indonesians or Chinese. We will not be Filipinos. There would be no Filipinos. It is the land and the seas of the Philippines that define our identity as much as provide us our first security. That is the gift of our land and seas – our identity and our security.

To begin at the beginning should be the fundamental context of all Filipinos but most especially those who would take on leadership roles in society. Losing sight of the beginning in our active consciousness makes us react to surface stimuli with serious disconnection from our foundation. This is crucial when we speak of a poverty that is rooted in landlessness. This is just as crucial when we talk of territory that other countries try to take away from us.

We cannot assume that all Filipinos understand how our land and seas give us our identity as a race. How can the majority naturally think so when they have been forcibly separated by circumstance from children of the Mother Land? For four centuries, Filipino natives as a whole were taught that the land and seas belonged to everybody else but themselves. The King of Spain, the United States of America, Imperial Japan, and since 1946 to the small minority of the population who owned land by land titles. Everyone else had no right to be anywhere in their country of birth. How, then, can they love a Mother Land that they were taught was never theirs?

Colonial history and legal protocol dispossessed the natives of our islands of their right and control over the lands they had inherited from generation to generation. It is no wonder that history’s running total reflects a people with a very shallow sense of nation. Nation, after all, is rooted in land and seas that identify and provide us the means to survive, and thrive. It is no wonder that this sense of nation, and those critical of others without this sense of nation, refer mostly to Filipinos with no land issues – those who have and those who can afford to have.

We even adopted a greater anomaly, this time not because of colonial leaders, but of defiant colonial mentality that persists without colonizers. Is there anything more laughable than Filipinos calling other Filipinos as IP or Indigenous People? The West grabbed the land from the indigenous people of America, Canada and Australia, became the dominant population, then called the native tribes as Indigenous People. And we call the Aetas, the Mangyans, the Ifugaos, the Mlangs, and so many other minorities as Indigenous People as though we, the majority of Filipinos, are not as indigenous as every one else.

Who are we, the vast majority of the Filipino people, if we are not indigenous? Are we Spanish, American, Japanese, Chinese? That stunning stupidity of the majority of Filipinos calling the small minorities as Indigenous People make these minorities, including Muslims, as Filipinos, natives of the Mother Land, while we are as lost as sheep without a memory, without an identity, without security from our land and the seas.

What happened to our societal leaders? What happened to our public officials? What happened to the Church hierarchy? What happened to our industrialists, our businessmen, our entrepreneurs? What happened to our academe, the intellectuals, the social scientists? What happened to our patriots that they could not see how difficult it is for Filipinos without an intimate attachment and ownership of the people’s land to feel love for that which had never been there for them?

Is our patrimony only for those who were blessed, only for their children and grandchildren, while the rest wallow in amnesia that they, too, had rights of inheritance, rights to an identity, rights to security from the abundance of the Mother Land? Are we who can do something about it, we who have influence, position, authority and wealth so callous as to perpetuate this amnesia to our advantage?

There will be no answer to poverty, no answer to corruption, no answer to our lack of identity, security and sense of nation until the amnesia is lifted from our consciousness. We will only manage to bring a grave injustice to even graver levels, but this time only with malice and greed when we refuse to correct a massive and horrible historical injustice.

We must work to awaken the living dead of a memory. We must return to the historical truth, confront it, accept it, resolve to amend it, then commit to atone for it among the most injured and damaged. We must go to our people, tell them their own forgotten story, and journey with them to the waiting arms of the Mother Land.

8 Responses. Have your say.

  1. Roman R. Guerrero says:

    Rizal has envisioned a single Filipino people that includes Muslims, Christians, Subanens and other indigenous people now called Lumad. Today, this has remain a dream more so with the soon-to-be officially recognized Moro identity in lieu of Muslim identity. This legally recognized alarming shift puts even greater the Muslim rejection of Filipino identity into belligerency level against Filipinos who honor Philip2-the Moro’s object of not only dislike but hatred and violence down to those Filipino apparently trapped in honoring Philip2. Their shift need to be reciprocated with a shift from Philip2 into Inang Maria aka Maryam to Islam. With her as new honoree, we could end up attaining that tattered sense of national unity and fulfill Rizal’s vision…finally.

  2. Manuel F. Almario says:

    The only way we can help our country is through nationalism – the awareness, the advocacy and, if possible, the action to promote the real interests of the nation. In essence, it is the use of our natural resources mainly and primarily for the benefit of our people, and not to allow it to be used for the benefit of other peoples. God gave us this land, and we must nourish and utilize for the benefit of present and future generations.

  3. Mac Flores, Jr. says:

    This article by Mr. Montelibano is a good one that exemplifies one’s Patriotism and Nationalism; both words have one thing in common – Love of Country.

    I may differ in concept from the writer, when it comes to original inhabitants of the PHL.

    If we really want to know the EARLY INHABITANTS of the PHL, meaning the very first, it is safe to say that these are the Aetas, the Malays and the Indonesians equally known as our Ancestors based on what I learned from PHL History and Social Studies during my early school days.

    In present parlance, Ancestor is synonymous to Aborigines or Indigenous People, being the very first known inhabitant of a country.

    Through the years, these original inhabitants by inter-marriages among themselves and the immigrants brought forth the Filipinos that we know today.

    Also, through the years the PHL Constitution evolves to legally define a “Filipino Citizen” regardless of land ownership. To wit:


  4. arthur alvendia says:

    Necessity of National Identity, and Genocide thru Charter Change

    Congratulations Mr. Montelibano, to an excellently expressed and timely call to the need for an Awakening to our authentic Identity, as the foundation and basis for national development. It is indeed “laughable”, if not a tragic national shame that “we call ourselves Filipinos and other Filipinos as Indigenous People”, as though they are ethnic curiosities that we found in our islands. Imagine in our ignorance, we now call our people’s Forefathers as “IPs”. What an insult to our own race.

    Realize — At least 90% of us are descendants of the original austro-indonesia settlers, who migrated to the shores of what is now Butuan city, Caraga region in Mindanao. There they established a lumad tribal kingdom (“lumad” is a Malay term meaning native), the first sovereign nation of the islands by 900 AD. By 1400 AD the kingdom split because 30% converted to Islam and migrated to the Zamboanga peninsula and Jolo to establish the Jolo sultanate, while the rest remained animists, stayed in Caraga region and spread to the other islands. Both sovereign kingdoms never surrendered to the Manila authorities and have maintained their tribal authority over their clans. There is a total of 44 tribes (according to dialect and clans) in Mindanao, 13 Muslim and 31 Lumad (animists) with a population of 4 and 8 million respectively or about 12 million all in all. There are about 17 million “indigenous people” all over the country.
    The tragedy of history is that it is written by the victors, the conquerors, maintiained now by the dominant oligarchs – hence we now have a Filipino a name, identity and history written by our conquerors who have led our people to disown our own “lupang hinirang” and forgotten our true identity and culture – and instead embraced that of a conquered colonized people, lost in time and their own land. We find our people named after their conqueror, robbed of their own culture and forgetting our own dreams to find our own destiny as a nation.

    Our true beginnings,call to us Filipinos to return to our roots, our history, our culture so that we may now write our own authentic vision of development. As you have said – “look at the Filipino today even the notion of his birthplace “. Yes – he has lost his source of identity, his beginnings, which is why we have lost our bearings and have no vision of development of ourselves and our nation.

    Instead we have embraced the vision provided by the Market system, that tells us to forget about developing our own natural resource endowment; and instead rely on what the globalized market dictates to us thru price signals. That we should go into services, and let the foreigner gain full ownership of your land and let them develop your resources, or go overseas and work their as a citizen of the world, and escape the reality that most OFWs are actually “economic refugee” fleeing their blighted nation. Instead of evolving our own God given endowment of land, culture and religion, we have supplanted our consciousness and taken on that which has been provided by our western educators, their political economic ideologies, and institutional system. Intuitively even our man on the street know it , we smell it, there is something rotting in our collective hearts — it is the corpse of a dead national identity and the corruption it has brought to our institutions.

    We need to understand the Necessity and Role of our national identity, its implications on our responsibilities to our homeland, our political economic institutions, our laws and constitution. We must understand the implications and Consequences of NOT bothering to understand it.
    Now to put the final nail to our coffin – our leaders in government and private business — nonchalantly call for an abdication of our stewardship responsibility to our national patrimony (of natural resources) and instead pass on the task to foreign investors. Because they are “better in doing it” the proposed Charter Change removes the Constitutional protections of our basic economic rights, and grants Congress a blank check (through the insertion of an innocuous phrase “Unless Provided by Law) — to give the right of 100 percent ownership of corporations that would develop these resources for us. Yet our government leaders, our business men with their “brain snatched minds” see this as mere “economic house keeping provisions” to complete the economic genocide of globalization . Have we not seen what our leaders have converted Decades of national Budget legislation to Pork, Now we are asked to trust them with a carte blanch on our people’s fundamental economic rights. Ano ba tayo ??? Nakaka-hiya ? We are angered – but Fallow’s label sticks—“Damaged Culture” .

    So where do we start?
    Let us first heed the whimper of our dying national soul – to seek and understand the necessity of finding our national identity, our homeland, and understand what this requires of our generation.
    This means deconstructing our prevailing institutional systems and see what beliefs, values, identity, purpose – that truly animates them. We must accept the reality that we are a nation that has been “shipwrecked” and stop this delusion that we are on the way to a material paradise because globalization will take us there. We must see and understand what globalization has done to our people, to our institutions, our collective minds. We must realize that this Promise (that granting ownership of our resources will lead to our people’s liberation from poverty thru growth, ) is a delusion. Inclusive Growth thru foreign capital is an empty promise. Have we not seen what privatization has done to our basic utilities? How it has destroyed our natural comparative advantage, the growth of our own industries? Or what globalization has done to the mass of our rural population? To other peoples leaving their own lands?
    Our Generation, specially the Seniors who have seen the story of our Folly must realize that — Inclusive growth requires structural change in the ownership and use of our Own capital as derived from our Own natural resources. Signing off our national patrimony means a permanent loss of our homeland and our national identity. Don’t we see that Charter Change on foreign ownership is just another Invasion, an Invisible form of Colonization thru Economic institutional takeover legitimized by our own Congress and Businessmen. What will Rizal, Bonifacio say to our generation?

    Let us go back to our beginnings, the roots of our people, our homeland, and as men of reason, enlightened with a faith in a purposeful God who distributed the original populations of the planet’s land masses – let us face as a people, our responsibility to understand the necessity of finding our True Self, our authentic historical, cultural identity as a people, and founded on this, define our people’s Vision of development and build anew our own authentic institutions, our homeland – our lupang hinirang, sa manlulupig, hindi pasisiil.

    Arthur Alvendia

  5. John Kanig says:

    Our problem is that we have been given our national identity – we did not choose it. First, the Spaniards told us that we are now all Filipinos. The Americans just put a stamp on that declaration; “Our leader”, after gaining independence, did not object to it. We have over 180 indigenous ethic groups who continues to show and exercise their individuality. Ask a Tausog if he feels any kinship with an Aeta since both are Filipinos. Not until we shed that ethnicity will be have a National Identity.

    • arthur alvendia says:

      Wrong tribe to compare, aetas are aborigines while lumads are relatively more recent. you ask a tausog in Jolo if he feels a kinship with a manobo in butuan, the answer is yes. Both came from the same lumad kingdom started in Butuan. In fact the brotherhood between lumads and muslims is very much alive.
      But that is not the point.
      Ethnic differences will always be there and it is up to our generation to see our common roots if we care.
      The move towards national unification and finding a common identity requires a deliberate Choice made by convicted citizens who see its value.
      Posing an impossible condition to make that Choice is legitimizing one’s despair or indifference. Why Not just say pagputi ng uwak, then i will make my move. At least the real intent is clear.

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      Even now, the indigenous people of our country are still being treated as if they were from another planet. They are being shun by Philippine society and their resiliency is only thing that keeps their identity going. Sometimes we show so much resentment against white people and yet we’re doing everything we can to make our skin white, almost all the people in our entertainment business are half breed, the other half being mostly white. We are even prejudice with our own kind because of the differences in our dialect. The Ilocanos can’t stand the Pampangenos, the Visayans thinks they are better than the Bicolanos and it goes down the line.

  6. don givens says:

    To get away from the colonial mindset,the name of the country should be Maynilad vice Philippines. Cebu should be the capital, because it is between Luzon and Mindanao. The citizens will be called: Maynilads. Language:
    Tagalog since, they are the majority and most citizens speak it now. Currency:
    Atik. Base the new constitution on the above. That is my humble opinion, take it or leave it.

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