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2005 Global Filipino Literary Award for Non-Fiction

Excerpted from Chapter I [“Epiphany”] of
“A Country of Our Own”


BISAYA BOOKS, L.A., copyright 2004

[T]here is the odd and persistent fact that it is only after a faithful journey to a distant region, a foreign country, a strange land, that the meaning of the inner voice that is to guide our quest can be revealed to us.

— Heinrich Zimmer

For his part, judging
from his countenance, he must have thought—given that
the Philippines is overwhelmingly Christian—that I was
the self-appointed spokesman for the tyrannical majority.

In November 1972, on a slow and fragile barter boat to Sabah from the sleepy seaside town of Bongao in the southernmost Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi, I asked a new-found friend and benefactor if he was Filipino. “No,” he said. “I’m Tausúg.” But of course Madyasin Alpha was mistaken—dreadfully mistaken.

During the 330-odd years that our country was colonized by Spain the Tausúg, Maranao, Maguindanao, and their ten other brethren tribes in southern Philippines—unlike most of the rest of our forbears—never surrendered their Muslim faith. Never truly conquered and never converted, they have every reason to be proud of their heritage, which includes resisting the Americans, who governed the archipelago for close to half a century until 1946, when we achieved self-rule. Neither did they bow completely to the decolonized, independent Republic that followed. Still—whether they liked it or not—they were Filipinos. They were citizens of the Philippines.

My question was rhetorical and my interest intellectual, but what began as an innocuous conversation soon became an intensely emotional exchange, especially when my friend ardently advocated his region’s secession from the Philippines, predicting the ugly rebellion that over the years was to drive 100,000 to Malaysia, create a million internal refugees, and claim as many as 120,000 lives. At the end of our dialogue, which left me frustrated and fatigued, there was no question in my mind that his views were unacceptably separatist. For his part, judging from his countenance, he must have thought—given that the Philippines is overwhelmingly Christian—that I was the self-appointed spokesman for the tyrannical majority.

Later that night, when we reached the port of Semporna, I suddenly realized the utter foolhardiness of what I had done. I had—unintentionally, to be sure—inflamed the passions of the man into whose hands I had entrusted my safety, the very man who, as I shuddered in the midnight air, had just made good on his promise to help me flee the fledgling Marcos dictatorship, installed six weeks earlier. I shuddered at the thought that he and his brawny men, without batting an eyelash, could have thrown me to the sharks—not an entirely uncommon fate at that particular time for Christians in these parts. But the suspicion was both momentary and unkind: that would have been uncharacteristic of him. From the moment I met Madyasin on the boat I had taken from Zamboanga to Jolo days earlier, he struck me as an extraordinarily learned, articulate, and principled man, which explains why I solicited his assistance in the first place. He had earned my trust, and I knew at once, awash in private shame, that it was cruel for me to have doubted it.

...I could not comprehend how my Tausúg benefactor—
this unusually perceptive man—could hold
so fervently to a sense
of detachment and separateness as
to believe in the break-up of the Republic,
a country that had just begun to come together...

The lesson was bitter-sweet. When he first gave me his word, he knew full well—because I had forewarned him—that I was a fugitive, having been among the first in my province of Negros Oriental to be arrested and detained the day democracy died. Now I knew that his oath was true. He had delivered on his pledge to take me to safety at great personal risk. But it was distressing to realize that he had chosen to help me solely because his arch-enemy—the new political order—was mine as well. Beyond that, or so it seemed to me, we shared no common bond. Nothing, that is, except that we belonged to the same Republic, the same nation, one and indivisible. We parted well, wishing each other long and worthwhile lives, but whether he liked it or not, he was a countryman of mine. Misguided, perhaps, but a countryman nevertheless, and that was the end of the story. But it wasn’t, at least for me.

My Muslim friend’s words and attitude were to haunt me, if only because of the untold numbers for whom he may have been a voice. For years to come, I could not bring myself to understand why he refused to call himself a Filipino. Most of the Muslims I came to know in college did prefer to be called “Muslim,” but only when—in context—“Filipino” meant “Christian.” I took this to mean that they didn’t mind being called, or calling themselves, “Muslim Filipinos,” much as in the U.S. our expatriate community is comprised of Filipino Americans.

But my disquiet transcended the question of labels. For one thing, I deemed his views incongruous, uttered as they were at the precise time when participatory democracy had finally begun to find full flower in the Philippines—one of the reasons, I was convinced, that Marcos imposed martial law. Never before had the people and the youth of the land thought, felt, and acted as one. Never before had the clamor for change and reform been louder. But to Marcos, nearing the end of two four-year presidential terms and finding himself at odds with the very elite that had helped empower him, change was the last thing on his mind. For another, I could not comprehend how my Tausúg benefactor—this unusually perceptive man—could hold so fervently to a sense of detachment and separateness as to believe in the break-up of the Republic, a country that had just begun to come together, a society that was certain to survive this long, dark night. I would not have chosen to resist the new order had I not blindly believed that tyrants come and go, but societies endure, that the Filipino people would not merely outlast authoritarianism, but emerge from this ordeal stronger. I understood that Madyasin and I had marked cultural and religious differences. I respected that, and so did he. I felt nothing but undiluted esteem for the tenacity with which Muslims had defended their territory, cultures, and faith, and he knew that as well. What I could not make sense of was either a naïve inability or an insolent unwillingness to transcend those differences in favor of our common national identity, our common destiny. But it wasn’t going to be that easy for me, because I knew in my heart that Madyasin was neither naïve nor insolent. All I was absolutely certain of was detecting a certain self-assuredness—nothing like pompous pride, nothing false or fraudulent, but rather an innocent confidence, an almost childlike conceit—each time he called himself a Tausúg, telling me each time, between his words, that he knew who he was and what he believed in, and that he didn’t give a damn whether I, or the world for that matter, agreed with him or not.

But the deeper I dug into our society, the more I learned about what the concept of nation truly meant, the closer I worked with fellow Filipinos—the more the memory of Madyasin Alpha and John Whitefeather tormented me.

Two years later, in an entirely different world, in another hemisphere, my dialogue with Madyasin was uncannily replicated. I was with a good friend of mine, Ali Laspiñas, when we ran into an acquaintance of his in Chicago, Illinois. The dialogue went this way:

“David, I’d like you to meet John Whitefeather,” Ali said. “John—David.”

“Pleased to meet you, John,” I said.

“Same here, cousin,” he replied, shaking my hand vigorously. “You know that my forefathers came from Asia.”

“Yes,” I said. “This is a moment I’ll always remember.”

“And why is that?”

“You’re the first Indian I’ve actually met. Before today, you know—comic books and the movies.”

“No, you haven’t met an Indian,” he said. “You want to meet one? Go to India.”

I didn’t know what to say. He didn’t appear offended, and Ali said nothing, looking as dumb-struck as I must have. All I could do was feel stiff and awkward, as though frozen by the Windy City’s incessant breeze. Happily, John resumed speaking.

“Nothing personal,” he said, “but I’m Navajo—Dine,’ to be exact. We already had a name before Columbus came to our land. We didn’t need a name then—we already had one. We still do.”

Déjà vu. I could feel electricity running up and down my spine, the hair on the nape of my neck upright, like sentinels alerted by sudden enemy fire. I was on a kumpit once again, addressed once more by a man so dead certain of his sense of self, not knowing whether to respond with indifference or resentment, feigned or real. It took me awkward moments before I recognized what I truly felt: naked admiration. If I harbored any hopes of ultimately relegating my Tausúg friend’s words and demeanor to the outer fringes of my memory, my new Navajo acquaintance dashed them. Now I had to contend with two ghosts.

Beginning in mid-1974, when the UNHCR resettled my family, I spent my life as a refugee in America opposing the Marcos regime until its ultimate collapse in 1986. Since the first task of politics is acquiring adherents, I was naturally driven—especially while I edited a Los Angeles-based Filipino American newspaper from 1980 to 1983—to prefer the commonalities that united, rather than the differences that divided, our expatriate community. But the deeper I dug into our society, the more I learned about what the concept of nation truly meant, the closer I worked with fellow Filipinos—the more the memory of Madyasin Alpha and John Whitefeather tormented me.

There was little outrage, except among the Muslims themselves, over the massacre on Corregidor. Was it because, if subliminally, we did not deem the Muslim a Filipino? Was it true that we did not consider our southern cousin “one of us”?

The root of my anguish? I did not possess their deep and abiding sense of self, their fidelity to their cultural roots. They knew to whom their primal loyalties belonged; for all my bluster, I did not. They knew exactly who they were; for all my learning, I did not. Madyasin’s kumpit, the Indah Poon, left Bongao at the hour and on the day it did because he and his father had consulted a map drawn on cloth, not on parchment or paper, and read the evening stars for hours on end. No Tausúg set sail, I learned, unless the heavens said it was propitious. Superstition? The distilled wisdom of centuries? Who knows? But it helped to shape them, to tell themselves who they were and to tell me who they were not. Over lunch, John spoke of how his people came to be, through four differently-colored worlds, a tale as old, he said, as the memory of his Navajo nation. Sheer mythology? Apparently not to this native. It helped define him.

Hindsight—that invariably infallible if perpetually belated teacher—was to tell me much later on that these two men, total strangers to one another, had conspired to work together. Not to lead me to the truth, much less to reveal it to me, gift-wrapped in the elegant attire of axioms and adages. In the end, it wasn’t what they said; it was who they were. They were the truth I was looking for, the truth I failed to immediately recognize, or more likely preferred to subliminally reject and deny, until its proof—which I found in the heart of our immigrant community in southern California—stared me in the face.

. . . . .

My belated awakening in America, I must confess, ought to have happened much earlier—in our own country. In March 1968, while I was a sophomore in Silliman U’s law school, between 28 and 64 Muslim recruits undergoing covert paramilitary training in Corregidor, the fortress-island at the entrance of Manila Bay that gained fame during World War II, were massacred in cold blood by their own mentors—the Philippine Army.

Three days after the stunning news broke, an American professor in Silliman asked two of the university’s more notorious activists to confer with him at his faculty cottage. They were Koronado Apuzen, a classmate of mine from Davao province in southern Mindanao who would later become chairman of the Kabataang Makabayan in my province, and myself. The professor, not one to mince words, said, “Damn it—where’s the outrage?” Koronado responded by saying that we had just come from a huge demonstration at the public park, but that was a lame excuse; he and I knew that we were protesting the trampling of the Philippine flag by Malaysian students in Kuala Lumpur. A photograph of this “sacrilege,” as one paper put it, was splashed on the front page of every single Philippine daily the day before, and had enraged the entire country, the youth most of all. But Peter Gowing was right. There was little outrage, except among the Muslims themselves, over the massacre on Corregidor. Was it because, if subliminally, we did not deem the Muslim a Filipino? Was it true that we did not consider our southern cousin “one of us”?

During the entirety of my American exile, a period exceeding 25 years, I have seen Filipinos in America display a semblance of unity only twice: when we decried the brazen murder of Benigno Aquino, Jr. in 1983, and when we celebrated the collapse of the Marcos regime in 1986. Yet even these rare manifestations are inherently suspect: the whole world lamented Ninoy’s assassination, as they did John F. Kennedy’s; all of humanity cheered People Power’s success, as they did the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Anything less than these earth-shaking events provoked little notice, let alone action, from our expatriate community, such as when radio talk show host Howard Stern accused Filipinos of “eating their own children,” or when the actor-entertainer Joan Rivers quipped on national television that we’re nothing more than “a nation of dog-eaters.” Telephones rang and letters to the editor were written and published—but that was it. I saw nothing—no one saw anything—that approached what many expected to see: a decent level of public outrage. Dr. Gowing must have been painfully amused.

. . . . .

This ardor to tribe and attachment to region—which has no visible “national” equivalent—became unmistakably apparent whenever a major calamity occurred back home.

However academicians and their disciplines explain it, persistent and unbridgeable divisions make “Filipino American community” a contradiction in terms. There are, to be sure, Filipino Americans. But we are not a community. And neither are we “Filipinos.”

In the end, I could not escape the inescapable. There was nothing provisional, nothing tentative, nothing empirical about the conclusions I could not help but draw. God knows I didn’t want to. Until then I had worn my nationalism as a banner on my lance, the badge on my breast, the coat of arms on my shield. I had fought in the “first quarter-storm” in the homeland, been imprisoned for my political convictions, and had become a dissident-refugee. I had asked my wife and children to endure—for much too long, they said—what I chose to call our “creative poverty” phase, during which I devoted all the time I could spare and all the talent I could muster to contribute to the struggle to restore democracy in the homeland. I could not bury my father, nor my wife hers, while we were in exile. No—I did not want to forsake the dream that we could still become a nation. I felt like a man of the cloth about to leave the priesthood, an heir on the verge of offending his patriarch, a soldier on the brink of desertion. But no one can wrestle with the truth and prevail. There was no denying what I experienced, what I lived with, what I saw.

I saw that Filipinos in southern California identify with family, linguistic community, and region. I saw that the few Muslims from the Philippines who emigrated here were the first and often the only ones to decry what they perceived to be crimes committed against their brethren in the homeland, that Igorots were the first and often the only ones to support autonomy for the Cordilleras and to denounce the oppression of their peoples. This ardor to tribe and attachment to region—which has no visible “national” equivalent—became unmistakably apparent whenever a major calamity occurred back home.

Preferring “kith and kin” to the State—in our particular case preferring our regions to the entire archipelago—is a natural, universal phenomenon, but our syndrome transcends this principle: stripped of all pretense, any loyalty we profess for our country ends where our loyalty to blood, tongue, and territory begin. We are loyal to our regions to the exclusion of country.

Judging from our uniform, common conduct—not from any individual’s particular claims—family, linguistic community, and region constitute both the essence and the totality of our cultural constellations. Beyond the ambit of these three orbs, we possess no demonstrable devotion. Our barong Tagalogs and ternos at formal affairs may distinguish us as Filipinos to the outside world, but that fictive identity is as flimsy as the fabric of our costumes. Behind that mask we are, at heart—to name a few—Cebuanos who identify with the Visayas, Ilocanos who identify with Luzon, Ifugaos who identify with Cordillera, Joloanos who identify with Bangsamoro, and Davaoweños who identify with Mindanao. These are our primal, exclusive affinities.

Our true identities are not to be found in our citizenship, which is allegiance to a state; they lie in our nationality, which is fealty to bloodline, language, and heritage. Within each of our five distinct regions our households are our nuclear family; the members of our linguistic community our extended family; and neighboring cultures—being our distant cousins—our clan. Beyond this cultural solar system of family, kin, and clan, no other planets orbit. We are, each and all, unabashedly “tribal,” a pejorative word for “nationalistic.” Contrary to popular perception, each of us possesses a deep and abiding sense of nationalism, but it is of the cultural variety—that intuitive sense of belonging and authentic awareness of duty that we reserve for family, tribe and region, a sense that many have lost and many more are in dire danger of losing in favor of its ravenous counterpart, political nationalism, that fictive fealty demanded—in our particular case—by a failed and fabricated country founded on the pretense that we share the same “heritage.”

What’s wrong with heritage? Nothing, except that in the hands of a politically dominant, homogenizing conspiracy—in our case consisting of the government, “nationalist historians,” and much of our intelligentsia—it becomes, in Regina Bendix’s words, “a strange, neutralizing word” that has “the power to disempower, to hide history . . . by putting everything into a collective pot of ‘culture’ and ‘past’ . . .”

How come—in this social, economic, and political climate—we remain irremediably fragmented along “ethnic” and regional lines? What explains our apparently congenital inability to achieve the barest minimum of cultural cohesion or political solidarity?

Faustino Reyes, a manong I had the distinct privilege of knowing in Stockton, California, a simple, self-made, and honest man, summed it up for me. “What did that country ever do for me, anyway?” he asked. Then, answering his own question, he said, “It drove me away to this lonely land. All I ever wanted to do, when I was young, was to work, but even that the Philippines couldn’t give me.” Like my Tausúg friend, he never called himself a Filipino. “I was born an Ilocano,” he loved to say. “Bury me as one.” All his life in America, he sent his savings to his brothers and sisters, his nephews and nieces, in the homeland. He had no siblings, spouse, or children here, but did not live, or die, alone. He was Ilocano. He had lifelong friends from his region here, many of whom only had each other in this “lonely land.” But that was all that Manong Tino needed. He had a nation, and that sufficed.

This discovery led me to another, more profound, more elemental truth, a verity as elegant as it was painful: the cleavages that divide us abroad divide us in the homeland as well.

The conventional wisdom, we will recall, is that Filipinos in the homeland are unable to unite because we remain a developing nation, a country in adversity. Roy’s thesis asserts that if Filipinos in the homeland can achieve peace, progress, and prosperity, then nothing will stand in the way of our becoming a united people, a true nation. It’s straightforward. It’s the popular view. But it’s also wrong. Dead wrong.

There are currently two million Filipino-Americans in the United States, two million who undoubtedly enjoy “peace, progress, and prosperity.” We live in a country characterized by a vibrant democracy, a stable economy, employment opportunity, guaranteed civil liberties, reliable law enforcement agencies, enviable social services and health delivery systems, a largely tolerant society, a disciplined and powerful military, a vigilant and responsible press, peace and order, and the opportunity to provide our children with quality education and a secure future. No, it isn’t Utopia. Far from it. Daunting problems continue to plague society, among them drug use, violent crime, teenage pregnancy, abortion, runaways, racial inequality, hedonism, and alienation. Overall, however, we have everything, or close to everything, that our countrymen in the Philippines can only pray for and dream of.

The question thus begs itself: How come—in this social, economic, and political climate—we remain irremediably fragmented along “ethnic” and regional lines? What explains our apparently congenital inability to achieve the barest minimum of cultural cohesion or political solidarity? Why do we continue—as Filipinos—to be deeply and destructively divided? Conversely, why are the virtues of unity, harmony, and fraternity intrinsic and innate when we come together as Cebuanos or Ilocanos or Tagalogs?

Paying homage to one’s roots is a good thing, but in our case the currency is counterfeit. No, that’s not quite right—it’s the so-called culture of the “Filipino” that’s counterfeit. A fictive people cannot possess an authentic culture.

The answer, like all essential truths, is plain: we cannot achieve in America what we are incapable of achieving in the Philippines. We are a likeness, like no other, of the Old Country. Can there be substantial differences between the loyalties and values of the Filipino in Manhattan and his counterpart in Manila? No more than there are between the Chinese in Singapore and Taiwan on the one hand and those in China on the other. If Koreans in America are culturally cohesive, it’s because their counterparts in Korea are. If Vietnamese Americans have a powerful sense of oneness, it’s because the same holds true in Vietnam. If we as Filipinos are distressingly divided in America, it can only be because Filipinos in the homeland are, as well. If we display an unavoidable propensity for cultural dysfunction here, it’s because Filipinos in the homeland are culturally dysfunctional, as well. If we are “clannish” and “regionalistic” abroad, it is because we are both of these in the Philippines. Our dreams are their dreams, our fears their fears. Our strengths reflect the strengths, our weaknesses the weaknesses, of the womb from which we came. We are the faithful mirror of the plural cultures of our homeland.

Clearly, then, the hope that the Philippines can attain “nationhood” with the advent, however unlikely, of “peace, progress, and prosperity,” is as cruel as it is false. Indeed, the opposite is true: it is nationhood that makes possible the attainment of a people’s dreams.

Filipinos abroad seldom decline opportunities to display our “distinctiveness.” Individually, we decorate our homes with “native” reminders of our homeland. Collectively, we share a common penchant for “socials” and “presentations.” Invariably, however, these habits and performances revolve purely around form. To the vast majority, Filipino “culture” is a deity to whom tribute is to be paid by hanging large, hand-carved wooden spoons and forks in their dining rooms, attaining fluency in Tagalog, and staging the nimble tinikling and the exotic singkil, oblivious or uncaring that the woodenware is Ifugao, Tagalog is the enforced language of a privileged minority, and that the tinikling and singkil are dances that belong, respectively, to the Waray-Waray and the Maranao. Paying homage to one’s roots is a good thing, but in our case the currency is counterfeit. No, that’s not quite right—it’s the so-called culture of the “Filipino” that’s counterfeit. A fictive people cannot possess an authentic culture.

No, our identities are not to be found in borrowed tongues, pilfered dances, or purloined costumes. Nor are they to be found in the passport we carry, the flag we wave, or the anthem we sing. Our true, persistent, and genuine identities are to be found, instead, in Ilocanos singing Pamulinawen, in Tagalogs swaying to the kundiman, in Cebuanos waltzing to the tune of Matud Nila, in Bontocs pounding on their war gongs. This is who we are, whatever our politicians and ideologues say. Lamenting its fallacy, a priest who shared my views told me that the Filipino “nation” was a dwelling built on sand. That was decades ago. I intend to tell him, should we meet again, what I think of it now: a castle made of sand.

When I finally saw the light, Madyasin Alpha’s and John Whitefeather’s ghosts suddenly ceased to haunt me. I was thankful for that, but will forever remain grateful to these two men. They prodded me to challenge my preconceptions, to wrestle with my doubts, to confront the question of my identity. They were the ones who made me a Cebuano: to retrace my people’s past, rekindle love for my language, and revive a rusted respect for my heroes and heritage. Two decades after stumbling upon these teachers, not only was I finally able to read their hearts—I saw that my own heart beat with theirs. To them I owe that which I never knew but always sought, or always sought but never found, or always owned but never knew—the tie that binds me to my people. Asked why he climbed Everest, Edmund Hillary said, “Because it is there.” Hidden behind the façade of the fabricated “Filipino” are our authentic nations. They seek us out because they are dying—abused by the State and abandoned by their children. We seek them out because they are there.

It seemed odd to me at first that my quest for these intensely personal, painfully elusive truths began in strange places: somewhere in the Sulu Sea, and on an avenue by Lake Michigan; and odder still that those whom God or fate would choose to guide me to the light were a Tausúg and a Navajo. But perhaps it’s not that strange at all.

Well over a century has passed since the incomparable patriot José Rizal proposed the creation of a national “Filipino” identity, which many have tried with all their hearts and minds—indeed, a valiant few with their lives—to achieve. Men and women of honor and courage, a few sung and most unsung, have fought and died for this cause, from the priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora to Rizal himself on Bagumbayan field; from the valiant men of the Katipunan to the heroes of Bataan and Corregidor, from the troops who fought in Korea and Vietnam to the patriots who resisted homegrown tyranny, many paying with their lives.

...if we are to avoid either of these tragedies, there exists no viable option for us other than to peacefully partition that failed, fabricated construct called the Philippines...

I will not desecrate the memory of this illustrious enterprise. I cannot—even if I wanted to—having once worn its uniform and soldiered under its flag. But however costly the sacrifice and memorable the legacy, we’ve failed—utterly, completely, and irreversibly. We are no closer to cultural or political solidarity now than we were in Rizal’s time. Indeed, we are farther away from becoming a nation today than we were a century ago. Not because we had neither the tools nor the time: we did, except that we embraced form over substance, artifice over essence, seeking unity not in diversity but in conformity. Not because the odds were great, but because a massive and sustained failure of leadership has rendered them insurmountable. Not because the object was ignoble, but because a damaged, counterfeit culture sustained by the religion of blame, which elevates victimhood and demonization to sacramental status, has rendered it unattainable. We are riven by chasms, not cleavages; by fractures, not fissures; by discord, not by mere differences. As Cebuanos and Tagalogs and Ilocanos and Maranaos, we are genuine. As Luzonians, Igorots, Visayans, Mindanaoans, and Muslims, we are authentic. These are our true selves: timeless and permanent. But as Filipinos we are a fallacy, our identity a delusion, our country a fabrication.

On July 23, 2001, the day before President Gloria Arroyo delivered her State of the Nation address, the erudite Amando Doronila wondered in his syndicated newspaper column why she was “delivering a speech on the state of the ‘nation.’ It seems to me more appropriate to assess the state of the Philippine State rather than the state of the nation. The Filipino nation today is less of a nation than it was at the time of its embryonic formation in the last years of Spanish colonization.”

The Philippines stands, as never before, on the edge of a precipice, below which lie but two fates: anarchy or authoritarianism. Buffeted from all sides, we seem destined for one abyss or the other—but only if we do nothing. The chapters that follow attempt to identify the fundamental reasons why, if we are to avoid either of these tragedies, there exists no viable option for us other than to peacefully partition that failed, fabricated construct called the Philippines into its five historically integrated, geographically rational, politically coherent, and economically viable regions: Luzon, Cordillera, the Visayas, Mindanao, and Bangsamoro, and allow them to become separate and sovereign states. I submit that after a period of intelligent debate, given a choice, our regions will overwhelmingly opt for political freedom. Further, I believe that—unjustly denied the exercise of that fundamental right—they will seek to attain self-rule by all means necessary, as our Muslim brethren have done since 1968.

Why partition? I suggest three answers in the course of this book, but none are more compelling than the fact that, for the last hundred years, we have all lived a lie.

We are not a nation, we’ve never been a nation, and—even if we were somehow, by some entirely undeserved miracle, to attain “peace, progress, and prosperity”—we are unlikely to become a nation within the next thousand years. We have ploughed the sea, and have reaped the wind.

© David C. Martinez

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Global Filipino Literary Award for Non-Fiction
Excerpted from Chapter I ("Epiphany") of "A Country of Our Own"
by David C. Martinez

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