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Neurotic History of the Philippines and the Filipinos

Let me begin by re-inventing a Jungian idea: “If, for a moment, we regard the nation as one individual, we see that it is like a person carried away by unconscious powers; and likes to keep certain problems tucked away in separate drawers.” There is of course an idea that rests within the heart of Philippine history-an idea so absurd that one may lead to believe that Jung was right when he said that “our world is, so to speak, dissociated like a neurotic”. And the idea is this: change is cruel, so one must reject change for whatever comes from change is just a corruption of the original; for change too has become a problem in Philippine history that one must “tuck it away” in a “separate drawer” in order for the people to see what they only want to see.

Philippine history is filled with myths that are, in a manner of speaking, a step shorter from delusions and hallucinations. As an example, I give two myths and a consequence of these myths. The first myth is that of a Filipino Civilization before the coming of the Spaniards-or to be more accurate, before the coming of Islam. The second myth is that of the True Filipinos who dwell within such a civilization. The combination of both produces the first narrative of the neurotic history of the Filipino people. It appears now that in the beginning there was a civilization and the civilization was good; the early Filipinos (therefore, True Filipinos) were good maritime navigators, already have a form of religion, were able to produce songs, create wares, build small huts, cultivate lands and started agriculture, establish a government system called barangay, establish trade with other Southeast Asian neighbours, etc. etc. It was when the Spaniards came (the second and already expurgated narrative of the neurotic history of the Filipino people) that this civilization was enslaved, exploited, oppressed, raped and ripped to pieces, and of course enslaved, exploited, oppressed, raped and ripped to pieces. (Just read any Philippine history book.)

Here is what it really looked liked-maritime navigation that failed to establish a local folklore on sea adventures (mostly because these maritime experts were pirates and raiders), a religion so primitively pagan and animistic, songs that were never written because writing culture was not yet mainstream, wares that were somewhere between basic and elaborate, small huts and an architectural design that never went beyond primitive, lands cultivated by sticks, rice terraces without the storage facilities in the style of Mohenjo Daro, agriculture so primitive it never went beyond the realm of their minute political consciousness, with politics as minute as a boat, and an ego-centric trade (history tells of neighbours coming to the Philippines and trading with the Filipinos, but never the other way around when they were supposedly expert maritime navigators). If this is what it means to be civilization, then I’m beginning to wonder what civilization really meant the first time it was used. After all, Philippine historians-much more like Philippine politicians-are fond of redefining terms to satisfy their needs. One must reconsider the term “civilization” when we talk about pre-colonial Philippines inasmuch as one must also reconsider the terms “literature” and “history” because of the lack of a writing culture. Besides, those True Filipinos of the pre-colonial period-irony of ironies!-do not have a bit of a concept of what it takes to be Filipino, what is a Filipino, and that Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are island groupings considered as a single political unit called the Philippines.

One may wonder if one can call the Celts in primeval Britain the True English (horrendous!), or the Ainus of ancient Japan as the True Japanese (unbelievable!), or the Goths of early Iberia as the True Spaniards and the True Portuguese (intoxicating!). This will lead us to the consequence of our neurotic history: the idea of ancestral domain, that is the presumption that those who settled on the land first are its original owners. Is it not true that the Celts settled the British plain far too long than the Philippine indigenous peoples have settled wherever-they-were before? I wonder if the Japanese government will surrender the Yamato plain to the Ainus and move the Japanese capital far to the frozen north. Will the European Union give to the Italians-descendants of the Romans-the ancestral domain which was once under the jurisdiction of the Roman Senate? Pure folly that can only come from the Filipinos.

The neurotic history of the Filipino people can be summarized in this manner:

(1) they had civilization;

(2) the Spaniards came and arrested further developments of that civilization;

(3) the Americans came and also contributed to the destruction of whatever remained from that civilization;

(4) such that until now they are confused of what and who they are because they have lost so much of their former innocence;

(5) that they emerged as, and still are, Limited Filipinos of the contemporary world.

The changes that have occurred in the past 443 years (even more) are to be considered as a corruption of their pre-1521 culture. They criticize themselves for being fakes and having colonial mentality, and praise their distant past for their innocence-for being “original” (whatever that means).

So, if we-in Jungian terms-translate the nation as an individual, what do we have on the Filipinos is this:

(1) an innocent child filled with so much curiosity and freedom that what matters with him was only playing and eating;

(2) the first wave of changes came when his parents started pressuring him over many things and he started thinking that life is not as simple as before;

(3) the second wave came through peer pressure as he entered into a confusing age of adolescence and really started to bicker that being a child is much more fun;

(4) he emerged as a confused adult despising himself for having been corrupted by all the changes that happened to his life;

(5) fear of the present made him long for his innocent past-at this stage, the individual represses his own history as a history of pain and suffering, tucks it in a drawer, and creates substitute stories to cover the pain and suffering.

Nostalgia for the past is manifested in continuously summoning the past to appear critical of the present. To cover the hysteria produced by the very changes that occurred to him, he creates myths. Philippine history is neurotic so far.

But, in the Freudian, Adlerian, and Jungian way, these myths-this neurotic history of the Filipino people-cannot avoid to manifest what was tucked away in the subconscious. Thus, Philippine history so far is describable in the common neurotic symptoms of depression, anxiety, and the inability to adapt through the resulting changes of life and time. What we indeed have in Philippine history is the documentation of their own fears and tragedies and the longing to go back to a time when the Spaniards were not there yet to ruin everything. The product of such a history is a massive collective inferiority complex that can only feel pride in the punches of a Pacquiao, in the strokes of billiard players, on the top of Mt. Everest, on the passing of a bar exam, and on the little things that other nations find not so much of a significance but are in the Philippines considered big time. What their history is producing is not a historical people that can find something to be proud of in their history-for Philippine history is not a history of changes and accomplishments but of struggles and sacrifices-no, not a historical people; for as long as their history is like a Philippine tele-novela, just like its media counterpart, it is doomed to mean nothing. What it is producing are a hysterical people afraid and dissociated of its history-a neurotic race from its neurotic stories.

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