COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
The centennial of Lorenzo Tañada’s birthday brings back to mind the issue of nationalism which has been obscured by this globalization scheme. Some would think that nationalism is passé, and that as a people we have become free. It’s over a hundred years after the declaration of Philippine Independence.But the grand old man’s life proved otherwise. He fought for the interest of his country and the greater majority of the Filipinos. He fought for the abrogation of the Laurel-Langley Agreement, and for equal rights and opportunities for Filipinos and foreigners alike. He fought against Martial Law, and defended the civil liberties of political detainees. He fought for justice in the Aquino assassination, and was at the forefront of the Edsa revolt. In his last years, he fought against the US Military Bases Agreement and lived to witness the rejection of the treaty in 1991. With unwavering courage and consistency, Tañada fought for justice, freedom, and sovereignty.
Tañada was born on August 10, 1898 and it is ironic for a man who sees the dawn of Philippine independence and democracy spends his life fighting for independence and democracy. But he had a cause to fight. He lived through it all: the Philippine–American War, the American Occupation, the Japanese Occupation, and the First and Second World War. He witnessed the impact of free trade and liberalization, the influx of transnational corporations, Martial Law, and the Edsa revolt. He experienced the undue influence of the US military bases, and wary of the perennial Philippine insurrection movement.
Tañada’s life only shows that nationalism is not an end achieved with the declaration of Philippine Independence over a century ago, but an evolving state of identity and autonomy for the Filipinos. It is a continuing struggle towards sovereignty and nationhood. As it was then, so it is now.
Nationalism is not simply a rejection of what is not ours. It is more of an affirmation of what is ours, and the promotion of what we can truly call our own. It calls for territorial integrity. It calls for economic independence. It calls for political maturity. It calls for cultural identity. And for as long as these elements are not achieved or otherwise violated, nationalism is not dead.
Nationalism should not be equated with the slogan of the Left and hanged like a threat to national security. It should be the battle cry for every Filipino in asserting his own, a code of conduct in living his life. To be nationalistic is to protect his own territory, to defend his country from external and internal aggression, to know his country’s history and learn the past, to speak and promote his own language, to develop a distinct way of life reflective of his environment, and to pursue the greater interest of the majority of his people.
Look at the Americans. They even have the impudence of imposing their way of life on other people on the globe. With the Visiting Forces Agreement, they ensure to protect their own men in foreign lands, Daniel Smith for one. They preserve their natural resources with the strict implementation of environmental laws. They engage in international business and politics in the name of national interest. They may be exercising nationalism in excess, often at the expense of others but it is in this act of nationalism that makes them strong, secure, and free.
In our own setting, Tañada showed nationalism as a concrete act, and not as an abstract idea to be filled up with rhetoric. He showed nationalism as a way of life, not as an end or a beginning, but a continuing progression towards becoming and being. And in this sense, becoming and being a Filipino—in thought, in words, and in deeds. Indeed, nationalism is not only giving our country, the Philippines, its due. It is giving us, the majority of the Filipinos, our rightful due. Δ