Making Sense of Our Freedom
The next two months for the American citizen of Philippine heritage will be one of two separate but interconnected political meditations.
One, in June, is the official celebration by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines of Philippine Independence Day.
The name of the national holiday is a giveaway: it is the landmark day, when, at the height of the struggle of the peoples of the Philippines against the abuses of the Spanish colonizers, our people finally came to their senses that from that day onwards to make sense of our freedom in the way that makes sense to us all is an ethical and moral obligation of every citizen.
Two, in July, there is going to be the Fourth of July, a sacred day for all citizens of the United States of America.
It is the day the Americans declared their independence from the colonizers, the Brits.
Both the Philippine June 12 and the American Fourth of July have parallel narratives made powerful by the fact that people had come to their realization that independence—hence, freedom—matter.
The people of the Philippines who have come to the United States are placed in a position of privilege for having become the beneficiary of this rich historical reality, a legacy, indeed, of the people before them who knew what freedom is.
It is the freedom that creates opportunities to have sufficient food on the table.
It is the freedom that relates to the respect for the fundamental liberties of people, a respect that creates opportunities for labor, and for that dignity of labor to be held sacred.
It is the freedom that relates to justice: that basic justice in the economic front that calls out to people to help in the renewal of the possibilities of the earth.
It is justice that is articulated by the providing of jobs to all able citizens so that in that act of working, there are able to real themselves.
The formula for our sense of freedom is simple enough. There is no waste of words here but a mantric transformation of our ideals into some words that refuse to remain words but word becoming worlds in the end, the word and the world one and the same.
In light of our current concerns in the Philippine and the United States, we are challenged by the contradictory realities we around us.
In Hawaii, we live by the power of the spectacular, the power of tourism, which, essentially is about the act of seeing without necessarily knowing.
In the Philippines, we live the power of the psychology of the mass, with promises for scholarship to children of the Overseas Filipino Workers when their cases of capital punishment in other countries become a sensation.
Either way are the ugly realities lurking in each utterance that we have become free, that we have become as free as a bird, that we have become as free as the early morning breeze.
While we see excess in the United States, there is much misery in the country’s hidden places, in the marginalized places, in the peripheralized places.
While we see abundance in the money enclaves of the rich in the Philippines, there is much misery in the country’s slums, streetcorners, makeshift homes and communities under bridges, and far-flung barrios.
While we see palatial homes in Hawaii, we see at the same time tarpaulin homes in places where tourists do not go.
While we see concrete homes with landscaped gardens in the big cities of the Philippines such as Cebu, Davao, and Manila, we see at the same time cardboard houses that serve us dwelling places for those who have luck but less.
But we know that in the making of a society of decent and just people, we cannot settle for less for those who less in life.
That we cannot settle for those who have less in life is the very spirit of the law that provides for the compensation of the not-so-good things that we do to make our political life more tolerable.
FAO/ June 2011