THE NATIONOAL DEMOCRATIC IMAGINATION IN THE PHILIPPINES by E. SAN JUAN, JR.


    RE-MAPPING THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC 

IMAGINATION IN

THE PHILIPPINES AT THE END OF THE 20TH CENTURY

         by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.


                Very probably the Philippines will defend with indescribable arbor the liberty she has bought at the cost of so much blood and sacrifice.

            --JOSE RIZAL, "The Philippines a Century Hence" (1889)



 Inaugurated by the United Nation's bombing of Iraq for occupying the territory of another nation (Kuwait), the post-Cold War era we inhabit today, and its post 9/11 sequel, appears bizarre and utterly disorienting  It seems certainly as far removed from the Enlightenment vision of a cosmopolitan world culture (expressed, for example, in Goethe's notion of a Weltliteratur) as the years when this century opened with the Boer Wars in South Africa, the Boxer rebellion against foreign incursions in China, and the Spanish-American War. Our postmodern conjuncture is in fact distinguished by ethnic particularisms and by the valorization of the aleatory, contingent, and heterogeneous. Indeed, the ideal of internationalism presupposes a plurality of nation-states asymmetrically ranked in a conflict-ridden global market. It thrives on national differences since "world interdependence has diffused balance of power considerations and transformed them into a balance of terror" (Smith, Nationalism 196). As long as the ethnic archive persists amid the homogenizing secular ideals of modernization and liberal individualism that subtend the policies of most states, an order grounded on exchange-value and the logic of capital accumulation, nationalism will remain a major if not decisive force shaping the economic, political and ideological contours of the "New World Order." 
 Nationalism as a world phenomenon is thus a historically determinate process of group-identity formation with diverse manifestations and ramifications. How is writing as a cultural  practice and habitus (Bourdieu) in the Philippines configured in this dialectic of identity and difference?

 When the United States occupied the Philippines by military force in 1898-1903, a Filipino nation had already been germinating in over 200 revolts against Spanish colonialism. Filipino intellectuals of the Propaganda Movement (1872-1896) had already implanted the Enlightenment principles of rationality, civic humanism, and autonomy (sovereignty of all citizens) in the program of the revolutionary forces of the Katipunan and the first Philippine Republic. At the outset, the Propagandists--Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Graciano Lopez Jaena, etc.--used the Spanish language to appeal to an enlightened local and European audience in demanding reforms. With the aim of conscientization, Rizal's novels, Noli Me Tangere (1887) and El Filibusterismo (1891), incorporated all the resources of irony, satire, heteroglossia (inspired by Cervantes and Rabelais), and the conventions of European realism to criticize the abuses of the Church and arouse the spirit of self-reliance and sense of dignity in the subjugated natives. For his subversive and heretical imagination, Rizal was executed--a sacrifice that serves as the foundational event for all Filipino writing.    
 Although a whole generation of insurrectionist writers (the most distinguished is Claro Recto) created a "minor" literature in Spanish, only Rizal registered in the minds of Spaniards like Miguel de Unamuno. In effect, Hispanization failed. In 1985, when I visited Havana, Cuba, I found Rizal's two novels newly reprinted and avidly read--a crosscultural recuperation, it seems, of a popular memory shared by two peoples inhabiting two distant continents but victimized by the same Western powers.
 Just as a Filipino nation was being born harnessing the vernacular speech of peasants and workers, U.S. imperial hubris intervened. Its conquest of hegemony or consensual rule was literally accomplished through the deployment of English as the official medium of business, schooling, and government.  This pedagogical strategy was designed to cultivate an intelligentsia, a middle strata divorced from its roots in the plebian masses, who would service the ideological apparatus of Anglo-Saxon supremacy. Americanization was mediated through English sanctioned as the language of prestige and aspiration. Meanwhile, the vernacular writers (the true organic intellectuals of an emergent populus), who voiced the majority will for sovereignty against U.S. "Manifest Destiny," sustained the libertarian Jacobin heritage of the Propagandists. Witness to this were Lope K. Santos, author of the first "social realist"--more precisely, anarcho-syndicalist--novel Banaag at Sikat (1906), and Isabelo de los Reyes, founder of the first labor union and of the Philippine Independent Church, both of whom were deeply influenced by Victor Hugo, Proudhon, Bakunin, and the socialist movement inspired by Marx and Engels. As I argued in my book Reading the West/Writing the East (1992), "vernacular discourse articulated a process of dissolving the interiority of the coherent, unitary subject" (91) in texts that dramatized the breakdown of taboos (what Deleuze and Guattari call "territorializing" codes) and the release of Desire in the sociolibidinal economy of violence and delirium.
 While U.S. imperial power preserved the tributary order via the institutionalization of patronage in all levels of society, the use of English by apprentice-writers fostered individualism through the modality of aesthetic vanguardism. Personal liberation displaced the dream of national sovereignty. The overt and subterranean influence of the "Lost Generation" (Anderson, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein) on Jose Garcia Villa and his contemporaries shaped the content and direction of Philippine writing in English from the twenties to the sixties. Internationalism in this case took the form of imitation of U.S. styles of private revolt against alienation in bourgeois society. While Villa enacted the role of the native as Prometheus and achieved a measure of recognition by the U.S. New Criticism in the fifties, he has never been included in the U.S. literary canon (Lopez 11). In encyclopedias and other reference books, Villa has always been identified as a "Filipino" writer. Interred in the pantheon of formalist mannerism, his ethnic signature survives only in his name. 
 A breakthrough occurred in the thirties. It was the global crisis of capitalism and the intense peasant dissidence throughout the islands that impelled Salvador P. Lopez, Teodoro Agoncillo, and others to mount a challenge to U.S. hegemonic authority and the threat of fascism by establishing the Philippine Writers League (1939-41). For them, nation signified the working people, the producers of social wealth, whose alignment with the anti-fascist insurgency in Europe and Asia invested with apocalyptic Jetztzeit (Walter Benjamin's term) the solidarity of all the victims of capital. For the first time, the insurrectionary legacy of 1896 was rediscovered and utilized for grassroots empowerment. We find this stance of nationalist internationalism in the fiction of Manuel Arguilla and Arturo Rotor, in the novels of Juan C. Laya, in the essays of Jose Lansang, S. P. Lopez, Angel Baking, Renato Constantino, and the massive testimonies of Carlos Bulosan. For the first time, writers in English rallied together with the vernacular artists (among others, Jose Corazon de Jesus, Faustino Aguilar, and Amado V. Hernandez) to affirm the dialectical interaction between spiritual creativity and radical mobilization, even though the protest against continuing U.S. domination had to be sublimated into the worldwide united front against fascism.
The praxis of Filipino national allegory was thus born in the conjuncture of what was desired and what was exigent. It was conceived in this hiatus between the project of liberating the homeland (from Japanese invaders) and the defense of popular democracy everywhere. Consequently, it sublated 19th-century bourgeois nationalism in the heuristic trope of what came to be known as "national democratic revolution." 
 The exemplary practitioner of this allegorical mode was Carlos Bulosan, a worker-exile in the U.S. from the early Depression to the beginning of the Cold War. His now classic ethnobiography, America Is in the Heart (1948), synthesized the indigenous tradition of antifeudal revolt in the Philippines with the multiracial workers' uprising in the West Coast and Hawaii against racist exploitation. Bulosan's art expressed his partisanship for popular/radical democracy. It demonstrated his faith in the intelligence of people of color--Reason's cunning, in the old adage--rooted in cooperative labor. His sympathy with Republican Spain beleaguered by fascism coincided with his union organizing against racist violence in the U.S. and Japanese militarism ravaging his homeland. Because Bulosan's sensibility was deeply anchored in the proletarian struggles of his time, he was able to capture the latent transformative impulses in his milieu as well as the emancipatory resonance of the realist-populist genealogy in U.S. literature: from Whitman to Twain, Dreiser to Richard Wright. The prime exhibit here is Bulosan's novel The Power of the People (1972) whose thematic burden was to render in concrete incidents the reciprocal dynamics between the Huk uprising in the fifties against U.S. imperialism and its comprador allies, and the farmworkers' agitation in the U.S. for equality and justice. In contrast, the aesthetes who emulated Villa could only gesture toward, or parody, U.S. neoconservative styles and banalities ranging from the compromised liberalism of the welfare state to the slogans of religious fundamentalism, laissez-faire utilitarianism, and packaged postmodern fads fresh from the dream-factories of California. 

Despite Bulosan’s achievement, it remains the case that the vision of a nation-in-the-making sedimented in Filipino writing in English cannot be fully assayed except in antithesis to the metropolis. Since the sixties, however, the U.S. Establishment claim of truthfully representing the Filipino has entered a period of protracted crisis. For U.S. scholarship, Filipino writing in whatever language remains invisible, at best peripheral. Because Filipino writers challenging the realism of the center and the pathos of the status quo have not refused to abandon the theme of national/class emancipation, the now contested project of modernity given a subaltern inflection, they have not been so easily coopted by paternalistic praises and assimilated to the neoliberal multicultural canon. U.S. neoliberal ideology may accord formal rights to Filipino cultural identity, but does so only to deny recognition of its substantive worth. This view has even influenced oppositional trends. While theorists of postcolonial letters celebrate their difference as the part of Commonwealth/British literature that really matters, they have so far not claimed to appropriate Philippine writing in English as an illustration of what the authors of The Empire Writes Back call a “hybridized” or “syncretic” phenomenon” (180, 196). The reason is not far to seek: whether in the U.S. or in the Philippines, Filipino writers cannot escape the vocation of resistance against neo(not post)colonial forces gravitating around the World Bank-IMF, guarantors of transnational hegemony. They cannot shirk the task of reinventing the nation anew in a world where the eclectic pragmatism of the transnationals seeks to impose everywhere the internationalist mandate of Eurocentric supremacy. This program of reimagining the national-popular (in Gramsci’s terminology), not the state which has instrumentalized the nation, is not nationalist in the vulgar sense of seeking to preserve ethnic purity or instigate a cult of linguistic uniqueness; rather, it is “nationalist” in defense of the integrity of the work-process in a specific time-place. This nationalism inheres in affirming the dignity and worth of workers and peasants that constitute the nation-people for-itself in the ultimate analysis.
Whenever U.S. experts on the Philippines pronounce judgment on our literature, the implicit standard may be seen to originate from the notion of “tutelage.” In sum, U.S. knowledge-production of the truth about the “Filipino” rests in part on the organic metaphors of parent-child and tributary-stream, a figural strategy whose repetition endows U.S. representational authority with sacramental aura. In the 1969 Area Handbook for the Philippines, an official government baedeker, we read: “For the first two decades of the American occupation the short story suffered from a stiltedness of style when written in English, but, after the authors went through a period of practice in acquiring the idiom, excellent writing began to emerge” (Chaffee 140). This is repeated in subsequent editions, together with the citation of authors (Villa, Romulo, Nick Joaquin, N.V.M. Gonzalez) who acquired importance by being published in the United States. In addition to such marginalizing techniques, U.S. critical discourse also occluded the reality of resistance to its client regime (the Marcos dictatorship) by the tactic of omission. One evidence among others: after 1972, “themes shifted from social comment to a search for self-awareness and personal identification” (Vreeland 148). What actually happened was that “social comment” faced with government censorship either stopped, turned Aesopean, or went underground. Further, U.S. “postcolonial” will to categorize and subjugate its clients can be illustrated by the well-intentioned but patronizing comments of Donald Keene (in a review of an anthology of modern Filipino short stories): “…we are certainly fortunate that there are now Filipinos who can speak to us beautifully in our own language…[this collection] is an admirable testimony to the emergence of another important branch of English literature” (44).
One response to this strategy of incorporation by subsumption is the privileging of contradictions inscribed in the site of what is alter/native, the other of paranoid mastery. I submit that Philippine writing is not a “branch” of American or English literature; it is sui generis. This is not just a matter of “differences ‘within’ English writing” or embedded national traditions which Bill Ashcroft et al consider “the first and most vital stage in the process of rejecting the claims of the centre to exclusivity” (17). Nick Joaquin, the most acclaimed portrait-painter of the petty-bourgeois Filipino, formulates the genealogy of his maturation as a process of awakening to the exuberant rituals of the folk and the pious gentry. After describing the itinerary of his education in the reading of American and British authors (from Dickens to Willa Cather), he finally discovers the Philippine folk-Catholic milieu of ceremonies and festivals which provide the raw materials for his imagination (“The Way” 4-5). While rightly denouncing the mechanical imitation of U.S. standards and styles, Joaquin seeks to locate the authenticity of Filipino creativity in a populist version of Christianity lodged in the psyche of characters resisting commodity fetishism–in The Woman Who Had Two Navels, Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, and Cave and Shadows. More problematic than this essentialist quest for an indigenous genius loci subordinated to Eurocentric Christianity is Joaquin’s idea of tradition as a cumulative inventory of the colonial past: Rizal was produced by 300 years of Spanish culture, Villa by 400 years (add about 100 years of American colonial tutelage) of Westernization, a frame of reference which includes for Joaquin “Adam and Eve, Abraham, Venus, St. Peter, Cinderella and the Doce Pares” (“The Filipino” 42). So Joaquin contends that “if Philippine writing in English is to be justified at all, it will have to assert its continuity with that particular process and development” of absorbing the Western episteme and the problematic of the Cartesian ego. Rather than a radical rupture with the past, Joaquin’s empiricist naãvetÇ legitimizes a syncretic adaptation of European forms, values, knowledge–an internationalism which replicates the less subtle conditionalities of the World Bank-International Monetary Fund. Such a mimicry of colonial icons and paradigms springs from a myth of self-apprehension characterized by syncretism and hybridity, signs of “differance” so highly prized by the current theoreticians of postcolonial or minority discourse reacting to the master narratives of bourgeois freedom and progress.
But what would differentiate this axiom of syncretism from the doctrine of liberal pluralism (either postKeynesian or postFordist) under which the “New World Order” of the U.S., Japan, and the European Community seeks to redivide the world into their respective spheres of influence? Is nationalism, interpreted recently as a mode of “ethnic cleansing,” a genuine alternative? Is ethnocentric nativism (a return to the pasyon, various tribal mores, and other sectarian or autarchic practices) a viable option? How has Philippine writers succeeded in transcending the either/or dilemma of choosing between abrogation through appropriation, or unilaterally privileging the indigenous? Is Samir Amin’s universalist resolution of this predicament (proposed in Eurocentrism, 1989) a cogent way of breaking through the impasse?
Initiatives for a renewal of national allegory (see Jameson), the renaissance of the national-popular imagination, might be witnessed in a critique of what I might call instrumental or culinary nationalism–the ideology and culture of the “New Society” of the Marcos regime drawn up by progressive intellectuals just after the February 1986 insurrection. It might be instructive to recall, in this context, how in Africa and Asia after the sixties, the triumph of elite nationalism led to the catastrophic disillusionment of writers who expected the radical transformation of society after independence. What the “passive revolution” (see Chatterjee) ushered in was neocolonialism, not release from the bondage to capital. During the Marcos dictatorship, pseudohistorical propaganda and self-serving kitsch which manipulated symbols of the archaic tributary/feudal past tried to project a state obsessed with “national security” and anti-communism and at the same time an embodiment of the nation’s “authentic identity.” This was allowed within the parameter of the Cold War. Nicanor Tiongson et al exposed how the ethos of communal cooperation called bayanihan or kapitbahayan was ascribed by the state to the barangay (the pre-Spanish village government) as its “soul.” This ethnic locus would then function as the political base for the authoritarian political party, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (53).
In 1969 Mrs. Imelda Marcos raided the public treasury to realize her fantasy, the aristocratic and fetishized edifice called the “Cultural Center of the Philippines” which she designated as the “Sanctuary of the Filipino Soul.” These icons, symbols, and rituals of Marcos’ “Filipino Ideology” might have fooled his narrow circle of cronies and compradors, but it was easily grasped by most Filipinos as mystification and apologetics for corrupt oligarchic despotism as well as marks of subservience to Western and Japanese transnational interests. Lino Brocka, the leading progressive filmmaker then, pointed out that such “nation-building means trying to give a ‘beautiful’ picture of the country, trying not to disturb people, not to make them angry by depicting the truth to them” (Tiongson 57). This understanding was shared by most artists who sympathized with the platform and principles of the underground coalition, the National Democratic Front (NDF). The NDF’s alter/native project of constructing a “democratic and scientific culture” via participation of the broad masses insured that nationalism of the kind that disappointed many African writers like Chinua Achebe and Ayi Kwei Armah would not be a substitute for the thoroughgoing transformation that would be brought about by a change in property-relations and the redistribution of social wealth/power. Such a change would by necessity entail the assertion of national sovereignty against U.S. impositions. Above all it would prioritize the democratic control of a circumscribed space or territory without which the Filipino people cannot make any contribution to the community of states claiming to represent nations.
Thus we come back to the paradox that the internationalism of Goethe, Condorcet, and Marx conjured: for “national one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness” (to quote the Communist Manifesto) to be eradicated, what is required is precisely nationalism conceived not just as a collective primordial sentiment but as a mode of organizing a community of participant citizens. It is not the concept of the nation-people that is problematic but the comprador or dependent state that manipulates the “nation” as its instrument for accumulation.
Within the Marxist tradition one finds a rich archive of inquiries into and controversies on “the national question,” from Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, and Otto Bauer to Mao Tsetung, C.L.R. James, Che Guevarra, Edward Kardelj, and Amilcar Cabral. Surveying this field, Michael Lowy concludes that the principle of self-determination centers on a given community’s act of deciding consciously to constitute itself as a nation (157). But before judging one nationalism as legitimate and another as suspect if not reactionary, Lowy advises us to undertake “concrete analysis of each concrete situation” relative to the goal of defeating international capitalism. In his study of ethnonationalism in Britain, Tom Nairn counseled us about the enigmatic Janus-faced nature of historical nationalisms.
Whatever the ambiguity of this phenomenon, the idea of the nation cannot be exorcised from thought without negating the historicist temper of modernity. As noted before, nationalism and its corollary, the nation-state, are energized by a teleology of the conquest of necessity by reason, of humanity’s progress toward freedom and self-fulfillment of all. This radically historicist position has been questioned by postmodern thinking, as I’ve suggested in the beginning. It is also questioned by Regis Debray who believes that the idea (or ideal-type) of the nation, which for Marxists will be rendered obsolete by the advent of communism, is permanent and irreducible. For Debray, the idea of a nation is necessary to thwart entropy and death. It performs this function by establishing boundaries and thus generating identity through difference. Claiming to be more materialist than Marx, Debray insists that the universalizing thrust of bourgeois-analytic reason (as instanced by Amin’s book mentioned earlier, or the messianic thrust of Frantz Fanon’s Third World advocacy) ignores the reality of contemporary developments, specifically the resurgence of identity politics in the forms of ethnic separatism, nationalist or regional schisms, etc. We are witnessing “a growing interdependence of the conditions of economic production and exchange, comporting a trend towards uniformity; yet this is dialectically accompanied by a new multiplication of cultural diversity…. Equality is never identity…. What we are seeing now is indeed a growing divergence of cultural identities, a search for specificity as the other face of emerging globalism” (31).
Such a schematic mapping of the present world-system, a recapitulation of the principle of “uneven and unequal development,” is enabled by the very contradictions of late capitalism. In this totalizing regime of exchange value, there are multiple overdetermined antagonisms. However, the primary contradiction from the perspective of oppressed people of color is still between the advanced industrial centers negotiating alliances and compromises on the one hand, and their victims within and outside their borders. And while these victims (whole groups and populations) are heterogeneous, their commonality of sharing the collective fate of domination by mainly Western capital underpins the sociolibidinal economy of their individual quests for recognition as world-historical nations.
On the terrain of an extremely uneven social formation, writing in the Philippines stages in rhetoric and narrative an emergent popular agenda or “structure of feeling.” It proceeds by refunctioning residual forms (such as the dupluhan and zarzuela, folk theatrical genres) and marginalized conventions in order to subvert the aestheticist formalism authorized by U.S. disciplinary regimes as well as by the commodified imports and imitations from Japan, Europe, and elsewhere. By the logic of opposing an exploitative and alienating force, the resistance assumes the modality of revitalizing indigenous cultural practices so as to constitute an allegorical narrative of their return with new effectivities. What distinguishes this tendency is a cosmopolitan selectiveness demonstrated not just in the adaptation of Western genres (for example, Brecht’s epic distancing retooled in PETA productions like Buwan at Baril), or in the feminist abrogation of neocolonial/feudal patriarchy (as in Lualhati Bautista’s Bata, Bata…Paano Ka Ginawa? and other vernacular experiments). Nor is it fully registered in the invention of a new style of tracking the metamorphosis of the migratory sensibility, as in Jose Dalisay, Jr.’s novel Killing Time in a Warm Place. Rather, it can be discerned in the process of contriving a national-popular idiom addressed not to the Volk (Herder, Fichte) but to a resurgent sambayanan (populus). An allegorizing strategy of storytelling is explored. Its point of departure is an alter/native sensibility rooted in acts of decolonizing intransigence, in a critique of the illusions propagated by the world-system of transnational capital.
The Filipino praxis of alter/native writing interrogates the “post” in “postcolonial” theory. We observe this in the partisan texts of Emmanuel Lacaba, Estrella Consolacion, Levy Balgos de la Cruz, and Argee Guervara. They all strive to actualize what Fr. Ed de la Torre calls “incarnation politics,” a theology of liberation indivisible from the daily acts of resistance against a client state that has sacrificed the nation-people to profitmaking (see San Juan). This project of articulating the subject denominated as “becoming-Filipino” is not nationalist in the orthodox construal of the term. For one, it rejects a state where the nation is hostage to brokers and entrepreneurs ready to sell it to the highest bidder. Its nationalism is prophetic because it materializes in everyday acts of popular resistance. The nation appealed to here would then signify a “concrete universal” embodying solidarity with other oppressed communities engaged in fighting the same enemy; such unity with others is premised on the cultural differences of peoples, including those whose histories have not yet been written; or those whose narratives have been either preempted or interrupted by the West’s “civilizing mission,” otherwise known as “the White Man’s Burden”. We comprehend and appreciate differences invested with identity-drives to the extent that they can be translated for the re-cognition of others and our mutual enrichment. How is the Other fully recognized? By transposing the mimesis of the Self (the parasitic colonizer within) into an allegory of its own constitution and self-reproduction.
What I have in mind can perhaps be suggested by Edward Said’s hermeneutics of the culminating moment of the decolonization process plotted by Fanon. This is the moment of liberation–“a transformation of social consciousness beyond national consciousness”– (83) enunciated, for example, in Pablo Neruda’s materialist poetics, in AimÇ Cesaire’s Cahier d’un retour, and actualized in the life of the Filipino revolutionary writer, Amado V. Hernandez. Because of the general reification of social life today, we cannot as yet fully understand the dynamics of these complex mutations without the mediation of allegory: Neruda evokes through Macchu Pichu the heroic resistance of the aborigines, while Cesaire’s Caribbean locus evokes the promise of Negritude in utopian rhythms.
What does the Philippines offer? We have so far charted the discursive terrain where the salient contradictions of our time involving race, ethnicity, class, gender, etc., are refracted in a multilayered textuality open for interpretation, critique, and ecumenical dialogue. My intervention here should be deemed a prologue to a substantial and more nuanced inventory of the historical specificities of the Philippine social formation that would determine the various modes of cultural production and appropriation pivoting around the event called “becoming-Filipino.” Less ethnogenesis than alter/native poiesis, the goal is to convert the “state-nation” (Smith, Theories 189-90) to an evolving national-popular site of dialogue and praxis. Such a reconaissance of a Third World people’s struggle to define and validate its agency is in effect a task of reconstituting the nation and its position in the world community. In doing so, we encounter ourselves in others. We engage in a catalyzing exchange with voices from other societies using a constantly revised lexicon of “communicative reason” (to borrow Habermas’ phrase), an exchange oriented toward a fusion of counterpointing horizons where all can equally participate in the creation of meaning and value.
My proposal of an alter/native poetics as a hypothetical paradigm for Third World cultures depends of course on the peculiarities of each nation’s history. One last example from the Philippines may be adduced here to illustrate the dialectic of metropolis and periphery which informs the ever-changing configuration of the nation-people in the former colonies. When Arturo Rotor wrote his essay “Our Literary Heritage” in 1940 to exhort his fellow writers to respond to the needs of the working masses, he invoked as models of committed intellectuals the names of Ralph Waldo Emerson who publicly combatted slavery and Thomas Mann who admonished artists to seek [Right, Good and Truth not only in art but also] in the politico-social sphere as well, and establish a relation between his thought and the political will of his time” (21). Rotor ended his nationalist and by the same token inter-nationalist manifesto vindicating literature’s raison d’etre by quoting Maxim Gorki: “[literature] must at last embark upon its epic role, the role of an inner force which firmly welds people in the knowledge of the community of their suffering and desires, the awareness of the unity of their striving for a beautiful free life” (23). In this way, Philippine vernacular allegory may be said to harmonize its pitch and rhythm with others from North and South (now replacing East and West) speaking tongues whose intelligibility is guaranteed by our sharing common planetary needs, the political unconscious of all art.

REFERENCES

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back. London: Routledge, 1989.

Chaffee, Frederic et al. Area Handbook for the Philippines. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969.

Chatterjee, Partha. Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World. London: Zed Books, 1986.

Debray, Regis. “Marxism and the National Question.” New Left Review 105 (September-October 1977): 25-41.

De la Torre, Ed. The Philippines: Christians and the Politics of Liberation. London: Catholic Institute for International Relations, 1986.

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 1982.

Grow, L. M. ” ‘The Ghost of Time Past’: Philippine Literary Criticism in English.” The Manila Review 7 (June 1976): 46-51.

Jameson, Fredric. “”Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism.” Social Text 15 (Fall 1986): 69-80.

Joaquin, Nick. “The Way We Were.” In Writers and Their Milieu, ed. Edilberto Alegre and Doreen Fernandez. Manila: De La Salle Press, 1987.

———–. “The Filipino as English Fictionist.” In Literature and Social Justice, ed. L. Yabes. Manila: Philippine Center of PEN, 1982.

Keene, Donald. “Native Voice in Foreign Tongue.” Saturday Review of Literature (October 6, 1962): 44.

Lopez, Salvador. “Literature and Society–A Literary Past Revisited.” In Roger Bresnahan, ed., Literature and Society: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Manila: US Information Service, 1976.

Lowy, Michael. “Marxism and the National Question.” In Robin Blackburn, ed., Revolution and Class Struggle: A Reader in Marxist Politics. Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1978.

Rotor, Arturo. “Our Literary Heritage.” In Manuel Quezon, et al, Literature Under the Commonwealth. Manila: Alberto Florentino, 1973, first printed in 1940.

Said, Edward. “Yeats and Decolonization.” In Terry Eagleton et al, Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1990.

San Juan, E. Reading the West/Writing the East. New York: Peter Lang, 1992.

———–. Writing and National Liberation. Quezon City: U of the Philippines Press, 1991.

Smith, Anthony. Nationalism in the Twentieth Century. New York: New York UP, 1979.

————-. Theories of Nationalism. New York: Harper and Row, 1971.

Taylor, Charles. Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Tiongson, Nicanor et al. “The Ideology and Culture of the New Society.” In Synthesis: Before and Beyond February 1986. Quezon City: The Interdisciplinary Forum, 1986.

Vreeland, Nena et al. Area Handbook for the Philippines. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1976.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

E. SAN JUAN, Jr. was recently visiting professor of literature and cultural studies at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan and lecturer in seven universities in the Republic of China. He was previously Fulbright professor of American Studies at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium and fellow of the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University. Among his recent books are BEYOND POSTCOLONIAL THEORY (Palgrave), RACISM AND CULTURAL STUDIES (Duke University Press), and WORKING THROUGH THE CONTRADICTIONS (Bucknell University Press). Two books in Filipino were launched in 2004: HIMAGSIK (De La Salle University Press) and TINIK SA KALULUWA (Anvil); his new collection of poems in Filipino, SAPAGKAT INIIBIG KITA AT MGA BAGONG TULA, was released by the University of the Philippines Press in 2005.

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HISTORY AND THE POLITICS OF TIME by E. San Juan, Jr.


HISTORY AND THE POLITICS OF TIME
With Reference to Andres Bonifacio and Lualhati Bautista’s Desaparecidos

by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.

  1. Any process of reflection on the situation of Filipinos and Philippine society today, post-9/11 and in the midst of intense U.S. surveillance of the world as part of its global war on extremist terrorism, requires sustained historical consciousness. This involves critical self-reflection if we want to intervene in changing our social situation and our everyday lives.

“Historical” implies the passage of time through events from one mode of social relations to another, the past undergoing transformation to produce the next stage of social development, the future. “Consciousness” implies not just individual self-reflection but a grasp of the milieu and its collective self-awareness, the mentality of the epoch, as well as its manifold determinations.

  1. The Yolanda catastrophe disclosed the stage we are in: an entrenchment of the neocolonial formation begun in 1946. We witnessed again not only endemic corruption and ineptitude, but more starkly the intervention of foreign actors, in particular, the United States navy and airforce, which offered a pretext for allowing large-scale, more permanent deployment of US forces throughout the country. This in addition to the drone/Special Forces operations already going on in Mindanao, Sulu, and other regions. The protest over pork-barrel thievery is a symptom of growing popular discontent–not enough, however, to spark nationwide insurrection.
  2. Part of the symptom of increased deterioration of the neocolonial setup is the impact of the public exposure–on top of other local protests in various regions. esp those affected by mining, demolition of homes,etc. Everyone knows that this has been going on since the US colonial administration parcelled out the bureaucracy and the ideological state apparatus–courts, legislature, military–to the local elite with landlord and comprador roots. This was part of the pacification campaign from 1899 to the Cold War period.

Bourgeois sociologists call this the client-patron relationship, part of the old structures of interdependency. The US cultivated this and institutionalized it in the Quezon Commonwealth regime; it worsened during the Cold War era, systematized by the Marcos dictatorship, and vulgarized in the Estrada and Arroyo regimes.

  1. Except for a few stories and novels in the vernacular, literary artists have not thoroughly diagnosed the corruption endemic to a neocolonial, dependent system. One outstanding example is Stevan Javellana’s WITHOUT SEEING THE DAWN. Of course, the classic works of Lope K Santos, Arguilla, Amado V. Hernandez may be cited as allegorical and realist testimonies to the historical contradictions of the period from the early years of US colonial rule to the fifties.

Aside from state censorship and persecution of subversive writers, the use of English and the class-affiliation of the intelligentsia served to reinforce the ideological hegemony of the imperial power in the sphere of culture. Even the most popular vernacular poet of the twenties and thirties of the last century, Jose Corazon de Jesus, who wrote in accessible Tagalog and attacked racist Americans, could not fully escape the individualist conformism of his vocation. He was more effective as a journalistic recorder of folk beliefs and hypnotic entertainer of the plebeian crowd.

  1. Our literature in English remains confined to clever imitations and at best genteel parodies of the latest vogue celebrated by US taste-makers and fashion arbiters. The major writer who dared to wrestle with the crises of the collective psyche, more precisely the ordeals of activists, during the Marcos dictatorship and after is Lualhati Bautista, also famous for the films DEKADA 70 & BATA BATA PAANO KA GINAWA? Bautista is a self-declared feminist writer in Filipino who tries to cater to the taste of the bakya crowd and the high-brow aficionados of the Filipino commercial cinema. But her virtuosity seems not to have registered deeply to make her name instantly recognizable as that of Manny Pacquiao or Nora Aunor, star of the recent film THY WOMB.
  2. Before I offer a few comments on Bautista’s latest novel, DESAPARECIDOS, I want to say something about the 150th anniversary of Andres Bonifacio’s birth celebrated last year.
  3. After World War II, I was seven years old and entered the Andres Bonifacio Elementary School near Blumentritt, Sta Cruz, Manila. I knew more about the 13 martyrs of Cavite than about the Supremo because I acted in a skit about one of them. Later I knew more about Jose Abad Santos when I entered a school named after him.

During grade school and high school, I had only rudimentary notions of Bonifacio’s role in the 1896 revolution. Only in college, after being exposed to Agoncillo’s Revolt of the Masses, did I acquire a fuller understanding of Bonifacio’s importance, albeit a somewhat distorted version due to the prejudiced optic of such commentators as Agoncillo himself, Zaide, Nick Joaquin, etc. It is only through the brave efforts of our kasamas in the national-democratic movement that we can now appreciate Bonifacio’s decisive intervention in that epic of revolt against Spanish colonial domination, an ongoing narrative beginning from Soliman and Dagohoy up to Silang, Apolinario de la Cruz, Burgos, to Rizal, Jaena, Del Pilar, and the Katipunan.

  1. From a historical-materialist perspective, Bonifacio is less an individual than an embodiment of collective forces
    that were stirred up by the Propagandists, mainly by Rizal’s novels and his failed Liga. The Katipunan is not just a collection of disgruntled individuals but an organized assemblage of conscious minds mobilized for directed, planned action. It laid the ground for constructing the counterhegemonic vision of future national-democratic struggles: the Sakdalista, Huk, NPA/NDF, etc.
  2. Unlike the hero-worshipping habits imposed by aristocratic Spain and the utilitarian U.S., the ideology of the Katipunan emphasized cooperation, mutual aid, and the welfare of the community. National solidarity, not individualism. The revolution initiated by Bonifacio’s Katipunan contradicted the cacique mentality of the Aguinaldo circle, petty holding proprietors, titled ilustrados, the Westernized intelligentsia. While Bonifacio and his circle were themselves products of the European Enlightenment, specifically the radical philosophes, they also functioned as organic intellectuals of the workers and peasants. Not the pasyon but the habitus of Indyo artisans and urban workers (Manila then was a collection of neighborhoods) shaped their everyday conduct, a life-form whose virtue inhered in spontaneous feelings, rituals of sharing, emotive gestures and clandestine agitation rather than detached inquiry.
  3. All the writings of Bonifacio, as well as the documents of the Katipunan, testify to a massive endeavor to educate workers and peasants in order to raise their political consciousness, not to enhance their talent to promote their individual status or family fortunes. This applied also to the writings of Rizal, Mabini, and others. But Bonifacio used the vernacular and appealed to the organic sensibility of people engaged in daily work and collective struggle against a violent predatory system.

In sum, the narrative of Philippine modernity based on the rational autonomy of each individual talent harnessed for the common good begins with Bonifacio and the Katipunan. Incredulity toward this master-narrative can only sustain the abuses of dynastic warlord families, proprietors of semi-feudal estates, as well as their comprador-bureaucratic networks in government. Consumerist individualism and lumpen criminality are morbid byproducts of this interregnum between the old dying system and the new one still convulsed by birth pangs.

  1. We have not yet achieved full sovereign autonomy, given our dependence on US dictates (military, economic, etc.) and IMF/WB and WTO mandates. With over ten million OFWs, the economy depends vitally on the unstable global market hiring migrant labor. Call centers and outsourcing businesses immediately suffer any slight adjustment in global stock exchanges.

Lacking any master-plan for industrialization, food sufficiency, ecological health and sustainable development, our country remains an immiserated appendage of global finance-capital. And if it were not for the remittance of billions of dollars to pay the foreign debt and support the consumerist lifestyles of both the rich and the families of OFWs, we would be like Haiti, a virtual US colony. But an economy based on commodification and export of millions of brown bodies is precariously mortgaged on the cycles of global capitalism, afflicted with periodic calamities and ongoing wars and worsening destruction of the planet’s ecosystem.

  1. Bonifacio’s dream of national autonomy, popular sovereignty, and prosperity remains suspended in the sporadic struggles of numerous groups around the country–farmers, indigenous Lumad communities, women, students, OFWs abroad, etc. The moment of systemic breakdown depends on the convergence of all these separate insurrections, movements variably contingent on or affected by the international alignment of blocs of regional forces.

Bonifacio’s execution by the Aguinaldo clique reminds us that unless class divisions, and their attendant ideology of narrow class or familial interests (both of which are maintained by US hegemony) are overcome, we cannot progress as an independent nation and a people with dignity and singular identity. This unity is something to be theorized in consonance with practical organized movements.

  1. Bonifacio is being resurrected everyday in the numerous efforts of our countrymen to oppose imperialist diktat and the subserviency to their imperialist patrons of our politicians, compradors, and landlords–the oligarchic elite– whose lives have been molded to maintain a violent system whose grant of “impunity” for torturers and killers is a clear sign of its moral and political bankruptcy.
  2. This climate of “impunity” for those responsible for atrocities and barbaric excesses during the long night of the Marcos dictatorship is the theme of Bautista’s novel DESAPARECIDOS. The title itself, derived from the Latin American nightmare of repression of insurgents by military dictators supported by the CIA (as in Guatemala, El Salvador, Argentina, Chile, etc.), betokens the continuing repression of civil liberties and the fascist violence used to impose it. It also symbolizes the vanished, erased or extinguished parts of our memory and consciousness without which we cannot claim responsibility for our actions, or freedom to create our own destiny.
  3. Foremost among the disappeared in Panay are Luisa Dominado and Nilo Arado. They were followed by Jonas Burgos, Sherley Cadapan, Karen Empeno, and dozens more. What happened? Can a body just disappear in a society whose laws, whose constitution, presumably seek to guarantee the life and liberty of everyone? Who are the agents of making bodies disappear as if by magic or uncanny and bizarre means? And when bodies surface as corpses, cadavers with stigmata of State coercion (euphemistically called “extra-economic compulsions”), are there risks for anyone who can identify them?
  4. Bautista’s novel is both an expressive and communicative act. Expression becomes possible only when communication succeeds (always in contentious or conflicted degrees), enabling the reader to translate ideas/feelings into action. To ask what the novel communicates is to ask how the individual reader is interpellated to become a subject capable of action premised on a certain view of life, a configuration of lived experience, and sense of an intelligible future. We also want to interrogate whether the project of interpellation–making readers not only conscious of their historical situation but also aware of their potential in transforming their world–successful or not. If not, why not?
  5. I propose three theses for exploration and discussion: First, this novel attempts to make sense of the terrible disruption of lives, of institutions and traditional beliefs, inflicted by the Marcos dictatorship through the ordeals of two families–three if we include the parents of Jingki, the assasinated traitor to the NPA. Were all those sacrifices worth the cause? Was that period of emergency meaningful, valuable, or necessary?

Second, the attempt to make whole broken bodies, destroyed lives, employs the plight of a mother searching for her lost child, exposing in the process the conflict between political commitment and personal (maternal) need, and the disjunction between devotion to a future-oriented revolutionary ideal and the imperative of immediate or punctual satisfaction of family togetherness and organic harmony among blood kins. Is the conflict resolved, thus allowing for the invention of a different or alternative future? What notion of the future is produced by a reading of this novel?

Third, the argument for revolutionary justice–the revenge of the deaths of others by the sacrifice of Jingki–appears as a wager that a future life free from such raw justice can arise. Absent a providential or transcendent law/god, can humans with their natural vulnerabilities and resources establish a regime honoring each individual member? Again, can the future be born from a spoiled damaged past and guilt-ridden present? Are possibilities offered by the plot of restored child and confessed deed?

  1. The plot unfolds the interaction of multiple times. The themes of separation and reunion, distance and intimacy, unravel in the interplay among three zones or layers of experienced temporality: a) time lost/frozen (for Anna fixated on finding her daughter consigned to a lost comrade Karla), b) time present (Roy remembering the burning of his family in front of an NGO group trying to reconstitute the historic truth/authenticity of what happened, and finally confessing his role as party agent of revenge), and (c) time future (duration as continuity), personified by the two daughters: Karla who wants to know/learn about her past, her mother’s homeland; and Lorena whose everyday recording of what is occurring to her parents, etc., registers the symptoms of rupture and displacements, the asynchrony between past and present, thus rendering the future problematic, at best, and amenable to speculative extrapolation.
  2. The novel resolves the fixations of Ana and Roy with the return of Karla from Canada, and the confession of Malaya to Ana about her origin. Moved by Ana’s obsession, Karla (whose spatial removal and marriage fills up the lost time wasted during the Marcos years) renounces her claim to Malaya. Malaya in turn reaffirms the biological mother Ana, though she does not reject Karla. Roy finally confesses that he killed Jingki, Karla’s husband, on orders of the party, thus partly purging himself of guilt. One can speculate that revenge on a former comrade Jingki compensates for Roy’s fury and sense of futility or helplessness in leaning of the killing of his parents and sister.

But it can be argued that the reunion of mother and daughter does not fully provide an answer to the lost meaning or import of the anti-imperialist struggle in the lives of these protagonists. The summary of chronological history in between the 9th and 10th chapter, entitled “Once upon a fairy tale…” attests to the problem broached by the politics of time and the disaggregation of space in an unevenly developed, ideologically conjunctural formation.

  1. Surely the return of the lost daughter and the vindication of Ana’s persistent effort to find Karla, as well as the retribution inflicted on Jinky for betraying his comrades, do not appease our uneasiness. The narrative voice indicates as much, asking: Was all that enormous sacrifice worth it when the ghost of the past reappears in Arroyo’s Marcos-like authoritarianism?

We assert the proposition that biology, nature as found/received condition, is no answer to the failure of individuals to honor their personal responsibilities, much less their political commitments. We are not absolutely determined by our environment or our heritages which are all subject to contingencies and mutability. But to whom is the individual responsible?

  1. Karla’s role is exemplary: she sacrifices her own daughter in order to protect and save her comrade’s child, thus valorizing community over biology. She also proves that though the struggle separates bodies and destroys families, they also open up the space for new forms of belonging, solidarity, and fellowship opposed to alienation and capitalist reification.

Her absence from the scene of carnage and torture allows the passage of time to nourish the seeds of past time (Malaya) and the potential for a new beginning in the conjunction of the two sisters. Her exiled body functions as the positive side to the negativity of disappeared and mutilated bodies, thus allowing the opening for new action, for a future of a new form of society to emerge.

It is in this horizon of expectation that this narration of negation, disavowals and disappeareds produces the realm of possibilities for collective intervention, and therefore the realization of social agency for the victims, all those denied recognition, the disappeared and violated and dispossessed.

  1. Fragments of the historical totality of twenty years (comprising the martial law years plus the early disappointing years of the Cory Aquino regime) remain suspended in a narrative replete with moments of intense dramatic confrontations. Lived existential time generates a pressure that prevents clear judgment and discourages any fair evaluation of each person’s role in the events of torture, abduction, and killing. But historical or spatial distance (between Malaya and Lorena, for instance) does not guarantee justice and elucidation of moral or ethical ambiguities, either.
  2. So the final question we face is: what does the novel’s interpellation seek to elicit from us? Validating the harmonious reconciliation of Karla and Ana, of Karla and Roy, and the resolution of contradictions between the party and its members who are critical and deviant? Can the recovered daughter Malaya symbolize the future for the split psyche of the mother being healed by their embrace? Consider this: “Nang ibaba ni Ana ang kamay niya ay hindi para yakapin si Malaya kundi para yakapin ang sarili… Hanggang sa si Malaya ang yumakap sa kanya, niyakap siya nang mahigpit, buong higpit, na parang sa yakap na iyon ay sinisikap ibalik ang dalawampu’t isang taon” (p. 220).
  3. In Hegel’s philosophy, the dialectic of lord and slave climaxes the process of drawing the lessons of the struggle for recognition. The lesson is the knowledge of historical time, the investigated logic of the process of history. Here the dialectic of time past and time present culminates in mother-daughter embrace, a fusion of blood-streams: nature overcomes history, dissolves memory and the narrative of differential moments into a cosmological continuum. The almost mythical rhythm of maternal/biological annuls the question about the future and with it the possibility of historical agency.
  4. The question of agency (faced by Roy in the chapter before the last) involves speculations or anticipations of the future. This is tied also to the theme of violence against women, specifically targeting the body, sexuality (rape, mutilation of genitals, etc.) Ultimately, the chief task of this narrative and other structural projects of plotting (by Filipino writers) is to answer what is the meaning or sense of human actions in history. Put more concretely, what is the purpose or import of Filipino intervention in history, particularly the shaping of the present/future of the nation?
  5. Resolving the problem of agency, as well as the meaning of revolutionary action, via affirmation of nature (by identifying the lost child, though Nonong’s cadaver is never publicly identified, despite the father’s torture and sacrifice of his life) is a false and misleading solution. Or it postpones the moment of choice, letting traditional authorities and conventions make the decisions.

Despite the melodramatic reunion of mother and dauther, as well as the bonding between Malaya and Lorie (an allegorical linkage of past and future by the existential present), Bautista suggests an ironical ending in the final two pages about Arroyo’s Proclamation 1017 evoking memories of Marcos’ martial-law declaration. There is a double irony here because the return of the past, even in mock or pantomime version, mimics the return of biology and blood-kinship, Nature.

  1. The invocation of Nature returns us to the archaic and feudal stages of the pasyon and mythic rituals. A future shaped by human agency disappears. With it history either vanishes, or becomes the existential present, where “everything solid melts into air.”
    We plunge into the narcosis of commodity-fetishism, the deceptive flux and changeability of fashion–the paradisal mirage of global capitalism and its consumerist hallucinations which have seduced us, so ubiquitous in gigantic malls that proliferate in MetroManila, Iloilo, and everywhere. The instant of pleasure or excitement becomes paramount, consumption of ideas or sensations becomes the means for the realization of utopian bliss. The narrative of events and experiences becomes superfluous.
  2. Bautista’s novel reminds us that our bodies can be “disappeared” not just by fascist violence, courtesy of the neocolonial state and US panopticon, but also by the inertia of quasi-feudal habits, by the subterranean reflexes of our physical constitutions. If we allow these forces to operate, the “disappeared” will haunt us forever, as they did for our protagonists Ana and Roy, as well as for Karla, Malaya, Lorie and all the victims and victors of this oppressive and brutal system.

The choice is ours: the owl of Minerva (the critical genius) will not fly out into this night of terror unless the vampires and ghouls of the past are challenged and the survivors with their memories intact assert their presence in time and at all times. This is the time of appearance, not disappearance, for Filipinos

  1. Finally, this narrative of loss and recovery, inflected with ironic undertones and allegorical resonance, affords a moment for grasping the totality of the Philippine formation at a conjunctural moment: the neocolonial crisis of the Marcos dictatorship. Totalization enables the synthesis of past sacrifices to link present ordeals with visions of the future, expectations of new life-forms.

We as readers might be able to respond to the interpellation of ourselves as potential agents who can identify murdered activists, assassinated traitors, lost or disappeared citizens, who are all part of our own larger selves, vestiges of our own childhood and symbolic tokens of what we desire to become.

As Bautista herself declared after the Feb 1986 revolt: “Panahon na na lumikha ng alternatibong papel ng babae bilang isang tauhan, lala na’t kasama rin naman ang babae sa pagsusulong ng lipunan…sa tunay at ganap na kalayaan” (“Ang Manunulat bilang Babae at ang Babae bilang Manunulat,” Tinig-Titik 2, 2nd issue, 1986-87, p. 6).

Various possibilities are open. If we want, a reflexive understanding of this novel can help us disentangle the barbaric from the civilized elements in the intricate, complex web of our national history–from the aborted insurrection of the Katipunan to the aborted uprisings of the Sakdalistas and Huks to the failed People Power Revolt of 1986, and so on. It can help us understand the ironies of political movements and the tragedies of the past as necessary turning-points in our emergence as a people/nation with its rightful place in the nultifaceted, dissonant, messy evolution of world-history.–2/1/2014

Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS | Comments Off on HISTORY AND THE POLITICS OF TIME by E. San Juan, Jr.

BALAGTAS: Florante at Laura–Isang Pagbasa ni E.San Juan, Jr.


BALAGTAS: Proyekto Tungo sa Diyalektikong Analisis at Materyalismong Interpretasyon ng Florante at Laura

ni E. SAN JUAN, Jr.

Bakit balik-sisyasat na naman sa diskurso't larangan-sining ng Sisne ng Panginay?  Payak na tugon: sapagkat nag-iiba ang panahon/kasaysayan, nagbabago ang sangkatauhan, kaya nararapat isalamin ang kabaguhan sa angkop na panunuri't masinop na pagsipat sa mga akda ni Francisco Balagtas (1788-1862).

Tiyak na sa harap ng di halos mabilang na nakalathalang pag-aaral at pananaliksik tungkol sa obra maestra ni Balagtas, na di lang hinirang na kanonikal na asignaturang dapat basahin kundi sakramentong pamana ng lahi, wala nang bagong matutuklasan tungkol sa halaga at katuturan ng akda. Mali ang akalang ito sapagkat ang panahon ay nagbabago. At sa bawat pagsulong ng kasaysayan ng ating lipunan at kaalinsabay na pagbabago, sa gitna ng mabilis na pag-inog ng relasyong internasyonal ng mga bansa, nag-iiba ang pananaw ng bumabasa, pati na ang milyung kinalalagyan ng likhang-sining. Bagamat may pagbabago, mayroon ding nananatili--hindi maihihiwalay ang diyalektikal na ugnayang ito. Lilitaw ang masalimuot na paglalangkap ng luma at bago, tradisyon at modernidad, sa takbo ng pagtalakay ko sa makabagong pagkilatis at pagkaunawa ng Florante sa paraang pagsasalin dito sa isang diskursong konseptuwal o dili kaya'y post-konseptual.

Sa umpisa, nais kung ipatalastas sa mambabasa na napag-ukulan ko ng masusing pagdalumat pampilosopiya ang akda ni Balagtas noong nakaraang dantaon.  Lumabas ang aking sanaysay, Balagtas: Art and Revolution, noong 1969. Nailathala muli ito sa koleksiyong Himalay (1988), imprenta ng Cultural Center of the Philippines, pinamatnugutan nina Patricia Cruz at Apolonio Chua. Ang salin ko ng tula ay ipinalimbag ng Art Multiples Inc. noong 1978, kalakip ang mga dibuho ni Rod Paras-Perez, na siya ring namahala sa malikhaing pagyari ng edisyong ito. Sumunod ang isang kabanata hinggil kay Balagtas sa aking Toward A People's Literature (1984), kung saan nagmula ang kabanata 4, "Balagtas: Pagtatakwil sa Romansa," sa kalipunan kong Himagsik: Pakikibaka Tungo sa Mapagpalayang Kultura (2004). Nais ko ring banggitin ang ilang naunang hagod ko sa paksang ito sa Preface to Pilipino Literature (1972) at Introduction to Modern Pilipino Literature (1974).
Sa maikling lagom, ang sinikap kong ipaliwanag sa mga nabanggit na ensayo ay may tatlong aspekto o panig. Tinalakay ko, una, ang istorikal na pagtingin sa buhay at gawa ni Balagtas sa kanyang panahon; pangalawa, ang temang pilosopikal na pagdukal sa mga kontradiksiyon ng lipunan sa paraang alegorikal at palaisipan; at pangatlo, ang radikal na bisa at implikasyon ng pamamaraan sa Florante na umaayon sa mga simulain at adhikain ng pambansang demokrasyang kilusan sa kasalukuyang panahon.  Maaaring hindi nahimay lahat ng detalye sa mabisang paraan, kaya pakay ko rito ang balik-tanawin ito at ipasok ang isang inobasyon: ang konseptuwalisasyon sa diwa ng awit sa pagtatanghal ng isang diskursong konseptuwal sa dakong huli. Marahil ito na ang ultimong katwiran sa muling pagdalaw sa panitik ni Balagtas.

Perspektibang Materyalismong Diyalektikal

Maididiin dito sa panimula na ang punto-de-bista ng sanaysay ay materyalismong istorikal sa tradisyon nina Marx at Engels.  Salungat ang lapit ko kumpara sa ilang makabagong pagbasa sa tula na umaalinsunod sa estrukturalista o post-estrukturalistang teorya ng mga Kanluraning kritiko tulad nina Derrida, Iser, Foucault, atbp. Malinaw na hindi sapat iyon pang makatarungang matimbang ang kathang-sining. Sadyang makitid o dahop ang paniwalang teksto lamang, mito, wika, ang pinakaimportanteng batayan ng kahulugan at kahalagahan, tulad ng ipinanukala ni Loline Antillon sa kanyang "Florante at Laura: Dikonstraksyon ng Pinuno."  Katibayan ito na patuloy pa rin ang pormalistang pamantayan sa makabagong damit, bagay na itinatakwil dito. 

Sa katunayan, ang gayong pagsusuri ay ekletiko't nominalistiko.  Tanda ito ng konserbatibong pagbalik sa ideyalistikang metapisika nina Descartes, Kant at Nietzsche. Mapinsala rin ang ideyalistikong semiolohiya ni Saussure. Sa iba't ibang anyo, ang lahat ng natukoy ay nagsisilbing ideolohiya ng imperyalistang monopolyo sa yugtong ito ng krisis ng kapitalismong global. Ang pagpapatayog ng wika, mito, at indibiwalistikong kamalayan ay saligan ng komodipikasyon ng lahat--lakas-paggawa, katawan, panaginip, kagamitan, kapaligiran--sa ngalan ng tubo, akumulasyan ng kapital, at dahas ng nagmamay-ari. Umiwas tayo sa salot ng alyenasyon/reipikasyong umiiral.

Tahasang kaiba ang pinakaunang masusing saliksik ni Bienvenido Lumbera, Tagalog Poetry 1570-1898 (1986). Si Lumbera ang unang naghimay ng mga salik ng tradisyon sa panulaang katutubo na naging sangkap sa awit ni Balagtas, kabilang na ang corrido, pasyon, at mga romansang may tipong caballerescos, moriscos at historicos. Mainam na naipaliwanag ni Lumbera ang impluwensiyang pampanitikan ng Europa sa pagbalangkas ng tula, laluna ang dulaan. Pinakatampok ang tema at motif ng palasintahang galante o maginoohin (courtly love), hindi ang wika o sistema ng tugmaan. Utang din kay Lumbera ang paglalantad sa layon ng balangkas ng tula (ang tema ng edukasyon o inisyasyon, ang estilo ng teatro, at mga klasikong alusyon at reperensiya). Sikapin nating humakbang mula sa baytang na ito.

Sa malas, kailangang mabatid ang tradisyong pangkulturang iyon upang mabigyan ng saysay ang teksto at retorika ng awit. Kung dahop sa konteksto, walang katuturan ang teksto, wika, salita. Nakaugat ang haraya o guniguni sa isang namamayaning konsepto o artistikang layon na uugit sa pamamaraan, banghay ng salaysay, talinghaga, atbp. Kung walang arkitektonikong bukal o matrix, walang silbi ang porma, hugis o estilo ng tula. Kung hindi matarok o masipat ito, malayong mawatasan ang tunay na adhikain ng makata. Kung walang makahistorikal na pagpapakahulugan, tandisang kulang ang anumang hatol o taya sa naisakatuparang akda.

Ano ang makapangyarihang konseptong nasa likod ng tula? Halos lahat ng iskolar ay nagkakaisa sa tesis na ang istandard na sinunod ni Balagtas ay mga romansa ng pag-iibigan, hinaluan ng eksenang moro-moro at relihiyosong pangangaral. Resultang naratibo ay may pangkomeyang wakas: nasagip ang mga biktima, nabawi ang kaharian, naparusahan ang mga may-sala, naging Kristiyano ang Muslim, at lumaganap ang kasaganaan at kapayapaan. Tila deus ex machina ang inilapat sa pagitan ng malimit na didaktikong pagtuldok sa bawat kurba ng daan. 

Sa aking palagay, ang pinakasentral na konsepto sa awit ay ang pagtuklas sa mga kontradiksiyon sa buhay, sa lipunan, sa kasaysayan. Kaagapay nito, ang tema ng pagtataksil at paghahanap ng katotohanan at matwid ay tumutuhog sa mga pangyayari at tauhan. At kung may paglutas sa suliranin ng mga kontradiksiyon, tulad ng Kristiyanismo versus Islam, iyon ay bunga ng pagkakataon--hindi aksidente o pagbabakasakali kundi resulta ng paghahabi't pagdurugtong ng intensiyon ng tao, sirkumtansiya, institusyong minana, ideolohiyang nagtatagisan. 

Kung tutuusin, ang Florante ay mala-realistikong parabula na "Kinuha sa madlang 'Cuadro Historico,' ayon sa pangalawang pamagat ng tula.  Ito ay diskurso hinggil sa konsepto ng pagtuklas ng katotohanang supling sa interaksyon ng sitwasyon, karakter ng tao, at kaisipan. Naisiksik ni Balagtas ito sa bansag ng humanistikong ley natural sa  saknong 150:

Moro ako'y lubos na taong may dibdib

at nasasaklaw rin ng utos ng Langit;
dini sa puso ko’y kusang natititik
natural na leing sa aba’t mahapis.

Tila madaling sagot ang paliwanag na “batas natural” (natural law) ang sanhi ng ginawang pagkalinga ni Moro sa isang Kristiyano. Umaayon ito sa mahaba’t malalim na tradisyong mapagpalaya–mula sa Stoikong pilosopong Grieygo-Romano hangggang Rousseau at St. Just sa Pransiya, Rizal at Bonifacio–na nakasalig sa kosmolohiya ng kalikasan. Iminungkahi ni Ernst Bloch (1986) na ang batas ng kalikasan ay napagkasunduang sandigan ng dignidad ng bawat tao sa Kanluraning pilosopiya.

Sa katunayan, ang kagandahang-loob ni Aladin ay bunga ng kanyang sitwasyon, na kahawig ng sitwasyon ni Florante (kapwa nasalanta sa pagtataksil/pagbabaligtad ng inaasahan).  Hindi iyon esensiyal na katangian ng kanyang pisyolohia. Gayundin ang pagkakatulad ng karanasan nina Laura at Flerida, datapwat may maselang kaibahan: nagbalatkayong lalaki/gerero si Flerida upang makatakas at maging tagapagligtas ni Laura at taga-hatol sa sukab na Adolfo--di lang babae kund pagano/Muslim pa ang lakas na nagtulak sa masayang wakas. Sandaling napag-alinlangan ang katatatagan ng tinawag ni Ruth Mabanglo na "patriyarkal at maskulinong atityud ni Balagtas" (1992, 309), kaya "makitid ang pananaw na iniambil sa katauhang babae" sa tula. Tumpak ba itong opinyon ni Mabanglo kung si Florante mismo, bayaning kastrato o "nawalan ng bayag," ay nasadlak sa katayuang makababae-- malambot, palasuko, mapagbigay, mahinhin--halos kabiyak ng malingap na Aladdin? Fraternidad ba ito, kaakibat ng Liberte at Egalite? Pahiwatig ito na hindi simple ang oposisyon ng lalaki/babae, hayop/tao, gubat/sibilisasyon sa dinamikong kalakaran ng magkatunggaling pwersa sa awit.

Makahulugang pihit ito ng tadhana: ang babaeng inuusig ang siyang kinatawan o sugo ng "mahiganting langit" (13). Samakatwid, ang konsepto ng kaisahan o kaibahan ng banghay ng mga pangyayari, ang puno't dulo ng kilos ng mga gumaganap ng papel, ang pinagmulan at kahihinatnan, ang esensiyal sa kritikang kaalaman sa buhay, lipunan, tao, kasaysayan. Hindi ito naisingit sa isang talata, larawan o eksena, kundi nakabuklod sa pag-ikot ng mga pangyayari. Sa terminolohiya ni Hegel, ang "katusuhan ng Rason" (cunning of Reason) at ni Marx, "ang tunggalian ng mga uri sa lipunan," ang pumapatnubay at umuugit sa gulong ng kapalaran, sa pag-inog ng pangyayari, at tuluyang pagpapakilala sa lihim ng tadhana.

Yugto ng Paghuhunos at Pagbabanyuhay

      Bago tayo bumungad sa antas ng pagkonseptuwalisyong metodo ng diskurso, pagtuunan natin ng pansin ang ilang bahagi sa talambuhay ni Balagtas na makukunan ng ilang dahilan upang magsusog ng ilang ipotesis.

Ang lawig ng buhay ni Balagtas ay sumasaklaw sa siglo ng Kaliwanagan (Enlightenment) o Rason sa Europa. Mula huling dako ng 17 dantaon hanggang unang dako ng 19 dantaon, nangibabaw ang kaisipan at turo nina Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Kant, Voltaire, Rousseau, Lock, Hume at Adam Smith. Ang huling pantas ay simbolo ng paglaganap ng pamantayang "laissez-faire" modo ng kapitalismo. Nabuwag ang dinastiyang Bourbon, nagtagumpay ang burgesyang himagsikan. Naging imperador si Napoleon pagbagsak ng Republika; nasakop niya ang maraming bansa, kabilang na ang Espanya noong 1808-14 na tuwirang bumaba ang kapangyarihan noong Pitong Taong Giyera (Seven Years War, 1756-1763). Natambad ang biyak at lamat ng gumuguhong kuta ng imperyo.

Sa pagkatalo ng monarkiya, nahikayat ang mga dating sakop na lumaya sa mga digmaan sa pagsasarili (Wars of Independence) sa Timog Amerika: Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia. Pansamantalang napawi sa Espanya ang ideolohiyan ng Media Siglo sa masang kilusang lumaban kay Napoleon. Nakagawa ang mga liberal na Kastila ng 1812 Konstitusyon ng Cadiz, na nagbigay ng mga karapatan ng mamamayan sa mga bayang napailalim sa Espanya.  Nang magapi si Napoleon, nagbalik sa trono si Ferdinand VII, sinira ang Konstitusyon ng Cadiz, at ipinataw muli ang mabagsik na despotismo't awtoritarynismo.  Sa Pilipinas, walang pang isang taon nang iproklama ang Konstitusyon nang wasakin ito noong 1814. Akala ng mga katutubo na pantay na sila sa mga Kastila, ligtas na sa mapahamak na polo servicios, tributo at iba pang mapinsalang buwis. Hindi pala.

Sa harap ng kaunlaran sa Europa at Amerika, marami ring pagsulong sa Filipinas noon. Bago sumabog ang dalawang sigalot sa Ilocos (Basi rebelyon) at sa Tayabas-Laguna-Batangas (rebelyon ni Hermano Pule) na tumagos kaipala sa kamalayan ni Balagtas, balik-tanawin ang kondisyon ng kapuluan noong 17 dantaon. Malaking impluwensiya ang komersiyo ng Intsik at Ingles sa pag-unlad ng ekonomya. Nang sakupin ng Inglatera ang Maynila noong 1762-1764, lantad na ang karupukan ng kolonyalismong Espanyol. Inumpisahan at pinasigla ang paglinang ng asukal, tabako, indigo at abaka ng mga reporma nina Gobernador Simon de Anda Salazar at Jose Basco Vargas. Ang monopolyo sa tabako ay itinatag noong 1781, ang monopolyo sa alak noong 1786. Ang malayang pangangalakal, tatak ng sistemang kapitalismo kalulunsad, ang umiral sa panahong 1750-1850. Pagkaputol ng negosyong galleon noong 1813, bumulas ang sistemang angkat-luwas ng kalakal sa maraming bansa, kabilang na ang Tsina, Inglatera, Estados Unidos, atbp. Nabuwag nang kaunti ang lakas ng mga prayle, lumakas ang poder ng prinsipalya, laluna mga negosyanteng mestisong Intsik, sa pagtatayo ng bangko at pamamayani ng palitan sa salapi (cash economy). 

Tuwirang nayanig ang mga institusyon ng buong kolonya.

Kinakitaan ng maraming pag-aalsa sa panahon bago sumilang si Balagtas noong 1788. Pinakatanyag at pinakamatibay ang rebelyon ni Dagohoy sa Bohol (1744-1829) na kinasapian ng mahigit 20,000 alagad (Agoncillo 1967). Sumunod ang himagsik nina Diego Silang at Gabriela Silang (1762-1763) kaalinsabay nang pagkasakop ng Inglatera sa Maynila. Tutol ang mga kampon ni Silang sa tributo, sapilitang abuloy ng serbisyo, at pang-aabuso ng mga alcaldes mayores sa indulto de comercio. Sa Pangasinan naman, ipinagpatuloy ni Juan de la Cruz Palaris ang mga pakikibaka ng mga taumbayan sa Pampanga (Andres Malong) at sa Ilokos (Pedro Almazan) nang pinamunuan niya ang masa sa Binalatongan, Dagupan, atbp. Napatay si Palaris noong Marso 1764.  

Ngunit hindi tumigil ang reklamo't paghihimutok, pagbalak at pagkilos, ng taumbayang inaapi. Nang pumutok ang gulo sa Piddig at Sarrat, Ilokos, noong 1807, labingsiyam na taon si Balagtas sa Tondo, nag-aaral ng pilosopiya, teolohiya, Latin at mga batas sa Colegio de San Juan de Letran. Tatlumpu't limang taon si Balagtas, hinog na gulang na siya, nang umalsa si Kapitan Andres Novales, isang creole, na tumutol sa pribilehyo ng mga peninsulares sa hukbong sandatahan noong 1823. Nang sumikdo ang kilusan ni Hermano Pule sa Tayabas noong 1839-1841, matipunong 51-53 taon na si Balagtas, nakatira na sa Balanga, Bataan, empleyado sa hukumang nagsanay sa kanya para sa mga hinaharap na katungkulang teniente mayor at juez mayor de sementera (Cruz 1988; De los Santos 1988). 

Produkto ng panahon ang kamalayan ng makata. Walang pasubali na nang nag-aaral siya't nagsasanay sa pagsulat noong unang bahagi ng ika-19 dantaon, nahubog ang diwa't hinagap, budhi at pagkatao, ni Balagtas ng alitan ng mga maralitang pesante't manggagawa laban sa prinsipalya't kolonyalistang poder. Laganap noon ang huntahan at bulung-bulongan tungkol sa mga ligalig at gulong nagaganap sa Ilokos, Bohol, mga lalawigang kanugnog ng Maynila, at mga kampanyang inilunsad ng mga Kastila laban sa Moro buhat pa noong magapi si Sulayman sa Maynila. Nabuksan ang Maynila sa mga dayuhang negosyante simula noong 1834.  At noong nasa Pandakan si Balagtas, ang mobilisasyon ng Cofradia de San Jose ni Apolinario de la Cruz ay sumaklaw na sa lalawigang Tayabas, Batangas at Laguna. Wala nang hinahon at ginhawa bagkus puno ng hilahil at linggatong ang mamamayan sa kaharian ng "Albanya."

Bakas at Palatandaan sa Talambuhay

Alam ng lahat na tubo sa angkang manggagawa--maralitang panday ang kanyang ama sa Panginay, Bigaa, Bulacan, malapit sa uring magsasaka--si Balagtas. Ipinaganak siya noong Abril 2, 1788, isang taon bago sumiklab ang rebolusyon sa Pransiya. Nag-aral ng katon, kartilya at dasalan sa kumbento sa direksiyon ng maestrillo ng kura. Pagkatapos, ipinasok siyang alilang-kain (naglingkod sa maybahay) sa isang mariwasang pamilya Trinidad sa Tondo upang makapag-aral sa Colegio de San Jose at sa San Juan de Letran. Ang isang guro niya sa unang paaralan ay si Padre Mariano Pilapil, kilalang awtor ng Pasiong Mahal (1814). Samakatwid, edukasyong kombensyonal, oryentasyong ginabayan ng Simbahan, ang pumanday sa murang kamalayan ni Balagtas.

Ulat din ni Hermenegildo Cruz (1988) na natapos ni Balagtas ang pag-aaral sa gulang na 24 taon noong 1812. Sinasabing nabigo ang hangad niya na malapit kay Jose de la Cruz, ang bantog na makata at mandudula; balita'y wala kasi siyang sisiw upang ipagpalit sa turo at payo ng pantas.  Noong taong din iyon nabigo si Imperador Napoleon sa pagsakop sa Rusya; at pumutok sin ang giyera ng Estados Unidos at Inglatera na siyang nagtakda ng hanggahan ng kanikanilang teritoryo. Noong 1830 nagsimula ang reporma sa Inglatera upang palawakin ang demokratikong representasyon ng mamayan sa Parlamento.

Malayong nakagiyagis ang mga ito sa paghahanap-buhay ng binatang noo’y naniningalang-pugad.

Noong 1835-38, lumipat si Balagtas sa Pandakan kung saan nakilala niya si Maria Asuncion Rivera, ang dinakilang Selya na pambungad sa awit. Sa kaligirang 47-50 taong gulang siya nang mapabilanggo sa pakana't sulsol ng kasikeng magulang ni Mariano Kapule, ang karibal niya. Kung bakit siya napiit ay hindi malinaw; may hinalang iyo'y resulta ng maniobra ni Nanong Kapule na malakas ang kapit sa gobyerno, upang mawala ang sagabal sa pagligaw sa kanyang napusuan. Ibinintang sa makata ang isang krimen na nakahadlang sa kanyang pagtugis kay Selya, ang musa ng kanyang bumabalong na guniguni.  Haka ng marami na sinulat ni Balagtas ang Florante sa loob ng bilangguan; nailimbag iyon noong 1838, sa liberal na administrasyon ni Gobernador Andres Garcia Camba (Zaide 1970).

Malabo ang impormasyon tungkol sa inhustisyang ipinadanas kay Balagtas. Gayundin ang sakdal na pagputol niya ng buhok ng isang alilang babae ng isang pamilyang mayaman sa Udyong. Paratang na naging krimen at usaping nagdulot ng mapait na pagdarahop ng pamilya. Nabilanggo siya noong 1856 (sa Bataan at sa Bilibid sa Maynila) at pinakawalan noong 1860 dalawang taon bago siya pumanaw noong Pebrero 20, 1862, taon nang ipagbawal ang pagiging busabos (serf) sa Rusya at pangalawang taon ng Giyera Sibil sa Estados Unidos upang masugpo ang sistema ng pang-aalipin sa mga Aprikanong inangkat mula sa Aprika. Ang apat na taon sa piitan ay ginugol sa pagyari ng maraming dula, kabilang na siguro ang Orosman at Zafira, Rodolfo y Rosamundo, Nudo Gordiano, Abdal y Miserena at Bayaceto y Dorlisca--ang una lamang ang nasagip nang buo sa mga naturang katha (Cruz 1988; De los Santos 1988).

Pagkalabas niya sa bilangguan, lumipat si Balagtas sa Balanga, Bataan, noong 1840. Nagsimula ang pangalawang yugto sa buhay ng makata na sumukdol din sa pagkabilanggo sa Maynila na kanyang iniwan mahigit sampung taon na. Bilang katulong ng huwes sa Bataan, nakapaglibot siya at di naglaon ay nakilala si Juana Tiambeng, anak ng mayamang pamilya sa Udyong. Kinasal sila noong Hulyo 22, 1842 sa gitna ng mga bulong-bulungan. Sino ba naman si Balagtas? Isang taong di kilala, walang yaman, edad 54 taon samantalang si Juana ay 31 taong gulang. Masahol pa, hindi siya miyembro ng prinsipalya. Noong 1856-57, hinirang siyang taga-salin sa hukuman. Pinalitan din niya ang pangalan niya--naging Francisco Narvaez Baltazar--ayon sa dekreto ni Gobernador Narciso Claveria. Pito ang anak na nabuhay sa 11 na isinilang sa mag-asawa. Walang kababalaghan sa buhay niya liban sa pagkakakulong sa sumbong ng katulong na babae ng alferez Lucas (Sevilla y Tolentino 1922; Zaide 1970). 

Sumiklab ang himagsikan ng 1848 sa Europa; naipahayag ang "Komunistang Manipesto" at lumago ang kilusang sosyalista. Samantala, kawaning taga-salin si Balagtas at naging teniente mayor at juez mayor de sementera---katungkulang hindi tumulong sa kaso niya; namulubi sila dahil sa gastos sa kasong baligho. Pinagibili ng asawa ang mga alahas at lupain. Anim na buwan siya sa piitan sa Balanga, Bataan, at ang nalabing panahon sa Bilibid sa Maynila. Sanhi ng masaklap na karanasahan, naibalita na pinagbilinan ang asawa na huwag payagang maging makata ang sinuman sa mga anak, mabuti pang putulan ng kamay upang huwag mapasubo sa marahuyong kaabalahan . 

Engkwentro ng Ilang Kulay sa Bahag-hari

Malahimala ang katigasan ni Balagtas. Sa gitna ng mga kagipitan at kahirapang dulot ng pinagsalikop na buhos ng pangyayari, hindi siya sumuko  at naging sinikal, suya o inis sa lihim o labas na pagtuligsa sa kabuktutan sa paligid. Angkin niya ang isang natatanging siyentipiko't mapanuring sensibilidad na sumusukat sa tunay na kalikasan ng bawa't tao at problema sa relasyong panlipunan. 

Ayon kay Teodoro Agoncillo, si Balagtas ay dakila sa "paglalagay ng balatkayo sa kanyang mga mapanganib na kaisipan" (1992, 226). Mapanlinlang ang madalamhating payaso ng guniguni. Satiriko't mapagpatawa, matalas niyang binatikos ang mga rasistang prehuwisyong bumaluktot sa pag-iisip at lumason sa budhi ng balana. Naging konsiyensiya siya ng lahi at uring pinagsasamantalahan. Malinaw na katibayan dito ang saynete niyang "La India Elegante y El Negrito Amante" (Flores at Enriquez 1947). Ang tipo ng saynete noon ay komikong interludyo sa mga liturhikal na palabas o ritwal sa tanghalan, nanunudyo o nang-uuyam ng mga kaululan, bisyo at masagwang asal ng mga taong nanood o kasali sa mga pista ng mga banal na araw. 

Napuna ng ilang kritiko (e.g., Almario 2006) na ito'y halimbawa ng masayahing diwa ni Balagtas. Mapagbiro ang tono, bukod sa hitik ng parikala, parunggit, at retorikang lihis sa malungkuting salamisim ng mga metrikong romansa.  Ngunit ito'y hindi pangliwaliw lamang.  Batbat ng matalas na hagupit sa mga kalokohan at pagmamalabis ng karaniwang tao at mga namumuno, ang satirikong talino ay nanghahamon. Magaspang at mahalay ang saya katugma sa pagtambal kina Tonyang taga-luto at queridang pinanambitan. Magkahalong ngiti at ngisi, mura at walang-hiyang hibo, ang tuwang inihahain.  Halimbawa: nang sumabad si Menangge, ang babaeng sinusuyo ng itang Kapitan Toming,  na di niya tatanggapin ang alok ng taga-bundok na may regalong "masamang ibong kuwago," sagot ng ita habang tumatawa:  "Laki niring kamalian! / Isip ko'y di ka pihikan / iyo palang tinitingnan / ang balat, hindi ang laman." 

Sadyang nakabibighani ang magkahalong siste at biro sa parodya ng eksena ng panunuyo. Ang konsepto ng kabaligtaran o salungatan ang nag-uugnay sa porma ng saynete. Taglay sa himig at banghay ng dula ang mga katangiang nakabuod sa salawikain, bugtong, tudyuhan at tuksuhan sa mga dupluhan, awiting-bayan at balitaktakang nakagawian. Ang diyalogo nina Uban at Toming sa simula ay malabisang pagkukunwa, tangkang kumiliti, humamon ng kantyaw o pumukaw ng halakhak. Gayunpaman, seryoso at taimtim ang pagpapahayag ng damdamin, tulad sa dalawang awit ni Toming at Menangge sa gitna ng saynete. Pagninilay ni Menangge sa madulas, kapritsoso't malikot na takbo ng damdamin:

Kung magabi nama't magkusang sumabog

sa masayang langit ang bituing tampok,
kung sa nakaraang maghapo’y umirog
parang asong biglang papanaw sa loob.

Ano pa't ang sinta'y hindi kumakapit

kundi nga sa balat lamang niring dibdib,
kung dini sa puso’y masok ang pag-ibig
letra ang kaparang sinulat sa tubig. (1947, 12)

Ang querida sa bundok ay ambil na himatong sa mga babaeng napusuan ng awtor. Sino kaya sa mga nakaraang paraluman ni Balagtas--sina Lucena at Bianang sa Tondo, o ang dalawang Selyang pinag-ukulan ng masuyong luhog, o si Juana Tiambeng, ang kabiyak--ang nagsilbing bukal ng maigting na pagdidiling naisingit sa nakalulugod na katapusan ng dula? Matining na alingawngaw ng dunong nina Flerida at Laura ang mapapansin sa tinig ni Menangge:

Kung nagkakataong sa hangi'y ibuhos

ang bagyo sa mundo’y madla ang lulukob,
ngunit kamunti ma’y hindi malulukot
sa bagyo ng sinta ang puso ko’t loob.

Palibhasa aking tatap

aral ng sa mundo’y lakad
ang pagsinta’t pagsusukab
mahigpit ang pagkalapat.

Kahabagan kita sa linungoy-lungoy

kahit kamunti man sa puso ko ngayon,
isipin ang puso kung sa sinta’y tukoy
di mananatiling magiging maghapon.

Ang pagsinta'y ang kamukha

ay pag-iisip ng bata
kung ngayo’y parang kandila
baluktot na maya-maya. (1947, 14)

Mailap na Katumbalikan

Nakagugulat ang pagmamasid na naisaad, isang mapangahas na tagubilin sa mga kabaro o sinumang dumaranas ng sakit na idinaing sa Florante. Tandaan na hindi naman peminista ang nagtatagubilin nito. Ang ironikong hagkis ng pananalita ay hindi pambihira bagkus nakabaon sa sensibilidad ng makata. Dahil nahirati ang maraming iskolar sa saloobing si Balagtas ay panatikong nagumon sa pagdurusang romantiko, patuloy ang paggamit sa "Labindalawang Sugat ng Puso" (hango sa komedyang "Abdal at Miserena" (1859). Bakit bulag ang mga tagahanga sa mga pasaring? Anupa't laging binibira ang "Sintang alibugha," "kasing lilo't alibugha," "lilong nagtataksil,"  at idiniin sa huli ng umaawit: "Huwag may maparis ng sinta sa akin;/Matakot ang lahat sa lilo'y gumiliw,/Pangilaga't lason ng sino ma't alin" (Medina 1972, 134). Kung tutuusin, tila ba ubod-masokista ang pagkabulag sa parikalang nakatampok dito. O ang pagluhog sa iniibig ay dakila kahit lilo, taksil, alibugha't malupit ang babaeng sinasamba, sakripisyong bumubuwag sa pagkamakasarili at nagpupugay sa sukab at palamarang traydor. Bakit kaya ganoon?

Sayang at hindi naalagaan ang ganitong mga akda. Ulat ng mga istoryador na natupok ang lahat ng naitagong katha ni Balagtas sa isang malaking baul noong sunog sa Udyong ng Mayo 5, 1892. Sino ang makapagsasabi kung may matuklasang manuskritong naisalba? Noong sumunod na buwan ng Hulyo, 1892,  inorganisa ni Rizal ang Liga Filipina pagkabalik niya mula sa Europa, na dagli namang hinalinhan ng Katipunan sa pagkatapon ng bayani sa Dapitan apat na araw pagkatatag ng samahan. Naisangguni ni Rizal ang Florante sa kanyang paglalakbay at naipunla ang binhing hinabilin noon sa loob ng dalawang nobelang naging titis sa apoy ng himagsikan. Laban sa sunog, naikintal ni Apolinario Mabini sa memorya ang awit na isinatitik niya nang maitapon siya sa Guam noong 1901-02.

  Maipagwawari na sa dalawang okasyon ng pagkabilanggo ng makata, ang una ang pinakamatinik sa damdamin, ang pangalawa ang pinakamapinsala sa kabuhayan ng pamilya.  Ang una'y nagbunga ng tula, ang pangalawa ng maraming komedya kabilang na ang Orosman at Zafira. Wala pang imbestigasyon sa kung anong katuwiran ang pagkaparusa kay Balagtas sa pagputol ng buhok ng alila--inggitan kaya sa burokrasya, alitang personal, o sintomas ng pagtatagisan ng mga angkan at uring panlipunan. Kailangan ang pagsisiyasat sa rekord ng hukuman, balita sa pahayagan, at talaan sa Bilibid nang panahon ng sekularisasyon ng Simbahan, sa bisperas ng pag-aalsa sa Cavite ng 1872 at pagbitay kina Padre Burgos, Gomez at Zamora. Maraming katotohanang maisisiwalat kung magagalugad at masasala ang mga dokumentong nabanggit.

Silakbo ng Lahing Kayumanggi

      Natukoy na natin ang monopolyo sa alak noong 1786. Sanhi sa kahirapang dulot ng mga kautusan at regulasyon, umalsa ang mga Ilokano sa Piddig sa pagbabawal ng paggawa ng basi. Ang tinaguriang "Basi Rebelyon" ay nakasakop ng mga bayang Laoag, Sarrat, Batac hanggang sa kanayunan ng Vigan. Ebidensiya ito na matapang at magiting ang mga katutubo sa pagtatanggol sa kanilang karapatan at kapakanan. 

Nasugpo ang rebelyong Basi, ngunit sumunod naman ang himagsik sa Sarrat noong 1815 na nahikayat ng ulirang Konstitusyon ng Cadiz na ipinagwalang-bisa noong 1814.  Itinuring ni Renato Constantino na sagisag iyon ng tumitinding hidwaan ng prinsipalya at mayorya sa unang antas ng kapitalismo sa kapuluan: "The Sarrat revolt was both an advance and a retreat in the history of the people's struggle" (1975, 134). Ang protesta ng cailianes sa Sarrat, tulad sa kabigatang ipinataw sa industriya ng basi sa Piddig, ay nagmula sa paghihigpit sa mga trabahador sa paghabi ng seda at algodon na pilitang ipinataw ng mga prinsipalya. 

Samantala, ang paghihimagsik ni Hermano Pule ay nagbuhat sa pagpigil sa kanyang ambisyong maging prayle at hindi pagkilala ng simbahan sa kanyang naitatag na Cofradia. Bagamat personal ang motibasyon, maikakabit ito sa pinipigilang programa sa sekularisasyon ng mga parokya. Ginipit at ipinagbawal ang mga pagpupulong at aktibidad ng Cofradia hanggang lusubin at patayin ang gobernador sa Tayabas noong 1841. Sa sumunod na sagupaan, natalo't ibinitay si Apolinario de la Cruz at mga kapanalig, pinaghiwa-hiwalay ang kanilang katawan at ibinilad sa publiko sa mga munisipyo bilang babala.

   Ang rebelyon sa Piddig, Sarrat at Tayabas (1807 hanggang 1841) ay madugong pangyayaring naikintal ng mga iskolar sa kolektibong kamalayan ng masa. Magkasabay iyon sa masalimuot na kasibulan ni Balagtas. Sinaksihan ito ng paglikha ng Florante, La India Elegante y el Negrito Amante at iba pang akda.  Alangan na hindi nahawaan at naantig ang kamalayan ng makata kung isasakonteksto sa kasaysayan ang signipikasyon ng dalawang saknong na namutawi sa daing-sumbong na ito, laluna ang pagkaputol-putol ng katawan ng ama ni Florante at hindi pagkalibing nang maayos, tuwirang alusyon sa sinapit ni Hermano Pule at kapanalig. 

Magkatambal na salamin at talinghaga ng pagdukal ni Balagtas sa dulang ng publikong karanasan. Komunidad, hindi sarili, ang inaatupag, kaya dumudulog sa larangan ng pangkalahatang kagalingan. Lubhang kasindak-sindak ang terorismo ng estado sa pagmasaker sa isanlibong babae, matanda, bata at walang armas ng taumbayan, isang kilabot na nagtulak sa isang rehimyentong taga-Tayabas na bumalikwas at gumanti.  Sumigaw sila ng hudyat ng "Kasarinlan" o "Independensya"--pinakaunang pahayag sa buong Pilipinas (De la Costa 1965, 214-15). Timbangin ang bigat at lundo ng mga pariralang "ininis sa hukay," "ibinabaon," at "inililibing ng walang kabaong":

Sa loob at labas ng bayan kong sawi

Kaliluha’y siyang nangyayaring hari,
kagalinga’t bait ay nalulugami
ininis sa hukay ng dusa’t pighati.

Ang magandang asal ay ipinupukol

sa laot ng dagat ng kutya’t linggatong;
balang magagaling ay ibinabaon
at inililibing ng walang kabaong.

Arkitektoniko ng Paghati at Pagsudlong

Naimungkahi ko na sa pagsipat sa kahulugan at katuturan ng awit, pinakamahalaga ang konseptong gumagabay sa imahinasyon ng makata. Ang konseptong ito ay maikukulong sa isang tanong: Paano maituturo ang katotohanan ng kontradiksiyon sa buhay? Hindi romansa kundi unawa at kaalaman ang layon ng awit. Sa gayon, paano naipahatid ang dalumat ng katotohanan? Naikatawan ang bisyon sa porma ng awit, retorika at imaheng nahango ni Balagtas sa tradisyong iniulat ni Lumbera, mga katutubong estilo sa pagtula, banyagang modelo ng romansa mula sa Kanluran. Haluan ang serye ng mga motif at pigura, akma sa transisyonal na paglalakbay ng pagkatao ni Balagtas sa panahong iyon.

Sa kabuuan, ang pagkabatid sa kontradiksiyon ay naipahatid sa paraan ng alegorya ng pagpihit ng mga pangyayari. Ang karakter o personalidad ng mga tauhan ay instrumento lamang sa pagbalangkas ng istruktura ng kaisipan. Nakasentro ito sa pagbubunyag na ang hidwaan ng Kristiyano at Moro ay paimbabaw lamang; ang pagtatagisan ng mga relihiyon ay nalutas sa aksiyon ng "ley natural," o pagpapatupad sa batas ng kalikasan. Sinagip ni Aladin si Florante, pinarusahan ni Flerida si Adolfo't hinango sa kinasadlakang hirap si Laura. Alinsunod ang proposisyong "ley natural" sa Stoikong prinsipyong tumingkad sa burgesyang rebolusyon sa Inglatera, Pransiya, at Filipinas sa dakong huli ng ikalabingsiyam na dantaon.

Ang konsepto ng pagpihit, pagbaling o pagbaligtad ng kapalaran ay dumaan sa pagpapalitan ng kuwento sa labas ng reyno (Albanya/Persya). Walang pasubaling importante and kahandaang makinig, makiramay, magmalasakit, na taliwas sa oligarkong mentalitad. Kailangan ding magpanibulos sa daing ng taong di-kadugo, dayuhan, estranghero, banyaga.  "Loob" at "labas" ang magkasalungat ngunit pinag-isa sa mapaglingap na komunikasyon.

Sa loob ng gubat, tiwalag at hiwalay, nagkatagpo ang mga nabihag, itinapon, tumakas, at dudustain. Sa pakikinig sa ulat ng kanilang buhay, sa bibig at tainga, nagkakilala't nagkaugnayan ang mga dating taga-loob na pansamantalang nasa labas. Naisaloob ng bawat isa ang gunita, panimdim at pangarap ng bawat isa. Ang patriyarkong sukatan ay binalewala sa nakagapos na kabalyerong Florante, walang kakayahan, kabalyerong tila babaeng dapat adyahan at kadluin. Aksidente ang pagdating ni Aladin upang iligtas siya sa simbolo ng paganong kalikasan, ang maninilang leon. Nagsilbing ama-ina si Aladin sa martir, isang Kristong walang disipulo.

 Samantala, nagkataong dumating ang nag-amazonang Flerida nang yuyurakan na ang dangal ni Laura. Nakabalatkayong lalaki, si Flerida ang negasyon ng patriarkong orden.Tinalikdan ang tiwaling lipunan, tumakas, suwail sa mapag-upasalang simbuyo ng Sultan. Nasa yugto pa tayo ng agrikulturang ekonomiya kaagapay ng pangangaso at artisanong gawain; piyudal at mala-barbarong gawi ng malakas/matapang ang nakapangyayari. Ang makahayup na ama ni Aladin, Sultan Ali-Adab, ay kakontra sa ama ni Florante, Duke Briseo; lumabag iyon sa kostumbre ng pagmamahal sa anak at paggalang sa kababaihan. Sumuway iyon sa kodigo ng aristokrasya, tulad ni Adolfo. Si Adolfo'y nagpanggap na mapagkakatiwalaan; ang Sultan ay naging despotiko't makahayop ngunit hindi nangamkam ng trono tulad ni Adolfo. Samakatwid, ang pinarusahan lamang ay si Adolfo, modelo ng kasamaan. Pagkabinyag sa dalawang Muslim,  pinabayaan na lamang ang Sultan na tumanda't mamatay bago umakyat sa trono ang magkasintahan.

Sa pagsusuma, ang ahensiya ng katubusan ay hindi lang taga-labas bagkus kaaway. Masdan ang diyalektika ng loob/labas, Kristiyano/Muslim, babae/lalaki. Sanhi sa kahayupan ng Sultan, lumabas sa Persya sina Aladin at Flerida, pumasok sa "gubat," emblem ng pagano't makahayup na orden. Sa bisa ng tinig/boses at bahaginan sa hipo at salita, naging sibilisado ang  "gubat" habang bumangis ang iniwang Albanya/Persya. Ang kaaway ay naging kapatid, saksi ang mataimtim na pagbubuklod nina Florante at Aladin sa harap ng isinuong na panganib, higit pa sa kapatirang handog ni Menandro. Ang hustisya'y iginawad ng kamay ni Flerida, ang babaeng nakabalatkayong 

lalaki, pahiwatig sa posisyong ginagampanan ng teatro, ilusyon, maskara, pakiramdam, pagkukunwari, hinuwad na realidad. Kakabit din ang birtud ng memorya, pagtasa’t pagbaybay sa bugso’t tilamsik ng karanasan. Tumalab ang turo’t payong ipinagkaloob ng mga guro sa Atenas.

Isaulo natin ang metapisikong punto-de-vista ni Balagtas. Hindi ang sistema kundi moralidad ng indibidwal ang dapat ireporma. Karangalan sa budhi ang susi sa problema ng lipunan. Narito ang limitasyon ng pananaw ng makatang ginabayan ng Kristiyanong pangitain. Gayunpaman, nangibabaw ang batas-natural (hango sa klasikong Griyego/Romanong pilosopiya nina Plato, Aristotel, Cicero, minana nina Voltaire, Locke, Rousseau, Jefferson, Rizal) o katutubong bait, dunong at katwiran ng Muslim, na siyang sekular na lunggati--kalayaan, dignidad, katarapatang pantao--na ibinandila ng awit. "Langit" ang talinghagang ginamit para sa katarungan, "langit" sa materyalismong sukatan.

Naglubid sa Bituka ng Haraya

Ang konseptong inihayag sa paglalagom ay nakatakdang pag-inog ng kontradiksiyon sa kasaysayan.  Sa engkuwentro ng mga taong nakatuklas ng kaisahan sa harap ng problemang magkaugnay, nailipat ang ginunitang nakalipas at kasalukuyang sitwasyon sa bago't matining na antas, antas ng kinabukasang mas maunlad, sekular o makalupa.  Ang relihiyon o pananampalataya ay nakaugat sa materyal na kondisyon sa buhay. Ibahin ang koektibong kondisyon, mababago rin ang ideolohiya o paniniwala. Sa tulong ng kritikang radikal at makatao, maisasakatuparan ang pangako ng kinabukasang nahihimbing sa siwang at biyak ng nakalipas, sa guho ng kabiguan at kawalang-pag-asa ng sinaunang karanasan. Mahihinuhang ito ang pinakabuod na mensahe ng awit.

Sandaling titigan ang konstelasyon ng mga puwersang nagtiyap sa istruktura ng salaysay. Naisakatawan ito sa paghahanay ng mga tauhang sumasagisag sa nagsasalpukang lakas, kaayusan o orden ng lipunan, normatibong pamantayan, ideolohiyang nagkukubli sa realidad, at mapanuring lakas na lumalantad dito. Ang mga ito'y nakalarawan sa panukalang dayagram na kusang umiinog sa pagsalisihan ng kategoryang iginuhit dito:

LUNGSOD: ALBANYA
(Sibilisasyon: Nakaraan at Hinaharap)
/ + \
+
FLORANTE/LAURA—– ATENAS [Batas Natural]—–ALADIN/FLERIDA (Kristiyanismo) [Biktima ng Lungsod] + (Islam) [Tagapag-ligtas]]
+
/ /
GUBAT: FILIPINAS
(Memorya,/Ugnayan ng Bihag at Dayuhan
Versus Nagsahayop: Adolfo, Sultan Ali-Adab)

Litaw dito ang proseso ng pagpapalit, transformasyon ng positibo at negatibo, sa pamamagitan ng kabaligtaran, ironya, paradoha. Ang kaaway ay naging kaibigan; ang kamag-anak/kadugo ay naging taksil na hayop. Sa metamorposis ng kaalaman via bahaginan sa salita/usapan, lumiwanag ang madilim na gubat (kamalayan). Pansamanatalang lumipat ang antas ng kamulatan at nag-sauli ang ordeng hinahangad sa kasalukyan na dati'y ginugunita lamang. Naisaayos ang politika ng panahon at pangyayari.  Ito ang materyalismong dialektika naidaos sa matalinong panuto ng mapagpalayang ullirat ni Balagtas.

Laban sa Barbarismo sa Kaluluwa

Sa isang metodo ng paglagom, mailalahad ang konsepto ng kontradiksiyon sa analisis at paghahati sa grupo ng mga talatang nagsasaad ng pagpihit at pagbaligtad. Bago tukuyin iyon, nais kong itanghal muna ang mga puwersang nagsalabat bunga ng pagtatagisan ng mapanupil na kapangyarihang kolonyal at mga inaliping katutubo.

Naturol na ng ibang iskolar ang ginanap ng oposisyong ilusyon-katunayan (halimbawa, sa dramatikong pagsasanay na kinasangkapan ni Adolfo upang patayin si Florante sa Atenas; balatkayo ni Flerida, atbp.), at ng kakatwang paglalangkap ng maginoong asta o pakitang-tao at makahayop na hangarin. Sa pakiwari ko, ito ay sintomas ng krisis ng bayan noon. Sa paglipat mula sa artisano't pesanteng kalagayan noong ika-16 dantaon tungo sa agrikulturang pang-negosyo at kalakalang pandaigdig, biglang nayanig ang dating matatag na rutina ng ugali't kostumbreng ipinairal ng Simbahan. Nang matalo ang Espanya at masakop ang Maynila ng Inglatera, biglang natanto nina Silang, Palaris, Hermano Pule, at mga taumbayan sa Piddig, Sarrat at maraming lalawigan na pwedeng maigupo ang Estadong kolonyalista (Zaide 1967, 90-96) . Nabuksan ang kamalayang natuklasan ang potensiyalidad ng nakababagot na kalakaran.

Sa paghina ng monarkiya sa Espanya at pagkalas ng mga kolonya nito sa Timog Amerika, tumindi ang tunggalian ng konserbatismo't liberalismo. Ang pinakamapanganib na banta sa imperyo ay ang 1812 Konstitusyon ng Cadiz na siyang umuntag sa lahat na maaaring maisakatuparan ang prinsipyo ng libertad, praternidad at demokrasya ng rebolusyong Pranses sa paraan ng reporma ng tagibang na paghahati ng kayamanang sosyal at poder pampolitika. Inakala ng marami na binuwag na ang tributo, polos servicios at iba pang pagpapahirap sa mga Indio, kaya nang bumaba ang dekreto sa Valencia noong Marso 3, 1815, hindi makapaniwala ang mga cailianes (anak-pawis), kaya bumuhos ang dugo ng mga prinsipalya't upisyal sa munisipyo. Hindi anarkiya ito kundi umaapaw na galit sa pang-aabuso at ganting-banat sa kakutsabang alipores ng Espanya.

Sa obserbasyong pangkasaysayan, ang gubat ng Filipinas ay nagimbal sa paglusob ng Inglatera. Ang konsepto ng pagkasupil ng panginoong Kastila ay nasapol ng mga rebeldeng nag-adhikang iwasto ang mali, ibalik ang kalayaan at kasaganaan sa Albanya na winasak ni Adolfo sa makasariling ambisyon. "Langit," hindi Diyos ng teokrasyang Estado, ang pinagpugayan sa huli, na kaakibat sa "ley natural" na kinatuwiran ni Aladin. Nalutas ang bungguan ng ideolohiyang Islam/Kristyanismo nang magpabinyag sina Aladin at Flerida--litaw na kombsensiyonal na taktika ng pampalubag-loob sa madla. 

Sa pagsupil kina Adolfo at kampon niya, natugunan ba nang lubos ang hiyaw ni Florante laban sa lilong sukab? Inusal ng bayani:  "O taksil na pita sa yama't mataas! / O hangad sa puring hanging lumilipas!" Sa halip na umasa sa panghihimasok ng mahiwagang Anghel ng Maykapal, memoryang kritikal at pagkakaisa ang susi sa pagsasauli ng dating matiwasay na Albanya paglisan sa gubat ng marahas na Filipinas. Ngunit bakit hinirang ang dalawang Moro na siyang taga-tubos nina Florante at Laura? Sa negasyon ng Simbahan at pananampalatayang Kristiyano, sumulpot ang problema ng kung sino o saan magbubuhat ang pagbabagong-buhay, ang paglalakbay mula sa gubat hanggang makatarungang Albanya. Suliranin ito ng ahensiya o pananagutan ng subheto sa komunidad. Panukala ng dalubhasang pilosopo, si Georg Lukacs:  "Ang pamamayani ng kategorya ng totalidad (kalahatan) ang nagdadala ng prinsipyo ng rebolusyon sa agham" (sinipi ni Callinicos 2009). 

Interbensiyon ng Palabang Buwan

Sa halos lahat ng mahahagilap na komentaryo, walang nagtangkang bungkalin ang maselang paksa kung bakit pinili ni Balagtas si Aladin at Flerida ang maging tagapagligtas ng mga Kristiyanong maharlika. Hindi ba kakatwa o balintuwad ang pagpiling iyon?  Bakit hindi si Menandro o binyagang katutubo ang hinirang sa gayong tungkulin?  Sapantaha kong dahil hindi nagdarasal sa "Alah" sina Aladin at Flerida o nagsesermon mula sa Koran, payag nang ituring na di sila umaayaw na makisalamuha sa Kristiyano, dili kaya'y makipagkapwa sa kanila. Hindi sila kaaway kundi kasapakat o kaalyado.  Dagdag pa, kailangan ng isang huwaran maitatanyag sa pagkalugmok ng pagano o erehe, sabay kumbersiyon at binyag ng mga nilikhang walang Diyos.

Ang pagbubuklod sa bisa ng dugo at relihiyong kinagisnan o minana, ay humina at nahalinhan ng pagsasanib sa ngalan ng simulain, katapatan at napagkasunduang mithiin. Sa Florante, kalikasan ang nakaungos sa damdamin. Kung susuriin ang komedyang Orosman at Zafira, mapapansin na ang tema'y nakatutok sa romansa nina Orosma at Zafira bilang panambil sa paglabag sa kinagawiang relasyon. Taglay nito ang payo na hindi makaaasa sa katapatan ng mga maginoong naghahari. Inagaw ni Boulasem ang trono ng Marruecos kay Sultan Mahamud, ama ni Zafira. Lumaban si Zafira kahit umiibig  sa kanya ang dalawang anak ni Boulasem--sina Abdalap at Orosman. Sa wakas, nagtagumpay sina Zafira at kapanalig laban kay Abdalap. 

Tunghayan natin ang konsepto ng krisis ng etika o moralidad dito. Sa isang maigting na eksena, pinapili ni Zafira si Orosman; napilitang itakwil ang kadugo (Abdalap) at hirangin si Zafira. Sa malas, ang bayani ay si Boulasem, ang ama, na kusang isinuko ang trono upang matigilan ang pagdanak ng dugo (Medina 1976). Sa kuro-kuro ni Soledad Reyes (1997), ang kolektibong lakas sambayanan (sinagisag nina Bugagas, Nubio, Dagulgol) ang siyang nagbigay-kabuluhan at katuturan sa maingay na salpukan ng mga protagonistang maharlika. Ngunit hanggang doon na lang ba sa panunudyo't pagpapatawa ang polemika ng mandudula?

   Sapantaha na kinatha ni Balagtas ang Orosman at Zafira sa pagitan ng mga taon 1857 at 1860 habang nakakulong sa Bilibid. Ang panahong iyon ang natukoy ng historyador na si Cesar Majul (1999) na pang-anim na antas ng Digmaang Morong inilunsad ng Espanya simula 1851 laban sa Sultan ng Sulu (pasimuno ng kampanya si Gobernador Antonio de Urbiztondo) hanggang wakas ng kanilang pagsakop. Bago rito, talagang nakapipinsala ang piratang paglusob ng mga Samal mula sa Balangingi--balik-isipin ang kindat-tukoy sa "damit-morong Balangingi" sa sayneteng naglaro sa tuksuhan ng India Elegante at Negrito Amante.  
Bumalik tayo sa nakadulog na usisang bakit ginawang Moro/Muslim ang tagatubos kina Florante at Laura? Una, ang imperyong Espanya mula pa nang masakop ang Granada noong 1492 ay nakatindig sa pagsugpo sa lakas ng Islam; kalakip dito ang raison d'etre ng kolonisasyon sa bisa ng Krus at Espada. Ang naratibo ng Rekongkista na siyang buod ng moro-morong palabas ay naulit muli sa paggapi kay Sulayman, puno ng komunidad ng mga Muslim, sa paligid ng look ng Maynila nang dumating si Legazpi noong 1571. May isang ulat na hiniling daw minsan ng isang gobernador kay Balagtas na isadula niya ang "La Conquista de Granada" at ang pagsuko ni Bobabil, ang prinsipeng Muslim (ayon kay Jacinto de Leon; Balagtas 1971, 191). Walang tiyak na datos kung napaunlakan iyong kahilingan. 
Nang umalis ang Inglatera sa Maynila noong 1763, dinala nila si Sultan Alimud Din ng Sulu na bihag ni Gobernador Obando sa Manila. Ibinalik siya sa trono sa Sulu, at bilang gantimpala, ibinigay niya sa East India Company ng Inglatera ang Hilagang Borneo at mga pulong kanugnog ng Palawan (De la Costa 1965, 197-212). Di kapagdaka'y naging internasyonal na ang usaping Moro, simula sa walang awang pamumuksa ni Urbiztondo, na sinundan ng napakalagim na masaker nina Heneral John Pershing at Leonard Wood hanggang sa Abu Sayyaf sa kasalukuyang panahon ng imperyalismong terorismo.

Bagamat walang patid ang tangkang ipailalim ang katutubo,  hindi nasakop ng mga Kastila ang lupain ng Moro sa Mindanao at Sulu hanggang lumisan sila noong 1898. Noong 1849, isang negosyante, si Oyanguren, ang nagwaging maabot ang Davao upang ipailalim ito sa kapangyarihan ni Governador Claveria na masugid ding hinangad na matigil ang pamiminsala ng mga piratang Moro sa ekonomiya ng bansa.  Ang kahuli-huling sistematikong planong kolonisahin ang katimugan ay naganap sa rehimen ni Gobernador Urbiztondo na nagbunga ng kasunduan ng gobyerno at Sultan ng Jolo noong Abril 30, 1851 (Zafra 1967, 142-43).  Alalahanin na isang nakakikilabot na masaker ang ipinataw ni Urbiztondo sa mga Moro sa Sipac, Balanguingui, noong 1848--sana'y di makalimutan ang kasuklam-suklam na pangyayaring ito, pati na yaong ginawa ng mga Amerikano, sa gunita ng sambayanan.

Sabayang Pagtanggi’t Pagtanggap

Noong panahong nag-aaral si Balagtas hanggang lumipat siya sa Balanga, Bataan noong 1840, patuloy ang paglusob ng pirata sa Luzon at Bisaya. Hindi lang paghuli sa sinumang magagawang alipin kundi pagsamsam ng ani, pagkain, kalakal at iba pang produkto ang layon ng mga piratang Muslim. Ang mga bihag ay pinagpapalit sa bigas, salapi, baka, perlas, ginto at iba pang yaman ng Bengal at iba pang teritoryo ng Inglatera sa Asya. 

Isang mabagsik na salakay ng mandarambong na Moro ay naganap noong 1770 sa Mariveles, ilang kilometrong layo sa Balanga at Udyong. Nakabase ang mga pirata sa Mindoro at iba pang pulong malayo sa kontrol ng Kastila. Alinsunod sa piyudal na sistema ng mga datu at sultan, ang lumang kodigo ng puri o dangal ng oligarko ay napalitan ng ginahawang dulot ng yaman at ari-ariang maipagmamalaki. Ang pananaw merkantil ay lumukob sa karaniwang buhay ng Moro't nagtulak sa pangangalakal din ng tao--mga Kristiyanong alipin--hanggang ito'y nahinto sa paggamit ng bapor at barkong de-motor na mas mabilis sa mga paraw ng pirata. 

Kung ang Moro ang pinakamapanganib na kaaway sa loob ng kapuluan, hindi sina Silang, Palaris o Hermano Pule, may katwiran si Balagtas na bunuin ang problema't iangkop ito sa kanyang makademokratikong saloobin. Bagamat Muslim sina Aladin at Flerida, tumalab ang batas-natural sa kanilang isip at damdamin; napansin din ito ni Lope K. Santos . Inalisan ng lason ang nagbabantang Moro, naging respetableng taong makakausap at makakapagnegosyo. Kumikilala rin sila sa halaga ng puri o dangal ng pagkatao. Kung may kakulangan sila, may taglay rin namang kabutihan. Samakatwid, ang "moro-moro" ay naghunos sa bagong anyong pakakapatiran ng dating magkatunggali sa harap ng mas masahol na kabuktutan: pagtataksil, paglabag sa maginoong birtud ng pagkamatapat at makatotohanan, walang awa o paggalang sa hirarkya ng kaayusang piyudal na batayan ng kagandahan at pagkakaunawaan, ang ideyal na huwaran ng artista. 

Marahil, ang paghirang kina Aladin at Flerida ay hindi katakataka. Katarungan ang hangad kaya mapapabigyan ang paraang panggulat. Kung kailangang gisingin ang madlang nakikinig upang mag-isip at magpasiya, ang mabangis na kaaway/banyaga/dayuhan ang dapat ipambungad. Marunong makinig, makipag-usap, handang makipag-unawaan. Ngunit hindi ito sinuman na tatanggap ng pananagutan. 

Nais ko muling igiit ang nailatag na konsepto. Ang kagampanang taga-pagligtas ay bunga ng pagkakataon, ng mga nagtatagisang lakas sa lipunan, samakatwid kolektibong aksiyon ng pagsasanib ng lakas. Si Balagtas ang imbentor ng kolektibong bayani, timbulan ng lahi--Aladin/Flerida, Zafira/Orosman (laban kay Abdalap)--na nagpasidhi sa mga kontradiksiyon at kabatiran nito. Si Balagtas ang maestro/edukador ng subersiyon, nakatatak sa bansag ng babaeng mandirigma, si Zafira, na mapusok na nagpahayag: "Babae man ako ay makahahawak / ng kalis sa kamay at magpapahirap." Ito ang paradigma o matrix ng mapagpalayang konsepto na pumatnubay sa sining ni Balagtas: "Moro man ako ay...." "Kayumanggi man ako ay... "Inalipin man ako ay...."

        Teorya ng Diskursong Konseptuwal

Simula pa noong kilusang avantgarde ng suryalismo, Dada, konstruktibismo, Fluxus, Oulipop ng nakalipas na siglo--mababanggit sina  Duchamp, Beckett, Gertrude Stein, Joyce, Brecht, John Cage, atbp.--ang pagyari ng anti-ekspresibong akda ay di na bagong balita. Nawasak na ang lumang kategorya ng genre at dekorum sa estilo, pati na rin ang kaibahan ng mga midya o instrumento sa pagpapahayag (pinta, musika, salita) at malawakang komunikasyon sa buong planeta. Di mapanlikhang sulat ("uncreative writing") ang bunga. Sa sining, ang "Spiral Jetty" ni Robert Smithson.  Ang pinakamahalaga ay ang konsepto o ideya na ugat ng "Spiral Jetty." Panukala ng pangunahing artista sa kilusang ito, si Sol Lewitt: "The idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work...The idea becomes a machine that makes the art" (1999, 12).

 Supling ang kontemporanyong sining ngayon sa pag-angkin (appropriation), malayang pagpuslit, paghalaw, malikhaing paghiram, at pagtransporma ng anuman--ang konteksto/sitwasyon ang siyang dumidikta. Ito'y nakadiin sa proseso, at nakasalig sa konsepto o kaisipang umuugit o pumapatnubay sa paraan ng pagbuo, hindi sa produkto.  Layon nito ay hindi lang pagbuwag sa pribadong pag-aari ("expropriate the expropriators," wika nga) kundi paghahain din sa lahat ng malawak at maluwag na larangan sa interpretasyon/kabatiran (ang komunismo ng all-round "free development," ayon sa Gotha Programme ni Karl Marx).  Kung sira na ang bakurang humihiwalay sa sining at buhay, sa politika at ekonomya, bakit bulag pa rin tayo sa katotohanang nagbago't nagbago na ang mundo? 

Wika ni Kenneth Goldsmith, isang dalubhasang konseptuwalistang guro: "The idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work...The idea becomes a machine that makes the text" ("Paragraphs on Conceptual Writing," sangguniin din ang Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing, inedit nina Goldsmith at Craig Dworkin).  Dagdag pa niya: Hindi kailangang basahin ang teksto. Kailangan lamang ay maintindihan ang konsepto, ang namamayaning proyektong inaadhika, ang paradigmatikong kaisipan, sa likod nito. Mahigpit na kaugnay nito ang teorya ng "abductive inference" ni Charles Sanders Peirce (1998). Ang konsepto ang nagsisilbing batayan ng porma, hugis, metodong operasyonal, anyo, kaayusan (sang-ayon din si Galvano Della Volpe, Critique of Taste).  Sagot ito sa digital revolution ng kompyuter, sa pagsambulat ng impormasyon sa Internet na walang pasubaling naglilinkod sa barbarismo ng tubo/kapital at karahasan ng pagsasamantala. Tanong ko: pagkatapos ng kabatiran, ano ang dapat gawin?

Paano makalalaya sa kapangyarihan ng salapi, kapital, komodipikasyon?  Upang lumaban sa industriyang pangkulturang kasangkapan ng kapitalismong global, pag-umit o pag-angkin (sa katunayan, ng kinumpiskang halaga/surplus value na likha ng mga manggagawa) at detournement (ayon kay Guy Debord) ang gawing estratehiya sa pagtutol. Mabisa ang taktika ng alegorya, ang metodo ng debalwasyon (sangguniin ang  "Notes on Conceptualisms" nina Robert Fitterman at Vanessa Place sa Web).  

Sino ang may kontrol sa mga kagamitan sa produksiyon at reproduksiyon ng lipunan?  Paliwanag din ni Walter Benjamin na dapat hawakan at pangasiwaan ang paraan ng produksiyon upang matutulan ang laganap at malalim na komodipikasyon, reipikasyon, anomie/alyenasyong ipinapalaganap ng sistemang kapitalismong pampinansiyal sa buong daigdig. Samut-saring posibilidad ang nakabukas dahil sa teknolohiya. Laluna ang materyalidad ng wika at iba't ibang signos/senyal. Nasa gitna tayo ng rebolusyon sa sining. Pwede kayang maitransporma ang nakahandang-bagay (ready-made), mga nayari na o natagpuang bagay saanmang lugar, tulad ng mga salawikain, grapiti, anekdotang bukambibig, balita, atbp. (hanggang hindi pa ito napraybatays ng McDonald, Body Shop, S-M at Robinson Mall) upang makapukaw ng katumbalikang damdamin at isip?

Ang diskursong naisatitik dito sa larang ng kritisismo ay maituturing na ensayo sa post-konseptuwalismong modo ng pag-unawa at interpretasyon. Ayon kay Peter Osborne (Anywhere or Not at All), ang post-konseptuwalismong pananaw ang siyang mabisang paraan upang sagupain ang neoliberalismong salot na nagtuturing sa lahat na pwedeng mabili at pagtubuan--katawan, kaluluwa, panaginip, kinabukasan. Ang idea ng "horizon" o abot-tanaw na hanggahan ang maaaring bumalangkas ng praktikang experimental na negasyon/pagtakwil sa status quo na dudurog sa nakagawiang hilig, gawi, asal sa "free market" ng paniniwala't damdamin.  Ito ang kauna-unahang pagsubok sa paglapat ng radikal na konseptuwalisasyon sa awit ni Balagtas.

Huwarang Matris ng Konsepto

Ang konseptuwalisasyon ng awit ay maibubuod at malalagom sa tulong ng labindalawang saknong na hinugot sa 399 talata. Ipinapalagay na naisaulo na ng mambabasa ang banghay ng tula. Kailangan na lamang ipokus sa mga antas ng pagpihit o pag-ikot na kamalayang kaagapay ng daloy ng mga pangyayari. Paglimiin kung paano o bakit ipinagtambal ang mga estropang ito, kung saan  masisinag na siyang bumubuhol at nagtatahi ng iba pang hinabing hibla sa kuwadro ng buong tula.

A. Sa may gitna nitong mapanglaw na gubat
may punong higerang daho’y kulay-pupas
dito nagagapos ang kahabag-habag
isang pinag-usig ng masamang palad

B. “Mahiganting langit, bangis mo’y nasaan?
Ngayo’y naniniig sa pagkagulaylay
bago’y ang bandila ng lalong kasamaan
sa Reynong Albanya’y iniwawagayway”

C. Dito naghimutok nang kasindak-sindak
na umalingawngaw sa loob ng gubat
tinangay ang diwa’t karamdamang hawak
ng buntunghininga’t luhang lumagaslas

D. Nagkataong siyang pagdating sa gubat
ng isang gererong bayani ang tikas
putong na turbante ay kalingas-lingas
pananamit Moro sa Pers’yang siyudad

E. Sa tinaghuy-taghoy na kasindak-sindak
gerero’y hindi na napigil ang habag
tinunton ang boses at siyang hinanap
patalim ang siyang nagbukas ng landas

F. Nang magtagumpay na ang gererong bantog
sa nangakalabang mabangis na hayop
luha’y tumutulong kinalag ang gapos
ng kaawa-awang iniwan ng loob

G. “Ipinahahayag ng pananamit mo
taga-Albanya ka at ako’y Pers’yano
ikay ay kaaway ng baya’t sekta ko
sa lagay mo ngayo’t magkatoto tayo”

H. “Sapagkat ang mundo’y bayan ng hinagpis
mamamaya’y sukat tibayan ang dibdib
lumaki sa tuwa’y walang pagtitiis
ano’ng ilalaban sa dahas ng sakit?”

I. Kaya pala gayo’y ang nawawagayway
sa kuta’y hindi na bandilang binyagan
kundi medyaluna’t reyno nasalakay
ni Alading salot ng pasuking bayan.

J. “Magsama na kitang sa luha’y maagnas
yamang pinag-isa ng masamang palad
sa gubat na ito’y hintayin ang wakas
ng pagkabuhay tang nalipos ng hirap”

K. “Nang igagayak sa loob ng reyno
yaong pagkakasal na kamatayan ko
aking naakalang magdamit gerero
at kusang magtanan sa real palasyo”

L. Anupa nga’t yaong gubat na malungkot
sa apat ay naging Paraiso’t lugod
makailang hintong kanilang nalimot
na may hininga pang sukat na malagot

M. “Nang paghanapin ko’y ikaw ang nataos
pinipilit niyong taong balakiyot
hindi ko nabata’t bininit sa busog
ang isang palasong sa lilo’y tumapos”

N. Sa pamamahala nitong bagong hari
sa kapayapaan ang reyno’y nauli
dito nakabangon ang nalulugami
at napasa-tuwa ang nagpipighati

Ipinagkaloob ng Proletaryong Musa

Sa paghugot ng mga saknong na ito, gumigitaw ang iskema ng konseptong bugso ng mga pangyayari o pagkakataon ang tahasang humuhubog sa kapalaran ng tao. Di kinusang matagpuan ni Aladin si Florante sa gubat at iligtas sa mga maninila, gayundin si Flerida. Nakiugma rin sa patriarkong pamantayan ng ugali: nagbalatkayo si Flerida upang makatakas at di umano'y patunayan ang likas na kakayahan ng kababaihan. 

Sukat na lamang sumulpot si Adolfong ginagahasa si Laura upang maisakatuparan ang kunwaring pagkamandirigma ni Flerida.  Kumilos sila ayon sa batas ng kalikasan--hindi ang batas ni Hobbes o Darwin: bawa't tao'y lobo sa kapwa. Hindi nakapanaig ang indibidwalismo ng kapitalismong merkantil. Nagsanib ang mga biktima ng kabuktutan upang ibalik ang katarungan sa ordeng piyudal.  Di natin dapat kaligtaan na ang udyok ng pakikiramay, ang pagmamalasakit o solidaridad, ay inutil at walang saysay kung hindi binibigyan-bisa ng dinamikong aksiyon ng mga uri/grupo sa lipunan. Hndi biolohiya ang paliwanag kundi sitwasyon at kontradiksiyon ng samut-saring lakas. Nakaugat ang balangkas ng awit sa konseptong ito.

Sa paglagom, maisusog ang haka-hakang naibadya na sa umpisa. Natatarok ng nakabasa o nakarinig ng pagsasalaysay ng mga tauhan ang buong balangkas ng pinagsanib na buhay nila. Ngunit habang lumalangoy sa dagat, hindi batid ang lawak ng dagat. Sabi nga ng pilosopo: Ang kuwago ni Minerba'y lumilipad paglubog ng araw. Sumusunod ang kabatiran sa naganap na aktibidad  ng mga uri't pangkat sa lipunan.  Hindi watas ng mga kasangkot habang nakikibaka, inaakalang sila ang may kagagawan ng mga nangyari. Natatamo ang kabatiran sa mga masinsinang paghimaymay sa nakaraan, sa pagsusuri sa gunam-gunam tungkol sa kabalintunaan at kabalighuan ng karanasan, palibhasa'y natigil ang plano o napinsala sa di inaasahang buwelta at pagkabigo ng inaasam-asam. Kinakailangan ang teorya o konsepto ng praktika upang maaninaw at matanto ang totalidad/kabuuan ng buhay sa lupa.

Ang alegorya ng kabatiran o kaalaman ay nakatanghal sa bagong diskursong nayari, kaya hindi na kailangan basahin ang buong awit. Alam na ng lahat ang isinalaysay na buhay ng mga tauhan. Tampulan ng atensiyon ang mga buko ng dugtong o hugpuan, ang mga kasukasuan, kung baga sa armadura ng katawan. Iyon ang kuwadrong kinasisidlan ng konsepto. Tangka ng pagsubok na ito na buhayin ang puwersa ng sining ni Balagtas. 

Maidudugtong, bago magwakas, ang nakamihasnang pagpaparangal sa himagsik ni Balagtas nina Cruz, Epifanio de los Santos, Agoncillo, Lope K Santos, at Lumbera. Halos lahat ay nagkaisa sa kahalagahan ng tema at paraan ng paglalarawan sa tula. Ituring na dagdag ito, tulad ng mga naunang akda ko, sa hermenyutikang pagpapaliwanag batay sa materyalismo-diyalektikang pagpapakahulugan sa kasaysayan. Problema na walang tiyak o takdang resulta ang anumang eksperimento o ipotesis, probabilidad lamang. Sa pagsasalin sa konseptual na diskurso ang buod ng Florante, maitatanong kung makatutulong kaya ito sa paghikayat na kolektibong tuklasin at isakatuparan ang konsepto ng pagbabago, konsepto ng pagbabalikwas at pagsulong tungo sa pambansang demokrasya't kasarinlan?  Ating pagnilayin kung paano maibubuo ang taktika at estratehiya ng pagbabago sa tulong ng malikhai't sistematikong imahinasyon ni Balagtas.

SANGGUNIAN

Agoncillo, Teodoro. 1992. “Sa Isang Madilim: Si Balagtas at ang Kanyang Panahon.” Kritisismo ni Soledad S. Reyes. Manila: Anvil.
—- & Oscar Alfonso. 1967. History of the Filipino People. Quezon City: Malaya Books.
Almario, Virgilio. 2006. Pag-unawa sa Ating Pagtula. MetroManila: Anvil.
Antillon, Loline. 2006. “Florante at Laura: Dikonstraksyon ng Pinuno.” Kilates: Panunuring Pampanitikan ng Pilipinas. Ed. Rosario Torres-Yu. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
Balagtas, Francisco. 1990. Orosman at Zafira. Ed. B.S. Medina Jr. Manila: De La Salle University Press.
—-. 1950. Florante at Laura: Ang Dakilang Awit ni Balagtas. May Salin sa Ingles ni George St. Clair. Ed. Jacinto De Leon. Quezon City: Manlapaz. (1971 reprint)
—-. 1949. Florante at Laura. Inihanda ni Florentina Hernandez. Manila: Inang Wika Publishing Co.
—-. 1947. “La India Elegante y El Negrito Amante.” Sampung Dulang Iisahing Yugto. Ed. S. Flores & P. Jacobo Enriquez. Manila: Philippine Book Company.
Bloch, Ernst. 1986. Natural Law and Human Dignity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Constantino, Renato. 1975. The Philippines: A Past Revisited. Quezon City: Tala Publishing Services.
Cruz, Hermenegildo. 1988. “Kung Sino ang Kumatha ng “Florante.” Himalay. Patnugot: Patricia Melendrez-Cruz & Apolonio Gayani Chua. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines.
De la Costa, Horacio. 1965. Readings in Philippine History. Manila: Bookmark.
De los Santos, Epifanio. 1988. “Si Balagtas at ang Kanyang Florante.” Himalay. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Debord, Guy. 2003. Complete Cinematic Works. Oakland, CA: AK Press.
Flores, S. & P. Jacobo Enriquez, ed. 1947. Sampung Dulang Tig-Iisahing Yugto. Manila: Philippine Book Company.
Goldsmith, Kenneth. 2013. “Paragraphs on Conceptual Writing.” Web. http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/goldsmith/conceptual-paragraphs.html
—– and Craig Dworkin, eds. Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing. Chicago, IL: Northwestern University Press.
LeWitt, Sol. 1999. “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art.” Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology. Ed. Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Lumbera, Bienvenido. 1986. Tagalog Poetry: 1570-1898. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Mabanglo, Ruth Elynia. 1992. “Florante at Laura: Ilang Obserbasyong Feminista.”
Kritisismo ni Soledad Reyes. Manila: Anvil Publishing Inc.
Majul, Cesar A. 1999. Muslims in the Philippines. Quezon City: University of the Philippines.
Medina, B.S., Jr. 1972. Tatlong Panahon ng Panitikan. Manila: National Book Store.
—-. 1976. “Pagdurusa sa Dula ni Balagtas.” Sagisag (Abril): 19-22.
—-. 1990. “Subersiyon ng Romansa: Kamalayang Balagtas sa Teatro Popular sa Pilipinas.” Orosman at Zafira ni Balagtas. Ed. B. S. Medina, Jr. Manila: De La Salle University Press.
Peirce, Charles Sanders. 1998. The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings. Volume 2. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Reyes, Soledad. 1977. Pagbasa ng Panitikan at Kulturang Popular. Quezon City: Ateneo University Press.
Santos, Lope K. 1988. “Ang Apat na Himagsik ni Francisco Balagtas.” Himalay. Patnugot: Patricia Melendrez-Cruz & Apolonio Bayani Chua. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Sevilla y Tolentino, Jose N. 1922. Sa Langit ng Bayang Pilipinas: Mga Dakilang Pilipino. Maynila: Limbagan nina Sevilla at mga kapatid. Web.
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17786=h/17786=h.htm
San Juan, E. 1969. Balagtas: Art and Revolution. Quezon City: Manlapaz.
—-. 1972. Preface to Pilipino Literature. Quezon City: Phoenix.
—-. 1974. Introduction to Modern Pilipino Literature. Boston: Twayne.
—-. 1978. Balagtas: Florante/Laura. Translation into English. Manila: Art Multiples Inc.
—-. 1984. Toward a People’s Literature. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
—-. 2004. Himagsik: Pakikibaka Tungo sa Mapagpalayang Kultura. Manila: De La Salle University Press.
Zafra, Nicolas. 1967. Philippine History Through Selected Sources. Quezon City: Alemar-Phoenix Publishing House.
Zaide, Gregorio 1970. Great Filipinos in History. Manila: Verde Book Store.

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WOMEN’S LIBERATION: Circa 2007


`WOMEN’S LIBERATION IN THE PHILIPPINES: A Balikbayan’s Report

By E. San Juan, Jr.

…Power resides in the people. What we did was our heritage… We decided to rebel, to rise up and strike down the sources of power…No uprising fails. Each one is a step in the right direction.
–Salud Algabre

We will fight for gender equality and rights of women in all levels of governance and livelihood in society.
–MAKABAYAN Coalition Platform, 2009-2010

In 1952, the distinguished writer Carmen Guerrero Nakpil published a now classic essay on the character of “The Filipino Woman” which dilated on her variety and heterogeneity by reason of history and cultural provenance. While acknowledging the persistence of traditional habits, Nakpil projected a postmodern image with a split personality: “sorely confused and uncertain, trying to balance the well-insulated goodness of the age of Victoria with the hard-boiled honhomie of the jitterbug era, always groping toward self-realization”. Perceived as a “mongrel contradiction,” the Filipino woman might eventually crystallize into “a clear, pure, internally calm, symmetrical personality.” But, Nakpil concludes, when that occurs, she “will have lost the infinite unexpectedness, the abrupt contrariness, the plural predictability which now make her both so womanly and so Filipino” (1980. 18).

Can reality measure up to this enigmatic persona? It is difficult to distinguish whether this portrait can still apply to the case of Suzette Nicolas, better known as “Nicole,” who was raped by a United States Marine on November 1, 2005, near the former Subic Naval Base—one of many Filipino women victimized by U.S.-Philippines “special relations” (Schirmer 1996). Or whether it applies to Maria Lorena Barros, Cherith Dayrit, Kemberley Jul, martyred combatants of the Communist-led New People’s Army; or to ordinary women, such as Annaliza Abanador-Gandia, Cathy Alcantara, Victoria Samonte, or Rebelyn Pitao, all killed by para-military agents on suspicion of being insurgents or communist subversives (Asian Legal Resource Center 2007)? The Victorian figure of “Maria Clara” idealized by Jose Rizal in his novel Noli Me Tangere has now been superseded not by a mimicry of the modern American woman but by a new generation of activist, intelligent and resourceful women who are neither thoroughly conflicted nor homogenized because they are responsive to the changing pressures of everyday life, sensitive to the constantly altering balance of forces, needs and demands of the social constellation which defines her. Both the raw materials offered by history, culture and nature have converged to shape the dynamic, complex but fully articulated situation of the Filipino women at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
While the history of the Filipino women’s struggles for equality and dignity date back to Gabriela Silang and the myriad revolts against Spanish colonial rule, the core of the demands involved can be condensed to the present conjuncture. Indeed, Filipina women’s full emancipation cannot be divorced from the Filipino people’s struggle for popular democracy and genuine independence. Let us start from a crucial turning point by invoking the people’s opposition to the Philippines’ current woman president. May 14, 2004, election day in the Philippines, may signal a historic turning-point in its political devolution since the February 1986 “people power” revolt overthrew the U.S.-backed Marcos dictatorship. The prospect is grim. Either the country declines into unprecedented barbarism—so far, international monitors (Amnesty International, World Council of Churches, UN investigators) have documented thousands of victims of extra-judicial killings, forcible “disappearances,” torture and massacres exceeding those committed by Marcos—or President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is impeached by a majority of elected representatives for treason, violation of the Constitution, corruption, etc. This may temporarily stop the “impunity” for State-affiliated criminals. This legal route of redress of grievances is by no means a revolution; it can be aptly described as an in-house purging of decay and rot. Either way, this ritualized election of local officials and Congresspeople will prove a veritable test-case for the country’s neocolonial, oligarchic institutions and the status quo of class inequality that have been, in one way or another, fostered by the United States, its former colonizer, for over a century now.
Fraud as Spectacle and Testimony

Elections in the Philippines, designed by the U.S. colonial government, began as a way of preserving the power of the moneyed, privileged elite within a monopolized party system offered as an alternative to armed resistance by Filipinos. Since formal independence in 1946, the elite bloc of landlords, compradors and bureaucrat-capitalists has partitioned power among their ranks, with personalities overshadowing any ideological differences, if any. Any progressive, radical challenge to elite hegemony, such as that posed by Claro Recto and Lorenzo Tanada in the fifties, or by the progressive party-list today (among them, BAYAN MUNA, ANAKPAWIS, GABRIELA, KABATAAN, MIGRANTE), has been stigmatized as “communist” or “terrorist.” Just as in many “third world” dependent societies characterized by flagrant class conflict, electoral democracy in the Philippines has been distinguished by large-scale bribery of voters, corruption of officials, systematic violence—this time with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the national police engaged in campaigning for the incumbent administration. The question of legitimacy or accountability is thus decided by the old formula of “guns, goons and gold.”
In a recent commentary, the Center for People Empowerment in Governance, a think-tank based at the University of the Philippines, concludes that “fraud is an endemic disease that has been institutionalized by a political system—the government, executive and legislative structures, political parties—that remains dominated by political dynasties” (Issue Analysis, No. 7, May 2007). Prior to the elections, a group of retired military and police officers revealed a devious plan of Arroyo’s adviser, General Hermogenes Esperon, AFP Chief, to hijack 14 million votes in 4 regions and 12 provinces to insure the victory of Arroyo’s team. This electoral rigmarole follows the routine set up by the U.S. colonial system since the Commonwealth government headed by Manuel Quezon in the thirties and forties.
It is instructive to cite here a recent Social Weather Station survey of citizens’ attitudes to the coming elections. The survey found that 40% of Filipinos expect the government will cheat, while 69% believe that the votes will be stolen by the Arroyo regime through “flying voters,” coercion and other means used during Arroyo’s election in 2004 in which the officials of the State’s Commission on Elections (COMELEC) manipulated the counting of votes in Arroyo’s favor. Arroyo unwittingly admitted her fraudulent tenure in the widely publicized “Hello Garci” phone expose.
During the Cold War, the Philippines was touted as a “showcase” of U.S.-style democracy in Asia. Elected politicians toed Washington’s “free world” party line. With the help of the CIA and the Pentagon-supervised and -trained AFP, a surrogate army of U.S. finance capital, the puppet president Ramon Magsaysay defeated the Communist-led Huk uprising in the fifties. Today the Philippines is hailed as the second “battlefront” in George W. Bush’s “global war on terror.” The U.S. State Department has labeled the 38-year-old insurgent New People’s Army (led by the Communist Party of the Philippines) as a “terrorist” organization, along with the CIA-built and AFP-coddled Abu Sayyaf bandit-group. While the country in the fifties was barely recovering from the enormous devastation of World War II, today, the economy is in shambles: 80% of 87 millionFilipinos are struggling to survive on $2 a day, below decent living standards, while 46 million Filipinos do not even meet their 100% dietary energy requirement (IBON Media Release, 4 April 2007).

Mapping the “Killing Fields”

Just like her predecessors, Arroyo has sacrificed the Filipino people’s welfare by implementing neoliberal globalization policies (privatization, deregulation) imposed by the World Bank, Inerrnational Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization. The result is a humanitarian disaster. Filipino economist Alejandro Lichauco has documented unprecedented mass hunger throughout the country in his book Hunger, Corruption and Betrayal (Manila, 2005). Three thousand Filipinos leave every day to join 10 million Filipinos working in hundreds of countries around the world, remitting $12 billion to keep the economy afloat—indubitable proof that the Philippines has plunged from relative prosperity in the fifties to the wretched “basket-case” of Asia in this new millennium of global capitalism.
Meanwhile, the elite desperately clings to power by consumerist propaganda and violence. So ruthless is the carnage in the “killing fields” of the Philippines that it has alarmed some U.S. lawmakers, among them Senator Barbara Boxer and recently Congresswomen Ellen Tauscher (Inquirer.net, April 26, 2007) who urged Arroyo to prevent more murders of left-wing political activists by “prosecuting those responsible for the crimes.” The US Senate Foreign Relations committee is inquiring into the link of U.S. foreign aid with Arroyo’s brutal counterinsurgency program that has caused such unconscionable massive atrocities.
One such case recently highlighted in the media is that of Angelina Bisuna-Ipong. Ipong was a former teacher and peace advocate based in Mindanao. After studying at the Ateneo de Naga University, Ipong worked as a missionary with the Mission Society of the Philippines; she was invited gy the Marykoll priests in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, to work at the Christian Formation Center. She took an active part in the consultation meeting with women’s and farmers’ groups concerning the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law, which was agreed upon by the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front-Philippines during the peace talks in Europe. Ipong was abducted on March 8, 2005, by agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group belonging to the Southern Command, in Aloran, Misamis Occidental. She was taken by helicopter to the Southern Command headquarters in Zamboanga City. There soldiers and officers alternated in humiliating and sexually abusing Ipong. She was declared missing for 13 days before she was presented to the media by Arroyo’s military. She was charged with rebellion and other trumped-up criminal offenses including arson and homicide (National Council of Churches 2007). After two months of her surfacing, General Emmanuel Cayton, commander of the 202nd Brigade, declared that Ipon “was not tortured” (Tupas 2009). At age 65, Ipong is the Philippines’ oldest political detainee, a living testimony to the beleaguered condition of women who dare to challenge an unjust, morally bankrupt, dehumanizing system.
Last March 2008, UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, who (at the end of his February 2007 visit) accused the government’s counterinsurgency scheme of encouraging or facilitating the killings, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council a copy of the secret AFP “Order of Battle” document which converts soldiers as combatants in a “political war” against civilians. Arroyo and the military were not just in a “state of denial.” They were and are deeply involved in vilification of anyone critical of the Arroyo regime and complicit in the summary executions of those they label as “enemies of the state.” The party-list group BAYAN MUNA and allied organizations like BAYAN, for example, have been targeted as “communist fronts” by Arroyo’s Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security. At present, 130 members of BAYAN MUNA (approximately 356 activists from various civic organizations) have succumbed to extra-judicial murder, abduction, arbitrary arrest, harassment and torture by State terrorist agents and paramilitary death-squads.
Dr. Carol P. Araullo, chairperson of BAYAN, has called the plan of extra-judicial killings, abductions, and torture a scarcely concealed “state policy” (see “Streetwise,” Business World 9-10, 16-17 March 2007). Last April, Human Rights Now, a Japanese human rights organization, concluded its fact-finding mission with the appeal to Arroyo “to immediately stop the policy of targeting civilization organizations and individual activists,” and to respect its obligation to follow the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights which the government has ratified. It will lobby the Japanese government to suspend all loan agreements “until it recognizes the human rights situation and accountability mechanism have clearly improved” (Press Statement, 21 April 2007). This was reinforced by the prestigious InterParliamentary Union’s statement denouncing the arrest of Rep. Crispin Beltran and the harassment of the “Batasan 6” party-list representatives.
Earlier, on March 25, the Permanent People’s Tribunal handed down a verdict of “guilty” against Arroyo and Bush for “crimes against humanity.” Based on substantial evidence, testimonies, etc., the killings, torture and forced disappearances “fall under the responsibility of the Philippine government and are by no means justified in terms of necessary measures against terrorism.” Not only is the AFP involved in “the majority of the scenarios of human rights violations,” but it functions as “a central component and instrument of the policy of the ‘war on terror’ declared jointly by the Philippine and U.S. governments” that is being used to justify the political killings and impunity of both governments. Filipino Senator Jamby Madrigal, who testified at the People’s Tribunal against the Arroyo-Bush partnership’s ecological havoc, opined that Arroyo’s de facto “martial rule” has already turned the Philippines into a virtual “killing field.”

Encountering Coni Ledesma

During that historic March session of the People’s Tribunal at The Hague, Netherlands, I was fortunate in meeting again Ms. Coni Ledesma, a member of the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front-Philippines (NDFP) in peace talks with the government of the Republic of the Philippines. My first meeting with Coni took place over twenty years ago, in Rome, Italy, which I visited after I had chaired and participated in an international cultural symposium in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, in 1981. At The Hague, Coni was as vibrant as ever, knowledgeable and generous, open-minded particularly in relation with diasporic intellectuals from the “belly of the beast” like the present expatriate. I decided then that it would be a useful and rare opportunity to conduct this dialogue with an exemplary personality on themes and issues of general interest to a global audience.
To give a framework to this interview, I recapitulate the main events in Coni’s political history. Coni traces her politicization in the 1970s during the mass demonstrations in the Philippines against the Marcos regime which was then collaborating with the United States in the imperialist war in IndoChina. After some legal political seminars and activities, she went underground and became one of the founders of the Christians for National Liberation, a significant formation of church people that initiated a pathbreaking Filipino version of the “theology of liberation.” In August 1972, she was captured and detained for a year until she was released with the help of the Catholic bishops and the National Council of Churches (as Frank Cimatu reports in KASAMA, April-June 1998). She continued working with sugar workers in Negros, at which time (September 1973) she met her future husband Luis Jalandoni, who is now chair of the NDFP Negotiating Panel.
Aside from her role in the NDFP, Coni is also the international spokesperson of MAKIBAKA, an underground revolutionary organization of women, which has spearheaded the fight for women’s rights and collective well-being in the Philippines. MAKIBAKA, for the record, is not a feminist (in the Western academic construal of the term) but a nationalist women’s group concerned with women’s liberation in a neocolonial “third world” setting, allied with the NDFP. It has roots in the complex debates on “the woman question” in the sixties and seventies (see my book Filipina Insurgency, Giraffe Books, 1999) and in the militant participation of numerous women combatants in the revolution such as Maria Lorena Barros, Cherith Dayrit, Judy Taguiwalo, and Vicvic Justiniani, to cite only a few names.
In my view, Coni’s role in the national-democratic struggle has been immense and substantial, her experience a rich and dynamic reservoir of wisdom for use by solidarity groups everywhere. Thus I feel that her insight into what’s going on may afford us a perspective not available from other sources. My encounter with Coni at The Hague, at a time and place that fused the urgency of the crisis in the human-rights situation in the Philippines with the combative elan of the witnesses at the People’s Tribunal, the impasse of the anti-war efforts here in the metropolitan wasteland, and, above all, the realization that this wild and savage May election may be the pivotal turning-point in our national political life, has prompted this interview (conducted via the Internet from April 23 to May 8.)

Interview with Coni Ledesma

ESJ: The May election is crucial for Arroyo’s survival. What is your reading of the situation today, before the elections on May 14? What is your prediction should massive cheating be exposed and the public becomes infuriated?

CL: Although the May elections is not a presidential election, it is crucial for the survival of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. She has survived two impeachment charges initiated in the House of Representatives, because she was able to buy the votes of the majority of the Congressmen, or because they were administration Congressmen and so voted against the impeachment.
If the opposition is to get at least one third of the seats of the lower house and a majority in the Senate, Congress could bring corruption and other charges against Arroyo and this could lead to her impeachment. She needs to ensure her hold on power and preserve the rotten and bankrupt system especially because she wants to conceal her crimes against the people.
She is already taking drastic steps to ensure the victory of administration candidates by using the Commission on Elections, the military and buying votes. Although the the law prohibits the AFP from electioneering, there are reports that General Esperon sent a radio message to all personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to rig the results of the elections and ensure a 12-0 victory for the administration’s senatorial candidates. AFP personnel are supporting and setting up campaign posters for the party list of General Jovito Palparan (also known as “the Butcher of Mindoro”). AFP elements attacked the residence of religious leader, Eddie Villanueva, because of his anti-GMA stand (one of his sons is running for mayor in one of the cities of Mindoro, and another son heads the party-list Cibac). Former President Corazon Aquino recently discovered that her telephone is being bugged. And most recently, Makati Mayor Jojo Binay, who is also the president of the opposition party, United Opposition, was ordered suspended and was ordered to vacate City Hall. Supporters of Binay filled the City Hall, making it impossible for the police to send him out. Binay is running for reelection and is expected to win against the Malacanang candidate, Lito Lapid.
It is expected that there will be “dagdag-bawas” (add-subtract) during the counting of the votes. This means, adding votes for the administration candidates and taking away votes from the opposition. This was the method used to make Arroyo “win” the presidency in 2004.
The increase in extra-judicial killing and enforced disappearance, especially of leaders and members of progressive political parties and organizations, is also a desperate and futile attempt of the Arroyo government to scare and disenfranchise these parties and organizations.
What would happen if the massive cheating is exposed and the public becomes infuriated? The public is already infuriated. Arroyo’s popularity rating is very low. She is considered an illegitimate president because of massive cheating used to get her elected. A possible reason why she still hasn’t been ousted is because of the question of who will take her place as president. The logical constitutional succession would be the current Vice President, Noli de Castro. But the large majority does not think he is qualified to be president.
Yet, an incident could ignite the people’s anger so much that it can lead to mass actions which can lead to Arroyo’s ouster. This was the case with Ferdinand Marcos, and later, with Joseph Estrada.

ESJ: Should Arroyo’s group win and dominate the Batasan, do you agree with some observer’s opinion that Arroyo will implement the anti-terrorism law and suppress BAYAN and other opposition groups, including the party-list political formations – in other words, heighten de facto martial rule?

CL: Even without the anti-terrorism law, Arroyo is already trying to disqualify progressive party-lists like Bayan Muna, Anak Pawis and Gabriela Women’s Party. But the passing and implementation of the anti-terrorism law is important not only as an instrument to help Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stay in power, but also to preserve the interests of US imperialism. The US “war on terrorism” is actually a war against national liberation movements, anti-imperialist forces and against those who pose a threat to US interests.
But the Filipino people are challenging the law and continuing to fight for their democratic rights.. They are holding mass actions, protests, and moving to have the law declared unconstitutional.

ESJ: What is your forecast of the next year or two of Arroyo’s presidency, assuming she will win a majority in the Congress? If she doesn’t, will impeachment unseat her?

CL: If Arroyo stays as president until 2010, and if her current dependence on the military continues, and if she will continue to enjoy the backing of the US, the gross violations of human rights will continue and even worsen. She will implement the anti-terrorism law, or as it is euphemistically called “Human Security Act of 2007.” She will continue with the implementation of Operation Bantay Laya II (Operation Freedom Watch II).
Bantay Laya II is a continuation of the failed Bantay Laya I, a military campaign to crush the revolutionary movement, carried out in 2002-2006. Bantay Laya II is aimed at wiping out the revolutionary movement in five years. It is more vicious than Bantay Laya I, especially in its attacks against unarmed civilians and political activists living in the cities and towns. Death squads who kill or forcibly “disappear” anyone who opposes the regime is part of Bantay Laya II.

At the same time, Arroyo is faced with many problems which she has neither will nor capacity to solve. She could be impeached if the opposition takes the majority in both houses of Congress. She is isolated and unpopular. The AFP is wracked by deep divisions within its ranks due to corruption and complicity in criminal activities. The economy is in chronic crisis. It is being held afloat by massive borrowing and through the remittances of overseas Filipinos. Meanwhile, the mass movement continues to grow. A people’s movement could oust her.

ESJ: The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Second Session on the Philippines pronounced a verdict of guilty on the US- Arroyo collusion. Please assess for now the impact of this historic conference.

CL: The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is a court of international opinion and independent from any State authority. The importance and strength of its decisions rest on the moral weight of the causes and arguments to which they give credibility and their recognition in the UN Commission on Human Rights. The jurors are persons prominent in their respective fields of work. The PPT itself has prestige within the United Nations and among NGOs.
The Second Session on the Philippines was held on March 21-25, 2007, in The Hague, the Netherlands. It was held shortly after the Melo Commission and UN Special Rapporteur for Extra-judicial Executions, Philip Alston, came out with their respective reports finding the military responsible for the torture, extra judicial killings and disappearances of hundreds of leaders and members of progressive people’s organizations.
The Tribunal judged the governments of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and of George Walker Bush, accountable “ for crimes against humanity, with all the consequences for the persons who are responsible for them.” It also stated that “such violations must be stopped immediately.” The Tribunal connected the human rights violations with the interests of the United States. It gave a more comprehensive and deeper analysis of the Philippine situation.
The appeal, indictment and verdict can be used as guides in studying the situation in the Philippines. They are also important documents for solidarity groups and organizations in planning activities and campaigns for the Philippines. The Tribunal denounces as unacceptable the inclusion of the Philippine government in the UN Human Rights Council. A campaign should be launched to call for the removal of the Philippines from the Council.

ESJ: Please give a brief survey of the European attitude to Arroyo’s bloody human rights record.

CL: With the increase in gross violations of human rights, more and more European governments and inter-governmental bodies have spoken out to condemn and call a stop to these violations. In a forum in Oslo, Norway, a representative of the Norwegian government expressed concern about the human rights violations in the Philippines. No official of a European country has voiced such a concern in the past.
During the ASEM meeting in Helsinki, on September 10-11, 2007, the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, raised the issue of political killings during Arroyo’s official call on her. The Finnish Foreign Minister later said, “We also want to see an end to the political killings which still form a harsh reality of that country”. Shortly after that, when Arroyo visited Belgium, European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso reminded Arroyo that the political killings in the Philippines were a matter of concern to the European Commission.
The European Commission’s chief envoy to the Philippines, Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, expressed shock over the human rights abuses that have become a daily occurrence in the country.
The European Parliament, in a plenary meeting in Strasbourg, passed a resolution expressing “grave concern at the increasing number of political killings that have occurred in recent years in the Philippines”, and urged “the Philippine authorities to make the necessary investigations in a timely, thorough and transparent manner and to bring those responsible to justice.” The Inter Parliamentary Union has expressed concern about the continuing repression of six members of the Philippine Congress, Congressmen Satur Ocampo, Crispin Beltran, Liza Maza, Joel Virador, Rafael Mariano, and Teddy Casino and called for the release from detention of Crispin Beltran.
After conducting its own fact-finding mission on the human rights situation in the Philippines, the World Council of Churches issued a statement on September 2006 condemning the extra-judicial executions and called an end to the killings. An international fact-finding mission of lawyers (from the groups, Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers Without Borders, and International Association of Democratic Lawyers) went to the Philippines last June 2006 to specifically investigate the killings of lawyers and judges. After the disappearance of Jonas Burgos, in late April 2007, the Amnesty International campaign coordinator said the Philippines’ image has become that of “ a land of lawlessness.”

ESJ: What role have Filipino migrants in Europe and elsewhere performed and accomplished in the task of confronting the political killings and massive corruption of the Arroyo regime? Are there new signs of political mobilization on their part?

CL: Filipino migrants in different parts of the globe have formed human rights organizations and have set up forums and other public events to inform the people of the host country about the situation. They are participating in the different actions because their families back home are affected by the policy of killings by the Arroyo government and the military. During forums held, they share the experience of their families and friends who have become victims of human rights violations.
And now, after the Tribunal, Filipino organizations are holding forums and symposia to talk about the verdict of the Tribunal and call for more actions against ongoing human rights violations in the Philippines.
ESJ: Finally, what is your assessment of the gains of the national democratic movement so far, and what are the problems it faces in the future?

CL: In the Philippines, we have the legal national democratic movement composed of legal and open people’s organizations. And we have the 17 allied organizations of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the millions of the revolutionary masses they lead, undertaking national democratic revolution through people’s war.
Both the legal and the underground revolutionary movements accept the analysis that the root causes of the problems in Philippine society are US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. They also accept that a change in the present system is necessary. Both aspire for a society where the Philippines will be free from US domination, where the feudal mode of production and values are replaced with genuine land reform, and peasants will be given land of their own to till. Where the natural wealth of the Philippines will be owned and managed by Filipinos. Where there will be national industrialization. And bureaucrat capitalism will be replaced with a government free of corruption, where the vast majority of Filipinos (workers, peasants, fisherfolk and petty bourgeoisie) will be adequately represented. A system where there will be real democracy.
The Arroyo regime calls the legal people’s organizations “front” organizations of the CPP and the NDFP. They are not front organizations of the CPP and the NDFP. These legal organizations subscribe to and are guided by their own constitutions, organizational principles, and programs.
The national democratic organizations comprise the legal mass movement which has been the most consistent in the anti-imperialist and democratic legal struggle in the country. It has a strong mass movement. It has members in parliament. It is creative in using all forms of struggle to push for reforms and fight against the ongoing exploitation and oppression in the country. It organizes and mobilizes hundreds of thousands in different organizations and is deeply rooted among the Filipino people.
Of the substantial gains and achievements of the national democratic movement since the 1960s, I will only mention the following: One significant achievement of the national democratic movement has been its politicalization of the Filipino people as a whole. There is now a greater awareness of US imperialism’s hold on Philippine political, economic and cultural life than there was twenty or thirty years ago. For example, the broad mass movement was instrumental for the Senate voting the bases out of the Philippines in 1991.
The national democratic movement played a most crucial role in ousting two presidents, Marcos and Estrada, and by doing so has weakened the neocolonial system.
Major achievements have also been the two major Rectification Movements of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The first rectification movement was in the 1960’s. It repudiated the errors of the Partido Kommunista ng Pilipinas and led to the re-establishment of the Communist Party in 1968. The Second Great Rectification Movement was in 1992. The Central Committee took a strong position to analyze the major errors in the ideological, political and organizational line of the Communist Party and correct them. The rectification movement of the CPP influenced other national democratic organizations to look into their work and to undertake major corrections. The growth and vigor of the national democratic movement today is the result of this rectification movement.
The NDFP, the CPP and the New People’s Army organize mainly in the countryside. Organs of political power and revolutionary organizations of women, youth and peasants are continually being established and strengthened. Mass campaigns such as health, education and economic programs that benefit hundreds of thousands of women, youth, peasants, settlers, and indigenous peoples are taking place in over 120 guerrilla fronts throughout the country. Implementation of the minimum program of agrarian reform such as lowering of land rent, increase of farm wages and farm gate prices, lessening of usury and establishment of cooperatives, is benefiting the peasant masses.
One of the gains of the national democratic movement has been the growth in political awareness and participation in the struggle of women. Women in their numbers have joined national democratic organizations. They have been elected to positions of responsibility and are among the most militant in defending their rights.
MAKIBAKA (Makabayang Kilusan ng Kababaihan / Patriotic Movement of Women), a revolutionary women’s organization and a member of the NDFP, draws its membership from peasant, worker and women of petty bourgeoisie in the cities. Many MAKIBAKA members have joined the NPA and have shown excellence in the field. Many have given up their lives in the struggle. What problems will the national democratic movement face in the future? Because of the crisis of the present system, the national democratic movement can expect more repression from the reactionary state. And so, the national democratic forces have to be prepared for this.

After Melancholia, a Testimony to the Filipina Gaze

      By way of illustrating Coni Ledesma’s arguments, I want to focus on a cinematic rendition of the plight of OFW’s with a review of Hella Wender’s small cinematic masterpiece, Mirasol released in Berlin, Germany in 2009. It is a “first-world” response to the gospel of neoliberal globalization which, instead of spreading wealth and promoting a just redistribution of goods, has proved more predatory and destructive by intensifying the feminization of poverty around the world. As I have noted in the previous chapter, the rise of the Filipino diaspora may be traced to the enclosure of the third-world “commons” reminiscent of that in England in the epoch prior to industrialization in the 18th and 19th centuries—a diaspora of uprooted peasants and proletariat of the global South driven to seek work in the imperial metropoles.

We live supposedly in the era of the global commons, but very few have actually met their neighbors—except as subalterns: household maids, hotel service-workers, nannies, most likely college-educated women from the Philippines. The ubiquitous phenomenon of Filipina domestics and overseas contract workers (almost ten million), known also as Overseas Filipino workers (OFW), has become a tedious and soporific topic for cynics and skeptics. Scholars have categorized them as modern indentured servants of the global ecumene. If you mention that at least five OFW cadavers/coffins arrive everyday at the Manila International Airport, a big yawn greets you: “So what else is new?” Those still awake may prod: “Why? How did this happen?”

Like millions around the world devastated by global capitalism’s meltdown, the lives of migrant Filipinas/as have become redundant or disposable. This began in the 1970s. The Marcos dictatorship, supported chiefly by the United States and the IMF-World Bank, institutionalized the export of “warm bodies” to the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. In the neoliberal global market, the nationality label “Filipino” quickly became equivalent to “servant” or “maid” in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and elsewhere. After 9/11, the terrorist Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines may have eclipsed the OFWs. But with the continual brutalization of Filipinas in Okinawa, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the “Nicole” scandal (“Nicole” is the Filipina raped by an American soldier subsequently convicted but “kidnapped” by the US Embassy while his case is on appeal), with hundreds in jail or awaiting execution, their plight will continue to haunt the conscience of “the pillars of society.” It may even disturb the sleep of State functionaries whose salaries depend on OFW remittances.

Marisol’s Sister: The Hanged Woman

One example is Flor Contemplacion whose case is well-known in the Philippines, but not in the global North. Accused of killing a fellow worker and a Singaporean child, and despite witnesses testifying to her innocence, Contemplacion was hanged in March 1995 by the Singaporean government. Instantly she became a national heroine. She continues to symbolize the unconscionable plight of Filipinas abused, raped, and killed by their bosses. Then president Fidel Ramos, threatened by a groundswell of sympathy for the victim, intervened; but given the historic subservience and bankruptcy of the Philippine nation-state, OFWs will continue to endure barbaric humiliation and exploitation. The fate of Flor Contemplacion stands as a haunting sign of what awaits Filipinos–unless they organize, refuse this intolerable status quo, and help liberate the country from imperial oppression and poverty.
The current Arroyo regime and its predecessors have survived chiefly due to the $12-14 billion OFW remittance. That is more than enough to cover the huge foreign debt and subsidize the obscene privileges of the tiny local oligarchy and the corrupt military/police. At least 1.3 million families, 7.9% of the total 16.5 families of 90 million Filipinos (most of whom survive on $2 a day), rely on OFW earnings for their survival. With the global economic downturn, a small drop in their household incomes will produce extreme hunger, criminality, and untold social upheavals. At least half a million OFWs work in Europe today, with at least 54,000 in Germany alone. The European Union’s new immigration policy will target undocumented migrants by penalizing their employers. What happens to OFWs in Europe and in the diaspora around the world, will deliver an impact with profound consequences. This is why this film about the agonizing plight of a Filipina domestic in Berlin, Germany, serves as an emblematic alarm-signal, a wake-up call, a portentous omen of things to come.
Marisol, the protagonist of Hella Wender’s short film, easily proves herself the uncanny half-sister of Flor Contemplacion. We wonder how a film can depict the structural situation of Filipino poverty driving thousands of wives/mothers to seek work abroad and preserve their integrity/sanity amid abuses, isolation, and uncertain future. One way is to condense the complex total social situation into the experience of a typical individual, into one or two representative episodes. It’s a challenge that Hella Wenders takes up, with intriguing success.
Her film is itself a “balikbayan” box we have to unpack. It uses the predicament of an illegal Filipina domestic in Berlin struggling to support her family (Luis, her husband, and two children, Jason and Lizelle). She thinks of them everyday and wants to go back home—she even orders a plane ticket under a false name. She holds up chiefly because her sister Wena, a domestic in Hong Kong, reminds her of their dream of one day becoming free, owning a store back home.
The normal routine is disrupted. One day Marisol’s husband calls to tell her that her sister Wena is dead. We expect Marisol to collapse, but except for one traumatic instant of abjecthood, she holds up. What happens to her dream of rejoining her family? She is undeterred. We saw her earlier taking care of two German children and cleaning windows. The film then focuses on Marisol—wife, mother, sister, family provider–filling her “balikbayan” box with commodities, gifts lovingly itemized as though they were fragments cut off from her body. Somehow she succeeds in paying for the shipping of her dead sister Wena: a “balikbayan” with a cruel twist. At the end, together with German friends and compatriots, Marisol vicariously participates in the burial of her sister via the computer’s Internet screen.

Media Seduction Vs. Aura of the Balikbayan Box

Will the dead rest in her grave? Is everyone pacified then, assured that Marisol will eventually realize the dream she shared with her “sacrificed” sister? Having hurdled this ordeal, will she move on to dare take other moves? What are her alternatives? These are a few questions aroused by Wender’s film. How about us, the audience: Do we learn anything? While OFW families are disrupted by their country’s neoloconial underdevelopment, migrants re-imagine their community/fictive family with the help of prosthetic devices such as cellphones and electronic mail, satellite TV, internet, that help sustain identities and lifestyles across shifting or porous boundaries. Technology extends and trains the human sensorium for survival in a dis-integrated anomic world, or in contested terrains. In postmodern jargon, these fluid and hybrid identities of OFWs inhabit the crucible of global ethnoscapes; presumably their psyches, if not their bodies, are able to elude bureaucratic definitions and traditional judgments. Do they?
The theme of a Filipina mother working abroad, without valid documents, is one pregnant with sentimental and melodramatic possibilities. No messianic guardian comes to the rescue. Wenders is able to deepen this figure by sophisticated camera work and nuanced framing of scenes and their calibrated sequencing. On first acquaintance, we are impressed by Marisol’s lively but sober demeanor. The upbeat foreward looking tonality of the film is conveyed by the introductory shots: sailors/working gracefully doing gymnastics, smooth transition from ship to flowing traffic overlapping with Marisol’s buoyant address to her sister: “Dear Wena….” Her voice-over evokes the dominant affect of the film. It centers on motherhood indexed by the “balikbayan” box. The leitmotif of sending/receiving packages, plus the recollection of two sisters over their mother’s love, sutures the montage of departure/removal, a transition from Manila to Berlin that easily folds us into the cinematic narrative.
Throughout the film, the “balikbayan” box operates as the central unifying trope: it connects dispersed family members, like the umbilical cord. Though separated, Marisol and Wena are united by memory of their mother and a dream of freeing oneself from serfhood to take up an independent pettybourgeois life—the dream of millions. Marisol is shown cleaning windows, symbolizing both aspiration and blockage; she cooks and minds the German children, a surrogate fulfillment of what her family and society expects. Unlike the child in the theme-song “Anak,” Marisol did not disobey her parents by indulging in wicked vice only to repent later. No pathos here, no melodrama, no tears—except shouting at the vacant urban landscape, a protest against some existential injustice or malice sprung on her from above. The film is very quiet, disturbingly reticent. Is this a deliberate provocation, a Brechtian estrangement-effect, challenging us to complete the film which ends with a medium-shot focus on Marisol’s face?
Dialectic of Speaking and Listening

One alternative is offered by the film: utterance. And access to the facilities of communication. Language unites and divides, but here the Filipino/Tagalog sutures episodes of loneliness and painful endurance. We soon discover that Marisol’s sister Wena lives a double-life: her poetic efforts overshadow her bondage to household chores. Through a phonecall, Wena transmits her prophetic message of a monsoon outburst veiled by the overheated afternoons, allowing them to “fly to the moon.” The power of poetic language supplements, more exactly prescinds, electronic media. Their conversations dissolve the physical and temporal distance that separates them, compensating for their drab alienating circumstances. How long can this last? And can illusory relief by art/communication—the talking cure in which Wena becomes the analysand, Marisol the mute analyst–resolve material, historically structured adversities in our everyday life?
For OFWs, despite kinship networks, the danger of individualist solutions always proves seductive in a competitive global marketplace. There are now organizations like MIGRANTE that provide support (emotional, legal) to make up for government apathy or hostility. However, Marisol and many others are exposed to hazardous psychic injuries on top of physical harms. How do we handle sudden turns of fortune—actually, what’s more horrible than death are marital infidelities–allegorized by interruptions of phone calls, sudden Internet fadeouts, silence? Unexpectedly Wena dies—not an accident but a homicide. No one else can help pay for her return home except Marisol whose precarious status exposes her to possible arrest and deportation. Will she resort to extreme, law-breaking measures? Marisol is already a lawbreaker. But her plight encapsulates risk, alienation, and hope. Her contact with her German employer is defined solely by the money-wage (captured by a brief scene). In Berlin, Marisol’s life-world is inhabited by children, women friends, cellphone, computers, and money. She seems never to engage in any pleasurable leisurely act—except videoke conviviality with other Filipinas and their German friends in a club. Apparently she has no one to replace Wena, someone with whom she can regularly communicate or confide to, linking past and present with the future.
Of course there is the ubiquitous Filipino priest who represents the absent family, homeland, parents. He is shown consoling an illegal OFW (Rica Santos), betrayed by another Filipino, jailed and about to be deported. She personifies the possible future of Marisol and countless others. It is Rica Santos to whom Marisol later confides outside “Gigi’s Meeting Point,” their common predicament establishing their fictive kinship, while other Filipinas and their German friends sing the song “Anak” about a child who repents for having ignored her parents and strayed from the straight and narrow path. Should Marisol repent being an OFW?
Using “Anak” seems a deftly ironic choice here. Poviding continuity to several scenes in the film, this popular song underscores the importance of parents and the need of children to heed their counsel lest disaster overtakes them. It warns children not to strike on their own without the guidance of authority, esp. the father. But the father in the film is starkly undercut, glimpsed only in the unstable computer-screen, eclipsed by the strong mother-figure of Marisol, the lawbreaker. The film interrupts Marisol’s conviviality with the news of Wena’s “suicide” (several Filipina maids who fell from buildings in Hong Kong were really murdered by their employers). Marisol protests, suggesting that Wena should be put in a “balikbayan” box—a fulfillment of her mother’s desire cited at the beginning. Fast foreward and we see Marisol confiding to Rica the sister-surrogate, reflecting on their own somehow intertwined, “weird” fates: one wants to stay but cannot, and the other wants to go home but cannot.

Jump-Cuts and Syncopations

Marisol is a parent without power. Her reliance on electronic media—cellphone, computers, Internet—as a way of preserving contact with her husband and children is contingent on her budget, her free time, and access to such prosthetic devices. Despite this electronic prophylactic, Marisol’s distance from her family is underscored by the fact that she cannot really maintain long exchanges with her children—in one scene, the scream of the German child cuts off her connection with her family. Moreover, her customary deference to the husband insures that she will always be at the receiving end of the line, unable to initiate action except as a response to his call for help. In short, Marisol’s agency seems undercut, annulled, diminished. When her sister Wena, at the start of the film, reminds her of their dreams, based on their mother’s sacrifice as an OFW herself, Marisol is unable to release pent-up feelings except by shouting to the anonymous space outside, to blank windows facing her apartment—a poignant image of frustration and helplessness.
Where or who is the Other who can listen to Marisol? In the process of grappling with this crisis, Marisol is driven by an imperious need to express herself, defying external law or inner prohibition. It is this need to communicate that the film foregrounds, an emergency appeal. This, I submit, is the film’s over-riding purpose: to compel us to listen, to understand. It’s a powerful challenge hurled to cyberspace and the open market, in quest of a responsive audience/viewers.
Solitude is conceivable only because of its opposite: community, solidarity. After the news of Wena’s death, Marisol is faced not only with the tragic deprivation of her other self. Wena incarnates Marisol’s submerged speaking self, the poet-rhetor who reminds her of their common dream. It is the erotic Other that is sacrificed so Marisol can go on. The reality-principle dictates that she defer her return so that the sister can return—literally, Wena’s homecoming in a coffin as the other “balikbayan box.” Marisol rhetorical question to the empty urban space: “What do you want me to do?” is really addressed to the audience, the others who care. She demands from Luis (via cellphone) to talk to her sleeping children; but her “load” aborts communnication. The camera switches to Marisol walking the Berlin thoroughfare like a somnambulist, one of the few close-up shots—except for the cellphone/computer screen faces of her sister and family. She counts and wraps the money to send, via her friend, as though praying in her kitchen-sanctuary.
In one of the most dramatic moments of the film, with images of gleeful playing children alternating with shots of the WESTERN UNION office, Marisol runs in front of two policemen whom she served earlier. She wants to be arrested, interrogated. Her muteness is a desperate appeal for help—to be deported and sent home. However, her friend suddenly intervenes, wresting her away before the police can demand her ID and thus authenticate her identity: Marisol the mother/outlaw. Fast forward and we see Marisol repeating Wena’s poetic utterance—“Where did you come from? Where are you going?….bruised, struggling, crawling on all fours out of the abyss, craving for bliss without end,” demanding more from her compatriots, from those who are watching and witnessing this film.
The film itself offers German women’s solidarity. It concludes with prayers for Wena’s soul by Marisol’s friends, via computerized tele-screens attending Wena’s burial. A gesture to acknowledge Filipino mores is made: the Filipino priest, smiling, consoles Marisol with the remark that Wena has been bumped “first class” on her flight to heaven. This quasi-religious ceremony in secular Europe, the quiet camaraderie and unobtrusive solidarity, the calculatedly subdued ending—all these displace our anxiety about the crime, leaving us with Marisol’s thoughtful, handsome face. We surmise that she will resume her normal life with possibly more awareness of the injustice and danger that lurk behind the civilized facades of the wealthy employing nations. Is there surplus vision or needs accumulated in her consciousness that calls for collective action?
The Dreamer Sacrificed

More questions are triggered by the film’s somewhat abrupt end: Is Marisol, as shown in this film, a pathetic example of the helpless OFW? Postcolonial scholars are anxious to counter the stereotype belief that subalterns like female domestics don’t have agency. They disagree with the view that OFWs are totally victims of patriarchal discourse and masculinist violence. They argue that Marisol has agency: she invents a fictional person, “Olivia Flores,” that orders one-way ticket. She shouts that one day she will reveal her real name, fulfill her dream of doing what she wants (as the song “Anak” hints, without repentance). Her maternal and nurturing power is fully demonstrated by her ability to calm the screaming German child in her care, even though that task also confirms her distance from her family.
Here are the partial answers. When the film opens, we see sailors and workers exercising in harmony in front of a ship about to embark. City landscape smoothly blends with the recollection of Marisol’s mother and her balikbayan box peppered with kisses, imagining herself contained in the box sent to her children. This “balikbayan” box that holds gifts, token commodities, etc. functions as the chief synthesizing trope, the allegorical synapse or synergistic node of the film. While we observe Marisol packing her “balikbayan” box, ensuring the safety of its delivery, we also keep in mind what is not shown—the absent montage of her sister’s body being deposited as in a cargo container for shipping home, paid for by Marisol’s savings. We never see Marisol’s own box being shipped, but we see the coffin of her sister being laid to rest in her grave, surrounded by her mourning relatives—“bumped first class” in a flight to heaven. Our last image is of Marisol’s melancholy, thoughtful face, as the camera focuses on her, somewhat distanced from her community, replicating her earlier pose at the food-shop as she ponders giving up to the police. The solitary domestic is left bereft of companionship, isolated, even though we remain aware that it is there in the margins. Do we allow the priest to have the last word, the last “joke”?
Probably not. The film’s intent is to arouse questions and disturb our peace. The film’s style of articulating closed and open spaces succeeds in dramatizing Marisol’s dilemma between “risk-taking” and “security-maximizing,” to use sociological jargon. The arrangement of the scenes is meant to stage the dilemma all OFWs face: one between striking on your own, daring to struggle against customary prohibitions—as the theme song “Anak” warns against—or opting for safety behind law, patriarchal authority, and the opium of religion. It’s a classic existential situation.
What stands out, however, is a nexus of loaded signifiers. Marisol’s situation of risk and maternal resolve is a play on the motifs of the homely and the unhomely, both condensed in the German word “heimlich” which Freud made famous in his essay, “The Uncanny.” Marisol’s homeland (embodied in the electronic images of husband, children, Wena) becomes a cyberspace mirage, fading in and out, charged with frightening possibilities, destroying the bourgeois ideology of privacy and monogamous, heterosexual normativity. Meanwhile, Marisol’s network of friends/compatriots serves as a linkage to the emergent community of Migrante International, allowing the sisters of Gabriela Silang and of Rosa Luxemburg to meet. In this sense Marisol’s female gaze becomes uncanny, answering the misogynist question—“What does a woman want?”—with the threat and promise of slaying the patriarchs: the capitalist State, Hong Kong criminal employers, predatory transnational agencies, and the entire corrupt, unredeemable Filipino bureaucracy/oligarchy parasitic on OFW remittances, colluding with U.S. imperialism in keeping the country impoverished and subservient since the end of the Filipino American War of 1899-1913.
Marisol, stricken with anxiety and desperation, nearly surrendered to authority. That trauma-filled episode in which Marisol’s identity was at stake, dissolved quickly with her friend’s swift snatching of her body from the clutches of the State. Marisol is the mother who displaces the absent father—subaltern fathers have been emasculated by the neocolonial Arroyo state, obeisant to the imperial behest of the U.S. and predatory finance capital. While the paternal German welfare-state harbors threats such as the police and alienated employers, it permits temporary escape from enclosures such as the workplace (bar, house with German children to attend). It is also outside Gigi’s restaurant/bar where Wena’s poems are recited–a cry for help, an assertion of the right to happiness with loved ones, the right to self-fulfillment with others. In antithesis, some enclosure are hospitable: Gigi’s Meeting Point, the church-like place where balikbayan boxes are stored and confidential exchanges with the Filipino priest takes place, Marisol’s bedroom, her friend’s car. The Filipino priest serves as the index of the traditional homeland, accessible as listener to illegal migrants, a native counterpart to the Western psychiatrist/psychoanalyst, filling in for the absent authoritarian Filipino State.
For Whom the Bells Toll?

Art, cinema, surely cannot take the place of everyday working life or dominate it. But it’s useful for understanding oppressive institutions and imagining alternatives. Without it, we will remain victims of commodifying capital, money, and consumer goods dictating the content of our souls. Is it enough to be thankful to Hella Wenders and her co-workers for this richly compressed film and take pleasure in the character of Marisol, in her quiet fortitude, her patience, her dignified forbearance amid such paralyzing ordeal? After all, it is her sister, not her children or her husband or mother, who dies in this film.
As I have suggested earlier, Wena symbolizes Marisol’s authentic self, the exuberant twin-soul, who articulates her dreams and the future for her, as well as for millions of OFWs—for the whole dispossessed and diasporic Filipino nation. There is no chain migration here, only the extended family held together in a web or network of virtualized kinship and solidarity, enabled by modern means of communication, specifically cellphones, computerized television, etc. Despite geographical dispersal, communal and familial bonds are precariously maintained, affections sustained despite interruptions and reifying noises. Wena’s transmission is sometimes delayed, so that the unfolding of time is never linear, often recursive, sometimes anachronistic. This message of the film concerning the unpredictable dialectic of proximity and distance, past and future, open and closed spaces, necessity and accident, which escapes commodification by commercial establishments represented here by WESTERN UNION/ASIA IMBISS, is perhaps the most profound lesson to be inferred: organization and political consciousness-raising are needed.
Perhaps we can rescue Wena from the dead and make her speak to her sister again. She might say to Marisol that she needs to break out of her routine and question the condition of her life together with others, such as the OFW group, Migrante International, is doing. We do not need the cheap consolation of evangelical religion, the escape that Sarah Balabagan, the OFW flogged in Saudi Arabia, has chosen. We have other models: for example, Connie Bragas-Regalado, the fighter for migrant rights, or the women in Migrante Europe who attend to the needs of undocumented kababayan. This film is directly a critique of such packaged evasion. It is an oblique critique of individualist self-help. It sharply poses the limits of such solitary claustrophobic efforts even as it partly celebrates Marisol’s courage, resourcefulness and strength, knowing that her family and community (in the interstices of the film-shots) are with her in the struggle. She becomes Olivia Flores, the incommensurable trickster-figure.
As the film unfolds, Wena the domestic emerges in the network of communal exchanges as Wena the poet, inventor of images and figures that transform barriers into opportunities, unleashing the energies of dream for advancing the concrete projects of everyday life. This film succeeds in enabling our discovery of this poetic voice within the domestic serf, the insurgent dreamer, who may be suppressed now, but will always haunt us, especially those vampires and parasites who feed on the remittances of these postmodern indentured servants, even “modern-day slaves,” as Bridget Anderson aptly describes them. In the process of inventing the correct praxis, Marisol draws sustenance from Wena’s words. Maintaining tactful aesthetic distance, the film allows us to empathize with that sacrificed voice whose words penetrate windows and walls to open up a gap, the revolutionary break, not only for reunion with her family but also re-possession/liberation of the ravished homeland where bodies and souls, bloodied from fierce global class wars, can once again be reunited, nourished and fulfilled in collective sharing.
Mabuhay kayong lahat ng OFW [May your tribe increase], Marisol!—###

Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS | Comments Off on WOMEN’S LIBERATION: Circa 2007

ACADEMIC CULTURAL STUDIES & THE PROBLEM OF INDIGENIZATION IN THE PHILIPPINES


REFLECTIONS ON ACADEMIC CULTURAL STUDIES AND THE PROBLEM OF INDIGENIZATION IN THE PHILIPPINES

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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ABSTRACT

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.

SHORT BIODATA

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.

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GLOBAL CAPITALISM & THE FILIPINO DIASPORA


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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Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS | Comments Off on GLOBAL CAPITALISM & THE FILIPINO DIASPORA

IMPERIAL CULTURAL STUDIES & INDIGENIZATION IN THE PHILIPPINES


REFLECTIONS ON ACADEMIC CULTURAL STUDIES AND THE PROBLEM OF INDIGENIZATION IN THE PHILIPPINES

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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ABSTRACT

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.

SHORT BIODATA

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 | Comments Off on IMPERIAL CULTURAL STUDIES & INDIGENIZATION IN THE PHILIPPINES

PROBLEMATIZING FILIPINX


PROBLEMATIZING THE NAME “FILIPINX”: A Colloquy

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.

Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS | Comments Off on PROBLEMATIZING FILIPINX

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


FAUSTINO AGUILAR: HISTORYADOR NG HIMAGSIKAN AT PAGBABAGONG-BUHAY NG URING ANAK-PAWIS AT MAKABAGONG KABABAIHAN

E. San Juan, Jr.
Emeritus professor, University of Connecticut, USA
philcsc@gmail.com

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)

ABSTRAK

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
ABSTRACT

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

Pasakalye

    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

AMANDO MAGAT DON REHINO RIVAS
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?—###

SANGGUNIAN

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.

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Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS | Comments Off on KALIGTASAN, nobela ni Faustino Aguilar: Kritika ni E. San Juan,Jr.

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


TOWARD AN ARTICULATION AND SYNERGESIS
OF MARXISM AND PRAGMATISM

by E. San Juan, Jr.

DSC_0405 [Desktop Resolution]
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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