The Foundations of Patriotism

One of the concepts I struggle to express is a clear description of the kind of sacrificial patriotism found in the United States that runs through the entire broad population, versus the pride-based (self-interested) patriotism in the Philippines. U.S. patriotism involves a willingness to give of oneself to help the nation. It seems to me the Philippines does not have the same passion to build a strong nation, or the discipline required to do it. I suppose there are reasons for that.

I want to take a shot at pegging why there is a difference. What are some fundamental differences between America and the Philippines as it pertains to the foundations of patriotism?
The Constitution
To be patriotic, you have to have a set of ideals. Something that inspires your passion.


The Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States were written by very smart people with historical perspective and a determination to avoid the punishments imposed on them by Great Britain. The punishments included autocrat governance, penalties (taxation) without representation, and religious persecution. The two documents lay out important ideals and the essential principles of law. The patriotic passion is found in all the opportunities represented by the idea of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that is the foundation for U.S. laws.
The Philippine Constitution was written by lawmakers who copied the fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution but who had a bit of a deaf ear to the importance of brevity and profound meaning.  As a result, the Philippine Constitution is littered with detailed law rather than highlighting important principles. The wordy functionality of the Constitution doesn’t grab citizens so they can passionately say, “Right on brother! I’ll die for this”. There is no “Declaration of Independence” that overlays the Constitution as a statement of passion. At least, not popularly so.
Furthermore, it seems that lawmakers would rather re-write or amend the Constitution with each change in administration or hiccup that occurs in the history-stream rather than commit to it as THE guiding law of the land. The ideals of nationhood are understood in the Philippines. But they are not crystallized in the Constitution. Edsa and Jose Rizal are more important symbols to Filipinos than the Constitution. The Philippines has had six constitutions since Rizal was executed.
The Philippines seems to be a nation missing an enduring ideal to rally around.
Obedience to Laws
The U.S. cherishes its courts. The courts are the place where politics is supposed to stay out, although it does occasionally sneak in like a thief in the night or germs on Your Honor’s intellectual robes. The courts adhere to the notion that fast is fair, and fair is factual and built on a pile of case law that argues out the most infinite details of right and wrong in America. Courts earn their respect.
Courts in the Philippines are a mess. It can take years to get a case through and the facts are less important than the favors and cash that fly around between attorneys and judges and the plaintiff and defense. Case law is largely mushy if not downright irrelevant because rulings aren’t built on legal principle.
In the Philippines, right and wrong are determined by what you can get away with. Not what is right, or wrong. So Filipinos aren’t committed to obeying the laws. Therefore, the forests are clear-cut and the waters are overfished and voters have their hands out for the little spiffs that candidates dole out. And every gunslinger is a law unto himself. It’s the Wild West in the East.
Intense self-interest is the opposite of the unity of values that is needed to form the bedrock of patriotism.
The Huddled Masses
Americans are immigrants, the huddled masses originally from Europe and then Latin America  and Africa and now Asia. You’ll find Iranians and Jews living in harmony, Russians and Cubans alongside Cambodian monks, blacks and whites and yellows and reds and browns in a blazing quilt of colorful skin and cultural heritage. You can grab a burger, suck noodles, eat raw fish or nibble on falafel all within the same block.
The immigrants arrived to pursue the dream of opportunity, and damn, that’s what they do.  No matter the racial or cultural heritage. They arrive and buy into the American dream of a FAIR SHOT. They work and innovate and produce and pursue a FAIR SHOT at growing wealthy, healthy and wise.
The Philippines is a bunch of natives who cross-pollinated with the occupying forces. Jose Rizal, the national hero, was part Japanese, Spanish, Malay, tribal native, Chinese, and stewpot. He was so mixed of racial heritage that he was Everyman and Noman at the same time.
Well, occupying forces have a different agenda than immigrants. Their agenda is to suppress and dominate, to rip out the heart of ingenuity and productivity and different ways of doing things, because it is a threat. It is a threat to the status quo.
Today the Philippines is locked in status quo. The modern occupiers are the oligarchs, the rich and powerful people who have a different idea of what patriotism is about than the immigrant sons and daughters of America. Their idea of patriotism is not to rock the boat of power and wealth that they and their families enjoy. The masses bow down and patriotism is called subsistence and doing what you are told. The overriding force is not to change. The Catholic Church is a major player in this well-cemented rooting in the tired old ways of doing things.
Where’s the passion in that? The vigor and drive for wealth and success?
Americans don’t really like war but the world is a contentious place. The U.S. is actually an ANTI-IMPERIALISTIC state, not an imperialistic state. She pursues hegemony, or an active pursuit of her self-interest, not land-grabbing or domination over other nations.
Because of her wealth and the productive energies and passions of her immigrant peoples, America is powerful at waging war. So she rides frequently to the rescue, or jams her guns and troops into nations that are viewed (sometimes erroneously) as troublesome. Americans rally around the troops, always. It doesn’t matter the political party. War unifies like nothing else.
The Philippines gets battered by this power or that now and then because the nation does not have the wealth or the patriotic passion to pursue an international agenda. The Philippines is PAWN to the moves of the global power pushers of any given century. Spain, America, Japan, China. You can’t rally around submission.
The Philippines does the best duck and cover drill on the planet because her citizens are tired of being  rebels and slaughtered. And poverty does not an army build. Or navy. Or air force.
The Philippine Constitutions outlaws war as a legitimate means for the State to defend Filipinos.  Article II, Section 2:
  • The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations.
It is hard to rally patriotically around peace when other nations do not play by the same rules.
What’s Next?
America and the Philippines are today strategically aligned. The Philippines does not want foreign bases here (the Constitution bans them) and America does not need bases here. The Philippines does not want China sucking oil out of Philippine territory and the U.S. wants China to stop claiming Asian and Latin American resources as if China were some kind of privileged citizen of the planet. Like enough of the emotionally nationalistic China bully-boy routine, this snarling vampire sucking oil and gold and iron and rare metals from the planet’s battered carcass. China’s is a patriotism gone Hitleresque.
It seems to me that, for the Philippines to rise as a modern nation and as an important economic player in Asia, she needs to get her patriotic act together, where patriotism is founded on:
  • Passionate commitment to Constitutional  principles of freedom and opportunity.
  • Commitment to the unified Filipino community that comes from giving enough of oneself to obey laws.
  • Development of a patriotic conscience among the rich and powerful. Yes, and among the main religions.
  • Principled and firm advancing of self-interest in international affairs.
If it were me, I would want “war-making” re-inserted into the Constitution as a legitimate practice rather than rule it out. One can adhere to the preference for peace without stripping the nation of its right to defend itself with guns and bombs.
One final thought. You don’t have to be rich to be patriotic, but you have to see a future rich with possibilities. Subsistence seldom looks forward. Poverty looks as far as the next meal.
  • Philippine patriotism will grow deeper if the nation can climb out of its relentless poverty.
28 Responses to “The Foundations of Patriotism”
  1. Anonymous says:

    From: Island Jim-e (aka: The Cricket)1. "Great balls of fire!" and "fire inthe belly"–no thanks I have had enoughof jingoism, chauvinisms (and most other"is-ams"! I have become self-emancipanted(opposite of constipated)–no more beingbilligerent, ardent,, unreasonalbe, zealous, irrational, pater-rotic, andmost of all nationalistic!2. As long as any government treatsthe voters well they are welcome toremain in government, if not, the gov-ernment must be replaced if a healthycivilization is to be matained! 3. A complacent, indifferent, uned-ucated population is but a symptomof servitude and a sick society!4. I am pleased to be self-emancip-ated and feel that if more folks wereeducated enough to overcome Nationalismand patriotism that our children wouldinherit a better world.5. As a survivor of infantry combat Iknow that you never bring a knife, pencil or a ball-bat to a gun fight…and you can never have enough bullets!It is best to use your talent and resources elsewhere for the publicbenefit, service, protection, safetyand good!"I have seen the enemy…and it is us!" PogoChirp!

  2. Yes, jingoism is not patriotism. My essential point, which appears to have struck no chord or the wrong chord, was that there are two kinds of patriotism. One based on giving (sacrifice) and one based on taking (pride). And I wonder what kind of patriot an oligarch might be. Although giving can sometimes be misguided, as in some wars, it seems to me to be essential to building the kind of community that takes care of itself. One person taking care of the next rather than taking FROM the next.

  3. Cha says:

    On the night of Feb 22, 1986, one of my good friends gathered his family and said goodbye, not knowing if he would be coming back home to them at all. He was heeding the call of Cardinal Sin to go to Camp Crame and protect Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel Ramos who have just gone on rebellion against Marcos. My friend's car was one of the first 10 cars outside Camp Crame that night. He was not a soldier, he was a businessman.I was a lot more optimistic than my friend on that night. When my work colleague knocked on the door of my hotel room (we were on an out of town work function) to break the news to me, my first instinct was to clap my hands. Freedom is now within our reach, I said.I came home the next day. My older brother was setting out to go to Crame, too. He told my younger sister and myself to stay home. At dawn, the next day, we were woken up by the loud clanging of a bell by one of the neighbors. When he got everybody's attention, he yelled out that Camp Aguinaldo was being attacked by the loyalist Marcos forces, people who have stayed to protect the rebel soldiers were being tear-gassed. My brother said he was going. He couldn't stop my sister and me from coming with him. We wore long sleeved clothing and long pants, and brought towels and water in case we were tear-gassed too. By the time we got to Camp Aguinaldo, the loyalist forces have retreated. We were spared from the tear-gassing. Thousands of Filipinos went out to Camp Crame, Camp Aguinaldo, the ABS-CBN and GMA TV stations and pretty much everywhere where they were called on to provide protection to rebel soldiers and critical installations on those 4 days of February. We went because we felt we needed to.We do have it in us, this willingness to give of ourselves.But the events that unfolded after Feb 1986 kept eroding the people's trust in the people they have tried to protect with their own lives. Enrile and Honasan and their coup attempts, Joseph Estrada being propped up and swept into office by the moneyed elite and then proving to be not only incompetent but also corrupt, his replacement Arroyo, proving to be even far worse. The poor got even poorer, the rich and the politicians got greedier.How do we go back to the spirit of EDSA? How do we get this new generation of Filipinos to believe in their country the way we did in 1986? How do we get the Filipino to love his country again? Maybe President Aquino winning the trust of the people will get us there. Maybe the next President after Aquino should then take it from there and score another home run. If not, then heaven help us!

  4. Thanks for the real-world shading of this. War or fighting seems to bring out the patriot that is in most people, the willingness to give everything for a cause of righteousness. My own observation, aside from all the words above, is that Filipinos are very patriotic in their hearts, but not in their everyday minds. Patriotism to me is a giving to community, from the heart and mind. So laws are obeyed even if they are inconvenient. Accepting responsitility is an important element of patriotism, so I wonder what Senator Sotto is. Or the oligarchs who back the politicians. What are they?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Heavy hearted, patriotism is slowly a dying ideals in the Philippines. I could see it in a crystal ball.Great topic Joe. Whereas, when nothing else is making sense anymore got to blame someone, Right? Not my common trait, but when DepEd removed the Philippine history and the U.S. history from high school curriculum, PATRIOTISM DIED.Nonetheless, when the legislators decided to discontinue the PMT (Philippine Military Training in high school and the ROTC in college, PATRIOTISM DIED AGAIN.Double whammy murder to kill it.Patriotism shall start growing again when they bring back those items I mentioned and yes, elimination of poverty is another important factor to revive it. Joe can you imagine what would happen if American history and ROTC is remove from US High School curriculum?Disgusted Jack

  6. Cha says:

    Oh gee, Sotto is a hopeless case. He can never be a patriot, he's too much of an idiot.

  7. I cannot imagine not having history taught. We didn't have ROTC in high school in Colorado, but we had lots of history and a course called "Civics" in which we were taught the documents and principles of living as responsible citizens.I think there are some responsible steps being taken in the Philippines, and social media are shining new lights on politicians. I've just learned about the Political Party Development Bill now in the Senate which aims to construct parties along ideological lines instead of personality lines. I think it is a great bill and moves toward thinking right instead of wrong, in the legislative chairs.

  8. Yes, I think someone with a mind that works as his does would be hard-pressed to be a giving kind of patriot.

  9. Edgar Lores says:

    Joe,There are several aspects of patriotism that are discussed, but I am interested in the distinction between sacrificial patriotism and pride-based patriotism. I think this basic differentiation is of great significance and I think your insight is spot on as usual.1. Why does the difference exists?2. And how do you develop sacrificial patriotism?If I were to list the constructs that the ordinary man pays loyalty to, I would put down the following:1. God2. Country (national) / Church3. Community (local)4. Family5. SelfNote I have not equated the Church with God and placed it on equal footing with Country, reflecting the separation of Church and State. The list is arranged by magnitude. It can be viewed as a series of concentric circles with God as the outermost circle and the Self as the innermost.Assuming that a man’s loyalties are not conflicted, the list might also denote the hierarchy of a man’s loyalties. Thus, God before Country, Country before Self, and Fellowmen before Self.In sacrificial patriotism, Americans put Country before Self. In pride-based patriotism, Filipinos put Self, or Family plus Self, before Country. I emphasize that Filipinos, in their corruption, even put Self before God. The list is almost applied upside down.I cannot fully explicate the reasons for sacrificial patriotism. I will just note that America’s self of nationhood and patriotism was born in blood in the War of Independence against Great Britain. I believe that sacrificial patriotism may have originated in the self-sacrifice of the people during World Wars I and II.I believe patriotism is reinforced by the daily (?) recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at assembly time in schools. (As a kid growing up in Hawaii, I remember reciting the pledge with hand over heart.)I think that the Philippines has not developed a full awareness of nationhood because of many reasons:• The country is an archipelago fragmented into many islands.• It consists of disparate tribes, speaking different dialects.• It fought two revolutionary wars – one against Spain the other against America – that were unsuccessful. • A Pledge of Allegiance was developed only in 1996 under the Ramos administration.• The major churches have been no respecter of the State and have fought against it.• Every branch of government is populated with politicians and judges who have promoted their self-interests over that of the national interests.• The bureaucracy cannot serve people without bilking them.• There are very few true patriots who can serve as role models. Most people would just remember Rizal and Ninoy. More fundamental than the above reasons though may be the fact that most Filipinos exist at the level of subsistence. And other Filipinos, witnessing that state and trying to avoid it, scramble to ensure for themselves a higher quality of existence. The rich just want to enrich themselves further. The concept of enough is as foreign to them as vegemite. Hence, at all levels ethics is stuck at the survival and/or egoic levels, with little thought of country.A new sense of patriotism was perhaps born in EDSA, but not sacrificial patriotism (?). Could it be that the idea is emerging as people voice their outrage on the status quo on the web and social media? Could it be seen in the “sacrifice” of believers leaving a Church that has lost its way?I will leave the question of what can be done to encourage sacrificial patriotism to others. My reading is that the crucibles of the impeachment trial, the ongoing RH bill debate and even the death of a good man are already forging and fostering that notion.

  10. Edgar Lores says:

    Jim-e,my man, you are a revelation. Interesting perspective.1. If I am reading you correctly, you accept that the structure of government is a necessity (Item 2), but there is no need for patriotism (items 1 and 4). (Nationalism and patriotism are one and the same: at its most basic, they are both love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it.)2. In my hierarchical list, you would put Self before Country. (Item 5)3. The reason for this is that Country should serve Self plus Family, and not the other way around. (Item 2 again)I think in a perfect world, you would be absolutely correct.Unfortunately it is not a perfect world internally (Item 3). Neither is it a perfect world externally (War and warmongering).Government must be there to intercede between the Self and the sick Community, and also to intercede between the Self in one’s country and the Selves in other countries. I think patriotism is required in the latter case, but may not be in the former.

  11. Edgar Lores says:

    Thanks, Cha, for the front row seat. I was in Jeddah at that time, and I missed the fun. So sacrificial patriotism could have been born there at EDSA? I wasn't sure.

  12. I think maybe I outlined an idea for what this character patriotism might consist of, a few bones here and there, and you aligned the bones 1 through 5 and put the meat on it. Your rationale of why patriotism is underdeveloped is superb, and I agree there are some very healthy things going on these days. I hope that we are not just reading it amongst ourselves, but it is real "out there".American sacrificial pride may have originated in the flood of boozing, brawling Irish who flooded the nation for a time, or the Germanic warmongers such as my great grandfather. The bloodiest, nastiest war Americans have fought was its own Civil War.

  13. Edgar Lores says:

    Thoughts after Jim-e’s input.1. I was aware that my Hierarchical List of Loyalties was incomplete. The example I had in mind was that if a man belonged to an organization, say, the Rotary Club, I would put a construct called “Organization” after Item 3 – Local Community.2. Jim-e has introduced another construct between God and Country. I will call this World. This construct is above Country and denotes All Countries, or Universal Brotherhood, or Mankind.3. This puts me in mind of a world without borders. And an organization like the Medecins Sans Frontieres would be a demonstration of that loyalty.4. At the individual level, there are men who recognize no borders. The Dalai Lama is one although currently he is the titular head of state that has been gobbled up by China. His Holiness serves all of mankind.5. When I was thinking of what I would do after retirement, I imagined withdrawing from the world to become a master of self. Yes, Joe, a stinkin’ sage. But the state of the world, much less the Philippines, is less than ideal. At the back of my mind, I was aware of Sartre’s concept of Engagement which refers to the process of accepting responsibility for the political consequences of one’s actions. Thus I have become “un home engage”.6. My revised list looks like this: 6.1. God 6.2. World 6.3. Country / Church 6.4. Community 6.5. Family 6.6. Self

  14. Edgar Lores says:

    Correction: "un homme engage"

  15. Anonymous says:

    EDSA spirit track 1 nationhood transcends the needs of the self and the family. EDSA spirit track 2 an elite power group strengthens position and institutions are ironically weakened to fight for common good. Result: disenchantment…DocB

  16. I herein convey the title "Sage" to one Edgar Lores, and the title "Intellectual" to one Joseph August America. Lets call spades spades.Your list is excellent. You are also "Humanist". I put country above Church on my list because Church is of Man and there are so many of them, but there is only one Country of residence. So I have a hierarchy of seven.

  17. Edgar Lores says:

    No, not the "boozing brawling Irish" but more the Civil War. The Gettysburg Address speaks of the sacrifice of "those who here gave their lives that that nation might live".In modern times, there's JFK's "Ask not what your country can do for you…"

  18. Nicely stated, Doc. To what do you aspire? Sage, intellectual, guru, wit, or what? Edgar is a "Sage". I think we need some titles here at the Society of Honor. I myself aspire to be called "Your Literary Wit". Brianitus calls me "Crazy Old Man". So I guess I have some refinement to do.

  19. JFK was a master at patriotism, for sure. He somehow tapped that spirit amongst us all. Patriotic spirit seems "young", but oldsters have it best. Rather like, it's riper.

  20. Edgar Lores says:

    DocBExcellent. You confirm Cha's preparedness to sacrifice self in EDSA I.EDSA II was an "Organization" or group putting themselves above Country. I have excluded this construct in my list but you make a good argument for including it.

  21. Edgar Lores says:

    Sorry, I must decline the title. It puts too much burden on my grey cells, and I have been known to be simple-minded in my innocence. Compromise? I like your suggestion of Humanist.

  22. Cha says:

    Joe,i was just going for the rhyme, but yeah, what you said too. 🙂

  23. You got it. Resident Humanist, Edgar Lores.

  24. Cha says:

    Edgar, Aah, I don't even think everyone who was there was there out of patriotism.With Enrile and Honasan and the rest of the RAM boys, it was self preservation at best and military adventurism at worst. Of the two key figures in that rebellion, Ramos appears to have had the more noble of intentions, judging from how they conducted themselves after EDSA. He probably genuinely thought he was doing right by his country in giving his support and lending his name to the rebellion.The rest of the politicians, military brass, and other key figures who trooped to EDSA can also be grouped according to those who were in it for themselves and those who wanted to do the right thing for their country. As for my friend who was one of the civilians who were there first; the nuns, the elderly and even the physically handicapped who kneeled, laid down, sat on their wheelchairs in front of the loyalist military tanks, and most every other Filipino who went there and offered up their bodies as human shield for the rebel forces, I think they too, believed it was the right thing to do. I know because, that's what I was thinking.So to answer your question and address your doubts on whether it was sacrificial patriotism that was born there in EDSA; I would agree that it probably is different. Outside of those people whose motivations I find questionable, I would say that the great majority of EDSA's heroes were willing to lay down their lives during those days for their country and for their countrymen because in their heart of hearts, it just felt as if it was the right thing to do.You have to remember that prior to those fateful days in Feb, there was the snap presidential election where thousands volunteered with NAMFREL (National Movement for Free Elections). These volunteers saw and reported the cheating, the harassment of electoral watchers and all the other abuses of Marcos' people to ensure he gets the vote. Quite a few of these volunteers died or were mauled protecting the ballot. On national TV, a number of them walked out of the national canvassing of votes because the figures coming out on the national tally board were different from what was coming out of their computers. In spite of and perhaps because of all these irregularities Marcos was declared winner.And this is why people like me went to EDSA, we wanted to set things right and were willing to take whatever consequences that might entail. Is that sacrificial patriotism? I think it's more than that.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Too jaded for names. Appreciate your blog strikes some chords. Makes issues easier to synthesize and analyze for us Pinoys. Just like a doctor diagnosing an illness. Philippines is sick, not helped by a cruel elite, a catholic ( read: hypocrite) religious sector, and an amnesiac, fault- finding public with a victim mentality. The EDSA tracks mentioned do not correspond to the 2 EDSAs-they play at the same time…DocB

  26. Doc, you say more with fewer words than anybody I know. "Philippines is sick, not helped by a cruel elite, a catholic ( read: hypocrite) religious sector, and an amnesiac, fault- finding public with a victim mentality."I'd only add I think maybe things are changing. Long way to go.

  27. Edgar Lores says:

    Suicidal patriotism maybe?When I read the disjointed coverage on the net, I quite don't get the vibrancy of the event. Some accounts just contain complimentary phrases. Your retelling of it from an I-was-there and this-is-what-I-felt-thought-did perspective makes it very vivid and real. I get goosebumps. I have never met anyone who was there. Thank you.

  28. Cha says:

    Suicidal somewhat implies simply giving up. So maybe not suicidal either, even if it does look a lot like it now :)There was an audacity to our act of patriotism back then, spurred on by a sense of righteousness.When I think of that old lady in a wheelchair in front of one of Marcos' tank now, , the words that come to mind are from the movie "The Man in the Iron Mask", used to describe the 3 Musketeers and d'Artagnon charging at the enemy in the face of certain death. " Magnificent valor."

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