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Sa Loob at Labas ng Bayan Kong Sawi:
Emergency Signals from a Filipino Exile

Editor's Note: This is a three-part essay on the exilic mindset grappling for meaning in the diaspora. The author expounds on Filipinos in dispersion defining their space and reasons for their dislocation. Part 2 appears in the June 2005 issue and Part 3 will appear in the September issue.

Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan
ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan.
[One who does not look back to where he came from
will not reach his destination.]
—Ancient Tagalog proverb

By Way of Prologue

"Inside and outside my country, tyranny reigns…." Thus began the unforgettable narrative of Florante at Laura (1838) by Francisco Balagtas, a poem recognized as the inaugural discourse of Filipino nationalism. It inspired popular and ilustrado agitation, including the Cavite Mutiny of 1872 which led to the execution of the three martyr-priests Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez, and Jacinto Zamora. In his travels in Europe, Jose Rizal, the national hero, constantly read Balagtas' awit which inspired his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo; smuggled into the islands, Rizal's writings acted as "emergency signals" that sparked the Katipunan revolt of 1896. Charged for being filibusteros in the wake of the Cavite Mutiny, influential Filipino intellectuals were deported by the Spanish colonial government to Marianas Islands. Rizal himself was exiled to Dapitan, Mindanao, in 1892 four years before being shot on December 29, 1896 in Manila, the capital city.

The practice of removal or transporting Filipinos from their regional habitat to other parts
of the Empire would
no longer be called deportation or exile
but recruitment
or migrant passage-mainly to the Hawaii sugar plantations.

During Spanish rule, the physical movement of the Indios was tightly regulated, under strict surveillance by both secular and spiritual authorities. Outside and inside the colony, the Filipino subaltern was a marked man. Women of course were confined to domestic and institutional "prisons" and their disciplinary regimes. Space was systematically policed, monitored, and demarcated. After Marianas Islands, Guam (not counting the prison of Montjuich in Barcelona where Rizal and Isabelo de los Reyes were once interned) became the next destination for insurgents. After the United States crushed the revolutionary forces of the first Philippine Republic, it sent the most distinguished Filipino insurgent Apolinario Mabini to Guam for refusing to sign a loyalty oath. Others chose Hong Kong, Japan, or recalcitrant solipsism as alternative surrogates for the occupied homeland.

In the period of direct U.S. imperial domination, space came under the rule of market capital and commodity exchange. The practice of removal or transporting Filipinos from their regional habitat to other parts of the Empire would no longer be called deportation or exile but recruitment or migrant passage-mainly to the Hawaii sugar plantations. Although Filipinos were now U.S. "wards," still, Pedro Calosa, leader of the Tayug revolt, was banished from Hawaii to the Philippine Islands territory for the "crime" of union organizing. In the next decades, the generation of Carlos Bulosan and Philip Vera Cruz—thousands of dispossessed peasants and workers—shifted their port of entry to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle to become the migrant farmworkers and cannery workers who would pioneer the heroic project of mobilizing the multiethnic U.S. proletariat from the thirties to the sixties, ending with the formation of the United Farmworkers of America.

Meanwhile, subaltern pensionados, some schooled by the soldiers who defeated Aguinaldo, traveled to U.S. universities under contract. They returned to serve as bureaucrats and propagandists in the U.S. administration and, afterwards, in the Commonwealth experiment of neocolonialism under Manuel Quezon and in the post-World War II Republic. A lonely deviant was Jose Garcia Villa. His revolt against hypocritical bourgeois morality (which the pensionados symbolized) and surviving feudal mores led to his self-exile, first in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a melancholy soul, and then to New York City as a kind of hybrid denizen of the "internal colonies" of the metropole. Although celebrated today by a few isolated Filipino writers, Villa has never really been admitted to the canon of American literature, so that no country or people can really grant him any credential or status of belonging to a distinct cultural heritage except the Philippine nation-state and the handful of Filipinos who care about a national culture. Cosmopolitanism or the universal citizenship of globalization is still a mirage for neocolonials.

Said describes exile as "the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted"...

Today, Filipinos count unofficially as the largest Asian American group-more than three million-in the United States. They no longer work in the agribusiness of California or the plantations of Hawaii-some argue that Maj. General Antonio Taguba of recent fame as investigator of the Abu Ghraib prison scandals, may testify to the distance Filipinos have come from being cooks in the White House or stewards in the U.S. Navy. But, as everyone notes, the community is more scattered and divided politically, certainly economically (social class), than other nationalities, owing chiefly to the unsettled neocolonial condition of their country of origin. What is more ominous is that after September 11, 2001, several hundred Filipinos have been summarily deported, and many more are threatened by exclusion or expulsion, under the controversial USA Patriot Act. We seem to be returning to the time when Filipinos were hunted and lynched by white vigilantes in Washington and California, or else exhibited as exotic specimens in Exposition Centers or safely policed shopping bazaars. We are again an important target population.

Of more consequence today is the unprecedented "diaspora" of ten million Filipinos around the world, mainly as domestics, semi-skilled workers, caregivers, entertainers, and professionals—the Philippines has surpassed other countries in becoming the largest supplier of contract labor (the infamous Guantanamo detention cells were built by Filipino workers). But this has also meant that the image of the Filipino has become that of "servants of globalization," as one textbook puts it.

The following reflections-in truth, fragments from an exile's journals- were written in the mid-nineties to address this altered situation of the Filipino abroad, at the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the era of what is now labeled the "clash of civilizations" with the "war on terrorism" as its offshoot. It is coincidentally the era of the homeless, the displaced, the refugee of genocidal wars. For us, it is the era of the Overseas Filipino Worker, of Flor Contemplacion, and the contrived scourge of the "Abu Sayyaf." Individual or personal cases of Filipino exile have metamorphosed into the generalized plight of economic refugees or of political asylum (like Benigno Aquino Jr. in the period of the Marcos dictatorship), émigrés, expatriates, and into some kind of diaspora sponsored by the World Bank/International Monetary Fund-of course, a diaspora with Filipino specific characteristics, not to be confused with the prototypical Jewish diaspora, or subsequent replicas (Chinese, Indian, African).

Despite local differences and multiple languages, the submerged rallying cry of all Filipinos abroad, of all Filipinos overseas, is: "Tomorrow, see you in Manila!"

Exile has now assumed multiple masks. Victim of Zionism and Western imperialism, the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said describes exile as "the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted" (Reflections in Exile and Other Essays, 2000). He is echoing the great Dante's elegy of the exile in Divina Commedia: "You will leave everything loved most dearly; and this is the arrow that the bow of exile shoots first...." Bewailing the predicament of millions of Palestinians, and by extension, millions of refugees all over the world (now including Filipinos), Said attests to the pathos of exile in "the loss of contact with the solidity and the satisfaction of earth." This pathos of alienation does not, I think, befit the examples offered by Rizal, Mabini, or sacrificed representatives of the Filipino nation/people-in-the-making. Nonetheless, my "untimely" intervention in the book From Exile to Diaspora (Westview Press, 1998) can be considered an attempt to recover the solidity of Filipino "earth" via the route of the Filipino proverb cited as epigraph and its allusion to the nascent reality of beleaguered but liberated zones in the homeland (homecoming is thus always a permanent possibility wherever and whenever we commit ourselves to the principles of social justice and communal-democratic sovereignty) which are the places of hope and eventual reunion. Despite local differences and multiple languages, the submerged rallying cry of all Filipinos abroad, of all Filipinos overseas, is: "Tomorrow, see you in Manila!"

* * * * * * * *

It has been almost 40 years now, to this longest day, 21 June 1996, of my sojourn here in the United States ever since we left Manila. The time of departure can no longer be read in the number of passports discarded, visas stamped over and over again. A palimpsest to be deciphered, to be sure. But you can always foretell and anticipate certain things. For example, when someone meets you for the first time, this Caucasian—in general, Western—stranger would irresistibly and perhaps innocently (a reflex of common-sensical wisdom) always ask: "And where are you from?" Alas, from the red planet Mars, from the volcanic terra of the as yet undiscovered satellite of Andromeda, from the alleys of Tondo and the labyrinths of Avenida Rizal....

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman delineates the possible life-strategies that denizens of the postmodern era can choose: stroller, vagabond, tourist, player. In a world inhospitable to pilgrims, I opt for the now obsolete persona of the exile disguised as itinerant and peripatetic student without credentials or references, sojourning in places where new experiences may occur. No destination nor destiny, only a succession of detours and displacements.

Home is neither on the range nor valley nor distant shores-it is no longer a "place" but rather a site or locus to which you can return no more...

Apropos of the sojourner, Cesar Vallejo writes during his exile in Paris, 12 November 1937: Acaba de pasar sin haber venido. ["He just passed without having come."] A cryptic and gnomic utterance. One can interpret this thus: for the sake of a sustained bliss of journeying, the "passenger" (the heroine of the passage) forfeits the grace or climax of homecoming. But where is home? Home is neither on the range nor valley nor distant shores-it is no longer a "place" but rather a site or locus to which you can return no more, as Thomas Wolfe once elegized. We have not yet reached this stage, the desperate act of switching identities (as in Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger, where the protagonist's itinerary ends in the ad hoc, repetitious, inconsequential passage into anonymous death) so as to claim the spurious originality of an "I," the monadic ego, a.k.a. the foundation of all Western metaphysics. Our post-deconstructionist malaise forbids this detour, this escape. Antonioni's existential "stranger" forswears the loved one's offer of trust, finding danger even boring and trivial. After all, you are only the creature—not yet a cyborg—shunted from one terminus to another, bracketed by an a-methodical doubt and aleatory suspicion.

So here we are, "here" being merely a trope, a figure without referent or denotation. To such a denouement has Western consumerized technological society come, trivializing even Third World revolutions and violence as cinematic fare.

Beyond Rangoon is the latest of such commodities in the high-cultural supermarket of the Western metropolis. The setting is no longer Burma but Myanmar. The names don't matter; what is needed is some exotic location on which to transplant a white American woman's psyche suffering a horrendous trauma: discovering the murdered bodies of her husband and son upon coming home from work. Desperate to put this horror behind her, she and her sister then join a tour to Myanmar. Soon she gets involved in the popular resistance against a ruthless military dictatorship. So what happens? Carnage, melodramatic escapades, incredible violence and slaughter, until our heroine begins to empathize with the unruly folk and arguably finds her identity by rediscovering her vocation; as physician, at the end of the film, without much ado she begins to attend to the victims without thought of her own safety or pleasure. She is reconciled with the past, finding substitutes for the dead in "Third World" mutilated bodies. And so white humanity redeems itself again in the person of this caring, brave, daring woman whose "rite of passage" is the thematic burden of the film. It is a passage from death to life, not exactly a trans-migration from scenes of bloodletting to moments of peace and harmony; nonetheless, strange "Third World" peoples remain transfixed in the background, waiting for rescue and redemption. So for the other part of humanity, there is no movement but simply a varying of intensity of suffering, punctuated by resigned smiles or bitter tears.

Lost in the desert
or in some wilderness, are we looking for a city of which we are unacknowledged citizens?

So the "beyond" is staged here as the realization of hope for the West. But what is in it for us who are inhabiting (to use a cliche) the "belly of the beast"? But let us go back to Vallejo, or to wherever his imagination has been translocated. Come to think of it, even the translation of Vallejo's line is an escape: there is no pronoun there. Precisely the absence of the phallus (if we follow our Lacanian guides) guarantees its infinite circulation as the wandering, nomadic signifier. Unsettled, travelling, the intractable vagrant....

Lost in the desert or in some wilderness, are we looking for a city of which we are unacknowledged citizens? Which city, Babylon or Jerusalem? St. Augustine reminds us: "Because of our desire we are already there, we have already cast our hope like an anchor on these shores...." By the logic of desire, the separation of our souls from our bodies is finally healed by identification with a figure like Christ who, in Pauline theology, symbolizes the transit to liberation from within the concrete, suffering body. What is foreign or alien becomes transubstantiated into a world-encompassing Ecclesia, a new polis in which we, you and I, find ourselves embedded.

* * * * * * * *

Stranger no more, I am recognized by others whom I have yet to identify and know. Instead of Albert Camus' L'Etranger (which in my youth served as a fetish for our bohemian revolt against the provincial Cold War milieu of the Manila of the '50s), Georg Simmel's "The Stranger" has become of late the focus of my meditation. It is an enigmatic text whose profound implications cannot really be spelled out in words, only in lived experiences, in praxis.

But where is the space
of staying, or maybe
of malingering? Simmel's notion of space tries to
bridge potentiality and
actuality: "...although he
has not moved on, he
has not quite overcome
the freedom of coming
and going.

Simmel conceives "the stranger" as the unity of two opposites: mutating between "the liberation from every given point in space" and "the conceptual opposite to fixation at such a point," hence the wanderer defined as "the person who comes today and stays tomorrow." Note that the staying is indefinite, almost a promise, not a certainty. But where is the space of staying, or maybe of malingering? Simmel's notion of space tries to bridge potentiality and actuality: "...although he has not moved on, he has not quite overcome the freedom of coming and going. He is fixed within a particular spatial group, or within a group whose boundaries are similar to spatial boundaries." The wanderer is an outsider, not originally belonging to this group, importing something into it. Simmel's dialectic of inside/outside spheres is tricky here; it may be an instance of wanting to have one's cake and also eat it:

The unity of nearness and remoteness involved in every human relation is organized, in the phenomenon of the stranger, in a way which may be most briefly formulated by saying that in the relationship to him, distance means that he, who is close by, is far, and strangeness means that he, who also is far, is actually near. For, to be a stranger is naturally a very positive relation; it is a specific form of interaction. The inhabitants of Sirius are not really strangers to us, at least not in any sociologically relevant sense: they do not exist for us at all; they are beyond far and near. The stranger, like the poor and like sundry "inner enemies," is an element of the group itself. His position as a full-fledged member involves both being outside it and confronting it.
The Stranger : The Sociology of George Simmel (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1950; the essay was first published in 1908)

And so, following this line of speculation, the query "Where are you from?" is in effect a token of intimacy. For the element which increases distance and repels, according to Simmel, is the one that establishes the pattern of coordination and consistent interaction that is the foundation of coherent sociality. Neither paradox nor aporia, this theme needs pursuing up to its logical or illogical end.

Between the essentialist mystique of the Volk/nation and the libertarian utopia of laissez-faire capitalism, the "stranger" subsists as a catalyzing agent of change. In other words, the subversive function of the stranger inheres in his being a mediator of two or more worlds. Is this the hybrid and in-between diasporic character of postcoloniality? Is this the indeterminate species bridging multiple worlds? Or is it more like the morbid specimens of the twilight world that Antonio Gramsci, languishing in prison, once alluded to, creatures caught between the ancien regime slowly dying and a social order that has not yet fully emerged from the womb of the old?

Otherwise, legitimacy is always based on force underwritten by custom, tradition, the inertia of what's familiar. So strangeness is subversive when it challenges the familiar and normal, the hegemony of sameness.

We are brought back to the milieu of transition, of vicissitudes, suspended in the proverbial conundrum of the tortoise overtaking the hare in Zeno's paradox. This may be the site where space is transcended by time. The stranger's emblematic message may be what one black musician has already captured in this memorable manifesto by Paul Gilroy: "It aint where you're from, it's where you're at."

Historically, the stranger in Simmel's discourse emerged first as the trader. When a society needs products from outside its borders, a middleman is then summoned who will mediate the exchange. (If a god is needed, as the old adage goes, there will always be someone to invent him.) But what happens when those products coming from outside its territory begin to be produced inside, when a middleman role is no longer required, i.e. when the economy is closed, land divided up, and handicrafts formed to insure some kind of autarky? Then the stranger, who is the supernumerary (Simmel cites European Jews as the classic example), becomes the settler whose protean talent or sensibility distinguishes him. This sensibility springs from the habitus (to use Pierre Bourdieu's term) of trading "which alone makes possible unlimited combinations," where "intelligence always finds expansions and new territories," because the trader is not fixed or tied to a particular location; he doesn't own land or soil or any ideal point in the social environment. Whence originates his mystery? From the medium of money, the instrument of exchange:

Restriction to intermediary trade, and often (as though sublimated from it) to pure finance, gives him the specific character of mobility. If mobility takes place within a closed group, it embodies that synthesis of nearness and distance which constitutes the formal position of the stranger. For the fundamentally mobile person comes in contact, at one time or another, with every individual, but is not organically connected, through established ties of kinship, locality, and occupation, with any single one.

From this paradoxical site of intimacy and detachment, estrangement and communion, is born the quality of "objectivity" which allows the fashioning of superior knowledge. This does not imply passivity alone, Simmel argues: "it is a particular structure composed of distance and nearness, indifference and involvement." For instance, the dominant position of the stranger is exemplified in the practice of those Italian cities that chose judges from outside the city because "no native was free from entanglement in family and party interests." Can the court system in the Philippines ever contemplate this practice, courts which are literally family sinecures, nests of clan patronage and patriarchal gratuities? Only, I suppose, when there is a threat of interminable feuds, a cycle of vindictive retribution. Otherwise, legitimacy is always based on force underwritten by custom, tradition, the inertia of what's familiar. So strangeness is subversive when it challenges the familiar and normal, the hegemony of sameness.

On the other hand, it may also be conservative. The stranger then, like Prince Myshkin in Dostoevsky's The Idiot, becomes the occasion for a public display of intimacies. He becomes the hieratic vessel or receiver of confessions performed in public, of confidential information, secrets, rumors, etc. He is the bearer of guilt and purgation, the stigmata of communal responsibility and its catharsis. His objectivity is then a full-blown participation which, obeying its own laws, thus eliminates-Simmel theorizes-"accidental dislocations and emphases, whose individual and subjective differences would produce different pictures of the same object." From this standpoint, the Prince is a stranger not because he is not Russian but because he "idiotically" or naively bares whatever he thinks—he says it like it is. Which doesn't mean he doesn't hesitate or entertain reservations, judgments, etc. Dostoevsky invents his escape hatch in the Prince's epileptic seizures which become symptomatic of the whole society's disintegrated totality.

* * * * * * * *

The humanity which connects stranger and host is precisely the one that separates, the element that cannot be invoked to unify the stranger with the group of which he is an integral part.

We begin to become more acquainted with this stranger as the spiritual ideal embedded in contingent reality. Part of the stranger's objectivity is his freedom: "the objective individual is bound by no commitments which could prejudice his perception, understanding, and evaluation of the given." Is this possible: a person without commitments, open to every passing opportunity? Baruch Spinoza, G. E. Moore, Mikhail Bakhtin are not wanted here. Ethics be damned.

At this juncture I think Simmel is conjuring up the image of the value-free sociologist who has completely deceived himself even of the historical inscription of his discipline, finally succumbing to the wish-fulfillment of becoming the all-knowing scientist of historical laws and social processes. Simmel is quick to exonerate the stranger, the middleman-trader, from charges of being a fifth columnist, an instigator or provocateur paid by outsiders. On the other hand, Simmel insists that the stranger "is freer, practically and theoretically; he surveys conditions with less prejudice; his criteria for them are more general and more objective ideals; he is not tied down in his action by habit, piety, and precedent." The stranger has become some kind of omniscient deity, someone like the god of Flaubert and Joyce paring his fingernails behind the clouds while humanity agonizes down below.

Finally, Simmel points out the abstract nature of the relation of others to the stranger. This is because "one has only certain more general qualities in common," not organic ties that are empirically specific to inhabitants sharing a common historical past, culture, kinship, etc. The humanity which connects stranger and host is precisely the one that separates, the element that cannot be invoked to unify the stranger with the group of which he is an integral part. So nearness and distance coalesce again: "to the extent to which the common features are general, they add, to the warmth of the relation founded on them, an element of coolness, a feeling of the contingency of precisely this relation—the connecting forces have lost their specific and centripetal character."

One may interpose at this point: Why is Simmel formulating the predicament of the stranger as a paradox that too rapidly resolves the contradictions inherent in it? The dialectic is short-circuited, the tension evaporated, by this poetic reflection: "The stranger is close to us, insofar as we feel between him and ourselves common features of a national, social, occupational, or generally human, nature. He is far from us, insofar as these common features extend beyond him or us, and connect us only because they cannot connect a great many people." What generalizes, estranges; what binds us together, individualizes each one. A symmetrical truism, or another liberal platitude?

Every intimate relationship then harbors the seeds of its own disintegration. The aborigine and the settler are fused in their contradictions and interdependencies.

We witness an immanent dialectical configuration shaping up here. Every intimate relationship then harbors the seeds of its own disintegration. The aborigine and the settler are fused in their contradictions and interdependencies. For what is common to two, Simmel continues to insist, "is never common to them alone but is subsumed under a general idea which includes much else besides, many possibilities of commonness." This, I think, applies to any erotic relationship which, in the beginning, compels the lovers to make their relationship unique, unrepeatable, even idiosyncratic. Then estrangement ensues; the feeling of uniqueness is replaced by skepticism and indifference, by the thought that the lovers are only instances of a general human destiny. In short, the lovers graduate into philosophers reflecting on themselves as only one of the infinite series of lovers in all of history. These possibilities act like a corrosive agent that destroys nearness, intimacy, communal togetherness:

No matter how little these possibilities become real and how often we forget them, here and there, nevertheless, they thrust themselves between us like shadows, like a mist which escapes every word noted, but which must coagulate into a solid bodily form before it can be called jealousy.... similarity, harmony, and nearness are accompanied by the feeling that they are not really the unique property of this particular relationship. They are something more general, something which potentially prevails between the partners and an indeterminate number of others, and therefore gives the relation, which alone was realized, no inner and exclusive necessity.

...that cultural pluralism is merely the mask
of a "common culture"
of market individualism,
of class war inflected
into the routine
of racial politics.

Perhaps in Gunnar Myrdal's "America," where a universalistic creed, once apostrophized by that wandering French philosophe De Tocqueville, prevails, this privileging of the general and the common obtains. But this "perhaps" dissolves because we see, in the history of the last five decades, that cultural pluralism is merely the mask of a "common culture" of market individualism, of class war inflected into the routine of racial politics. Witness the victims of the civil rights struggles, the assassination of Black Panther Party members, violence inflicted on Vincent Chin and other Asians, and so on.

As antidote to the mystification of hybridity and in-betweeness, we need therefore to historicize, to come down to the ground of economic and political reality. What collectivities of power/knowledge are intersecting and colliding? In a political economy where racial differentiation is the fundamental principle of accumulation, where profit and the private extraction of surplus value is the generalizing principle, it is difficult to accept Simmel's concept of strangeness as premised on an initial condition of intimacy and mutual reciprocity in a mythical level playing field. Simmel is caught in a bind. He says that the Greek attitude to the barbarians illustrates a mind-frame that denies to the Other attributes which are specifically human. But in that case the barbarians are not strangers; the relation to them is a non-relation. Whereas the stranger is "a member of the group," not an outsider. Simmel arrives at this concluding insight:

As a group member, the stranger is near and far at the same time as is characteristic of relations founded only on general human commonness. But between nearness and distance, there arises a specific tension when the consciousness that only the quite general is common stresses that which is not common. [Here is the kernel of Simmel's thesis.] In the case of the person who is a stranger to the country, the city, the race, etc., however, this non-common element is once more nothing individual, but merely the strangeness of origin, which is or could be common to many strangers. For this reason, strangers are not really conceived as individuals, but as strangers of a particular type: the element of distance is no less general in regard to them than the element of nearness.

The "impure blood"
of this "Marrano
of Reason" affords us
a created world
of secular reason that,
if we so choose, can
become a permanent
home for the diasporic
intellect.

Examples might illuminate these refined distinctions. Simmel cites the case of categorization of the Jew in medieval times which remained permanent, despite the changes in the laws of taxation: the Jew was always taxed as a Jew, his ethnic identity fixed his social position, whereas the Christian was "the bearer of certain objective contents" which changed in accordance with the fluctuation of his fortune (ownership of property, wealth). If this invariant element disappeared, then all strangers by virtue of being strangers would pay "an equal headtax." In spite of this, the stranger is "an organic member of the group which dictates the conditions of his existence"-except that this membership is precisely different in that, while it shares some similarities with all human relationships, a special proportion and reciprocal tension produce the particular, formal relation to the "stranger."

An alternative to Simmel's hypothesis is the historical case of Baruch Spinoza, the archetypal exile. A child of the Marrano community of Jews in Amsterdam, Holland, who were driven from Portugal and Spain in the 14th and 15th centuries, Spinoza was eventually excommunicated and expelled by the elders of the community. Banned as a heretic, Spinoza became an "exile within an exile." It was, however, a felix culpa since that became the condition of possibility for the composition of the magnificent Ethics, a space of redemption in which deus/natura becomes accessible to ordinary mortals provided they can cultivate a special form of rationality called scientia intuitiva. The "impure blood" of this "Marrano of Reason" affords us a created world of secular reason that, if we so choose, can become a permanent home for the diasporic intellect. Unfortunately, except for a handful of recalcitrant spirits, Filipinos have not yet discovered Spinoza's Ethics. I suspect, however, that Rizal and the Propagandists, Isabelo de Los Reyes, Mabini, S.P. Lopez, and Angel Baking, were not unaware of its dissemination in the radical anarchist and socialist tradition of the Enlightenment.

© E. San Juan, Jr.

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