Independence Day Number 115… Meh.

Philippine Flag

(Dedicated to all the kids named “Kalayaan” and “Kasarinlan” who are still living with their parents.)

If I didn’t see all these “Happy Independence Day” status updates on Facebook, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that today was Philippine Independence Day, commemorating one of many declarations of independence that various rebellions and revolutions this country has witnessed.

That this one was declared by General Emilio Aguinaldo in Cavite but was then almost completely ignored in the signing of the Treaty of Paris which gave way to a couple of decades of American rule, perhaps, makes it worthy of a Willy Wonka meme.

That, sometime at the end of World War II in the Pacific, the country would be officially declared to have “graduated” from American control and live out the Quezonian curse of being run like hell by Filipinos, every year celebrating this “freedom” on the 4th of July for a time.

That we actually did celebrate Independence Day on July 4 for a couple of decades probably also says that we hadn’t gotten wise to the joke foisted on our people during the Spanish registry/census that had people walking away with last names like “Butiqui”, “Bagonggahasa”, and well, yes, Farol.

Which makes me think, what’s in a name anyway?  Is calling June 12 Independence Day any measure of our independence as a people?

Of course, there’s that sophomoronic retort against the celebration of independence day as being hollow because the country is still dependent on foreign aid and such, or that our government is still under the control of some anti-Filipino global conspiracy.  I’ve been hearing and reading about this “hollow” independence day since I was a kid, and I am still hearing it — or these days, seeing it on status updates across a number of social media platforms.

Perhaps, maybe, it’s because most of the people I’ve befriended or followed tend to see the glaring disparity between the standard definition of independence and what we have.

In much more homier and down to earth terms, a declaration of independence should be like a kid leaving his or her parents’ home to live on their own — living in their own place and providing for their own needs.

Philippine Independence, for the most part, is perhaps like the kid who leaves his parents’ home but still gets an allowance for rent money, food, and clothing…. has his or her parents’ maid come over X number of times in the week to do their laundry and keep their place clean… You know, like the typical rich spoiled Pinoy brat who is on Twitter or Facebook all day and bragging about their new gadgets or is seen hanging around with some social media celeb or living off their parents’ accomplishments.

But anyway, a sobering view of Independence Day in the Philippines can probably be best seen in numbers — which aren’t Papa’s or Mama’s credit card or ATM pass code digits.

Called the “Aquino Broadcasting System” by the lot of so-called anti-Aquino social media pundits, a report from ABS-CBN can’t help but emphasize our country’s inability to provide for itself — just like the kid living in parent funded “independence”.

It’s a triple whammy of economic stats with unemployment up and exports and foreign direct investments down.

Unemployment rose to a 3-year high as the total number of employed persons dropped, contrary to a government claim that employment is rising just not as fast as the workforce. The jobless rate rose to 7.5% in April, the highest since April 2010.

At the same time, exports fell again in April, as declines in sales of chemicals and some manufactured products…. offset a steadying in electronics. The National Statistics Office reports exports dropped almost 13% to $4 billion.

Also, foreign direct investment was negative in March, meaning foreigners pulled out more than they put in. In March, they put in $56 million and withdrew $73 million, a net withdrawal of $17 million.

And just a few weeks ago, everybody whose somewhat a fan of the Aquino Administration made a big rah-rah-rah about economic growth reaching 7.8 percent and the PSE soaring above 7,000 points.

Essentially, what the numbers say is that, at least, economically, the Philippines is like the kid living on parent funded “independence” coming home telling his parents what a great job they are doing but in the end, still, asking for his or her allowance.

Then again, the capability to provide for one’s self — though a major hallmark of independence — will seem ephemeral when it is held up against one’s capability to defend their “own place” from intruders and keep their stuff (themselves included) secure.

It was in a brief chat with Armscor’s Bolo Tuason that somewhat struck a chord with me, right about the time when tension between “that other China” and the Philippines erupted over the killing of a “fisherman”.

I can’t recall the actual words of his now, but Mr. Tuason said that “security” is perhaps one of the least unmet needs of the average Filipino.

Armscor caliber 45 ACP, a clone of Colt 1911A1

Armscor caliber 45 ACP, a clone of Colt 1911A1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Which reminds me, I have yet to transcribe what was said in the course of that hour and a half meeting with the retired head of the country’s ONLY fully Filipino owned heavy industry.  Not a lot of people know it, perhaps, but perhaps we should consider the 1911 .45 caliber as a national icon since Armscor is the only gun manufacturer in the world licensed to make it and it has a massive, massive fan base around the world.  The drawback, of course, is that the gun was developed to kill moros — Filipino muslim fighters.)

Going back to the feeling of a lack of security.  This is true on the level of the individual Pinoy laborer, housewife, and kid who can’t count on cops to prevent a crime, as on the national level where we’ve seen the country’s leadership call on the US every time China sounds anything off might even just remotely lead to an actually battle.

Nevertheless, a post from Benign0’s mega-blog Get Real Philippines, renders this better:

Even without the direct threat from China Filipinos are feeling at the moment, having a strong military gives substance to national pride — substance that no amount of waxing poetic about dead heroes, flaccid flag waving, or song and dance around street “revolutions” will ever come close to offering the Filipino.

The bad news, however, is we are on a development plan that is not consistent with the first two points of the plan — being able to produce what we need and live within said means to produce what we need. Unfortunately, the big “solution” everyone keeps harping about nowadays is old reliable foreign investment. The thinking behind that brainwave is that the number of unemployable Filipinos joining the workforce every year is just too enormous for the Philippines’ flaccid economy to put to good use. So the bright boys chant the “obvious” solution: we need to rely on foreign capital to plug the hole.

Where will that foreign capital increasingly come from? By the looks of it more and more of it will be coming from our new best friend — China. If we thought being dependent on the US, Japan, and western Europe for foreign capital was bad enough, imagine what it would be like being dependent on China for all that.

So much for aspiring to be independent.

Of course, the “free trade” and “free enterprise” and “economic liberalization” corner cyberspace will be up in arms in Facebook as they read, yet again, something that isn’t said at all.

To cut to the chase, econ-lib dogmatists will have a tendency to view Benign0’s writing as a complete rejection of Foreign Direct Investment, and if at all a true interpretation, would be uncharacteristic of Benign0’s nuanced opinions.  Why, and for what reason, trollers of this famous Filipino troll  insist on framing Benign0’s as being completely against something just because he isn’t completely for something boggles me.

Assuming that I have understood Benign0 PeRFECTly, what he means is that the country should not pursue a policy of complete dependence on FDI — because, if you haven’t figured it out — we may actually end up standing on a carpet made in China.

And you can’t trust carpets… it can be pulled from beneath your feet as much as it can end up being bagged.

Econ-lib dogmatists should not miss the big bold words in the middle of Benign0’s post:

The challenge for Filipinos is to continue to aspire for the distinction of being regarded as truly independent. Of course, aspiration is nothing without a plan to attain it. The plan to attain independence is not really that complicated. In fact this plan is very simple and requires only one sentence to articulate it:

The Philippines need to learn to produce what it needs, live within its means to produce said needs, and regain the capability to fight for its means to produce.