Contemporary Global Capitalism and the Challenge of the Filipino Diaspora

By E. San Juan, Jr
Fellow, W.E. B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University

They kept saying I was a hero…a symbol of the Philippines. To this day I keep wondering what it is I have become….

—Angelo de la Cruz, kidnapped Filipino worker in Iraq

The Philippine nation-state often gets world attention only when calamities—such as the recent typhoon Ondoy’s unprecedented flooding of metropolitan Manila, with thousands of homes destroyed and several hundreds killed, due to government neglect; or the nearly 100,000 refugees created by the Arroyo regime’s indiscriminate bombing campaign against the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front—hit the headlines. The Maguindanao massacre of 57 unarmed civilians by a local warlord is the latest calamity . Meanwhile, news about the plight of twenty Filipina domestics abused as sex slaves in Saudi Arabia, or the brutalization of several hundred Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) detained in Middle-Eastern jails, hardly merit notice. Meanwhile, the recently elected president Benigno Aquino III confronts the long neglected plight of about 100 cases of Filipino migrant workers on death row in the Middle East, 50% of the cases involving OFWs arrested in China. Despite propaganda about concern for OFWs, the previous Arroyo regime miserably failed to translate the $17.3 billion 2009 remittance –one-tenth of the country’s gross domestic product—into self-sustaining well-paid jobs due to flagrant corruption and sheer neglect. OFW remittance last year represented 15 times more than new foreign direct investments, a symptom of the addictive dependency of the Philippine economy on the global capitalist system’s iniquitous division of social labor and the distribution of its value/products.
A review of the political economy of the Philippines might shed light on this facet of the global predicament of 200 million people (according to UN estimates) migrating for work outside their impoverished native lands, “spurring heated debates over national identity and border security, and generating suspicion, fear and hatred of the ‘other’ “ . This phenomenon concretely demonstrates what Samir Amin calls “polarization on a world-scale, … the most violent permanent manifestation of the capital-labour contradiction in the history of the expansion of capitalism”.
Three thousand four hundred Filipinos leave daily for work abroad, over a million a year, to join the nearly ten million Filipinos (out of 90 million) already out of the Philippines, scattered in more than 197 countries. It is the largest postmodern diaspora of migrant labor next to Mexico, the highest exporter of labor in Southeast Asia relative to population size. 75% of migrants are women, mainly domestics and semi-skilled contract workers, seeking decent livelihoods, for their family’s survival. Two thirds of the population live on less than $2 a day. Over four million more leave, without proper/legal travel and work permits, for unknown destinations. About 3-5 coffins arrive at the Manila International Airport every day–not as famous as Flor Contemplacion, Maricris Sioson, and other victims of neoliberal policies. According to Connie Bragas-Regalado, chair of Migrante International, at least fifteen “mysterious deaths” of these government “milking cows” (her term for OFWs) remain unsolved since 2002, with more harrowing anecdotes brewing in the wake of the U.S.-led war of “shock and awe” against anyone challenging its global supremacy. This relentless marketing of Filipino labor is an unprecedented phenomenon, rivaled only by the trade of African slaves and Asian indentured servants in the previous centuries. How did Filipinas/os come to find themselves suddenly burdened with this collective misfortune, forced into the traffic of selling their bodies, nay, their selfhoods?
Public records show that OFWs contribute more than enough to relieve the government of the onerous foreign debt payments to the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (WB/IMF) and financial consortiums. In 1998 alone, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, 755,000 Filipinos found work abroad, sending home a total of P7.5 billion; in the last three years, their annual remittance averaged $5 billion. Throughout the 1990s, they remitted over 5 percent of the national GNP, not counting the billions of pesos collected by the Philippine government in exorbitant taxes and processing fees. In 2004, OFWs sent $8.5 billion, a sum equal to half of the country’s national budget. In 2006, the OFW remittance was five times more than foreign direct investment, 22 times higher than the total Overseas Development Aid, and over more than half of the gross international reserves. In 2007, they sent $14.45 billion and $15.65 in 2008. For this they have been celebrated as “modern day heroes” by every president since the export of “warm bodies” was institutionalized as an official government policy.
OFW earnings suffice to keep the Philippine economy afloat and support the luxury and privileges of less than 1 percent of the people, the Filipino oligarchy. They heighten household consumerism, disintegrate families, and subsidize the wasteful spending of the corrupt patrimonial elite. They are not invested in industrial or agricultural development. Clearly the Philippine bureaucracy has earned the distinction of being the most migrant- and remittance-dependent ruling apparatus in the world, by virtue of denying its citizens the right to decent employment at home. OFW remittances thus help reproduce a system of class inequality, sexism, racism, and national chauvinism across the international hierarchy of core and peripheral nation-states.
Historical Orientation

After three hundred years of Spanish colonialism, the Filipino people mounted a revolution for national independence in 1898 and established the first constitutional Republic in Asia. But the United States destroyed this autonomous republic in the Filipino-American War of 1899-1913, with 1.4 million Filipinos killed and the islands annexed as a US territorial possession up to 1946, when nominal independence was granted. The US conquest perpetuated the feudal landlord system by co-opting the propertied elite that, together with comprador/middlemen traders and new cadres of well-tutored intelligentsia, served as the colonial, and later neocolonial, administrators. The Philippines offered abundant natural and human resources, together with what US policy-makers originally desired: strategic military bases for trade with China and a geopolitical outpost in the Asian-Pacific region. By 1946, thoroughly devastated by World War II, the Philippines emerged as a reliable U.S. dependency, with its political, economic and military institutions controlled directly or indirectly by Washington. Up to today, the Philippine army operates as an appendage of the Pentagon, its logistics and war-games supervised by Washington via numerous treaties and executive agreements, as witnessed by ongoing joint U.S.-Philippines “Balikatan” war exercises, legitimized by the anomalous Visiting Forces Agreement. Despite official denials, the US exercises hegemonic sway over a neocolonial formation so thoroughly Americanized that many Filipinos today believe that moving to the U.S. metropole is the true fulfillment of their hopes and dreams.
The U.S. nation-state after September 11, 2001 remains alive and well. US imperialism today might not have formal colonies in the old European sense of territorial possessions, but (as Eric Hobsbawm recently pointed out), nation-based finance-capital practiced “the collective egoism of wealth” that coalesced vestiges of “national self-determination” with the new politics of ethnic identity that characterized the transition from the “Age of Catastrophe” (from World War I to World War II) to the “crisis decades” of the Cold War and beyond. Even the cosmopolitan electicism of Saskia Sassen which extolled cyberspace as “a more concrete space for social struggles than that of the national formal political system,” could not explain the sudden disappearance of the once legendary Sub-Comandante Marcos’ Zapatistas from the transnational arena, nor the place-based national-liberation movements (the Maoists in Nepal, Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution; Evo Morales and indigenism in Latin America; the New People’s Army and the Moro struggles in the Philippines, etc.). So much for the anathematization of national-liberation struggles in a time when NATO and US military continue to inflict genocidal havoc in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Palestine, and other countries in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia.
With the Cold War unfolding in IndoChina, and the worsening of economic stagnation and lower rate of accumulation in the core capitalist countries by the seventies, the Marcos dictatorship worsened the country’s underdevelopment. Structural problems, such as unemployment, inflation, chronic balance of payments deficits, onerous foreign debt, and widenening social inequality are symptoms of the persisting US stranglehold. For over half a century, the US established the legal and political framework that transformed the country into a raw-material exporting economy and a market for consumer goods, with a semi-feudal land system and a bureaucrat-comprador-landlord governing bloc subservient to U.S. dictates. The import-substitution scheme briefly tried in the fifties and sixties quickly gave way to an export-oriented development plan at the behest of the WB/IMF. In the latter 70s, IMF-imposed structural adjustment programs to promote “free-market capitalism” (such as tourism, export-oriented light industries in Export Processing Zones, currency devaluation, etc.) imposed by the latter agencies and the state’s local technocrats plunged the country into a profound crisis. Because of the severe deterioration in the lives of the majority and serious foreign-debt problems, Marcos initiated the “warm body export”—the Labor Export Policy (LEP)—with Presidential Decree 442 in 1974, followed by the establishment of the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in 1983 and the mandatory sending of remittances through the Philippine banking system—a stop-gap remedy for a world-systemic crisis of profit/capital accumulation.
For the last four decades, the Philippines has been plagued by accelerated impoverishment as a result of the decline in wages, severe chronic unemployment, rising cost of living, inflation, and huge cutbacks in social services. Neoliberal policies known (“the “Washington Consensus”) maintained the cycle of crisis and systemic underdevelopment, rooted in the iniquitous class structure and the historical legacy of political, economic and military dependence on the U.S. These provide the framework for the increased foreign penetration and control over the national economy, the unremitting dependence on raw material exports and (since 1970s) of human resources, coupled with the deteriorating manufacturing and agricultural sectors caused by ruinous trade and investment policies. “Free market” development schemes packaged with “trickle-down” reformist gimmicks implemented by successive regimes after Marcos have precipitated mass hunger. As Pauline Eadie has cogently demonstrated, the role of the Philippine state in perpetuating poverty and aggravating the exploitation of Filipino citizens cannot be discounted, no matter how weak or “failed” in its function as a mediator/receiver of supposedly neutral global market compulsion.
By 2007, there were 9.2 million Filipino workers scattered in 197 countries, over 9% of of the total labor force. Permanent OFWs are concentrated in North America and Australia, while those with work contracts or undocumented are dispersed in West Asia (Middle East), Europe, East and South Asia, and as sea-based workers (roughly 250,000). The situation of Filipino migrant workers in the United States has been adequately explored in various studies. Grace Chang has investigated the plight of Filipina caregivers, nurses, and nannies in North America. A recent write-up on the horrendous condition of smuggled Filipino caregivers in Los Angeles, California, may illustrate one form of modern slavery. Why do Filipinas easily succumb to labor traffickers? About 700,000 men, women and children are being trafficked to the U.S., but OFWs are quite unique in that the Filipino’s deeply colonized mentality/psyche privileges America as “the dream destination,” an intoxicating way out of poverty.
Most OFWs today (46.8%) are service workers: household or domestic helpers, maids or cleaners in commercial establishments, cooks, waiters, bartenders, caregivers and caretakers. Although most are professionals with college degrees, teachers, midwives, social workers, etc., they are generally underpaid by the standards of their host countries—a sociopolitical, not purely economic, outcome of core-periphery inequity. OFWs work in the most adverse conditions, with none or limited labor protections and social services otherwise accorded to nationals. Whether legal or undocumented, OFWs experience racism, discrimination, xenophobic exclusion, criminalization; many are brutalized in isolated households and in the “entertainment” industry. They are deprived of food and humane lodging, harassed, beaten, raped, and killed. Meanwhile, the families left behind suffer from stresses and tensions in households lacking parental guidance; often, marriages break up, leaving derelict children vulnerable to the exigencies of a competitive, individualist-oriented environment. These are all symptoms of the logic of class and national inequality operating in a hierarchical world-system, not objective, neutral effects of a temporary dis-equilibrium of the free market due to illegitimate political and social interference.
Victimization of Filipinos (via insults, beating, starvation, rape, quarantine, murder) by employers from Europe to the Middle East to Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan have been documented in detail since the seventies when the export of “warm bodies” started. The fates of Flor Contemplacion, Sarah Balabagan, Maricris Sioson, and others—several hundred OFWs languish today in jails in the Middle East, Taiwan, Malaysia, etc.–have become public scandals and occasions for venting mass indignation. But the Philippine government officials either refuse to do anything substantial, or deliberately ignore the reports, dismissing them as untypical or trivial. Consequently, on April 8, 2009, the UN Committee for the Ratification of the Migrants Convention deleted the Philippines from the list of model states complying with the UN Convention mandating countries to protect the rights of their migrant citizens.

Agony of Deracination

Amid the tide of barbarization attendant on the putative benefits of flexible, neoliberal capitalism, we have witnessed a paradigm-shift among scholars of the emergent Filipino diaspora. Critical intelligence has been hijacked to serve vulgar apologetics: for example, the employment of Filipina women as domestics or nannies to care for children, old people, the chronically infirm or disabled, and so on, has been lauded as altruistic care, embellished with a philanthropic facade. With most female domestics coming from impoverished, formerly colonized societies, it is clear that the traditional structure of global inequality among nation-states operates as a crucial determining factor. One can no longer deny that the buying and selling of “third world” bodies is a legacy of the unjust and unequal division of international labor in both productive and reproductive spheres. This “global care chain” (household work managed as a profit-making industry) has been described by, among others, Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochshild. But their picture is vitiated by a telling omission: the status/rank of the Philippines as a neocolonial dependency, without the capability to enforce its sovereignty right and safeguard the welfare of OFWs.
The stark disparity is sharply delineated by Bridget Anderson in her penetrating critique, Doing the Dirty Work? Opposing scholars who streamline if not euphemistically glamorize the job of caring, Anderson exposes how domestics from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and other subaltern nations function as “legal slaves.” Anderson shows how this came about through the economic conquest of third-world societies by the profit-driven industrialized North. This has given the middle class of the First World “materialistic forms of power over them.” She deploys Orlando Patterson’s conceptual distinction between the pre-modern personalistic idiom of power and the materialistic idiom of power under capitalism. She defines the employer/domestic relation as a master/slave relation. The employer exercises both forms of power: “the materialistic because of the massive discrepancy in access to all kinds of material resources between the receiving state and the countries of origin of migrants; the personalistic because the worker is located in the employer’s home—and often dependent on her not just for her salary but for her food, water, accommodation and access to the basic amenities of life. The employer uses both these idioms of power, and both idioms are given to employers and reinforced by the state.” Viewed systemically, the global capitalist structure enables the exploitation of poor countries by the rich ones, and the exploitation of the citizens of poor countries by citizens of the global North (either male or female) through immigration legislation, even criminalizing migrants who assert their human rights. Earlier, institutionally imposed norms of race, nationality, and gender served to naturalize the migrant worker’s subjugation. But in the new field of globalized capital, the lack of citizenship rights and the status of subordinated or inferiorized nationality/ethnicity both contribute to worsening the degradation of third-world workers.
But there is something more pernicious that eludes the orthodox scholastic. What Anderson argues is that domestic work commodifies not only labor power—in classic political economy, labor power serves as the commodity that produces surplus-value (profit) not returned to or shared with the workers–but, more significantly, the personhood of the domestic. Indentured or commodified personhood is the key to understanding what globalization is really all about. Consequently, what needs to be factored in is not only an analysis of the labor-capital relation, but also the savage asymmetry of nation-states, of polities that hire these poor women and the polities that collude in this postmodern slave-trade. Economics signifies nothing without the global sociopolitical fabric in which it is historically woven. Brutalized migrant labor throughout the world thrives on the sharpening inequality of nation-states, particularly the intense impoverishment of “third world” societies in Africa, Latin America, and Asia ravaged by the “shock doctrine” of “disaster capitalism.”
Race, national and class forces operate together in determining the exchange-value (the price) of migrant labor. The reproduction of a homogeneous race (in Europe, North America, Japan) integral to the perpetuation of the unjust social order is connected with the historical development of nation-states, whether as imagined or as geopolitically defined loci. Historically, membership in the community was determined by race in its various modalities, a circumscription that is constantly being negotiated. It is in this racialized setting that European women’s positioning as citizen acquires crucial significance. This is the site where third-world domestics play a major role, as Anderson acutely underscores: “The fact that they are migrants is important: in order to participate like men women must have workers who will provide the same flexibility as wives, in particular working long hours and combining caring and domestic chores.” This is the nexus where we discern that care as labor is the domestic’s assignment, whereas the experience of care as emotion is the employer’s privilege. The distinction is fundamental and necessary in elucidating the axis of social reproduction rooted in socially productive practices. Such a vital distinction speaks volumes about migrant domestic labor/care as the key sociopolitical factor that sustains the existing oppressive international division of labor. This crucial distinction undermines all claims that globalized capitalism has brought, and is bringing, freedom, prosperity, and egalitarian democracy to everyone.
The political economy of globalized migrant labor involves the dialectics of production and reproduction. Following an empiricist line of inquiry, Rhacel Salazar Parrenas examines the racial and class dimensions of OFWs in what she quaintly terms “the international transfer of caretaking” in Rome and Los Angeles. While she calls attention to the gendered system of transnational capitalism, she downplays the racialist component and scarcely deals with subordination by nationality. This is because Parrenas construes “class” in a deterministic, economistic fashion. Her focus on the “patriarchal nuclear household” displaces any criticism of colonial/imperial extraction of surplus value from enslaved/neocolonized reproductive labor. Indeed, the fact of the caretakers’ national origin is erased, thus evading the issue of national oppression (for an eclectic view ignoring U.S. imperial reach, see Santos ). The slavish condition of indentured reproductive labor scrutinized by Anderson is not given proper weight. We need to examine how the dynamics of capital accumulation hinges on, and subtends, the sustained reproduction of iniquitous social relations and exploitative inter-state relations. Unlike academic experts, Anderson foregrounds social reproduction at the center of her inquiry, allowing her to demonstrate how gender, race, and nation are tightly interwoven into the mistress/domestic class relationship. In effect, the Filipina domestic is what enables European/North American bourgeois society and, by extension, the relatively prosperous societies of the Middle East and Asia, to reproduce themselves within their nation-state domains and thus sustain capital accumulation with its horrendous consequences.

In Quest of Filipino Agency

Postmodernist scholars posit the demise of the nation as an unquestioned assumption, almost a doctrinal point of departure for speculations on the nature of the globalization process. Are concepts such as the nation-state and its exclusive territoriality, sovereignty, nationality, and their referents obsolete? Whatever the rumors about the demise of the nation-state in the wake of September 11, 2001, agencies that assume its healthy existence are busy: not only the members of the United Nations, but also the metropolitan powers of the global North, with the United States as its military spearhead, have all reaffirmed their civilizing nationalism—disguised as humanitarian intervention–with a vengeance.
In this epoch of preemptive counter-terrorism, the local and the global find a meeting ground in the transactions among nation-states and diverse nationalities while the sharing of hegemony is negotiated among the metropolitan powers. Their instrumentalities—the World Trade Organization, NATO, IMF/WB, and assorted financial consortia—are all exerting pressures on poor underdeveloped nations. They actualize the “collective imperialism” of the global North. Citizenship cards, passports, customs gatekeepers, and border patrols are still powerful regulatory agencies. Given the power of the nation-states of the U.S., Japan, UK, France, Germany, among others, to dictate the terms of migrant hiring, and the administered circulation of wages, passports, rent, and other instrumentalities, the Philippines cannot rescue millions of its own citizens from being maltreated, persecuted, harassed, beaten up, raped, jailed, and murdered. Violence enacted by the rich nation-states and their citizens hiring OFWs prevail as the chief control mechanism in regulating the labor-market, the flows of bodies, money, goods, and so on.
My interest here is historically focused: to inquire into how the specific geopolitical contingencies of the Filipino diaspora-in-the-making can problematize this axiomatic of multiple identity-creation in the context of “third world” principles of national emancipation, given the persistent neocolonial, not postcolonial, predicament of the Philippines today. Suffice it here to spell out the parameters of this transmigrancy, an evolving transit narrative of neocolonials: the profound impoverishment of millions of Filipino peasants and workers, the extremely class-fissured social order managed by local compradors, landlords, and bureaucrat-capitalists who foster systematic emigration to relieve unemployment and defuse mass unrest, combined with the hyped-up attractions of Hong Kong and other newly industrializing countries, and so on. The convergence of complex global factors, both internal and external, residual and emergent, has been carefully examined by numerous studies sponsored by IBON, GABRIELA, Center for People’s Empowerment and Governance (CENPEG), and others. We may cite, in particular, the studies on the devalorization of women’s labor in global cities, the shrinking status of sovereignty for peripheral nation-states, and the new saliency of human rights in a feminist analytic of the “New World Order.” In addition to the unrelenting pillage of the public treasury by the irredeemably corrupt oligarchy with its retinue of hirelings and clientele, the plunder of the economy by transnational capital has been worsened by the “structural conditionalities” imposed by the WB/IMF.
Disaggregation of the economy has registered in the disintegration of ordinary Filipino lives (preponderant in rural areas and urban slums) due to forced migration because of lack of employment, recruiting appeals of governments and business agencies, and the dissolution of the homeland as psychic and physical anchorage in the vortex of the rapid depredation of finance capital. In general, imperialism and the anarchy of the “free market” engender incongruities, nonsynchronies, and shifting subject-positions of the non-Western “Other” inscribed in the liminal space of subjugated territory. Capital accumulation is the matrix of unequal power between metropolis and colonies. The time of alienated daily labor has so far annihilated the spaces of the body, home, community, and nation for OFWs. The expenditure of a whole nation-people’s labor-power now confounds the narrative of individual progress in which the logic of capital and its metaphysics of rationality have been entrenched since the days of John Locke and Adam Smith.

Gatherings and Dispersals

In the 1980s and 1990s, diaspora studies emerged as a revision of the traditional sociological approach to international migration and the national process of modernization. Because of globalizing changes in the modes of transport and communications (electronic mail, satellite TV, Internet), diaspora communities appear to be able to sustain their own distinctive identities, life-styles, and economic ties to their homelands. Accordingly, the static territorial nationalisms of the past are deemed to have given way to a series of shifting or contested boundaries, engendering notions of transnational networks, “imagined communities,” “global ethnospaces,” “preimmigration crucibles,” etc. These notions emphasize the complexity, fluidity, and diversity of migrant identities and experiences, foregrounding personal narratives and the popular culture of diasporic communities rather than structural, unidirectional economic and political influences.
The term “diaspora” usually designates “a minority ethnic group of migrant origin which maintains sentimental or material links with its land of origin.” Either because of social exclusion, internal cohesion, and other geopolitical factors, these communities are never assimilated into the host society; but they develop in time an idiosyncratic consciousness that carries out a collective sharing of space with others, purged of any exclusivist ethos or proprietary design. These communities might embody a peculiar sensibility and enact a compassionate agenda for the whole species that thrives on cultural difference. Unlike peoples who have been conquered, annexed, enslaved, or coerced in some other way, diasporas are voluntary movements of people from place to place, although such migrations also betray symptoms of compulsion if analyzed within a global political economy of labor and interstate political rivalries. Immanuel Wallerstein suggests that labor migrants (like OFWs) can challenge transnational corporations by overloading the system with “free movement,” at the same time that they try to retain for themselves more of the surplus value they produce. But are such movements really free? And if they function as a reserve army of cheap labor wholly dependent on the unpredictable fortunes of business, isn’t the expectation of their rebelliousness exorbitant? Like ethnicity, diaspora fashioned by determinate historical causes has tended to take on “the ‘natural’ appearance of an autonomous force, a ‘principle’ capable of determining the course of social action.” Like racism and nationalism, diaspora presents multiform physiognomies open to various interpretations and articulations.
One sociologist argues that OFWs are revolutionizing Filipino society, pushing the political system “toward greater democracy, greater transparency and governance,” a foolish judgment given the corruption and inequities attendant on this labor-export program acknowledged by everyone. Lacking any dialectical critique of the dynamics of colonialism and imperialism that connect the Philippines and its people with the United States and the rest of the world, mainstream academic inquiries into the phenomenon of recent Filipino immigration and dislocation are all scholastic games, at best disingenuous exercises in Eurocentric/white-supremacist apologetics. This is because they rely on concepts and methodologies that conceal unequal power relations—that is, relations of subordination and domination, racial exclusion, marginalization, sexism, gender inferiorization, as well as national subalternity, and other forms of discrimination. What I want to stress is the centrality of waged/commodified labor assessed and valued within the global political economy of commodity exchange. In the field of current globalization studies, the Global North-Global South duality has not extinguished the crucial theoretical role the concept of the nation/nationality plays, in particular the asymmetries of nation-states and the varying role the state plays in regulating the economy and planning/implementing social policies within specific territories.
Has the world really become a home for OFWs, for indigenes who inhabit a group of 7,100 islands, “one of the world’s most strategically important land masses”? Globalization has indeed facilitated the mobility of goods, services, information, ideas, and of course peoples. It has proceeded to the extent that in our reconfigured landscapes, now grasped as liminal or interstitial, old boundaries have shifted and borders disappeared. Everyone has allegedly become transculturized due to Americanization or Disneyfication in actuality or in cyberspace. Representations of transnationals or transmigrants materialize as mutations of expatriates, refugees, exiles, or nomadic travelers (such as Filipino “TNTs,” fugitive undocumented Filipinos). Given these transformations, the reality and idea of the nation and of national sovereignty have become contentious topics of debate and speculation. They constitute a theoretical force-field comprised of notions of identity and their attendant politics of difference, normative rules of citizenship, nationality, cosmopolitanism, belonging, human rights, and so on. It is in this context of globalization, where ethnic conflicts and the universal commodification of human bodies co-exist in a compressed time-space of postmodernity, that we can examine the genealogy and physiognomy of this process called the Filipino diaspora, the lived collective experience of OFWs.

Encountering OFW Singularities

At the beginning of this millennium, OFWs have become the newest diasporic community in the whole world. They endure poorly paid employment under substandard conditions, with few or null rights, in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, North America, and elsewhere. It might be noted here that historically, diasporic groups are defined not only by a homeland but also by a desire for eventual return and a collective identity centered on myths and memories of the homeland. The Filipino diaspora, however, is different. Since the homeland has long been conquered and occupied by Western powers (Spain, United States) and remains colonized despite formal or nominal independence, the Filipino identification is not with a fully defined nation but with regions, localities, and communities of languages and traditions. Perceived as untutored, recalcitrant strangers, they are lumped with familiar aliens: Chinese, Mexicans, Japanese, Pacific Islanders, and so on. Newspaper reports have cited the Philippines as the next target of the US government’s global “crusade” against terrorism—tutelage by coercion. Where is the sovereign nation alluded to in passports, contracts, and other identification papers? How do we conceive of this “Filipino” nation or nationality, given the insidious impact of US disciplinary forces and now, on top of the persistent neocolonizing pressure, the usurping force of quantifying capital and its reductive cash-nexus ?
According to orthodox immigration theory, “push” and “pull” factors combine to explain the phenomenon of overseas contract workers. Do we resign ourselves to this easy schematic formulation? Poverty and injustice, to be sure, have driven most Filipinos to seek work abroad, sublimating the desire to return by regular remittances to their families. Occasional visits and other means of communication defer the eventual homecoming. Alienation and isolation, brutal and racist treatment, and other dehumanized and degrading conditions prevent their permanent settlement in the “receiving” countries, except where they have been given legal access to obtaining citizenship status. If the return is postponed, are modes of adaptation and temporary domicile in non-native grounds the viable alternatives for these expatriates, quasi-refugees and reluctant exiled sojourners?
The reality of “foreignness,” of “otherness,” seems ineluctable. Alienation, insulting treatment, and racist violence prevent their permanent resettlement in the “receiving societies,” due to implicit genetic or procedural norms of acquiring citizenship. Or to a traditional ethos of purist self-privileging. OFWs are thus suspended in transit, in the process of traversing the distance between coordinates of their journeys. Because the putative “Filipino” nation is in the process of formation in the neocolony and abroad, OFWs have been considered transnationals or transmigrants—a paradoxical turn since the existence of the nation is problematic or under interrogation, whereby the “trans” prefix becomes chimerical. This diaspora then faces the perennial hurdles of racism, ethnic exclusion, inferiorization via racial profiling, and physical attacks. Can Filipino migrant labor mount a collective resistance against globalized exploitation and racialized ostracism? In what way can this hypothetical diaspora serve as a paradigm for analyzing and critically unsettling the corporate-led international division of labor and the consolidation of reified ethnic categories as the decline of hegemonic bourgeois rule unfolds?
At this juncture, I offer the following propositions for further reflection and elaboration. My paramount thesis on the phenomenon of the Filipino dismemberment is this: Given that the Philippine habitat/dwelling-place has never cohered as a genuinely independent nation—national autonomy continues to escape the Filipino people subjected to a repressive tutelage—Filipinos are dispersed from family or kinship webs in villages, towns, or provincial regions first, and loosely from an inchoate, even “refeudalized,” polity. This dispersal is primarily due to economic coercion and disenfranchisement under the retrogressive regime of comprador-bureaucratic (not welfare-state) capitalism articulated with tributary institutions and practices. The network of patriarchal clans/dynasties in a partly nationalized space unravels when women from all sectors (peasantry, ethnic or indigenous groups, proletariat) alienate their “free labor” in the world market. They are inserted into a quasi-feudal terrain within global capitalism. While the prime commodity remains labor-power (singularly measured here in both time and space especially for lived-in help), OFWs find themselves frozen in a precarious, vulnerable status between serfhood and colonizing pettybourgeois households, or incarcerated as slaves in Japan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. These indentured cohorts are thus witnesses to the unimpeded dismemberment of the inchoate Filipino nation and the scattering of its traumatized fragments to various state-governed policed territories around the planet.
From a postmodern perspective, migration is sometimes seen as an event-sequence offering the space of freedom to seek one’s fortune, experience the pleasure of adventure in libidinal games of resistance, sojourns sweetened by illusions of transcendence. For OFWs, this ludic notion is inappropriate. For the origin to which the OFW returns is not properly a nation-state but a barangay (neighborhood), a quasi-primordial community, kinship network, or even a ritual family/clan. Meanwhile, civic solidarities are gradually displacing the old ones. In this context, the Philippine state-machinery (both sending and receiving states benefit from the brokerage transaction) actually operates as a corrupt exploiter, not representative of the masses, a comprador agent of transnational corporations and Western imperial powers, enabling the infliction not simply of feminicide but genocide. The Philippine ideological state-apparatus in effect functions as an accomplice of the U.S. prison-industrial complex with its multinational accessories and connections.
What are the myths enabling a cathexis of the homeland as collective memory and project? They derive from assorted childhood reminiscences and folklore together with customary practices surrounding municipal and religious celebrations; at best, there may be signs of a residual affective tie to national heroes like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and latter-day celebrities like singers, movie stars, athletes (the boxing champion Pacquiao), charismatic TV personalities, and so on. Indigenous food, dances, and music can be acquired as commodities (epitomized by the ubiquitous “balikbayan” [returnee] boxes) whose presence temporarily heals the trauma of removal; family reunification can resolve the psychic damage of loss of status for those enduring lives of “quiet desperation.” In short, rootedness in autochthonous habitat does not exert a commanding sway; it is experienced only as a nostalgic mood. Meanwhile, language, religion, kinship, the sacramental resonance of neighborhood rituals, and common experiences in school or workplace function invariably as the organic bonds of community. Such psychodynamic cluster of affects demarcates the boundaries of the imagination but also release energies that mutate into actions serving ultimately national-popular emancipatory projects.
Alienation in the host country is what unites OFWs, a shared history of colonial and racial subordination, marginalization, and struggles for cultural survival through heterogeneous forms of covert resistance and open rebellion. This is what may replace the nonexistent nation/homeland, absent the political self-determination of the Filipino masses. In the 1930s, the expatriate activist-writer Carlos Bulosan once observed that “it is a crime to be a Filipino in America.” Years of union struggle, united-front agitation, educational campaigns, and political organizing in interethnic and interracial coalitions have blurred if not complicated that stigma. Accomplishments in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s have provided nourishment for communal pride. And, on the other side, impulses of “assimilationism” via the “model minority” umbrella have aroused a passion for eclectic multiculturalism divorced from any urge to disinvest in the “possessive investment in whiteness.” However, compared to the Japanese or Asian Indians , Filipino Americans as a whole have not “made it”; the exceptions prove the rule. Andrew Cunanan (the serial killer who slew the famous Versace) is the specter that continues to haunt “melting pot” Filipino Americanists who continue to blabber about the “forgotten Filipino” in the hope of being awarded a share of the now disappeared welfare-state pie. Dispossession of sovereignty leads to moral and ethical shipwreck, with the natives drifting rudderless, some fortuitously marooned in islands across the three continents. Via strategies of communal preservation and versatile tactics of defining the locality of the community through negotiations and shifting compromises, diasporic subjects might defer their return—unless and until there is a Filipino nation that they can identify with. This will continue in places where there is no hope of permanent resettlement as citizens or bona fide residents (as in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and elsewhere) and a permanent danger of arrest, detention, and deportation–the disavowed terror of globalization.
In general, OFWs will not return permanently (except perhaps for burial) to the site of misery and oppression—to poverty, exploitation, humiliated status, despair, hunger, and lack of a future with dignity. Of course, some are forcibly returned: damaged, deported, or dead. OFWs would rather move their kin and parents to their place of employment, preferably in countries where family reunification is allowed, as in the United States, Canada, and so on. Or even in places of suffering and humiliation, provided there is some hope or illusion of relief and eventual prosperity. Utopian longings can mislead but also reconfigure and redirect wayward travels sojourns, and adventures—historical moments connecting specific trends and actualizing the concrete dynamic totality of a world freed from inherited necessity.
Filipino nationalism blossomed in the late 1960s and 1970s, but suffered attenuation when it was rechanelled to support the populist elitism of Aquino and Ramos, the lumpen populism of Estrada, and the thoroughly corrupt Arroyo regime. With the re-appointment of the Arroyo-holdover Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and do-nothing bureaucrats in the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration, President Aquino III signaled its determination to uphold the free-market neoliberal status quo the keystone of which is this unconscionable labor-export policy. The precarious balance of class forces at this conjuncture is subject to shifts in political mobilization and calculation, hence the intervention of Filipino agencies with emancipatory goals and socialist principles is crucial and strategically necessary. Especially after September 11, 2001, and the Arroyo sycophancy to the Bush regime, the Philippines (considered by the US government as the enclave/haven of homegrown “terrorists” like the Abu Sayyaf) may soon be transformed into the next fertile “killing field” after Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Recently, a coalition of migrant workers and professionals called Migrante International together with other sectors organized rallies in Manila and other cities to protest government neglect of OFWs. This front mobilized millions in the Middle East, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and cities in Europe and North America. Millions denounced U.S. diplomatic and military interventions (covert action, low-intensity warfare, and its attendant atrocities of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances of ordinary citizens) against the Filipino people’s struggle for self-determination and social justice—a united-front praxis distinguishing the cumulative strategy of winning hegemony via the praxis of historic blocs.

Identity Matters

In this time of emergency, the Filipino collective identity is going through ordeals, undergoing the vicissitudes of political metamorphosis and elaboration. The Filipino diasporic consciousness is without doubt an odd species, a singular genre: it is not obsessed with a physical return to roots or to land where common sacrifices (to echo Ernest Renan) are remembered and celebrated. It is gradually being tied more to a symbolic homeland indexed by kinship or sutured to organic mores and communal practices that it tries to transplant abroad in diverse localities. In a moment of Babylonian captivity, as it were, dwelling in “Egypt” or its postmodern surrogates, building public spheres of solidarity to sustain identities outside the national time/space “in order to live inside, with a difference” may be the most viable route (or root) of Filipinos in motion—the collectivity in transit, although this is, given the possibility of differences becoming contradictions, subject to the revolutionary transformations enveloping the Philippine countryside and cities. It is susceptible also to other radical changes in the geopolitical rivalry of capitalist interests based on nation-states. But it is not an open-ended “plural vision” characterized by arbitrary border-crossings, ludic alterities, and contingencies. There is indeed deferral, postponement, or waiting. Meanwhile, history moves on in the battlefields of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao where a people’s war (with its Moro component) rooted in a durable insurrectionary tradition rages on. This drama of a national-democratic revolution will not allow the Filipino diaspora and its progeny to slumber in the consumerist paradises of Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Milan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, or Sidney. It will certainly disturb the peace of those benefiting from the labor and sacrifices of OFWs who experience the repetition-compulsion of uneven development and suffer the recursive traumas of displacement, marginalization, and dispossession.
Caught in the cross-currents of global upheavals, one can only conclude with a very provisional and indeed temporizing epilogue to a narrative still unfolding. Filipinos in the United States and elsewhere, mis-recognized by a hegemonic Western dispensation, are neither “Oriental” nor “Hispanic,” despite their looks and names; they are nascent citizens of a country in quest of genuine self-determination. They might be syncretic or cyborg subjects with suspect loyalties. They cannot be called ambivalent “transnationals” or flexible trans-status agents because of racialized, ascribed markers (physical appearance, accent, peculiar non-white folkways, and other group idiosyncracies) that are needed to sustain and reproduce white supremacy in historically racialized polities. Anderson has cogently demonstrated how the international labor market consistently racializes the selling of Filipina selfhood; thus, not only gender and class but, more decisively, national identities articulated with immigrant status, denigrated culture, and so on, are reproduced through the combined exploitation and oppression taking place in the employer’s household. Slavery has become re-domesticated in the age of reconfigured laissez-faire corporate schemes—the vampires of the despotic past continue to haunt the cyber-domain of finance capital and its brutalizing hallucinations.
The trajectory of the Filipino diaspora remains unpredictable. Ultimately, the rebirth of Filipino agency in the era of global capitalism depends not only on the vicissitudes of social transformation in the US but, in a dialectical sense, on the fate of the struggle for autonomy and popular-democratic sovereignty in the Philippines. We find autonomous zones in Manila and in the provinces where balikbayans (returnees) still practice, though with increasing trepidation sometimes interrupted by fits of amnesia, the speech-acts and durable performances of pakikibaka (common struggle), pakikiramay (collective sharing), and pakikipagkapwa-tao (reciprocal esteem). Left untranslated, those phrases from the philosophical vernacular address a gradually vanishing audience. Indeed, the register of this discourse itself may just be a wayward apostrophe to a vanished dream world—a liberated homeland, a phantasmagoric refuge—evoking the utopias and archaic golden ages of prehistoric myths. Wherever it is, however, this locus of memories, hopes, and dreams will surely be inhabited by a new collectivity as befits a new objective reality to which Susan Buck-Morss, in her elegiac paean to the catastrophe that overtook mass utopia, alludes. She envisions a future distinguished by “the geographical mixing of people and things, global webs that disseminate meanings, electronic prostheses of the human body, new arrangements of the human sensorium. Such imaginings, freed from the constraints of bounded spaces and from the dictates of unilinear time, might dream of becoming, in Lenin’s scenario, ‘as radical as reality itself’ .”
Homelessness and uprooting characterize the fate of millions today—political refugees, displaced persons, emigres and exiles, stateless nationalities, homeless and vagrant humans everywhere. Solidarity acquires a new temper. In the postmodern transnational restructuring of the globe after the demise of the socialist experiments in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, the Philippines has been compelled to experience a late-capitalist diaspora of its inhabitants. Diasporic labor exchange, a novel sociopolitical category (preponderantly female) transported to the markets of various nation-states, in particular the Middle East, is the new arena of hegemonic contestation. Drawn from petty-bourgeois, peasant, and proletarian roots, OFWs are leveled by their conditions of work. Unilaterally enforced labor contracts partial to the employer—the matrix of this inferiorized alterity–defines the identity of Filipino subalterns vis-a-vis the master-citizens. They are the proles and plebeians of the global cities.
Meanwhile, the urban centers of the global North, also cognized as the putative space of flows (of bodies, commodities, money, intellectual property, and so on), prohibits these subalterns from carving a locale for their sociality. For these deracinated populations, their nationality signifies their subalternity within the existing interstate hierarchy of nation-states (emasculated but not yet fungible nor defunct) while money (yen, petrodollars) permits them the prestige of cosmopolitan status. This auratic profile is reinforced by the whole ideological apparatus of consumerism, the ironically betrayed promise of enjoying appearances or semblances. The commodity’s promise of future bliss never materializes, remaining forever suspended in giant billboard advertisements, in TV and cinema screens, in fantasies, in the passage of “balikbayan” boxes. For foreign observers, the almost but not yet globalized city of MetroManila exudes an illusion of consumerist affluence, sporting the postcolonial mirage of hybrid spectacles in megamalls and carceral Disneylands amid the ruin of fragmented families in squalid quarters, swamped with petty crimes, drugs, prostitution, and other degrading symptoms of anomie. OFWs congregating in the malls, public squares, and railroad stations, may be the most intriguing parodic spectacle of this new millennium prefigured by Guy Debord’s “society of the spectacle.” In their alienation and deprivation, Filipina “slaves” of uneven combined development may constitute the negativity of the Other, the alterity of the permanent crisis of transnational capital. This position does not translate into the role of an international proletarian vanguard, but simply intimates a potentially destabilizing force—OFWs act as dangerous alien bacilli, eliciting fear and ressentiment– situated at the core of the precarious racist order. They also sometimes march under left-wing anti-imperialist slogans and socialist platforms. If the Other (of color) speaks, will the disguised slave-owner/ “master” from the global North listen?

Extrapolating Agendas

What needs urgent critical attention today is the racial politics of the transnational blocs to which we have been utterly blind, obsessed as we have been with “classism.” This approach construes “class” in deterministic fashion, congeals it as an attitudinal modality replete with the nuances of patron-client interaction, with amor propio, and so on (on gender struggles, Filipina intellectuals have produced brilliant historical-materialist critiques). Filipinos have been victims of EuroAmerican racializing ideology and politics, but characteristically we ignore it and speak of our racism toward Moros, Igorots, Lumads, etc. Race and ethnicity have occupied center-stage in the politics of nationalist struggles in this postCold War era. OFWs need to inform themselves of the complex workings of racism and chauvinism subsumed in the paternalistic Establishment pluralism of the industrialized states. On this hinges the crucial issue of national autonomy, pivoting around the question of whether a dependent formation like the Philippines can uncouple or delink from the predatory world-system in order to pursue a different, uniquely Filipino kind of non-competitive sustainable growth and a radically liberatory kind of national project. Perhaps the trigger for a new mass mobilization can be the awareness of racial politics (articulated with nationality) as a way of restaging the national-democratic struggle in the new framework of neoliberal market discourse–unless there emerges in the global North a powerful socialist/communist challenge to the corporate elite. The prospect of radical social change remains uncharted, criss-crossed with detours, beguiling traps, and blind alleys where signs of the future are perpetually spawned.
. Since my primary intent here is to offer heuristic propositions on the nature of the Filipino diasporic subject and its capacity for transformative agency, I will hazard to conclude with large generalizations and hypotheses.
By virtue of its insertion into transitional conjunctures—from Spanish feudal-mercantilist colonialism to U.S. monopoly-capitalist domination—the Filipino diasporic subject is essentially a historic bloc of diverse forces. Inscribed within the socio-historical context sketched broadly earlier, this bloc/subject is necessarily contradictory, a product of uneven and combined development. Its trajectory may be inferred from the layered dimension of its historic rootedness in a semi-feudal, comprador-sponsored, bureaucratic formation and its exposure to the dictates of the neoliberal market. Such dictates, as we’ve noted earlier, ushered this neocolonized subject-bloc to situations of indentured servitude, serfhood, or virtual slavery, as witnessed by Sarah Balabagan’s ordeal, Flor Contemplacion’s hanging, and the fate of “entertainers” owned by criminal syndicates such as the Japanese Yakuzas. One may speculate that this collective subject manifests a constructive negativity as it struggles to free itself from quasi-feudal bondage and from slave-like confinement. Given the uneven, disaggregated process of diasporic mutations suffered by OFWs–a removal first from a semi-feudal, tributary formation to a capitalist regime that commodifies their personhoods—the struggle of this bloc (OFWs and their allies) will have to undergo a popular-democratic phase of renewal: regaining migrant-workers’ liberties as persons with natural rights (as defined by the UN Charter, UN Convention on Migrants, etc.). After all, their cause is fundamental: to regain their right of livelihood expropriated by a minority privileged elite. But this stage coalesces with the struggle to assert the right to collective self-determination and representation, either as a national/popular bloc or political community defined by common principles and goals. This assertion is the struggle for popular-democratic hegemony in the Philippines and in places wherever OFWs may be found or discovered.
Uneven and combined development distinguishes this struggle. This has been foreshadowed by Karl Marx’s multilinear social dialectic that has been distorted by bourgeois and orthodox into a dogmatic economic determinism, as recently argued by Kevin Anderson. The essentially contested concept of globalization, and its corollary notions of postcolonial transnationalism, civic cosmopolitanism, Eurocentric hybridity, and kindred scholastic bromides cannot expunge the realities of class and third-world origin from local and cross-border conflicts. It is in the context of this ideological debate that I have framed my speculative reflections here on the adaptive and creative nature of Filipino nationalism, a political force whose dynamic élan is responsive to the changing alignment of political and social forces in the Philippines and around the world where about 10 million OFWs are scattered and mobilizing every day.
Amid the sharpening rivalry among capitalist states/blocs and the upsurge of anti-immigrant racism and neofascist populisms in Europe, North America, and newly industrialized regions, one may discern two contradictory impulses are unified in the Filipino nationalist project of countering imperial hegemony: the separatist one of national independence, and the integrationist one of unity with universal secular progress/world socialist revolution. This process of engagement would be historically contingent on the fluctuating crisis of global capitalism. Essentially, Filipino dislocation on both levels—as a people colonized by US imperial power, and as a quasi-nation subordinated to global capital, in the process of uneven development —constitutes the horizon of its project of affirming its identity as a historic bloc of multisectoral progressive forces. This bloc will play its role as a revolutionary protagonist in the political terrain of a united front against disciplinary neoliberalism, in an era when US hegemony (political + military) is yielding to a multipolar global arrangement. Filipino nationalism thereby acquires critical universality as part of a universal anti-capitalist trend with a long internationalist record of struggle. Perhaps the Filipino people, claiming their sovereign right to a historically specific position in the civilizational arena, would then become equal, active participants in a worldwide coalition of forces against monopoly finance capital and its local agents, be they labor recruiters, neocolonized bureaucratic states, financial consortiums, or transnational institutions like the IMF/WB, WTO, or even a supra-national entity like the UN controlled by wealthy industrialized elites. Only in this process of active solidarity with other subordinated or excluded peoples will OFWs, given their creative integrity and commitment to self-determination, be able to transcend their deterritorialized fate in a truly borderless world without classes, races, or nationalities. We envisage germinating from the combined ideas and practices of OFW struggles an alternative, feasible world without the blight of class exploitation and gendered racialized oppression—the concrete totality of an emancipated, commonly shared planet satisfying human needs and wants.

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By E. San Juan, Jr.

The 2012 re-election of Barack Obama to a second term as president of the United States signals a need to rethink the overpowering influence of that metropolis on the Philippines as formally an independent nation-state but in reality still a neocolonial domain of the declining Empire. The Obama presidency and, more flagrantly the Trump regime, reasserted U.S. geopolitical power in Asia and the Pacific by reinforcing its troop and navy deployment in the Philippines in view of increasing tensions over territorial disputes in the China Sea and adjacent areas by multiple parties (China, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines). 
Meanwhile, despite its weakened economic stature, the predominance of U.S.  media fashions and pedagogical norms enables the eclectic, neopragmatist style of Cultural Studies (CS) to deflect critical attention from urgent social problems: rampant pauperization of the majority of over a hundred million Filipinos, the endemic violation of human rights, ethnic/racial degradation of indigenous communities, the inferiorization of women, unprecedented ecological disasters, and the reduction of the whole nation-people to a globally subservient role: as supplier of cheap migrant labor (mainly women domestics) to the global capitalist market, including regional power-centers as Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea. One may ask: can CS of Western provenance be reconfigured to serve a democratic and egalitarian constituency beyond that served by its traditional practitioners in Europe and North America? In brief, can CS establish a more democratic. egalitarian community of practitioners in both Global North and South?

For A Re-cognitive Mapping

A historical overview of its genealogy may be useful here. The academic discipline of CS originating from UK and refined in North America focuses on the complex relations of “power” and “knowledge” (knowledge-production) at a specific historical conjuncture (Seventies and Eighties). Its axioms include the rejection of Enlightenment modernity/progress, metanarratives (paradigms; world-views), and universals premised on the rational subject. Symptomatic of the alienation of Western intellectuals from technocratic market-society during the Cold War, CS reflects the crisis of finance/monopoly capitalism in its imperialist stage. It seeks to transcend reified systems  by way of privileging the differend or differance (Lyotard; Derrida), diffuse power (Foucault; Deleuze), life-world and quotidian life (Habermas; de Certeau) inspired by Nietzsche, Heidegger, Freud, and Saussure.
       To be sure, that epitomizing portrait elides nuances, shades, and subtle differences immanent in CS's complex history and theoretical lineage which has been fully surveyed in Chris Barker's Cultural Studies Theory and Practice (2003), among others. But the main thrust coincides with his central narrative. Barker traces CS's trajectory from the Gramscianism of Stuart Hall and early progenitors, Raymond Williams and E.P. Thompson, to the post-structuralist moment signalled by Laclau and Mouffe's articulation theory and Tony Bennett's deployment of Foucault's notion of "governmentality."  Taking account of critiques of discourse-oriented CS, Barker notes the multiperspectival approaches proposed by Jim McGuigan (1996) and Douglas Kellner (2006) as well as the attendant cultural policy debates. Overall, cultural politics centered on the struggle over and within meaning, difference, articulation, representation, and so on, away from a dialectical organon of political economy (Rochberg-Halton 1986) or a totalizing realist critique of global-capitalist culture (for example, Ebert 2009).
Qualifications can be inserted here. In his recent introduction to A Companion to Cultural Studies, Toby Miller has assured us that today an "organic disciplinarity" among the humanities, arts, sciences, and communication/media studies is thriving due to CS practitioners who blend political economy and CS. CS combines the humanities' criteria of quality and meaning with the social sciences' focus on socio-political norms. Miller's prognosis of  the future of CS' "nimble, hybrid approach," addressing the vital question of who benefits, who complains, and for whose good is culture, functions as a countervailing riposte to my reservations (2006, xxii-xxiii). 
On the other hand, Chris Rojek cautions against reliance on statistics and innovative technologies. Privileging personal experience, on-location practice, embodiment, emplacement and context, he revalidates the study of ideology, coding, theming and representation. Rojek believes CS has gone successfully beyond the issues of national/popular (Gramsci), textual/representational (Williams; Althusser), Global/Post-Essentialism (Hall; Lyotard), and Governmentality/Policy (Foucault, Bennett) and returned to "culturally enmeshed" personal experience (2007, 5). His foregrounding the themes of culture as hegemonic authority (elite narratives of legitimation) and as agency of resistance and opposition by the oppressed dovetails with my own emphasis here on the inequality of power among cultural regions/blocs, the power imbalance encapsulated in the overdetermined dynamics of uneven-and-combined development pervading the Global South as contrasted with the Global North. Both Miller and Rojek forecast a renaissance of CS, one I would eagerly concur with provided that the preoccupation with the "field of cultural production" and consumption or the "market of symbolic goods" (to use Pierre Bourdieu's terms) do not expunge the power of the economy and the political apparatuses/institutions that traverse both interacting field and market (Bourdieu 1993).

Triangulating the Terrain

Orthodox CS identifies modernity with capitalism, hence its postmodernist temper. The principle of indeterminacy, undecidability or contingency seems to reign supreme. Despite acknowledging the historicity of the discipline, postmodernist academics (Geertz, Grossberg, Clifford) give primacy to “the flow of social discourse” and the “essentially contestable” genealogy of culture. Engaged with the singularity of events centering on love, sentiments, conscience, and the existential or ethical moment in order to “bring us in touch with strangers,” with Others, postmodern CS seeks to interrogate the foundational aims of linguistics (Jakobson), psychoanalysis (Freud), philosophy (Kant, Hegel) and  political economy (Marx) by substituting  the ambivalence, contingency, and hybridity of “lived experience” for labor/social praxis as the focus of investigation. Focused on what escapes language and discursive ratiocination, CS  has fallen into the dualism it ritualistically condemns, complete with the mystique of a neoliberal individualism enabled by presumably value-free, normative “free market” absolutism--either Stuart Cunningham's (1993) social democratic citizenship or Richard Rorty's neopragmatic conformism (2007).

Anti-foundationalism and anti-metanarrativity distinguish orthodox CS operating on a neopositivist, nominalist (as contradistinguished from a critical realist) platform. Rejecting classical scientific reason, CS refuses any grounding in political action for system-change deemed as a perversion of knowledge for the ends of power. Valuing negative critique as an antidote to ideology, CS leads up to a fetishism of the Void, the deconstructive “Sublime” as a substitute for a thoroughgoing critique of the authority of received values and institutions. Decentered authority eludes materialist critique. By various ruses of irony, uncanny cynicism and “sly mimicry,” It ends up apologizing for the status quo. Anti-authoritarianism is trivialized in careerist anecdotes,  and CS becomes reduced to conferences and publicity about fantasies of truly radical, subversive social movements. Such observations have been made already by others (Denning 1992; Jameson 1993), lately by Paul Smith (2006) and Simon During (2010), but I recast them with a more anti-ethnocentric provocative edge in the wake of the 2008 collapse of finance-capital and the abortive "Occupy Wall Street" insurrection.
Are we trapped in some mirror-stage of CS' postmodern self-reflexiveness? Submerged and eventually displaced, the critical dimension of CS drawn  from Western Marxism (Gramsci, Althusser, Barthes, Frankfurt Critical Theory) seems to have disappeared in the neoconservative tide that began with Reagan/Thatcher in the Eighties. This neoconservatism unfortunately continues to this day under the slogan of the “global war on terrorism.” Meanwhile, attention to racism, gender, sexism and other non-class contradictions, particularly in the colonized and peripheral formations, sharpened with the Civil Rights struggles in the US, the youth revolt, and the worldwide opposition to the Vietnam war and the current if precarious hegemony of the Global North. Sub-Commandante Marcos and Osama bin laden are gone, but the furies of the Syrian civil war and the Islamic explosions in Libya and Mali may portend sharper political and socioeconomic catastrophes.

Approaching a Conjunctural Transition

Establishment or mainstream CS today (notwithstanding the qualifications cited earlier) focuses preponderantly on consumption, audience response, Deleuzian desire, affects, irony, together with a refusal to interrogate systematically neoliberal ideology, the culture industry, and the unequal division of social labor throughout the planet. For all its sharp critical insights, Simon During's (2010) expurgated version of CS  retreats to a nostalgic individualism whose innocence about the bloody origins of democracy in chattel slavery and booty colonialism vitiates its denunciation of capitalism's excesses.  However, heterodox versions of CS invoke Simone de Beauvoir, Fanon, CLR James, W.E.B.Du Bois, Rosa Luxemburg, Paulo Freire and other “third world” activists in an effort to renew its original vocation of contributing to fundamental structural transformation. Its retooled notion of “specific intellectuals” addressing a “conjunctural constituency”  may call attention to the need to address state violence and hegemonic apparatuses of public control and repression already foreshadowed by Foucault's disciples engaged in feminist and anti-racist campaigns.
The Philippines as a neocolonial social formation remains singular in having gone through at least three epochs of subjugation by Western powers. The Spaniards ruled the country from 1561 to 1899, disciplining the natives to the normative operations of theocratic Catholicism; from 1899 to 1946, the United States "Americanized" the christianized natives and Muslims, installing a cacique or oligarchic democracy based on a hegemonic bloc of feudal warlords, compradors, and bureaucrat capitalists (Agoncillo & Alfonso 1967; Constantino  1975).  While the Japanese troops conquered the Philippines in 1942, their instrumentalist Pan-Asian "Co-Prosperity Sphere" failed to de-Westernize the majority except for some elite collaborators whose opportunism dates back to the days of William McKinley's "Benevolent Assimilation."  With the return of U.S. control in 1945 and its refunctioning as the master-tutor behind the scenes, especially after suppressing the Communist-led Huk uprisings in the late forties and early fifties, the United States continues to exercise paramount influence in the state ideological apparatuses, esp. education, mass media, security agencies, etc. Cultural policies and research in the Philippines virtually replicate or imitate those in the US, even including the influence of the Indian subaltern historians on local scholars (in particular, Reynaldo Ileto) filtered through their English-speaking (Australian; Singaporean) disciples.
       The publication of Chen Kuan-hsing's Asia As Method: Toward Deimperialization (2010) has been hailed as a breakthrough toward reorienting CS toward a recovery of its original roots in left-wing radicalism. He calls for decolonization, de-imperialization and "de-Cold War" of knowledge production. His colleague Prasenjit Duara praises Chen's project of re-inventing Asia as "desiring imagination," no longer a mere cartographic identity but a "transcendent signifier, partly taking the place of disappointed ideals from the Enlightenment such as communism, nationalism and democracy, which in turn took over the role of religious transcendence, at least for intellectuals. In a transcendent position, Asia allows us to imagine a different future, one which can draw selectively from global historical resources in order to shape a more just society" (2011). I hope the hubris of this Asian-izing "method" will overcome the barbaric legacies of "Orientalism" and imperialism that Edward Said (1994) tried to expose and extirpate throughout his life.
To be sure, who would refuse an interdependent and integrated Asia as a product of "critical syncretism"? So far this target subject-position is not located on any physical map, as yet, since its ideal-typical status elevates it into a Messianic end-goal. It seems to be a prophetic metaphor or trope for the good, true and beautiful. Syncretism can go any which way, depending on who has command of the whole research program and resources for implementation.  Moreover, isn't this reconfiguration of a heterogeneous network of cultures, peoples, histories a throwback to the stigmatized totalization syndrome (alias metanarratives, essentialism, logocentrism, etc.) that mainstream CS scholars have rejected from the start? Let there be no mistake; personally I appreciate Chen's criticism of all the evils condensed in colonialism and imperialist Cold War realpolitik, including the triumphalism of the ”Asian Tigers." However, other countries cannot be so easily conflated tout court with Taiwan or Singapore. As many commentators (among others, William McCord 1996) have discerned, the economic leap of Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea to "tigerhood" was enabled by the draconian tactics of the Cold War and the despotic bureaucrats-technocrats of each society which ironically established the breeding-ground for their cosmopolitan dissidents. Shouldn't the critical method of these intellectuals now address the excesses of their respective sub-imperialist bourgeoisie as well as their patrons in Washington DC and the Pentagon?

Filipino Exceptionalism?

Like Bangladesh or Indonesia, the Philippines was left behind when those "Tigers" took off in the late sixties; Philippine per capita GNP is scarcely a tenth of Taiwan in the last decade (Chant & McIlwaine 1995, 46) and far far behind affluent Hong Kong and Singapore. Two revolutionary movements of long standing, the 40-year old New People's Army insurgency, and the more massive Moro guerilla groups (after years of fierce resistance, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has forced the government to negotiate), have effectively challenged the neocolonial State with its U.S. backers (San Juan 2008b).  Overall, the Philippines functions as a parodic image of Taiwan. Precisely because Chen's putative model is Taiwan (by extension, Singapore) for reconstituting a new collective subjectivity, this paradigm-shift should give us pause and open up more dialectical, self-reflexive dialogues. Otherwise, it will just be self-serving rhetoric designed to coax token recognition of their uncanny symbolic capital from their sponsors in the Global North.  Here I can imagine Chen charging me guilty of Nietzschean ressentiment and even petty-bourgeois bad faith.
 My personal memories of visiting Taiwan on more than half a dozen occasions (as lecturer at the Academia Sinica and other universities) have always confirmed Taiwan's position as a wealthy industrializing country on par with its neighbors South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore, with their variegated sub-imperialist policies. In Taiwan's airport, one cannot miss the long lines of bedraggled Filipino and Thai workers hired by Taiwanese companies as cheap migrant labor. My visit to a prison outside Taipei showed the barbaric condition in which Filipino, Indonesian and African workers with visa problems were treated. Flor Contemplacion, the domestic worker unjustly hanged in Singapore in 1995, continues to be a rallying point (together with numerous victims of Japanese and Hong Kong employers) for Filipino nationalism.  
While Chen's valorization of local knowledge and mass mobilizations within what Habermas calls "public sphere" is salutary, his apriorist rejection of all nationalisms (classified into nativism and civilizationism) without historical specificity and ethical nuancing contradicts precisely his wish that "societies in Asia can become each other's points of reference" (2010, 212). This is a noble ideal of regional harmony and ecumenical cooperation, but it flies in the face of the injustice of "uneven-and-combined development"  fully theorized by Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, David Harvey, etc. and substantively documented in all non-Establishment critical discourse on globalization (for a recent example, see Medley and Carroll 2011; also Hoogvelt 1997; Jameson and Miyoshi 1999). The not so hidden trade wars, disputes over immigration, and territorial conflicts attest to the fact that Asia as "desiring imagination" remains a transcendental aspiration.
In Chen's utopianesque Asia, the Philippines looms behind as a weird specter, an enigmatic sport. While geographically located in Asia, the Philippines has not exactly fitted the subalternist, homogenizing paradigm of Asia that Global North theorists such as Gayatri Spivak, Aihwa Ong and Rey Chow have privileged in their mandarin discourses about transnationalization and cosmopolitanism. The uncomfortable reason is that the Philippines remains a neocolony of the imperial powers, chiefly the United States and subimperial allies (Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore) and thus evokes the ghosts of nineteenth and early 20th century aborted or coopted revolutions.

A Return to Foundations?

 One of the early inspiring slogans of CS is Raymond Willliam's statement, "culture and education are ordinary" (1989, 18), culture grasped as lived experience and institutions cognized as "structures of feeling." CS pioneers intended to "view the whole complex of social change from the point of culture, 'to make intelligible the real movement of culture as it registered in social life, in group and class relations, in politics and institutions, in values and ideas" (Macey 2000, 77). The focus on the theme of change and transformation entails cognitive historicizing maneuvers.  Like any global trend, CS can be adapted to Philippine situations (in short, “Filipinized”) by the creative application of its original critique of ideology, the demystification of structural norms or "common sense" habits in official and mass/popular cultures as contingent, complicit with particularistic interests and power blocs. 
Various forms of CS, as mediated by “subalternists” and other “third world” conduits, have influenced Filipino cultural critics and historians concerned with the marginalized Others (peasants, women, gays and lesbians, religious and ethnic communities, etc.). But except for the Latin American “theology of liberation” as a form of CS, they have all wrongly assumed that the Philippines is no longer a neocolonial, dependent formation, replete with diverse contradictions centering on the oligarchic-comprador domination of the majority of the people (workers, peasants, middle strata, Moros and other indigenous groups). The question of a singular Filipino modernity—genuine national sovereignty, autonomous individuals free from Spanish or American tutelage, a public sphere inhabiting the zone between state and civil society—persists as a problematic site of contestation. This is so despite attempts to muddle and transmogrify it by insidious postmodern mystifications legitimized by the illusory promise of emancipation by avid consumption and participation in the Internet's pleasure-filled Celebrity bazaar. In a way, CS' openness to populist eclecticism has almost displaced the omnipresent profit-centered culture industry, valorizing subcultures and kitsch that undergirds the consumerist ethos and allows the hegemonic power bloc to dictate the "laws" of the "free market" (the stakes are spelled out in Storey 1993).
Clearly what is needed is a selective appropriation of CS methods and repertoire of interdisciplinary tools in consonance with the project of decolonization and national liberation in the Philippines. To be sure, this is not a new order or discovery. One of my students, Virgilio Enriquez (1977) initiated such a process in psychology by situating the essentially behavioristic discipline of U.S. provenance in the crisis of the Sixties which culminated in the brutal Marcos dictatorship supported by the United States. Inspired by "third world" resistance in IndoChina, Latin America and Africa in the Sixties and early Seventies, Enriquez was catalyzed by the nationalist resurgence of the Fifties spearheaded by Senators Claro Recto and Lorenzo Tanada, by historians Teodoro Agoncillo and Renato Constantino, and Marxist intellectuals such as Jose Lansang, Amado V. Hernandez, and Jose Maria Sison. After surveying the limits of cross-cutural experiments in psychology during the Cold War, Enriquez 

urged that “psychology has to be rewritten so as to reflect the different bodies of psychological knowledge, formal or informal, found in the different cultures of the world” (1977, 15). At the same time, he underscored the need to use the local languages and cultures in constructing a flexible indigenizing theory, method and praxis suited to the historical needs of the community. The aim of this emergent Filipino CS is not alien to the standards of Eurocentric humanities and social sciences: generalizability of findings and testable, fallibilistic hypotheses applicable to the urgent problems of the working masses (San Juan 2006; 2008).
Enriquez’ theoretical strategy (by hypothesis and induction) was not entirely unprecedented in the Filipino setting. The exemplars of what I consider the inventors of Filipino cultural studies—Jose Rizal (in “The Indolence of Filipinos” and “The Philippines a Century Hence”), Isabelo de los Reyes (folklore and ethnic studies), countless vernacular novelists, poets, and playwrights; and memoir-writers (Mabini, veterans of 1896 and the Huk uprising)—applied criticial principles derived from Europe to the specific political and socioeconomic situations in the colony/neocolony. In the process, the power/knowledge complex acquired concrete elaboration in terms of how “everyday life”—culture as ordinary habits or patterns (Raymond Williams)–cannot escape its over-determination by the historical institutions and practices imposed by the colonial powers and mediated by regional/local ruling blocs. Time and space offer intelligible meanings by way of the contradictions between the colonial/neocolonial hegemonic institutions and the acceptance/resistance of the colonized natives. Such meanings can be found in the narratives of individuals/collectives in which the notion of subjectivity defined by various levels of contradictions (Filipino versus American, patriarchal power versus women, “civilized” versus indigenous,etc.) can be discerned embedded in the totality of social relations at specific historical moments. I am thinking of a “knowable community” with institutions and habitual practices and dispositions, constellations of power relations, not just a “structure of feeling” constituted by heterogeneous experiences.

From Method to Praxis

      The Filipino national hero Jose Rizal is distinguished for engaging in a polemical CS that harnessed historically situated ethnography for political ends. He was not infected with the value-free claim of Weberian inquiry. His essay "On the Indolence of Filipinos" recounted the testimonies of Spanish explorers and witnesses to demonstrate the incommensurable gap between the past and the present, arguing that colonial subjugation stood in between. Anatomizing the cause of the lethargic body politic is only a propaedeutic for invoking a cure: "The lack of national sentiment brings with it another evil, which is the absence of opposition to any of the measures that are harmful to the people and the non-existence of any intiative for their own good. The man in the Philippines is a mere individual, and not a member of a nation. He is deprived of, and denied the right of association, and thus he is weak and motionless" (1979, 83; for elaboration on Rizal's historical dialectics, see San Juan 2011). The historian Ambeth Ocampo (1998) ascribes an intuitive prophetic rigor to Rizal's method of suturing of past and present strands of Philippine history in order to mobiize the victims and reconstitute them as thinking subjects. Critique combines with analysis to produce a partisan CS, a generator of a liberatory agency, a "conscienticized" (to use Paulo Freire's term) transformative subject.
    Another specimen of early Filipino CS (mediated through folklore) may be found in Isabelo de los Reyes' inventory of local habits and practices in Ilocos during the latter part of Spanish rule. As Benedict Anderson sums it up, Reyes' ethnology had three aims: 1) provoke a local cultural renaissance among the colonized natives; 2) subvert the dominance of the reactionary Church; and 3) engage in political self-criticism.  Anderson describes this latter task:

Isabelo wrote that he was trying to show, through his systematic display of el saber popular, those reforms in the ideas and everyday practices of the pueblo that must be undertaken in a self-critical spirit. He spoke of his work as being about “something much more serious than mocking my paisanos, who actually will learn to correct themselves once they see themselves described.” In this light, folklore would be a mirror held up before a people, so that, in the future they could move steadily along the road toward human emancipation. It is clear, then, that Isabelo was writing for one and a half audiences: Spanish, whose language he was using, and his own pueblo, whose language he was not using, and of whom only a tiny minority could read his work” (2005, 20).

Reyes was not just an adventurous eclectic scholar. He was imprisoned for his sympathy with the masses who demanded independence, expulsion of the friars, and basic civil rights. He participated vigorously in European progressive and anarchist propaganda when he was released from the Barcelona prison. What needs to be recalled here, aside from the intertextuality of Reyes' discourse, is his involvement in the popular revolution against Spain, his alliance with Father Gregorio Aglipay to form a grass-rooted popular-national church, and his efforts as journalist and public intellectual to organize the first militant unions with a socialist program during the early American occupation. His practice of folkloric-directed CS was an outgrowth and response to the position of the organic intellectual active in the daily mobilization of the masses, in sustained pedagogical and agitational activities, addressing and interacting with both the local public and an international multilingual audience (for another appraisal of Reyes' career, see Mojares 2006).

The Centrality of Language

Both Reyes and Jose Rizal wrote in Spanish in order to appeal to the  Filipino ilustrado (educated) class and the Spanish-speaking world. That was a deliberate communication strategy. Learning Spanish was a divisive tactic of dividing the ruled; the American colonial administrators pursued the same policy, with the English language (as medium of business and government) separating the nationalist generation of Rizal and Reyes from a new generation whose mentalities would promote individualist competition and a consumerist ethos. Speaking English would function as symbolic capital both for assimilation to the colonial order and separation from the proletarian and plebeian masses.  
  In Philippine CS, English versus the vernacular languages, more precisely the evolving Filipino lingua franca, becomes symptomatic of the whole field of culture as fraught lived experience (San Juan 2007b). Indigenizing psychological inquiry, as Enriquez found out, required giving primacy to the vernacular, the speech-acts of public and private language-games.  The question of language assumes primacy because intellectual discourse and exchanges cannot sidetrack the problem of conversing with and influencing the larger public. Democratizing the means of communication is an integral part of the process of overthrowing the oligarchic elite and the reproduction of class and gender inequality. Such a public needs to be developed by the pedagogical program of an evolving CS curriculum responsive to disenfranchised speakers and inferiorized learners/practitioners. The prevalence of English as an elite marker/imprimatur of privileged status will prevent a dialogic public sphere from emerging. Linked to this is the position of a plebeian, vernacular culture which has always radicalized CS by eliminating the divide between the elite/canonical culture and the marginalized culture of impoverished peasants and workers--the majority of citizens. Control of the means of communication and agencies of dissemination needs to be addressed as well as the participation of a wider public in academic dialogues and other intellectual exchanges.
The lesson is clear.  CS, if it aspires to actualize its critical transformative potential for specific socioeconomic formations needs to address consistently the salient economic-political contradictions of each society within a differentially, asymmetrically ordered planet. In the Philippines if not in other peripheral formations of the Global South, the neoliberal market ideology that pervades everyday life militates against the growth of a critical sensibility and the development of the faculties of the species. The inordinately toxic effect of consumerism and the spectacle has consigned what Jacques Ranciere (2006) calls "the distribution of the sensible" to a police order determining those included and excluded.  In this damaged milieu, CS needs to focus its analytic instruments on the commodification of the life-world and everyday life by the culture industries and international agencies of the oligopolistic capitalist order. In the Philippines, the unprecedented diaspora of domestics and overseas contract workers around the world constitutes the prime specimen for empirical inquiry and structural critique (see, for example, Anderson 2000; Aguilar 2000; San Juan 2007b). This involves not only the symbolic violence of language use but also the material violence of hunger, disease, State-sanctioned torture and extra-judicial killings in a "culture of impunity." 

Problematizing Knowledge-Production

We are challenged by both the obscurantist legacies of the past and the humanitarian emergencies of the present. In a critique mainly focused on the aborted promise of academic CS, it is neither wise nor propitious to describe in detail what the adaptation--or indigenization, if you like--of a Eurocentric paradigm would look like attuned to the needs and demands of neocolonized subjects in the Global South. Parts of that description may be examined in my previous works (San Juan 1996;  2000; 2009). It would certainly require a longer, sustained mapping of the sociopolitical terrain of six decades after the Philippines' formal independence in 1946. A political economy of group consensus and habits of belief such as, for example, the inventory of contradictions drawn up by social scientist Kenneth Bauzon (1991), would be useful to calculate the scale and degree of continued Filipino mimicry of technocratic social-engineering models to perpetuate inequity, clientelist subservience to foreign corporations, and starkly unsustainable exploitation by transnational capital and its autocratic agencies. 
My task here is circumscribed: to indicate in broad strokes the limitations and inadequacies of CS' pedagogical framework for subjugated, dependent constituencies of the Empire.  It is foolhardy to undertake this task until we have cleared up crucial theoretical hurdles. The first is the problem of naming the would-be candidates for nation-forming agency. Obviously the identification of "Filipino" and "Filipino nation" proceeds experimentally, pursuing an unsettled and intractable course. The narrative script constituting the nation remains sedimented in fragments of scenarios from memory, customary rituals, idiomatic speech-acts, recursive practices. At best we can only handle the "interpretants" (construed in Charles Sanders Peirce's semiotic perspective) of those signifiers provisionally, until the coordinates are specified. This is so because not only the existence of heterogeneous components of that hypothetically signified subject-position labeled "Filipino" remains to be verified and agreed upon, but also because the whole ethos (moral, aesthetic, evaluative) of Filipino culture, not to speak of its cognitive and existential aspects, remains inchoate, susceptible of diverse inflections, suspended in the undecided battlefields of an ongoing national-democratic, anti-imperialist revolution. Mutating modes of inclusion and exclusion of group actors prevail. We can only stipulate our parameters of discourse in the light of what has been accomplished so far in liberating ourselves, commodified and reified subjects, from imperialist political, sociocultural, economic strangleholds.

Beyond Populist Identity Politics

     For now, suffice it to remark on the need to adhere to the axiom of historical specificity (Korsch 1971) and a measure of radical hope in defining such parameters. Above all, the question of ideology and the political economy of knowledge-production cannot be ignored. We cannot escape both the rules of our own communities and that of the totalizing diplomatic-technological state apparatuses of empire that modify, coopt  and sublimate those rules. The uncharted laws (call them trends or tendencies) of motion of interlocked asymmetrical nation-states cannot be dismissed as simply reactive or aprioristic. 
In this light, as already mentioned, Enriquez's project of inventing sikolohiyang Pilipino during the nationalist resurgence of the 1960s and early 1970s was both spontaneous and expected. It may be symptomatically read as a culmination of all previous decolonizing initiatives (from Rizal and the Propagandistas to Recto, Constantino, and Sison) to articulate a program and world-view for the masses struggling for social justice, popular democracy, and genuine independence.  It was institutionally predictable but also serendipituous and prefigured by the writers already mentioned earlier.
 An analogous clarification can be offered for the roles that Filipino historians adopted before, during, and after the Marcos dictatorship. While inspired by Indian subalternist historians (laboring under the aegis of post-structuralist theory) to de-center what was perceived as bourgeois-oriented chronicles such as those by Teodoro Agoncillo and Renato Constantino, Rafael Ileto (1998) succeeded to some extent in re-valorizing the role of popular culture (the pasyon, etc.) and other marginal practices in the construction of a “non-linear” narrative of Filipino events before and after the 1896 revolution. It is doubtful whether Agoncillo or Constantino really pursued a linear, one-directional bias. 
Nevertheless, this revisionist method of invoking the input of the plebeian masses is not an original “native” discovery. Even before the late-twentieth century diaspora, the Filipino intelligentsia (such as Rizal, Reyes, and others) has been open-minded,  highly susceptible to global influences. Subalternist historiography is the product of a long record of countering the positivist, Comte-Rankean version of historicism, from the British social-history tradition (Samuel 1981) to the French Annales school and its evolutionist/functionalist offshoot in the Alfred McCoy-Ben Kerkvliet interventions in re-writing Philippine history in a more sophisticated way than Stanley Karnow's apologetic product, In Our Image (1989). 
Meanwhile, the Marcos Establishment chronicler Zeus Salazar tried to retool Enriquez's sikolohiya by purging it of its liberatory impulse and anchoring a populist version of the past in an evolving Filipino idiom via his pantayong pananaw scheme. It may be premature to judge the reformist efficacy of this effort in rehabilitating the fields of local historiography and moribund anthropology. Salazar’s disciples seem resigned to the Cold War-era patronage system of the post-Marcos order, ensconced in the commerce of fabricating idiosyncratic terminology for neoconservative, even reactionary, ideas.

We Versus They?

The problem of thematizing local knowledge offers both theoretical and political conundrums.  Ramon Guillermo (2003) has provided us a useful inventory of Salazar's heroic effort, together with proposals for improving its method and scope. But both Salazar and Guillermo have so far sidestepped the fundamental issue (which transcends the old emic/etic binary) of how the notion of rationality--communicative action, in another framework--central to the intellectual metier of a global community of scientific inquirers to understand and appraise cultures can be surpassed or transcended. This issue has been elaborated in the volume Rationality (Wilson 1970)—just to cite one compilation--in which a survey of the conflicting arguments prompted Alasdair MacIntyre's observation that "the understanding of a people in terms of their own concepts and beliefs does in fact tend to preclude understanding them in any other terms" (1970, 130). One-sidedness cannot be corrected by simply inverting the poles of the binary, or establishing a pseudo-reconciliatory equilibrium.
MacIntyre does not fully endorse the functionalist view that institutions must be grasped not in terms of what they mean for the agents, but in terms of what necessary needs and purposes they serve; however, he does not fully agree with Peter Winch's untenable belief that communities can only be properly understood and judged in terms of their own internally generated norms and beliefs--a proposition that pantayong pananaw advocates seem to favor, despite earnest denials (see Sta. Maria 2000).  But obviously responsibility cannot be shirked in the face of brutal consequences.
The problem is one of rigidly counterposing interpretation (subjectivist) and explanation (objectivist) without any dialectical mediation. Even assuming that isolated communities in a capitalist-gobalized world is possible, long after Max Weber took time off from “value-free” pursuits to distinguish explanation from interpretation, proponents of the primacy of hermeneutic understanding still need the benefit of analytic explanation if they want to avoid circularity and self-serving solipsism. After all, why bother understanding Others? Oppositional American thinkers such as Marcus Raskin, Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, Susan Buck-Morss and others have begun to engage with the antinomies of knowledge-production faced earlier by the British in the context of the challenges of the postmodern era (Raskin 1987), an engagement coopted by the debates on terrorism, Islamophobia, and other alibis of Empire.
My own position strives to be a historical-materialist stance that privileges multidetermined specificity and counterhegemonic imperatives on the question of adapting ideas originating from other sources (San Juan 2007). This is not the same as the multiperspectivist metatheoretical approach suggested by Douglas Kellner (2006) far removed from the arenas of life-and-death struggles.  In my view, language is only one of the criteria for hypothesizing the nation as "imagined community,” more precisely the nation conceived as a solidarity actualized or performed in communal practices and communicative acts. However, the quest becomes more problematic when the language at issue, "Filipino" based on Tagalog, is still a matter disputed by other participants of the polity such as disgruntled Cebuanos, assorted Moro groups, and by the U.S.-fixated English-speaking intelligentsia and bureaucracy. 
More seriously, it is not possible to conceive of the notions of "pantayo"  and "pangkami"  without the whole dynamic network of differences first outlined by Saussure but complicated by the wide-ranging semiotic modalities explored by C.S. Peirce, Lev Vygotsky, Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco, and Roman Jakobson, far beyond the findings of Whorf, Sapir, Humboldt, Frobenius, etc. The linguistic symbol, as Jakobson reminds us, is not only a vehicle of the sedimented past (icons) or the present (indices) but also of the future. He quotes Peirce's speculation premised on the triadic theory of the sign: "The being of a symbol consists in the real fact that something surely will be experienced if certain conditions be satisfied....The value of a symbol is that it serves to make thought and conduct rational and enables us to predict the future" (1987,427). A CS research program based on Peirce's semiotics with its drive toward a coherent and concrete reasonableness appears as a more promising alternative to the current deconstructivist (Deleuze, Lyotart) and neopragmatic (Rorty) alternatives, or the  moralizing biographical excursion suggested by patrician sage, Fred Inglis (1993), at the tail-end of the Cold War and the advent of the Middle East turmoil.
     Language is, to be sure, only one signifier of national identity, not an absolute qualifier, whose correlation with other practices and collective actions needs delicate orchestration (Yinger 1976, 200-02). Earlier (San Juan 2008), I registered my discomfort with the logocentric tendency in Enriquez's otherwise conscientious indigenization attempt. In the total program of liberating the majority of Filipinos (workers, peasants, women) from market exploitation and alien oppression, an emancipatory platform should prioritize the act of foregrounding democratic national rights and collective welfare. Hence we need an internationalist worldview such as that provided by a historical materialist theory such as Marxism (articulated, of course, to our specific conditions) with its universalistic, critical position grounded on a "concrete universal," with all the richness of the particular social-formation in the Philippines, in creating a sense of Filipino nationhood (Lowy 2000). 
We can begin to hypothesize with more intelligibility the linguistic parameters of this indigenization project if viewed as part of a global ecumenical conversation on intercultural understanding.  Filipinizing CS thus requires not merely linguistic readjustment but, more importantly, reconceiving the sense of rationality, justice, equality and democratic participation that cannot be circumscribed within the bounds of a single Filipino language-in-the-making. This reconceptualization involves reconstructing habits of conduct geared toward "concrete reasonableness" (Peirce 1998) within a humanist-socialist framework.
My firm conviction is that no indigenization project in the Philippines will fully succeed unless it includes a program of systematic decolonization, particularly an uncompromising indictment of U.S. colonialism/neocolonialism in its totality, together with its complicit transnational allies. Neither postcolonial hybridity, managerial technocratic pragmatism, nor transnational pluralism and multiculturalism will do.  We need a measure of dialectical cunning and a bricoleur’s resourcefulness in taking advantage of what our forebears--Rizal, Mabini, Recto, Agoncillo, Constantino, Hernandez, and others--have already won for us. After all, the enemy can also speak in Filipino and even dance the tinikling and sing "Dahil sa Iyo" in more seductive, self-ingratiating ways. We need to combine specifics and universals in both strategic and tactical modalities that precisely cannot be learned at this time from institutionally entrenched CS and its postcolonial. transnationalist variations. 

Alternative Cultural Politics

A tentative summing-up is in order. Conceived as a reaction to capitalist high culture in the late twentieth century, CS initially challenged Cold War norms and the more flagrantly racist and sexist aspects of Western hegemony.  It promised a democratic, even radical, renaissance of thought and sensibility inside and outside the academy. Its early practitioners drew heavily from the secularizing Enlightenment  tradition and its radical critics. But when it became institutionalized in the Eighties and Nineties, CS distanced itself rapidly from mass political struggles in the metropoles and the “third world.” It reverted to ethical individualism, aestheticism, Nietzschean performative displays, and the fetishism of differences/hybridity, becoming in the process a defensive ideology for predatory finance capitalism and technocratic globalization. The reasons for the change are complex but comprehensible, as demonstrated by many commentators in numerous anthologies, among others Grossberg, Nelson and Treichler (1992), Storey (1996),During (1998), Miller (2006), and others.
At the outset of the millennium, Terry Eagleton registered his complaint against the postmodernist inflection of CS toward identity politics and other narrow culturalist concerns. He blames mainstream CS for its anti-universalism: "Cultural studies today, writes Francis Mulhern, 'leaves no room for politics beyond cultural practice, or for political solidarities beyond the particularisms of cultural difference.' It fails to see not only that not all political issues are cultural, but that not all cultural differences are political. And in thus subordinating issues of state, class, political organization and the rest to cultural questions, it end up rehearsing the prejudices of the very traditional Kulturkritik it rejects, which had little enough time itself for such mundane political matters" (2000, 43). This objection has been repeated often. If CS tried out, for example, Bourdieu's (1984) attempt to dialectically fuse the hermeneutic (subjectivist) and structural (objectivist) approaches, perhaps the inflation of culture to encompass everything would have been prevented.  Or if the analysis of consumption of cultural products/practices took into account W.F. Haug's (1986) theory of commodity aesthetics, the sphere of political economy would have been factored in the evaluation of pleasure, performative reception, etc. Situated in this wider context, our endeavor to indigenize EuroAmerican CS is not a campaign for multiculturalist identity politics but an attempt to renew its universalist impulse of demystification and humanist reclamation of creative agency, rationality and informed caring. 
 Should one hundred million Filipinos care about the plight of CS? If we want CS to be meaningful to the majority, not just the educated sector, it needs to address the urgent realities of Philippine society and contribute to the democratic and egalitarian ideals of its revolutionary history.   In the Philippines and other subordinated formations, CS can be regenerated by renewing its anticolonial, popular and democratic inspiration and re-engaging in a radical, transformative critique of oligopolistic corporate power, the legitimizing ideology of global finance capital and its commodified/commodifying culture.  It can endeavor to challenge US imperialism and its accomplices in its current modality of warring against “terrorism”or extremism (codewords for anti-imperialists) by returning to, first, the primacy of social labor; second, the complex historical articulations of the mode of production and social relations; and, third, the importance of the materialist critique of norms, assumptions and premises underlying existing inequalities, injustices, and oppressions.

Agendas and Prospects

We still have to reckon with the contradictions between the Global North and the Global South in view of the looming debt crisis in Europe, the antagonism toward Iran and the continuing war on whoever the US State Department and NATO label as  "extremists."  The shocking official policy of torture by many governments, and execution of citizens without trial, by unmanned drones and other clandestine ways, still remains terra incognita for future CS scholars.  
In the Asian geopolitical theater, we have to take into account an emergent nationalism in the People's Republic of China in the wake of border conflicts with its neighbors, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. In assessing the continuing hegemonic influence of the Western tradition, notwithstanding its dissenting faction in Frankfurt Critical Theory or Latin American liberation theology, Filipino scholars and intellectuals have to address the persistent domination of the whole society and culture by the inherited U.S. model of competitive individualism and market logic overlaid over a residual but sturdy feudal/authoritarian pattern of social interaction. This complex milieu cannot be ignored as simply socioeconomic or factored in as implicitly given parameters of discourse and exchange.  
To Filipinize CS is to reconfigure the modality and thrust of CS (complicit in its origins with patriarchy and white supremacy) in order to address the persistent, urgent problems of the exploitation of Filipino labor worldwide, the lack of genuine sovereignty and national independence, and the profound class, gender and ethnic inequalities that have plagued the country for so long. What is needed is the invention of new forms of praxis of knowledge-production and pedagogy that can generate meaningful change based on justice, accountability, dignity and ecological sustainability.  Stephen Gill urges public intellectuals not to be constrained by "the horizons of necessity" that seek to limit thought to imperial and neoliberal common sense. Paraphrasing Gill's recommendation, CS scholars "should operate according to 'horizons of desire,' collectively imagining to be desirable, necessary and possible what had previously been thought to be politically impossible" (2012, 520). Extrapolating this insight to the whole field of cultural production and its forms of habitus (as Bourdieu [1993] understood the discipline), intellectuals engaged in CS need to situate their practice and vocation in the actual conflicted society that underwrites their labor and provides it with some measure of intelligibility and significance. Otherwise, they will continue to serve the interests of global capital and undermine their own claims to integrity and independence, not to speak of “academic freedom,” humanistic ideals, and even the truth-claims or "warranted assertibility" of their pronouncements.


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From a Filipino perspective, this speculative commentary ventures a brief critique of Eurocentric Cultural Studies by examining its theoretical premises and their ideological resonance. The resurgence of “third world” resistance with its focus on racial/gender negativity (as evidenced in multiethnic writing by people of color within and outside the United States and Europe) has exposed the limitations of the academic discipline. Indigenization attempts may signal a return to the original radical vision of Cultural Studies. However, such indigenization (as exemplified by the Philippine example) requires a separate critique that would reinvigorate the dialectical interface of local subaltern practice and the concrete universal of an anti-capitalist liberation project that would connect the crisis of the global North with the emancipatory aspirations of the global South.


E. SAN JUAN, Jr. is currently humanities fellow of the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin; he was recently fellow of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University; and Fulbright professor of American Studies, Leuven University, Belgium. He is emeritus professor of English, Comparative Literature and Ethnic Studies from several U.S. universities. His recent books are IN THE WAKE OF TERROR (Lexington), CRITIQUE AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION (Mellen), CRITICAL INTERVENTIONS (Lambert), BALIKBAYANG SINTA; AN E. SAN JUAN READER (Ateneo U Press) and US IMPERIALISM AND REVOLUTION IN THE PHILIPPINES (Palgrave). He is completing a book on the singularlity of Charles Sanders Peirce’s pragmaticist semiotics.

Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS | Leave a comment



by Delia D. Aguilar & E. San Juan, Jr.

With Freedom Siyam, May Penuela, Charlie Samuya Veric, Jeffrey Cabusao, Michael Viola, and Delia Aguilar, initiated by Delia D. Aguilar with the collaboration of E. San Juan, Jr.

Controversies over the use of names or classifying rubrics for groups of people are rarely amusing, some even dull and soporific. However, if it is a matter of life and death for some cases, as in the conflict between the Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda, or the fate of Jews and Armenians in times of intense racial conflict. In those instances, the name one chooses for one’s group may signal either danger or safety.

What’s in a name? Shakespeare’s character seems to ignore circumstances and occasions where a name spells doom or salvation. He may be an essentialist, one who shrugs off the surface particularities of humans—skin color, facial features, hair, etc.—for the core substance that constitutes the unique physiognomy of the person or group.

The problem is not puzzling or enigmatic. This has been argued in ongoing conversations about race, ethnicity, nationality, and so on. But what really is the core substance of African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos or Asians (including Filipinos, now branded by some as Filipinx?) Among Native Americans, arguments will be made for the singularities of each tribe, whether Navajo, Sioux, Kiowa, etc. The same goes for Asians—“Asianx,” anyone?

Each taxonomic label betrays a plurality or heterogeneity within it. Will a new label capture the denied or negated essence of the group, whatever that may be? From American Negroes to Afro-Americans to African Americans to Black Lives—the changes seem to reflect not an unchanging essence. They in fact capture the distinctive impact of historical changes, both the socioeconomic and political events involving those groups and the responses of the communities. The same goes with the invention of “Pinoys” and “Pinays” to designate Filipinos abroad, in the United States and elsewhere. These changes register the groups’ need to identify themselves as a distinctive community for economic, political and cultural adaptation and survival.

What’s the historical specificity of Filipinos here and in the Philippines? When President McKinley decided to annex the Philippines at the end of the Spanish-American War (1898-99), he had no clue where those islands were. The Filipino revolutionary government established a republic, but U.S. superior arms won and colonized the country. Due to the need for labor, the colonized Filipinos were recruited for the Hawaiian sugar plantations as “nationals,” in short, colonial subalterns, not immigrants. The “Manilla men” who fled the Spanish galleons in the 18th century were not “Filipinos,” strictly speaking, but “Indios,” so these Mayflower “wannabes” cannot yet be accepted into ‘the melting pot”—“e pluribus unum” is just an aspirational come-on.

In 1908, the Grove Farm Plantation in Kauai, Hawaii listed “Filipinos” after “fertilizer” as one of the commodities ordered (Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore, 1989, p. 25). The “Manongs”—Filipino farmworkers—spread from Hawaii to Alaska until the “little brown brother” bore the violence of the white vigilantes in Watsonville, California, in 1929 for mixing with white women. Filipinos were called

“Flips.” They were classified as “Mongolians,” not Malays, until Salvador Roldan challenged the court so he could marry his white fiancee. When the U.S. troops slaughtered Filipino soldiers of the Republic during the Filipino-American War (1899-1913), the natives were called “Niggers,” “khaki ladrones,” and other colorful epithets. More horrendous were the massacres of Muslim Filipinos, whom we now call BangsaMoro, in Mindanao and Sulu that Mark Twain bewailed as barbaric piratical adventures. Are these tendentious names just symptoms of paranoia, the hostile imagination of the warrior psyche? Part of the strategy to dehumanize the enemy, these modes of stigmatizing by name-calling aim to exonerate the agents of genocide from guilt or blame—after all, you are fighting for democracy and Christian civilization.

Toward Dialogue and Colloquy

But let us for now cut short this historical background and jump into our topic: the controversy over the use of “Filipinx” among Filipinos everywhere—over ten million Overseas Filipino Workers constitute a growing diasporic population. An article in the online webside of INTERAKSYON (June 2, 2020) released a barrage of animosity toward this neologism. Catalina Madarang summed up the exchanges in Twitter, mircroblogger platforms and Reddit Philippines.

“Filipinx” is obviously a copy of “Latinx,” introduced mainly by academics and students in social media around 2004. Activists began to use it “to advocate for individuals living on the borderline of gender identity. But most Hispanic and Latino Americans prefer ‘Hispanic’ and ‘Latino/Latina’ to describe themselves, only 2 to 3 percent use Latinx” (Wikipedia 2020). The Hispanic commentators, while acknowledging the impulse to sound non-binary, gender-neutral or inclusive, reject the term because it is ungrammatical, difficult to pronounce, and disrespectful toward conventional Spanish—in short, “a bulldozing of Spanish.” Is this a case of linguistic imperialism on both sides? The term “Latino/Latina” designates anyone of Latin-American origin or ancestry, while “Hispanic” refers to native speakers of Spanish, whatever nation they originated. Likewise, “Filipino” refers to anyone of Philippine origin or ancestry, regardless of province or linguistic cohort. But unlike Spanish, Philippine languages have neither gender attribution nor gender-specific pronouns.

“Filipinx” is thus a bastard term mimicking its original, ignoring linguistic specificities and historical contingencies. Whatever the other motives are, the intention is honorable: namely, to acknowledge genderqueer (LGBTQIA) members of the Filipino diaspora in whitecentric, binary places. It seeks to decolonize the identity of Filipinos in westerncentric societies, not just in U.S. or Europe, but also in the neocolony itself, the Philippines, which has been profoundly distorted by 300 years of Spanish colonial rule and over a hundred years of U.S. domination. Perhaps this is a tactical reformist move, but are the effects positive? As endorsement, Twitter-user Jenika Cruz, senior associate editor of The Atlantic, wrote recently: “Filipinx friends, I made rly good chicken adobo….pls clap.” Is this a sign that everyone is now joining the bandwagon for a new christening? Are we on the way to decolonizing Filipinos claiming, to quote Carlos Bulosan, that “America is in the heart”?

It was an article critiquing the use of “Filipinx” in Bulatlat by Prof. John Toledo of the University of the Philippines, Los Banos that piqued Delia D. Aguilar’s interest in pursuing the matter. She had wrongly assumed that Filipinos in the Philippines would accede to this modification that, after all, signified solidarity with another US community of color. Instead, Toledo urged his readers to “resist such adverse essentializing of our identity.” He ends his criticism with a plea: “We, the Filipino virtual community, have to resist this Western hype and empower our languages in the Philippines. We are all Filipinos. Isn’t it much more important today to battle the rhetoric that our mother nation is a province of another nation?”

Encouraged by Toledo’s rejection–speaking truth to power in a time of national and global crisis–and curious about how others might respond, Aguilar reached out to a handful of friends and colleagues for their opinions. What resulted was a spirited conversation that everyone involved later agreed might be useful to share publicly. What follows are the candid responses of Filipinos in the U.S., Canada and the Philippines involved in community organizing, teaching, and scholarly work. Aguilar’s comments are interspersed in the back-and-forth exchange as they occurred.

A Veteran Filipino-American Activist’s Response

First to offer his view is Freedom Siyam, principal of Balboa High School in San Francisco, who has been active in organizing and teaching in the Filipino community for a long time now. We reproduce the preface he wrote for a district document celebrating Filipino American History Month:

Why Do We Use ‘Filipinx”

A recent phenomenon to acknowledge the systematic oppression of Black, Indigenous, People of Color through the history of over 500 years of colonization and imperialism transpired when progressive members of the Latinx community replaced the “A” and “O” with the “X” to emphasize gender neutrality and inclusivity of people in the community who are gender non-conforming.  

Filipinxs also share a similar history as Spain began colonial conquest of the Philippine archipelago in 1521 and as colonization almost completely eradicated indigenous cultural practices, spirituality, and language and replaced indigenous practices with Spanish patriarchy, Christianity, and sweepingly gendered relations throughout the islands.  

To this point, Spanish gendered prescriptions manifested in many words, whereas native dialects had no gender markers, and pronouns were siya or sila (essentially they/them).  The adoption of the “x” by members in the Filipino American community is an attempt at inclusivity and breaking past the binary of gendered markers imposed by colonization.  It is also important to note that this is a very specific characteristic of conscious Filipino American communities and not necessarily adopted by Filipinos in the Philippines, nor broadly in the United States.  Thus Filipinx should be seen as synonymous with Filipina or Filipino, without the gendered prescription, and we should not try to play “woke” olympics with each other.

Purist may resist this attempt to problematize the Filipinx identity with an X, and while the writers acknowledge shifting language helps continue to sharpen our understanding of inequities therefore facilitate a clearer path to genuine equity, we also know that a change in nomenclature is just that, an empty change in terminology, unless genuine liberation of the oppressed is obtained and equity and justice is systematized institutionally, and in the context of Filipinx history, including genuine liberation of the Philippines from uneven neocolonial political, economic and military policies.  

Furthermore, those who identify with the X should be aware that Filipinos from the Philippines may not identify with the term and consider that this is a Filipinx American and a product of US multiculturalism (Reference: “Choose Filipino or Filipinx”).


After Freedom Siyam’s public pronouncement, Delia Aguilar’s reflection reminds us of the need for historicizing discourse. She explains: Free, you are spot-on in saying that none of these attempts to change labels alter material conditions, but neither should we deny the impact of culture on material life. To hold Philippine Cultural Night and, more important, Filipino American History Month, are of great significance. I would guess that up to now Fil-Am students are not getting information about Philippine history from their parents who are simply too busy to survive in a society that absolutely requires consumerism in order to acquire a measure of self-assurance. 

Context is key, in my opinion. I completely understand the desire to go with Filipinx because you’re in the US attempting to express solidarity with Latinx and Blacks. (Blacks are not calling themselves Blackx, are they? This x business is confined to immigrants, I assume?) I would ask that you not forget to emphasize vigorously that the Philippine situation is entirely different. The Philippine nation is living under the heels of US domination–and resisting trendy, even purportedly progressive stuff in the US is part of that–and Filipinos have no obligation whatsoever to accept this presumed expression of solidarity. There have been many a time when I’ve felt that Filipinos today (yes, in Manila, California’s suburb) have voluntarily and completely submerged themselves in US culture that I feel like raising my hands in surrender. This is why I was very pleasantly surprised by Toledo’s Bulatlat article.

Qualifications from a Filipino resident in Canada

We were able to solicit reflections from May Penuela, a Filipina educator living in Canada, whose thoughts recall for us the turmoil of the current conjuncture:

I think it’s ironic how little use Filipinx is politically given Laude’s murder back in 2014 and Duterte’s pardon of Pemberton this summer. I mentioned this case in a diversity discussion for a staff meeting in ‘14 on transgender issues. The mention of US militarism in the Philippines was outside the scope of using the correct terms originating in the US for marginalized communities. The discussion closed as if it was too political and off topic bringing that up. Let alone talking about the responses from Gabriela and women’s organizations in the Philippines who clearly had a more advanced analysis and strident support of Laude as a woman. There was little virtue signalling, if I could use that phrase, in the Philippine context from what I read at the time. I agree with Toledo’s main point in the article. The flow of political direction in the U.S. is seldom informed outside its solipsistic national context. And this goes to the heart of critiquing Ensler and the history of neocolonial feminism she branded globally, the flow of political exchange and influence is one way. Which begs the question of the ethics for that term politically — whose self-determination is one referring by Filipinx in 2020?

May commends Freedom’s “sharp emotionally attuned and integrative approach” in his formal and organizational duties.” She confesses that she gets “emotionally reactive” with identity politics acting like “McCathyist thought police.”

Delia Aguilar’s response to May Penuela: I am very much impressed with what you write. I especially like your bringing up the brutal murder of Jennifer Laude in 2014 and the recent exoneration of Joseph Pemberton, her murderer. It’s a case that, and I hate to say this but I will, seems to ridicule the presumed linguistic resistance of Filipinx. (Never mind that the adoption of the term also is but another symptom of our aping, gaya-gaya puto-maya tendency.) This, along with your reminder about Eve Ensler, speak volumes to me. Because wasn’t Ensler denounced by feminists of color in the US and Canada for being racist? And yet it was precisely her being the white feminist savior that she is that catapulted her into the warm embrace of GABRIELA. What does this tell us?

Intervention from a Scholar in Quezon City, Philippines

Meanwhile, let us hear from a Filipino academic in the Philippines, Charlie Samuya Veric, professor of English at Ateneo de Manila University, who holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. Veric has written several books of poetry and a pioneering work on postcolonial studies in the Philippines entitled Children of the Postcolony. He wrote in FB:

Filipino and Filipinx are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they both need to flourish. But if one cancels the other, then that’s where the problem begins. Filipino is founded on identification with the Philippine nation whereas Filipinx dis-identify themselves from the heteronormative and white supremacist American state. There’s a crucial difference between identifying with a young Philippine nation and distancing oneself from the long imperial history of the US. So if we force Filipinx on Filipinos in the Philippines, that creates more trouble than needed. Give the Filipino nation its time in the sun. Let it grow and mature first. Then we can start denying it. One cannot deconstruct what is not fully constructed.

Veric’s remarks provoked May Penuela’s wide-ranging comment:

I greatly appreciate Charlie’s comments, Delia.  His distinction of the two forms of identification struck me, where the unity between what I see as a positive and negative identification is possible.

Using Charlie’s distinctions, Filipino as identification with the Philippine nation is a positive identification in the proactive sense, for and with an emerging Philippine nation.  Whereas, “Filipinx dis-identify with the heteronormative, white supremacist American state,” “distancing oneself from the long imperial history of the U.S.”  “Filipinx” is a negative identification in the sense that is not yet for a specified project.  It is an ambiguous identity, except in its proclamation against heteronormativity and white supremacy.  What is it for?  Is it for statelessness?  For a multinational state?  For a non-white settler state?   In solidarity with BIPOC and LGBTQI liberation, what U.S. state is required?   That’s not to say that there is or should be a pre-determined, specified construction.  But, what is the political consciousness that makes up an anti- or “negative “ construction and what are its tendencies moving forward?

What does it mean to “distance oneself from the long imperial history of the U.S.?”  To recognize that it’s messed up? But then what? Does Filipinx identify an alternative project to imperialism?  What is the project?  Does it serve to cancel imperialism?  Because the Filipina/o positive identification, moving towards national autonomy in its self-determined construction, requires the end of the U.S. state as an imperial project.   Imperial negation is necessary for Filipinos to construct their own national destiny.  Are Filipinx folx up to the task of fully negating U.S. imperialism?  

As Charlie rightly points out, trouble begins if one identification development cancels the other.  Radicalization, however it emerges, is a positive and important development in such different contexts.  But I think it’s fair to say that Filipinx as a political project requires more maturation in its development and requires rigorous scrutiny through this fundamental contradiction.  I don’t mean to be too cheeky, but x has greater potential to negate the a’s and o’s. So, how to move in a mutually affirming way?  Where are the possibilities for mutual political exchange?

Jennifer Laude’s brutal murder is a repeat offense of the heteronormative, white supremacist state on Philippine soil. U.S. Imperialism in real time, running the course of its 122 year history in the Philippines with distinctive consequences means that in 2014 a 19 year old man/child turned into a Marine by the U. S. state, has impunity to negate the life and development of a 26 year old transgender Filipina expressing her full humanity.  Their hook up in anticipation for some mutual human pleasure ended in its complete opposite, horrid outcome — Jennifer’s violent death at the hands of the American man/child experiencing a psychotic and emotional crisis of the racial, sexual, gender, class, and national contradictions all integrated in one fateful intimate moment between the two.  

With the support of both the Philippine and mighty U.S. state, Pemberton gets a restart at life six years later.  He’s now the same age as Jennifer when she was killed. He can go home.  

Perhaps gender non-conforming and cis gender Filipinx struggling with the historical meaning of Filipina/o can find solidarity and grasp this case as a concrete access point to consider the stronghold of U.S. influence on Filipino lives, or reconsider it if they’re already aware of this case. Because of BLM, the pandemic, and everything going as it is, U.S. based activists might fully grasp how this case resonates with many other negations: Breonna Taylor’s, Berta Caceres, MMIW, etc, etc., to respond in similar scale and synchronous timing in national and global outrage, amplifying (to use that trendy word) the brutalities of imperialism for the people in the belly of the beast to evaluate and reconcile with U.S. militarism.  That’s an affirmative direction that Filipinx might reflect upon.  

Delia Aguilar responds to May: Your situating the discussion in the context of BLM and the pandemic is also significant because, as many progressives today have observed, we are at a critical moment in history where race and capitalism are being publicly questioned in ways that never happened before. People are now talking about racism as systemic. And look, even Bob Woodward, interviewing Trump, raises the issue of their shared “white privilege.” This was unthinkable before this time! In other words, you remind us that the adoption of Filipinx has to be contextualized in history and current events.

Exchanging with Two Filipino-American Academics

From the groves of U.S academe, we asked Prof Jeffrey Cabusao of Bryant University what his take is on this new “Filipinx” fad. He hails from San Diego, California, holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Michigan, and currently teaches at Bryant University in Rhode Island. He asks if Filipinx is seriously challenging the heteronormatic and white-supremacist state, and if so, what have these so-called Filipinxs contributed to challenging the U.S. Marine killer Pemberton’s pardon? He agrees with Charlle Samuya Veric’s distinction of the neologism as a Fil-Am concept and “Filipino” as a term designating the long history of mass struggle for national sovereignty in the neocolony. He thanks Freedom Siyam for his insightful reflections. Here is his concluding observation:

I’d like to suggest that “Filipinx” itself is a term that has yet to mature—a term that signals that we live in “new times = new politics.” While the term “Filipino” is rooted in a very long history of mass struggle against U.S. imperialism (an “old” mode of political engagement), “Filipinx” is quite recent and rooted in contemporary U.S. identity politics… an intersectional politics of diversity and inclusion… a contemporary queer politics that oftentimes privilege trans visibility over a systemic critique of racism, militarism, and materialism (the three evils critiqued by MLK).

For example, how is Chelsea Manning celebrated at Pride?  Whether locked up or released, she remains a marginalized voice — a pariah (given her politics) — within the LGBTQ community and the larger U.S. society.  For Manning, the struggle for trans rights are interconnected with the struggle to dismantle the prison system. Also, “Filipinx” seems to be inspired by the shift to “Latinx.” The eagerness of Fil-Ams to adopt the “Filipinx” identity/category (to copy our Latino/as/x sisters and brothers) is symptomatic of a deep (and painful) desperation among many Fil-Ams to be “seen” and “heard” in the United States (among U.S. BIPOC activists, within the U.S. academy and its publishing venues, within mass media)… so much energy around the “x” just to get a slice of the pie.

For his appraisal of this colloquy, let us hear from Prof Michael Viola, a veteran teacher/scholar of social justice and multiethnic education at St Mary’s College, California, and author of the award-winning book, Hip-Hop(e): The Cultural Practice and Critical Pedagogy of International Hip-Hop. He took time out from his many duties and commitments to provide us his insights:

I agree with Charlie Samuya Veric’s insights and the poignant ways that May, Free and Jeff built upon them around how names enable important pathways to identify with historic and persistent struggles against U.S. imperialism. May’s point, which she was quite clear in BOLD honestly builds on the important critiques that Tita Delia and Uncle Sonny have made for decades in the way that U.S academics have contributed greatly to the benign identity politics that make various nuanced moves yet are ultimately devoid of a class analysis and a critique of global capitalism. Such critiques are important to remember as their work have shown how dominant strands of Filipno American studies has cut ties to a wider struggle against U.S. imperialism and its barbaric manifestations in the Philippines (via “post-al analytics). Such an analysis that Jeff has been at the forefront within Asian Am studies more broadly to recuperate is so crucial in understanding the asymmetrical relationship between the Philippines and the United States. Thank you all for showing the ways that FILIPINX driven predominately by immigrant academics in the corporate academy are fashioning new trends that are culpable in also reproducing this unjust neocolonial relationship. 

I’ve been re-reading Manning Marable and he points to the two global currents post 9/11 world: 1) a liberal democratic tendency: still dominant in the US that broadly has been driven by a project for human rights, welcoming a public discourse around issues of identity and difference yet is assimilative to global capital and (2) a radical egalitarian tendency most strongly offered by movements of the Global South that refuse incorporation to the capitalist world order and seek the abolition of capitalist relations in its various manifestations. For me, Marable’s insights are important in this time – especially as we see the rise of rightist / authoritarian forces in the US, the Philippines, and throughout the world. Ultimately, he poses a wonder question: is it possible to build a broader front to unite these two tendencies? How can we offer a consistent yet dialogical critique of FILIPINX that enables a recognition of  the struggle that younger generations of youth are identifying yet invites them to “intersect” their struggles with a project for liberation from the barbarism of global capital that is at the heart of why our world is literally burning. 

Rejecting the FILIPINX tout court, especially for the reasons that Free points out (as a younger generation of students and youth are connected with other immigrant youth where the term Latinx has become much more commonplace) may further isolate us from the kind of consciousness raising and community organizing we have been committed to. Yet, it is important to point out who is naming the term FILIPINX (neoliberal academics??) and how such a term may problematically be a “cut and paste” job or ahistorically imported from its Latinx communities and struggles.  What happens when our communities do that? What happens to our ability to historicize and make connections to the ongoing neocolonial conditions in the Philippines and the dispersal of Filipinos all over the world? May is sharp in stating that “Perhaps gender non-conforming and cis gender Filipinx struggling with the historical meaning of Filipina/o can find solidarity and grasp this case [Laude murder] as a concrete access point to consider the stronghold of U.S. influence on Filipino lives, or reconsider it if they’re already aware of this case.” That’s exactly what academics, activists, cultural workers need to be doing, helping to create those “access point(s)” and to help intersect those struggles as opposed to “intersectional identity work” that has led us nowhere.


Delia Aguilar wraps up the exchange with the following observations: Thank you, Mike, for your thoughtful contribution. When I first reached out to you all, what I had in mind was simply to get your reactions to John Toledo’s article. I had no thought of getting anything printed. Since then, Tito Sonny called my attention to an online discussion of Filipinx among Filipinos in the Philippines who more or less scoffed at the tag. You can just imagine what a relief–and sense of hope!–this gave me, because at times I feel our subalternity to be sedimented and sempiternal. “Tumigil na kayo diyan,” someone said in exasperation. Another had to explain that Filipinos belong to the Philippines, a nation–one still fighting for genuine independence, it is true, but a nation nevertheless. Is there a Latino nation? No.

In the early 80s when the women’s movement was just beginning to assert itself within the revolution (“broader struggle,” we used to say), a Filipina feminist cited the authority of “The Second Stage” in which Betty Friedan wrote that “we have gone too far.” This woman was quoting Friedan to warn Filipino women, who’d only barely begun, that we’d gone too far already. Remember the apocryphal tale of the Lone Ranger and his sidekick Tonto (Spanish for dolt or imbecile)? “We are going to get killed!” cries the Lone Ranger, facing an imminent attack by Indians. “Who’s the ‘we,’ white boy?” was Tonto’s retort. If only we had Tonto’s smarts.

I could be wrong, Mike. But wasn’t Manning Marable writing about a very different moment in history? Latinx belongs to that moment. Times have changed since. The seismic shift in public consciousness about race brought on by BLM-led protests amidst the ongoing pandemic and its continuing mismanagement has radically altered the sociopolitical landscape of the US. This will necessarily have an impact on academic puerility (allow me to dream here) of which I take preoccupation with identity politics to be a symptom. Let’s not forget that the plague and those BLM protest marches, the massiveness and composition of which have heretofore been unseen in this country, have opened a gateway for progressives, as Arundhati Roy aptly put it, hopefully to another world, assuming we have an alternative vision. No movement in the US has ever created or produced international reverberations the way that this one did. There were solidarity marches all over the world! Remember those? Surely we can acknowledge that the marches and clamor have resulted in a radically revised public outlook. Shouldn’t we seize the moment and work with this palpable change in popular consciousness instead of trailing behind in the caboose?

A Provisional Summing-Up

There appears to be a consensus in all the participants that it is important to grapple with the implications of ethnic labels and other taxonomic devices with grave political ramifications. The use of “Filipinx” foregrounds the need to elucidate what is involved in its use and application, where and when, for whom, etc. While “Flip” and other offensive tags have disappeared, there’s a feeling that “Filipino” has become a term of rejection or marginalization. Is this true for everyone? So is “Filipinx” the new feasible gateway to acceptance, if not assimilation? Would this tweaking of the old label facilitate better access to the larger community of Filipinos residing in the U.S. (most of whom are likely to vote for Trump in this November 2020 election), and thus acceptance by the EuroAmerican majority? Who is being served by this new category, whose interests are enabled by this new terminology?

We can rehearse the crucial arguments for further assaying. There is consensus that this neologism is a psychological/semantic response to the dominance of a white-supremacist, heteronormative, patriarchal culture, a climate aggravated by the current regime of a flagrantly white-supremacist U.S. administration. No harm in that symptomatic reflex of a new discovery or awareness. What is contentious is its resonance or implication. Does it invigorate or paralyze movements for racial equality? More important, does it subordinate the struggle for genuine national sovereignty to the paramount goal of gender-neutrality? Does it obscure the asymmetry between the imperial hegemonic United States and its virtual neocolony, the Philippines? To push further, which cause would advance a systemic solution to racist, sexist global capitalism? Intersectionatlonal measures have been tried; but after Obama, we got Trump and its virulent racist-sexist program of destroying all that has been gained from past Civil Rights struggles of LGBTQIA and diverse ethnic communities..

The Philippines is still a U.S. dependency, whatever claims may be made about Filipino adobo, Miss Universe this and that, growing incomes of Filipino-Americans, increasing popularity of Filipino films, singers, etc. We are one of Trump’s “shitholes,” let us not demur, whose chief export and dollar-earners are Overseas Filipino Workers around the planet. From 1946 when nominal independence was granted up to now, the Philippine military and police establishments have been wholly dependent on U.S, support, advice, training, logistics, etc. While direct U.S. investments have declined, the unchallenged stranglehold of U.S. culture—its music, films, lifestyle, ideology of free-market liberalism, anticommunist/antisocialist mentality of individualism, etc.—shows no signs of waning or disappearing.

The final caveat is whether gender-neutrality and anti-heteronormativity (LGBTQIA) would free the homeland from dependency and backwardness. More crucial, we are in a time of huge mass policization as a response to Trump’s racist policies toward immigration, ecological degradation, the pandemic/health care crisis, warmongering, etc. Should we miss this moment in history as part of this great wave of mass mobilizations, here and in the homeland, to fight for social justice and economic emancipation which would lay the groundwork for all other freedoms? Or should we subordinate that to the principle of getting the right name to insure that everyone is acknowledged, whatever their situation is? Do we repeat the old saw, “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will,” to settle this issue of legitimizing “Filipinx” if “Filipino” still hangs in the balance?—###


DELIA D. AGUILAR, previously a fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, was professor of Women’s Studies at Hamilton College, Washington State University, and the University of Connecticut. Her books include The Feminist Challenge, Filipino Housewives Speak, Toward a Nationalist Feminism; and edited the anthology Women and Globalization (Humanity Books).

E. SAN JUAN, Jr., 2009 fellow of W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University, was chair of the Dept of Comparative American Cultures, Washington State University; and emeritus professor of Ethnic Studies and Comparative Culture. He was recently visiting professor of English, University of the Philippines. His recent books include U.S. Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines, Between Empire and Insurgency, Faustino Aguilar, and Peirce/Marx.


KALIGTASAN, nobela ni Faustino Aguilar: Kritika ni E. San Juan,Jr.


E. San Juan, Jr.
Emeritus professor, University of Connecticut, USA

What kind of justice is it when a nobleman or a goldsmith or a mon-eylender, or someone else who makes his living by either doing nothing at all or something completely useless to the public, gets to live a life of luxury and grandeur?….I can see nothing [in the existing governments] but a conspiracy of the rich, who are fattening up their own interests under the name and title of the commonwealth.

            —St. Thomas More

    Therefore, whoever tells a lie, however well-intentioned he might be, must answer for the consequences, however unforeseeable they were, and pay the penalty for them even in a civil tribunal…To be truthful in all declara-tions, therefore, is a sacred and absolutely commanding decree of reason, limited by no expediency.

            —Immanuel Kant

    To be sensuous is to suffer. Man as an objective, sensuous being is therefore a suffering being—and because he feels what he suffers, a passion-ate being. Passion is the essential force of man energetically bent on its ob-ject. But man is not merely a natural being,…  He is a being for himself. Therefore he is a species being, and has to confirm and manifest himself as such both in his being and in his knowing… And man too has his act of ori-gin—history—a conscious self-transcending act of origin.

            —Karl Marx

…at nangakalimot, kusa lamang namang paglimot upang matak-pan ang isinagawang pagtataksil…Tinatakan naman tayo ng Maykapal ng pagkapilipino, magpasawalang-hangga rin, upang yumari at bumuo ng sarili nating kapalaran. Kabaitan man ngang ikinararangal ang pagpa-patawad, sa pagkakataong ito’y makasusugat sa damdamin ng bayang naghirap, ang pagpapaumanhin.

            —Faustino Aguilar, Nang Magdaan ang 
    Daluyong (1945)


Isa sa mga mapangahas na nobela ng bantog na manunulat, Faustino Aguilar, ay Kaligtasan
na sinulat noong ika-1950 dekada. Isinadula sa magkahalong mimetiko/simbolikong paraan ang magulong panahon ng Huk rebelyon at ang anti-komunistang kampanya ng CIA at Ramon Mag-saysay. Pinagsanib ni Aguilar ang masalimuot na sangkap ng genre ng nobela upang mailarawan ang tunggalian ng uring magbubukid (sa karakter ni Amando Magat) at mapanikil na panginoong maylupa (kinatawan ni Don Rehino). Sinipat sa isang mapanuya’t mapanudyong pagsusulit ang ipotesis ng repormistang kalutasan sa problema ng di-pantay na dibisyon ng gawain at ng pro-dukto nito. Sinuri ang patriyarkong sistema ng dominasyon at pagtakwil dito. Inilapat ang mga teknik pang-alegoriko sa pagbubunyag ng mga kontradiksiyon sa kaisipan at praktika ng mga tipikal na tauhan at pangyayari. Dahil dito, maituturing ito bilang ulirang akda na isang halim-bawa ng pinakamahusay na paglalangkap ng tradisyon ng realistikong panitik at mga makataong simulain at prinsipyong nakasalig sa radikal na pagbabago ng lipunan.
SUSING SALITA: lipunan, kasaysayan, kontradiksiyon, naratibo, panginoong maylupa, Huk, patriyarko

One of the most daring, yet still unpublished, novels of the renowned Tagalog novelist Faustino Aguilar is Kaligtasan written during the 1950 decade. It is the only novel so far dramatizing in alternating mimetic/symbolic modes the crisis-ridden years of the Huk uprising and the CIA-led anticommunist campaign of Ramon Magsaysay. Synthesizing the complex strands of the novel genre, Aguilar represents the fierce class antagonisms between impoverished peasants in Luzon and the predatory feudal lords represented by Amando Magat and Don Rehino respectively. It subjects to satirical and parodic testing the hypothesis of reformist solutions to the unequal divi-sion of labor and wealth. It criticizes the patriarchal system of domination and its subversion. By deploying allegorical techniques in exposing contradictions in the ideas and practices of typical individuals, the novel exemplifies the highest achievement of the realistic tradition of Filipino writing infused with socially committed ideals and radical principles.
KEYWORDS: lipunan, kasaysayan, kontradiksiyon, naratibo, panginoong maylupa, Huk, patri-yarko


    Pagkalunsad ng huling akda niya bago magkagiyera, Ang Lihim ng Isang Pulo (1926), nag-patuloy si Faustino Aguilar sa paglilingkod sa gobyerno ng Commonwealth (1935-1946) hang-gang sa matapos ang Pangalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig. Tila himala ang nangyaring pagka-bawi. Mula sa pinsala at terorismo ng madugong pananakop ng Hapon, nailuwal ang Republika bilang isang neokolonya ng Estados Unidos. Nakalilinlang ito sa gitna ng tinaguriang “Cold War,” ang pagtatagisan ng kapitalistang “Free World” at komunistang Unyon Sobyet at Tsina. Saksi rito ang digmaan sa Korea (1950-53)  at insureksiyon ng Huk (1946-50) sa buong kapu-luan. Ito ang heopolitikang milyu ng di-pa nailalathalang kathambuhay, Kaligtasan (1952).
Batid ng lahat na hindi nagtamo ng tunay na kasarinlan at kasaganaan ang bansa. Sapili-tang ipinataw ang lumang orden ng di-pagkakapantay-pantay at reaksiyonaryong pamamahala sa di-umano’y malayang Republika. Ipinangalandakan ng U.S. ang signos ng demokrasya at ka-layaan sa gitna ng malubhang pagdurusa ng mayoryang taumbayan, ng pagsikil sa uring pe-sante’t manggagawa, at marahas na paglapastangan sa kababaihan (balik-tanawin ang Busabos ng Palad [1909]). Ironikal o balintuna ang totalidad; kailangan ang mediyasyon ng dalumat o intuwisyon upang maunawaan ang puno’t dulo ng krisis. Paano mailalarawan ng manunulat ang balighong daloy ng mga pangyayari? Paano maibubunyag ang kabuktutan ng burgesyang ideolo-hiya ng mala-sugalang eleksiyon ng 1949, halimbawa? Paano maikikintal sa isip ang mapag-imbot na indibidwalismo ng mga parasitikong panginoong salot sa lipunan? Nakasadlak ang ba-yan sa tradisyonal na relasyong “kliyente-patron” kung saan ang primaryang komoditing lakas-paggawa ng nakararami ay pinagsasamantalahan. Paano maipapaliwanag ang kontradiksiyon ng puwersa ng produksiyon (kolektibong pagpupunyagi ng mamamayan) at di-makatwirang sistema ng dibisyon ng gawaing panlipunan? Ito ang unibersal na tema na dumadaloy at sumasagitsit sa mga tauhan at pangyayari rito, isang mapanganib na paksain na siyang dahilan kung hindi na-kuhang ipalimbag ni Aguilar ang nobelang ito noong buhay pa siya.
Tiyak kong wala pang komentaryo o anomang puna hanggang ngayon ang huling nobela ni Faustino Aguilar, Kaligtasan, na sinulat at nilagdaan noong 24 Marso 1951, sa Sampalok, Maynila. Isang typescript ng nobela, nakalagak sa UP Filipiniana Library, ang natuklasan ko ni-tong Enero 2018. Walang ebidensiya na ito’y nailathala na o naipalimbag—marahil, ang katu-nayan ng status nito bilang akdang di pa naisusulit sa publiko ay masasaliksik ng mga iskolar-ng-bayan.  Kung ito ma’y naibahagi na, wala akong nahagilap na banggit o tukoy saan mang pub-likasyon. Maselan ang paksang-diwang siniyasat dito: korapsyon ng mga opisyal sa burokrasya, sabwatan ng mga alagad ng batas at mga kriminal, pakikiapid at exploytasyong seksuwal, at iba’t ibang kabuktutang baka hindi masikmura ng karaniwang mambabasa. Dagdag pa rito, ang tema ng sigalot sa nayon at mabagsik na biyolensiya ng mga magbubukid laban sa gobyerno ay mapanganib na hamon sa pamahalaang may malawak na kampanya laban sa malaganap na ar-madong Huk. Panahon ng “Cold War” na sinaksihan ng tagumpay ni Mao Tsetung at komu-nistang partido sa Tsina at giyera sa Korea sa pagitan ng komunistang Kim Il Sung at kapitalis-tang bloke ng U.S., Europa, Hapon, atbp. Tiyak na malalantad ang awtor sa galamay ng CIA, CUFA (Committee on Un-Filipino Activities) sa Kongreso, at mga sekretong ahenteng mapanila.
Isa pang titulo ang naitalang naisulat ni Aguilar noong 1951-52: “Ang Patawad ng Pa-tay.” Dalawang iskolar ang nakasulyap nito: sina Lydia Aseneta at Sister Maria Ester Granados. Sapantaha kong apendiks o pasakalya ito sa Kaligtasan. Marahil mabibigyang-liwanag ang sit-wasyon ng dalawang likhang-sining pagkaraang mabasa ang sanaysay na ito at makapukaw ng nakakasulukasok na tanong o kaabalahan. Ilang pahapyaw na obserbasyon tungkol sa “Patawad” ang ihahain sa huling kabanata ng pag-aaral na ito.
      Makahulugang agwat ang nagkakawing sa bawat akda ni Aguilar. Mahigit-kumulang sa dalawampu’t limang taon ang nakalipas mula noong mailathala ang Ang Lihim ng Isang Pulo (1926), at bago rito, labing-limang taon ang humugos bago lumabas ang Sa Ngalan ng Diyos (1911). Tila puspusang pagganap ng tungkulin sa pamahalaan, bukod sa pagsusulat. Dapat bang-gitin ko rito na nakadeposito sa Filipiniana Section ng U.P. Library ang 1,297 dahon ng nanini-law at malutong na pad-paper na talambuhay ng awtor, sulat-kamay sa lapis.  Pumanaw si Agui-lar noong Hulyo 24, 1955, ika-73 gulang, panahon ng kaguluhan lokal at bangayang internasyo-nal. Sa kabila ng sakit, katandaan, at pag-atupag sa pamilya, sinikap ni Aguilar na ilagom sa mikrokosmong daidig ng Sulitan ang katiwalian at kabalighuang laganap sa kapaligiran. Sa pi-nakahuling obra, isinuma niya ang katalinuhan ng makabayang lumahok sa pakikibaka—ang pamana ng mga nag-alay ng buhay at naipunlang hinagap ng salinlahi—sa isang nakakaantig, mapanglaw ngunit matimping testamento ng magiting at dakilang kabayanihan.

Kadluan ng Mga Talastasan

Bukod sa kalamidad ng Pangalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig, na naitala ni Aguilar sa kaniyang memoir, Nang Dumaan ang Daluyong, dalawang mahalagang pangyayari ang kontek-sto ng huling kathambuhay niya. Pagkapanalo ni Mao Tsetung sa Tsina noong 1949, pumutok ang Digmaan sa Korea (1950) na sumukdol sa Peace Truce noong 1953 kung kailan naihalal si presidente Magsaysay. Puspos ng madugong kampanya laban sa Huk ang administrasyon ni El-pidio Quirino. Tiyak na hinugot ni Aguilar ang hilaw na materyales mula sa tiwaling eleksiyon ng 1949 at kakilakilabot na patayang naganap sa terorismong pinawala ni Manuel Roxas noong 1946-1948 sa pamamahala ng JUSMAG at Philippine Constabulary (Constantino 1978, 206-19). 
Sa maniobra ni Hen. Douglas McArthur, iniluklok bilang puno ng oligarkong bloke ng mga trapo si Manuel Roxas, na pinawalang sala bilang kolaboreytor. Sa tulong ni Roxas (at hu-maliling presidente Quirino), siniguro ng U.S. na gawing neokolonya ang Pilipinas upang mag-silbing base militar sa paglunsad ng interbensiyon sa Asya at Gitnang Silangan. Narito ang ilang tratadong nagpanatili sa piyudal/atrasadong ekonomya ng bansa: 1946 Tydings Rehabiitation Act  (kalakip ang “parity clause”), 1946 Bell Trade Act, 1947 U.S.-Philippines Military Bases Agreement at Military Assistance Pact, at iba pang kasunduan na nagpaunlak sa CIA at Pentagon na manghimasok upang supilin ang Huk at nasyonalistikong kilusan nina Claro Recto, Jose Lau-rel at Lorenzo Tanada (Simbulan 2018; Abaya 1984). Lumala ang pangkabuhayang lagay ng ur-ing magbubukid at manggagawa na nagkaranasang mag-organisa, mag-sanay at mamuno sa pambansang pakikibaka laban sa Hapong mananakop at kakutsabang kasike’t komprador.
Maitatayang ang Kaligtasan ay isang paraan ng pagpapakahulugan sa maligalig at naka-babalisang kapaligirang lumukob sa bansa pagkaraan ng Pangalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig. Sinalamin at tinasa ang realidad, dinulutan ng makatuturang anyo at ayos sa kongkreto at multi-determinasyong pangyayari sa nobela. Ilang akda ang nabanggit ni Almario na tumatalaktak sa gulo at pinsalang pangkabuhayan noon, ang Isang Milyong Piso (1950-51) ni Macario Pineda at Timawa (1953) ni Agustin Fabian (1953; tingnan San Juan 2015). Subalit si Aguilar lamang ang tuwirang tumistis at humimay sa kumplikadong interaksyon ng politika at ekonomya—ang dig-maan ng mga uring panlipunan—at ideolohiyang piyudal/patriyarkal sa Pilipinas sa makasaysay-ang panahon nina Roxas, Quirino, at Magsaysay.
Magusot din sa Europa, Aprika at Latino-Amerika. Sa kontinente ng Asya, umatras ang mga Pranses sa Indo-Tsina nang matalo sila ni Ho Chi-Minh sa Biyetnam noong 1954.  Itinatag ang SEATO noong 1954 bilang instrumento ng U.S. sa “Cold War” laban sa komunistang Unyon Sobyet at Pulang Tsina. Umpisa na rin ang interbensiyon ng U.S. sa IndoTsina na lumala hang-gang 1973 (Garraty and Gay 1117-1135). Sa taong pumanaw si Aguilar, naitayo sa Bandung Conference ang koalisyon ng mga bansang Afrikano’t Asyatiko na hindi nasa ilalim ng nagta-tagisang U.S.-“Free World” at grupong Komunista. Mainam na hadlang ito sa nagsasalpukang kampo ng kapitalismo’t komunismo na nalusaw sa kasagsagan ng mga rebolusyon sa Cuba, Al-geria, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Afghanistan, atbp., bago bumagsak ang “martial law” ni Ferdinand Marcos.
Masasalat ang atmospera ng milyu ng taong 1945-1950 sa isang dalumat ni Amado V. Hernandez, isa sa biktima ng lokal na McCarthy “witchhunt” noong buhay pa si Aguilar. Pag-timbang ni Hernandez sa mga usaping kumakalampag noon: “…Ang mga lumang kuta ay iginiba ng dalawang giyera mundial. Ang masinggan ng Pasismo’y nakatutok sa kaligtasan ng daigdig. Walang pananggol sa atomong panlipol at maaaring sa isang bagong kabaliwan ay mapuksa sa isang kisap-mata ang lahat ng buhay.  Napaimbulog ang tao sa ibang planeta, baka sakaling doon makasumpong ng tunay na Shangrilang tiwalag sa kalupitan ng kapuwa-tao” (1953). Nakahimatong ng Shangrila si Aguilar sa pag-alok sa sumukong Huk ng libreng lupain sa Mindanao, na ibinurda rito sa pakikipagsapalaran ni Amando Magat. Nakahuhumaling na al-ternatibo ito sa pait, sindak at dusang dinanas ng henerasyon niya sa pananakop ng Hapon na naibadya sa librong Nang Magdaan ang Daluyong (1947). Walang hulagway ng Paraiso kung walang impiyernong kaharap. Mas masukal at malagim ang nayon ng Sulitan noong eleksiyon kumpara sa parang ng Tomayon, ang mala-utopyang espasyo ng pangarap at kaganapan.

Nabalahong Paraiso ng Imperyo

      Ang pinakakritikal na makasaysayang kalakarang naganap noong huling dekada ng buhay ni Aguilar ay paglago’t pagbagsak ng Huk na naglunsad ng malakihang pagsalakay sa Estab-lisimiyentong neokolonyal noong 1950-54. Kaagapay nito ang pagsikat ni  Ramon Magsaysay. (1953-57). Tanyag si Magsaysay sa kaniyang populistang kampanyang sugpuin ang kilusang mapagpalaya, na nag-uugat sa 1896 rebolusyon laban sa Espanya at sa Estados Unidos. Walang patid ang reklamo ng bayang binubusabos. Patuloy ang pag-aklas ng mga anak-pawis sa oli-garkyang kasabwat ng imperyalismong Amerikano sa mga kilusang Colorum, milenaryong in-sureksiyon at Sakdalista, hanggang sa pagbuo ng Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap, na naging HMB, Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan). Matagumpay ang mga anti-Hapong op-erasyon ng Huk noong 1943-1945. Mabisa ang organisasyon nila sa kanayunan hanggang malan-sag noong 1954. Namuno sila sa mahigit kalahating milyong mamamayan sa Luzon at Bisaya na di nagtugot matamo ang tunay na kalayaan, ang pagkakapantay-pantay at katarungan (Palmer 187). 
Sandaling balik-suriin ang nakalipas. Pasok ang imperyalistang tropa ng 1945 Liberasyon ng bayan mula sa Hapon. Malupit na sinikil ang Huk ni MacArthur upang ibalik ang status quo ng mga komprador at panginoong maylupa. Pinatawad ang mga kolaboreytor (nangunguna na si Manuel Roxas) at ikinulong muli sa kolonyalismong orden ang bansa sa Bell Trade Act at iba pang kasunduang nabanggit na hanggang ngayon ay sumusuhay sa atrasadong ekonomya. Suportado ng 90,000 Amerikanong sundalo, sinawata ang Huk at mga progresibong kapisanan (Labor Research Association 1958). Naghasik ng lagim ang papet na administrasyon ni Roxas: isang ebidensiya ng kanyang pagsunod sa among imperyalista ay ang pagtalsik sa nahalal na mga kandidato ng Democratic Alliance/Partido Nacionalista noong 1946 eleksiyon upang maipasa sa Kongreso ang mga kasunduan at batas na nagpapatibay na neokolonya ang bansa. Pasistang pa-takaran ang namayani kaya nawalan ng kredibilidad ang proseso ng halalan (prosesong nakasen-tro sa nobela) na naulit noong 1949—penomenong ibinaligtad at minardyinalisa nang lumigid ang naratibo sa panganganak ni Lorina at pagbubunyag kay Mang Tano (ama ni Lorina) ng day-ang isinukli ni Don Rehino.
Nakumpleto ni Aguilar ang nobela noong 1951 tatlong taon pagkaraang mamatay si Roxas. Ang 1949 eleksiyon ni Quirino, na kinakitaan ng kahindik-hindik na pandaraya at iba pang anomalya, ang naging modelo ng isinagawang halalan sa pagka-alkalde sa Sulitan. Ang pagpunta naman ni Amando sa Mindanaw at pagtatag ng samahang “Siray,” na naging saligan ng partidong Buklod, ay batay sa repormang ipinasok ni Magsaysay, tulad ng EDCOR (Eco-nomic Development Corporation) sa Mindanaw, at iba pang propagandang taktikang plano ng CIA (sa sulsol ni Edward Lansdale, puno ng Civil Affairs Office) at JUSMAG (Constantino 116-260). Nahikayat si Aguilar sa EDCOR na naging hulmahan o matris ng utopyang pinangarap ng mga magbubukid, samantalang ang NAMFREL at iba pang partisanong grupo ay naging hu-waran ng partisipasyon ng ordinaryong mamamayan sa proseso ng eleksiyon. Isang “interlude” ito sa bumalahong klima ng bansa.

Lambong ng Hulagway

Sa masusing balik-tanaw, hindi lahat ng reporma ni Magsaysay ay nakabighani o dinakila ni Aguilar. Ginamit iyon upang maisingit ang ideya ng mala-utopyang Arcadia (alternatibong moda ng sakahan). Patuloy ang “status quo” nina Don Rehino, suwitik na cacique at usurero, at kaniyang mga alipores. Bagamat nagkasama muli sina Amando at Sinday, ang kapalaran ni Lorina (na kasal kay Amando) at anak niya ay isang suliraning nagpapagunita sa atin ng bagong sibol ni Danding sa Pinaglahuan at supling ni Lusia sa Nangalunod sa Katihan—bastardong anak ng lumang sistemang pumupusag at naghahasik ng lagim kahit naghihingalo.   

Kaipala’y nagayuma si Aguilar sa predikamento ng babaeng ginahasa o pinagsamantala-han. Sintomas iyon ng paglansag sa “Mother Right” (halimbawa, Aling Siray, ina ni Amando) at agrikulturang sinapupunan ng pagkain. Ayon kay George Thomson, ang ritwal ni Dionysus sa Gresya, batis ng sining ng trahedya, ay nasa pangangasiwa ng kababaihan upang pagyamanin ang nilinang na lupa (Thomson 1941). Si Aling Siray ay mala-birheng patrona ng kabukiran. Mauunawaan itong madali kung isasaisip na alegorya ng bayan ang sitwasyon ng babae/ina na tiyak ang pagkabuntis kumpara sa mahirap kilalaning ama. Partikular ito sa kolonisadong bayan na haluan ang dugo at kulay ng balat, ang samut-saring hiblang humahabi sa umiiral na kabihas-nan. Kaya palaisipan ang ama ng supling, hindi ina. Bumubuko ang identidad ng bansa sa pag-kakaunawaan sa isang wika, at kalaunan sa ritwal ng ugali o ethos, minananag kostumbre, saloo-bin, doktrina ng prehuwisyo, atbp. Pinakatampok ang kwestiyon ng orihinal o hiram, taal o hi-brido, sa kontrobersiyang sumusugba ngayon sa paghahanap sa tunay na Filipino.
Ngunit hindi mapipigilang mag-usisa: Ano ang pahiwatig nito? Bakit laging modelo ang sawing babae o matalisik na dalaga? Bakit putol ang linahe ng mga anak? Bakit laging naglalak-bay ang mga bayaning naglulunggating makapagligtas sa mga kamag-anak, kasama at kanayon? Matuturol dito ang kawili-wiling motif ng “Quest” sa romansa at abenturang paglalagalag. Ta-glay pa sa paglisan at pagbalik ni Amando ang pangako ng isang maluwalhating kinabukasan? O nakasilid rito ang matalinghagang larawan ng trahedya-komedyang istorya ng madugong pakiki-hamok bago makaraos sa isang payapa’t masayang hinaharap? Ano ang signipikasyon ng mga talinghaga’t senyas sa espasyong pinalapad (hanggang Cotabato) at panahong kinipil (sa yugto ng eleksiyon at paghahabol)? Trahedya ba ito ni Lorina at Don Rehino? O komedya nina Amando at Sinday? O sintomas lamang sila ng tensiyon sa ironiko’t propetikong panitik na nag-bubulatlat ng hidwaan ng realidad at persepsyon, ng nadaramang kapaligiran at nakatabing na katunayan (Shroder 28-29)?
Sa kasaysayan ng genre ng nobela, pinaglahok ni Aguilar ang tema ng sagradaong mi-tolohiyang pagtatagisan ng Araw at Kadiliman, puwersang pumapatay at puwersang nagpupurga, at ang artikulasyon ng “epikong Quest” motif at paglalakbay ng tao mula Genesis patungong Apocalypse sa Bibliya (Scholes and Kellogg 1966, 219-25). Pumapasok dito ang sakripisyo ni Amando sa pagkamatay na ina, pag-agaw kay Sinday, at panggigipit sa halalan, tungo sa ka-sukdulang pagwawagi at pagkabawi kay Sinday. Nakakintal dito ang antas ng muling pagka-buhay, mula trahedyang pagsira sa dating orden at pagpapasinaya sa paghimalay o pagligtas sa lumang sangkap upang madulutan iyon ng bagong halaga sa bagong kaayusan.  

Trahedyang Komedya: Indeks ng Modernidad

Paano maipangingibabaw ang alegoryang disenyo ng nobela? Saglit nating rebyuhin ang kasaysayan. Dagling ibaling ang pananaw at tumutok tayo sa panahon ng pagsakop ng Amerika sa Pilipinas mula 1899 hanggang 1946.  Ipokus natin ang isip sa yugto ng Komonwelt (1935-1946) at sa unang taon ng Republika (1946-1951). Maibubuod ang sitwasyon ng kolonya sa ilang obserbasyong batid na ng nakararami, ngunit kailangan sa pagkakataong ito upang madu-lutan ng salik ng tipikalidad (Lukacs) ang ikinintal na katangian ng mga importanteng protagoni-sta: Amando Magat, Rehino Rivas, Lorina at Sinday, pati na sina Aling Siray, Mang Tano, Mang Sindong, Paulino, Lino, Sikuterat, at politikong kasangkot sa halalang naging okasyon ng pag-parada ng katusuhan at katiwalian. 
Maimumungkahi ko ang ilang estratehikong katanungan na hudyat sa layon ng sining ni Aguilar. Bakit naitakda sa dalawang grupong naglalaban (isa sa panig ni Amando, isa na kampi kay Don Rehino)  ang daloy ng naratibo? Kapani-paniwala ba ang mga  personalidad na gu-manap? Ano ang ibinabadya ng kilos nila, ng kaisipan at damdamin? Ano ang pahiwatig ng kanilang budhi, aksiyon at kapasiyahan? Paano naisiwalat sa balangkas ng nobela ang transpor-masyon ng ugnayang piyudal sa nayon at pagsibol ng diwa ng komunidad na sagisag ng napipintong masaklaw at malalim na pagbabago ng sistemang neokolonyal? Mahuhulo na ang tipo ng naratibo rito ay paglalangkap ng realistikong mimesis (madetalyeng paglalarawan ng ak-siyon), ang romansa ng pakikipagsapalaran sa paglalakbay at pagtuklas ng mga lihim/sekreto (Kermode), at ang didaktikong tendensiya ng pangangaral sa liham, talumpati o pakikipaghunta-han na isinakay sa mimetikong pagsasalaysay (Harvey 1969, 126-40).
Tatlong matinding pangyayari ang dapat pag-ukulan ng masinsing pagninilay kaugnay ng argumento sa kalidad ng nobela. Una, ang paglipat kay Sinday mula sa bahay ng magulang at pagkakulong sa mansiyon ni Don Rehino; pangalawa, ang matagal na pagkawala ni Amado sa Sulitan at masalimuot na pakana ni Don Rehino upang magamit ang kostumbre at gawi ng mga tao sa pagyabong ng kaniyang poder (sugalan, pangungutang, atbp.); at pangatlo, ang kum-plikadong maniobra ng mga pangkatin sa halalan, na humantong sa tangkang pagpaslang kay Amando at pagwawalang-bisa sa kagustuhan ng mayorya sa lugar ng labanan ng mga uring nag-sasamantala at uring binusabos ngunit tumututol sa minananang pagkaalipin. Kalakip dito ang pagbabalik ng ina (kalikasan, lupang mabunga) sa kapisanang Siray upang hamunin ang pama-mayani nina Don Rehino at patriyarkong kasabwat (pati na si Mang Tano), patuloy sa paglalan-tad ng ipokrisya nina Don Rehino at Lorina. Sa pagbulalas ng katotohanan naipunlang matagum-pay ni Amando ang binhi ng pagbabagong-buhay ng uring anak-pawis sa ibang bahagi ng kapu-luan, pahiwatig na may kaligtasang naghihintay sa nakararaming naghihirap na pumapanday ng kayamanan ng bansa.
Nakakawing na rito ang tadhana ni Sinday at pagkabunyag ng larong panunubok nina Don Rehino at Lorina. Kung ipapalagay na ang mga tauhan at kalakaran ay alegorya ng mga nagtatagisang puwersa sa lipunan sampu ng kani-kanilang ideolohiya, ano ang pangkalakatang adhikain ni Aguilar sa pag-sasaayos ng ganitong porma ng kathambuhay na iba sa naunang akda niya? Tila nagsawa na sa sakripisyo nina Luis, Celso, Pedro, Eladio at Hinahon. Tila naghunos si Rojalde sa persona ni Amando, at si Danding ay naghiwalay sa dalawang maskara: Sinday at Lorina na kapwa hugot kina Lusia, Rita at Carmen. Sina Celso, Pedro at Hinahon ay nabuhay muli sa matimpi’t matiyagang persona ni Amando na nakahulagpos mula sa tanikala ng pani-bugho, udyok ng higanti, at mapang-akit na luhong pinagpupugayan ng lahat. Nasisilip na ang dakilang pag-aalay ni Heracleo Palmira sa huling nobela ni Aguilar, Ang Patawad ng Patay. Samantala, karnabal ng mga aktor, bida at kontrabida, ang mapapanood natin sa tanghalan ng mapagbirong tadhanang haluang trahedya-komedya.

Sulyap sa Balangkas ng Salaysay

   Bago kilatesin ang mga temang isinadula sa mga pangyayari’t tauhan, tanawin natin ang es-truktura ng mythos o pangkalahatang aksiyon.  Layon ng akda na lutasin ang krisis ng lipunan—inhustisya, korapsyon, karahasan, gutom, pagyurak sa karapatan ng tao—-sa paraang mapapani-walaan. Nais ng akda na kalasin ang buhol ng mga kontradiksiyon sa maka-realistikong paraan, gamit ang teknik at estilong mabisa ang dating sa karaniwang mambabasa. Kaunti lang ang im-portanteng protagonista at isa lamang ang nilulunggati: prestihiyo, impluwensiya, kapangyari-han. Paano mabibigyan-katarungan ang pinagsamantalahang bayani ng komunidad? 
Naimungkahi ni Christopher Caudwell na ang daigdig ng nobela ay ang masalimuot na kabuhayan sa makabagong lipunan, kontrapuntal ang daloy ng panahon: “Men’s lives blend and overlap and interweave in a complicated tapestry, and the moments rarely arrive when all their minds and emotions are gathered together in one public universal ‘I’…Hence the hero of the novel is not like the ‘hero’ of poetry, a universal common ‘I,’ but a real concrete individual” (1937, 186-87). Pantasya ang kuwadro kung saan gumagalaw ang anino ng realidad. Sa salamisim itinutugma ng tao ang sarili sa kongkretong kapaligiran. Narito ang mga punksiyon ng mga insidente ayon sa analisis ni Claude Bremond (na hango mula kay Vladimir Propp):

 A.  Pamumuno sa bayan (depinisyon ng layon):  Proseso ng aktwalisasyon=
    halalan, pagtitimbang sa mga puwersa sa lipunan 
    tungo sa tagumpay:  pagtanggap at pagpupugay ng nakararaming 
     mamamayan----bumubunsod sa susunod na palapag ng mga pangyayari:

                                           B.  Paglikha sa larangan = dumaplis sa layon (kulang sa aktwalisasyon)--       
    sumablay (kabiguan) ngitngit / gulo, hintay muna: 

bunga ba nito ang Pag-asa?

Kaiba sa simpleng banghay ng mga naratibong naiulat ni Propp, na laging tagumpay ang bayani, sa tulong ng mga mapagkalingang lakas, ang iskema ni Bremond ay sang-ayon sa lohika, hindi sa kronolohika. Ibig sabihin, pwedeng mabunsod sa iba’t ibang padron ang pagladlad ng balangkas: komiko, trahiko, kuwentong-bayan, romansa, ironiko o parikalang pihit ng pan-gyayari, baligho o balintunang pagwawakas (22-23).  Taliwas sa palasak na kasukdulan ang pa-glusaw ng pagkukunwari ni Lorina, at medyo pilit ang pagtakas o pagpapalaya sa sarili ni Sinday sa kuko ng halimaw. Sa ano’t anoman, ang patawad ni Amando at pagtanggap kay Sinday ay katumbas ng pagwawagi sa eleksiyon, bagamat bitin pa rin ang pagkamit ng awtentikong lagda ng demokratikong pamamaraan sa paghubog ng kabuhayan ng mayorya.
Sa diskurso at kronolohika ng kuwento, itinanghal ang layong dapat maisakatuparan: ang pag-iisa ng kanayunan sa isang bayaning kinikilala ng nakararami. Sunod ang paghanap o pag-dating ng katulong o paraan na makakasangkapan: paligsahan ng kalabaw, kung saan nagwagi si Amando. Sagisag siya ng kolektibong pagtutulungan ng tao at kalikasan. Nabigo ang bayani sa di pagtalima ng mag-asawang Salas sa kaniyang talino sa paglinang. Nabihag ang babaeng pinipintuho ng mayamang Don Rehino sa isang negosyanteng kasunduan sa yugtong sinaksihan ng palusong o bayanihang itinakda ng mag-asawang Salas. Namatay ang inang mapagpala, si Aling Siray, kaya lumisan ang bayani sa pook ng tagumpay. Naghari ang prestihiyo ni Don Re-hino sa pagkukunwari at pandaraya, ngunit bigo sa asawa; di nabuntis si Sinday. Nakaakit ng anak ng isang kauri: si Lorina. Natuto sa paggamit ng mga bayaran, pumasok si Don Rehino sa halalan ngunit nasupalpal sa pagbabalik ni Amando (ngayon ay mariwasang maylupa) na sinuportahan ng kapisanang dumadakila sa ina ng binata na sumasagisag sa budhi at kamalayan ng kanayunan. 

Digmaan ng pangitain-sa-mundo, ethos o etikang pangkomunidad, ang sumasaklaw sa maniobra ng dalawang pangkat. Bagamat ginamit ni Don Rehino ang salapi sa pandaraya sa eleksiyon, gaya ng pagsusuhol niya sa mag-asawang Sayas, natalo pa rin siya. Bagamat naloko sumandali si Amando ni Lorina-Don Rehino, naibulgar ang katotohanan at nalusaw ang bunga’t bisa ng kayamanan ni Don Rehino. Ginantihan siya ng katotohanan sa taktikang kaparis ng gi-namit niya. Nakuhang magpatawad ng mala-Kristong bayani. Kusang yumakap si Sinday sa simulain ni Amando at di umano’y nanumbalik ang masagana’t tahimik na panahong lumipas sa naipangarap na maluwalhating kabuhayan sa ibang lupalop kung saan sila ay malaya, masagana, at nagtutulung-tulongan sa lupaing ari ng komunidad. Ngunit maitanong natin: ano ang katayuan ng mga naiwang anak-pawis sa Sulitan at kanugnog-bayan (Pingkian, Balani)?

Pumalaot sa Trajektorya ng Kasaysayan

Nagwagi ang unang mithiin sa pakikipagsapalarang tigib ng pagdurusa, kasawian, pa-glapastangan, pagkutya at pagsusuwail. Makatuturan kung ating hihimayin ang iba’t ibang hugis ng panahon sa nobela. Susubukin nating ipatunayan ang proposisyon ni John Henry Raleigh na sari-saring kategorya ng panahon ang matutuklasan sa nobela dahil sa ideya na “human experi-ence is simultaneously a public nightmare and a private dream” (242). Kakabit ito sa tema ng oposisyon ng namamasid na kapaligiran versus katotohanang nasa likod nito. Maisasambit muli na ang nobela ay pagpapakahulugan sa panahon, na maaaring ipahiwatig sa pagkakaiba ng lugar o espasyo, kaya maingat ang pagsalikop ng lumipas at hinaharap sa pagsasanib nina Amando, Lorina at Mang Tano sa isang tagpong nakapupukaw at kasabik-sabik. 

Sa simula ng nobela, ang publikong bangungot ay nakabalot sa pangmadlang panaginip na mabiyayang tinatamasa ni Amando Magat at inang nakaugat sa Balani: “Matahimik, payapa at walang ligalig ang kanilang kabuhayang mag-ina,” na patuloy sa pagsasaka dahil ipinangako ng anak sa nasirang amang Mang Karlos na ititigil ang pagkadalubhasa sa pagsasaka “upang kalingain ang inang naulila.” Nagwagi si Amando sa paligsahan ng mga kalabaw, katibayan ng matimyas na integrasyon ng tao at kalikasan. Naging “bayani” si Amando, marubdob ang pagti-tiwala sa sarili. Pinapurihan ng lahat ang kaniyang tapang at gilas, lalo na ni Sinday ng Pingkian. Inihandog ang gantimpala sa bahay ampunan. Ayaw ng kasiyahang pangsarili, inuuna ang “pag-galang sa kasiyahan ng iba” (8).
 Isang halimbawa si Amando ng magiting na bayani ng Rinascimiento na tumalikod sa tatlong maselang kasamaan: pagkahilig sa salapi, makasariling pagliliwaliw, libog sa paghamig ng kapangyarihan (Heller 1978, 310). Nakabuod dito ang katas ng panaginip ni Amando sa talinghaga ng paglinang: “”Anopat ang nilulunggati niya’y makayari sa bawat isang tao, ng ‘tu-nay na tao’ at nang kung dumami na ang mga hubog sa bagong palihan, ay saka pagsamasama-hin upang katulad din ng palay na kanyang pinipili muna bago gamitin, ay kasangkapanin sa pagsasabog ng bagong binhi ng kabuhayan, na lalong makatarungan at hindi magpapaluha sa mahirap dahil lamang sa kanilang kahirapan….Iyon ang kanyang inaasahan, kaya’t ang pamu-muhay sa bukid ay kanyang minamasaya at ipinalalagay na katangitangi” (4-5). Hango sa agraryong pamumuhay ang metapora ng pagsala’t pagpili. Matutunghayan ang ideyang natural-istiko sa romantikong pilosopiya nina Rousseau at anarkista ng Europa na sandaling nagkatinig sa Banaag at Sikat ni Lope K. Santos.

Nag-umpisang matikman ang sagwil sa kaniyang pangarap nang “kalakalin si Sinday” nina Mang Sayas at Aling Berta, ang tinuturing na magulang. Tuloy napiit ang kasintahan ni Amando sa bahay ni Don Rehino. Sa tingin ni Doray, nasaksihan niya ang “kakilakilabot na ka-buhungan” at pagtataksil sa pagdukot kay Sinday. Pinilit kausapin ni Amando isang gabi—tag-pong paggunita sa dalaw ni Luis kay Danding sa Pinaglahuan—na nabigo sa pagpaputok ni Don Rehino. Anong aral dito? Hindi maigugupo ang piyudal na kastilyo sa tuwirang pagsalakay. Kailangan gapangin at ukabin sa ilalim. Tulad din ng pagtuturo ng bagong metodo ng pagtatanim na tinangka ni Amando, kailangan ang mas tuso’t mapanghimok na pedagohiya.

Si Don Rehino ay tumatayong magkasanib na karakter nina Don Hasinto at Rojalde. Sa Kabanata IV, inilarawan ang simulain sa buhay ni Don Rehino, panginoong maylupa at usurero, na sumipsipsip sa dugo ng maraming angkan. Kahawig siya ni Don Hasinto sa Nangalunod sa Katihan: ang buhay ay paglalaban ng mga lobo o asong walang nais kundi silain ang kapwa. Nang mamatay si Aling Siray, ang ina ni Amando, nabuo ang simbolikong komunidad na pina-pangarap ni Amando, na siyang humalili sa totem ng ama. Nagpahatid ng korona si Sinday (na ikinasal kasabay ng burol ni Aling Siray) na nagpapaalala na tapat pa siya sa kasintahan. Kaya naibulong ni Amando sa harap ng bangkay na “sugatan ako ngunit hindi talunan” (73). Napigil ang paghihiganti ni Amando sa tulong nina Mang Sindong at Paulino, ang “kulang-kulang” na tagapamagitan sa magkalabang panig, na indeks ng kawalan at kakulangan sa namamayaning kaayusan.

Maisasalungguhitan dito ang dalawang hiblang nailangkap: sa burol ni Aling 

Siray naghunos ang karakter ni Amando, isang malayang indibidwal na handang bumuo ng bagong komunidad. Sa pagsabay dito ng kasal nina Don Rehino at Sinday, ipinahihiwatig na isang kamalian ang sagwil sa paglunsad ng bagong komunidad: mabisa pa ang kapangyarihan ng lumang institusyon (piyudal, patriyarkal) na humahadlang sa proyekto ng tuluyang kaligtasan ng mga inaapi’t dinuduhagi. Paano maipapainog ang mga pangyayari upang makarating sa inadhi-kang kasukdulan?

Sa Pagpanaw, Naroon ang Pagsilang

     Di kalauna’y lumitaw ang mala-pantasiyang aktor na may dalawang mukha. Sa pagtata-pos ng “Pasiyam” sa ina, antitesis ng “palusong” nina Sayas, nakatagpo ni Amando ang dating kaeskwela na nagpagunita sa kaniya ng matamis na karanasan nila noong kabataan. Ang impre-syong nakintal sa malay ni Amando ay babala ng kontradiksiyon ng bangungot at kawiliwiling panaginip. Isang senyas ito na sumalisi ang mistipikasyon ng kamusmusan, kung aalagatain ang mapait na dagok ng tadhana na ginanap ng papel ni Lorina sa huling kabanata. Narito ang lu-mubog sa isip ni Amando, pumukaw ng memorya ng ina na bumati sa kaniya sa pagbubukas ng nobela:

Kay saya ni Lorina; ang kanyang sariwang kabataan ay tila nagsasabog ng mabangong halimuyak sa lahat ng dako, katulad ng malinis na kalangitan, ay nakangiti, at nangangako ng magagandang bukang-liwayway at nang mga ga-bing payapa na nasasabugan ng maningning na bituin. Nakangiti sa kanya ang buhay, kinakawayan ng pag-asa, at hinihintay ng isang maligayang kinabuka-san. Ang kanyang puso’y malinis na kayong puti, na wala mang lamang gisi kahit bahagya, at nagpapatotoo sa napakaliligayang mga araw ng kabataan na kanya nang natatawid.  Nahihiga siya sa banig na ginto at kabugtong anak pa, ang lahat na pita ay nasusunod (91). 

Dagling ipasok natin ang tanong: Bakit lumisan si Amando at tumungo sa ibang lupalop? Kababalaghan ang isang pagkawala na hindi mapupunan hanggang sumipot muli bilang kandi-dato sa pagka-alkalde. Nagbihis ng bagong damit ang binansagang “bayani sa kabukiran.” Ki-nailangang iwanan ang mito ng romantikong kalikasan at mag-umpisang panibago: si Amando ay independiyenteng maykaya, matagumpay sa kaniyang hanapbuhay. Sa bisa ng makabagong komunikasyon, at sa mapangahas na kapalagayang-loob, si Paulino (tauhang tagapamagitan), nadulutan ng distansiya ang damdamin at nakababagot na sitwasyon. Lantad ang diyalektika ng luma at bago, ng nakalipas at dumarating.  Maski ang bayani ng Balani ay may karupukang inii-lagan, sa kumpisal niya kay Sinday sa sulat—isang sulat rin ang maghahawan ng landas upang supalpalin ang malisyosong tangka ni Don Rehino at ibunyag ang katotohanan sa lahat:

    “Hindi kita malilimot, hindi ko kayang limutin ang iyong pagmama-hal…at kung gunitain kong ari ka ng iba, na sa ibang itong hindi mo na-man iniibig, laban man at lason sa iyong kalooban, ay sapilitan kang nag-kukunwari ng pagtatapat, dahil sa pagpapakundangan sa patay-salang na pakikibagay sa “sukat masabi,” ay nagigising sa aking damdamin ang ka-bangisan ng pagkahayop at bago ako makagawa ng anomang kasaliwaan, ay mabuti pang lumayo at kung saan man makaabot, ay pag-aralan doon ang pagbabata.  Ako ay naniniwala, na iniibig mo at maaaring ibigin, nang di ipagiging hamak, ang isang mabuti at malinis; ngunit hindi ang isang tampalasan o ang isa kayang salarin. Aalis nga akong ikaw ang baon sa gunita at ilaw na tatanglaw sa aking landas” (95-96)

Ayaw gumamit ng dahas si Amando at maghiganti. Nagtimpi ngunit hindi nagpatawad. Nagsa-Kristo pansamantala. Ang pagtatapat ni Amando ay retorikang salag at ulos sa pagkukunwari nina Don Rehino at Lorina, pati na rin sa mga politikong may adyendang kabaligtaran ng kani-lang ipinahahayag sa madla (tulad ni Ramon Magsaysay na kusang nagpagamit sa CIA ng Esta-dos Unidos), patunay ng mga istoryador at hayag na ebidensiya (konsultahin sina Karnow 1989, 346-53; Constantino 1978, 226-268).

Ritwal ng Paghuhunos

Saan nga patungo si Amando? Maimumungkahi ko ang mga pangyayari ng mga taong pinagmumuni-muni pa lamang itong nobela, ang panahong kakikitaan ng mga salamangka ni Sikuterat—ang panahon/ordeng naglaho, isang talinghaga sa mala-Biblikang etiketa: “Sa gayon, nangyari nga.” Senyas ng tadhanang hindi masasawata. Pag-inog ng mga pangyayari sa bayan mula 1946, “flag independence,” hanggang eleksiyon ng 1949, idinaos ang pinakamaruming botohan sa kasaysayan ng bansa, na itinuwid ni Magsaysay at mga Nacionalistang katulong (Recto, Laurel, Tanada) noong halalan ng 1951. Ano ang intensiyon ng awtor sa pagtanggal kay Amando sa naratibo (nang mailibing ang ina at makasal ang dating kasintahan) hanggang lumi-taw siya muli sa alimpuyo ng eleksiyon? 

Paglikas sa nayon ng isang nabawasan at pagbabalik na taglay ang malusog na katayuan: ito ang pag-inog ng salaysay sa unang bahagi ng nobela. Alam na natin na bukod sa isyu ng ko-laborasyon ni Roxas at pagsupil sa mga gerilya ng Hukbalahap, malubhang ligalig ang nakagim-bal sa bayan nang patalsikin ang inihalal na mga kandidato upang di mahadlangan ang huwad na kasarinlan.  Noong Marso 6, 1948, idineklarang ilegal ni Roxas ang Huk at Pambansang Kaisa-han ng Magbubukid na may 300,000 miyembro (Labor Research Association 1958). Sinikil din ang Congress of Labor Organizations, pinakamalaking pederasyon ng unyon (EILER 1988, 147-49). Nang mamatay si Roxas, nag-alok ng amnestiya si Presidente Quirino. Katakut-takot na pa-glinlang, pandaraya, at paniniktik ang inihasik ng administrasyon nina Roxas at Quirino. Malaking kabawasan sa bansa ang mga sakunang naganap. Paano maililigtas ang mga naiwan, paano masasagip ang sinalantang sambayanan?

Malaman ang ulat ni Amado Guerrero hinggil sa paghupa ng rebelyon: “Sa katunayan, ang negosasyon sa pagsuko ay naging propaganda para sa kaaway. Nang magkasundo na tungkol sa amnestiya at muling maluklok sa katungkulan si Taruc sa reaksiyonaryong kongreso, ang mga tropa at secret agent ng PC ay tinulutang makisalamuha sa mga Pulang mandirigma…at malay-ang lumibot sa mga baryo ng Gitnang Luzon “ ( 1971, 74-75). Ganito ang mapapanood sa mga nayon kung saan ang sekretong alagad ng Siray at bayarang ahente ni Don Rehino ay nakisala-muha upang maniktik at ipanganib ang mga kaaway. Pagkawasak ng kasunduan, masigasig na sinalakay ng gobyerno ang kuta ng mga Huk. Isinalaysay ni Taruc sa kanyang talambuhay, Born of the People (1953), ang mga mabangis na maniobra, panlalansi’t panunukso, nabunsod nga sa pagtanggap ni Taruc na sila ang may kasalanan. Ang representasyon nito sa diskurso ng nobela ay sumasaklaw sa mga anekdota ng pag-uusapan ng mga kandidato, lalo na si David Tatlonghari, at sirkulasyon ng balibalita at alingasngas mula sa Sulitan hanggang Maynila/Malakanyang, sampu ng maniobra ng Estado at burokrasya.

Nirekord ni Taruc ang kinahinatnan ng pandaraya ng Estado: “The terror immediately launched by Quirino exceeded by far the worst of the Roxas brutalities. Murder, torture, raping, looting and wholesale evacuations ensued across Central and Southern Luzon. The bulk of the victims at the beginning were those who had trustingly registered under the amnesty proclama-tion of Quirino” (1953, 263). Dumanak ang dugo’t bumaha ang sindak mula bundok hanggang siyudad. Ipinagtibay rin ito ng Amerikanong peryodista, si Stanley Karnow, sa kaniyang In Our Image: “The race was the filthiest in Philippine history to date. ‘Every device known to fraudu-lent elections was used….His incumbency enabled Quirino to bribe local political bosses” (1989, 344). 
Sinalamin ang maniobra ni Quirino sa taktika ng pagsuhol at paglinlang ni Don Rehino. Ngunit sa bandang huli, ang eleksiyon ng 1951 ang naging padron ng pagkapanalo ni Amando, bagamat nabitin—isang parunggit ito ng awtor sa pagkapopular ni Magsaysay at di permanen-teng solusyon sa krisis. Umandar sa paglalarawan ng away ng mga partido sa Sulitan ang alle-goresis ng klasikong diskurso at Judeo-Christian exegesis sa modernistang nobela na pinagha-long mimetikong diyalogo, historya, talambuhay, kumpisal at repleksiyong sikolohikal, ayon sa mahusay na analisis ng genre ng makabagong nobela nina Robert Scholes at Robert Kellog (1966).

Intuwisyon ng Palaisipan
Sa kuro-kuro ko, ang halos dalawang taong pagkawala ni Amando sa Sulitan ay paunawa sa darating na pagtutuos. Iyon ang espasyong pagkakataon ng pagsisiwalat ng mga kasindak-sindak na pagmamalabis ng mga panginoong maylupa, usurero’t komprador, at mga upisyal na kriminal—mga alkalde, pulisya, abogadong doble-kara, at lumulutang na lumpen tulad nina Si-kuterat (tusong pinagtusuhan), Lucas, Pedro at iyong inarkilang mamamatay-tao. Nakulapulan din ng kabuhungan at kasakiman ang mga kandidato, sina David Tatlonghari, TolentinoTulindas, Toribio Luwalhati, Dimas (sinuhulang pansamantalang alkalde)—isang karnabal na katumbas ng mapagbirong teatro sa Menippean satire (Kristeva 1986,55-59). Umiral ang sugalan nina Don Rehino at kakutsabang Mang Tano, at mga negosyong kaugnay nito habang nakapiit si Sinday. Lumaganap ang suhulan, pagpapanggap, “ang puhunang walang kabusugan sa pagtutubo.” Su-miklab din ang galit ng mga magbubukid sa marahas na pagsira sa mga kamalig at mga pag-aari ng mga usurero’t panginoong-maylupa.
Ang kabuktutan at kasamaan ng 1949 eleksiyon ang naging bukal ng mga karanasang inilarawan sa Kabanata XIV hanggang Kabanata XIX. Hindi lamang dayaan—“flying voters” at pagkasira ng balota—kundi pananakot ng mga sandatahang grupo. Ngunit umurong na sa bun-dok si Taruc at mga tropa ng Huk. Hindi makapaniwala na natalo ang “panganay ng Sulitan” ng abang kandidato ng Siray. Tinangkang paslangin ang kalaban. Nasugatan si Amando ng mga salarin na inupahan ni Don Rehino (sa tulong ni Sikuterat). Nag-alma ang mga pesante, sinunog ang mga mandala. Sa pamamagitan ng kapisanang Siray, inampat ang baha. Naghandog ng dugo si Paulino upang masagip si Amando; naging “magkapatid” ang etsa-pwera at bayani ng kabuki-ran. Hindi maikakaila na ang Tomayon sa Mindanaw ay signos na tumutukoy sa EDCOR (Eco-nomic Development Corps) na proyekto ni Magsaysay. Sa katunayan, 246 Huks lang ang nabigyan ng lupain; ang iba’y mga maralitang magsasaka at tauhan sa Sandatahang Lakas ng go-byerno ang nakinabang (Constantino 1978, 240-41). Propaganda ng Cold War ang nasaksihan. Natatangi ang nobelang ito sa mabusisi’t kapani-paniwalang pagsasalaysay ng mga anomalyang naranasan ng maraming karaniwang mamamayan sa yugtong ito ng ating kasaysayan.

Sa palagay ko, ginamit lamang ni Aguilar ito upang imungkahi ang utopyang panagim-pan sa kuwentong-bayan tulad ng alamat ni Maria Makiling. Walang makatuturang detalye ang nailahad niya bukod sa “maluwag na pagbabayad ng utang,” lupang mataba sa Tomayon, atbp. Balita ni Amando kay Lino, ang puno ng partidong naitayo nila: “Kaunti lamang na pagsusu-makit ang pupuhunanin, at ang kaligtasan ay matatamo. Bakit hindi nga mamabutihin ang pangingibang bayan kung ang ginhawa ang nilulunggati” (445). Sa kasalukuyan, ang OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) ang kumikita ng dolyares upang sagipin ang napariwarang ekono-mya. Isang mapanuyang paraan sa pagresolba ng piyudalismo ang pangingibang bayan (Moore 1966, 332). 

Subalit hindi maikakaila na ngayon, circa 2020, wala nang nakatiwangwang na lugar sa Pilipinas na magdudulot ng sagana sa isang magsasaka tulad ni Amando na walang puhunan li-ban na ang talino at sigla—sarado na ang ipinangalandakang karera para sa mga kabataan sa neokolonyang kontrolado ng malupit na oligarkiyang kasabwat ng imperyalismo. Pati Lumad at Bangsamoro, na katutubong lahi sa Mindanaw, ay sapilitang itinataboy mula sa kanilang minan-ang lupain na nagsisikip sa mga dayuhang korporasyong mabangis na sumisira’t gumagahasa sa ekolohiya ng buong bansa.

Simpleng lohika ang nakabuyo kay Amando. Kung nagsisikip sa Luzon, bakit hindi lu-mipat sa Mindanaw na taglay ang kaunting populasyon at bakanteng lupain? Hindi napansin, o  kusang binalewala, ng rehimeng Magsaysay ang demanda ng mga Moro at Lumad. Mungkahi lamang ito, sapagkat nasipi ni Amando si Rizal—“Walang alipin kung walang paalipin,” at ini-habilin sa mga kapanalig: “Tapos na ang pag-aatubili. Ang mga alinlangan at takot, na gi-nugunita lamang namang panganib, ay hindi dapat makapigil sa pag-uusig ng ginhawa…Dapat samantalahin ang lakas ng kabataang taglay ng bawat isa, sa pagtuklas ng lideratong matatag, matibay at palagian” (445). Sa halip na karismatikong bayani na kakabit sa populismong kilusan (Raby 1983), idiniin ng naratibo na mas makabuluhan ang organisasyong mayroong matalino’t matibay na pamunuan kung malawig at malawak na transpormasyon ang mithiin. Ang bisa ng minomobilisang pulutong at siksikang madla sa pampulitikang pakikibaka ay napatibayan na sa kasaysayan sa Europa at iba pang lupalop (Rude 1980). Kaya sa espasyo ng sagupaan ng mga kriminal tulad ni Sikuterat at taumbayan, ang nagtatagisan ay salapi, dahas, katusuhan at kaha-yupan.

Mula Karisma Patungong Organisasyon

Si Taruc kaya ang padron ni Amando? Bagamat ingkilino rin ang mga magulang ni Taruc sa Bulacan, ang pakikipagkaibigan niya kay Pedro Abad Santos, tagapangulo ng Partido Social-ista noong ika-tatlumpung dekada noong nakaraang siglo, ang nakahubog sa kaniyang pagkara-dikal (Simbulan 2018, 51-55). Kay Taruc, ang pagkakaroon ng lupa at demokrasya ay siyang kahulugan ng sosyalismo. Magkaibayo sa pinanggalingan, ngunit kahawig siya ni Amando na kumbinsido sa ideyang mapayapang pagbabago na pwedeng bumulwak sa isang madugong re-bolusyon. Wika ni Taruc sa isang panayam: “We cannot [achieve socialism] by the quick and violent process of the communists—our country being basically Christian, our people basically democratic. They wanted to be evolutionary. But we will come to that, kapag sumama nang sumama, magrerebolusyon…It will come by historical logical development” (Orejas 2005, 20; sa paksang ito, tingnan San Juan 2019). Para kay Amando, magkatuwang ang kalikasan at mapan-likhang dunong ng tao sa paglinang at pagpapaunlad ng kabuhayan.

Dukalin natin ang problema ng rebolusyonaryong transpormasyon ng lipunan. Ating tan-daan na hindi isinaisantabi ang rebolusyon sa marahas o iba pang paraan, kundi inilakip iyon sa pagsulong ng gawi, hilig, dalumat, saloobin ng sambayanan—ang taguring Sittlichkeit ni Hegel (1977, 266-293; Taylor 1979, 125-34). Tumutukoy ito sa hegemonya ng isang estilo ng kabuha-yan, isang moralidad at praktikang gumagabay sa bawat kilos, isip at damdamin ng mayorya. Natalakay na ito sa kategorya ng ideolohiya, estruktura ng damdamin o sensibilidad, ethos o parametro ng maramdaming kabatiran. Wala pang hegemonya ang proletaryado o partido nito sa ating bayan. Nagkamali ang liderato ng Partido Komunista (nina Lava at Pomeroy) noon na iti-nuring na handa na ang bayan sa madugong rebolusyon, na dumating na ang “revolutionary situation” noong 1950. 

Nang madakip ang Politburo noong Oktubre 1950, nabisto na walang mapanghimagsik na pagpapasiya ang mayorya kundi hinampo, sama ng loob, pagkainis, pagkagalit o pagkayamot ng marami sa kahirapan ng pamumuhay (Saulo 1961, 707-707). Hindi rin kasangkot ang Bang-samoro o mga Lumad sa isang “integrative revolution” na kailangang isangkot ang iba’t ibang etnikong pangkat sa iba’t ibang rehiyon (Geertz 1973). Pansamantalang disposisyon o panagano lamang iyon, hindi hustong pagtiwalag sa status quo. Nalustay ang pinuhununang buhay ng mga Huk na mahigit 100,000 gerilya, na may mahigit na 30,000 ang armado (Orejas 2005, 20). Ma-raming nasawi, maraming nabilibid, maraming pamilyang naghirap.
Ang sakuna ng Oktubre 1950 ay hudyat ng pagbagsak ng kilusang Huk. Ang pinatanyag na kontra-bida kay Luis Taruc ay si Ramon Magsasay. Sa palagay ko, si Magsaysay ang idolo o ikon, hindi iyong tunay na politiko kundi ang aura o karisma niya, na nag-udyok kay Aguilar na ihulma si Amando sa pinagpupugayang anyo ni Magsaysay noong panahong hirangin siyang Sekretaryo ng Kawanihan ng Tanggulan. Ang malaking kaibahan ay antagonistang pwersa sa gobyerno ang kapisanan ng Siray at ang kapanalig ni Amando. Si Don Rehino ay siyang patron ng mga burokrata-kapitalista sa gobyerno.  
Ang halimbawa ni Taruc, bagamat tinalikdan niya ang dating mga kapanalig sa Partido, ang umaalalay sa tipong sensibilidad ni Amando. Tinatanaw ni Amando para sa kaniyang mga kapanalig ang pagtutulungan sa pagdisenyo ng isang “bagong-bago, na paghaharian ng magsa-walang-hanggang katarungan, ng tunay na pagkapantay-pantay at ng palagayang magkakapatid” (453)—ang programatikong simulain ng rebolusyong Bolshevik at digmaang-bayang pina-munuan ni Mao Tsetung sa Tsina. Kaipala si Amando ay heraldong anghel ng napipintong hi-magsikan.

Pag-inog ng mga Kontradiksiyon

      Natalakay na sa itaas ang pagsulong ng historya o tuwirang salaysay na kaiba sa diskurso, sa balangkas ng mga pangyayari. Pinamagitnaan ito ng mga insidente o anekdotang kaugnay ng pakanang lihim at estratehiya ng pagkubkob sa mga taga-Sulitan. Sinalitan ang pagbubuntis ni Lorina sa Tomayon at ang pagbunyag ng katotohanan ng magandang paglilirip sa utopyang lilik-hain, ang “timbulan ng pagkakatubos,” ng mga namulat sa Sulitan. Maulap na ang panganorin.

Sa Tomayon nakamit ni Amando ang kanyang lunggati, ang paghilom ng kaniyang kabiguan sa nayon bilang guro/tagapayo sa mabuting pagsasaka. Hindi tumalab ang siyensiya sa mga panginoong maylupa sapagkat mura at marami ang trabahador na mauupahan (tulad ng mga obrerong naglipana sa lansangan na namalas ni Luis sa Pinaglahuan). Matagumpay ang kani-yang pagpunta sa ibang lugar: “Ang basbas at pagpapala ng kalikasan, ay nagpapatanaw na, at araw-araw si Amando ay nagkakaugat sa kanilang mga puso. Anong laki ng kasiyahang loob nito sa nakikitang pagpupuri ng mga kasama ngayon, sa kanyang mga aral at pahiwatig. Nagugunita tuloy kung minsan ang ‘katigasan ng ulo’ ng mga Mang Sayas sa Sulitan, na sa paninindigan sa pinag-ubanang mga pagkakamali, ay nangabigo at patuloy na nabibigo. Ka-habag-habag na mga taong mapilit sumalungat sa agos. Sayang sa kanila ang panahon!” (441).  
Sa harap ng itinakdang sitwasyon ng kasaysayan, sinipat ni Amando ang maaring tahak-ing landas, ang maaaring kasangkapan upang maisakatuparan ang bisa ng kalayaan. Lumalabas na biyaya ng kalikasan at panahon, katambal ng pagpupunyagi ng mga kasama, ang tagumpay ni Amando sa Tomayon. Gayunpaman, nagwagi ang “bayani ng kabukiran” dahil sa hikayat ng matandang kostumbre—hindi ipinagbibili ang kanilang dangal—at, bukod doon, mataas ang per-spektibang moral na taglay niya sanhi sa paggalang sa kinagawian at kinamihasnan. Balintunang lubos ito kung isasaisip na si Amando ay repormista, tutol sa umiiral na sistemang piyudal, at matandang ugnayang sekswal. Tunay na sapot siya ng sapin-saping kontradiksiyon na mikrokosmo ng malawakang tunggalian ng iba’t ibang sektor/lakas sa rumaragasang daloy ng modernismong kabihasnan sa mga liblib na sulok ng kapuluan.

Dumating na tayo sa kasukdulan ng nag-aalimpuyong sikad ng mga pangyayari. Sa huling kabanata XXXII, binalikan ang pagsasadula ng kontradiksiyon nina Amando, Lorina, Sinday at Don Rehino. Ang diskurso’y may himig melodramatiko, tulad nang mga popular na TV serye, palibhasa’y triyanggulo o tatsulok ng pakikitungo ang kasangkot. Una muna’y ang komprontasyon nina Sinday at Don Rehino. Ipinagmalaki ni Sinday ang pag-ibig niya kay Amando; pagkatampal kay Sinday, panoorin ang mala-hunyangong tagpo:

    Sabay sa pagtayo ng babae, na isang kumikislap na balaraw ang ki-nuha sa pagkakasukbit.
    —Tampalasan!—ang sinabing nangangatal ang tinig. —Uutasin kita pag ikaw ay lumapit. Hindi pa ako nagwawalang-hiya sa iyo; ang pag-ibig ko sa dating kasintahan, na iyong nakawan sa pagsabwat ng aking mga magulang at sa paggahasa mo naman sa akin; ay pag-ibig na malinis at wala pang bahid dungis. Mananatiling makinang at may mataas na uri, na babaunin ko hang-gang kamatayan.  Umalis ka, iwanan mo akong mag-isa, nilagot mo, sa iyong pananampalasan, ang marupok nang tali ng aking pagkakatnig sa iyo; ngayon ay wala na akong asawa at wala na rin namang panginoon. Lumabas ka, kung ibig mong mabuhay!”
    Samantala, sa dulang itong nangyayari sa silid ni Sinday, ay napasabay naman ang tuusan na ipinaghihintay ng ukol na panahon ni Amando, sa silid ng pagamutan.
    Kaharap si Mang Tano, na sadyang isinama ni Amando. Ang matanda, na walang kamalak-malak sa nangyayari, ay nagitla na lamang ng marinig ang mga unang salita ng manugang.
    —-Hinhintay kong pagtatapatan mo ako, Lorina, sa aking itatanong. Sino ang ama ng sanggol na iyan?—at itinuro ang sanggol na kasususo pa la-mang. (464)

Ikintal sa imahinasyon ang tagpong ito na tigib ng nakapupukaw na sumbat at babala. Nakayayanig ang interogasyon ng lalaking asawa sa babaeng kayakap ang bunso. Isang tanong na umaalingawngaw sa kasaysayan buhat pa nang ipanganak sina Cain at Abel: sino ang tunay na ama ni Cain?  Tandaan na si Mang Tano, na isang panginoong maylupa tulad ni Don Rehino, ay kasapakat ng usurero at kaulayaw ng anak. Ang dangal ng pamilya ang nakataya, “ang puring pinag-aalinlanganan,” wika niya. Umilag, nagkaila. Payo ni Amando: “Huwag kang matakot sa katotohanan…ang katotohanan ay magbibigay-buhay, hindi nakamamatay.” Himig-sermon na angkat mula sa Bibliya, maipaparunggit. Sa kabilang dako, mahuhulo na ito talaga ang matrix o sinapupunan ng sagot sa problema ng halaga at kahulugan ng pakikipagkapwa at pakikipag-damayan sa lipunan. 

Artikulasyon / Polarisasyon

Sa wakas, humantong tayo sa krisis ng identidad ng rasyonal na indibidwal laban sa mito, pamahiin, relihiyon. Nakasalang ang dangal ng lalaki na hango sa ethos ng nobilidad, hindi uring burgis (Ossowska 1970, 154-55). Kaya salungat ito sa “Categorical Imperative” ni Kant na katungkulang unibersal na magsalita ng katotohanan, sinuman ang masaktan (1994, 280-81). Para kay Amando, ang kaniyang dangal ay nakakawing sa kaniyang partikular na posisyon, hindi kasangkot sa iba pang tao labas sa kamag-anakan. May kulay ng hubris ang demanda ni Amando. Kasali si Don Rehino sa sirkulo ng mga angkang nagtutunggalian. Ibinigay ni Amando kay Lorina ang sulat ni Don Rehino na nagkukutya at nag-iinsulto sa pagkalalaki ni Amando. Sagupaan ba ito ng mga barakong ego o paghahamok ng dalawang uri ng pagkatao?

Subaybayan natin ang pag-sasaayos ng maigting na harapan ng dalawang protagonistang dati’y magkaibigan sa pagkabata, Ngayon, ang babae ay nakapailalim sa batas ng herarkiyang maka-patriyarko sapagkat kailangan ng sanggol ang pangalan ng ama upang magkaroon ng identidad sa lipunan. Walang saysay ang angkan ng ina sa burgesyang orden na nagpapanatili sa katayugan ng lalaki/ama na may pribilehiyong magmana o ipamana ang lupain at yaman sa mga anak:

    Sandaling nagkatinginan ang magbibiyanan hangga’t binabasa ni Lorina ang sulat. Nakita nilang biglang napawi ang hapis sa mukha nito at ang luhang nagsimula ng pagbalong, ay biglang kumati. Tila may nagpapakilos sa kanya ngayong isang bagong damdamin, at pumipilit na siya ay magtapat. Oo, magtapat upang matubos. Ilahad ang “kanyang katotohanan” upang maging dapat man lamang sa pagkaawa ng mga dapat magpatawad.
    —Isandig mo akong mabuti, aking giliw, —ang may paglalambing na pita kay Amando, na buong kaluguran namang sumunod—Ganyan—ang kan-yang sabi nang mapasandig ng patag—at ang ulo ng asawa’y kinabig upang kintalan ito sa pisngi ng isang halik na matagal—Napapamahal ka na sa akin, at ipagdadalamhati ko ang iyong paglayo—ang bulong na tila pinapagsasalita ang kaluluwa—sapagkat lalayo ka na sa akin, pagkatapos mong marinig ang aking pagtatapat.
    Nagsimula ang pagtatapat. Dahandahang ang mga salita ay pu-mapanaw sa kanyang mga labi, ng walang hinanakit at walang paninisi. Bag-kus ang sarili, ang siya lamang pinapanagot sa nangyari. Maging ang mga pamamaraang ginamit ng humibo sa kanya, na sa tuwirang sabi’y tunay na mga panlilinlang, na magagawa lamang ng sa lapit ng lakas na hawak; ay na-palagay, sa kanyang pagsasalaysay, na hindi pagdaraya kung di mga pakitang giliw, na lalo niyang ikinabuyo. Siya nga lamang, at tanging siya, ang dapat na managot.
    Datapwat siya naman ay umasa, na ang pagkakapag-asawa kay Amando, bagay na kaya nangyari at kanilang pinagkaisahan, ay upang mai-layo ito sa dating kasintahan, sa ikapapanatag ng naninibugho; ay magiging dapat sa paggalang nito at pagpipitagan sa “lihim” na dapat mapatago.  Iyon pala’y hindi at siya pa ang magbibilad ng kahihiyan sa hangad lamang, ito’y walang pagsala, na paghihigantihanang makalaban at kinakalaban pa, hang-gang ngayon. Ang gayong pagpapahamak ay lubos niyang kinasusuklaman, pagka’t naglalahad ng katotohanang siya pala ay imbi. Mapabuti lamang ang sarili, ay mapisanan na ang lahat (465-466).

Matapang na sinalo ni Lorina ang hagkis ng tadhana. Sa ano’t anuman, masalimuot ang mga implikasyong etikal at moral sa pagkumpisal na ito, sa harap pa ng ama, na pumutok ang galit nang malaman na ang kaniyang pinagkakatiwalaang kaibigan ang nagsamantala sa anak. Humingi ng patawad, ibinigay sa kaniya ni Amando, ang napagtaksilang asawa. Nabawasan ba ang kahihiyan? Nabawi ba ang naputikang dangal?  Sa masinop na pagkukuro, hindi ba mabag-sik na ganti ito sa taong nagsamantala sa kaniyang pag-ibig, kay Sinday? Umangat ang palapag pangmoral na kinatatayuan niya dahil siya, ang pagmonopolisa sa katawan ng asawa, ay pribile-hiyo niya. 
Matinding palaisipan ang humarang sa ating pagbabasa, nakapagitan sa dalawang kata-wan ng mga nagtalik: sa paglubog ng barko, sino muna ang sasagipin: anak o ina? Sa rasyonal na pagtimbang, ipinasiya ni Amando na kailangang umiral ang katotohanan, sinuman ang masaktan, sapagkat ang kabulaanan, kasinungalingan, at pandaraya/kataksilan, nakaugat sa indibidwalis-tikong kapakanan, ay hindi matatag at matibay na pundasyon ng anumang lipunan. Samakatwid, hindi rin masasang-ayunan ang paghahari ng anarkiya sa pamihilian sapagkat ang nagwawagi sa kompetisyon ay ang mga maylupa, may-ari, mga panginoong lumupig sa kapwa.

Hinagap na Humihiwang Magkabila

   Pag-isipan natin ang inter-seksiyon ng mga pangyayari. Sa kabanata bago magsilang ng sanggol si Lorina, naibulalas na ni Amando ang kanyang hinala at galit. Ito pagkatapos masi-glang ipangalandakan ang kabutihan ng Tomayon at ang maluwalhating kinabukasan ng naninirahan doon, biglang bumaling ang diwa sa asawang nagtaksil sa kaniya. Melodramatikong pagpihit ito. Tiyak na inihahanda tayo ng awtor sa pagsunod sa siklo ng batas ng kalikasan: halimbawa, pagkaraan ng buhawi, huhupa ang maalimbukay na hangin at papayapa ang pan-ganorin: 

… Sumusubo ang kanyang dugo at sa panulat niya’y bumubuga ang apoy ng kapootan, ang pag-iring at pagkutya sa babaeng bilasa na pala, ay nagka-loob ng makunwaring makinis at walang lamat.
Oo, hindi niya akalaing ang pagpapanggap ni Lorina ay naging puspos, na di nahalata ng kanya namang hindi mahinang pandamdam. Pinag-aralan marahil na talaga, sa turo at pamamatnugot ng isang matalino at bihasang guro; kaya naipandaya ng lubos. Ngunit may ibig tarukin palibhasang ‘katoto-hanan,’ ang maapoy na dalawang sulat naunang nayari, ay pinunit; at pinalitan ng huling siyang minabuti, na nagbibigay loob sa asawa. Na gumagamit siya ng di marangal na paraan? Hindi niya mapagsisisihanang ganito at lalo na-mang hindi maisusumbat sa sarili, sapagkat kailangan niyang makarating sa paroroonan; at kung bagaman ay wala siyang ginagawa kung di gumamit la-mang ng paraang ginamit naman laban sa kanya (445).

Mapapansin na maingat at mapagkalinga ang hilig ni Amando, hindi magpapalalo o magpa-pasasa sa panibugho, galit, o hinampo. Mahigpit ang kontrol niya sa damdamin at udyok ng pag-dakila-sa-sarili. Ngunit natimplahan ba ito ng simpatiya o pagdamay sa katayuan ni Lorina? Matinik ang iba’t ibang aspekto ng katotohanan (sa masalimuot na paksang ito, sangguniin si Ricoeur 165-91). Sa init ng pakikihamok ng dalawang patriyarko (Amando at Don Rehino), ti-yak na magiging sakripisyo ang babae sa tipo ng katotohanang pabor sa lalaking nagkupkop.

Hindi nakapagtataka ang pag-ikot ng damdamin ni Amando. Kung babalik-suriin, ang nagsasalising kalooban ni Amando ay hango sa kaniyang babala kay Lorina nang sila’y ikasal. Kumpara sa mahalagang alahas na inihandog ni Don Rehino, ang regalo ni Amando ay simbolo ng espadang pumagitna sa mga katawan nina Tristan at Isolde sa mito ng kanilang maginoong pagsusuyuan. Magkahawig at magkaiba ang sitwasyon.
Rebyuhin natin ang eksenang nauna. Narito ang nakapananabik na pagkagulat at pagka-gambala sa maramdaming budhi ni Lorina, ang dalagang hindi birhen kundi malapit maging ina, nang buksan ang balutang handog ni Amando. Pinakamahiwagang eksena ito sa buong nobela, balot ng ambigwidad at paradoha:

    Kumakaba ang dibdib ni Lorina….Ano kaya ang padala ni Amando? Mahigit kaya, kauri man lamang o mababa kaysa alay ni Don Rehino, ang kanyang matamis na “kahapon”? Noon di’y nagliliwanag ang katotohanan!  At nagliwanag nga ito, nang ang balutan ay mabuksan na.
    Isa ring maliit na lalagyang katulad ng kanyang tinanggap kay Don Rehino, ang napatambad sa kanyang paningin at ang nakatago sa sinapupunan ay gayon ding mga hiyas, ganap na magarang palamuti ng isang babai; ngunit may dagdag na isang tila pantusok, na, hindi ginto kung di matalas na patalim, na may puluhang lantay na gintong natatampukan ng isang nagniningas na batong maningning.
    Napamulagat sa kanyang nakita, at sa matagal na hindi pag-imik ay pinagwari-wari ang kahulugan ng gayon. Sinalat ang dulo at nagulumihanan siya sa katalasan. Kung iyon ay patalim na pantaga, ang katalima’y hipang-bukok at kung pananundo’t naman, gaya ng tila siyang mapaggagamitan, ang kahayapan at ang talas ay nagtitipan ng isang tagusan at pamatay na sugat. Bakit baga isinalit ni Amando, sa maringal na mga hiyas na kanyang alay, ang kasangkapang iyon sa pagpatay o pagpapakamatay naman kaya?  Bakit?
    Sa maiksi, ngunit makabuluhan liham na nakitang nakatiklop sa ilalim ng lalagyan, ang sagot, sa kanyang itinatanong sa sarili, ay nabatid na mali-wanag at walang alinlangan. Anang liham: “Sa babaing aking aariin, ay iniha-handog ko nang boong pagpapakumbaba ang hamak na nakaya ng aking ka-dahupan; ang mga hiyas ay upang ikatampok ng kanyang iwing alindog at ka-gandahan, at ang patalim ay upang gamitin naman sa paniningil kung may pagkukulang akong hindi na maipatatawad o sa pagpaparusa naman kaya sa sarili, sakaling may magawang hindi na maipatatawad ng nagninising budhi (399-400)

Sandaling pagmunimuniin natin ito. Tulad ng espadang nakapagitan kina Tristan at Isolde sa mito, iyon ay sumpa ng dalisay at aristokratang pag-iibigan: malinis, walang bahid na kamun-duhan, tandisang wagas at walang dungis. Sagisag ng pagtatalik ng dalawang busilak na kalu-luwa. Ngunit tadhana’y hindi mabiyaya. Ganito rin ang pahiwatig ng balaraw ni Amando: may panig na makasalanan, may panig na magpapatawad, na tahasang depinisyon ng konsepto ng di-yalektika. Kambal na aksyon ang maibubunga ng makabuluhang regalo. Ipagpatuloy natin ang pagmasid sa nagambalang konsiyensiya ni Lorina:

    Ang gayo’y maliwanag, singliwanag ng sikat ng araw. Nahihintakutan sa kanyang nabasa, na nagpapasalamat kay “Tata Sindong” at saka nagkulong sa sariling silid na dala ang alay ni Amandong gumulo na di ano lamang sa kanyang isip.
    Dinidibdib palang talaga ni Amando ang paglagay sa tahimik. Totoha-nan at sadyang tinototoo pala ang pag-aasawa sa kanya, na sa pasimula pa la-mang ay maliwanag nang inihahanap niyang katugong pagtatapat.  Isang pagtatapat na malinis, wagas at dalisay, na sa malas ay tangka niyang pag-tamanan.
    —“Upang gamitin sa paniningil kung may pagkukulang akong hindi na maipatatawad at sa pagpaparusa sa sarili sakaling may magawang hindi naman maipatatawad ng maninising budhi”—ang sinabi-sabi ni Lorina.
    Kakilakilabot ng mga salita iyon, hudyat ng sukat mangyari. At siya, na sa pakikiisang dibdib na iyon, ay alanganing nagbibiro at alanganing nag-tototoo, ay nanglulumo sa pag-aakala ng sasapitin, sakaling mapabilad ang tu-nay na mga dahilang nagtulak sa kanya upang akitin si Amando na magpaka-buyo hanggang sa matalisod.           

Sumagid sandali sa kanyang isip ang pag-urong sa gagawin. May panahon pa at maraming madadahilan, nguni’t muling pinasuko, ang paghi-himagsik ng kalooban, ng malaking pangangailangang magka-ama ang kany-ang anak. Ito ang pinakamalaki niyang dahilan, at si Amando, dahil sa mga nangyari na, ay nagpipilit na maging ama kundi matutuloy ang kanilang pag-iisa (400).

Pinagnilayang mabuti ni Lorina ang mga katagang may magkatumbalik na pahiwatig, na tumuturol sa paglalaro nila ni Don Rehino sa kawalang-hinala ni Amando. At ku-mutob ang pusod ng kaluluwa ng babae.

Hinahanap ang Ama, Natagpuan ang Naulila

Sandaling igiit muli ang layon ng ating pagsisiyasat. Ang tema ng nobela ay “kaligtasan”  katubusan sa masahol na kalagayan. Nasukol tayo sa lipunang pinaghaharian ng malulupit na panginoong maylupa, usurero/komprador, korap na upisyal, mga alipores na kriminal, at iba pang yagit. Nakaluklok sa likod ng magayumang tabing ang taga-maniobra nila: U.S. imperya-lismo. Ligalig at lagim ang nakalatag sa panganorin. Nilapastangan ang dangal ng babae, mahig-pit na pinasusunod ang di-makatarungang paghahati ng gawain at bunga nito. Walang maasahan sa mga pinuno, o sa batas na laging nilalabag ng mga mandarambong. Paano mapapalitan o mababago ito? Paano makatatakas sa minanang kaayusan ? Paano magkakaroon ng katapatan, pagkakapantay-pantay, kaakibat ng pamamayani ng katuwiran at kabaitan? Anong magandang kinabukasan ang maasam-asam ng mga kabataan?
Mga klasikong suliranin itong binuno at dinaliri ng mga pantas mula pa sa Gresya nina Plato at Aristotle hanggang sa Kaliwanagan nina Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith, Saint-Simon, Marx at Engels.  Malinaw rin na ang solusyon ni Amando, na guro at ta-gapag-mobilisa ng anakpawis sa bukid, ay paglakbay sa bagong lipunan ng Tomayon, na sa panahon ni Aguilar ay Mindanaw. Bumalik muli bilang maykayang tao na handang tumulong sa mga anak-dalita. Samantala, bagamat nanalo siya bilang kandidato ng repormistang partido, ang Bukluran ng Malayang Mamamayan, malakas pa rin ang kapangyarihan ng salapi ni Don Re-hino. At nangangasiwa pa rin ang korap na admnistrasyon sa nayon at lungsod. Wala pang ma-katuturang pagbabagong pampolitika at pang-ekonomya.
Kaugnay nito, maapoy ang problema ng kapangyarihan. Saan nagbubuhat ito, sa salapi o sa katwiran ng tao, sa pagkakasundo ng mayorya o sa pagtalima sa isang absolutong aral? Sa eleksiyong indinaos, nasaksihan natin ang iba’t ibang paraan ng pandaraya’t pandarambong, kaalinsabay sa marahas na rebelyon ng mahihirap. Sinanay at isinapraktika ng mga magbubukid ang kanilang karapatan bilang mamamayan. Ngunit sinagkaan sila ng awtoridad ng pag-aari, relihiyon, alinsunod sa doktrina ng tradisyong igalang ang may prestihiyo o katanyagan. Baga-mat laganap na ang sekularisasyon, kung saan ang talino at kaalaman sa siyensiya, at prag-matikong rason, ang umuugit sa komersiyo, hindi mawawala ang kasakiman at pag-iimbot habang walang tunay na pagkakapantay-pantay. Daig ang rason, ang matinong kaisipan, ng sim-buyo ng damdamin, udyok ng pagnanais, at hilig ng katawan. Di mapapasubalian ang diyagnosis ng mga dalubhasang radikal: nakasandig ang kilos at kaisipan sa materyal na relasyong pampro-duksiyon at paghahati ng yaman at kapangyarihan.  
Sa pista at sa ritwal ng pasiyam at kasalan, nanaig ang dating gawi at nakaugaliang prak-tika. Sagrado ang lahi, ang kamag-anakan sa dugo, na siyang saligan ng etsa-pwera: sina Si-kuterat, Lucas, Pedro, atbp. Hindi madaling baguhin o palitan ang nakahiratian. Gayunpaman, may positibong elemento ang mahuhugot sa praktika ng bayanihan, matimping paggalang sa ninuno, pagpuri sa kontribusyon ng kababaihan, at pagdakila sa espiritu ng komunidad.
Walang patid ang pagbabago sa mundo, laging may pag-iibang maaasahan sa agos ng kasaysayan. Naging halimbawa ni Aguilar ang eleksiyon ng 1951 kung saan nanalo ang nasyonalistikong pangkat nina Laurel at Recto. Gayunman, ang tunay na nagwagi ay si Mag-saysay na hinirang na “Man of the Year” ng Philippine Free Press (Constantino 1978, 247). Sa tulong ng Civil Affairs Office ng CIA, na pumatnubay kina Magsaysay at mga kaalyado sa NAMFREL, naging malinis ang eleksiyon. Isang himala ito. Sa nobela, nanalo sina Amando at Siray (na naghunos sa  organisasyon ng Buklod), ngunit naghabol si Don Rehino kaya hindi nag-karoon ng pagbabago ang mga opisyal sa Sulitan. 
Ang Estado ay nasa panig pa rin ng uring may-ari.  Ang simbolikong komunidad ay lu-mipat sa Tomayon, isang mala-utopyang purok. Tawag nga ni Amando: iwan na ang kabulukan ng Sulitan, magpundar tayo ng malayang lipunan sa ibang lugar ng kapuluan. Ang diskurso ng karapatan, katuwiran, at mga simbolikong institusyong kumakatawan dito ay ililigtas mula sa impiyerno ng Sulitan at ililipat sa Tomayon kung saan ang pribadong kagustuhan ay katalik o kasanib ng publikong interes. Isang laboratoryo ng eksperimentong sosyal ang nasa panimdim ni Amando na ibinahagi niya kay Lino at mga kasama sa Buklod. Praktika ng demokratikong par-tisipasyon iyon ng mga mamamayan na sinanay at sinubok sa maraming rali, demonstrasyon, at paghahakot ng mga botante sa iba’t ibang sulok ng lalawigan.

Arenang Maluwag, Gipit ang Pagpipilian

Mapapansin na lumipat ang sentro ng nobela: sa halip na masdan ang kilos ng ilang tao, mas nakahihikayat ang kolektibong pagpupunyagi. Sa panig ni Don Rehino, mga bayarang kriminal at utusan ang gumagalaw. Anarkiya ang resulta. Katumbalikan o parikalang komen-taryo ang nangyari: sa planong magapang ang grupo ni Amando, pumayag si Lorina na maging espiya o “fifth columnist” upang isulong ang kapakanan ni Don Rehino. Si Lorina ang kalunyang napahamak. At sa kalaunan, napalitan ang dating papel na taga-sunod kay Don Rehino: kailan-gan ang ama para sa kaniyang anak. Ang pagka-ina, hindi pagkaalipin, ang gumiyagis sa ulirat at namagitan. Pumayag magpakasal. Niregaluhan siya ng balaraw, simbolo ng walang taning na pagnanais na magwawakas lamang sa kamatayan. Kahawig ito ng espadang inilagay ni Tristan sa pagitan nila ni Isolde nang matulog sa kuweba ng leyenda; nang matagpuan sila ng asawa ni Isolde, Haring Mark, ipinalit ang kaniyang espada upang ihudyat ang di-matatakasang awtoridad ng patriyarkong monarkiyang nagpundar ng kaharian.

Ano ang ibig sabihin noon? Puna ni Denis de Rougemont: “The meaning of this is that in place of the obstruction which the lovers have wanted and have deliberately set up [the king] puts the sign of his social prerogative, a legal and objective obstruction” (1956, 46). Kung walang pagbabawal sa usapang sekswal, masisira ang batas ng pagmamana ng lupa at yaman. Sa kabilang banda, nais pag-ibayuhin at panalagiin ang simbuyo ng pagnanais ang sinasagisag ng espada ni Tristan. Sa panig ng ordeng umiiral, nais putululin iyon at ipailalim sa poder ng monarkiya, kaya pumagitan ang patalim ng asawang hari. Sa kuro-kuro naman ni Julia Kristeva, matinik ang maipapakahulugan sa espada, at sa balaraw na handog kay Lorina: “Rooted in desire and pleasure (although able to do without them in reality, setting them on fire merely in symbolic or imaginary fashion), love…reigns between the two borders of narcissism and idealiza-tion”(1987, 6; ikumpara ang opinyon ni Brinton 1959,186-88). Magusot at masalimuot ang mga elementong salik ng pag-ibig, hindi payak o madaling sakyan, na sinala’t pinakinis sa masining na wika (tungkol sa kontemporaneong kabatiran sa usaping pangkasarian sa panitikan, sang-guniin si Torres-Yu). Hindi matatarok ang gravitas ng pag-ibig na hindi isinakonteksto sa isang tiyak at kongkretong yugto ng kasaysayan ng espesipikong lipunan.
Marahil totoo ang hinuha ni Kristeva. Bumabalatay sa matusong ganti ni Amando ang isang narsisistikong udyok sa sapilitang pag-amin ni Lorina ng kasalanan. Nang igawad niya ang patawad, hindi lamang siya nakabawi sa pagnanakaw ni Don Rehino kay Sinday. Nayurak din niya ang pagkutyang hamon ni Don Rehino na siya ang ama ng anak ni Lorina. Hindi lamang umangat ang uri niya nang maging mariwasang magsasaka sa Tomayon; naging bayani siya di lamang ng Balani kundi ng kanayunan sa pagkahalal niya. Nag-angkin ng birtud ng pagpapata-wad, taglay rin ang simbuyo ng idealisasyon o pagtaas ng katuwirang personal sa isang antas na unibersal, kaparis ng turo ng “Categorical Imperative” ni Kant o ng Bagong Tipan. “Sa akin ang higanti, proklama ng Panginoon” (Romans 12: 19). Kung hindi mamamatay ang binhing parti-kular, hindi ito  sisibol, lalago, mamumulaklak, at mamumunga ng pangkalahatang biyaya para sa lahat. 

Ibang klase ng bayani si Amando, hindi negosyanteng burgis kundi sugo ng proletaryong kapisanan. Dito matatanto kung bakit hindi gagawin ni Amando ang ginawa ni Pedro sa Nan-galunod sa Katihan. Pumagitna siya sa lagay nina Luis sa Pinaglahuan at ni Celso sa Busabos ng Palad: isang mago taglay ang mahikang lulunas sa sakit ng katawang pampolitika (body politic). Nag-asal Kristo ba si Amando sa pagpapatawad kay Magdalena/Lorina? Alalahanin na hindi kasal si Kristo sa nagpakumbabang puta. Siya ang Mesiyas ng Sulitan na mag-aakay sa madla, hahawi ng daan sa dagat, patungong Tomayon, ang natuklasang Eden sa Pilipinas.

Hindi lubos na nalusaw ang krisis ng bansa. Nagamot ang sugat ni Amando sa pagpurga ng kaniyang panibugho sa habag sa asawa, si Lorina. Ngunit asawang pansamantala na isinak-ripisyo sa masokistang pag-angkin sa kasalanan ng babae at sadistikong pagtakwil sa anak ni Don Rehino. Umigpaw sa pagka-biktima at isinabalikat ang bagong yugto ng kaniyang paglalak-bay. Bumalik sa kaniyang tabi si Sinday. Pinalaya niya ang sarili sa pagkabenta ng magulang sa mayamang komprador.  Nanatiling “birhen” sa puso upang sa wakas ay maari o maangkin ng lalaking mesiyas ng bagong epoka ng katubusan. Paano kaya maiaangkop ang nakalipas ni Sin-day, ang impiyerno ng Sulitan, sa kinabukasang puspos ng tukso at mapanggayumang hamon? Anong pagkukunwari ang isinasanay ni Amando?
Sa pakiwari ko, mahirap ipagsamo ang interpretasyon na si Lorina ay biktima. Siya ang taga-usig ng kaniyang kapalaran sa simula pa lamang. Nakisimsim sa aliw sa kaniyang kapasiya-han—mayaman ang amang si Mang Tano, na panginoong may-lupa; matalino, may pinag-aralan, masigasig at masayang espiritu. Emblematiko siya ng makabagong kababaihang tahasang ma-layo na sa posisyon ng mga katutubong kababaihan noong sinaunang panahon (sa pagsasaliksik ni Teresita Infante 1975). 
Bakit pwedeng gawing uliran si Lorina? Una, hindi siya naikulong sa kusina o anumang sulok ng tahanan tulad ng karaniwang kabiyak sa asawahang konjugal. Pangalawa, pwede siyang maglibot kahit saan, hindi limitado ang espasyong ginagalawan. Pangatlo, tila aliwan at pakikisalamuha sa alta sosyedad ang pinagkadalubhasaan niya. Ang status ni Lorina ay hindi hu-got sa dugo ng angkan kundi sa okupasyong pinili; sa malas, tila wala siyang trabaho kundi gas-tusin ang pera ng magulang sa aliwan at libangan (Parsons 1996, 48). Hindi pakikiapid ang gi-nawa ni Lorina, bagamat kalunya siya ni Don Rehino, kundi malayang desisyon na pumayag sa pagkasal kay Amando. Tinanggap niya ang limitasyon ng kaniyang kalagayan, at doon umikot at nakipagsapalaran.

Kakumbakit Mapagpakasakit

Noong una, sa lipunang industriyalisado, ang imahen ng trabahador ay batay sa matipu-nong katawan ng lalaki (Hobsbawm 1984, 93). Sa lipunang umuunlad, kahit mabagal, ang dibi-syon ng gawaing panlipunan ay kumplikado. Bunga nito, ang network ng katungkulan at kara-patan ng mga tao ay tahasang kumplikado, buhol-buhol at nagpapasigla ng pagpapalitan ng baga-bagay: produkto, ideya, haka-haka, panaginip, simbolikong likha ng kulturang nag-uugnay sa lahat (Godelier 1975, 8-9).  Sa modernong kabihasnang dala ng kolonisasyong Amerikano, ang awtoridad ng kamag-anakan o relasyon ayon sa dugong minana ay pumusyaw at humina na, bu-migay sa awtoridad ng Estado at publikong institusyon (Gerth & Mills 1953). Indibidwalismo ang patakaran, utilitaryanismo ang ideolohiyang gumigiya. Nakasangkalan ang ugnayang seks-wal sa pagkakasal ng mga indibidwal. Si Lorina ay kasal kay Amando, suportado ng institusyong sibil at relihiyoso. Bakit nga siya hihingi ng kapatawaran?

Malakas ang impluwensiya ng maka-indibidwalistang Protestang Kristiyanidad sa pagli-nang sa identidad ni Amando. Produkto siya ng kolonisasyong Amerikano (nag-aral ng siyenti-pikong agrikultura sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas sa Los Banos) samantalang maiging nakaugat sa komunidad ng mga pesante at magsasaka. Maiintindihan kung bakit sa Nangalunod sa Katihan at Sa Ngalan ng Diyos, ang pagpapatawad sa kasalanan pagkatapos ng kumpisal ay pundamental. Pagkatuklas ng katotohanan, kailangang magpatawad o magpaubaya. Paglimiin ang kongklusyon ni Aguilar sa kilabot ng mga napinsala’t nasawi sa Nang Magdaan ang Daluyong (1945): “Sino-sino ang dapat managot…Hahatol na ang bayan at ang mga nagkasala’y maalisan ng takip sa mukha [alusyon sa Makapiling nagturo sa Hapon kung sino ang mga gerilyang nakabalat-kayo]…At nangakalimot, kusa lamang namang paglimot upang matakip ang isinasagawang pagtataksil…Kabaitan man ngang ikinararangal ang pagpapatawad, sa pagkataong ito ay maka-susugat sa damdamin ng bayang naghirap, ang pagpapaumanhin” (65). Tila ipinahintulutan dito ni Aguilar ang pananatili ng sugat o estigmata sa katawan/diwa ng bayani ng Sulitan/Tomayon na nagdurugtong sa napigtal na kahapan at kinabukasan ng bansa.

Ito ang lohika ng salaysay. Kung nagkasala si Lorina, at nagtapat ng kaniyang pagkadapa, kailangang patawarin siya ni Amando. Hindi nakuhang patawarin ng binatang Aguilar ang mga Kastilang nagparusa sa kaniyang ama, ngunit naghunos-dili siya hinggil sa mga kolaboreytor ng Hapon. At sa huling nobela niya, Ang Patawad ng Patay, lubos ang pagpapaubaya—sa totoo, pagsuspindi ng husga—sa kalikasan at tadhana ang matandang Heracleo Palmira na naglingkod sa bayan sa gitna ng kataksilan, pagkabigo, at pagtitiis sa kalamidad na hindi na niya makakap-iling ang kaniyang asawa o mga anak.
Ang tugon rito ay isa: layon ng nobela na ibalik ang patriyarkong orden na nakasandig sa awtoridad ng malaya’t makatarungang komunidad. Hindi lahat ng patriyarko ay buhong o tam-palasan. Hindi maaaring maging huwarang babae ang makabagong Lorina, kahit matapang at matalas ang utak, sopistikado’t masaklaw ang karunungan. Sa kasaysayan ng ating panitikan, mayroon mga babaeng mapangahas na nagsikap makahulagpos sa tanikala ng maskulinistang pagkaalipin ngunit nangabigo (tingnan ang nobelang Ang Selosa ni Lope K. Santos (Santos 1972,  57-58).  Hindi maitatatwa na ang babae/ina ay isinilid at iginapos sa kategorya ng natu-ralezang kategorya. Susog ni Colette Guillaumin: “The ownership of children, a ‘production’ of women, in the last resort is juridically in the hands of men. Children continue to belong to the father, even when their mother has the material charge of them in the case of separation…The individual material body of a woman belongs, in what it produces (children) as in its divisible parts (hair, milk), to someone other than herself—as was the case in plantation slavery” (1995, 183). Ironikal na si Amando ay magaling sa agrikultura, sa pag-alaga sa halaman, sa tumutubo’t nagbubungang organismo sa kalikasan, ngunit di umano’y bulag sa kultura ng kasariang panli-punan.
Sa pilosopiya ni Hegel, lahat ay nagbabago. Bawa’t kongkretong bagay o penomena ay itinutulak sa loob ng magkahidwang lakas, sumusulong sa pagsasanib ng mga kontradiksiyon sa isang masagana’t mapanlikhang sintesis.  Ang panganganak ni Lorina ay may katuturan bilang pangyayari sa larangan ng pamilyang banal; malapit ito sa mga mahiwagang puwersang tiwalag sa kontrol ng tao. Kakatwa ang papel ni Lorina dito. Siya ang behikulo ng pwersang bumabaklas sa patriyarkong batas ng pagmamana at pagkilala bilang soberanyang indibidwal. Pambihirang papel ang ginagampanan niya. Kalunya ni Don Rehino at asawa ni Amando, si Lorina ang nag-sisilbing komunikasyon ng dalawang daigdig: ang industriyalisadong modernidad ng Kanluran at ang mala-piyudal at neokolonyal na katayuan ng Pilipinas. Marahil, siya ang simbolo ng utopya na aktwalisasyon ng potensiyal niya upang maging kasangkapan sa catharsis ng komiko-trahedyang kinasuungan ni Amando.

Estrukturalistang Sipat

Maipapalagay na isang “anti-hero” si Amando. Nawalan ng ama, ina at kasintahan, saan siya tutungo upang matutong sagipin ang nalansag na reputasyon? Nabiyak ang mundo’t naharap siya sa bangin. Sa gitna tumutulay si Amando, nagsilbing tagapagtaguyod ng Kalikasan, na unti-unting winawasak ng kapitalismo’t imperyalismong patuloy sa pandarambong. Humakbang siya mula sa Sulitan hanggang Tomayon upang iligtas si Sinday, na akma sa takbo ng kalikasan. Walang pahinga ang kaniyang pagbabalik-balikan, ibinabandila ang pangako ng maligayang hi-naharap. Dinulutan niya ng masustansyang danas ang diyalektikong konsepto ng “Not-Yet” (Bloch 1973) o sa literal na salin: Hindi-Pa-Muna-Nariyan Na.
Ang papel ng ina, si Aling Siray, ay lumipat kay Lorina na kumatawan sa pinurga’t dina-lisay na kahapon. Ang kontradiksiyon ng salapi/pamilihan at komunidad sa Tomayon ay hindi nalutas, naipagpaliban lamang, palibhasa’y nakatuon lamang sa mapayapang pagbabago ang nadukal sa naratibo. Walang kongkretong paraiso ang naitanghal, kundi nanatili iyon na indeks ng pag-asa at nagbabadya na kung saan may kapahamakan, nakasilid roon ang ahensiya ng katubusan. Mapaghamon ang pahiwatig ni Aguilar, na mailalarawan sa semiotikang diyagra-mang susunod dito na sinapupunan ng metakometaryang naimungkahi sa mga proposisyong nailahad:
TOMAYON (Utopya)
Pagkakapantay; Siray/Ina; Buklod
Pagbabagong Buhay sa Kinabukasan

                        SINDAY (Asawa/Birhen)
                        Kahapong Bumabangon

Dunong, Katapatan, Pakikisama Salapi; Komersiyo ng Tao
Batas ng Kalikasan Maniobra ng Estado

    LORINA (Birhen/Ina)
    Kasalukuyang Lumipas

                           SULITAN (Status Quo)

Sikuterat/Politikang Mandaraya
Pinaglahuang Neokolonya

Paralelograma ng Diyalektika ng Hegemonya / Kontra-Gahum

Kabalintunaan tila ang pagdiin sa katuturan ng panahon, ang masalimuot na pag-inog nito mula sa paligsahan ng kalabaw, pagdukot kay Sinday, pagkamatay ni Aling Siray hanggang sa sinubukang pagpaslang kay Amando.  Ang importante ay mabatid at maunawaan kung nasaan ka, anong dapat gawin, at sino ang kaharap mo.  Dalawang lugar ang kumatawan sa espasyo ng mundo sa nobela: Sulitan at nayong kanugnog (Pingkian, Balani) at Tomayon. Dramatikong mga tagpo sa halip na paglalarawan madetalye sa pook ang bumubuo ng naratibo (Muir 1969). 

Teleolohiya ang nakataya, hangarin ng mga binusabos ng mapanikil na sistema. Sa gani-tong paraan, masinsing mapag-uukulan ng pansin ang mga motibo, layon, pakay ng mga kilos ng tauhan. Pinakamahalaga ang ideya ng layon o adhikain ng mga tauhan. Bahagya nang masuly-apan ang kapaligiran, sukat nang malaman kung sino ang nasa loob ng bahay, nasa ospital o pa-gamutan, nasa lansangan. Sa ano’t anoman, humantong sa ospital ang pagtakda ng mapanganib na papel ni Lorina (kumpara sa mahinhing Sinday), na dapat maitakda upang hindi magulo ang paghahati ng gawaing panlipunan. Mula parang, bukid, simbahan, plaza, ospital—ito ang mga makatuturang estasyon sa peregrinasyon ng mga karakter sa nobela na dapat unawain sa kanilang ambil na kakintalan.

Pasinaya ng Pagdiriwang

Sikaping matarok ang di malalagpasang kabalintunaan na inilarawan sa nobela, o katoto-hanan sa artikulasyon ni Engels: ang kababaihan ang unang proletaryo sa kasaysayan na dapat iligtas. Subalit dito, hindi nailigtas, manapa’y isinakripisyo sa altar ng pagbuo ng bayani (Amando) sina Sinday at Lorina. Si Aling Siray ang matrona ng piksiyonal na mala-matriyarkang kaayusan. Siya ang sanggalang sa akusasyon na hindi pantay ang hatol ni Amando. Dapat isakdal din si Sinday. Sapagkat ang ordeng makauri ay nakasalig sa subordinasyong seks-wal ng kababaihan, ang maayos na kaligtasan ay nangangailangan ng ideolohiyang nagkukubli sa katotohanan: “The ideological is borne by the symbolic representation of gender-relations, the familial becomes an emotional and imaginary vehicle of any subordination and superordination. It is preferably women who represent the illusory community of the family; they are…the ‘repre-sentatives of love,’ whereas the men represent the law” (Rehman 2013, 247). 

Pinili ni Amando ang batas ng puso niya na makapagpapatawid sa mga sakuna at ka-sawiang tinamo. Iniligtas niya rin sina Lorina at Mang Tano sa kumunoy ng kabulaanan at ma-rawal na pamumuhay. Samakatwid, kailangan makakuha ng ama ang anak ni Lorina at mailuk-lok ang mabilisang kilos niya sa masunuring disipliina. Hindi pa rin nadudurog ang imperyo ni Don Rehino at mga buktot na galamay. Gayunpaman, ang mensahe rito ay malinaw: huwag mawalan ng pag-asa, ang kaligtasan ay nasa pagsugod sa barikada na mismong senyas na madudurog ito, masisira, malalagpasan—sa usok at apoy ng pagdurusa’t pagkabigo bumabangon ang anghel ng katubusan na maghuhugpong sa Sulitan at Tomayon. Bukas, malaya’t mariwasang sangkapuluan ang babati sa atin.
Marami pang nakaiintrigang dimensiyon ang makikilatis natin—halimbawa, ang dala-wang karakter na tagapamagitan dito, sina Paulino at Sikuterat, o si Abogado Gahaman. Sukat nang wakasan ang talakay na ito sa paghahayag na ito ang pinakamahalagang obra-maestra ni Aguilar na mapagsuring naglalarawan ng kalagayan ng Pilipinas pagkatapos ibigay ang huwad na kasarinlan at maghari muli ang mga oligarkya ng asendero, komprador at burokrata-kapitalista na itinangkilik ng Estados Unidos upang mapanatili ang hegemonya ng monopolyo kapitalismo. Sumusunod si Aguilar sa “agos ng pag-unlad at pagkakasulong” na kahit ang ma-tandang Fausto Galauran ay nakikiugma.  Bagamat walang direktang tuligsa sa imperyalismo, ang kritisismo ng mapagsamantalang masalapi/kapitalista, ang pangungutang, suhol sa mga opi-syal, at iba pang katangian ng demokrasyang burgis ay sapat na upang ituring na radikal at pro-gresibo ang ibinubunsod ng ikinintal na larawan ng kabuhayan sa mga taong 1946-1951 sa Pili-pinas noong kasagsagan ng Cold War.

Unawain natin na ang pinakamaselang problema sa kanayunan, hanggang ngayon, ay ang usapin ng lupain  (tulad ng Hacienda Luisita, mga tirahan ng mga sakada sa Negros at mga teri-toryo ng Lumad sa Mindanao) at malupit na pagtrato sa mga empleyado sa agrikultura, minahan, troso, atbp. (kahawig ang patakarang pampolitika ng Partido Sosyalista [Gimenez-Maceda 1990; isang pagkukulang ang pagkalimot kay Aguilar sa ulat ni Almario noong 1974).  Matindi pa rin ang mensahe ni Aguilar. Ambag ito sa pagbuo at paglusog ng Nagkakaisang Hanay sa pakiki-baka upang matamo ang pambansang demokrasya at awtentikong kasarinlan. Sa bisyon ng utopyang pinakamimithi, sinalamin ang nakaririmarim na realidad at sa negasyon ng negasyong ito, sa diyalektika ng kasaysayan at interbensiyon ng lakas-paggawa, naipakita ni Aguilar na may kaakit-akit na kinabukasan ang dinuduhaging sambayanan. Pambihira ang maigting at maantig na sining ng nobelistang nagmana ng mapanuring talisman ng Katipunan at rebolusyonaryong tradisyon ng bansa, sining na dapat nating ipagkapuri bilang sandata sa pagsulong ng sosyalis-tang transpormasyon ng buong daigdig.

Mula Analisis Tungo sa Pansamantalang Sintesis

Testimonyo ang akdang ito na dagling sinagupa ni Aguilar ang hamon ng lumalalang kri-sis sa panahon ng Cold War. Ubos-kayang binalikat ang pag-unawa sa kahulugan at implikasyon ng masalimuot na pakikibaka ng kapwa Filipino laban sa minanang institusyon, praktika’t kaisi-pan. Pagkatapos ilahad ang pagdurusa ng taumbayan sa kalupitan ng mananakop, na iniulat sa librong Nang Magdaan ang Daluyong (1945), sinikap ni Aguilar na itampok ang tunggalian ng mga uri sa nayon ng Sulitan. Pag-usig sa analisis ng hidwaan hinggil sa makatarungang pagha-hati ng produkto (ani) at makatwirang pagtrato sa ingkilino’t trabahador ang susing usapin. Isi-nadula ni Aguilar ang maapoy na labanan ng pesante-versus-maylupa sa paraan ng paghimay sa  politika ng pangangailangang seksuwal. Nakabuod ito sa tanong: sino ang may karapatan sa katawan at diwa ng kababaihan? Pagliripin ang motibo ng  pagkatiwalag ni Amando Magat sa larangan ng pagnanais sa babae at repleksiyon ng pagkilala ng sinusuyo. Hindi niya itinakwil ang babae; mistulang itinadhana ang pagkakakilanlan na nagbuhat sa komunidad, hindi sa asawa. Sa pangungulila, ibinuhos ni Magat ang sigla sa pagkamit ng pagsasarili sa tulong ng inarugang du-nong at tiyaga. Ang mga tagpo ng engkuwentro niya kay Lorina ay maipapasiyang bahagi ng proyektong igupo ang patriyarkong orden at itaguyod ang demokratikong paninindigang nabalaho sa masahol na karanasan niya sa kamay nina Don Rehino, Mang Sayas at Mang Tano.

Sintomas ng paglaho ng rehimeng piyudal ang pagbuo’t paglawak ng impluwensiya ng kolektibistang Buklod ng Malayang Mamamayan. Sa halip na patriyarkong totem ang suubin ng magbubukid, ina ng punong protagonistang Magat, si Tandang Siray ang hinirang na simbolo ng inaapi’t nagsisikhay na komunidad. Binhi’t bunga iyon ng mobilisasyon ng sosyedad sibil sa kanayunan. Tumingkad ang kontradiksiyon ng puwersang yumayari (pesante, anakpawis) at ug-nayang umiiral na tahasang sumusugpo sa potensiyal ng taumbayan. Ang tusong Don Rehino ang lalaking sumasagisag sa patriyarkong piyudal. Alalahanin na hindi lamang lupain at tao ang binibili niya kundi kaluluwa at espiritu. Si Sikuterat ang saserdote ng mistipikasyong laganap. Mula rito ibinalangkas at inugitan ng tagapagsalaysay ang salamangkang dulot ng mga mer-senaryong taga-maniobra ng madla, mga aksiyong nagsisiwalat sa kasamaan ng mga  oportun-istang politiko at opisyal ng burokrasya sa Maynila na mahigpit na kasangkot sa sigalot sa kana-yunan. 

Sa Paglagom, Ano ang Dapat Gawin?
Napansin na natin sa simula na ang halalan sa Sulitan ay salamin ng madaya’t mapanlin-lang na ideolohiya’t praktika ng mga uring naghahari. Sa larangan ng pagkontrol sa publikong yaman nagpapaligsahan ang lakas ng salapi ng komprador/may-lupa laban sa lakas ng etikang makalipunan, ang damayan at pagmamalasakit ng komunidad (Sittlichkeit, sa pilosopiya ni Hegel [1977, 266-76]). Hindi lahat ay nalubog sa kabulukan; may pag-asang nakaluklok sa malay at budhi ng anakpawis. Nakataya ang karapatan at dangal ng mga magsasaka’t trabahador sa harap ng walang humpay na paninikil at panggigipit ng Estadong bumubuwelo sa utos ng oligarkiyang nagsisilbing alila ng ideolohiya’t armadong aparato ng imperyalistang kapital.
Naiungkat na sa pambungad ang tanong kung matutuklasan kaya ang kaligtasan ng sam-bayanan sa pormalistikong ritwal ng eleksiyon. Walang pasubaling hindi, bagamat nagsilbing okasyon iyon upang maitambad ang katotohanan sa kombulsyon ng budhi ng mga anakpawis. Naimungkahi na natin ang padron ng pagsubok at paglipat ng kabuhayan ni Magat sa malayong lugar na magdudulot ng pagkakataon upang magpanibagong-buhay (tulad ng EDCOR ni Mag-saysay para sa ilang gerilyang sumuko [Constantino 1978, 240-41]). Naibunsod sa hakbang na isinakatuparan ni Magat ang pagtimbang sa bisa ng produksiyong siyentipiko’t makalipunan bi-lang puwersang sisira sa atrasadong relasyong panlipunan. Iyon din ang makapagpapalit sa ug-nayang mapanupil ng ama-anak, at makasusulong sa transpormasyon ng awtoritaryang pamilya at sa pagwasak ng pribadong pag-aari sa reproduktibong lakas ng babae. Pag-isipan natin ang katuturan sa naratibo ng pakikipagsapalaran ni Magat, ang pagkabigo niyang maging asawa ni Sinday sa umpisa at sa gayo’y maging ama ng pamilyang tradisyonal. Anong oryentasyon ng papel na ginanap ni Magat bilang mapanlansing kritiko ng dominasyon ng patriarkong kapan-gyarihan? Nawasak ni Magat ang kaharian ni Don Rehino; ang tahanan ng burgesyang kamag-anakan ay naging arena ng politikang seksuwal, isang palapag sa transisyon mula piyudal at maka-negosyanteng yugto ng moda ng produksiyon tungo sa isang maka-proletaryong kaayusan ng pakikipagkapuwa-tao (Zaretsky 1976; Bourdieu 1998; Haug 1992).
Sa lundo ng kasabikan sa pagkakalas ng banghay ng nobela, sandaling humupa ang si-lakbo ng rebelyon ng masang nilulupig. Sadyang ibinaling ng awtor ang punto-de-bista sa prob-lema ng ugnayang seksuwal/sikolohikal. Sa ligalig na sumindak sa di-umano’y panatag na Suli-tan (tumatayo sa Republikang nasaklot ng giyera ng Huk at ng rehimeng Magsaysay/CIA), suriin natin muli ang bumabalisang kwestiyon: nasaan ang kaligtasang pangako ng titulo ng no-bela? Matatagpuan kaya iyon sa Tomayon o sa pagkabigo sa iskema nina Lorina at Don Rehino? Sa planong isinaayos ng dalawang naglalaro ng biruang seksuwal, masisinag ang arketipong disenyo ng takbo ng pamilihan/palengke sa pagpapalitan ng katawan ng babae bilang komoditi o kagamitan—isang instrumento, hindi halagang may sariling layon o nesesidad. Bawal ang incest, pagtatalik ng mga kadugo—ito ang prinsipyo ng dinamikong lipunan. Pahiwatig ito ng mga ina, marahil multo ni Tandang Siray. Bagamat lumipas na ang panahon ng matriyarkong lipunan (Thomson 1965; Mangahas 2019) at mga babaylang katutubo, ginamit ng naratibo ang kompeti-syon ng mga lalaking supling ng sinaunang Hari-Ama bilang alegorya ng pagtatagisan ng mga komprador-maylupa kasabwat ang burokratiko-kapitalista sa eksplotasyon ng likas-yaman at la-kas-paggawa ng bansa. Walang kahihinatnan ang kompromisong pinasok ng mga kolonisadong oligarkiyang kasapakat ng imperyalismo. Malulustay ang enerhiya o elan vital ng taumbayan, kasangkot na ang potensiyal nito sa paglikha ng isang maluwalhating kinabukasan para sa sang-katauhan.
Sa wakas, nagwagi si Amando Magat at ang prinsipyo ng kolektibismo. Matamang naibunyag sa ama ni Lorina na walang kapangyarihan ang mga patriyarkong bulag sa pagsulong ng sibilisasyon. Nabuwag ang awtoridad ng ama sa pag-igting ng indibidwalismo (nina Lorina at Sinday) at pag-ibayong sigla ng kapisanan ng Buklod. Malabo ang kinabukasan ng anak ni Lorina, samantalang si Sinday ay maparaang nakatakas sa aliping mentalidad. Naligtas kapuwa sa pagsisisi at subordinasyon sa lumang kaayusan. Igiit natin dito ang distansiya ng Tomayon at Sulitan, ng masalimuot na kontradiksiyon ng Estado at sosyedad sibil, ng publiko at pribadong paninindigan, ang ilang nagmamay-ari at maraming ninakawan. Walang pasubaling si Magat ang representatibo ng modernidad sa kaniyang matagumpay na paglinang ng kanyang pag-aari sa Tomayon, ang mala-utopyang antitesis o katumbalikan ng Sulitan.
Subalit nag-uulik-ulik ang sensibilidad ng kritiko. Pahiwatig ba ito na lahat ay maaaring tumahak sa landas ni Magat at paunlarin ang sariling kapakanan sa ngalan ng komunidad?. Paano ang sawimpalad na mga magbubukid at trabahador na hindi nakapag-aral, o walang moti-basyon, patuloy na nagdarahop, nalugmok sa mga nayong katulad ng Sulitan at sa mga maalin-sangang looban ng Maynila? Lahat ba ay puwedeng maging Amando Magat, matalino’t mapan-gahas na bayani ng Kaligtasan?—###


Bourdieu, Pierre. 2001. Masculine Domination. Stanford: Stanford University Press.o.
Constantino, Renato. 1978. The Philippines: The Continuing Past. Quezon City: The Foundation for Nationalist Studies.
Haug, Frigga. 1992. Beyond Female Masochism. New York: Verso.
Hegel, G.W.F. 1977. The Phenomenology of Spirit. New York: Oxford University Press.
Mangahas, Fe. 2019. Ang Babaylan sa Kasaysayan. Quezon City: U.P. Diliman Gender Office.
Thomson, George. 1965. Studies in Ancient Greek Society. New York: The Ciradel Press.
Zaretsky, E. 1976. Capitalism, the Family, and Personal Life. New York: Harper and Row.



PRAGMATISM & MARXISM: An Articulation by E. San Juan,Jr.


by E. San Juan, Jr.

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If we can trust to the lessons of the history of the human mind, of the history of habits of life, development does not take place chiefly by imperceptible changes but by revolutions… That habit alone can produce development I do not believe. It is catastrophe, accident, reaction which brings habit into an active condition and creates a habit of
changing habits.

—Charles Sanders Peirce, The New Elements of Mathematics (1979)

Humans make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past….Communism as the positive transcendence of private property, or human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being—a return become conscious, and accomplished within the entire wealth of previous development.

—Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte; 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1978)
Why Peirce and Marx? But why not? As we approach the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution and the death anniversary of the United States’s most innovative philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, it might be a wise ecumenical gesture to review the fraught, even contentious, relation between Marxism and pragmaticism. A precautionary word: I use Peirce’s “ugly” rubric “pragmaticism” to distinguish it from the vulgarized coopted use of the term to classify the world-views of William James, John Dewey, Richard Rorty, and latter-day saints of neoconservative instrumentalism. “Pragmatism” is used here to designate the broad tendency.

Peirce’s insights have suffered a sea-change since his death in 1914. His notion of continuity welcomed growth, mutation, variability. Either awesome or awful, postmodern neopragmatism—despite Cornel West’s (1993) conciliatory defense—serves today as the ideology of globalized predatory capitalism par excellence. Peirce who subtly denounced US imperialist annexation of the Philippines in 1899 would be appalled by Rorty’s unconscionable jingoist ethnocentrism (Haack 2018). Today, Peirce’s logic of diagrammatic hypothesis-making or abduction is being exploited by business, government, and military Establishments in a globalized economy managed by the knowledge-industry (Burch 2010). In any case, Peirce’s thought/influence remains an event, a process of interrogation, in progress.

Early on Peirce felt scandalized that he had become an overnight celebrity due to James’s popularization of selected formulas and idioms ostensibly derived from Peirce. In 1878, Peirce qualified the Cartesian requirement for ideas to be clear and distinct with a third criterion for propositions to be meaningful, namely, practical consequences (Weiss 1965; Bernstein 2010). The phrase “practical consequences” (in the sense of a guide to future practice, not current usefulness for private ends) has become the source of persistent misconstruals. Peirce stated: “Consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object” (1998, 146). In one of his last caveats on how to interpret the maxim, he stipulated that the elements of every concept in logical thought enter “at the gate of perception and make their exit at the gate of purposive action” (998, 241) or “controlled conduct” with an ethical rationality. In this context, John Dewey’s term “instrumentalism” is not only rebarbative but inappropriate for Peirce’s world-view.

In the widely-quoted Pragmatism, William James offered a cheap psychological fix: “Ideas become true just so far as they help us get into satisfactory relations with other parts of our experience” (1955, 12). This is a feel-good recipe for mass consumption. James’s valorization of self-centered expediency or pivate utility compelled Peirce to disclaim any complicity with it. The lesson seems clear. We need to rectify not only our terms but also their references or designata, better yet, their interpretants if we hope to rescue pragmaticism from transmogrification, and re-establish a fruitful dialogic transaction between these two streams of radical or non-conformist thought. Our agenda in part is an affair of unraveling Peirce’s “snarl of twine.”

Suspicions Sparked by the “Glassy Essence”

Suspicion if not outright hostility has characterized the participants of this vexatious dialogue. Obviously the task of comparison cannot be done outside already sedimented parameters, doctrinally charged contexts, and polemical presuppositions. One can try only at the risk of exacerbating, or even confounding, the motives and goals of such a dialogue. Perhaps the most provocative scholarly review of this fraught relation to date was Brian Lloyd’s Left Out: Pragmatism, Exceptionalism, and the Poverty of American Marxism 1890-1922 (1997), which aroused predominantly adversarial reactions. Obviously Lloyd restricted himself only to a limited historical period and well-known protagonists, not even seriously engaging with Peirce’s theses and arguments. As Michael Denning aptly remarked, Lloyd begged the question of pragmatism’s originality by subjecting the “theoretical acumen” of one of its applications, the Debsian socialist program, to the “litmus tests of the European war and the Bolshevik Revolution” (1998, 39). Lacking the historical specificities grounding the emergence of such phenomena as revolutionary industrial unionism, Veblen, radical Darwinism, etc., Lloyd failed to explain the exact measure in which such theories acquired their rationale from the interplay of social forces, intellectuals, and historical legacies. That is why Lloyd excludes such players as W.E.B. Du Bois and C.L.R. James in his narrative of anti-capitalist ideas and movements, not to mention late-nineteenth century anticolonialists such as the Filipino intellectuals, Jose Rizal and Isabelo de los Reyes (San Juan 2008), and the Cuban Jose Marti (Lewis 1993).

Right off, I should warn the reader that I am not concerned here with elaborating on the virtues or inadequacies of Lloyd’s work (which deserves a separate essay). The point simply is to underscore the importance of this heuristic attempt to find analogues, if not echoes, of materialist dialectics in Peirce’s speculations. A cognate enterprise focused on a single figure which may profitably be compared with Lloyd is Christopher Phelps’ Young Sidney Hook: Pragmatist and Marxist (1997). Again, I will refer to Hook only insofar as his inflection of pragmatist motifs might be useful in demarcating it from Peirce’s evolutionary/cataclysmic hypothesizing apparatus (see Anderson 1995, 198-200; Jameson 2009, 140).

This schematic mapping also involves the more troubling question of Marxism and its historical interpretation and concrete realization. This pertains to the multiple marxisms, not just “Western Marxism” (Lukacs, Gramsci, Adorno). Aside from disavowing any longing for some authentic or true marxism, I believe something can be gained by socialist militants becoming familiar with Peirce’s semiotics and the value of his normative realism in the critique of fashionable Nietzschean/Heideggerian avantgardism, for example, or its parodies. We cannot escape Karl Korsch’s advice that Marxism be grasped as centered on historical specification (1971). This coincides with Lukacs’ own insight that Marxism is really the unity of theory and practice hinging on the dialectical/historical method of analyzing systemic change (1971). Neither Lenin’s axioms nor the Bolshevik paradigm can serve as the universal measure of the potential value of Peirce’s original discoveries. Nor can the failures of its alleged proponents be considered decisive in spelling the end of a complex research program first envisioned by Peirce as the elucidation of meaning generating controlled praxis or conduct, including the analysis of the purport of propositions claiming to be substantive, productive knowledge (on the Peircean linkage of theory and praxis, see Apel 1995; Bernstein 1971).

We are engaged here with the history of ideas/theories in their historical grounding and sociopolitical resonance. Just as Marx sought to fuse theory and practice, dismantling the conventional disjunction of traditional materialism and pietistic idealism, Peirce conceived his task as a singular if necessary one: it is that of defining the proper vocation of the philosopher/public intellectual as the discoverer of testable knowledge by a community of inquirers. To put it another way, it is essentially the resolution of philosophy’s salient and enduring problems by reconstructing the foundations of logic, of the scientific method, within an evolutionary communal perspective. By the same token, pragmatism also has to be judged in terms of historical specificity and local efficacity. Its practictioners, from Peirce and James to Dewey, Mead, Quine, Putnam, and others, need to be framed in the historical context of the cultural, political and economic conflicts of their times, that is, the concrete contradictions in the U.S. social formation within the global historical process (Wells 1965; Lear’s 1981; San Juan 2018). Accordingly, our itinerary will be tentative and provisional, treated basically as steps in the interminable road of inquiry, heeding Peirce’s slogan not to block that road.
Purged from the Sanctuary

We might inquire less on how pragmatism became the object of attack by Marxist critics as on what key ideas seem most objectionable. A history of misconstruals can eventually be drawn up after sketching the “bones of contention.” Elaborations of these crucial anathemas and oppositions may be sampled here. Apart from the somewhat inept condemnation of pragmatism as a “philosophy of imperialism” mounted by Harry K. Wells in 1954, one may cite the Trotskyite George Novack’s treatise, “Dialectical Materialism vs. Pragmatism: The Logic of John Dewey” (1974; later published as a book in 1975) and the orthodox British Marxist’s Maurice Conforth’s Science Versus Idealism: In Defense of Philosophy against Positivism and Pragmatism (1962; reprinted in 1975). As late as 1976, John Hoffman lumps pragmatism as a species of “subjective idealism” (145) similar to empiricism, phenomenalism, and positivism. This is long after the 1967 publication of Karl-Otto Apel’s judicious summing-up of Peirce’s philosophy and its refutation of neopositivism and crude empiricism ascribed to Peirce. A survey of the attacks against pragmatism as consolidated in John Dewey’s instrumentalism, but also implicating William James, will be attempted on another occasion.

For a start, let us look at the definition given by the Soviet authorities. The 1967 edition of A Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by M. Rosenthal and P. Yudin, sets a standard for delimiting pragmatism as subjective idealism or obscurantism. Peirce is charged for being responsible for the principle of determining the value of truth by “its practical utility.” To William James is ascribed the practice of solving philosophical disputes “by means of comparing ‘practical consequences; truth, for pragmatists, is ‘what works best in the way of leading us, what fits every part of life best and combines with the collectivity of experience’s demands” (1967, 357). The tendentious manner of quoting is revealing. The Soviet authors further ascribe a subjectivist understanding of practice and truth to pragmatists, making a concept an instrument of action (Dewey) and “cognition as the sum total of subjective truths,” as in the humanism of British philosopher F.C.S. Schiller. The Dictionary posits the belief that pragmatists uphold the “subjective interests of the individual,” which are equated with “practical utility.” The pragmatists are labelled “radical empiricists,” identifying objective reality with experience in which subject and object are permanently disjoined and polarized.

The Soviet text thus indicts pragmatism as subjectivist because it limits truth to practical utility viewed from an individualist optic, from crass expediency. James is dismissed as an open irrationalist, Dewey a covert one who regards the laws and forms of logic as useful fictions. The brunt of the charge is uncompromising: “Pragmatism subscribes to meliorism in ethics, while in sociology it varies from the cult of “outstanding individuals” (James) and apology for bourgeois democracy (Dewey) to an outright defence of racism and fascism (F.C.S. Schiller)” (1967, 358). Sidney Hook is then charged for anti-communism, for his “experimental naturalism.” Other manifestations are condemned: C.W. Morris’ semantic idealism, P. W. Bridgman’s operationism (sic) , and the equally reprehensible logical formalism of C.I. Lewis, R. Carnap and W. Quine. Finally the Soviet experts conclude that pragmatism has given way to neo-positivism and religion as the dominant influence on the spiritual life of the United States (for updated reports on the controversy, see McClellan 1988; Trohler, Schlag & Osterwalder 2010)

A clue to the stubborn fixation on characterizing pragmatism as subjectivism may be found in the entry on Peirce in the Dictionary. Peirce allegedly decreed the law that “the value of an idea lies in its practical results” (1967, 335). And because results are identified with sensations, Peirce becomes a follower of Berkeley. This subjective-idealist theory of knowledge is then tied to the three methods of pragmatism: the methods of persistence, of authority, and the scientific method. The last statement was a blatant error, so it was omitted in the 1984 reprint. Finally, the authors acknowledge that Peirce also worked out an objective-idealist theory of development based on the principle of “chance” and “love” as guiding forces. Nonetheless Peirce is credited with having made significant contributions to semiotics, the theory of probability and the logic of relations (for innovative exfoliations of Peircean concepts, see Shapiro 1995; Colapietro 2000).

Genealogy of Mystifications

How the Soviet experts can completely mis-read Peirce’s texts, may be clarified by examining the possible source of this muddle. In his polemic Pragmatism: Philosophy of Imperialism, Harry K. Wells identified the three methods of fixing belief that Peirce outlined as those of pragmatism. Clearly Peirce rejected the first two traditional methods, tenacity and authority, and proposed the third, the method of science. But Wells dismissed this as demagogy and solipsism, charging Peirce with positivism. This tack is often repeated in numerous “Marxist” judgments of pragmatism implicating Peirce’s early essays of 1877-78, “The Fixation of Belief” and “How To Make Our Ideas Clear” (1998), without reference to the more substantial expositions of pragmaticism in the last decades of his life (Robin 1998; San Juan 2014).

Peirce’s pragmaticism needs to be historically specified to distinguish the early nominalist leanings and the later realist conviction. His early formulations (expressed originally in those two foundational essays but modified later in 1903 Harvard Lectures on pragmatism) seem to be so enigmatic that they generate the opposite of what they purport to convey. When Peirce argues that scientific beliefs depend on “some external permanency” not dependent on any single individual consciousness, Wells interprets this as a denial of the objective material world. When Peirce asserts that “Reality, like every other quality, consists in the peculiar sensible effects which things partaking of it produce…” and that in turn “cause belief” when reworked in consciousness, Wells accuses Peirce of reducing reality to a belief or a habit of action in which “we act as though a thing were real” (1954, 37). While Peirce was striving to emphasize that reality does not depend on individual interest, Wells adamantly insists that Peirce was proposing a “doctrine of sheer expediency in means and ends, the doctrine that the end justifies the use of any means” (39). Such distortions are typical, replicated and inflected in various ways.

One would think that after a decade or more, Peirce’s ideas would finally receive a more intelligent reading. The highly acclaimed Marxist thinker Leszek Kolakowski follows the trend of labeling Peirce a positivist and, more flagrantly, a nominalist. He focuses on Peirce’s pragmatic test of meaning. The meaning of any statement lies in “what practical consequences it involves. Peirce explicitly goes so far as to say that the meaning of a judgment is entirely exhausted in its practical consequences” (1968, 151). But practical testability did not constitute truth, Kolakowski explains, since for Peirce, truth was “a relation of correspondence between judgments and actual states of affairs” which empirical criteria help humans to discover. On the contrary, Peirce’s triadic semiotics required various interpretants to mediate actualities and thought-signs leading to the transvaluation/reconstruction of habitual behavior (Dussel 2013). While correctly estimating Peirce as chiefly concerned with “perfecting knowledge, not with its possible immediate benefits,” Kolakowski insists that Peirce’s denial of essences or any authentic reality behind phenomena distinguish him as a positivist, a “champion of scientism,” who holds that all questions that cannot be settled by the natural and deductive sciences be ignored or relegated to the realm of nonsense.

This is directly contradicted by Peirce’s belief that “our logically controlled thoughts compose a small part of the mind (1998, 241). The fact is that Peirce posited in Firstness the source of inexhaustible qualities, not a Kantian incognizable essence but a real generality retroducted or abducted by intersubjective communication (Habermas 1971, 135-37). This is the cognizable reality behind primitive sense-data which by inference becomes perceptual judgments, the outcome of intellectual operations. Moreover, Peirce emphasized that the act of conceiving effects translatable into habits of action allows “any flight of imagination, provided this imagination ultimately alights upon a possible practical effect” (1998, 235), with the imagination operative in the “general purposiveness” of action immanent in the category of Thirdness (on Peirce’s emergent ethics, see the essays in Parret 1994; San Juan 2018).

Why was Peirce engaged in examining the formation of beliefs (rules of action), habits of action, the interface between rationality and conduct? Kolakowski cannot reconcile the larger ethical and political implications of Peirce’s inquiry, a task fully explored by the German philosophers Apel (1967; 1995) and Jurgen Habermas (1971). Nonetheless, Kolakowski concludes that in his theory of meaningfulness, Peirce belongs to the school of the Vienna logical positivists, associating him with Bertrand Russell, Alfred Ayer, and the early Ludwig Wittgenstein. Ayer, however, astutely separates James’s notion of the “cash value” of words evoking sense-experiences from Peirce’s scientific standards of fixing the meaning of words based on publicly repeatable procedures and evolving changes in our apprehension of the laws of nature (1982). However, this is not merely abstract formal verification as performed by the Vienna School and their followers; it involves prediction of outcomes of possible action, with social values and purposes invested in the logical clarification of meanings. As Kaplan puts it, pragmatist knowledge is not just a record of the past but “a reconstruction of the present directed toward fulfillments in the emerging future” (1961, 27).

It is not extravagant to reiterate a corrective to the prevailing doxa: Peirce’s pragmatism hinges on the thesis that “the rational purport of a word or other expression lies exclusively in its conceivable bearing upon the conduct of life,” in effect, on paradigms or frameworks of beliefs enabling purposive action/practice (Maurer 1966, 627).

“By Their Fruits, Ye Shall Know Them”

Before proceeding further in registering misreadings and one-sided glosses, let us review the fundamental theorems behind Pierce’s pragmaticist intervention.
The distinctive feature of Peirce’s theoretical stance is his affirmation of the reality of generals, of concepts that enable thought and the production of knowledge. This conviction regarding real general forces and objects constitutes Peirce’s realism (of the moderate kind aligned with the scholastic realism of Duns Scotus). He describes his position thus: “No collection of facts can constitute a law, for the law goes beyond any accomplished facts and determines how facts that may be, but all of which never can have happened, shall be characterized. There is no objection to saying that a law is a general fact, provided that it be understood that the general has an admixture of potentiality, so that no congeries of actions here and now can ever make a general fact” (1.420). For Peirce, “What anything really is, is what it may finally come to be known to be in the ideal state of complete information, so that reality depends on the ultimate decision of the community” of inquirers (5.316). In the key notion of “potentiality,” which functions in Peirce’s analysis of the shifting roles of chance and determination, one may discern the motive-force of change, novelty, and sociohistorical transformations in people’s lives. Not only is the new always in the process of emerging; movements in reality are prefigured and anticipated in the deployment and articulation of signs.

Whatever inadequacies Peirce’s postulation contains, this fundamental realism is diametrically opposed to nominalism which characterizes the foundational platform of positivists, idealists, neopragmatists. This realism is more the scholastic Scotist type, not to be confused with Platonism (Boler 2004). The nominalists are concerned only with particulars, dismissing generals or universal concepts as mere names, arbitrary fictions useful for language-games. Thus for nominalists there is no such thing as beauty or virtue, only particulars with properties that can be designated beautiful or virtuous. Facts, events, objects are entirely disconnected, for the nominalists; only the mind unites them. This also explains the voguish rejection by deconstructionists and transnationlizing scholars of all generalities stigmatized as essentialism or universalism, or any claim to discovering knowledge applicable to societies across a range of cultures, times and places. An agnostic relativism ensues, with its attendant politics of nihilism or opportunism, at best of charitable pluralism and its latter incarnation, humanitarian imperialism (the refurbished version of the old “civilizing mission” of European empires).

But how do we define a concept? Peirce holds that if we act in a certain manner, then we will have certain experiences providing ideas—the practical result; these ideas constitute the meaning of the concept or general being defined. According to Peirce: “In order to ascertain the meaning of an intellectual conception one should consider what practical consequences might conceivably result by necessity from the truth of that conception, and the sum of these consequences will constitute the entire meaning of the conception” (5.9). Note that “consequences” here simply means the process of connecting antecedents and consequents; the sum-total of those connections, sense-experiences eventually arranged into beliefs and habits of action, will enable the discovery of the relation between general ideas and reality (outside of any one’s mind), which Peirce’s realism privileges as the goal of experimental inquiry.

Peirce’s realism underlies his theory of the scientific method. In this way belief is fixed by the pressure of reality, not our consciousness, by means of publicly observable modes of investigation leading to some agreement, a social consensus. This socialized cooperative endeavor ultimately leads to the achievement of “concrete reasonableness.” It advances knowledge and the human control of the social and natural environments. Peirce argues that “reasoning is essentially a voluntary act, over which we exercise control…Logic is rooted in the social principle” (2.144, 654), hence the directionality or motivated character of communal inquiry/social reconstruction.

To be sure, the charge of subjectivism immediately dissolves when we bear in mind Peirce’s stricture: “The real is that which is not whatever we happen to think, but is unaffected by what we may think of it” (8.12). This coincides with the Marxist principle of epistemic realism, with theory as “empirically controlled retroduction of an adequate account of the structures producing the manifest phenomena of socioeconomic life” (Bhaskar 1983, 434). Knowing what is true is then not a result of copying of appearances (the reflectionist or correspondence view of truth) but a product of a process of systematic inquiry. Theory, the field of generals for Peirce, involves the making of hypothesis, more precisely abduction (the pragmatic maxim, in short) as the positing of universal propositions about structures (generals) inferred from perceptual judgments in experience (more on abduction later).
From Catacombs to Cosmopolis

Realism (inflected as naturalism and materialism) embraces both epistemology and a research program, Peirce’s “logic of inquiry.” Antithetical to Alex Callinicos’ (1985) claim that Marx’s realism holds that reality is independent of all interpretive activity, the second thesis on Feuerbach proclaims that “the question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but a practical question” (Marx-Engels 1978, 144). Marx concurs with Peirce provided “practice” is broadened to include the whole repertoire of logical-semiotic experimentation, with its ethical and aesthetic resonance. Both Marx and Peirce recognized an objective reality independent of consciousness, but they also subscribed to the historicity of knowledge, to the susceptibility of cognitive agents to unfolding its virtue in its material-secular consequences.

Analogous to Marx and Engel’s reliance on organic intellectuals of the proletariat, Peirce also emphasized the community of knowledge-seekers, not solitary geniuses, committed to the pursuit of knowledge. It is a collective project sustained by publicly shared results and the fallible process of verification: “The opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate is what we mean by the truth, and the object represented in this opinion is the real” (5.407). Truth then is the outcome of social agreement, subject to the test of falsifiability, and open to correction; a truth-claim refers to the real, to objective reality. Peirce’s theory of reality emerges from communal agreement adjusted to the needs of society, to the consensual program of social transformation.

Accordingly, reality is defined in terms of correlated human experiences, common deliberations, and comparative testing of results governed by rationally agreed rules of action. The process of knowing thus is a practical activity, though this does not reduce science to merely an epiphenomenal expression of the historical Zeitgeist and consequent ethical relativism. Nature and social forms are transitory and emergent, but their appearances cannot be fully cognized or comprehended without positing structures/theoretical ensembles via abduction, hypothetical inferences, and evaluating them via deduction, induction, and even intuitive guesses. Marx and Peirce are agreed on this methodological principle. When Marx’s historic rationalism (its progressive impetus informs Peirce’s “concrete reasonableness”) is combined with a nuanced epistemic realism, we obtain the most creative transaction between Peirce’s pragmaticism and Marx-Engel’s practical materialism and its singular mode of dialectical reasoning based on what John Bellamy Foster calls “the logic of emergence” (2000, 233), or what Bertell Ollman calls “the philosophy of internal relations” (2003;.see also Bodington 1978; for an early review of the conflicted relation between scientism and Marxism, see Aronowitz 1988).

For Peirce the critical realist, the actual regularity of the universe can be explained by the action of forces acting in accordance with laws, but also accounting for deviations. In Marx’s view, the phenomenal appearances in the universe can be understood only from hypothetical structures (for example, value) which are irreducible to phenomena or sense-data. The concrete real can be grasped in thought by a critical transformation of pre-existing theories and conceptions constitutive of the phenomena being analyzed. Marx, however, required the testing of hypothesis through praxis. Likewise, Peirce subjected hypotheses to tests and practical results converging in common agreement. Perhaps this impelled Peirce to posit mind (later, a non-psychic Interpretant) as basic when it is linked to habits that assume natural lawlike behavior; however, such habits are never precise nor rigid, hence the intervention of absolute chance in the universe. This is the dimension of historicism that “Western Marxists” (such as Adorno, Marcuse, etc.) adopted in reaction to a deterministic, positivist science that dominated the triumphalist technocrats of the Stalinist epoch.

One needs to stress here that Peirce’s science is definitely not mechanistic, without feedback checks, teleological, nor hermeneutically opaque to humanistic traditions and social exigencies. Nor is it premised on Enlightenment meliorism tied to Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer. One can speculate that Peirce’s doctrine of tychism (enabled by the categories of Firstness and Secondness) emerged in diametric opposition to various forms of scientistic determinism. Because habits congregate and form larger networks, totalities, wholes (his theory of synechism), Peirce holds that the universe is moving from domination by chance at the start toward complete order through habit-formation and its purpose-directed mutations. This process of evolution impelled by an inner principle of creative love, leading to a stage in which everything is infused with “Reasonableness,” the universe becoming “a vast representtcoamen, a great symbol of God’s purpose, working out its conclusions in living realities” (5.119). Evolution, however, generates good results (“the realization of the dormant idea”) and also an indifferent outcome in the “variation of types,” a tychistic “corollary of the general principles of Synechism,”—the principle of inexhaustible, creative possibility which always outruns actuality (1992, 11, 53-54).

So much for Pierce’s metaphysical speculations that resemble those of Alfred North Whitehead and other scientific thinkers engaged in cosmological extrapolations. For example, Peter Ochs (2005) has finessed Peirce’s schema into a flexible theosemiotics that would gloss the logic of scripture to repair society’s maladies, a maneuver analogous to deconstructive, while others would articulate Peircean linguistics with Freudian psychoanalysis (Colapietro 2000) and with film and media theory, specifically the anatomy of scandals as :narrative meaning production (Ehrat 2005; Ehrat 2011). The power of Peircean semiotics is only beginning to be confirmed and appreciated.
Constellation of Modalities

Generality and potentiality are linked together in Peirce’s theorizing of knowledge and the horizon of inquiry. This parallels Marx’s interface of mode of production and social relations in the analysis of historical development. The moot point is how change or motion proceeds and is grasped on various levels of abstraction. How to describe and interpret the import of matter in motion, history, this logic of emergence of social life in nature, not only the past and present but also the future, both potentiality and actuality–all these can be illuminated and charted by Peirce’s semiotics along the path that Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao and others have traced, provided we take into account the historic origin and limits of Peirce’s metaphysics within the epoch of the United States’ transition from industrial capitalism to imperialism, from the end of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the annexation of Cuba and the Philippines, and World War I (see Kolko 1984; Zinn 1980; Zwick 2001).

Before we pursue this theme further, it is necessary to expound Peirce’s epistemology, closely tied to his semiotics or triadic theory of signs. Next to the nominalist-realist demarcation which clears up the muddle caused by tagging Peirce as a positivist, Peirce’s categorial scheme might be the best key to unfolding what may be his immanent dialectics. “Methodeutic,” or “Speculative Rhetoric” is Peirce’s rubric for dialectics (Anderson 1995,52-56). His version is one much more infinitely complicated than Engels in its articulation of the interweaving of complex varieties of signs or signifying processes that comprise patterns of experience, including variations or changes in cultural styles, tastes, norms–in short, the stratified and differentiated reality that Marx treated in Capital. In both the Grundrisse and Marx’s Notes on Adolph Wagner (Carver 1975), we encounter Marx’s methodological principle that while transhistorical structures or concepts are necessary, the experience and institutions of specific societies at different periods, as well as the complex of historical determinations that comprise its concrete reality, need to be carefully investigated and meticulously analyzed. That lesson was drawn from criticizing the reductionist fallacies vitiating the political economy of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, etc.

While analytically distinct, Peirce’s ontological categories of Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness are articulations of modes of being, not transcendental dogmatic absolutes. They operate differently in logic, metaphysics, epistemology, language analysis, etc. These three modes of being may resemble the casuistry of scholastic metaphysics, but their application in semiotics and social critique differs from Christian apologetics. They provide the rationale for the pragmatic method of ascertaining the real meaning of any concept, doctrine, proposition, word or other signs. Their connections and transitions spell out the actual configuration of change in observable phenomena, calibrating the play of contingency and determination in the passage and vicissitudes of events, peoples, and their interaction with the biosphere.

The three categories are not hierarchical but interpenetrative or interactive. In summary, Firstness refers to the potentiality of an actual idea, a possibility. It is not the domain of Plato’s hypostatized Forms nor scholastic essences, but a transitional moment between nothing and an existent thought or object; not a nothing but less than an actual thought, only its possibility. Firstness may be a color sensation, not yet red or blue, but only its possibility. The sense experiences are possibilities that may become actualized in the next step of understanding. In terms of the triadic sign-system, Firstness refers to a mere quality, a presence, a sin-sign or icon in relation to its object, the site of novelty and emergences. Firstness is the prelogical, intuitive feature of immediate appearances that defy description. It is the domain of feeling, autonomy, freedom registered in icons.

Secondness designates an actually existing object or event analyzable into qualities and properties of matter. It involves reaction or brute striving, “the blind force [that] is an element of experience distinct from rationality or logical force” (1.220). This is the realm of conflict, antagonism, resistance. In terms of signs, Secondness is a token or sin-sign, an object or event, with indices as signs with dynamic or causal relations to their objects. Secondness is the realm of constraint, effort, struggle, revolutionary agitation and mobilization. In this context, Peirce rejected Hegel’s system committed the “capital error” of ignoring “the Outward Clash…No matter of fact can be stated without the use of some sign serving as an index” (8.41; 2.305; for a pragmatist reading of Hegel, see Brandom 2019).

Meanwhile, we note that qualities of bodies belong to Firstness, but they are actualized when only they are experienced, thereby generating a percept in the mind. In turn this sense-percept or sense-data, the result of a psychological process, appears in consciousness as a feeling or image, already an intellectual judgment. While Peirce asserted that “the percept is the reality” (5.568), to make full sense, immediate perception undergoes modification when the mind confronts linkages and crossings of percepts and begins to abstract concepts expressed in symbols, the realm of Thirdness, of conventions, transhistorical paradigms and structures. This is the realm of manifold sociopolitical argument and debate, the arena of confrontation and the “Outward Clash” of historical forces and classes epitomizing antagonistic modes of production.

We then move to Thirdness, a meaning or general concept, derived from percepts through the power of abstraction (exemplified in the mind’s capacity to infer by induction, deduction, and abduction). Peirce posits the category of Thirdness as mediation, synthesis, articulation, in short, continuity. This is the sphere of generals that constitute meaning; they are real because they have verifiable, external counterparts in the percepts. In the percept one encounters Firstness in the perceived object become actualized. To be meaningful, every abstract concept or idea must refer to a percept (Secondness). All men are mortal, but mortality is not the same for all men; the mortality that belongs to each man is similar to the mortality that belongs to each of his fellow men. It is the same with Marx’s concept of value, the two-fold character of labor concretized historically into use-value and exchange value (Marx-Engels 1978, 308-328). Value is a mediation, a synthesis, which analytically manifests itself disparately as a means of satisfying human need at the same time as it fulfills its role as a circulating commodity in the market.

We confuse similarity with identity when we handle concepts as pure abstractions, or pure Firstness, without reference to their actualization. Peirce made the same point when he noted that for nominalists, “man” is applicable to something real, “but he believes that there is beneath this a thing in itself, an incognizable reality. His is the metaphysical figment….The great argument for nominalism is that there is no man unless there is some particular man” (5.312). Early on Peirce rejected Kant’s unknowable thing-in-itself (in the 1868 essays on “Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man” [1998b, 64-118]). Peirce remarks that the species “man” is real because it may be found in any man by abstracting it from his accidental or particularizing characteristics. We make a distinction between the species in any man and his other accidental characteristics, by the process of abstraction (logical inferences synthesizing perceptual judgments, etc.). The nominalists are the positivists who dare not proceed further than the realm of sense-data, fictional names, atomistic facts. We can see clearly here a parallel with Marx’s discrimination of value into use-value and exchange-value, value itself being a real general comprehensible apart from its varied historical incarnations and without which the variable phenomena–for example, the fetishistic commodity-form–cannot be made intelligible for any purposive research program. Pedagogical intervention becomes a necessity to transcode complex theory into determinate social practice.

From Fixated Beliefs to Conjectured Hope

What are some consequences of this mode of cognizing reality when compared with Marxist historicizing epistemology? Is Peirce’s formulation idealistic or materialist, grounded in Hegelian ideas or empirical observations and rational hypothesis? Is Peirce’s pragmaticist theory of meaning inconsistent with the dialectical schema of investigation as delineated by Bertell Ollman, for example? I have already suggested parallels or analogues between Peircean pragmaticism and Marx’s structuralist-historical dialectics earlier, but a few more affinities may be mentioned here for future elaboration.

By consensus, Marx’s method in analyzing capitalism as a historical system is materialist dialectics with a lineage dating back to Heraclitus and Epicurus up to Diderot and Hegel. Marx criticized the idealist basis of Hegel’s dialectics in various works: Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of the State, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, The Holy Family, The German Ideology, and The Poverty of Philosophy. In demystifying Hegel’s method and rescuing its rational kernel, Marx emphasized the metabolic process welding nature and social labor. The Communist Manifesto delineates the historicity of social forms and attendant ideologies/legitimation rationalizations sutured to developing modes of production.

From another optic such as Roy Bhaskar’s formulation, Marx counterposed to Hegel’s idealist inversion “a conception of universals as properties of particular things, knowledge as irreducibly empirical, and civil society (later modes of production) as the foundation of the state.” Marx replaced Hegel’s “immanent spiritual teleology of infinite, petrified and finite mind” with “a methodological commitment to the empirically-controlled investigation of the causal relations within and between historically emergent, developing humanity and irreducibly real, but modifiable nature” (1983, 123). From Peirce’s perspective, the interaction of nature and society evolved into historically-defined epistemologies, together with varying phenomenologies. In effect, Firstness (potentialities) and Secondness (actualities) were privileged in grasping the concrete determinations of Thirdness, the lawful regularities inferrable by hypothesis or abduction from perceptual judgments. Thirdness, however, can only operate as a result of the synergesis of Firstness and Secondness, just as the semiotic symbol cannot be fully comprehended apart from the constituting stages of the icon and the index.

Overturning the topsy-turvy world of Hegel’s Geist, Marx rejected Hegel’s absolute Spirit and its tacit link with atomistic empiricism, conceiving matter and motion as irreducible to thought. Marx valued differentiation and complexity (as in the notion of uneven and combined development), causal and not conceptual necessity, and empirically verified totalities. This was demonstrated particularly in his discovery of the two-fold character of labor and the existence of surplus labor (a generality) apart from its particular sociohistoric embodiments. He initiated a science of history thickened with nuanced ontological stratification, analysis of rational purposes in social praxis, and a flexible apparatus for charting the vicissitudes of sociohistorical becoming or change (Farr 1991). This way of “doing science differently,” as Daniel Bensaid observed, shown in Marx’s critique of classical political economy “aspires to a different rationality…. Constrained by its object (the social relations and economic rhythms of capital), by the non-linear logic of its temporalities, by disconcerting ‘laws’ that contradict themselves,” Marx’s science deploys “a strategic thought” attentive to what is hidden, obscure, irrational–in short, to chance, as Peirce located it in an open-ended, evolving universe: “The premisses of Nature’s own process are all the independent uncaused elements of fact that go to make up the variety of nature, which the necessitarian supposes to have been all in existence from the foundation of the world, but which the Tychist [partisan of chance] supposes are continually receiving new accretions” (1998a, 194). Qualitative changes in human experience occur within more or less regular patterns of development.

“Prove All Things, Hold Fast That Which is Good”

The core of Marxian dialectics has been the subject of numerous disparate, even incommensurable or incompatible expositions. For this occasion, we can attach it to the way Marx defined the contradictions of capitalism. In one instance, he diagnosed it as deriving from the structural contradictions between the use-value and the value of the commodity, between concrete, useful and abstract social aspects of labor, and their expressions in class antagonisms. Reciprocal interaction, subsumptions, and playful alternations characterize opposites. The fundamental structural contradictions of any social formation (between forces and relations of production, between production and valorization process, etc.) are inclusive oppositions, interpenetrating with each other, all sprung from the historical legacy of the separation of the immediate producers from the means and materials of production and from the nexus of social relations with nature.

Contending that dialectics is universally applicable, Fredrick Engels proposed that it is “the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought” (1931, 39). In his Dialectics of Nature, Engels summed up the three main laws of materialist dialectics, often converted into scriptural dogmas by party fanatics: 1) the transformation of quantity into quality and vice-versa; 2) the interpenetration of opposites, and 3) the negation of the negation (1940, 26). For third-world Marxists in the Sixties, these three laws were condensed in Mao’s aphorism, easily carried out by subaltern vulgarizers: “To know what a pear is, just eat it,” quod erat demonstrandum! Dialectics was reduced to self-evident immediacy, ignoring the capitalist reification of the social totality. Incidentally, pears in the Philippines were imported from the neocolonial power, the masters of US corporate agribusiness.
In retrospect, the empire sponsored the propagation of statistical empiricism and Parsonian structural-functionalism as the legitimizing ideology of modernization. As for Engel’s summation, such “laws” or tendencies also need to be made concrete in thought. One way is by spelling out manifold determinations involving the three modalities that Peirce outlined in order for their meaning to be socially proved via hypothetical inferences, validated by logical rules of deduction, induction, etc. Incidentally, Mao’s empiricist deviation may have been influenced by John Dewey’s missionary lectures during his visit to China in 1919-21, at the height of the May Fourth/New Culture Movement, when Mao was newly active in the Communist movement (Terrill 1980, 37-58).

Since I am mainly doing an exploratory survey in finding out how Peirce’s thinking can help strengthen and sharpen the way Marxists have analyzed social change, I will limit myself to the theme of contradiction at this juncture.

Bertell Ollman has aptly stressed the critical and revolutionary nature of the Marxist dialectic, critical because it helps us learn and understand our situation as victims and actors with power (if mobilized and organized) to change things, and revolutionary because it grasps the present as a moment of transformation. Science becomes a causal agent when translated by a community with an activist program: scientific understanding of the laws of motion of bourgeois society forces us to comprehend where present capitalist society came from and where it is heading, and our role in this transformation. Marx’s dialectical critique of reality (alienated in capitalism) concentrates on four kinds of relations (identity/difference; interpenetration of opposites; quantity/quality, and contradiction). Elucidation of these relations enabled Marx “to attain his double aim of discovering how something works or happens while simultaneously developing his understanding of the system in which such things could work or happen in just this way” (Ollman 1993, 13). That method combines Peirce’s three modes of inference (induction, deduction, abduction), germinating a network of provisional beliefs and habits of conduct that would be seminally active in fashioning future hypotheses.

Notwithstanding its ambiguous nuances, I submit that Peirce’s Thirdness is the sphere where contradiction, which is most vivid in Secondness, finds appropriate mediation. Thirdness is mediation or intelligibility, for Peirce, instanced in the legi-sign, and the symbol which functions as a sign of an object by virtue of a rule or habit of interpretation. While Firstness (presence) is unthinkable, and Secondness (brute actuality) is unintelligible—an element of experience distinct from rationality or logical force, the experience of Thirdness is the experience of the intelligible, of “concrete reasonableness.” Once Marx has explained the ineluctable contradictions in the motion of socialized capital, its necessary dissolution in crisis and the emergence of class consciousness in its victims, we reach the moment of Thirdness: the sociohistorical totality grasped in its multifarious contradictions and determinations..

The discovery of general laws of motion—by Lenin in the rise of capitalism in Russia, by Mao in the possibilities of peasant uprising contributing to proletarian mobilization—ushers us to a feasible point of grasping the import of phenomena synthesized by general laws. Thirdness, to the Marxist sensibility, designates the hazardous unpredictable course of revolution, with its contingencies, necessities, and ineluctable vicissitudes. Logic itself thrives on the errancy and unpredictability of experience.

Totality in Process Contra Reification

Using a quasi-Peircean method of abduction–hypothetical inferences tested by historical testimony and evidence, Marx discovered the general laws of motion in capitalist society. In accord with ongoing political struggles and theoretical praxis, he drew out their implications and entailments in the political-ideological crisis of bourgeois hegemony. The interpretation of these laws were in turn refined, enriched and developed by Lenin in the imperialist stage, and by Gramsci, Mao, W.E. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, Che Guevara, Frantz Fanon, and Amilcar Cabral in the dependent, peripheral outposts of Empire. The interpretants (linking the present and future, the actual and potential) included the organic intellectuals and the popular struggles in each social formation. This included William James, Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, John Dewey, and others opposing U.S. imperialist aggression in the Philippines, Cuba, and elsewhere.

One of the first scholars to link Peirce’s method of abduction to Marx’s critical-dialectical method is Derek Sayer. In abstracting the essential relations from the phenomenal forms of the commodity, as well as the historical instantiations of surplus value, Marx applied not deductive apriorist thinking nor a posteriori inductive reasoning. Instead, as Sayer demonstrates, he mobilized a realist mode of explaining the empirical correlations, “the mechanisms through which they are brought about, and behind them their conditions” (Sayer 1983, 114). This is the logic of hypothesis formation (N.R. Hanson’s retroductive scheme, for Sayer), positing mechanisms and conditions that would explain how and why the phenomena observed come to assume the forms they do (Hanson 1965).

Following a form of Peircean retroductive analytic, Marx attempts a dialectic mode of presentation which Sayer calls Kantian but which is more properly described as comic, cathartic, demystifying narrative. It historicizes the allegedly transcendental forms fetishized by bourgeois, classical political economy. In his commentary on the 1857 introduction to the Grundrisse and 1879-80 Notes on Adolph Wegner, Terrell Carver (1975) also highlighted Marx’s dialectical synthesis of phenomena and structures to generate the concrete universal concerning value, social relations of production, surplus value, and, in particular, the historic singularity of capitalist society. Rejecting eternal verities and the Robinson-Crusoe archetype of bourgeois economists, Marx began with the hypothetical premise that “the socially determined production carried on by individuals,” when thoroughly analyzed, can elucidate the changes and development in various aspects (both universal and specific) of social life. His task involved both a critique of previous theories and an empirical investigation of sensory and intellectual experience of whole societies in the process of transition. One can observe an analogous procedure in Peirce’s only commentary on the hermeneutics of historical-archival research, “On the Logic of Drawing History from Ancient Documents, Especially from Testimonies” (1998, 75-114).

Historical materialism seems to confirm Peirce’s thesis that these laws were not just mere conjunctions of actual individual instances, as empiricists would posit. The totality of relations—both social and international—that Lukacs (1971) privileged and that Engels crystallized in the interpenetration of opposites (unity, not identity, of opposites) functions within the category of Thirdness. Peirce’s view was part of his synechism or doctrine that the universe contains genuinely continuous phenomena. Continuity does not imply linear causal determinism, or a closed universe of necessity; it allows the role of chance (Peirce’s tychism), spontaneity, and an evolutionary cosmology premised on regularities of nature and mind as products of growth. Chance evinced in the Darwinian play of heredity and adaptation is accepted by both Peirce and Marx (for Christopher Caudwell’s contribution, see Foster 2000). In his 1898 lecture, Peirce reflected that “the world of forms” emerged from the “contradictions of the vagueness of that potentiality of everything in general but of nothing in particular” (1992, 97).

Synechism, Peirce’s doctrine of continuity, holds that “ideas tend to spread continuously and to affect certain others which stand to them in a peculiar relation of affectability. In this spreading they lose intensity, and especially the power of affecting others, but gain generality and become welded with other ideas” (6.104). Peirce explains further that synechism is “founded on the notion that coalescence, the becoming continuous, the becoming governed by laws…are but phases of one and the same process of the growth of reasonableness” (5.4). The interanimation of ideas epitomized by synechism led Sidney Hook (1962) to associate it with Hegel’s dialectical synthesis of thesis and antithesis, the temporal unity of opposites via sublation (Aufhebung).

Hook is wrong. Peirce, however, grounds his dialectical ontology of internal relations in sociohistorical praxis (Sayer 1987), not in the transcendental domain of Absolute Spirit. The ideological refusal to appreciate these laws (tendencies, if you like) of motion and their outcome leads to the irrationalism and self-destructive impulses in bourgeois rule and its toxic ideology disseminated by sophisticated media and State apparatuses, e.g. spreading freedom and democracy in Afghanistan by drones, torture, subjugation of the populace the US is claiming to save and enlighten. Illusions bred by reality reinforce the ideological persistence of deceptive facts taken to be common sense, normal, business-as-usual routine. In this epoch of the COVID-19 pandemic, we find this flagrantly manifest in Trump’s crusade to “Make America Great Again,” precisely the monstrous superstition that Peirce bewailed as the nemesis of scientific progress.

There is an exciting reservoir of dialectical insights hidden in Peirce’s tychism that allows novelty, irregularity, complexity and change in the universe (Brent 1998, 208). Because chance operates in the universe, the basic laws of nature and history are not apodictic but inexact, probabilistic, fallible. Peirce’s world-view allows the kind of revolutionary ruptures that utopian Marxists like Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin would prophesy in moments of apparent harmony in bourgeois systems. It encourages prediction of what is unexpected, unlikely, implausible; it entertains the unpredictable momentum of hidden forces behind the fetishized appearances of quotidian, commodity-oriented life. In this regard, Peirce allows instinct to be a motive-force of change since it “is capable of development and growth,” arising from “the souls Inward and Outward Experiences” (1992a, 121).

A Scandalous Novum: The Actual As Real

Realism becomes the germinal anchor of hope. Believing that reality cannot be identified with actuality, Peirce asserts that there are real, objective possibilities ‘based on his realization that many conditional statements, for instance, the ‘practical’ conditionals expressing the empirical import of a proposition…cannot be construed as material or truth-functional conditionals, but must be regarded as modal (subjunctive) conditionals” (Hilpinen 1995, 568). In this framework, hope is deemed as real as any weapon in the class struggle. Such objective possibilities pervade Marx and Engels’ speculations on a future communist society (first prophesied in The Communist Manifesto), Rosa Luxemburg’s foresights on women’s liberation, and C.L.R. James’s anticipatory politics of an evolving socialist era.

Aside from the semiotic triad of sign-production and the logic of abduction, I think Peirce’s notion of potentiality is the closest to the idea of dialectical sublation or Aufhebung in Hegelian idealism. While possibility belongs to Firstness, potentiality belongs to Thirdness, the realm in which “an actualized sign’s potentiality for becoming what it is within its nature to come into interrelation and interaction with all other signs. Potentiality is future-oriented, while possibility is present oriented” (Merrell 2000, 130). This notion of potentiality can prove to be the most creative, versatile tool for a Marxist activist intellectual desiring to appropriate what is useful in Peirce’s pragmaticism for transformative praxis. We have seen that the pragmaticist maxim valorizes the totality of modes of rational conduct triggered by a practicable concept, taking into account also “the possible different circumstances and desires” of the participants involved in interpretation. Meaning is not indefinitely deferred; rather, as Leroy Searle observes, it “accepts meaning (as it does thought and reality itself) as a continuous process, which we determine, with arbitrary precision (depending on ‘different circumstances and desires’) in communities of inquiry” (1994, 562). We can envisage a united front, a counter-hegemonic bloc of classes, genders, sexualities, peoples, etc., their diverse interests and motivations articulated under the aegis of interminable Peircean inquiry.

One may venture that the final logical interpretant (the mediating catalyst between object and signifier or representamen) in Peirce’s semiotics may be figured as the leading or decisive force in the community of researchers. It may be the revolutionary agent, bearer of intelligibility, aware of qualities (Firstness), immersed in existential agony (Secondness), but specifically removed in comprehending the totality of the situation (Thirdness) (Liszka 1996) and in synthesizing the measures needed to change the situation. This allegorical translation speaks volumes if translated into the function of intellectuals/leaders in popular mass organizations seeking thoroughgoing, radical change.

In Marxist dialectics, the resolution of a contradiction proceeds through spirals and swerves that defy precise calculation and final judgments. The potential order of evolving society is immanent in the conjuncture of events and their sequences. Given Peirce’s realism, the idea of general potentiality is as real as individual particularity. Continua or the continuum of events bear unactualized possibilities (Murphey1993, 394). Richard Robin paraphrases Peirce by saying that potentiality is part of reality and cannot be defined simply as future actuality, in the sense that revolutionary rupture is a potential quality in U.S. society but it can be actualized only in the future by way of fortuitous actions and organized interventions.

If pursued correctly, Peirce’s critical realism becomes a pedagogical heuristic for a kind of prophetic politics. If Marxists as revolutionaries seek to prefigure, anticipate and invent the future, just as scientists aspire to predict what’s to come, then their task is to assert meaningful propositions about events not yet actualized. In doing so they seek to prepare for the coming of these events. We therefore take the position that the realia are not just particular undecidable individuals, as nominalists and positivists hold, but also real indeterminate potentialities (on its application to communicative problems (see Apel 1995). Communism is already an extant if not nascent potential, so to speak, not just the seeds whose death spells the birth of new life and order. In short, it is already an emergent actuality in people’s everyday lives.

Peirce’s idea of potentiality may already be present in the Marxist concept of praxis enunciated in “Theses on Feuerbach.” It may also be embedded in Gramsci’s organic intellectual as the fusion of interpretation and action, or Lenin’s idea of a revolutionary party, educator and mobilizer of masses of people. Knowledge entails actionable or practicable assumptions. Richard Robin suggests that if “the function of knowledge is to enable us to control the future, then we must take potentialities seriously, for the future as known in the present consists entirely of potentialities, some of which will be actualized and some of which will not…An epistemology that takes into account the facts of human behavior and the working practices of science must recognize that potentialities, while they cannot be identified with any class of individuals, are nevertheless real. And the reason they are real is because, as Peirce first showed us, the world is general” (1998, 42).

The Crucible of Experience: Assaying Politics, Ethics, Morality

As partisans of radical inquiry, Marx and Engels worked all their lives to educate and inspire a community of inquirers (analogous to that envisaged by Peirce) that would join theory and practice, knowledge and action, to produce significant changes in society for the better: to liberate human potential, to enhance the domain of free activities, to promote beauty and self-fulfillment for all (see “Critique of the Gotha Program”). These changes precede and follow the pragmaticist call for habits or dispositions founded on rational activities. For Peirce, as James Hoopes notes, “thinking is behavior,” an action just as real and historical as operating a machine or fighting a war (1991, 9). Peirce’s final reflection on the interface of ethics, politics and his brand of pragmaticist epistemology conveys a trenchant emancipatory message:

Just as conduct controlled by ethical reason tends toward fixing certain habits of conduct, the nature of which…does not depend upon any accidental circumstances, and in that sense may be said to be destined, so, thought, controlled by a rational experimental logic, tends to the fixation of certain opinions, equally destined, the nature of which will be the same in the end, however the perversity of thought of whole generations may cause the postponement of the ultimate fixation (CP 5.430, 1905)

For “perversity of thought,” one can substitute irrational social practices and institutions, and for the “ultimate fixation,” “concrete reasonableness” arrived at in the fated convergence of inquiry fulfilling the paramount ends of truth, rightness and beauty via logic, ethics and aesthetics. The last three normative sciences Peirce regarded as the foundation of pragmaticism (1998 a, 371-397). In 1898, James gave a lecture entitled “Philosophy and the Conduct of Life” (1998a). This was also the period in which he sympathized with the goals of the Anti-Imperialist League of William James, Mark Twain, and others denouncing U.S. imperialist aggression in Cuba and particularly the Philippines. On various occasions Peirce alluded to the barbaric effects of US colonial invasion of the Philippines (see Brent 1993). In his lecture, he contended that for advancing scientific knowledge, reason is key but for the vital concerns of morality and ethics, sentiment and instinct suffice. This has led many to consider Peirce an ambivalent if not inconsistent thinker.

But all the evidence points to the contrary. Eugene Rochberg-Halton connected Peirce’s notion of “instinctive mind” of the inquirer with purpose as a transaction in a complex environment susceptible to growth and correction: “Instincts are accordingly, in their proper environment, true ideas” (1986, 10). As Cheryl Misak (2004) has cogently shown, Peirce adhered to a cognitivist, fallibilist standard which subjects any belief to the test of experience and rational argument. Consequently, moral and ethical deliberations are responsive to the broad range of experience, including “the spontaneous conjectures of instinctive reason” underlying abduction. Mizak reminds us that Peirce conceived of logic as normative, ethical, thought under self-control: “Thinking is a kind of action, and reasoning is a kind of deliberate action, and to call an argument illogical, or a proposition false, is a special kind of moral judgment” (Peirce quoted in Mizak 2004, 170). Writing at the beginning of the Cold War, Donald S. Mackay summed up the original intent of pragmatism: “Instead of elaborating theories about ‘passive’ states of knowledge in a knowing mind, or ‘contents’ of knowledge within its own fixed and immutable forms, pragmatism offered a working hypothesis concerning the practice of knowledge in ‘the real business of living’ (1950, 398).

Finally, one can venture the “musement” (Peirce’s term for imagination) that Peirce’s socialism inheres in his trust in the moral universalism of the scientific community. Cornel West noted Peirce’s “agapastic theory of evolution” as a critique of Darwinian mechanical necessitarianism and its implied individualism (1989, 52-53; see also Smith 1963, 32-37). If thinking is already practice, then all humans—as Gramsci reminded us, are already intellectuals in one degree or another, functioning according to their capacities and social situations. In effect, all citizens are protagonists in the shaping of their everyday lives; and as collectives, in the reconstruction of their societies. Peirce would concur with this notion of a communal enterprise striving toward “concrete reasonableness” in the reconstruction of the old decadent, oppressive, iniquitous society. This hypothesis captures the essential relevance of Peirce’s pragmaticist realism for Marxist intellectuals whose program of research and its implementation coincides with the problematic of their effective and feasible intervention in the revolutionary process of their time.


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JOSE RIZAL, honoring the national hero of the Philippines, 19 June 1861

A HOMAGE TO JOSE RIZAL, REVOLUTIONARY NATIONAL HERO, on the occasion of his birth anniversary

By E. SAN JUAN, JR.RizalPhoto
Philippines Studies Center

On the occasion of Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary in 2011, the Paciano Rizal Family Heritage released for sale replicas of an exquisitely handcrafted book devised by Rizal when he was in exile in Dapitan (1892-96). The improvised fortune-telling kit bears the title, “Haec est Sibylla Cumana”/ “This is the Sibyl of Cumae,” a book of oracles (Yuchengo 2015). The figure referred to is the priestess/prophetess presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, a Greek colony near Naples, in ancient times. She played a pivotal role in Virgil’s Aeneid, helping guide Aeneas in his journey to the underworld to visit his dead father Anchises. Bridging the realms of the living and the dead, the old and the new, she reminds us of her sisters (the most famous being the Sibyl of Delphi) who also offered to help smooth the passage of the traveller from regions of the past to the present and future (on six other sibyls, see Benjamin 2015, 303-08).

Ancient oracles served to appease the gods, revealing what secret messages are hidden behind visible occurrences and natural phenomena. During the medieval age, the Sibylline books (like Virgil’s Eclogues) were thought to prophesy the birth of Christ and the ultimate salvation of humankind. Thus, worldly time acquired import and a direction, everyday life found a specific gravity in the chartered chronicle. So would the time Rizal spent in exile—a dragging duration which he filled with socially rewarding accomplishments—bear significance, charged with still unravelled purport and portentous meanings.

Divining Incommensurables

What motivated the deported filibustero to spend his time and energy in inventing this game? Was it simply to while away the boredom of exile? Or does it suggest the artist’s preoccupation with fate, temporality, the hazardous passage from past to future? Rizal did not foresee his forced removal to Dapitan when he left his mother and relatives in Hong Kong in 1892. He formed the Liga Filipina on July 3. On July 6, he was arrested for allegedly transporting subversive material in his sister’s luggage, and summarily deported. During those years of exile, he appealed several times for a change in his situation, but to no avail. Chance, luck, happenstance, accident—was he the plaything of unknown mischievous forces?
Fortune-telling was no stranger to Rizal. In the festivities described in Chapter 24 of Noli Me Tangere, men played cards and chess while the women “curious about knowing the future, preferred to ask questions of the wheel of fortune” (2006, 202). Denouncing their games as if they induced fornication, Padre Salvi wrenched their sinful book and tore it to shreds. As for the matter of chance, Elias may be allowed to speak for the free-thinking spirit when he replied to Ibarra’s query whether he believed in chance—an apt response also to skeptics of the Sibylla Cumana game: “To believe in chance is tantamount to believing in miracles; both beliefs assume that God does not know the future. What is chance or contingency? An event that absolutely no one has foreseen. What is miracle? A contradiction, an upsetting of natural laws. Contradiction and lack of foresight in the Intelligence which controls the world’s machinery signifies two great imperfections” (2006, 300). The Deist Cartesian persona of Rizal is surely ventriloquizing here to dodge censorship.

Whatever the wager of this ludic exercise, Rizal’s parlor-game is delightfully provocative. It offers the player 52 questions and 416 answers (each question has 8 possible answers) all cryptic, ambiguous, vague enough to trigger wild speculation. You roll a wooden top with 8 sides in order to pick your answer from an elaborate table; chance decides which answer you will receive. One answer may be gambled here: “A mother-in-law is not just a mother-in-law; she is also a mother—and you are an enemy of mothers?” A symptomatic query. Overall, the game is user-friendly, advising us not to be afraid of the future. But whether we like it or not, we are thrown into our common lot, guessing, suspicious, left in the lurch.

According to the Rizal clan, this precious heirloom was preserved by generations of safekeepers and descendants, foremost among them Narcisa Rizal Lopez. It survived the disasters of the 1896 revolution, the Filipino-American War, the Japanese occupation, and MacArthur’s horrific “liberation” of Intramuros where millions of Filipinos perished (Yuchengco 2015). Its survival presages the hero’s fortuitous intervention into our humdrum shopping/consuming affairs in this new millennium.

Deciphering Origins in Oak Leaves

Three years before his Dapitan sojourn, Rizal was engaged in some kind of reasoned guessing, specifically in conjuring the future of the islands from the vantage-point of the Madrid-based La Solidaridad. This time it’s not divination via a wooden top or roulette-wheel. Using hi knowledge of the past and intuition of the character of nations, Rizal tried to predict the vicissitudes of the islands in the judicious calculations of “The Philippines A Century Hence.” It would be a search for what’s genuinely autochtonous, motivated by the historian’s quest “to make known the past so that it may be possible to judge better the present and measure the path which has been traversed during three centuries” (cited in Cushner 1971, 224)..

Noli Me Tangere demonstrated the protagonist’s chief malady, Ibarra’s temporary loss of roots after seven years abroad. His family’s victims would reanimate his atrophied memory. To proceed in his journey of rediscovering his homeland, Rizal had to retrace its original condition. On his return to Europe, in 1888-89, he rescued Antonio de Morga’s 1609 chronicle, Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas, from the London Museum and had it published in Paris with his annotations.

Armed with testimonies of a flourishing pre-conquest civilization, Rizal dares to foretell the fate of his country a hundred years from the close of the 19th-century. Note that the extrapolation is based on a continuing dialectical movement in which potent unused qualities persist, transmuted but preserved by the forces that seek to destroy them: “Religious shows, rites that caught the eye, songs, lights, images arrayed with gold, worship in a strange language, legends, miracles and sermons, hypnotized the already naturally superstitious spirits of the country but did not succeed in destroying it altogether, in spite of this the whole system afterwards developed and operated with unyielding tenacity” (1984, 366). Given elements of the pristine past transmigrating to the fallen present, Rizal hypothesizes what may occur:

…Will the Philippine Islands be separated from the mother country to live independently, to fall into the hands of other nations, or to ally themselves with neighboring powers?
It is impossible to reply to these questions, for to all of them both yes and no may be answered, according to the time desired to be covered. When there is in nature no fixed condition, how much less must there be in the life of a people. being endowed with mobility and movement! So, it is that in order to deal with those questions, it is necessary to presume an unlimited period of time, and in accordance therewith try to forecast the future (1984, 367).
Geopolitics of Circumvention

Notice Rizal’s accentuation of “mobility and movement,” a sign of global modernity foregrounded in his 1889 article, “On Travel” (1962, 22-28). Other signs highlighted what’s relative, arbitrary, and undecideable where circumstances prevailed over all. In his essays, Rizal historicizes geography, connecting Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations with newly opened China and India via commerce and migration. He attributes all the advances in modern societies to the movement of bodies, ideas, perceptions and impressions. This compression of time-space is hinted by his pen-name, “Laong Laan,” “ever ready,” prepared for any comeuppance, as he confessed to his associate Marcelo del Pilar after dreaming of dead relatives and friends: “Although my body is very strong and I have no illness and no fear, I am preparing myself for death and for any eventuality. ‘Laong Laan’ is my true name” (quoted in Zaide 1984, 172).

Whatever the epochal contingencies involved, Rizal anchors his prediction on a constant factor: the Malayan “delicacy of sentiment,” sensitive “self-love,” readiness to sacrifice everything “for an aspiration or a conceit.” He has “all the meekness and all the tenacity and ferocity of his carabao.” Moreover, “brutalization of the Malayan Filipinos has been demonstrated to be impossible,” nor can they be totally exterminated. He concludes that “the Islands cannot remain in the condition they are without requiring from the sovereign country more liberty. Mutatis mutandis. For new men, a new social order.” Self-determination of Indios looming in the horizon cannot be ignored, given the emergence of novel productive forces bursting the integument of the repressive, decadent social order.

It is only a matter of time. Sooner or later, Rizal asserts, a natural law dictates that the colonies will declare themselves independent. When the country secures its independence “after heroic and stubborn conflicts,” no other power will dare to take up what Spain has been unable to hold, not even the United States whose traditions will not allow it—a seriously misleading oversight. Rizal closes with an eloquent hymn to a vision of a bountiful, free, convivial homeland reminiscent of the naturalizing invocation of the 1882 essay, “Amor Patrio” / “Love of Country” (1962, 15-21).

Very likely the Philippines will defend with inexpressible valor the liberty secured at the price of so much blood and sacrifice. With the new men that will spring from their soil and with the recollection of their past, they will perhaps strive to enter freely upon the wide road of progress, and all will labor together to strengthen their fatherland, both internally and externally, with the same enthusiasm, with which a youth falls again to tilling the land of his ancestors so long wasted and abandoned through the neglect of those who have withheld it from him (194, 391).

A mood of exultant self-confidence pervades the landscape of blood-soaked, scorched fields where zealous tillers appear, poised to strike with plow and harrow. To be sure, Rizal cannot indulge in probabilities. He ventures to chart a destiny vulnerable to random, haphazard incidents. But immediately he assures us, with nonchalance, “It is not well to trust to accident, for there is sometimes an imperceptible and incomprehensbie logic in the workings of history. Fortunately, peoples as well as governments are subject to it.” Soon Rizal will render transparent this dystopic conspiracy of history.

Indeed, Rizal cannot allow the gratuitous and the aleatory from taking over, for he discerns a hidden pattern under surface contingencies. There’s more hidden behind appearances. He interpreted his dreams as enigmatic forecasts of the future. Does this mixture of law and luck, decorum and delirium, capture Rizal’s own strategy in confronting his relations with women, not just with his mother and sisters, whose feelings and sensibility somehow gravitated to his orbit?

Scandalous Missing Object

We may now segue, with “fear and trembling,” into the perilous domain of sexual politics. Benedict Anderson’s meticulous catalogue of European influences on Rizal’s thought in his book Under Three Flags analyzed Rizal’s susceptiblities. Rizal absorbed omnivorously the heterogenous colors, valence and savors of European culture. But was he gay? Or was he secretly an anarchist, a closet nihilist? Anderson sought to anatomize Rizal’s psyche and its bizarre libidinal permutations. It’s an intriguing detective itinerary that unfortunately succumbs to smug Eurocentric vainglory.

However, we need to focus our discourse on “the woman question.” Since our task here is limited to investigating the situation of Sisa as a metaphor for the problem of gender inequality, the fraught issue of Rizal’s sexual identity is entangled with the position of the Others—the outcasts, lunatics, profane flunkeys, perverse guardians of “the sacred,” etc. In this context, it might be profitable to survey the aleatory as well as reiterative performance of his erotic disposition and disclaimers. His go-ahead signal for this inquiry was sounded at the end of his prognostication: “The masks have fallen…” We no longer see through the glass, darkly.

Earlier, in his 1884 speech praising the painters Juna Luna and Felix Hidalgo, Rizal announced: “The patriarchal era in the Philippines is waning…The furrow is ready and the ground is not sterile” (2011, 18-22). Nature has been historicized; the androcentric cosmos needs to yield to the nurturant, generative principle of the cultivators, fisher-folk, artisans, women, indigenes or ethnic minorities—the exploited Indio workers seeds of tomorrow in cities and countryside.

Biographers have eagerly inventoried the fabled targets of Rizal’s affections, with their varying if incalculable pressure on his political and ethical pursuits. Ultimately, the aesthetic/hedonistic level of engagement would be surpassed, shifting the burden of responsibility to the ethical and eventually political field of symbolic violence. We owe this angle of interpretation to the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55) who lived before Rizal was born, his writings unknown to the Filipino exiles in Madrid and Paris. So far we can trace the critical moments of evasion in all encounters with the desired subject/object of cathexis and its fetishistic resonance, including the two eccentric cases: the Japanese companion and the Irish paramour.

Trauma of Counter-Identity

In Either/Or and other texts, Kierkegaard defined the alternative modalities of living with Others endowed with the power of recognition or refusal. They are inscribed in the tortuous passage from the aesthetic to the ethical and then to the religious domains characterized by “the baptism of the will” (1946, 107-08; 129-30). For Rizal, however, the leap into faith is circumvented by his rationalist disposition acquired during his European schooling. Aside from frailocracy’s stranglehold, the path of orthodox piety is blocked by the commitment to the mother/nation, a universal category, in which immanent martyrdom aborts mystifying transcendence. The ideal of honor, self-esteem (pundonor or amor propio), grounded in his appreciation of native practices, also thwarts subservience to dogmatic absolutism. The Kierkegaardian concept of repetition, the recollection of past experiences superimposed on a future trajectory of conduct, has distinguished Rizal’s handling of his affairs with women. Nostalgic retrospection marks all his letters from Europe, syncopated with dreams of retrieving the years of childhood innocence and customary family/clan solidarity.

But Rizal was not a naive idealist habitually looking backwards. He was always forward-looking, given to utopian speculations (for his Dapitan experiments, see Craig 1913; Zaide 1984; for the Borneo scheme, see Rizal 2011, 321-28). One way of implementing this existentialist orientation is to foreground Rizal’s development as a versatile artist-thinker, his gradual maturation by force of circumstance from a quasi-romantic reformist public intellectual to a radical-democratic revolutionist, as Fr. John Schumacher has suggested (1987). After completing the Noli, Rizal was already a revolutionist, confident that “the peaceful struggle shall always be a dream, for Spain will never learn the lesson of her former South American colonies” (letter to Blumentritt dated 26 January 1887, cited in Cushner 1971, 225). The discordant vortices of natural
endowment and historical opportunities converge in this metamorphosis of Rizal’s world-outlook.

The inaugural moment of the psyche’s reflexivity, as we have
discussed earlier, is the aborted affair with Segunda Katigbak, circa 1878-79. Rizal was 16 years old when he met her in Trozo where his maternal grandmother resided at that time. He found the “sylph” alluring, Her engagement to a townmate in Lipa, Batangas, may have deterred Rizal from proposing. But he blamed his shyness when he failed to detain her carriage as it passed by for the imagined tryst he had carefully prepared in his mind. In his Memoirs, she is represented as a swift ”floating shadow.”

At the time when Rizal’s mother was losing her eyesight and could not recognize her son, the son remembers his first love’s expressive eyes, ”ardent at times, and drooping at other times, a smile so bewitching and provocative,” while her entire self “diffused a mysterious charm” (1984, 308). Rizal was paralyzed, saying nothing. And so, later on, he drew this painful lesson of disenchantment that would haunt him for a long time:

[Segunda Katigbak] bowed to me smiling and waving her handkerchief, I just lifted up my hand and said nothing. Alas! Such has always happened to me in the most painful moments of my life. My tongue, profuse talker, becomes dumb when my heart is bursting with feelings… In the critical moments of my life, I have always acted against my will, obeying different purposes and mighty doubts. I goaded my horse and took another road without having chosen it, exclaiming: This is ended thus. Ah, how much truth, how much meaning, these words then had! My youthful and trusting love ended! The first hours of my first love ended. My virgin heart will forever weep the risky step it took in the abyss covered with flowers. My illusion will return, indeed, but indifferent, incomprehensible, preparing me for the first deception on the road of grief” (1984, 317).

The montage of illusions would unfold quickly. After this traumatic wound whose scars would rankle for a long time, Rizal slowly recovered via the phantoms of Miss L. of Calamba with “seductive and attractive eyes,” and of Leonor Valenzuela of Pagsanjan, Laguna. A recharging station on the way to his sacrifice for the motherland was Leonor Rivera of Camiling, Tarlac, who attracted him as a tender “budding flower with kindly, wistful eyes.”Again, the beloved’s enthralling eyes, surveillance without relief. Leonor’s mother objected, so Rizal’s parents advised him not to visit her in Dagupan when he returned from Europe. It was the ultimatum to abjure the local femme fatale and circumvent residual elective affinities with previous acquaintances.

Occlusions and Disclosures

Goodbye, Leonor, and welcome our other sisters who beckoned, mournful sirens languishing in moribund Europe. In 1890, while attending a play in Teatro Apollo, Madrid, Rizal lost his gold watch chain with a locket containing the picture of Leonor, a weird omen. Remember Maria Clara’s locket given to the leper, then owned by Juli, and finally claimedby Simoun? Subsequently, Rizal received Leonor’s letter announcing her forthcoming marriage to an Englishman (the British engineer Edward Kipping), her mother’s choice.

In contrast, Maria Clara (modeled after Leonor) lost her mother early, so it was another father (Padre Damaso) who dictated her choice, her quarantine in the convent “safeguarded” by the cagey Padre Salvi. Leonor asked for forgiveness, but Rizal broke down, agonizing for weeks, comparing himself to an immense volcano exploding and “putting an end to everything living and breathing.” His Austrian correspondent Ferdinand Blumentritt tried to console him with folkloric, homegrown platitudes:

…but you are one of the heroes who conquer pain from a wound inflicted by women, because they follow higher ends. You have a courageous heart, and you are in love with a nobler woman, the Motherland. Filipinas is like one of those enchanted princesses in the German legends, who is a captive of a horrid dragon, until she is freed by a valiant knight….I am grieved with all my heart that you have lost the girl to whom you were engaged, but if she was able to renounce a Rizal, she did not possess the nobility of your spirit. She is like a child who cast away a diamond to seize a pebble….In other words, she is not the woman for Rizal (quoted in Zaide 1984, 180).

Is it possible that Blumentritt had in mind Rizal’s 1882 essay “Amor Patrio”?
Rizal affirmed this love of “patria” (motherland) “just as the child loves its mother in the midst of hunger and misery.” We follow the procession of the children in his fiction: Basilio, Crispin, Elias, Juli, Tano, Placido Penitente, Isagani, and other nameless orphans.

Before Leonor’s confession of infidelity in 1890, Rizal seemed to have been bewitched by Consuelo Ortiga y Perez. It was shortlived; he had to give way to his rival, Eduardo de Lete. It was only in Japan on his second trip to Europe in 1888 when he met 23-year-old O-Sei-San, a samurai’s daughter, that he may have experienced carnal bliss. With a geisha’s simulacra? It is impossibe to test the veracity of his record of intimacy in this quite exceptional liaison.

Rizal’s testimony can be taken as sincere, unless he is pretending to be the victim of Orientalist fantasies: “O Sei-San, Sayonara, Sayonara! I have spent a happy golden month; I do not know if I can have another one like that in all my life…No woman like you has ever loved me. No woman like you has ever sacrificed for me. Like the flower of he chodji that falls from the stem fresh and whole without falling leaves or without withering—with poetry still despite its fall—thus you fell. Neither have you lost your purity nor have the delicate petals of your innocence faded…Your name lives in the sight of my lips, your image accompanies and animates all my thoughts. When shall I return to pass another divine afternoon like that in the temple of Meguro?” (quoted in Zaide 1984, 132).

Rizal’s apostrophe extolled his Japanese companion as the “last descendant of a noble family, faithful to an unfortunate vengeance….” What the last two words signify remains a puzzle. Is it simply an extravagant cliche to compensate for an unresolved aporia of doubts, virile pride and intractable premonitions? Or is it a vow to fulfill a long-forgotten promise?

Deterritorializing Interlude

We follow Rizal in his peregrination. Next in line was Gertrude Beckett with brown hair, blue eyes, and rosy cheeks, the oldest of three sisters in his boarding house at Primrose Hill, London, near Frederick Engels’ residence. But though the flirtation became hot and heavy, as it were, Rizal quickly realized that he could not marry Gettie. It was at this time (22 February 1889) when Rizal composed in Tagalog his provocative “Letter to the Young Women of Malolos.”

We may pass over the episode with Petite Suzanne Jacoby who pursued him with her letters in French when he fled to Madrid in July 1890. Rizal confided to his sister Soledad: “In my love affairs, I have always acted with nobility, because I myself would have felt humiliated had I behaved otherwise. I have despised and considered unworthy every young man I have seen hiding himself, prowling in the dark…” Earlier he expressed the reason for his temporizing and diffidence: “I cannot deceive her; I can’t marry her, because I have other affections to remember in our country…. (Palma 1949, 130, 133). What are these other affections?

Neither ascetic nor hedonist, Rizal did not isolate himself, vowing chastity and performing rituals of self-purification. The next challenge was posed by Nellie Boustead. In romantic Biarritz, Rizal courted Nellie who supposedly reciprocated. But Nellie’s mother registered objections, and Nellie herself required Rizal to become a Protestant, which he shrugged off. His friends Tomas Areola and Antonio Luna encouraged Rizal to choose the matrimonial path, to no avail. it was only when Josephine Bracken came to Dapitan, accompanying the blind Englishman George Taufer, that Rizal recovered, with due qualifications, the unrepeatable experience he recorded with his Japanese muse. That was also the year, 1893, when Rizal received the news of Leonor Rivera’s death.

The historian Ambeth Ocampo psychoanalyzed the recurrence of snakes as phalllic symbols in Rizal’s dreams. A trivializing suspicion. He speculated that Rizal may have been a closet gay: “It dawned on me that the fact that Rizal had many women [“had” is arguably a masculinist hyperbole] was probably an indication that he was incapable or perhaps had difficulty in maintaining a stable relationship with one woman” (2011, 67-68)—except with patria, which, for Ocampo, was too lofty, too inhuman. No one has claimed that Rizal “possessed” any of his female acquaintances except perhaps O-Sei-San and Bracken.

Finally, Ocampo contends that given the unresolved Oedipus complex, Rizal could have been a homosexual. But his yearning for his Nanay, Rizal’s idolizing his mother, was “very Filipino,” Ocampo concludes, so that could not serve as a proof of homosexuality. But why deflect the inquiry to this topic, obscuring the gendered division of social labor (including reproductive/sexual behavior) that undergirds the androcentric system?

Encountering the Irish Sibyl

The coming of Josephine Bracken, a “wandering swallow” for Rizal, disrupts this maneuver to dismiss “the woman question” as superfluous if not irrelevant. To return to Anderson’s aside on Rizal’s sexuality, the scholar’s tactic is to demonstrate that the milieu rendered in the novels witnessed gay and lesbian practices thriving without any overt stigmatization, as in Chapter 21, “Manila Characters,” and Chapter 22, “The Performance.” It’s all very entertaining if not distracting. So what?

In truth, Anderson does not have anything worthwhile to say about Sisa, Juli, Salome, Dona Consolacion, nor about Segunda Katigbak, O-Sei-San, Leonor Rivera, etc. His references to Bracken are a summary of inferences made by Coates, Guerrero, and Ocampo regarding her spurious progenitors. Since she was not of authentic Irish provenance—her mother was alleged to be a Chinese laundress, the father unknown, and therefore Bracken could not be evidence of Rizal’s heteronormal disposition. Anderson devotes three pages to Rizal’s Dapitan exile but ignores any role Bracken may have played in the martyr’s struggle to endure his punishment.

Only Dolores Feria, among a plethora of feminist scholars, succeeded in defining the role of the 19-year-old Bracken as the “missing menber. ” While sutured to the Rizal narrative by fortuitous circumstance, she could not eclipse the formidable Teodora Alonzo. The stern mother and her daughters objected to Bracken’s rejoining Rizal in Dapitan after Tauffer’s ailment was somehow relieved. The Catholic priest Father Obach who refused to marry them was scandalized when the two held hands together and married themselves.

Rizal’s mother resigned herself to this unorthodox arrangement—the authorities tolerated the hybrid Bracken as a legitimate phenomenon within the querida system. Alonzo opined that it was better to “live in concubinage in the grace of God than to be married in disgrace” (Palma 1949, 254). Due to an accident, Bracken prematurely delivered an eight-month old baby boy whom they christened “Francisco” (in honor of the hero’s father) before burial (Zaide 1948, 240; Craig 1913, 123-25). Rizal thus vanquished both the ancestral totem taboo, the archaic fetish of the virgin bride, and the myth of his indeterminate sexuality.

Visionary Swerves

So many nearly Faustian accomplishments transpired in Dapitan. We can only cite here one fulfilling act: Rizal proved the value of his medical studies when he successfully operated on his mother’s eyes. His education was not wasted; he was already earning a doctor’s income in Hong Kong before his fateful return to Manila. A few days before he left for Spain as a medical volunteer for the beleaguered Spanish army in Cuba, the plebeian Andres Bonifacio fired the first volleys of revolution on August 26, 1896. Rizal was impicated and brought back to Manila, imprisoned in Fort Santiago, and condemned to death by a military court which had already agreed on its verdict before the trial.

Before his execution, Rizal bequeathed his copy of Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ to Bracken, with the dedication “To my dear and unhappy wife.” She was also memoralized in Rizal’s “Ultimo Adios” in the penultimate line: “Farewell, sweet stranger, my friend, who brightened my way.” This “dulce extranghera” later marched and fought with the Katipunan detachment together with Rizal’s brother Paciano, fighting Spanish soldiers in Cavite, Laguna, and the surrounding hinterland before she was finally persuaded by her fellow partisans to return to Hong Kong and assist the revolution from that relatively secure vantage point.

As cited earlier, Feria paid homage to Bracken’s participation in the armed struggle against imperial Spain. Bracken’s role as Insurrecta offers the direct antithesis to the iconic Colegiala, the model for the Maria Clara character-type. Feria compares her with Salome, the polar opposite of the convent-bred woman, recalling for us the legendary figure of the earth-goddess Maria Makiling, naturally generous, an emancipated spirit. Her power to give joy to Elias, her beloved, may be deemed “an act of grace, with its own moral justification.” Feria elaborates further:

The orphan Salome…anticipates the twentieth-century woman’s frankness and sexual freedom and the pre-Spanish Filipina’s ignorance of original sin…Josephine, like Salome, was an outsider…[She] has been successively portrayed as Magdalene, Mata Hari, Kitty O’Shea, Sadie Thompson, and Joan of Arc; but her own preferred image of herself was as Insurrecta. In fact our last really detailed glimpse of her, provided by the memoirs of General Ricarte, shows Josephine fleeing from barrio to barrio after the Spanish capture of San Francisco de Malabon, hungry, and the soles of her feet bleeding, but refusing to lag, as the long retreat moves across the Maragondon mountains to Laguna…Josephine signifies more in the experience of Rizal than simply an imprudent infatuation or the eroticism of pity…For Rizal, Josephine Bracken was a breath of fresh air; and in her he found an expression of freedom from class restraints, conventionality, and a practical impertinence which his own original environment, the conservatism of his family and friends had so long denied him. Indeed, Josephine was Rizal (1968, 110-20).

This substantial homage to Josephine Bracken as an integral part of the Rizal saga may neutralize all suspicions regarding the hero’s performative sexuality. He could live with strangeness, even the phantasm of Bracken’s enigmatic past, because he knew her before in the volatile conduct and catalyzing disguises of Segunda Katigbak, Leonor Rivera, Consuelo Ortigas, and the foreigners O-Sei-San, Petite Jacoby, and Nellie Boustead, not excluding the veiled countenance of the “hospitality” lady of Vienna.

Articulating the Excess/Exclusion

At this juncture, I would call attention to the previously excluded chapter on “Salome and Elias,” now restored by Soledad Lacson-Locsin in her expert translation of the novel. This episode rounds out Elias’ character as more than a capable, intelligent peasant victimized by adverse circumstances. In contrast to the naive Ibarra (in the Noli), Elias personifies the cunning “labor of the negative” by claiming that he loves his native land because he owes her so much pain and misery” (Agoncillo 1969, 39). He is adored by a mature, sensitive woman who respects him and allows him the final decision to leave her for her own sake so that she won’t be persecuted as his accomplice. We hear Rizal’s parting words to his intimate acquaintances in Europe: “Take advantage of your youth and beauty to look for a good husband whom you deserve. No, no, you still do not know what it is to live alone, alone in the midst of humanity” (Noli 2004, 216).

In effect, Rizal knew himself thoroughly as a marked protagonist, soon to be a dangerous dissident. This dates back from the time he penned Amor Patrio, “A La Juventud Filipina,” his annotations to Morga, the incendiary diatribes and polemics in La Solidaridad, and certainly the two explosive novels that no doubt contributed to inciting his countrymen to organize the Katipunan and launch the national uprising of 1896, morphing into the stubborn resistance to U.S. imperial aggression and its ferocious genocidal onslaught.

As for the controversy over Rizal’s alleged retraction and marriage to Bracken, which Zaide dismissed as immaterial to the hero’s achievement (1984, 255-56; for a different view, see Pascual 1962), I refer students to ponder on the various perspectives explored in the scripts of two screenplays by Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. and Mike de Leon, Rizal/Bayaning 3rd World (2000). A rigorous study of Rizal’s writings in the context of the historical specificities of their appearance, as well as their impact, would be the most judicious way of appraising the worth and pertinacity of the controversy (San Juan 2000).

Constellation of Motives

Initially conceived as an extended metacommentary on Rizal’s message to the women of Malolos, this essay has exceeded its intended goal. But one thing leads to another, as they say. Not only because one cannot really grasp the totality of Rizal’s impact on the popular consciousness, including ilustrado and plebeian interlocutors. But with “the woman question,” every element in the fabric of his discourses and their purport counts as an integral factor/force in determining their reality-effects, their consequence in action. Past melancholia and future hopes converge in his reflections on the harsh present.

Rizal pursued a mode of inquiry similar to that of Rosa Luxemburg who applied Marx’s logic of crises and ruptures. Frigga Haug describes how Luxemburg’s method of appealing to the masses rejects empathy with the wretched situation of the oppressed: “Instead of empathy, she seeks the germs of the future in the defects of the present. This approach is disconcerting because it is alien, familiar only in the form of hope. But by presenting hope as sadness about being torn free and dispossessed, her criticism becomes truly radical…Her route goes out into the world, not back into the home….This politicization of experience, the political articulation of everyday experience, the transformation of the wish to endure into the will to change—these things are indispensable for women’s politics” (1992, 230-43). From the wish simply to survive to “the will to change”–that formulation captures quite aptly the Desire called “Rizal” parlayed into this current project.

In this perspective, Rizal was not simply a moralist endeavoring to educate the minds and dispositions of his compatriots. Nor was he simply deploying a conscienticizing agency whose efficacy transcends the aesthetic reach of his novels. He was instilling hope by politicizing everyday experience, transmuting the instinct of self-preservation into “the will to change”—precisely his message to the women of Malolos, a dynamic conatus (to use Spinoza’s concept) embodied in the barbed insinuations and innuendoes of the Noli and Fili.

Benedict Anderson begs to differ. He faults Rizal for being a short-sighted moralist. In contrast, Austin Coates contends that Rizal’s novels are essentially political, not literary, artifices (Ocampo 2011, 97). While elucidating the sociopolitical context of Europe in which Rizal’s ideas germinated, Anderson finds Rizal limited in depicting the brutal exploitation of natives and their social misery: “There is nothing in Rizal’s
voluminous writings like Luna’s horrified description of the Parisian iron foundry, the painter’s naively expressed, but telling remark that the Filipinos were fortunate compared with the industrial workers of Paris seems utterly outside the novelist’s frame of reference” (2005, 108).

The remark is incredibly wrong-headed and rebarbative. It pointedly ignores the quite discrepant economic and social reality of feudal/agrarian Philippines. The colony’s chief production consisted of export-crops abaca, sugar, indigo, hides, etc. Its sole industry of textile weaving in Iloilo was quickly destroyed by the importation of cheap cotton from England (Arcilla 1991, 134-46). Labor organizing in the cities in the form of gremios and embryonic cooperatives for mutual aid in the countryside only started in the first decades of U.S. colonial rule.

The colonial reality of 19th-century Philippines, its historical specificity, eludes Anderson’s optic. As already suggested, Rizal matured quickly in the aftermath of his mother’s imprisonment and the 1872 Cavite Mutiny together with the execution of Fathers Burgos, Gomez and Zamora. His disillusionment with his compatriot’s reformist program intensified in 1890 with the eviction of his parents from their Calamba farm and the persecution of relatives (see the articles, “On the Calamba Incident” and “Justice in the Philippines”; 2011, 296-99; 317-20).

But even before that, Rizal already expressed complete disenchantement on many occasions, as evinced in the 1884 article, “Reflections of a Fiipino,” and in a letter from Madrid, dated November 1884: “Studying at Madrid disillusions me. [Filipinos are] dishonored, entrapped, debased, opposed and tyrannized. I was also there [in the mass demonstrations of students and faculty]. I had to disguise myself three times…”(Zaide 1984, 76).

Circumscribing a Paradigm-Shift

Mimesis, following Aristotle, seeks to render the configuration of experience in a plotted sequence of events. But the modern naturalistic representation of incidents could not by itself register the nuances of feelings and sentiments of the Indios undergoing the symbolic and actual violence of the colonial system. To do that, Rizal had to politicize their experiences in both domestic/familial sphere and public space. Thus we observe the heteroglossic rendering of social gatherings and the focus on concrete locations: busy homes of notable personages, the plaza, church, market, theater, cockpit, urban/village festival sites, prison, transport vehicles, farms, schools, leisurely retreats, graveyards, offices of bureaucrats and officials, streets and remote trails, domestic interiors, and the liminal zones between rural and urban settings. The massive repertoire of events and the spectrum of particulars marshaled are meant to produce a plausible, veridical reality-effect.

Without doubt, the milieu transcribed by the artist is labyrinthine, multilayered, enticing and bewildering at the same time. One example is the arrangement of sensorily vivid crowd scenes in Makamisa, including the ribald, mock-heroic tuktukan game, which testifies to the writer’s virtuoso gift. Rizal’s dialogic imagination encompassed a wider range of themes, motifs, dramatis personae and their ramifications than those found in Eduard Dekker, Galdos, de Larra, Baudelaire, or Malatesta’s pseudo-sophisticated ruminations (for further evidence, see the compendium of Rizal’s Tagalog texts in Ocampo 2002)..

Granted, Rizal may have been influenced by European intellectuals such as Bakunin, Proudhon, Dostoevsky, and others during his two sojourns in Europe. Anderson, in fact, credits those myriad influences as the real sources of Rizal’s creativity, the templates for his plot and characters. He cites, for example, Rizal’s casual conversation with two Russian women nihilists in Paris in the lodging of Trinidad Pardo de Tavera.

Ferreting similitudes between European events and personalities, and the gothic/baroque furniture of the Fili, Anderson pronounces on the derivative quality of the novel: “The prolepsis is mostly engineered by a massive, ingenious transfer of real events, experiences, and sentiments from Spain to the Philippines, which then appear as shadows of an imminent future….El Filibusterismo was written from the wings of a global proscenium on which Bismarck and Vera Zasulich, Yankee manipulation and Cuban insurrections, Meiji Japan and the British Museum, Huysmans and the Commune, Catalonia and the Carolines, Nihilists and anarchists, all had their places. Cochers and ‘homeopathists’ too” (2005, 120).

Indeed, we are served a mindboggling potpourri of leavening substances to yield a buffet of exotic dishes for further meditation! At one “Soiree at the Home of Mr. B.” in Berlin (circa 1886), Rizal reflected how one “young barbarian from the Philippine Islands” exchanged pleasantries with the blonde, blue-eyed “granddaughters of ancient barbarians…who astonished the patricians of Rome,” an encounter proving how the world “turns round and round” (1962, 216).

Anderson’s comparativist mind-set can be praised for encyclopedic erudition. But he seems too self-satisfied with his cosmopolitan bravura. He disingenuously insists on a mistaken assumption, spiced with a racist innuendo. Surely Rizal is not vying to be an epigone of Huysmans, Bakunin, Malatesta, Nietzsche, Herzen, etc. In his 1908 prologue to an edition of the Fili, Wenceslao Retana performed a similar autopsy of European influences and putative mimicry. But, unlike Anderson, Retana (despite his imperial hauteur) buttressed his assessment with allusions to the concrete experiences of the wretched subalterns. He also accentuated the singular predicament of the native intelligentsia seeking reforms.

Moreover, Retana underscored the specificity of locations and the constellation of incidents shaping Rizal’s sensibility: “During his very first years he hardly witnessed anything around him except human misery pictured on a landscape replete with melancholy and mysterious poetry; and stimulated by an exquisite nervous sensibility, the child Rizal, on the shores of the great lake which gives its name to the province (la Laguna) asked whether there was beyond, any social state better than the one he saw in his hometown, in the urban part of which he knew the dominant despotism of the friar-landholder; and the suburban part of which the bandits govern” (1979, 33-34).

The “bandits” noted here would epitomize the numerous Indio victims with their load of grievances against colonial authorities (both civil and religious) in that period. Filibusteros included women protesting their brutalization by their husbands or confessors, beggars who became outlaws (tulisan), and heretics labeled infidels or savages by the theocratic regime.

In the lifetime of Rizal’s parents, filibusterismo was already rampant. Examples are the1815 Sarrat rebellion, the 1823 Novales revolt, the 1832-41 uprising of the Cofradia followers of Apolinario de la Cruz, the 1872 Cavite Mutiny, to cite only the most dangerous or threatening to the status quo (Constantino 1975, 132-44). In his “Data for My Defense” written in Fort Santiago, Rizal enumerated some of those separatist movements (2011, 342). A sampling of native grievances can be gleaned from the satirical articles such as “A Freethinker,” “A Pompous Gobernadorcillo,” “The Vision of Fray Rodriguez,” “By Telephone,” “The Lord Gazes at the Philippine Islands,” “The Religiosity of the Filipino People,” aside from the more widely influential diatribes such as “The Indolence of the Filipinos,” “The Philippines a Century Hence,” and other relevant documents in Tagalog (see Ocampo 2002).

Apocalyptic Reverberations

One can argue that Retana’s journalistic sensorium was better adjusted to apprehend the historically specific conflicts and crises that informed Rizal’s worldview. Retana recorded the ethos of the rural countryside, the predatory feudal monstrosities, and one native response to the regime’s barbarism that Rizal may have condensed in the following paragraph: “When a people is gagged; when its dignity, honor, and all its liberties are trampled; when it no longer has any legal recourse against the tyranny of its oppressors; when its complaints, petitions, and groans are not attended to; when it is not permitted even to weep; when even the last hope is wrested from its heart, then….it has left no other remedy but to take down with delirious hand from the infernal altars the bloody and suicidal dagger of revolution! Caesar, we who are about to die salute thee!” (2011, 129; see also Retana 1979, 146-47). Echoes of Padre Florentino’s farewell prayer to the dead Simoun?

The concept of the Kantian sublime predominant in Rizal’s melodramatic staging animates the conclusion of the essay “The Sense of the Beautiful” in which the ancestors shed their tears on the child’s cradle “so that the sacred plant of liberty and progress may bloom” (1962, 32). Friedrich Schiller, author of the play William Tell which Rizal translated into Tagalog, once declared that one encounters and actualizes freedom/autonomy through the creation of beauty as “living form” via the calibrated, nuanced play of instinct and reason(1952, 407-08). Rizal was thoroughly acquainted with this solution to the quandary of the artist grappling with the recalcitrant, refractory materials of quotidian existence.

Aesthetics mediates the ethico-political burden of Rizal’ s narrative craft. It is Intriguing how the image and voice of the Roman slave-gladiators acknowledging the glory of the Emperor (quoted earlier) recall Juan Luna’s masterpiece, El Spoliarium. The painting depicted in sombre tone the gory gladiators’ corpses, their sacrificial tribute, dragged from the arena of combat in the Roman amphitheater. Rizal celebrated Luna’s evocation of the carnage as a sign of resurrection—a prelude to the planned fireworks of Simoun/Ibarra, this double agent of a repressed community, passionately envisaging the apocalyptic triumph of his cohort of avengers.

In Luna’s painting, according to Rizal, “can be heard the tumult of the multitude, the shouting of the slaves, the metalllic creaking of the armor of the corpses, the sobs of the bereaved, the murmurs of prayer, with such vigor and realism as one hears the din of thunder in the midst of the crash of the cataracts or the impressive and dreadful tremor of the earthquake” (2011, 19).

Rizal’s celebration of Luna’s art is instructive. Notice the naturalization of a historical occurrence, as if the phenomenon has been providentially decreed, at the same time that nature functions as figural presentiment of what is bound to happen. It is Rizal’s diacritical gesture of temporalizing space and spatializing duration, collapsing the past into the present and future to generate the stage for the fulfillment of Sisa’s “vengeance.” It also posits the hypothesis that what appears as fate or destiny is nothing but a sociopolitical construction, a social practice or a wholly human contrivance open to alteration, reversal, change. The social order is mutable, contingent, subject to unpredictable transformations. The future is open for our choices and actions.

We then enter the realm of possibilities, of necessity converted to freedom, and the principle of self-determination as a guide to collective action, with the collaborative subalterns acting as rational-natural subjects and impassioned, mobilized communities. We behold the awakened nation-people forging at last their common destiny in mass insurgency.

The issue concerns the subtlety, depth, and sharpness of artistic rendition of the lives of the major protagonists and their doubles. Certainly, one can construe Simoun’s unconscionable scheme of killing government officials and innocent associates as one inspired by the European anarchist propaganda of the exemplary deed. Further, his scheme of rescuing Maria Clara from the nunnery replicates certain motifs and themes in canonical European texts.

But the inventory of the horrendous torment and anguish endured by Elias’ family, the suffering of Sisa and her children, and the intolerable ordeals that afflicted Cabesang Tales, Tandang Selo, and Juli (reminiscent of Rizal’s family evicted from Calamba), as well as Capitan Pablo and his band of rebels (see the Noli, Chapter 46, “The Fugitives”), would be more than enough carnage to surpass the hardships of the Parisian workers singled out by Anderson.

Actually, the issue is more embroiled and vexing. In my view, it is not a question of comparing the veracity or scale of one kind of misery against another. Rather, it is a question of selecting which scenes of conflict and struggle can synthesize the distinctive gravity and resonance of an entire people’s experience of centuries of colonial domination and the durable intensity of their resistance to it. Can art simply be reduced to a narcotic coaxing the audience to submission, or apathy? Can postmodern cynical reason be recruited to make us indifferent to this classic dilemma? Can the deconstructionists be summoned to arbitrate the merits of the case between a voluntarist artist serving the cause of the oppressed masses and a determinist critic enforcing reactionary norms and regulations for the sake of upholding high standards and refined tastes? We can imagine various scenarios and hypothesize multiple endgames and warring consequences by way of dialectical sublation or Kierkegaardian repetition.

Anatomy of the Terrorizing Sublime

Notice has been made earlier regarding Rizal’s predilection for melodrama tempered with Rabelaisian farce. Whatever sophistic qualifications may be offered, I submit that aside from the poignant rendition of Sisa’s agony and the Tales’ family’s seemingly endless punishment (analogous to Elias’ family’s tribulations), Rizal’s artistic shrewdness may be discerned in such episodes as the slow torture of Tarsilo Alasigan in Chapter 58 of the Noli and the hideous plight of the prisoners in Chapter 38 of the Fili, among others.

At such moments in the Fili, the montage of horror is framed and distanced by an explicit cut in the narration. This can be quickly ascertained in a few instances. Take the episode where, after the report of the assassinated landgrabbers (Chapter 10), the narrator abruptly shifts to addressing his readers by dissolving the illusion: “Do not be alarmed, peaceful citizens of Calamba…” For another instance, consider the freezing of the camera-eye in Chapter 23 when Maria Clara is reported dead, stupefying Simoun, at which point the narrator interrupts to perform a pacifying invocation: “Sleep in peace, unhappy child of my unfortunate motherland….” These are just samples of the obvious defamiliarizing semiotic device of the narrative designed to reconcile on the imaginary plane painfully lived contradictions energizing the plots and characters of Rizal’s fiction (Balibar and Macherey 1996).

By themselves, spectacles of misery and human degradation do not by themselves trigger anger leading to sustained mass agitation and insurrection. In fact, as the historical precedents show, they often lead to the emergence of a populist demagogue whose authoritarian violence serves as catharsis for moral panic and mass hysteria. Were the proletarian viewers of Luna’s El Spoliarium, or the readers of Zola’s portrayals of brutalized workers, stirred up enough to demand immediate action? Can literary artifice serve as an effective tool to improve the victims’ wretched condition? Other contingencies and variables involving audience reception, their race/gender/class-defined dispositions, and attendant institutional constraints have to be taken into account. Needless to say, political propaganda like commercial advertisements can employ artistic means; but their effects are dependent on imponderable contingencies, so that intentions and motives are not always realized.

Nonetheless, one can venture the proposition that the aesthetic level of response cannot really be measured and judged apart from their ethico-political ramifications. We can pose the following questions: what conceivable sequence of conduct can be inferred logically arising from such scenes as the encounter between the sanctimonious Dona Victorina and the feral Dona Consolacion in Chapter 48 of the Noli? Or what effect is intended to be produced by the last chapter of the Fili?

I have in mind specifically Padre Florentino’s impassioned appeal for the youth “who would generously shed their blood to wash away so much shame, so much crime, so much abomination” even while he condemns Simoun’s call for sacrifice, for blood, to guarantee their “rights to social life.” The priest’s appeal does not exactly block a sanguinary path to extremist purification.

One is disquieted, if not disconcerted, by the ambiguous resolution of the Fili. A sequel did not materialize with the author’s demise. The final chapter is charged with the purpose of satisfying readers’ expectations, but the scene is invested with contradictory ideological implications, just like the Noli’s closure. When an official representative of the government visits the convent of Santa Clara (where Maria Clara was confined) to speak to the abbess and meet all the nuns, we are suddenly confronted with this shocking spectacle, a cryptic intervention from the author’s buried past: “It is said that one of the these appeared with her habit soaking wet and torn to shreds; weeping, she asked for the man’s protection against the violence of hypocrisy, and revealed other horrors. It is said that she was very beautiful, that she had the loveliest and most expressive eyes that were ever seen (2004, 565)

Again, we confront those “expressive eyes” gesturing to the missing object! We have encountered this scopic insignia before, first underscored in the “Memoirs of a Student in Manila by P. Jacinto,” where the transgressive coupling of love and death, of desire and its perversions, configured the first twenty years of Rizal’s life (for the interplay of eros and thanatos, see San Juan 2011, 37-50). The surveillance of a patriarchal nomos continues in the world of make-believe. And this is where Rizal’s reflections on women’s surbordination, the sexual division of labor, and gender inequity, becomes fraught with radical, ultimately subversive political consequences when translated into either spontaneous or organized mass action–filibusterismo on the rampage.

Signposts of Deliverance

Rizal’s heroic achievement is generally identified with the ideas and actions enacted in the two novels. For schools and official functions, the “Ultimo Adios” serves as a precis of the hero’s credo. One can assert here that, by a formidable consensus, Rizal’s novels have been judged as the foundational scripture of the republic, a national allegory of our collective experience as colonized object-become-emancipated subject. In effect, they constitute the epic of our ethnogenesis, of becoming ideally a nation-state with popular-democratic sovereignty. They operate as the paradigmatic exemplum of our acquiring a historic national identity. And by “national allegory,” we allude to Frederic Jameson’s thesis on the peculiarity of political-didactic romances fashioned in colonial terrain. He reflects on this topic: “Third-world texts, even those which are seemingly private and invested with a properly libidinal dynamc, necessarily project a political dimension in the form of national allegory: the story of the private individual destiny is always an allegory of the embattled situation of the public third-world culture and society” (2000, 320). Embattled up to now, even beleaguered, given the insidious neocolonial bondage we continue to suffer.

In Rizal’s unconventional allegory, the hero’s situation is cast as a microcosm of the body politic, the historic predicament of the majority writ large. As synedochic figure, Ibarra’s plan to improve schooling (inflected later in the students’ demand for a Spanish academy) fuses private and public spheres. Both attempts are foiled. The conflicting sides mirror the asymmetry between lord and slave (in Hegel’s famous tableau). But through agonizing labor and initiative, the slave acquires self-consciousness, elicits recognition, and liberates herself as an emblem of transcending the syndrome of contradictions. The pathos of awakening–the recognition of the totality of the situation after the reversal and catharsis of repressed emotions–initiates us to enter, at last, the threshold of national-popular revolution.

Argued from another vantage-point, we engage with the disruption of assemblages, compromises, and temporizing unions. Diremptions prevail over fusion and linkages. What the novels strive to convey, among other aims, is the break-up of the matrimonial market and its cognate family structure, the basis of masculine domination. Sisa’s plight and Elias’ genealogy condense this trajectory. Its aftermath coincides with the swift disintegration of the decaying tributary structure and its supernaturalist legitimizations. Sexual difference comes to the foreground in Rizal’s counter-metanarrative and exfoliates into pathetic submission, serial tragedies, or into the fury of nihilist rage (for an argument against gender dimorphism, see Butler 2000, 143-79).

In the Beginning: Exchange of Women

In this context, Pierre Bourdieu’s insight into the role of women in the economy of reifying commodity exchange yields heuristic pertinence: “The principle of the inferiority and exclusion of women, which the mythico-ritual system ratifies and amplifies, to the point of making it the principle of the division of the whole universe, is nothing other than the fundamental dissymmetry, that of subject and object, agent and instrument, which is set up between men and women in the domain of symbolic exchanges, the relations of production and reproduction of symbolic capital, the central device of which is the matrimonial market, and which are the foundation of the whole social order—women can only appear there as objects, or, more precisely, as symbols whose meaning is contributed outside of them and whose function is to contribute to the perpetuation or expansion of the symbolic capital held by men” (2001, 42-43).

Responding to this crucial question cannot be shirked: what can abolish this market and the salient role of symbolic capital in organizing social relations? Victimized women’s rebellion and the sympathy or solidarity it elicits, is one answer. Rizal, of course, responded within the given opportunities of his time and place, cognizant of the hierarchies of power and knowledge limiting his agency, resources, and reflexivity.

Changes in the mode of production are bound, sooner or later, to modify the reproduction of the whole power-arrangement, including the distribution of wealth and symbolic capital. With the changes in the family structure and domestic/household set-up, plus opportunities for remunerative work outside, women gained more autonomy. They were gradually freed from strict parental control and the burden of rigid traditional mores regulating kin-network (Goody 1998, 79-95).

From this point of view, we can appreciate the shattering of masculine domination in the wreckage of Ibarra’s courtship of Maria Clara, the sundering of families and murder of daughters (Sisa’s case), the farcical rigmarole of Dona Victorina and Dona Consolacion, estrangement among relatives and friends, as well as the interruption of Paulita Gomez’s wedding and the heart-breaking separation of Elias and Salome. Such reversals transpired in the process of disclosing the truth behind appearances, alongside satiric lampoons, sardonic interior monologues, and tragicomic interludes.

Let us rehearse Rizal’s attitudes and sentiments touched on earlier. The curse of patriarchal ascendancy is over. It has been exorcised, and a new epoch of indeterminacy and dicey possibilities glimmer in the horizon. The dice have been cast. Shall we greet the new age of hope convulsed in its bloody birth-pangs? Whatever the reader’s response, this advent of a new epoch is welcomed by the hero on the eve of his execution:

Mis suenos cuando apenas muchacho adolescente,
Mis suenos cuando joven, ya lleno de vigor,
Fueron el verte un dia, joya del Mar de Oriente,
Secos los negros ojos, alta la tersa frente,
Sin ceno, sin arrugas, sin manchas de rubor,…

Mi patria idolatrada! Dolor de mis dolores!
Querida Filipinas, oye el postrer adios!
Ahi te dejo todo; mis padres, mis amores,
Voy donde no hay esclavos, verdugos ni opresores,
Donde la fe no mata, donde el que reina es Dios!

My dreams, while yet merely a child, or when nearing maturity,
My dreams, when a youth full of vigor at length I became,
Were to see Thee one happier day, O jewel of the orient sea,
Thine ebon eyes dried of their tears, thine uplifted brow clear and free
From the frowns and the furrows, the stains and the stigma of shame….

My idolized motherland, whose grieving makes me grieve,
Dearest Filipinas, hear my last farewell again!
I now leave all to thee, my parents, my loved ones I leave.
I go where there are no slaves, a brute’s lash to receive;
Where faith does not kill, and where it is God who doth reign.

(Tr. Frank Laubach; Palma 1949, 321-22)

Frame of Intelligibility

Our meditation on the sexual politics of Rizal’s allegory is nearly over for now. We have concentrated on the representation and elaboration of his ideas on “the woman question,” broadly construed, in his fiction and in various speech-acts. It will take another treatise to explore further the transformation of Rizal’s artistic project via complex dialectical mediations to a fully fleshed ethico-political program of action. We have witnessed its initial outline in the constitution of the Liga Filipina. We can also glimpse the concept of the “general will” adumbrated in “The Rights of Man,” “By-laws of the Association of Dapitan Farmers,” and the proposal for the development of north Borneo by Rizal’s family and relatives.

The principles enunciated in the documents of the French Revolution can be extrapolated from Rizal’s manifestoes or public statements drawn up before his trial and execution, such as “An Address to the Spanish Nation” and “Data for my Defense” (2011, 309-91). Those discourses contain both negative/critical insights combined with positive/utopian projections and their corresponding affects. They are impregnated with a totalizing vision of the whole imperial system–Spain/Europe vis-a-vis Philippines/Asia–where History appears as pivotal events of confrontation between lords/bondsmen, colonized and colonizers.

We can assert that those events are also moments of decision in which heritage (the past), including its barbarism and lethargy, are dialectically converted by agents into destiny via group praxis. We offer the following semiotic diagram spelling out agencies and other thematic strands and their interweaving in the novels to supplement an earlier schematic tabulation found in Rizal in Our Time (2011, 94):



Toward.a Radical Architectonic

Suffice it for this occasion to suggest the direction for a future
critical negative/positive hermeneutics of Rizal’s life-work to discover hitherto unexamined aspects. Almost all his biographers concur that Rizal’s self-formation diverged from the usual pattern of a linear evolution due to the impact of sociohistorical circumstances. The planned course of his studies was interrupted in 1882, then in 1888, followed by the Depitan exile in 1892-1896. The itinerary of his thought unfolded in ironic or paradoxical ways. Sometimes Rizal argued for revolutionary change only to back-track with the usual qualifications about means and methods. But when faced with extreme urgent situations, Rizal committed himself to dissidence, remonstrance, protest, intransigent resistance.

The vicissitudes of Rizal’s speculative adventure, its “structure of feeling” (to use Raymond Williams’ rubric), may be tracked in his narratives. Adopting the genre of gothic melodrama popular in Europe, Rizal reworked the reversal of fortunes (including peripeteia and anagnorisis) caused by institutions into naturalistic scenes where the charismatic or supra-empirical tendencies predominate, Scrutinize, for instance, the chapters portraying Mr. Leeds’s Imuthis, the mummified Egyptian talking-head; the ghostly phantom on the convent roof; crocodiles in the lake; the philosopher Tasio’s uncanny intuitions; Dona Jeronima’s escapades, and other seemingly bizarre phenomena. They all problematize the intrusion of forces beyond one individual’s control, suggesting the pressure of structures and received group mores or folkways–the power of Necessity circumscribing people’s will and choices, the ruses of Spirit (in Hegel’s philosophy) to determine individual/group fates immanent in the antagonism between the advancing forces of production and the inherited social relations that inhibit progress.

With the onset of global commerce, the exchange of commodities and ideas in the second half of the 19th-century, a new landsape of urban speed and technological mobility began to erode the inertia of old rules and habits. Anomie and alienation began to unsettle the normal modes of perception and social behavior, opening gaps for intervention. Crisis actually presents us with the twin moments of danger and opportunities. Perspective is gained by people wrestling with these sudden unexpected turns, allowing the larger horizon of the social drama to surface. In the novels, the texture of the social landscape seems saturated by disappointments, miscarriage, delays, failures, aborted schemes, remorse, melancholia, flailing anger, fits of delirium.

The Sibyl of Cumae seems to be beckoning from the edge of the crossroad. Fate and capricious fortune are invoked, beseeched, and denounced. Tragic and comic affects blend in contrapuntal rhythm as when, for instance, we juxtapose the legend of Dona Jeronima with the painful trials of Maria Clara, Dona Victorina, Paulita Gomez, Juli, and other women. Sisa’s agony punctuates this lanscape with an abject experience impossible to categorize or normalize. In brief, the course of alienated existence in the colony was utterly precarious and the outcome of plans could not be fully extrapolated, hence the accidents, the exigencies, the dizzying variety of contingencies and constraints that defy the conjectures about the future offered by any number of SIbylline oracles awaiting at the wings.
Regrounding Our Agenda
We have now traversed the zone of dead quotidian space/time, coming from the Empire’s petrified duration, to the Now-time: the settling of accounts. Sisa’s torment precipitates kairos, the ripeness of all that King Lear proclaimed. By existentialist retrieval/repetition, the gaps and silences of the staus quo have been exposed. The sacrifices of Elias, Cabesang Tales, Capitan Pablo, and Sisa have been staged and witnessed by all. So now we can understand how Rizal’s preoccupation with individual lives (veridical as well as fictional) was dictated by the sheer pressure of turbulent occurrences. The imperative of family-kinship solidarity and the claim of Indio-tempered honor compelled him to move away from the customary analysis of the ego-centered psychic dimension to the more demanding ethico-political inquiry into purposes, ideals, and principles lived by communities and regions. Acquisitive individualism and instrumentalist beliefs have to be re-evaluated against the wider socio-political background, together with the ideological apparatus of Empire that legitimized extraction of surplus-value/profit, as well as feudal tribute (rent, exorbitant landlord credit), from the natives based on church/state-sanctioned inequities of race, gender, religion, and class.

The memorable dialogues of Ibarra-Elias and Simoun-Basilio, among other exchanges, illustrate Rizal’s grasp of the unity of opposites, the role of contradictions, in all social processes. Of prime importance is the dialectical reflections of the phliosopher Tasio who appied the logic of negation on all experience, thus counseling Ibarra that failure always yields a measure of success: “…Lay the first stone, sow; after the storm is unleashed, some grain of wheat will perhaps germinate, survive the catastrophe, save from destruction the species which would later serve as seed for the sons of the dead sower” 2004, 231).

Unlike the either/or stance of his townmates, Tasio’s mediation seeks to resolve antinomies, aporias, and the one-dimensional thinking validated by church/state metaphysics. As antithesis, we note the personalistic indecisiveness and temporizing abstractions found in the thoughts and deeds of the youthful Basilio, Isagani and other characters (including Don Custodio, Padre Fernandez, the opportunist lawyer Pasta, and many more) which are tested and proved inadequate, forcing one to assume more distancing, suspicious, critical, self-estranging, interrogative stances.

One standpoint for further examination is the equivocal role of Simoun, Ibarra’s double or shadow (Elias functioned in the Noli as Simoun’s avatar). His self-righteous judgment of defending the oppressed is undercut by his obsession with a frozen past, a petrified ideal (Maria Clara’s purity now compromised in the convent). This turn of events seems predestined by the middle of the narrative. In demonstrating the futile idealism of Simoun’s plan (arguably a cynical inversion of Ibarra’s pedagogical meliorism) to stir up mass unrest and chaos for the sake of salvaging his beloved–a surrogate for the dishonored father whose corpse iwas ordered disinterred and thrown to the lake, Rizal’s twin narratives evince the transition from an aesthetic exercise to an ethico-political engagement, a movement from the anomie/barbarism of Capitan Tiago and the friars to the stage of an existential leap to judgment, passing through Sisa’s and Elias’ sacrifices, the most pregnant gifts to patria.

Subterranean Mobilizations

We have been prepared for such a transition. Even before his execution, Rizal always affirmed his convictions about freedom and rights and his obligation to perform his duty to patria regardless of costs. This testifies to the inherently contradictory mechanism of the ilustrado sensibility and intellect in dealing with the crisis. The solitude of Simoun and Padre Florentino’s piety converge at the end, not without generating contradictory, extravagant impulses–other lives are on the move outside the remote retreat, advancing toward the fortified metropolis.

At this conjuncture, the emergence of a counterhegemonic bloc is not far from the scene. The ilustrado’s seemingly irresolvable predicament can only be remedied by class suicide, fulfilling its tendency to dissolve its vacillating status into that of a nomad operating as an integral component of the proletarian-peasant, united-front formation so long held dormant in the process of slow germination. With Elias’ death and the tell-tale absence of Isagani and Basilio (youth as hope of the motherland), as well as the vigil of Cabesang Tales and other insurgents surrounding Intramuros, we are left suspended in that pregnant interregnum occupied by Sisa as synoptic emblem (see the semiotic diagram in a previous page) before the quiet smuggling of “Ultimo Adios” from Fort Santiago and the tumutuous cry of Balintawak–a passage of rebirth and redemption for the subjugated multitude.

We arrive at this temporary station of our journey of interpreting and understanding Rizal’s achievement. We have compressed all the issues of gender, class and nation into the metaphor of “Sisa’s vengeance.” This may now be conceived as a symbolic labor of negation and secular transubstantiation, converting the people’s blood into the wine of redemption. The process of narrativizing routine time, everyday life, into the twists of the plot (modeled on the quest, ordeal, mission, etc.) transforms abstract theory into concrete praxis. In this context, the couple Simoun/Elias incarnates all the victims of patriarchal, frailocratic power. Meanwhile, Padre Florentino mourns over the dying Simoun confessing his real identity, The good priest implores the Christian God with His juridical wisdom to provide the weapon of retribution. He appeals to this metaphysical providence to rescue someday the treasures that he consigns to nature’s oceanic womb.

Padre Florentino’s “ultima razon” for getting rid of gold/money/commodities may be Rizal’s paramount message overriding others. The die is cast. This gesture of sacrificing merchant capital, labor/wealth stolen from the masses, is a promise of compensation for the fidellity, patience and trust of those praying for the last day of judgment—in this case, for an imaginary resolution of real-life contradictions, which is art’s socially redeeming vocation. The destruction of Simoun’s treasure (the sweat and blood of human labor turned to waste) reawakens Sisa’s muffled cry of grief and protest.

Wanting to reconstitute the lost aura of her home and children, “Sisa’s vengeance” functions as the trope of that confluence of all the energies desiring change that were blocked, sublimated, or repressed. It heralds the emergence of a popular counterhegemonic agency designed to carry out to the end the program of anticolonial, national-democratic liberation. On the whole, Rizal’s narrative of mayhem, withdrawal, defeats, arrests, torture, murder, and generalized chaos may permit the grassroots messiah, the bathala of the boondocks, to intervene in sabotaging and eventually terminating for good the hitherto tolerated, but now bloodied, barbaric, wasted march of imperial history.

Yo muero cuando veo que el cielo se colora
Y al fin anuncia el dia, tras lobrego capuz;
Si grana necesitas para tenir tu aurora,
Vierte la sangre mia, derramala en buena hora
Y dorela un reflejo de su naciente luz!

I die just when I see the dawn break,
Through the gloom of night, to herald the day;
And if color is lacking my blood thou shalt take
Pour’d out at need for thy dear sake,
To dye with its crimson the waking ray.

(Craig 2010, 148)






By E. San Juan, Jr.,

Philippines Studies Center, Washington DC

Let us not forget that in the Negro people, there sleep and are now awakening passions of a violence exceeding, perhaps,…anything among the tremendous forces that capitalism has created.  Anyone who knows them, who knows their history, is able to talk to them intimately,…must recognize that although their social force may not be able to compare with the social force of a corresponding number of organized workers, the hatred of bourgeois society and the readiness to destroy it when the opportunity should present itself, rests among them to a degree greater than in any other section of the population in the United States.

–C.L.R. JAMES, “The Revolutionary Answer to the Negro Problem in the USA”  (1948; 1992)

          As a slave, the social phenomenon that engages my whole consciousness is, of course, revolution.  The slave—and revolution.

–GEORGE JACKSON, Blood in My Eye (1972)

     The end of the twentieth century witnessed a universal recognition of the horror of genocide and the reciprocal need to compensate the survivors of such catastrophes. One such expression is the ongoing reparations movement for the victims of slavery and colonization in the United States the groundwork of which was laid by the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Slave trade, slavery, apartheid, and colonialism were judged as “crimes against humanity.”  As Fidel Castro put it: “What is undeniable is that tens of millions of Africans were captured, sold like commodity and sent beyond the Atlantic to work in slavery while 70 million indigenous people in that hemisphere perished as a result of the European conquest and colonization” (2001, 24). Historians such as Walter Rodney (1982), Eric Williams (1944), and others have cogently documented this unprecedented holocaust.

     We need to face the outrage of this commodity system that continue to wreak havoc today. Since any vision of a caring and nurturant future can only be extrapolated from the persistence of the past in the present, a critical analysis of conjunctures is imperative. How can restitution be made for past wrongs so as to undo what has been done to an entire people? What is problematic is the paradox of the solution: justice conceptualized as a fair exchange of values, the compensation for labor-power expropriated from the slave, follows of course from a liberal understanding of value as a product of free labor. However, it reveals in its fold the real inequality of the parties involved: the slave’s labor was coerced, her/his freedom alienated from her/him. As everyone admits, this inequality (impervious to market calculation) includes not only the deep psychological trauma of free persons being enslaved but also the disastrous social and political structures that have damaged the lives of the survivors—something “non-reparable or “incompensational “ (Martin and Yaquinto 2004, 22). Can deprivation of freedom be repaired or rectified by an attempt at “equal” exchange?  Can disparity of life chances be remedied by equality before the law of the market?

In this essay I want to explore briefly this disjuncture between the form and substance of the reparations dilemma, and its feasible resolution, by using as touchstones certain heuristic observations by Du Bois, George Jackson, and Mumia Abu-jamal concerning the passage of the African American people from slavery to bourgeois democracy.


     History discloses the instructive duplicity of the emancipation narrative. In his classic testimony The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois evokes the melancholy time of the destruction of the South’s plantation empire and the transformation of the slave into that “the most piteous thing,” the black freedman. Using his uncanny feel for dialectical twists and turns, Du Bois describes the irony of the “mockery of freedom” in the wake of the Reconstruction :

Not a cent of money, not an inch of land, not a mouthful of victuals,–not even ownership of the rags on his back. Free! On Saturday, once or twice a month, the old master, before the war, used to dole out bacon and meal to his Negroes. And after the first flush of freedom wore off, and his true helplessness dawned on the freedman, he came back and picked up his hoe, and old master still doled out his bacon and meal.  The legal form of service was theoretically far different; in practice, task-work or “cropping” was substituted for daily toil in gangs; and the slave gradually became a metayer, or tenant on shares, in name, but a laborer with indeterminate wages in fact. (1965, 308-09).

The transition was not linear but disingenuously warped. While the Union’s victory abolished the trappings of chattel slavery, it introduced an illusory form of liberation, the serf-like class of share-croppers. The change was a sleight-of-hand conversion of status and objective identity in the web of social relations. The  Reconstruction promise of “forty acres and a mule” brought the former slave from the auction block to the ballot box; but it clearly did not bring economic independence via land ownership. It was an intermediary stage between the slave’s total lack of ownership of his body and its capacities and the worker’s right to sell “freely” his labor-power in the capitalist market. The ex-slaves were “free,” not legally owned; but they were unable to participate fully in decision-making processes concerning their collective fates.

There may have been justice of the liberal sort implemented after 1865, but how about substantive life and efficacious liberty for the black nation? Du Bois focuses on this transitional stage as a microcosmic scene in which the obsolescence of slavery registers itself in two ways: the dependence of the former slave on the “old master” has become detached, the organic ties between lord and “his Negroes” dissolved, while the “freedman” subsists on “indeterminate wages,” now dependent on a force that imposes an illusion of liberty which proves more ruthless than the paternalistic reign of the dispenser of “bacon and meal.” 

     What Du Bois tried to dramatize in that quoted passage from his allegorical narrative is the irony of emancipation within the racial polity of the United States. He  sought to trace the dialectical movement of the totality: the negation of one part coexists with the sublation of another into a different level of significance. The destruction of chattel slavery in the South precipitated a dynamic social mutation that both released the African slave from ownership only to imprison him in the deceptive thrall of another condition: wage-slavery. This is a learning process registered by the protagonists of this particular historical conjuncture. Du Bois sums up the lesson: the appearance of change disguises but also reveals a reality with an ethical demand: capitalism needs to be exposed as complicit in the persistence of subordination and permanence of racialized hierarchy. The change in form has to be recognized, but the lack of change in substance also admitted.

     The reparations movement for America’s “holocaust” enunciated by the Black Manifesto captures the hidden double movement of meanings unveiled by Du Bois. The major premise stems from “the historical fact that the United States was constitutionally founded on slavery and that the persistence of racial inequality and injustice in American society is derived from slavery” (Martin and Yaquinto 2004, 3)  Given the damage wrought by slavery and its consequences, justice can be rendered only if indemnification is made through the juridical intercession of the state. Such compensation—a demand for a just share–is based on the contribution of the entire African American nation to the economic wealth of the country. Such a claim requires a disruption of the mirage of political change (from servitude to parity), and a grasp of the real motion transpiring in consciousness and in the praxis of collectivities engaged in social production. This encapsulates the succinct answer to the objection that reparation is futile because past crimes cannot be undone, the dead parties—the guilty perpetrator and the victims–cannot be brought back to life, and history must start anew.

Du Bois has precisely pointed out that the crime is continuing in its effects: segregation, dependency. Despite surface alterations, the unequal position of the parties remain unaffected (even though the specific members of the group occupying the positions may have changed). What is implied in Du Bois’ account is that the social contract can become operative again if contingent rules and norms are put on trial when the principle of justice is made answerable to the substantive universal values of life and freedom, as embodied in the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. The resonance of those values are reaffirmed and elaborated in the United Nations Charter and its foundational principles.

     A crime has been committed, to be sure, but where is the “body,” as it were, the encountered evidence? While the ideals of justice and equality are definitely the two  motive-forces that underpin the demand for reparations, I think the movement is far more significant in its educational and practical implications. First of all, it has revived an interest in the understanding of historical causality and the critique of accountability. What made possible the condition of humans being treated as a privately owned commodities? What perpetuates this denial of their control over their labor and their fruits, and over the quality of their own reproduction?  Why can the slaveowner grant manumission in acient Rome, for example, without affecting the system of slavery, unlike that of the ante-bellum South? A slave’s life is generally equated to involuntary labor, with non-economic compulsion enabling its reproduction. Who is accountable for it? Who can be held responsible for its long-term effects, its impact on psyches and the communal memory?  Is just retribution—say, the return of stolen property–an end in itself or only a means to the discovery  (if not invention) of a more all-encompassing ethico-political concept of justice? These are some of the questions provoked by the resurgence of this campaign for indemnification of the victims of a system that has been abolished and yet survives as an unhealable wound of the body politic.

     The existence of slave society in the New World (in the U.S. as well as in the Caribbean and Brazil) was a historical anomaly.  In 1857 Marx observed: “The fact that we now not only call the plantation owners in America capitalists, but that they are capitalists, is based on their existence as anomalies within a world market based on free labour” (1973, 513).  As Eugene Genovese (1969) has shown, this anomaly is captured in the slaveholders’ belief in their unlimited patriarchal authority even as implacable world-market forces and ascendant bourgeois hegemony eroded the moribund paternalistic ethos, unleashing the racist violence immanent in the system.

The apparent incongruity of the “unfree” (slave) inhabiting the terrain of the “free” (laissez-faire market) disappears if we apply the two analytic concepts of social formation and mode of production. While the U.S. then may be defined as chiefly an emergent capitalist social formation from the time of its independence to the Civil War, one can discern in it two discordant modes of production: the slave mode in the South and the mercantile-industrial one in the North. The triumph of the juridical framework of capitalism (based on Lockean principles of alienable labor, etc.) and its state machinery led to the legal abolition of slavery in 1865. This is a clear sign that New World slavery was not similar to that in Graeco-Roman societies where slavery was not abolished by a legal act but by a long period of evolution when it was eventually superseded by another kind of dependent labor (serfdom) which became dominant, even though chattel slaves continued to exist up the late Middle Ages. What is clear, however, is that the elite in the U.S. South was mainly parasitic on coerced labor for its wealth and reproduction (Finley  1983, 441). Reconstruction eliminated the practice of coercion, the aristocratic habitus (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992), only to replace it with that of the market legitimized by Constitutional amendments, and (after 1877) by wholesale fraud, Jim Crow laws, and vigilante violence.

     In effect, slavery in the U.S. performed a dual function. It was part of the social relations of production and simultaneously of reproduction. The labor of the slave yielded surplus value (value realized over and above the cost of its reproduction, or profit) that accumulated as capital within the world market of alienable labor, as Marx remarked. This became the basis of the political power of the plantation regime and its successor in Jim Crow. At the same time, this productivity, enabled by non-economic force (violence synchronized with tradition, rituals and other pedagogical, disciplinary apparatuses), reinforced the juridical and ideological mutation of the system. What is reproduced is the racist legitimation of the entire social order based on private ownership of land and other vital means of production.

     Now the ideology that rationalized the political exclusion of the black nation was racism in its various ramifications. In late-nineteent century culture, racism functioned as a theory that certain human types are superior morally and intellectually and therefore have the right to subordinate, dominate and exploit other types regarded as inferior on the basis of ascribed qualities and imputed characteristics.  Such a theory, in the aftermath of the Nazi defeat in World War II, has been repudiated by the UNESCO Statements of 1950, 1964 and 1967 (Montagu 1972).  But it is the persistence of this racist ideology in various disguises and its institutional machinery that distinguishes the U.S. racial polity from other societies where diverse forms of slavery continue to exist (as in India where a debtor can be treated as property, in Peru or Brazil where plantation workers are held in bondage), although the existence of domestic servants (illegal Indonesian immigrants) sold to wealthy Los Angeles homes (Cashmore 1984, 284) may be a symptom of the return of the phase of early capitalist primitive accumulation to a postmodern globalized economy.

     At this juncture I would like to proceed to the topic of the repercussions of this modern historical phenomenon in the whole polity. How do we estimate the resonance and legacy of slavery, segregation, and colonization in the social fabric of U.S. modernity? The economist Glenn Loury  (2000) has argued that instead of demanding a “money settlement” or any kind of indemnity to correct the racist past, we need to invoke “national fellowship and comity,” presumably a higher moral order, that would bring reconciliation between the conflicting parties similar to the aim of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This certainly repudiates mere formal exchange of commodified values, the norm and rule of a market-centered society. But lacking equality, which is not an independent universal value but a necessary condition for “the complete and unfailing actualization of the values of life and freedom” (Heller 1987, 122), these latter two being the authentic universal values, what is the point of “national fellowship and comity”?  Indeed, before such a level of moral enlightenment can be attained, we need to go through the complex mediations of historical development to grasp the import of the axiomatic values of life and freedom.  This is the route which George Jackson, the author of the highly influential  collection of prison letters Soledad Brother (1972), took before he was killed  in Quentin Prison on August 21, 1971, two days before the opening of his trial.


    Jackson symbolizes, in Manning Marable’s (1983) assessment, “the plight of the Black domestic periphery” that has suffered severe underdevelopment, the result of integration into the predatory world-market economy after slavery and segregation. For stealing $70, Jackson languished for more than ten years in inhumane jails—a crime against property usually merits one to five years in prison for a black person. Assassinated in prison at the age of 31, Jackson’s life epitomized the demand for freedom and meaningful life, not just equity alone: “Underdevelopment and the imprisonment of the Black masses will not die a natural death until the real criminals within America’s powerful ruling class taste something of the bitter anguish that distorts and cripples the Black majority” (1983, 130).

      For Jackson, emancipation of the slave ushered a period of internal colonialism,  the “free” subject willing or consenting to be ruled. In a letter  to his lawyer, Jackson comments on how blacks embrace capitalism as “the most outstanding example of man against himself that history can offer.” In the process he emphasizes the continuity and disruption in the lives of African Americans after the Civil War. We return to Du Bois’ perception of duplicity which needs to be clarified in this way:

After the Civil War, the form of slavery changed from chattel to economic slavery, and we were thrown onto the labor market to compete at a disadvantage with poor whites.  Ever since that time, our principal enemy must be isolated and identified as capitalism. The slaver was and is the factory owner, the businessman of capitalist Amerika, the man responsible for employment, wages, prices, control of the nation’s institutitions and culture. It was the capitalist infrastructure of Europe and the U.S. which was responsible for the rape of Africa and Asia…. Imperialism took up where the slave trade left off.  It wasn’t until after the slave trade ended that Amerika, England, France, and the Netherlands invaded and settled in on Afro-Asian soil in earnest. As the European industrial revolution took hold, new economic attractions replaced the older ones; chattel slavery was replaced by neo-slavery.  Capitalism, “free” enterprise, private ownership of public property armed and launched the ships and fed the troops; it should be clear that it was the profit motive that kept them there (1972,  176).


Several points need to be underlined here. First, the shift to wage-slavery entailed the new mask of the property-owner as the businessman who runs the factories and also administers the entire cultural/ideological order—the split between economic structure and ideological “superstructure” disappears. The producers reproduce their own condition of domination. Second, it was this logic of accumulation that underpinned imperial conquest and trade in slavery—colonial conquest led to the capture of dark-skinned natives, the plunder of their habitats, and their subsequent transport to distant lands where they were sold and forced to work.  Capitalism as the infrastructure of “neo-slavery,” Jackson contends, is the necessity that compelled the ruling classes of Europe and the United States to invade and possess colonies, this time driven by a new contradiction: “private ownership of public property,” the usurpation of social wealth for private gain. We have finally reached the stage of imperialism when formal liberal rights serve to disguise its twin half, the alternative face of fascist authoritarian domination, as lived by millions of African Americans in prison or its counterpart, the ghettos and inner cities..

   The historical plot of causation charted by Jackson seems to impose a surface logic of linear duration and inevitability to the whole enterprise of slavery and its metamorphosis. This is not exactly a valid inference.  Grounded on his commitment to radical political change,  the central preoccupation of Jackson’s thought concerns the  subject-position of the former slave—how is her/his bodily movement determined, how is collective agency and its libidinal expressions circumscribed by the new configuration of space/time in post-bellum America? This exceeds the functional analysis of racism or race prejudice as the rationale for exploitation since Jackson poses the question why those “freed” could not grasp and outgrow the character of their subjugation. Notwithstanding the relative autonomy of the ideological sphere from the economic determinant, racism is not simply a reflex attitude completely divorced from the material conditions that sustain and enable it. As Barbara Fields succinctly formulates the materialist hypothesis: “If the slaveholders had produced white supremacy without producing cotton, their class would have perished in short order” (1990, 112). The same holds for the proprietors/owners of transnational corporations and their political representatives in the epoch of Homeland Security and the pre-emptive imperialist war against terrorism.

     What justifies this intervention to elucidate the links between chattel and wage slavery?  Underlying the overarching historical pattern, the semblance of continuity, behind the varying shapes of quotidian phenomena, Jackson searches for what he regards as the governing principle of his analysis: the ideal of self-determination in both individual and collective senses. This synthesizes the universal values of freedom and life to which I alluded earlier. (One gleans from this theme of self-determination a long tradition of historical-materialist discourse from Fredrick Douglass and Du Bois to Harry Haywood, William Z. Foster, C.L.R. James, Amiri Baraka, Nelson Peery, and others.) This presupposes the rigor of scientific knowledge converted to the versatile tactics and stragegy of practical reason, sociopolitical praxis, dedicated to the fulfillment of the whole community’s radical needs, beyond what isolated individuals merit in return for services rendered:

Chattel slavery is an economic condition which manifests itself in the total loss of absence of self-determination…..The new slavery, the modern variety of chattel slavery updated to disguise itself, places the victim in a factory or in the case of most blacks in support roles inside and around the factory system (service trades) working for a wage.  However, if work cannot be found in and around the factory complex, today’s neoslavery does not allow even for a modicum of food and shelter.  You are free—to starve…. If you’re held in one spot on this earth because of your economic status, it is just the same as being held in one spot because you are the owner’s property….

      Neoslavery is an economic condition, a small knot of men exercising the property rights of their established economic order, organizing and controlling the life style of the slave as if he were in fact property.  Succinctly: an economic condition which manifests itself in the total loss or absence of self-determination. Only after this is understood and accepted can we go on to the dialectic that will help us in a remedy. (1972, 190-91).

It had to take this singular, untypical prisoner, most of the time confined to isolation in maximum security cells, to grasp the essence of self-determination as the ability to decide on one’s own where to go, how to position and maneuver one’s body, how to inhabit space and experience time in the process of performing and triangulating one’s destiny—in short, how to actualize life to its fullest. An ironic turn, this intellectual exercise, and also an eloquent parable of the predicament of the black nation.

        The overriding importance of self-determination informs Jackson’s search for how the “crime against humanity” can be repaired. What Jackson attempted to do was to make critical reason realize a double task, something that Du Bois tried earlier. He had to reconstruct history as the confluence of contradictory trends, and from this deduce the ideal of radical freedom as a necessary future horizon based on the historicity of human needs.  Critical reason is no longer confined to moral agency; it becomes a sociopolitical practice motivated not just by interests—for example, the idea of retribution—but primarily by the collective needs of the human species. Jackson is applying Marx’s method of historicizing the “species essence” of humanity alienated in history, a humanity whose needs cannot be satisfied by the existing order; hence, the bearer of social practice—the slaves/workers—needs to destroy the oppressive order in an act of revolutionary transformation.


     We are still far from the stage of genuine liberation envisaged by Jackson, a moment of establishing the unity of the individual and the species-essence in a realm of self-determination, the autonomy of associated producers. We are still operating in the realm of necessity where market forces prevail, where authority/morality is still dictated by external forces (state, church, etc.), and where justice is still the formal application of reified norms and rules of the group to everyone regardless of manifold differences that make individuals and groups unique and incommensurable. In this context, the French philosopher Daniel Bensaid comments on the limits of formal justice (which underlies the call for reparations) as one “based on actual inequality and duress…, as limited and illusory as the contractual freedom of wage-laborers compelled to sell their labor-power to survive….” He points to exploitation as “the unity of the formal justice of the purchase of labor-power and the actual injustice of its exploitation as a commodity. This double-dealing accords with the general duplicity of the reign of the commodity. It prolongs and reproduces the split between use-value and exchange value, concrete labor and abstract labor, production and circulation” (2002, 128). 

     The reparations movement acquires its moral force precisely from the conviction that justice is needed so long as we remain in the realm of necessity. And one of the stark evidence of this is the character of the repressive  and unjust racial polity we inhabit, the United States as a sociopolitical order of “white supremacy,” in which “whiteness is property, differential entitlement,” and racial exclusion is normative and central to the system (Mills 1999, 29).

     Robert Staples has summed up the context in which we should evaluate the appropriateness of reparation: “However one defines racism in the 1990s, this country is more racially segregated and its institutions more race driven than any country outside South Africa.” After citing massive statistical indicators, Staples concludes: “The net effect of the color-blind theory” is to institutionalize and stabilize the status quo of race relations for the twenty-first century: white privilege and black deprivation” (1993, 230-31). This may serve as an antidote to the “amnesic principle” that has depoliticized social antagonisms and neutralized the “otherness” of black power into the reifying logic of bureaucratic rationality and pluralist hegemony (Reed 1999).

      Of all the institutitions that have distilled with painful immediacy the cumulative resonance of slavery and segretation for African Americans, the prison, or criminal justice, system remains unsurpassable.  Angela Davis has characterized the U.S. justice system as a “punishment industry.” Crime or criminalization of the poor, preponderantly blacks and latinos, becomes the masquerade behind which “race” with all its ideological ramifications “mobilizes old public fears and creates new ones….[so that] prison is the perfect site for the simultaneous production and concealment of racism” (1998, 271). I will not rehearse in detail here the known facts of the prison system. Suffice it to mention the following: of the two million people in prison, African Americans comprise 47 percent while representing less than 6 percent of the population. Close to a million young black men suffer the exploitative regime of the modern prison industrial complex, where their virtually unpaid labor is coerced and extracted for corporate profits (see Buck 1999; Davis 1998). This is not just a matter of ethnic stratification or status difference, as George Fredrickson (2000) and others would suggest. This is a situation that resurrects the biophysics of spatio-temporal reduction imposed by slavery and segregation, this time utilizing the sophisticated apparatus of bourgeois/liberal justice.

     To convey the historic gravity of the prison system today as a proxy/surrogate for the old plantation regime, we might cite here the prisoners’ revolt at the Attica State Correction Facility in 1971 (54% of  1200 inmates were blacks) when they failed to get even minimal relief for their grievances. After its violent suppression, the  government’s McKay Commission summed up the event in these words:  “With the exception of Indian massacres in the late nineteenth century, the State Police assault which ended the four-day prison uprising was the bloodiest one-day encounter between Americans since the Civil War” (Hampton and Fayer 1991, 561).


     This sense of “the return of the repressed,” of the duplicity of the passage from slavery to the narcotic freedom of the consumer-citizen, is captured  most acutely in the writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal, journalist and activist. Charged for the murder of a police officer in 1981, Jamal has been languishing in death-row ever since.  He has been widely acclaimed for his award-winning work with the Association of Black Journalists, National Black Network, and other radio stations.  He has distinguished himself for his powerful exposure of racial violence in Philadelphia in the late seventies. Convicted and sentenced to death on July 3, 1982, Jamal was saved from execution by the huge rallies held around the world protesting the Court’s refusal to acknowledge the 22 separate violations of rights and procedures that occurred during his first trial. He remains incarcerated in the maximum security unit in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.

     Jamal’s case has become something of a scandalous celebrity dangerous to the Establishment. Suffice it for this occasion to quote a passage from his unforgettable testimony, Live from Death Row, a cunning riposte to the generic slave narrative, in order to demonstrate the way in which the “middle passage” of the trans-Atlantic trade is re-enacted in late-modern United States. For refusing to cut his hair as a sign of loyalty to the teachings of John Africa, a charismatic religious teacher/leader, Jamal has been placed in disciplinary custody status. He reflects on the milieu of death row at the State Correctional Institute at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania:

    Life here oscillates between the banal and the bizarre.

     Unlike other prisoners, death row inmates are not “doing time.” Freedom does not shine at the end of the tunnel.  Rather, the end of the tunnel brings extinction. Thus, for many here, there is no hope.

     ….All death rows share a central goal: “human storage” in an “austere world in which condemned prisoners are treated as bodies kept alive to be killed.” Pennsylvania’s death row regime is among America’s most restrictive, rivaling the infamous San Quentin death unit for the intensity and duration of restriction. A few states allow four, six, or even eight hours out of cell, prison employment, or even access to educational programs. Not so in the Keystone State.

     Here one has little or no psychological life. Here many escape death’s omnipresent specter only by way of common diversions—television, radio, or sports.  TVs are allowed, but not type-writers: one’s energies may be expended freely on entertainment, but a tool essential for one’s liberation through judicial process is deemed a security risk…. (1995, 6-8)

In 1994, he analyzes the effects of incarceration:

     That prisons are hotbeds of violence is undeniable, but overt expressions of violence are rarely daily ones. The most profound horror of prisons lives in the day-to-day banal occurrences that turns days into months, and months into years, and years into decades. Prison is a second-by-second assault on the soul, a day-to-day degradation of the self, an oppressive steel and brick umbrella that transforms seconds into hours and hours into days. While a person is locked away in distant netherworlds, time seems to stand still; but it doesn’t, of course. Children left outside grow into adulthood, often having children of their own. Once loving relationships wither into yesterday’s dust. Relatives die, their loss mourned in silent loneliness. Times, temperaments, mores change, and the caged move to outdated rhythms.

     Encased within a psychic cocoon of negativity, the bad get worse and feed on evil’s offal.  Those who are harmed become further damaged, and the merely warped are twisted.  Empty unproductive hours morph into years of nothingness. This is the furrowed face of “corrections” in this age, where none are corrected, where none emerge better than when they came in. This is the face of “correction,” which outlaws education among those who have an estimated 60 percent illiteracy rate.

     The mind-numbing, soul-killing savage sameness that make each day an echo of the day before, with neither thought nor hope of growth, makes prison the abode of spirit death that it is for over a million men and women now held in U.S. hellholes. (1995, 64-65).

Unlike the traditional neoslave narratives, Jamal’s interrogates the individualist outlook and romantic sensibility found in conventional stories of the fugitive or runaway slave. He strives to articulate the intertwined fate of those condemned to solitary confinement, crossing the boundaries of race and ethnicity to concentrate on their common subjugation,  converting abject minds and bodies into the solidarity of  speaking subalterns. Jamal indicts a corrupt system that “eats hundreds of millions of dollars a year to torture, maim, and mutilate tens of thousands of men and women; a system that teaches bitterness and hones hatred.” What makes Jamal’s prison commentaries a powerful pedagogical instrument in mobilizing the masses to support the cause of reparation is its emphasis on causality and the instigation of agency. In his second volume, Death Blossoms, Jamal asserts: “When you don’t oppose [an unjust] system, your silence becomes approval, for it does nothing to interrupt the system…Do you see law and order? There is nothing but disorder, and instead of law there is only the illusion of security. It is an illusion because it is built on a long history of injustices: racism, criminality, and the enslavement and genocide of millions. Many people say it is insane to resist the system, but actually, it is insane not to” (1997, 11).   

      In their contrapuntal affinity, Jackson and Jamal have sharpened the demystificatory and critical program that Du Bois first launched at the end of the Reconstruction as he recharted the historical trajectory of the African American community. Their purpose is not just the production of useful knowedge, or the acquisition of truth, but also the preparation for ethico-political action.  The call for repairing a collective wrong pursues the liberal quest for justice or fairness beyond the “stigmatization of racial bias” that Randall Kennedy (1997) celebrates in the annals of U.S. jurisprudence. But surely it goes beyond that in so far as it seeks to empower the majority of citizens to destroy the material practices, laws, habits, and institutions that reproduce the terror of racial, class, and gender injustice. In a period of war against “terrorists” defined by the neoimperialist state as “others” hostile to Western civilization, the demand for reparation returns us to a time when those “others” (slaves and colonized aborigines) enabled that civilization to survive and flourish. These “others” today are the victims held in Abu Ghraib prison, the Delta Camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, and other dungeons where suspects are tortured in order to confess their “crimes.” The violence of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, the Philippines, Haiti, and esewhere recapitulates in undisguised if self-righteous form the inaugural violence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the barbaric genocidal aggression against American Indians, Mexicans, and other people of color around the world.

     Meanwhile, the unconfessed “crimes” of the slave trade, colonial domination, segregation, and more subtle forms of subjugation have never been properly addressed in a world court or international tribunal.  The millions who have suffered injury, loss, or wrong at the hands of white supremacist capital remain crippled by the experience, coopted and silenced, quarantined and repressed. The instrumentalities bequeathed by the past continue to inflict damage that requires redress and the enforcement of justice—the fair distribution of goods, not just amends or apology for a minor grievance. What is possible for citizens with rights in the liberal order is “restitution,” the act of returning to the rightful owner (the oppressed group) what has been taken illegally in violation of market rules. What is needed is indemnity, a reimbursement for loss or damage caused by a series of unjust acts. We are concerned here with social justice within a racial polity, a regime of unequal groups. But if a group categorized as a “race” or “minority” is not treated equally as the rest, then we face the problem that Du Bois, Jackson and Jamal faced, the problem of the racial polity that denies substantive freedom and purposeful life to the majority of citizens, not just to the African American constituency.

     Thus far we have confined ourselves to justice as the attribute of actions, not of persons. This is because the cry for reparation concerns a situation or a state of affairs structured by a history of actions, not of psyches or personalities. We are not engaged in conflating justice with virtue, as Aristotle and classical ethics would insist. On the other hand, we are not utilitarians who focus only on consequences because, in the ultimate analysis, equality or the exchange of equal values as it occurs in the realm of necessity—in the arena of class-divided society–has to give way to the transcending primacy of human needs in a possible realm of freedom when classes have been abolished, work is no longer alienating but pleasurable, and material abundance obtains for all. To expedite that transition analyzed by Du Bois, the passage from various forms of unfreedom, we need to advance the struggle for the recognition of collective rights, here those of African Americans as a symbolic part of the totality. Any act to compensate, redress, or indemnify the African American community will only be a first step toward that transformation of the status quo which Jamal evokes in a 1996 interview in prison when he observed how African Americans moved out of de-facto segregation and slavery in response to Fredrick Douglass’ teaching that “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”  Within this frame of intelligibility and solidarity, we can appraise the demand for reparations as the initial catalyzing move of a long over-due popular-democratic challenge to the inhumanity of corporate Power.

In the 1960s, Malcolm X called on African Americans to invoke the issue of human rights in order to escape the repressive juridical boundaries of the U.S. state. Since the domain of civil rights was chiefly controlled by white supremacists, it was futile to appeal solely to the hegemonic institutions of the racial polity.  Full  substantive equality can not be guaranteed by the simple assumption of formal citizenship, Malcolm X implied (Asad 2003, 142).  Rectifying the effects of slavery, together with the full restoration of inalienable human rights, requires adjudication by a court or judge other than the U.S. state which enforced slavery and, after its abolition, has continued to sanction or legitimize its dehumanizing consequences. 

It is clear then that neither moral conciliation, electoral representation, or therapeutic integration can fully resolve a fundamental conflict embedded in the larger socio-historical context of power and social justice. Any resolution would require an agency, using legal persuasion and force, to carry out the terms of the settlement, the binding decision, of this historic dispute.  To be sure, the enforcement of this mode of justice requires truth or reasonableness (Golding 1975, 122), objectivity, impartiality, rationality in procedures, weighing of evidence, etc. But the substantive question of equality and inequality—how to discriminate between them is, as Aristotle long ago pointed out (see Golding 1975, 121)–is basically a political question. Ultimately, the politics of reparations, as I have argued here, concerns what kind of good society we want to prevail—the “joinder of issue,” in legal parlance. Engaging the global problem of the “good society” embodying and universalizing the principles of justice and equality, the politics of reparation returns us once again to two heuristic insights: W.E.B. Du Bois’ conception of the “Negro problem” as “a local phase of a world problem” (Horne 2003, 79-80);  and Malcolm X’s conviction that “colonialism or imperialism, the international power structure,” is primarily responsible for oppressing “the masses of dark-skinned peoples all over the world” (Collins 1992, 73). Indeed, the issue is joined in ways that connect the local and global, affording multilevel dialogue among diverse peoples, traditions, and cultures that neoliberal capitalist globalization today continues to prey upon, commodify, and enslave.


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Asad, Talal.  2003.  Formations of the Secular.  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Bensaid, Daniel.  2002.  Marx for Our Times.  New York: Verso.

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Cashmore, E. Ellis.  1984.  Dictionary of Race and Ethnic Relations.  London: Routledge.

Collins, Patricia Hill.  1992.  “Learning to Think for Ourselves: Malcolm X’s Black Nationalism Reconsidered.”  In Malcolm X: In Our Image, ed. Joe Wood.  New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Davis, Angela.  1998a.  The Angela Davis Reader.  Ed. Joy James.  Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

—-.  1998b.   “Race and Criminalization: Black Americans and the Punishment Industry.”   In The House That Race Built.  Ed. Wahneema Lubiano.  New York: Vintage Books.

Du Bois, W.E. B.  1965 (1903).  “The Souls of Black Folk” in Three Negro Classics. With an Introduction by John Hope Franklin.  New York: Avon Books.

Fields, Barbara Jeanne.  1990.  “Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America.”  New Left Review 181 (May0June 1990): 95-118.

Finley, Moses.  1983.  “Slavery.”  In A Dictionary of Marxist Thought. Ed. Tom Bottomnore.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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Genovese, Eugene.  1969.  The World the Slaveholders Made.  New York: Vintage Books.

Golding, Martin P.  1975.  Philosophy of Law.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Hamptom, Henry and Steve Fayer.  1991.  Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s.  New York: Bantam Books.

Haywood, Harry.  1976.  Negro Liberation.  Chicago: Liberator Press.

Heller, Agnes.  1987.  Beyond Justice.  Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell.

Horne, Gerald.  2003.  “Race for Power: The Global Balance of Power and Reparations.”  In America’s Unpaid Debt: Slavery and Racial Justice, ed. Michael T. Martin and Marilyn Yaquinto.  Bowling Green, OH: Department of Ethnic Studies.

Jackson, George.  1970.  Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson.   New York:  Bantam Books.

—-.  1972.  Blood in My Eye.    New York: Bantam Books.

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Loury, Glenn.  2000. “It’s futile to put a price on slavery.”  The New York Times (29 May).

Marable, Manning.  1983.  How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America.  Boston: South End Press.

Martin, Michael and Marilyn Yaquinto.  2004.  “Reparations for ‘America’s Holocaust’: activism for global justice.”  Race and Class 45.4 (April-June 2004): 1-25.

Marx, Karl.  1973 (1857-58).  Grundrisse.  Tr. Martin Nicolaus.  New York: Penguin Books.

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Reed, Adolph, Jr.  1999.  Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Rodney, Walter. 1982.  How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.  Reprint. Washington, DC: Howard University Press.

Staples, Robert.  1993.  “The Illusion of Racial Equality: The Black American Dilemma.”  In Lure and Loating: Essays on Race, identity, and the Ambivalence of Assimilation.  Ed. Gerard Early.  New York: Penguin Books. 

Williams, Eric.  1944.  Capitalism and Slavery.  London: Andre Deutsch.


Interrogating Transnationalism by E. San Juan, Jr.

INTERROGATING TRANSNATIONALISM: The Case of the Filipino Diaspora in

the Age of Globalized Capitalism


Philippines Studies Center, Washington DC, USADSC_0405 [Desktop Resolution]

Contemporary cultural studies posit the demise of the nation as an unquestioned assumption, almost a doctrinal point of departure for speculations on the nature of the globalization process.  Are concepts such as the nation-state, national sovereignty, or nationalities, and their referents obsolete and useless?  Whatever the rumors about the demise of the nation-state, or the obsolescence of nationalism in the wake of September 11, 2001, agencies that assume its healthy existence are busy: not only the members of the United Nations, but also the metropolitan powers, with the United States as its military spearhead, have all reaffirmed their civilizing nationalism with a vengeance.

In this epoch of counter-terrorism we have entered, the local and the global find a meeting ground in the transactions among nation-states and diverse nationalities while global hegemony is negotiated among the metropolitan powers. Their instrumentalities–  the World Trade Organization, NATO, the World Bank and IMF, and other consortia–are all exerting pressures and influence everywhere.  Citizenship cards, passports, customs gatekeepers, and border patrols are still mundane regularities. Saskia Sassen has described the advent of the global city as a sign of the “incipient unbundling of the exclusive territoriality of the nation-state.”  At the same time, however, she adds that what we see looming in the horizon is the “transnational geography of centrality…consisting of multiple linkages and strategic concentrations of material infrastructure,” a “grid of sites and linkages” (1998, 214) between North and South still comprised of nation-states.

     With WTO and finance capital in the saddle, the buying and selling of labor-power moves center stage once more. What has not escaped the most pachydermous epigones of free-market apologists who have not been distracted by the Gulf War, the carnage in Bosnia and Kosovo, and now in Afghanistan, are the frequency and volume of labor migration, flows of bodies of color (including mail-order brides, children, and the syndicated traffic in prostitutes and other commodified bodies), in consonance with the flight of labor-intensive industries to far-flung industrial zones in Mexico, Thailand, the Philipines, Haiti, China, and other dependent formations. These regularities defy postmodernist concepts of contingency, ambivalence, and indeterminacy. Such bodies are of course not the performative parodists of Judith Butler in quest of pleasure or the aesthetically fashioned selves idealized by Foucault and the pragmatic patriot, Richard Rorty.

     Culture wars are being conducted by other means through the transport and exchange of bodies of color in the international bazaars. And the scaling of bodies proceeds according to corporeal differences (sex, race, age, physical capacity, etc.). Other diasporas—in addition to the historic ones of the Jews, Africans, Chinese, Irish, Palestinians, and so on—are in the making.  The editors of The South Atlantic Quarterly special issue on “diaspora and immigration” celebrate the political and cultural experiences of these nomadic cohorts who can “teach us how to think about our destiny and how to articulate the unity of science with the diversity of knowledges as we confront the politics of difference” (Mudimbe and Engel 1999, 6).  Unity, diversity, politics of difference—the contours and direction of diasporas are conceived as the arena of conflict among disparate philosophical/ideological standpoints.  Contesting the European discourse on modernity and pleading for the “inescapability and legitimate value of mutation, hybridity, and intermixture” (1993, 223), Paul Gilroy has drawn up the trope of the “Black Atlantic” on the basis of the “temporal and ontological rupture of the middle passage.”  Neither the Jewish nor the African diasporas can of course be held up as inviolable archetypes if we want to pursue an “infinite process of identity construction.”  My interest here is historically focused: to inquire into how the specific geopolitical contingencies of the Filipino diaspora-in-the-making can problematize this infinitude of identity formation in the context of “third world” principles of national liberation, given the persistent neocolonial, not postcolonial, predicament of the Philippines today (San Juan 1996).

Postmodern Cultural Studies from the counter-terrorizing North is now replicating McKinley’s gunboat policy of “Benevolent Assimilation” at the turn of the last century (Pomeroy 1992). Its missionary task is to discover how without their knowing it Filipina domestics are becoming cosmopolitans while working as maids (more exactly, domestic slaves), empowering themselves by devious tactics of evasion, accommodation, and making-do. Obviously this task of naturalizing servitude benefits the privileged few, the modern slave-masters. This is not due to a primordial irony in the nature of constructing their identity which, according to Ernesto Laclau, “presupposes the constitutive split” between the content and the function of identification as such since they—like most modern subjects—are “the empty places of an absent fullness” (1994, 36).  Signifiers of lack, these women from poverty-stricken regions in the Philippines are presumably longing for a plenitude symbolized by a stable, prosperous homeland/family that, according to postcolonial dogma, is forever deferred if not evacuated. Yet these maids (euphemized as “domestics”) possess faculties of resourcefulness, stoic boldness, and ingenuity. Despite this, it is alleged that Western experts are needed for them to acquire self-reflexive agency, to know that their very presence in such lands as Kuwait, Milan, Los Angeles, Taipeh, Singapore, and London and the cultural politics they spontaneously create are “complexly mediated and transformed by memory, fantasy and desire” (Hall 1992, 254). The time of labor has annihilated indeed the spaces of the body, home, community, and nation. The expenditure of a whole nation-people’s labor-power now confounds the narrative of individual progress on which the logic of capital and its metaphysics of rationality are hitherto founded.

Space-time particulars are needed if we want to ascertain the “power-geometry” (Massey 1993) that scales diasporic duration, the temporality of displacement. I might state at the outset an open secret: the annual remittance of billions of dollars by Filipino workers abroad, now more than eight million, suffices to keep the Philippine economy afloat and support the luxury and privileges of less than one percent of the people, the Filipino oligarchy. Since the seventies, Filipino bodies have been the No. 1 Filipino export, and their corpses (about five or six return in coffins daily) are becoming a serious item in the import ledger. In 1998 alone, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, 755,000 Filipinos found work abroad, sending home a total of P7.5 billion; in the last three years, their annual remittance averages $5 billion (Tujan 2001).  Throughout the nineties, the average total of migrant workers is about a million a year; they remit over five percent of the national GNP, not to mention the millions of pesos collected by the Philippine government in myriad taxes and fees. Hence these overseas cohorts are glorified as “modern heroes,” “mga bagong bayani” (the “new heroes”),  the most famous of whom are Flor Contemplacion who was falsely accused and hanged in Singapore, and Sarah Balabagan, flogged in Saudi Arabia for defending herself against her rapist-employer.

This global marketing of Filipino labor is an unprecedented phenomenon, rivalled only by the trade of African slaves in the previous centuries. Over one thousand concerned Filipino American students made this the central topic of the 1997 FIND Conference at SUNY Binghamton where I was the invited keynote speaker. These concerned youth were bothered by the reputation of the Filipina/o as the “domestic help,” or glorified servant of the world. How did Filipinas/os come to find themselves scattered to the four corners of the earth and subjugated to the position of selling their selfhoods? What are we doing about it? In general, what is the meaning and import of this unprecedented traffic, millions of Filipinas/os in motion and in transit around the planet?

Lifting the Embargo

Of the eight million Filipinos, there are more than a million Filipina domestics (also known as OCWs or “Overseas Contract Workers”) in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan today, employed under terrible conditions. News reports of brutal and inhumane treatment, slavery, rape, suicide, and murder suffered by these workers abound. The reason for why thousands of college-educated women continue to travel to Hong Kong and other destinations even as the procession of coffins of their sisters greet them at the ports of embarkation, is not a mystery. I can only sketch here the outline of the political economy of migrant labor as a subtext to the hermeneutics of diasporic representation.

Suffice it here to spell out the context of this transmigrancy: the accelerated impoverishment of millions of Filipino citizens, the oppressive unjust system (the Philippines as a neocolonial dependency of the U.S. and the transnational corporate power-elite) managed by local compradors, landlords, and bureaucrat-capitalists who foster emigration to relieve unemployment and defuse mass unrest, combined with the economic enticements in Hong Kong and other Newly Industrializing Countries, and so on–all these comprise the parameters for this ongoing process of the marketing of bodies. The convergence of complex global factors, including the internal conditions in the Philippines, has been carefully delineated by, among others, Bridget Anderson (2000), Delia Aguilar (2000), Grace Chang (2000), and Rhacel Parrenas (2001). We may cite, in particular, the devalorization of women’s labor in global cities, the shrinking status of sovereignty for peripheral nation-states, and the new saliency of human rights in a feminist analytic of the “New World Order.”  In addition to the rampant pillage of the national treasury by corrupt Filipino compradors, bureaucrat-capitalists and feudalistic landlords, the plunder of the economy by transnational capital has been worsened by the “structural conditionalities” imposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Disaggregation of the economy has registered in the disintegration of ordinary Filipino lives (most from rural areas) due to forced migration because of lack of employment, recruiting appeals of governments and business agencies, and the dissolution of the homeland as psychic and physical anchorage in the vortex of the rapid depredation of finance capital.

In general, imperialism and the anarchy of the “free market” engender incongruities, non-synchronies, and shifting subject-positions of the Other inscribed in the liminal space of subjugated territory. Capital accumulation is the matrix of unequal power (Hymer 1975; Harvey 1996) between metropolis and colonies. The historical reality of uneven sociopolitical development in a U.S. colonial and, later, neocolonial society like the Philippines is evident in the systematic Americanization of schooling, mass media, sports, music, and diverse channels of mass communication (advertisements, TV and films, cyberspace). Backwardness now helps hi-tech corporate business. Since the seventies, globalization has concentrated on the exploitation of local tastes and idioms for niche marketing while the impact of the Filipino diaspora in the huge flow of remittances from OCWs has accentuated the discrepancy between metropolitan wealth and neocolonial poverty, with the consumerist habitus made egregiously flagrant in the conspicuous consumption of domestic returning from the Middle East, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, and other places with balikbayan (returnee) boxes. Unbeknownst to observers of this postmodern “cargo cult,” coffins of these workers (one of them martyred in Singapore, Flor Contemplacion, achieved the status of national saint) arrive in Manila at the rate of five or six a day without too much fanfare.

      Notwithstanding this massive research into the structural and historical background  of these “new heroes” (as President Corazon Aquino call them in acknowledgment of their contribution to the country’s dollar reserves), their plight remains shrouded in bureaucratic fatuities. A recent ethnographic account of the lives of Filipina domestics celebrates their new-found subjectivity within various disciplinary regimes. Deploying Foucault’s notion of “localized power,” the American anthropologist Nicole Constable seeks “to situate Filipina domestic workers within the field of power, not as equal players but as participants”(1999, 11). 

Ambivalence supposedly characterizes the narratives of these women: they resist oppression at the same time as they “participate in their own subordination.”  And how is their agency manifested? How else but in their consuming power?  Consider this spectacle: During their Sundays off, Filipina maids gather in certain places like the food restaurants of the Central District in Hong Kong and demand prompt service or complain to the managers if they are not attended to properly. They also have the option of exercising agency at McDonald’s if they ask extra condiments or napkins. Apart from these anecdotal examples, the fact that these maids were able to negotiate their way through a bewildering array of institutions in order to secure their jobs is testimony to what Constable calls “the subtler and more complex forms of power, discipline and resistance in their everyday lives” (1999, 202). According to one reviewer, this scholarly attempt to ferret out signs of tension or conflict in the routine lives of  domestics obfuscates the larger context that defines the subordination of these women and the instrumentalities that reproduce their subjugation. In short, functionalism has given way to neopositivism. To put it another way, Constable shares Foucault’s dilemma of ascribing resistance to subjects while devaluing history as “meaningless kaleidoscopic changes of shape in discourse totalities” (Habermas 1987, 277).

Nor is Constable alone in this quite trendy vocation. Donna Haraway (1992), among others, has earlier urged the practitioners of Cultural Studies to abandon the politics of representation which allegedly objectifies and disempowers whatever it represents. She wants us to choose instead local struggles for strategic articulations that are always impermanent, vulnerable, and contingent. This precept forbids the critique of ideology–how can one distinguish truth from falsehood since there are only “truth effects” contrived by power? This populist and often demagogic stance promotes “a radical skepticism” (Brantlinger 1990, 102) that cannot discriminate truth-claims, nor establish a basis for sustained and organized political action.

        The most flagrant erasure in Constable’s postmodernist inventory of episodes seems more serious. This is her discounting of the unequal relation between the Philippines and a peripheral capitalist city like Hong Kong, a relation enabled by the continuing neocolonial domination of Filipinos by Western corporate interests led by the United States (Sison and De Lima 1998). But this microphysics of learning how to survive performed by Filipino maids cannot exonerate the ethnographist from complicity with this strategy of displacing causality (a technique of inversion also found in mainstream historians of the Philippines such as Glenn May, David Steinberg, Stanley Karnow) and apologizing for the victims by oblique patronage. Anne Lacsamana pronounces a felicitous verdict on this specimen of Cultural Studies: “To dismiss the broader history of Filipino OCWs in favor of more trivial pursuits (such as watching them eat at a fast food restaurant) reenacts a Western superiority that has already created (and is responsible for) many of the social, economic, and political woes that continue to plague the country” (1998, 42).

Deracination Trauma

Now the largest constituency in the Asian American group in the United States, Filipinos have become the newest diasporic community in the whole world.  United Nations statistics indicate that Filipinos make up the newest migrant assemblage in the world: eight million Filipino migrant workers (out of eighty million citizens), mostly female domestic help and semi-skilled labor. They endure poorly paid employment under sub-standard conditions, with few or null rights, in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, North America, and elsewhere. It might be noted here that, historically, diasporic groups are defined not only by a homeland but also by a desire for eventual return and a collective identity centered on myths and memories of the homeland. The Filipino diaspora, however, is different. Since the homeland has long been colonized by Western powers (Spain, United States) and remains neocolonized despite formal or nominal independence, the Filipino identification is not with a fully defined nation but with regions, localities, and communities of languages and traditions.  Perceived as Others, they are lumped with familiar aliens: Chinese, Mexicans, Japanese, Indonesians, and so on. Newspaper reports have cited the Philippines as the next target of the U.S. government’s global “crusade” against terrorism. Where is the nation alluded to in passports and other identification papers? How do we conceive of this “Filipino” nation or nationality, given the preemptive impact of U.S. domination and now, on top of the persistent neocolonizing pressure, the usurping force of abstractive, quantifying capital?

According to orthodox immigration theory, “push” and “pull” factors combine to explain the phenomenon of Overseas Contract Workers. Do we resign ourselves to this easy schematic formulation? Poverty and injustice, to be sure, have driven most Filipinos to seek work abroad, sublimating the desire to return by regular remittances to their families; occasional visits and other means of communication defer the eventual homecoming. Alienation and isolation, brutal and racist treatment, and other dehumanized conditions prevent their permanent settlement in the “receiving” countries, except where they have been given legal access to obtaining citizenship status. If the return is postponed, are modes of adaptation and temporary domicile in non-native grounds the feasible alternatives for these expatriates (as they are fondly called by their compatriots in Manila)?

The reality of “foreignness” cannot be eluded. Alienation, insulting treatment, and racist violence prevent their permanent re-settlement in the “receiving societies,” except where Filipino communities (as in the U.S. and Canada, for example) have been given legal access to citizenship rights. Individuals, however, have to go through abrasive screening and tests—more stringent now in this repressive neofascist ethos. During political crisis in the Philippines, Filipino overseas workers mobilize themselves for support of local and nationwide resistance against imperial domination and local tyranny. Because the putative “Filipino” nation is in the process of formation in the neocolony and abroad, overseas Filipino workers have been considered transnationals or transmigrants–a paradoxical turn since the existence of the nation is problematic, and the “trans” label a chimera. This diaspora then faces the ineluctable hurdles of racism, ethnic exclusion,  inferiorization via racial profiling, and physical attacks. Can Filipino migrant labor mount a collective resistance against globalized exploitation? Can the Filipino diaspora expose also the limits of genetic and/or procedural notions of citizenship? In what way can the Filipino diaspora serve as a paradigm for analyzing and critically unsettling the corporate globalization of labor and the reification of identities in the new millennium?

       As a point of departure for future inquiry, we might situate the Filipino diaspora within its Asian American configuration—since the author is based here in this racial polity (San Juan 2002). His intervention proceeds from a concrete historic staging ground. First, a definition of “diaspora.” According to Milton Esman, the term refers to “a minority ethnic group of migrant origin which maintains sentimental or material links with its land of origin” (1996, 316). Either because of social exclusion, internal cohesion, and other geopolitical factors, these communities are never assimilated into the host society; but they develop in time a diasporic consciousness which carries out a collective sharing of space with others, purged of any exclusivist ethos or proprietary design. These communities will embody a peculiar sensibility enacting a caring and compassionate agenda for the whole species that thrives on cultural difference. Unlike peoples who have been conquered, annexed, enslaved or coerced in some other way, diasporas are voluntary movements of people from place to place, although such migrations may also betray symptoms of compulsion if analyzed within a global political economy of labor and inter-state political rivalries. Immanuel Wallerstein (1995) feels that these labor migrants can challenge transnational corporations by overloading the system with “free movement,” at the same time that they try to retain for themselves more of the surplus value they produce. But are such movements really free? And if they are cheap labor totally contingent on the unpredictable fortunes of business, isn’t the expectation of their rebelliousness exorbitant? Like ethnicity, diaspora which is fashioned by determinate historical causes has tended to take on “the ‘natural’ appearance of an autonomous force, a ‘principle’ capable of determining the course of social action” (Comaroff 1992). Like racism and nationalism, diaspora presents multiform physiognomies open to various interpretations and articulations. Historical precedents may provide clues of what’s to come.

Let us consider one late-modern interpretation of diaspora. For David Palumbo-Liu, the concept of “diaspora” performs a strategic function. It probably endows the slash in the rubric “Asian/American” with an uncanny performative resonance. Palumbo-Liu contends that diaspora affords a space for the reinvention of identity free from naturalized categories but (if I may underscore here) not from borders, state apparatuses, and other worldly imperatives. Although remarking that the concept of diaspora as an “enabling fiction” affords us “the ideological purchase different articulations of the term allow,” Palumbo-Liu doesn’t completely succumb to the rebarbative postcolonialist babble about contingency ruling over all. I want to quote a passage from his insightful book, Asian / American, that might afford parameters for the random reflections here apropos of the theme and discourse of Filipino diaspora:

…”diaspora” does not consist in the fact of leaving Home, but in having that factuality available to representation as such—we come to “know” diaspora only as it is psychically identified in a narrative form that discloses the various ideological investments…. It is that narrative form that locates the representation of diaspora in its particular chronotope. This spatiotemporal construct approximates a psychic experience particularly linked to material history.  It is only after the diasporic comes into contact with the material history of its new location that a particular discourse is enabled that seeks to mark a distance, a relation, both within and outside that constellation of contingency (1999, 355).

  Like the words “hybridity,” border crossing, ambivalence, subaltern, transculturation, and so on, the term “diaspora” has now become chic in polite conversations and genteel colloquia. A recent conference at the University of Minnesota on “Race, Ethnicity, and Migration” lists as first of the topics one can engage with, “Diaspora and diasporic identities,” followed by “Genocide, ethnic cleansing, and forced migration.” One indeed dreads to encounter in this context such buzzwords as “post-nation,” “alterity,” or ludic “differance” now overshadowed by “globalization” and everything prefixed with “trans-“ and assorted postalities.  In fact I myself used the word “diaspora” as part of the title of my book, From Exile to Diaspora: Versions of the Filipino Experience in the United States (1998b). Diaspora becomes oxymoronic: a particularizing universal, a local narrative which subsumes all experiences within its fold.  Diaspora enacts a mimicry of itself, dispersing its members around in a kaleidoscope of simulations and simulacras borne by the flow of goods, money, labor, and so on, in the international commodity chain.

Let me interject a personal note: I have lived in the U.S. for over 40 years now (the greater part of my life), with frequent visits to the Philippines without too many balikbayan cargo, unfortunately. And in my various voyages in/out, I have encountered Filipinos in many parts of the world in the course of my research. In the early eighties I was surprised to meet compatriots at the footsteps of the Post Office in Tripoli, Libya, and later on in the streets and squares of London, Edinburgh, Spain, Italy, Greece, Tokyo, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other places.  Have I then stumbled onto some unheard-of enigmatic scandal as a “Filipino diaspora”? Or have I surreptitiously constructed this, dare I say, “reality” and ongoing experience of about eight million Filipinos around the planet? Not to speak of millions of displaced indigenous peoples in the Philippines itself, an archipelago of 700 islands, “one of the world’s most strategically important land masses,” according to geographer George Demko (1992).

For those not familiar with my other writings critical of poststructuralist approaches (San Juan 1996; 1998a), I want to state outright that I consider such views about the Filipino diaspora half-truths closer to rumor, if not sheer mystifications. Spurious distinctions about cognition and perception concerning ethnic identity will remain vacuous if they do not take into account the reality of imperial world-systemic changes and their concrete multilayered ramifications. Lacking any dialectical materialist analysis of the dynamics of colonialism and imperialism that connect the Philippines and its peoples with the United States and the rest of the world, conventional studies on Filipino immigration and resettlement are all scholastic games, at best disingenuous exercises in chauvinist or white-supremacist apologetics. This is because they rely on concepts and methodologies that conceal unequal power relations—that is, relations of subordination and domination, racial exclusion, marginalization, sexism, gender inferiorization, as well as national subalternity, and other forms of discrimination. I want to stress in particular unequal power relations among nation-states. Lest people be misled by academic gossip, I am not proposing here an economistic and deterministic approach, nor a historicist one with a monolithic Enlightenment metanarrative, teleology, and essentialist or ethnocentric agenda. Far from it. What is intriguing are the dynamics of symbolic violence (Bourdieu 1997) and the naturalization of social constructs and beliefs which are dramatized in the plot and  figures of diasporic happenings.

Excavations in the Boondocks

The testimony of diasporic narrative may be a useful pedagogical device to ground my observations here on the experiences of Filipina migrant workers as synthesized in literary form. Prior to the disruption of the postcolonial impasse and in order to situate postcolonial difference in the Philippine context, I would like at this juncture to concretize the crisis of bourgeois metaphysics and its political implications in contemporary Filipino expression.

     In my previous works (The Philippine Temptation, History and Form, and other books), I have described the domination of U.S. symbolic capital on literary and critical discourse since the annullment of the Spanish language and the indigenous vernaculars as viable media of expression in the public sphere at the start of U.S. colonization in 1898. The ascendancy of the hegemonic discourse of liberal utilitarianism expressed in English prevailed throughout the period of formal independence and the Cold War until the martial law period (1972-1986) when an authoritarian order reinforced semi-feudal and tributary norms. Meanwhile, Pilipino (now “Filipino”) has become a genuine lingua franca with the popularity of local films and television serials, aided by the prohibitive costs of imported Western cultural fare. As already noted earlier, these cultural developments parallel the intense neocolonization, or even refeudalization, of the whole political-economic system.

     Symptomatic of a disaggregated and uneven socioeconomic formation are the literary and journalistic narratives spun around the trauma of dislocation undergone by over eight million OCWs, mostly women. I analyze one specimen of this genre below. It should be recalled that this unprecedented hemorrhage of labor-power, the massive export of educated women whose skills have been downgraded to quasi-slavish domestic help, issues from a diseased body politic. The marks of the disease are the impoverishment of 75% of the population, widespread corruption by the minuscule oligarchy, criminality, military/police atrocities, and the intensifying insurgency of peasants, women, youth, workers, and indigenous communities. The network of the patriarchal family and semifeudal civil society unravels when women from all sectors (except the rich minority) alienate their “free labor” in the world market.  While the prime commodity remains labor-power (singularly measured here in both time and space especially for lived-in help), OCWs find themselves frozen in a tributary status between serfhood and colonizing pettybourgeois households. Except for the carceral condition of “hospitality” women in Japan and elsewhere overseen by gangsters, most Filipinas function as indentured servants akin to those in colonial settler societies in 17th century Virginia, Australia, Jamaica, and elsewhere.  But unlike those societies, the Middle East, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and other receiving countries operate as part of the transnationalized political economy of global capitalism. These indentured cohorts are witness to the dismemberment of the emergent Filipino nation and the scattering of its traumatized elements to state-governed territories around the planet.

     At this point I want to illustrate the phenomenon of neocolonial disintegration and ideological reconstitution of the “third world” subject as a symptom of uneven capitalist hegemony in a fictional account by a Filipina author who writes in Pilipino, the national language. Fanny Garcia (1994) wrote the story entitled “Arriverderci” in 1982 at the height of the Marcos-induced export of Filipina bodies to relieve widespread immiseration in all sectors of society and curb mounting resistance in city and countryside.

Garcia’s ascetic representation of this highly gendered diaspora yields a diagnostic illustration of postcolonial schizophrenia. In the opening scene, Garcia describes Filipina domestics in Rome, Italy, enjoying a weekend break in an excursion outside the city. One of these domestics, Nelly, meets a non-descript compatriot, Vicky (Vicenta), who slowly confides to Nelly her incredible experience of physical hardship, loneliness, and frustrated ambition, including her desperate background in her hometown, San Isidro. Vicky also reveals her fear that her employer might rape her, motivating her to inquire about the possibility of moving in with Nelly whose own crowded apartment cannot accommodate Vicky. Spatial confinement resembles incarceration for those who refuse the oppression of live-in contracts, the latter dramatized in Vicky’s earlier experience.

      Dialogue begets intimacy and the shock of discovery. After trust has been established between them, Nelly learns that Vicky has concealed the truth of her dire situation from her relatives back home. Like others, Vicky has invented a fantasy life to make her folks happy. After a short lapse of time, Nelly and her companions read a newspaper account of Vicky’s suicide—according to her employer, she leaped from the fifth floor of the apartment due to a broken heart caused by her sweetheart, a Filipino seaman, who was marrying another woman. Nelly of course knows the real reason: Vicky was forced to kill herself to save her honor, to refuse bodily invasion by the Italian master. Nelly and her friends manage to gather funds to send Vicky’s body back home to the Philippines. When asked how she would explain Vicky’s death to the next-of-kin, everyone agrees that they could not tell the truth.  Nelly resolves their predicament with a fictive ruse:

   “Ganito na lang,” sabi ni Nelly, “nabangga ang kotseng sinasakyan n’ya.”

    Sumang-ayon ang lahat.

    Pumunta sa kusina si Nelly.  Hawak ang bolpen at nakatitig sa blangkong putting papel na nakapatong sa mesa, naisip ni Nelly, dapat din niyang tandaan: sa San Isidro, si Vicenta at Vicky ay si Bising (1994, 334-335).

[“Let’s do it this way,” Nelly said,” she died when the car she was in crashed.”

Everyone agreed.

  Nelly entered the kitchen. Holding a ballpoint pen and staring at the blank piece of paper on the table, Nelly thought that she should also remember: in San Isidro, Vicenta and Vicky were also Bising.]

In the triple personas of Vicky nurtured in the mind of Nelly, we witness the literal and figurative diaspora of the Filipino nation in which the manifold layers of experience occuring at different localities and temporalities are reconciled. They are sutured together  not in the corpse but in the act of gendered solidarity and national empathy. Without the practices of communication and cooperation among  Filipina workers, the life of the individual OCW is suspended in thrall,  a helpless fragment in the nexus of commodity circulation. Terror in capitalist society re-inscribes boundaries and renews memory.

    What I want to highlight, however, is the historicizing power of this narrative. Marx once said that capitalism conquers space with time (Harvey 2000). The urgent question is: can its victims fight back via a counterhegemonic strategy of spatial politics? Here the time of the nationalizing imagination overcomes displacement by global capital. Fantasy becomes complicit with truth when Nelly and her friends agree to shelter Vicky’s family from the terror of patriarchal violence located in European terrain. We see that the routine life of the Filipino community is defined by bureaucratized space that seems to replicate the schedule back home; but the chronological itinerary is deceptive because while this passage lures us into a calm compromise with what exists, the plot of attempted rape and Vicky’s suicide transpires behind the semblance of the normal and the ordinary:

…Ang buhay nila sa Italia ay isang relo–hindi nagbabago ng anyo, ng direksiyon, ng mga numero.

    Kung Linggo ng umaga, nagtitipon-tipon sa loob ng Vaticano, doon sa pagitan ng malalaking haliging bato ng colonnade….

    Ang Papa’y lilitaw mula sa isang mataas na bintana ng isang gusali, at sa harap ng mikropono’y magsasalita’t magdadasal, at matapos ang kanyang basbas, sila’y magkakanya-kanyang grupo sa paglisan. Karaniwa’y sa mga parke ang tuloy. Sa damuhan, sa ilalim ng mga puno, ilalabas ang mga baon.  May paikot-ikot sa mga grupo, nagtitinda ng pansit na lemon ang pampaasim, litsong kawali na may ketsup, at iba pa.  Umpisa na ng piknik.  Magkakasama ang mga Ilokano, ang mga Batanggenyo, at iba pang hatiang batay sa wika o lugar.  O kaya’y ang mga propesyonal at di-propesyonal.  Matapos ang kainan, palilipasin ang oras sa pamamagitan ng kuwentuhan o kaya’y pagpapaunlak sa isang nagpapasugal.  Malakas ang tayaan.  Mga bandang alas-tres o alas-kuwatro ng hapon, kanya-kanyang alis na ang mga pangkat.  Pupunta sa mga simbahang pinagmimisahan ng mga paring Pinoy na iskolar ng kani-kanilang order.  Sa Ingles at Pilipino ang misa, mga awit at sermon.  Punong-puno ang simbahan, pulos Pilipino, maliban sa isa o dalawa o tatlong puti na maaring kaibigan, nobio, asawa o kabit ng ilang kababayan.

     Matapos ang misa, muling maghihiwalay ang mga pangkat-pangkat. May pupunta muli sa mga parke, may magdidisco, may magsisine.  Halos hatinggabi na kung maghiwa-hiwalay patungo sa kanya-kanyang tinutuluyan…. (329-330).

        [Their lives in Italy resembled a clock—never changing in shape, direction or numbers.

On Sunday mornings they would gather inside the Vatican, there between the huge rocky pillars of the colonnade…

The Pope would appear at a window of the tall building, and would pray and speak in front of a microphone, and after his benediction, they would all join their groups upon leaving. Usually they head for the parks. On the grass, under the trees, they will spread their packs. Some will circle around selling noodles with lemon slices, roast pork with catsup, and other viands.  The picnic begins. Ilocanos congregate among themselves, so do those from Batangas, and others gather together according to language or region.  Or they socialize according to profession or lack of it.  After eating, they will pass the time telling stories or gambling. Betting proceeds vigorously. Toward three or four in the afternoon, the cohorts begin their departure. They head toward the churches where Filipino priests, scholars of their orders, hold mass in English or in Filipino, together with songs and sermon.  The churches overflow, all Filipinos, except for one, two or three whites, who may be friends, sweethearts, wives, or partners.  After the mass, the groups will again separate. Some will return to the parks, others will go to discos or moviehouses, until around midnight they will go their separate individual ways to wherever they are staying.]

Resignation is premature. This surface regularity conceals fissures and discontinuities that will only disclose themselves when the death of Vicky shatters the peace and complicates the pathos of indentured domesticity.

Ludic Mis-Representations

     The most telling symptom of uneven development caused by the new international division of labor is the schizoid nature of the Filipina response to serflike confinement. This response has been celebrated by postcolonial critics as the exemplary act of “sly civility,” a tactic of outwitting the enemy by mimicry and ambivalent acts. We read a tabulation of this tactic in Garcia’s description of Nelly’s plans to tour Europe by touching base with friends and acquaintances throughout the continent, an escape from the pressure of responsibility or accountability to anyone.  Here is the cartography of Nelly’s “imagined community” which generates a new position: the deterritorialized citizen of global capital. The space of recreation may relieve the pressure of alienated time, but it cannot ultimately resolve the dilemma of spatiotemporal dislocation and dispersal. Asked by her friends what’s going on between her and Vicky, Nelly simply smiles and shrugs her shoulders:

Mas mahalaga sa kanya ang mga tanong ng sarili. Pulos Roma na lamang ba?  Aling sulok at kanto pa ng Roma ang hindi niya natatapakan?  Pulos pagkakatulong na lamang ba?  Hindi siya nagpunta sa Europa upang paganapin lamang ang sarili sa mga istorya ng pagliliwali kung Linggo, na kabisadong-kabisado na niya ang simula’t dulo.  Hindi siya nangibang bansa upang makinig lamang sa mga usapang nakaangkla sa mga “nanay,” ‘tatay,” “anak,” mga gawaing-bahay, hinaing at problema.  Hindi upang sundan ang buhay at kasaysayan ng isang Vicenta.

     Ipinasya niyang umpisahan na ang paglilibot sa Europa.  May sapat na siyang naiipon para sa ibang bansa.  Bibili siya ng Eurail pass, mas mura sa tren.  Unahin kaya muna niya ang France, West Germany at Netherlands?  May mga kaibigan siya doon.  Nasa Paris si Orly, may kuwartong inuupahan.  Nagpunta ito sa Paris bilang iskolar, artist-observer sa loob ng tatlong buwan, ngunit tulad niya, hindi na ito bumalik sa Pilipinas. Ngayo’y nabubuhay ito sa pamamagitan ng pagpipinta at pagiging potograpo.  Sa Frankfurt, makikituloy siya kay Nora at sa Alemang napangasawa nito, dating penpal.  Nasa Amsterdam si Angie, kahera sa department store, at ka-live-in ang isang Dutch. Sapat na marahil ang isang buwang paglalakbay.  Saka naman iplano ang mga ibang bansa.  Sinulatan niya ang tatlong kaibigan. (333)

[ More valuable for her are the questions addressed to herself.  Am I to be confined to Rome alone? What corner and crossroad of Rome has she not covered already? Am I to be tied to domestic work?  She didn’t travel to Europe in order to let herself play a role in the stories of killing time on Sundays, whose beginning and end she knew thoroughly. She didn’t go abroad only to listen to talk anchored to “mother,” “father,” “child,” domestic chores, grumblings and problems.  Nor to pursue the life and history of a certain Vicenta.

   She decided to start her travels around Europe. She already has enough savings for the trip to other countries. She’ll buy a Eurail pass, it’s cheaper by train. Should she begin with France, West Germany, and the Netherlands? She has friends there. Orly is in Paris, with a rented room. He went to Paris as a scholar, artist-observer, for three months, but like her he never returned to the Philippines.  Now he’s supporting himself by painting and photography. In Frankfurt she’ll stay with Nora and her German husband, her former penpal.  Angie is in Amsterdam, a cashier at a department store, with a live-in Dutch partner.  Perhaps a month’s journey will be enough. She’ll plan visiting other lands later. She wrote her three friends.]

In the above passage, we discern the contradictions immanent in Filipina agency as she negotiates her position in the locus between wage-labor under serflike conditions and the mobility promised by the “free market” of late capitalist Europe. This situation may provide us the source of scaling the postcolonial dilemma suffered by Filipinas, conceving scale as (in Neil Smith’s definition) “the geographical resolution of contradictory processes of competition and co-operation” (1993, 99). But the chance for an escape to resolve the contradictions is foiled for the moment when Nelly and her friends learn of Vicky’s death.

Contrary to postcolonial alibis concerning decentered subject-positions, Garcia’s narrative posits an interrogation of presumed agency: Is the charm of adventure enough to heal the trauma of dislocation and obviate the terror of rape?  Are the opportunities of consuming images and experiences offered by the wages of indentured labor enough to compensate for the nullity of citizenship and the loss of intimacy and the support of family and community? Is this postcolonial interstitiality the new name of servitude under the aegis of consumerist transnationalism where physical motion transcending fixed locality becomes a surrogate for the achievement of dignity and freedom? 

    What is clear is the dialectical unity of opposites embedded in the geopolitical predicament of OCWs captured in Garcia’s narrative. The homeland (or its internalized cartography) is cannibalized and grafted onto sites of potential reconstitution. The Filipino diaspora here is defined by the Filipinas’ social interaction and its specific differentiated geography, an interaction characterized by family/kinship linkages as well as solidarity based on recursive acts of mutual aid and struggle for survival. The political struggle over the production of scale in global capitalism is translated here in Nelly’s mapping of her coordinates as she plans her tour of Europe, a translation of abstract space into places indexed by Filipino friends and acquaintances. This is not postcolonial ambivalence or hybridity because it is centered on the organic bonds of experience with oppressed compatriots and their continuous resuscitation. Nelly’s affiliation with Vicky is tied to a web of shared stories of intimacy, dehumanization and vulnerability. The Eurocentric fabrication of Otherness is qualified if not neutralized by Nelly’s collectively assigned task of communication with Vicky’s family, a task that prefigures and recuperates even if only in symbolic terms the interrupted struggle for national autonomy and sovereignty on the face of disintegration by transnational corporate aggression.

     Postcolonial disjunctures are reproduced by acts of revolt and sustained resistance. Such acts constitute a bad example for metropolitan citizen subjects of industrialized democracies. Racism still prevents them from uniting with their victims. While it would be exorbitant to claim that global capitalism has been dealt a blow by Filipina agencies of coping and life-maintenance, I would suggest here that this mode of representation, which I would categorize as a type of allegorical realism grounded in the confluence of vernacular poetics and selective borrowings from the Western avant-garde (Brecht, Mayakovsky, Neruda), enables us to grasp the totalizing virtue of Filipino nationalism as it interpellates diasporic subjects. Perhaps this virtue manifests itself only as a potential reservoir of energies that can be mobilized in crisis situations; still, the cultural and ideological resistance of neocolonized Filipinos overseas testify to its immanent presence in what Lenin called “the weak links” of the imperialist chain around the planet, not only in the peripheral dependencies but also in the margins now transposed to the centers of empire.

Extrapolations and Reconfigurations

In summary, I venture the following theses for further discussion. My first thesis on the phenomenon of the Filipino dismemberment is this: Given that the Philippine habitat has never cohered as a genuinely independent nation—national autonomy continues to escape the nation-people in a neocolonial set-up—Filipinos are dispersed from family or kinship webs in villages, towns or provincial regions first, and loosely from an inchoate, even “refeudalized,” nation-state. This dispersal is primarily due to economic coercion and disenfranchisement under the retrogressive regime of comprador-bureaucratic (not welfare-state) capitalism; migration is seen as freedom to seek one’s fortune, experience the pleasure of adventure, libidinal games of resistance, and other illusions of transcendence. So the origin to which one returns is not properly a nation-state but a village, a quasi-primordial community, kinship network, or even a ritual family/clan. In this context, the state is viewed in fact as a corrupt exploiter, not representative of the masses, a comprador agent of transnational corporations and Western (specifically U.S.) powers.

Second thesis: What are the myths enabling a cathexis of the homeland? They derive from assorted childhood memories and folklore together with customary practices surrounding municipal and religious celebrations; at best, there may be signs of a residual affective tie to national heroes like Rizal, Bonifacio, and latter-day celebrities like singers, movie stars, athletes, and so on. Indigenous food, dances, and music can be acquired as commodities whose presence temporarily heals the trauma of removal; family reunification can resolve the psychic damage of loss of status or alienation.  In short, rootedness in autochtonous habitat does not exert a commanding sway, experienced only as a nostalgic mood. Meanwhile, language, religion, kinship, the aura of family rituals, and common experiences in school or work-place function invariably as the organic bonds of community. Such bonds demarcate the boundaries of the imagination but also release energies and affects that mutate into actions—as performed by Garcia’s characters—serving ultimately national-popular emancipatory projects.

Third thesis: Alienation in the host country is what unites Filipinos, a shared history of colonial and racial subordination, marginalization, and struggles for cultural survival through hybrid forms of resistance and political rebellion.  This is what may replace the non-existent nation/homeland, absent the liberation of the Filipino nation-state. In the thirties, Carlos Bulosan once observed that “it is a crime to be a Filipino in America.” Years of union struggle and political organizing in inter-ethnic coalitions have blurred if not erased that stigma.  Accomplishments in the civil rights struggles of the sixties have provided nourishment for ethnic pride. And, on the other side, impulses of assimilationism via the “model minority” umbrella have aroused a passion for multiculturalism divorced from any urge to disinvest in the “possessive investment in whiteness” (Lipsitz 1998). But compared to the Japanese or Indian Americans, Filipino Americans as a whole have not made it; the exceptions prove the rule. Andrew Cunanan (the serial killer who slew the famous Versaci) is the specter that continues to haunt “melting pot” Filipino Americanists who continue to blabber about the “forgotten Filipino” in the hope of being awarded a share of the obsolescent welfare-state pie. Dispossession of sovereignty leads to shipwreck, natives drifting rudderless, or marooned in islands all over the planet. Via strategies of community preservation and other schemes of defining the locality of the community in historical contexts of displacement, the Filipino diaspora defers its return—unless and until there is a Filipino nation that they can identify with. This will continue in places where there is no hope of permanent resettlement as citizens or bonafide residents (as in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and elsewhere). This is the disavowed terror of globalization.

Fourth thesis: Some Filipinos in their old age may desire eventual return only when they are economically secure. In general, Filipinos will not return to the site of misery and oppression—to poverty, exploitation, humiliated status, despair, hunger, and lack of dignity. Of course, some are forcibly returned: damaged, deported or dead. But OCWs would rather move their kins and parents to their place of employment, preferably in countries where family reunification is allowed, as in the United States, Italy, Canada, and so on. Or even in places of suffering and humiliation, provided there is some hope or illusion of future improvement. Utopian longings can mislead but also reconfigure and redirect wayward adventures.

Fifth thesis: Ongoing support for nationalist struggles at home is sporadic and intermittent during times of retrenchment and revitalized apartheid. Do we see any mass protests and collective indignation here in the United States at the Visiting Forces Agreement, for example, and the recent invasion (circa 1998-2000) of the country by several thousand U.S. Marines in joint U.S.-Philippines military exercises? Especially after September 11 and the Arroyo sycophancy to the Bush regime, the Philippines—considered by the U.S. government as the harbor of homegrown “terrorists” like the Abbu Sayyaf–will soon be transformed into the next “killing field” after Afghanistan. During the Marcos dictatorship, the politicized generation of Filipino American youth here was able to mobilize a large segment of the community to support the national-democratic mass struggles, including the armed combatants of the New People’s Army (led by the Communist Party of the Philippines), against U.S.-supported authoritarian rule. Filipino nationalism blossomed in the late sixties and seventies, but suffered attenuation when it got rechanelled to support the populist elitism of Aquino and Ramos, the lumpen populism of Estrada, and now the mendacious Arroyo regime. This precarious balance of class forces at this conjuncture is subject to the shifts in political mobilization and calculation, hence the intervention of Filipino agencies with emancipatory goals and socialist principles is crucial and strategically necessary.

Sixth thesis:  In this time of emergency, the Filipino collective identity is in crisis and in a stage of formation and elaboration. The Filipino diasporic consciousness is an odd species, a singular genre: it is not obsessed with a physical return to roots or to land where common sacrifices (to echo Ernest Renan) are remembered and celebrated. It is tied more to a symbolic homeland indexed by kinship or particularistic traditions and communal practices which it tries to transplant abroad in diverse localities. So, in the moment of Babylonian captivity, dwelling in “Egypt” or its modern surrogates, building public spheres of solidarity to sustain identities outside the national time/space “in order to live inside, with a difference” may be the most viable route (or root) of  Filipinos in motion—the collectivity in transit, although this is, given the ineluctability of  differences becoming contradictions, subject to the revolutionary transformations emerging in the Philippine countryside and cities. It is susceptible also to other radical changes in the geopolitical rivalry of metropolitan powers based on nation-states.  There is indeed deferral, postponement, or waiting—but history moves on in the battlefields of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao where a people’s war rooted in a durable revolutionary tradition rages on. This drama of a national-democratic revolution will not allow the Filipino diaspora and its progeny to slumber in the consumerist paradises of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Seattle.  It will certainly disturb the peace of those benefiting from the labor and sacrifices of OCWs who experience the repetition-compulsion of globalized trade and endure the recursive traumas of displacement and dispossession.

Caught in the cross-currents of global upheavals, I can only conclude with a very provisional and indeed temporizing epilogue—if I may beg leave from those Filipina bodies in coffins heading home: Filipinos in the United States (and elsewhere, given the still hegemonic Western dispensation amid allegations of its disappearance) are neither “oriental” nor “hispanic,” despite their looks and names. They might be syncretic or hybrid subjects with suspect loyalties.  They cannot be called fashionable “transnationals” or flexible transmigrants because of racialized, ascribed markers (physical appearance, accent, peculiar non-white folkways, and other group idiosyncracies) that are needed to sustain and reproduce white supremacy in this racial polity. Bridget Anderson (2000) has cogently demonstrated how the international labor market consistently racializes the selling of Filipina selfhood; thus, not only gender and class but, more decisively, “racial identities” conditioned by immigrant status, inferiorized nationality, and so on, are reproduced through the combined exploitation and oppression taking place in the employer’s household. Slavery has become re-domesticated in the age of  reconfigured mercantilism—the vampires of the past continue to haunt the cyberprecinct of finance capital and its futurist hallucinations.

The trajectory of the Filipino diaspora remains unpredictable. Ultimately, the rebirth of Filipino agency in the era of global capitalism depends not only on the vicissitudes of social transformation in the U.S. but, in a dialectical sense, on the fate of the struggle for autonomy and popular-democratic sovereignty in the Philippines where balikbayans (returnees) still practice, though with increasing trepidation interrupted by fits of amnesia, the speech-acts and durable performances of pakikibaka (common struggle), pakikiramay (collective sharing), at pakikipagkapwa-tao (reciprocal esteem).  Left untranslated, those phrases from the “Filipino” vernacular address a gradually vanishing audience. Indeed, this essay itself may just be a wayward apostrophe to a vanished dreamworld—a liberated homeland, a phantasmagoric refuge—evoking the  utopias and archaic golden ages of myths and legends. But wherever it is, this locus of memories, hopes and dreams will surely be inhabited by a new collectivity as befits a new objective reality to which Susan Buck-Morss, in her elegiac paean to the catastrophe that overtook mass utopia, alludes to: “the geographical mixing of people and things, global webs that disseminate meanings, electronic prostheses of the human body, new arrangements of the human sensorium.  Such imaginings, freed from the constraints of bounded spaces and from the dictates of unilinear time, might dream of becoming, in Lenin’s words, “as radical as reality itself” (2000, 278). That was already approximated by Marx in his view that “the coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice” (Fischer 1996, 170).  Or, to translate in the proverbial idiom warranted by the experience of all diasporic bodies and ventriloquized by the Angel of history (invoked by Walter Benjamin  [1969]) surveying the ruins before and after: De te fabula.


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Garcia, Fanny.  1994.  “Arrivederci.”  In Ang Silid na Mahiwaga.  Ed. Soledad Reyes.  Pasig, Rizal: Anvil Publishing Co.

Gilroy, Paul. 1993.  The Black Atlantic.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Habermas, Jurgen.  1987.  The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity.  Cambride, Mass: MIT Press.

Hall, Stuart.  1992.  “New Ethnicities.”  In Race, Culture and Difference. Ed. James Donald and Ali Rattansi.  London: Sage.

Haraway, Donna.  1992.  “The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others.” Cultural Studies. Ed. Lawrence Grossberg et al.  New York: Routledge.

Harvey, David.  1989.  The Condition of Postmodernity.  Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

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—-.  2000.  Spaces of Hope.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

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Laclau, Ernesto.  1994.  “Minding the Gap.” In The Making of Political Identities.  London: Verso.

Lacsamana, Anne. 1998.  “Academic Imperialism and the Limits of Postmodernist Discourse: An Examination of Nicole Constable’s Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Filipina Workers.”  Amerasia Journal 24.3 (Winter 1998): 37-42.

Lipsitz, George. 1998.  The Possessive Investment in Whiteness.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Massey, Doreen.  1993.  “Politics and Space/Time.”  In Place and the Politics of Identity.  Ed. Michael Keith and Steve Pile.  London: Routledge.

Mudimbe, V.Y. and Sabine Engel.  1999.  “Introduction.”  The South Atlantic Quarterly (Winter-Spring): 1-8.

Palumbo-Liu, David.  1999.  Asian / American.  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Parrenas, Rhacel S.  2001.  Servants of Globalization.  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Pomeroy, William.  1992.  The Philippines: Colonialism, Collaboration, and Resistance!  New York: International Publishers.

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—-.  1998a.  Beyond Postcolonial Theory.  New York: St Martins Press.

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—-.  2002.  Racism and Cultural Studies.  Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Poems & Texts by CARLOS BULOSAN

TEXTS BY CARLOS BULOSANbulosan-for-jacketcover

“Song for Chris Mensalvas’ Birthday”

How many years did we fight the Beast together,

You in your violent way, in your troublous world,

I in my quiet way, with my songs of love?

Over the years we fought apart and together,

Scarring our lives, breaking our hearts,

For the shining heart of a heartless world.

For the nameless multitude in our beautiful land,

For the worker and the unemployed,

For the colored and the foreign born:

And we won and we will win,

Because we fight for truth, for beauty, for life,

We fight for the splendor of love . . .

They are afraid, my brother,

They are afraid of our mighty fists, my brother,

They are afraid of the magnificence of our works, my brother,

They are even afraid of our songs of love, my brother.

“American History”, from Letter from America

Our agony is our triumph: Sacco and Vanzetti.

This is what I say:

     I am suffering because I was a radical,

     And indeed I am a radical;

     I have suffered because I was an Italian,

     And indeed I am an Italian . . .

          But I am so convinced to be right that . . .

               If you could execute me two other times,

     I would live again to do what I have done already.

I have finished.

Thank you.

Vanzetti, the dreamy fish peddler,

Hurt but not alone in the alien courtroom,

Voicing the sentiments of millions in his voice,

To scorning men voicing the voice of starved nations

In one clear stream of sentiment in his gentle voice,

That justice and tolerance might live for everyone.

* * * *



I was still unaware of the vast social implications of the discrimination against Filipinos, and my ignorance had innocently brought me to the attention of white Americans. In San Diego, where I tried to get a job, I was beaten upon several occasions by restaurant and hotel proprietors. I put the blame on certain Filipinos who behaved badly in America, who had instigated hate and discontent among their friends and followers. This misconception was generated by a confused personal reaction to dynamic social forces, but my hunger for the truth had inevitably led me to take an historical attitude. I was to understand and interpret this chaos from a collective point of view, because it was pervasive and universal. (p. 144)

The old world is dying, but a new world is being born. It generates

inspiration from the chaos that beats upon us all. The false grandeur

and security, the unfulfilled promises and illusory power, the number

of the dead and those about to die, will charge the forces of our courage

and determination. The old world will die so that the new world

will be born with less sacrifice and agony on the living …

From a letter dated January 8, 1950:

What I am trying to do, especially in my writings since I left Stockton, is to utilize our common [Philippine] folklore, tradition and history in line with my socialist thinking… in the long run we are pooling our knowledge together for a better understanding of man and his world; not to deify man, but to make him human, that we may see our faults and virtues in him. That is the responsibility of literature and the history of culture.


BAKAS–tula ni E. San Juan,Jr.

BAKAS:  Dalumat ng Gunita’t Hinagap, Memorya ng Kinabukasan

— ni  E. SAN JUAN, Jr.



  1. AVENIDA RIZAL, STA. CRUZ (1938-1944)

Buhay ay pakikipagsapalaran, lihis sa iyong pagnanais o pagnanasa

Pook na dinatnan ay hindi nakaguhit sa dibdib, balintunang hinala

Pook na binagwis ng alaala’t pag-aasam

Tumatawid sa agwat/puwang ng panahong gumugulong sa buhangin

Nakalingon habang dumudukwang sa agos ng alon—

anong kahulugan ng pagsubok at pangakong itinalaga ng panahon?

Tayo ba ang umuugit sa daluyong ng kapalaran?

Lumilihis sa bawat liko, sa bawat sandali nag-iiwan ng bakas ang katawan

Sa bawat sulok, matatagpuan ang uling/alabok ng buong kasaysayan—

Bumabagtas sa bawa’t yugto ang tunggalian ng uri, saan kang panig makik

isangkot, kaya kailangang magpasiya

Upang masunggaban ang sungay ng tadhana, ikawing ito

sa ating adhika’t pangangailangan ng komunidad—

Tanong mo’y saan? Sagot ko’y kailan?  Bibingka ng hari, di mahati-hati….

Tuwing umaga’y nalalanghap ang anghot ng ihi’t dumi ng kabayo

     sa kuwadra ng San Lazaro tabi ng Oroquieta Ospital ang kinagisnan—

Agwat/puwang ng panahon, kaluluwang humibik

     sa pagitan ng Tayabas at Batangas, bininyagan sa Iglesiya Espiritu Santo

Kapagkwa’y tumawid at naipit sa riles ng Blumentritt at estero ng Dimasalang

malapit sa pugad ng pampang si Marina noong 1945….

—“dala-dala’y buslo…pagdating sa dulo”—

Sa mga eskinita lumalagos ang bango ng piniritong isda’t ginisang bawang 

sibuyas   kamatis  luya

Sa bingguhan asaran biruan ng mga kamag-anak 

Amoy ng dura’t pawis masangsang na putik sa harap ng 2121 Avenida Rizal

    kung saan napanood ang prusisyon ng libing ni Manuel Quezon

Kakatwang estranghero ang sumaksi sa tahanang

ginawang motel para sa ‘short-time” tipanan ng magtatalik—

Agwat ng umaga’t dapithapon sa naghihintay na musmos, binibilang ang patak 

ng ulan

Puwang ng paglalaro sa lansangan ng Tayuman at Bambang, inaabangan—

Sakaling wala ang ina’t ama, “buhok ni Adan hindi mabilang,”

himutok ng ulilang musmos

Sagisag na walang lakas hubugin ang daloy ng karanasan, biktima ng pangya yaring

    matagal ang panahon ng pagkagulang, nabulabog sa bawat gulong ng trapik….

Gayunpaman, nabaluktot sa balisa’t di-pagkakapalagay, stigmata sa gunita:

Unti-unting nahuhulog kumpol-kumpol ang dilawang bulaklak ng punong-akasya

     sa harap ng dungawang tila masamyong dibdib ni Nena, nag-alagang katu

long, mangyaring pagpalain  ng Inang Kalikasan

ang kaniyang mairuging kaluluwa.


2.   MONTALBAN, RIZAL (1945-1950)

Bukal ang kinabukasan sa iyong gunita, sa tukso ng pag-asa

Sa guni-guni, tila huni ng ibon sa bulaos ng kalabaw tungo sa ilog Pasig

Bumubuhos sa Montalban, agos ng panahong sumusukat sa isip

Tinutugis ang kaganapang bulong at anasan ng mga nagdarasal

sa sementeryo ng La Loma…

Lalakarin daw ang haba ng dinulang, doon masusulyapan ang Irog

bago manampalok—Sinampal muna bago inalok?

Halinghing ng kabayo sa gubat  ungol ng baboy aso’t manukan

Pangarap ng paglalayag habang nakadukwang sa estero ng Reina Regente

gumagapang  gumagala sa Binondo San Nicolas Dibisorya

Takas, pumipiglas—

Pinaulanan ng bala ng gerilyang Huk ang PC istasyon sa munisipyo ng Montalban

—hindi lamang pito ang baril nila, di lamang siyam ang sundang—

Taginting ng salapi’y hungkag sa hinagap ng Boddhisatvang umakyat

sa lambak doon sa Wawa kung saan

nagkublli sina Andres Bonifacio’t at mga gerilyang Katipunan….

Umahon mula sa kabilang ibayo ang kamalayang sumasagap sa tinig ng panata

     hindi mula sa Benares o Herusalem kundi sa Sierra Madre

upang humabi ng sutrang kayumanggi mula sa tadhanang gumugulong….

Sunggaban ang suwag ng kapalarang naligaw sa rumaragasang unos

Malayo na sa kilabot ng mga Hapong umurong sa Wawa

Pinaligiran ng tropang Amerikano, sindak ng imperyalismong sumasabog…

Gumising doon sa bukang-liwayway ng Liberasyon at tuloy sa dagundong

   ng magulong Maynila, sunog sa Korea at Arayat

  mabilis pa sa alaskuwatrong tumungo sa sinehang Lotus at Noli

Kung saan narinig ang “Fascination” nina Dinah Shore at Belle Gonzales—

Bigkasin mo ang pangalan ng mga kolaboreytor at bayaning nagbuwis ng 


Ngayon ay alingawngaw ng panahong

Lumikha sa mga pangyayaring

Lihis sa iyong pangarap at panimdim

Kapwa ninais at pinilit

Kapwa tinaggap at tinanggihan: kailan? saan?

Sa pag-inog ng pakikipagsapalarang tila walang simula’t katapusan.




Pangangailangan  ang umuusig sa pagkikipagsapalaran, gumaganap ang bu

lag na simbuyo

Sa daluhong ng kasaysayan, hindi maiiwasan o maitatakwil

Kaya ang sumunod sa nesesidad ay malaya’t magpapalaya

sa kahinugan ng panahon, pahiwatig ng mga pantas….

Sumisingit sa baklad ng gunitang balintuwad:

Minsan tinapos ko ang Crime and Punishment ni Dostoevsky

isang hapong maalinsangan

Di ko malilimutan ito, gabi na ng ibaling ang paningin sa bintana

Lihim na pagkahumaling ko kay Esther Deniega (lumisan na) ay iburol sa ba

long. malalim, punong-puno ng patalim, balong hindi malingon

Tulad ng pagsasama namin nina Ernie at Pete Daroy

Sa limbo ng mga pagliliwaliw, sa impiyerno ng mga pag-aalinlangan at 


Mabuhay kayong mga itinapon,

Nakarating na kayo sa ipinangakong himpilan, ipinaginip na himlayan.

“Dalawang pipit, nagtitimbangan sa isang siit, sumusungit ng bituin”

Di nagluwat, sumabak sa pakikibaka laban sa US-Marcos diktadurya—

Minagaling ang basag kaysa baong walang lamat

Sapagkat sa kaibuturan ng aksidente, pagbabakasakali, namumutawi

ang siglang pagbubuhatan ng tagumpay ng ating minimithi,

Hindi salita kundi hibo’t hikayat ng panaginip at guniguni, matris ng himagsikan,

ang lugar ng panahong nahinog sa yapos at aruga

ng mga magulang at mga gurong nagmalasakit…


Huwang mong basahin ito

Tatak ng titik  titik ng tiktik

Huwag tingnan  huwag sipatin

Huwag silipin  huwag sulyapan

Tatak ng titik  titik ng tiktik

Huwag mong titigan  baka ka malikmata’t maalimpungatan….

Asul ang kulay ng langit sa parang at lambak ng Diliman—

Aso ko sa pantalan, lumukad ng pitong balon, humugos sa pitong gubat

bago natanaw ang dagat—

Walang katuturan ang panahon kung walang pangarap o pag-asa

Pagnanais ang matris ng pangyayari, pagnanasa ang ina ng katuparan

Kabiyak na niyog, magdamag na kinayod,

Naghasik ng mais, pagkaumaga ay palis—

Huli ng balintataw ang mailap na buntala ng iyong mithing talinghaga,

pangarap ng pithayang alumpihit pumaimbulog sa kawalan.


….Subalit ang kalayaang magpasiya’y nagkabisa

Sa isang tiyak na pook at itinakdang pagkakataon

Bagamat limitado ang kapangyarihang umalsa’t bumalikwas

Walang pangyayaring magaganap kung wala ka,

Sintang itinapon sa gitna ng maburak na Pasig.

Bumagsak ang eruplano ni Magsaysay ngunit nkalimutan

na ang CiA ahenteng Lansdale, sa gayon

Neokolonyang teritoryo pa rin tayo hanggang ngayon….

Agos de pataranta sa Palomares at Gardeniang dinalaw ng mga GI

pagkatapos sumuko si Aguinaldo’t nawala si David Fagen

Magkabalikat kami nina Ernie at David Bunao sa bilyaran sa Quiapo

Di inalintana kung may hirap, hanapin ang ginhawa 

Aralin ng pakikipag-ugnayan sa Culi-Culi, Marikina, massage parlor sa Raon

Walang matimtimang birhen sa lagalag na kaluluwang naghuhunos

Di bumibilang ng bukas-makalawa upang paraanin ang nagparaan—

Walang matiyagang hayup sa magayumang kalapating sumasayad sa pam


Shantih   Shantih      Weiilala  leia        Wallala  leialala   

Bago umakyat sa Baguio, tumawid kami sa Tayug, Pangasinan, nina Mario Alcantara

at Pablo Ocampo, kumakampanya para kina Recto-Tanada

Hindi ko batid noon na malapit sa Binalonan, bayan ni Carlos Bulosan….

Noong 1972 ko na lang napag-alaman ito sa lilim ng Pulang Bandila

Lumangoy at lumutang sa usok sa Luneta’t daungan ng Manila Bay

Tudyo’t halakhak ng mga kaibigang nakausad mula sa Tundo hanggang

Sta Cruz  & Quiapo & Escolta patungong Binondo

Tatlong bundok ang tinibag bago dumating nang dagat

Walastik, para kina T.S. Eliot Joyce Nietzsche Sartre, tapos ang boksing sa


Walastik, naghalo ang balat at tinalupan sa turo ng pilosopong galing sa Popular Bookstore

Di naglaon, tumubo ang sungay at tumindi ang pagnanasang makahulagpos

—“karga nang karga, kahit walang upa” ang islogan ng anarkista

bago sa engkuwentro kina Marx Engels Lenin Lukacs noong dekada 



Pumalaot na mula sa daungan ng Subic Bay

Lupa’t tubig ang nakalunsad

Apog at asin sa lagusan

Tinalunton ang landas pabulaos mula sa Ilog Montalban

Halos magkandarapa  halos sumubsob

Hindi pa nakaraos

Hindi pa natutuklasan: kutob, ligamgam

Hangin at apoy ang bumuhos

Hindi pa yari ang proyektong idaraos

Pumalaot na sa hanggahang di-abot-tanaw

Humugos sa dalampasigan

Tubig  lupa   hangin   apoy   

Apoy  hangin  apoy


Tungkol sa Awtor

Kilalang kritiko at manlilikha sa larangang internasyonal, si E. San Juan, Jr. ay emeritus professor ng English Literature, Ethnic Studies, & Comparative Literature, University of Connecticut at Washington State University; at dating fellow ng W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University; professorial lecturer, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, at visiting professor of English, University of the Philippines (2018). 9Awtor siya ng maraming libro, kabilang na ang Balikbayang Sinta: E. San Juan Reader (Ateneo University Press), Filipinas Everywhere (De La Salle University Publishing House), Between Empire and Insurgency (University of the Philippines Press), U.S. Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines (Pagrave), Learning from the Philippine Diaspora (U.S.T. Press), Carlos Bulosan: A Critical Appraisal (Peter Lang), and Racism and the Filipino Diaspora (Ateneo de Naga Press). Muling ipinalimbag ng U.S.T. UNITAS ang 1988 libro niyang Subversions of Desire: Prolegomena to Nick Joaquin (Ateneo University Press). Ilan sa mga kalipunan ng mga tula niya sa Filipino ang nailunsad kamakailan: Ulikba (U.S.T. Press), Kundiman sa Gitna ng Karimlan (U.P. Press), Ambil (Philippines Studies Center), at Bakas Alingawngaw (Ateneo U Press).


First published in UNITAS (2018),98-113; included in Bakas, Alingawngaw (Ateneo U Press, 2019).