The Philippines: A Nation Divided

middle class home

National unity demands a larger middle class

The Philippines is without a doubt a nation divided. It has always been that way. The notion that it is one land is a recent ideal and it has not spread to everyone.

The natural histories of the land are diverse. Native tribes were, and to some extent still are, scattered everywhere, speaking 114 different languages. The islands were peopled early-on from India in the south and Taiwan in the north. We had Moro expansion from Malaysia, then Spanish and American foreign occupiers bludgeoned their way across the islands to stir the blood. In more ways than one.

The divide of late has sorted itself into three main components:

  • Manila, the realm of rich kings and oligarchs, lording it over the nation. They call the castle the Palace. They have a document called a Constitution, but it is mainly for show. There is no enforcement mechanism, as the judges perform much like court jesters trying to read the wishes of their royal masters rather than the law.
  • The provincial clans, dynastic dukes and earls, each holding onto power the way Governor Garcia and the Ampatuans did it. By grabbing power and punishing any who would contest their authority. There are a lot of Garcias in the hinterland islands, including on mine, Biliran Island.  They make up their own laws.
  • The Muslim faithful who impose a homogeneous block of stubborn insistence on laws that are unique to their faith, and to hell with those who can’t abide. Stone them, or, if they are white, “off with their heads!” Catholics helped write the mainstream laws of the Philippines, so they do not represent such a force for division. There is no “Catholic Vote”. But there is a Muslim vote. Like 100% in some areas.

The Provincial Way of Life

This synthesis came to me out of the blue today as I drove home against the morning rush hour traffic, having dropped my stirred-blood kid off at his school. Naval, Biliran is a wholesome community. Fairly clean. No NPA extortionist gangsters. A solid and peaceful Muslim population. A good smattering of Dutch, Americans and Australians, mostly fat, mostly old, most with wives and families. The roads are congested here with motorcycles, tricycles, motorcabs, cars, trucks, buses, vans, tao and ice cream vendors, pedestrians and carabao vying for rights of way.

We have two fire trucks and four gas stations, a great dock, no airport, lots of buses and vans hauling people to the bigger cities on neighboring Leyte, 37 bakeries, 9 vulcanizing shops, one university, no Jollibee, and a dozen or so one-man doctor’s offices dispensing pills to keep the 6 or 7 pharmacies going. It is a vibrant, healthy, honest community. Many of the outlying families are poor, but they get along. They can find work when they want to work, at the bottom of the pay scale. Sometimes they just don’t want to work.

But the thing that rang my realization bell was the flood of young people coming in on motorcycles, three to five per cycle. Some clearly dancing the dangerous dance of going too fast on streets simply too congested for their own good.

And not a motorcycle helmet in sight.

Some of the drivers were young. I’d guess 14 or 15. Probably unlicensed. I’d guess that half the motorcycle drivers here are unlicensed.

The police put up checkpoints now and then to “show” they are enforcing the law. But it is half-hearted because they know that they cannot stop the practicality of poverty.

The practicality of poverty is that people WANT to go to school. But they have to get there, and the distances are beyond walking. So they pile onto a motorcycle. A motorcycle is the family car. And helmets are expensive and a hassle in the classroom.

As the fates occasionally have it, people here get killed or injured. The reasons vary, but the reason generally tracks back to loose or neglected laws. The pragmatic, practical laws of poverty.

Fifteen people, mostly children, were killed a few months ago when a truck with bad brakes ran off the road and crashed, and crushed, its way down the mountain. Four kids were killed last weekend by a drunk driver because their house is right on the edge of the National Highway. A young high school girl was killed some months ago when she turned her motorcycle headon into a car.

The pragmatic, practical laws of poverty deliver their statistics, and they are grim.


You don’t read about it in Manila.

These matters are not like a gas explosion in a high rise in Manila which occupied the moralizing minds of Manila residents for weeks.

The mainstream press does not visit here, even when 15 people are crushed on a mountain side. They just call the local officials and get a quote.

Muslim Mindanao is even further from the hearts and minds of Manila residents than our everyday, normal, inconsequential province.

History: Manila vs the Provinces

Manila is in its own world, self-absorbed like most power-brokers around here.

That has long been the case, hasn’t it?

Filipinos complain about U.S. imperialism and its waging of war against Aguinaldo’s Republic. But that would not have occurred had not the wealthy barons of Manila favored American occupation. The rich effectively froze Aguinaldo out of Manila, on the backs of American troops. That war was won by the U.S. in three stages. One, American occupancy of Manila. Two, American defeat of Aguinaldo’s fractured, in-fighting, disorganized forces. Three, American brutality in submitting the rest of the nation to her rule.

The first stage was easy because the Americans were given an engraved invitation by Manila’s elite.

I’ve read a lot of history these past five years. I’ve had to to discover why the U.S. is considered such a villian.

More often than not it is because no one in the Philippines is willing to accept accountability for things gone wrong.

For example, many middle-aged and young people are incensed that the United States “abandoned” the Philippine’s WWII vets. They lay this along side the Philippine-American War and the destruction of Manila in WW II as huge American betrayals.

  • You have to hunt far and wide to discover that the U.S. paid $200 million to transfer responsibility for veteran’s care to the Philippine Army in 1946. America felt the long-term obligation properly belonged in the Philippines. Good luck finding where the money went. But here’s a hint. It was not the U.S. that abandoned Philippine veterans.
  • We could also bat around why Manila was destroyed in WW II, and I assure you that America would be ranked number two on most charts, and number three on a few others.

You can go from Aguinaldo through World War II and see the same divisions. Before WW II, and after, the same. The wealthy, the connected, favored an American presence. And when the U.S. was thrown out of Subic and Clark  in 1991, it was essentially because the “populists”, representing the provinces outside of Manila, held sway.

National Vision

I do at least give credit to the Aquino Administration for WANTING to make Philippine economic growth and improving wealth a national phenomenon. He is taking proactive steps to push it out, and has set a goal of halving poverty by the time he leaves office. That will be a very, very different Philippines.

I don’t particularly like the way this is being done, in large part via cash handouts keyed to certain qualifications (education and health). But it at least reflects an understanding that if the Philippines remains a nation of rich people in Manila and poverty wracked people in the outlying areas, it is not a “whole” nation.

Furthermore, as the Philippines develops a more robust middle class, this will establish a better national homogeneity among people who are fundamentally well-off and not inclined to rock the boat. They might even have good old down-home national pride, confidence and happiness at success rather than pride that is dredged up to paste over failure.  Expansion of the middle class is occurring now and is a very uplifting sign.

What would also help is the development of a significant manufacturing base. I’ve recently suggested three practical ways this can occur:

  • Invite Japanese manufacturers to relocate from unfriendly China to the friendly Philippines.
  • Establish a weapons and ship-building core in Cagayan de Oro to capitalize on improving Philippine defense internally rather than shipping valuable capital to the U.S. and elsewhere. Put it in Mindanao because that area is in dire need of jobs and money.
  • Use private/public ventures to establish a middle range of food processors and packagers that sell mainly to Philippine markets.

I’m sure there are other ways, too.

To sustain growth and wealth-building, we see a booming real estate market in Manila, pushing outward. And a growing tourism market nationwide. We see mining is on the planning board for rehabilitation. What wonderful planks manufacturing and agribusiness would be to the improving stability and wealth of the Philippines.

The glue for unity, for national health, is national wealth, well distributed. and having confidence in the essential goodness of one’s government.

I look forward to the day, perhaps five or ten years years away, when my community has enough money to reconfigure roads to handle local school buses and get bareheaded kids off the motorcycles, five to a bike.

Not to mention upgrading vehicle maintenance standards.

The practicality of poverty is simply too tragic, too often.

71 Responses to “The Philippines: A Nation Divided”
  1. The Mouse says:

    After 500 years, Philippine political landscape hardly changed. Tribe leaders from one place vs tribe leaders from another place.

    It must be remembered that Lapu-lapu did not defend “the Philippines” from “foreign invaders” but from a neighboring rival chieftain who the Spanish explorers befriended.

    I laugh at the notion that “foreign invaders” “divided” the Philippines

    I don’t find the Philippines abandoning its regional/provincial identity. So the Philippines should stop trying to be like East Asians in identity and just try to navigate within its diversity

    • Joe America says:

      As you were writing this, I was penning the following comment in response to a blog about the bickering over “pilipinas” vs. “fiipinas”:

      “The Philippines has, what, 114 separate languages? The variability of pronunciations and spellings from cross-over words must run in the tens of thousands. To declare a national spelling is like trying to order a stick to float upriver. Who needs it. I’d think unity ought to be found in some degree of amusement that the Philippines is such a culturally rich and diverse land. Pragmatics requires that Tagalog and English be used as common languages, but there ought to be no national language and no national spelling. Just national flexibility and a good sense of humor.”

      • The Mouse says:

        I actually favor reverting it (Pilipinas was just introduced during Marcos’ time) back to Filipinas. One because proper names with F permeate almost every Filipino languages and contrary to popular belief, a good number of Philippine languages esp the ones in the north do actually have F,V,CH/J sound. Pangasinense even has the schwa sound.

        Some even are more extreme by imposing the TAGALOG baybayin. Outrageous.

        • Joe America says:

          As an outsider who speaks exactly 208 words of Visayan and little more, I confess to not being able to arouse my passions about any particular expression. So many islands, so many languages, so much passion toward one’s heritage. Not easy to resolve. Does it NEED to be resolved, other than in official documents? It seems more important to get manufacturing going.

          • The Mouse says:

            For consistency, I’d say yes. After all, why use P in Filipinas(Pilipinas) (and Filipinas is a proper noun) when Floridablanca(Pampanga) was never changed to “Ploridablanka”, nor Fernandez was changed to “Pernandes”?

            From the Filipino subject(they renamed it from Pilipino to Filipino), a spelling rule is that proper names of “foreign origin” retain their letters.

            It’s not like your gonna change 100 years of documents. After all, the “P”-zation started in Marcos years.

  2. edgar lores says:

    1. The usual criterion for national division is economic. Your insight is geographical and religious, although the religious boundaries are coincident with certain geographical ones.

    2. The term “practicality of poverty” resonates. It goes with the “practice of poverty” which is widespread and can be used in several senses that are either economic or spiritual:

    2.1. The “practice of poverty” by the rural underclass.
    2.2. The “practice of poverty” by the urban squatters.
    2.3. The “practice of poverty” by the non-observant clergy and to which Francis has called attention.
    2.4. The “practice of poverty” by the non-observant ruling class and politicians.

    3. That last one deserves elaboration. The ruling class and politicians are spiritually poor in their self-serving aims. They practice spiritual poverty.

    3.1. Thus poverty in material wealth abounds in the lower classes and poverty in spiritual wealth in the upper classes.

    4. The newsworthiness of deaths are governed by certain formulas: “A hundred Pakistanis going off a mountain in a bus makes less of a story than three Englishmen drowning in the Thames”; “One dead fireman in Brooklyn is worth five English bobbies, who are worth 50 Arabs, who are worth 500 Africans”; “One thousand wogs, fifty frogs, and one Briton”.

    4.1. At a guess: One child’s death in Manila equates to ~50 in Biliran.

    5. The push for compensation and care by Filipino veterans of WWII reminds me of my dad. He never applied for benefits in spite of urgings by comrades. His principled rationale was: “I did not fight the Japanese for America. I fought the Japanese to free the Philippines.”

    5.1. My father was admired – if not more pitied – by those who knew him.

    5.2. I am my father’s son. At least, I hope so.

    • Joe America says:

      3.1 nails it.
      4. had me laughing . . . at tragedy, I suppose, or at our ridiculous ways . . .
      4.1 fairly accurate, I’d guess . . . depending on how many journalists are in the count (ouch!)
      5.0 I see you and your father are honorable chips off the same block
      5.2 ahhh, I see we arrived at the same conclusion. Very good.

    • The Mouse says:

      #5 Makes sense. To make things more ridiculous, there are some people lobbying for recognition of Filipino war veterans into US history books….0_o And now that the US “compensated” the war veterans, some are still complaining that what the US gave is a “lump sum”. Dafuq.

      I don’t know why they want to be recognized by the US rather than wanting to really be recognized by fellow FILIPINOS. Crazy.

  3. AJ says:

    What I’ve learned from my college history teacher is that the current Philippines is filled with conflict.
    We have Cebuanos hating Tagalogs (specifically Manila) and wanting to gain glory they had as the first city.
    We have other Visayan people hating Tagalogs for confusing them with Cebuanos.
    We have Tagalogs laughing at other people’s accents making other groups hate them even more(not sure if other groups do this though).
    We have Christians seeing all Muslims as terrorists while Muslims see them as oppressors
    We have people hating Catholics because they think everyone else is Catholic.
    We have Communists hating the government and basically anyone else who doesn’t like their ideas, calling them bourgeois or locally “burgis”.
    We also have people hating communists because they mentions “bourgeois” or “burgis” so many times it’s lost its meaning and has simply become an annoying word.

    Given those things he’s mentioned, I realized that the country’s starting to look like a small-scale stereotypical world.
    Cebu = England, and early adopter to modern standards placed by another power.

    America = Manila, a newer power that overtook relatively older, more established groups/territories. (except majority of Tagalogs were not from Cebu).
    Also has illegal immigrant issues.

    ARMM and NPA controlled territories + Private Army dominated towns/cities/provinces = Middle East and Africa + pretty much everyone under military governments, lots of potential but conflicts, unstable government, or stubborn beliefs prevent or slow down progress.

    Tagalogs (especially Manilenos) = stereotypical Americans, don’t know as much about the rest of the country, have their own world, most know only the national languages, Filipino and English. Conscious when it comes to being PC but is still borderline racist. (Though IMO, Filipinos are another level of racists.)

    • Joe America says:

      What a wonderful description of the nation Philippines. Your professor characterizes so well how the Philippines is her worst enemy. And the analogy to the national pushes and pulls, and the conflicts that arise, rings so very, very true. Manila = America is a perfect characterization. Oblivious to anyone else. Full of themselves. Thanks.

  4. JosephIvo says:

    I believe “a nation devided” not so much Manila versus Province but as being split in have’s and have-not’s. Of course there is a higher concentration of have’s in Manila, but do not underestimate the powerful of Cebu, Tarlac, Bacolod and Iloilo, Ilocos and Cagayan to name a few.

    Traditionally most colonizers followed the Spanish scheme of four classes to assign power: 100% Spanish blood, born in Spain (= with guarantee seal on the 100% good blood), 100% Spanish blood but born locally (= without guarantee), some Spanish blood (with enough money easy to obtain), no Spanish blood.

    Class 2 and 3 were very envious of the class above, afraid of the classes below. Filipino nobles were able to intermarry early on and become part of the mestizo class 3. Then they could try to get a high enough percentage of Spanish blood to climb up the ladder at the same time preventing that their class became diluted by too many rich Filipinos (and Chinese) acquiring Spanish blood too. The top class however was always out of reach. No skills required in this system apart from acquiring foreign blood, extraction of lower classes was fail-safe as long as you kept the top narrow.

    But Indio’s are Indio’s, no way to proof Spanish blood (was papaya soap invented yet?), no way to acquire land, to become major or vicar. As water flows to the sea, money flows to the higher class and eventually to the motherland. Why try to change? Just accept, make the best out of it, try to cheat a little, hide the few things you have but enjoy your lechon once a year. (Chinese immigrants didn’t have this reflex.)

    Notice that Europeans coming to the colonies were criminals, convicted or not, religious fanatics, socially not adapted, or in the best case adventures or plain poor with no other survival strategies. In the colonies they got a master status, their white blood very valuable.

    Nothing changed since then, the Philippines is still a colony. The Illustrado’s had a struggle to become part of the top, Aginaldo’s independency would open the top layer, American blood equally potent as Spanish blood and Indio’s still Indio’s.

    But there is hope. OFW’s can acquire wealth, buy a lot and build a brick house (thanks Villar). Binay as an Indio could become vice president, all his children in respectful positions, even Pacquiao with no degree could start his own dynasty… What was always out of reach seems achievable with my aunty oversees sponsoring my college… Aquino and his top administrators fighting corruption… A growing middle class reaching a critical mass.

    • Joe America says:

      I distinguished the “haves” in Manila from the provincial “haves” because Manila kings really run the nation. The local dukes and earls run their realms.

      You are right that my oversimplification does not do justice to the intricacies of history.

      I agree that the Philippines is still a colony, but it is a colony held by rich Filipinos who are self interested. There is no aura or ideal of nationhood that drives them. Only business success. A growing middle class and the enlightenment of the OFW’s is the hope that the nation will soon unify and become a truer democracy. I think that trend is progressing well right now. Somehow, we need to break down the obscene private-party funding of elections.

      • Joe America says:

        You have just hit me with a light-bulb moment. Breaking up dynasties by mandating “diversified funding” of elections. Like, “no single donor can contribute more than 5% of the total pot”. I’ve got to work on that.

      • JosephIvo says:

        Cojuanco’s, Aquino’s – Tarlac, Marcos and complete clan – Ilocos, Arroyo’s – Bocolod, Enrile – Cagayan, Osmeña, Gokongwei – Cebu, Drillon, Santiago – Iloilo… just to name a few. Yes Manila attracted traders like Sy and Luciano Tan but they are not traditional Manileños. Look at the presidents, Estrada was from Manila, others?

        The top layer of 100% Spanish born in Spain lived mainly in Manila but this top layer was eliminated by independence, the layer below consisting of traditional wealth (the landowners, parents speaking Spanish), the new wealth (the Chinese traders, parents speaking Chinese) and the intermarried local chiefs (parents speaking a local language and Spanish), they covered the whole nation and are still is in charge.

        Manila as capital and center of power does not differ from Washington, Paris, Berlin or London. Central Luzon from Tarlac to Batangas is an important economical center but so is Cebu and other areas for different reasons in a lesser extent. The competition between the regions is similar in Germany, Italy or even Spain, not to mention the civil war in the US, Irak or Syria, the whole of Africa, Tibet as part of China, Belgium (UK?) splitting…

        Centuries of “yes you can” or “all people are equal” brainwashing in the US opposite to “no you can not” or “Indio’s are unequal” in the Philippines make a huge difference. Steep income inequalities and the lack of an innovative middle class does. A population explosion linked to inadequate education does. A prehistoric catholic church does. Direct democracy, not layered by parties or driven by principles in an underdeveloped society does. A capital centered culture is secondary in explaining the current state of affairs.

  5. manuel buencamino says:

    If you look close enough you will always find cracks. But from the air, it looks united enough. So it depends on how closely you look. Makati and Navotas are as different as Park Avenue and Harlem, Manhattan and the Bronx, Northwest Washington and Southeast Washington They are different worlds, different cultures, different values, speak different “languages”, etc. If you look closely enough, that is.

    Manila like London, Paris, Madrid, Rome etc evolved into the country’s center because it was the seat of government and the exclusive gateway of trade for the longest time. The country has gotten bigger and Manila can’t absorb it all anymore so other centers are cropping up all over the place – Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, etc. Things evolve, they are not set in concrete.

    As to muslims. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there is a muslim bloc vote in the country. People here vote less on religion and more along the perception of who is “madaling lapitan”. Also, in the same way that certain religions were exempted from military draft in your country. Muslim laws in this country apply only to muslims. Sharia courts are for muslims only. That shows a respect and tolerance for the religious beliefs of others. That way, muslims and christians can live side by side with each other. Filipinos are a tolerant race. What you have to keep in mind is that property and criminal codes apply to all with the exception of those laws that take religious differences into consideration like divorce, halal foods, etc.

    As to abandoning Filipino vets. The US Congress passed the Rescission Act remember? The US unmade a solemn promise made by FDR. Secondly, what sort of GI Joe logic would justify the US passing on to the Philippine army the responsibility of caring for its own vets? Those vets were soldiers of America, not of the then newly independent Philippines. Here’s 200M that should suffice for all the backpay, medical care, etc of American soldiers who are now Filipino soldiers?Gee thanks, that will suffice? C’mon Joe. The abandonment of its own soldiers is despicable. There is no justifying it. the Rescission Act proved the Native Americans correct, white man speaks with forked tongue. There is no other way of putting the Rescission Act.

    • Joe America says:

      I agree that diversity in local character is similar to America. And there is also a great divide in America, rich to poor, as we can currently see on the “food stamps” debate attached to the farm bill. But Americans are not sniping at American soldiers from the trees, or otherwise waging armed war against herself, and it is that disenfranchisement that needs to be bridged. Great poverty is always a ticking time bomb, and it is ticking loudly in Mindanao, and occasionally in the far north of Luzon. I commend President Aquino for recognizing that “one Philippines” requires an economic solution, not just political words or military force. And the development of a robust middle class will also help peel away the extremes, the angst of the poor, and the political power of the rich. So the growth going on in the middle is also a point of optimism.

      We’ve gone ’round on the American “abandonment” of Philippine vets before, and pretty much settled on the idea that the U.S. did cut and run in a shameful way, but that Philippine Congress, in accepting the $200 million buy-out, was culpable as well of leaving vets in the lurch. What we hear a lot about, in the Philippines, is the former, and we need to hear about the latter, as well. The idea that “we are accountable”, not America, or history, or anybody else, is very very important to REAL independence. Once that accountability is grabbed, then problems can find solutions. As long as there are scapegoats, there are escapes from solutions.

      • Lil says:

        Oh please, every nation or (rather every nation’s gov) speaks with a forked tongue. And yes, the Philippines has this stupid mentality of being a naive pushover and willing to settle for anything. Which is why it’s so hard to to take this nation seriously sometimes.
        And while we’re at it, i refuse to put the US, particulary as the years go by, as the basis for universal moral equivalence then reject that basis at the same time. pfft.

      • The Mouse says:

        I think the question now is, where did that $200 million go? It didnt seem that the “veterans” did benefit… we should ask the phil government

        To make things funnier, some are starting to claim that the benefits should extend to grandchildren…..

        Also, one big factor of scrapping the veterans is that the documented number of veterans was at 250,000 and after the war, they suddenly rose to a million. So, there were more fake claims those days than legit claims.

        If the Philippines will stick to the “the us must spend for the philippines”, we might as well apply to be a colony or an unincorporated

        It really baffles me that these “vets” are more concerned about what america thinks than being concerned about ww2 events being revised or forgotten in the philippines. Did these vets protest when a kamikaze dedication was put up in pampanga? Are the concerned about japanese right wings saying that they did not enslave its neighbors but rather “freed” them? That the death march was not “as bad”? heck, hardly anyone remembers the battle of manila in the philippines!

        So these “vets” are more concerned about their money than preservation of their legacy?

        To make more things amusing, the one who was pushing to at least incorporate ww2 events in th philippines in n us history books was a chinese american (born in china), not a filipino vet, not a filipino american politician.

      • manuel buencamino says:

        Joe, here was the situation then. “We just passed the Rescission Act. The best we can do is give you $200M. Take it or leave it.”

        The culpability of Filipino officials does not in any way mitigate or excuse what America did. America fucked over its own vets. Do not conflate the issues. Let me remind you again. Those vets were AMERICAN soldiers. They were not Filipino soldiers because there was no Republic of the Philippines until 1946. You fucked over your own soldiers. So how does giving $200M to the Philippine Army change anything? The Philippine Army did not owe those American vets any backpay or veterans benefits. Is that so hard to understand? Anyway it’s okay to fuck over those American soldiers because they were brown, right?

        • Lil says:

          Yes the rescission act was a grave injustice/mistake. But are you assuming they were f* over because they were brown or do you have proof it was because it was racism?
          From my understanding of the US gov, it can be incredibly stingy where money is involved and less concerned in realty with citizens of other countries. I’m not making excuses for the US gov here but they could have been motivated by other similar selfish reasons.
          Now that rescission act is over so let’s move on and stop the race-bait.

        • Joe America says:

          Sorry, MB, I don’t buy it. And I hold that the Philippines could do with being independent of thought and act, and accountability.

          • Joe America says:

            And what happened to that $200 million anyway?

          • manuel buencamino says:

            Just the facts Joe. And all countries can do better with being independent of thought and act, and accountability.

          • manuel buencamino says:

            And since you brought up the $200 M, since you were the one who found it maybe you could enlighten us on the following:
            1.Was it a one-time cash pay-out?
            2.Was it doled out over a period of time?
            3. Was it an actual $200M appropriation or was it an authorization to spend $200M? There is a world of difference between an authorization and an appropriation.
            4.If it was an appropriation, was it specifically for US war vets who happened to be born in the Philippines or was it under a general vets appropriation for the Pentagon to decide when, where, and how to spend it? What committee did it come out of, was it Defense, Foreign Operations, Veterans, or what?
            5.Was the $200M supposed to cover all the benefits including backpay of all the Filipino soldiers who fought under the US flag?
            6. Did the US spend more or less than $200M for the same number of vets that came from America? I assume the US spent a lot more for its homegrown troops. Why so?
            7. Was it stated explicitly that the $200M in cash was to go for the benefits of American soldiers who happened to be Filipinos or was it in military assistance and hardware to fight off communists?
            8. Was the $200M cash or goods? If it was a mix, what was the ratio?
            9. Were there conditions attached to the $200M? If so what were they?
            10. Were those conditions met? If your government laid down conditions then it is your government who has to answer to your taxpayers what happened to the $200M.

            Have you spent time on the Hill? Have you actually participated in making the sausages that come out of there? I have. I spent close to a decade working both the House foreign affairs and foreign ops committees and the Senate foreign relations and foreign ops committees. I also worked the defense committees. I was a lobbyist, I have intimate knowledge of how your government works in those areas. And so that $200M that you are throwing around is not as cut and dried as you would have us believe.

            I know how corrupt your government is and how votes are bought and sold in Congress. And I did not learn that from reading newspapers or watching news on TV. I learned from interacting with members of your congress and from K street lobbyists. So get off your high horse. Don’t lecture us on accountability. We have convicted one president and are holding in detention another. How many of your presidents have even had their mugshots taken? How many of your bankers are in jail? Could it be because the people who run the Fed and Treasury came from the same banks that caused the crisis in the first place. That’s like appointing Romeo Jalosjos to solve the problem of child molestation.

            Let’s just set the facts straight on this issue of the Rescission Act and who reneged on a solemn promise to its own soldiers before we start pointing fingers. Let’s see if we can figure out how we got from soldiers who fought under the US flag to becoming veterans under the Philippine flag. And how the then newly independent Philippines must be held to account.

            I take the Rescission Act and that $200M seriously. Make a case on the $200M if you have one but don’t be waving it around like a magic wand that would absolve your government of its responsibility to soldiers who fought under the American flag.

          • Joe America says:

            @mb, clearly you do take the matter seriously. My “job”, or point of view, is to express an American’s observations about the Philippines and do what I can do to advocate for a healthy, wealthy, happy Philippines. If I were to flip that around, I would be writing about the deficiencies of American political and social processes, and there is plenty to write about.

            My point here is very simple. I think it is in the best interest of the Philippines if Philippine leaders, the press, and people stopped investing so much in what other nations are doing and dedicated more rigor to what Filipinos are doing. Your list of questions is superb, and I will get to work on them just as soon as you have done the answers on a similar set of questions pertaining to the Philippines.

            Then I will know that you get my point.

            Now, if you believe the Philippines benefits by bowing to American political pressure, or slipping out of accountability by shifting the blames elsewhere (as it appears to me you are doing), then you would be voicing an opinion opposed to mine.

            In all other matters, we are in agreement. The U.S. political processes are nasty and deceitful and corrupt (lobbying). Why would I want to defend that they are not? There are also some overriding values, good ones that Americans generally believe in, that tend to confine or correct the deficiencies so that “output” is for the most part good for most people.

            I find your background fascinating. It would make good material for a book, I think. Not an autobiography, necessarily. But a statement on the “real” way America works.

            As always, I appreciate the perspectives you bring that keep me centered and not wandering around in the thick and darkened jungles of the mind.

          • JosephIvo says:

            To understand the American attitudes towards the Commonwealth of the Philippines in 1946 it might be good to look at their attitudes to the current Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Americans still have difficulties in accepting the Puerto Ricans as Obama requires a new referendum, even today after more than 100 years of discussion, even with the closeness to territory and the relative small population 1% of the US (the Philippines in 1935 was more than10% of the US, bigger than the biggest state, scary).

            The Commonwealth of the Philippines at that time was intended as a step to independence, not as a step to statehood. The two remaining issues of a national army in independent foreign policy to be solved soon. Transferring the care for veterans to the new nation was not such an illogical correction of previous generic decisions. After all weren’t most Filipinos fighting to liberate their country rather than to defend the United States? If the Americans had called the WWII veterans their soldiers, I would have liked to see the reactions to day: interference in the our independent army, setting up a 5e column… The Brits had similar problems with the India but not as peaceful, the French in Vietnam, the Dutch with Indonesia… Cutting clean as much as possible seems a understandable attitude to me, whatever the lobbying at that time.

            In hindsight things might look different and as an individual soldier (or even as his son or his grandson) I would fight to get more out of it too. Partly resulting in more green cards and additional hand outs. Believing that the Americans thrive on wealth stolen abroad (e.g. via NSA), believing colonizers never paid back properly, knowing the untold destruction of Manila… and I can think of many more reasons to be upset with Americans in general (the Golden Rule: “Whoever has the gold, rules”, Monsanto, global warming, fast food, arrogance, drunken sailors destructing reefs…) But I’m still convinced too that a certain caste can successfully stir up these type of discussions even 70 years after the facts to distract from the real issue at hand: INCOME DISTRIBUTION.

          • Joe America says:

            @JosephIvo, I’m re-reading things. You offer a very instructive comparison re. Puerto Rico, and positively brilliant distinction on the two tracks, statehood vs. independence, as it pertains to the veterans benefits issue. International affairs are fascinating. Look at Europe after WWII, London and Berlin and Moscow and many other smaller cities in ruins. Look at Europe today. I hold that the main distinction is that of “accountability for our own destiny’ starting with a (ruined) blank slate, something the Philippines has not quite latched onto. In part because of her internal divisions and infighting and tendency to continuing the Aguinaldo tradition of pocketing the money. And too much of both adoration and bitterness toward the U.S., too much expectation, too much disdain.

        • JosephIvo says:

          Don’t we have to judge with the proper time frame in mind? How did the Brits compensate the Indian soldiers in their armies or the Africans, Canadians, Australians…? How did the French compensate the Moroccans, Algerians, Africans…? How did the Dutch compensate the Indonesians? The Belgians the Congolese? Did the Germans pay collaborating Dutch, Belgian, Italian… soldiers in their armies or as losers, did they only pay their victims?

          I think that Filipino WII soldiers were lucky to get something more than their base salaries, too bad it disappeared in the wrong pockets.

          76% of the Filipino wealth by 40companies/families, it had to start somewhere. And what about the millions plundered in Clark, to be seen as an extra compensation. Or do you want to know were most USAID money ended up?

          The real enemy is within, e.g. the 48 billion dollars disappeared from the government coffers in the last 3 year of Markos reign. The real racism in the Philippines is the caste of the rich despising the poor more than whatever white American ever despised a black or brown countryman. Racism existing today, not 70 years ago.

          • Joe America says:

            Extraordinarily powerful statement. I frankly don’t know the details of the 1946 discussion and agreement. I know $200 million is a lot of money to have gone somewhere other than to the vets. I most appreciate that your conclusion is the same as mine, there is a need for accountability by Filipinos for the Philippines. I’d offer up that it ought to be more than a need. It ought to be a DEMAND from those interested in the well-being of their nation.

          • edgar lores says:

            On insights:

            “The real enemy is within…” Could apply to international and national relations. Could apply to Self.

          • The Mouse says:

            And 10 billion pork barrel is currently under investigation due to sham projects and partylist…. blame america! Blame spain!

            Again, i will say this. The philippines pretends to want to be an independent nation yet wants the us to take responsibility financially and militarily. The ph has pretty much been acting like an unincorporated territory. Lol. Might as well apply to be to remove the pretensions. Lol

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Filipino veterans are more blessed with Green Cards than money from Am,ericans. It is sad to say that children of Filipno veterans that surrendered and applied for re-colonization previleges to America are BUMS in America. They are embarassing me. They are an embarassment. They are minimum-wage working-class estanbay-on-Saturdays at Filipino grocery stores whose greatness eminates from Manny Pacquiao who is equally not the type that inspire Filipinos to hit the books.

      If Filipno veterans were given money by Americans they’d squander it no doubt about it on Tanduay. They only live the day they receive the money. Green Card is better because they can suck the American government of SSI forever petition their useless children and they would have a quorom before Mr. Budweiser.

  6. cha says:

    Economic inequality divides people not only in the Philippines but in  every other country in the world. The difference is in how each nation’s leadership and its citizens view their role in bridging the gaps such that those who have less are given access to opportunities not easily or readily available to them, such as education, health services, and the protection of the law. 

    Is there a strong social justice mindset among those who have more in Philippine society or is there a serious dearth in this kind of thinking? Why has there been so much resentment and antipathy directed at the poor and uneducated in social media lately? They have been branded “bobo” for voting the likes of Nancy Binay in the recent elections, they have been blamed for Metro Manila’s floods and then rebuked once again when the government offered money to get them out of the esteros.

    Are the whingers being petty and selfish or are they simply feeling victimised themselves, not just by those above them in the social and economic stratum but equally so by those below? They being the ones mugged and robbed of their mobile phones and cash, they being the ones whose homes and property are damaged when the floods come, they being the ones who work their butts off and pay the taxes that fund the lifestyle not only of corrupt public officials but also that of the so called  professional squatters?

    And while the poor languish and the middle class are in anguish, what have the rich had to say? Have any of those in the list of 40 richest people in the Philippines stepped up and offered to help address the issue with the informal settlers or at least assist in finding and funding solutions to the Metro’s problem of perennial flooding? 

    There is a reason why the Philippines has the worst poor-rich divide in Asia. The top 40 richest in the Philippines account for 76% of the growth of GDP, compared to Thailand’s 33.7%, Malaysia’s 5.6% and Japan’s 2.8%. I’m guessing the poor and uneducated have had very little to do with that. 

    • Joe America says:

      That 76% statistic is amazing, but makes sense when you see who owns all the shopping centers or gas stations or high rise residential towers or beer breweries. If you read the annual reports of the various companies, they all lead with their “social conscience”, but the engagements are very minor when considering how broad the poverty problem is.

      The agribusiness series I recently concluded bore this out, too. The big names are making big money and the farmers are poor and struggling. Now, we can say “that is the way capitalism works”. But I would intone, yes, but assertive anti-trust laws would create more vibrant markets and a better flow-down of wealth, and THAT is GOVERNMENT’s job in a capitalistic state.

      President Aquino does not have the political clout to go against the oligarchs, so does the next best thing: distributes cash with a few obligations attached to the receiver.

      I personally think it is in the best interest of the Philippines to break up the great concentrations of wealth, but I don’t know how that gets done, short of a revolution.

      • cha says:

        That it is in the best interest of the Philippines to break up the great concentrations of wealth.


        How this gets done?

        I think you got yourself another topic there to blog about. 🙂

        • Joe America says:

          Ay ay ay. I’m working on dynasties at the moment. I suppose they are related. Both have laws that come up in congress now and then – anti-trust and anti-dynasty – but they never get done. I’ve come to the conclusion that politics is not the business of serving one’s country, but the business of serving oneself, in the guise of serving one’s country. Cynicism doesn’t get much done, though, does it?

          Okay, it’s pinned onto the topic board.

          Breaking up the wealth, not cynicism.

          Actually, I think I’ll put cynicism on the board, too. Satire for the pessimist.

          • cha says:


            Lokking forward to all 3 blogs then.

          • edgar lores says:

            Wouldn’t it be nice if the anti-dynasty bill was shepherded into law by Nancy before 2016?

          • Joe America says:

            @Ed, I’m researching on the anti-dynasty bill, and if I read Miriam Santiago’s draft correctly, Nancy Binay is not a dynasty candidate because she is not running for a position that was previously filled by a relative, and there is no other relative currently in the Senate. Sonny Angara and Alan Cayetano would have been precluded from running for Senate. I’ll ask Miriam if my interpretation is correct the next time I bump into her.

          • edgar lores says:

            On Anti-Dynasty Bill:

            1. Both House and Senate versions of the Anti-Dynasty Bill do not cover every base. There are several elements: position, time, relation (consanguinity or affiliation) and maybe others.

            2. The element of position has two dimensions: vertical or horizontal.

            3. It is true to say that Nancy candidacy does not violate the horizontal dimension. But it does violate the vertical one. And it also violates the temporal element.

            3.1. As to the vertical dimension violation: The father in his official capacity has enormous powers to exert (read ‘abuse’) on the success of his daughter’s candidacy. I leave the powers to your imagination. And history has proved my contention.

            3.2. As to time, members of a family should not be permitted to occupy office in terms that coincide, overlap or are consecutively sequential.

          • Joe America says:

            @Ed, Well, I like your definitions better than Miriam’s, and agree that Nancy Binay is very likely not a representative of the people, but a representative of her father.

        • edgar lores says:

          1. Here are 7 possible scenarios:

          | |
          | 1.1. Miraculous Change of Heart |
          | 1.2. Revolution |
          | 1.3. 40 Days/Nights Rain |
          | 1.4. Volcanic Eruptions |
          | 1.5. Tsunamis |
          | 1.6. Asteroids |
          | 1.7. Ragnarok/Gotterdammerung / | |
          | End of Kali Yuga / |
          | Armageddon & |
          | The Second Coming |
          | |

          2. If I had a choice, it would be the most impossible – No 1.

          • Joe America says:

            1.8 injection of a new serum that instills passionate concern for the whole of the community

          • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

            Philippines is billed as “Gate of Hell” in Dan Browns novel “Inferno”. The government has issued persona-non-grata to Dan Brown on top of Justin Beiber for rediculing National Hero Manny Pacquiao.

            Singaporean Thng (Yes, THNG) tourism consultant requested that Cebu should be the face of “It is Fun in the Philippines” not Manila. Manila is virtually the “Gate of Hell”

            I love Philippines, It makes me superior.

  7. bebot says:

    The best way to eradicate poverty is to provide educational and labor skills to the poor people. If the government just give them fish to eat, after it has been eaten, they still live in poverty, it doesn’t solve their being in poverty. The program to give doleout to these people will just end in money, time and effort wasted.

    Provision of free education from K1 to Tesda / college/ university courses/ degrees is the right steppingstone to eradicate poverty.

    Corrupt officials don’t want poverty eradicated as they profit from it through vote buying. I wonder if there is a committee managing, assessing and finding the right approach to punish the corrupt officials.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, I agree with that. One of the things that puzzles me is the charging of exam fees. That is an extraordinary burden on poor people. Education should be free. No mandated uniforms. No exam fees. No event fees. Free.

      As to your final point, I think the Ombudsman is much more aggressive these days in rooting out bad behavior. The approach is to work from the top down. There may still be a lot of small corruption and vote-buying going on, but I think the pressures against it are rising. As deep seated as corruption has been, it will take a while to rinse the system.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Philippines has the highest literacy rate in ASIA! Numero Uno. Problem with Filipinos is THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THEIR EDUCATION like they do not know what to do with verses they have memorized in the Bible that they can recite verbatim.

      Filipinos recite Total Quality Management principles, Mission and Vission Statement but they cannot know how to do it.

      Lookit these Philippine Journalists. They are graduate of U.P. Ateneo and La Salle. Lookit how they cover and gather news. It is worthless. It is not educating Filipnos because U.P. Ateneo and la Salle graduates are Filipinos themselves.

      Filipinos are educated. Highest literacy rate in Asia. They can recite biblical passages and verses verbatim. Why are they this way just the same?

      Former U.S. President McKinley failed! He said to the American Senate that he will EDUCATE THE FILIPINOS make them RELIGIOUS. Yes he succeeded in educating Filipnos and mading them religious. WHAT THE PHILIPPINES need is another U.S. President to make FILIPINOS USE THEIR EDUCATION and RELIGION for goot. !!!!

      I pity McKinley.

      • Joe America says:

        Me, too. He gives me the heebie jeebies. What the Philippines needs is a Department of Education that understands what you just said. They appear oblivious. They also do not appear to know the internet is really a very, very useful communication medium.

      • edgar lores says:

        On American education:

        1. I believe my Dad was a product of the Thomasites (1902 – 1935).

        2. I also believe that the Thomasites can be largely credited with that generation of Filipinos that were remarkable for their capacity and character. They produced the pre- and post-WWII greats of Philippine politics, business and English literature.

        3. In college when I compared notes with friends, we remarked on the sterling qualities of our fathers. To be sure there were some rotten apples in the barrel, but that generation is looked back now with nostalgia.

        • The Mouse says:

          where were the thomasites mostly stationed? I have a theory it is in cordillera mountains . A good number of surviving bahag wearing people speak impeccable english and a lot of them have not attended college nor have finished high school.

          Compare that to many college graduates nowadays.

          No wonder they like country music up there and dress like theyre from texas. Lol. Hahahaha

      • Joe America says:

        @Ed, fascinating. Those were the years the U.S. was building the educational framework that exists today, broad across the entire nation. As JosephIvo might point out, to facilitate independence, not to colonize. Maybe with a little indoctrination thrown in.

        Marcos certainly squashed the intellectual growth of the nation.

        I think maybe the world in those days was about the right size. Small enough that people could actually craft a life without bumping into one another. My father was also educated during that time frame, with strong Lutheran values though he never attended church, and an amazing work ethic. One of the things I learned from him is that you don’t have to be college educated to be very, very smart. You just have to exercise the cranium.

  8. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    The Philippines was governed by Spain for 350 years. 50 years under Americans. 5 years under Japanse. 68 years under Filipinos and still counting. Guess where and who the Filipinos wanted to apply for recolonization to their former colonial masters? Below is the order of Filipinos preferences:
    1. Americans
    2. Japanese
    3. Never by Spain
    4. Mostly never by Filipnos.

    Those Filipinos that preferred #4 is because they do not have papers and money to go to America and Japan. Their only choice is #4.

    Why the strong influence of America and Japan when Spain has colonized the minds of Filipinos for 350 years! I do not know. I do not have the answer. Filipinos speak Americans and Japan better than Spanish despite their 350 years rule.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Spanish conquistadores calls their shots in Manila which is in Luzon. Why are provinces of Luzon speak different dialects compared to Visayas and Mindanao? Visays and Mindanao speaks same dialect but different inflection and tones yet same WORDS! Luzon is divided and fragmented. Visayas are more cohesive they speak goot englsichtzes. Mindanaons a bit fragmented in Central and Eastside but on the Westside they kill each other because of religion.

    • Joe America says:

      That is peculiar, that Spanish is not as dominant here as it is in Latin America. I’ve not read much about it, but would guess it is for two reasons. (1) Spain proper was not that engaged in the Philippines; it was mainly the Church, and (2) when Dewey sank the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, it was so humiliating that Spain never returned, never wanted to be here again. The names remained, but not the language.

      • edgar lores says:

        On Spanish:

        I am informed that the Church did not want the natives to learn the language less they become ‘educated’. The upper class did learn and Rizal and his colleagues spoke it and wrote in it.

      • The Mouse says:

        If you look at it,spanish shared the same status like english during the us occupation. Like english, it was the medium of communication. Practical american immigrants even learned spanish.

        The death of spanish was, i believe, during marcos’ pseudo nativism. This was the time where spanish speakers in the philippines emmigrated en masse in addition to them being killed en masse by the japanese during the battle of manila

  9. JM says:

    I actually had to check google maps to see where Biliran is. I must confess, I rarely travel outside Metro Manila but when I do, it is usually a good experience. I find that most people from the provinces are really humble and kind. I often ask myself, “Are they always like this?” because it really feels unreal. Although, there are those who hates people from Manila but these are few. When I get older, I wish to retire to a province. Clean air, nice people, and beautiful beaches.

    I think I am part of the middle class, what I don’t like about the current system is that we are taxed with the same percentage as that of the top 1%/Truly rich club. A third of my income goes to the government yet I don’t really feel the benefits of paying taxes. The poor ones are given houses while I have to pay for mine. I don’t understand why the government promotes this behavior. This encourages people who spend their entire day drinking and gossiping to just continue what they are doing. Make them work for it, then feed/shelter them.

    “You have to hunt far and wide to discover that the U.S. paid $200 million to transfer responsibility for veteran’s care to the Philippine Army in 1946” – This is very enlightening. I always thought that America haven’t paid all the veterans yet.

    Your suggestions are good but it’s unlikely to be implemented. My country would have been better off not to have gained her independence. Im tired of hearing too many corrupt practices and stupid decisions (or the lack of it) being made by my government.

    • Joe America says:

      I lived for a time in Zambales, and for a time in northern Mindanao, but Biliran is the best. More rural I suppose.

      Yes, the middle class gets a raw deal taxwise. The rich get a sweet deal. And I agree. I’d prefer the cash be earned in some way rather than given away.

      I’m a lot more optimistic about the country now than under Arroyo. It was bizarre then, and it seems like things are going in a better direction these days. Give it a few years or 10 and I think the Philippines will be dramatically different.

      • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

        I guess Bohol Island is the most livable province in the whole wide Philippines with due respect to Biliarn. It is scenic. Beautiful beaches. Innocent looking women. People are friendly and laid back. Even their NPA cadre are very kind. If anyone find rude people in Bohol it must be some transplant immigrant from other provinces. 🙂

        2nd livable metro city is Metro Cebu (?). I went to Sto. Nino Church not to pray but for piktyyur-piktyur. In every structural column in that church it warns the faithful “Please watch your belongings” “Beware of pick-pockets” God is busy answering your prayers. This city, like Manila, women hold their bags or purse like someone is about to grab it. Do not even bother to ask for the time because they will ignore you they thought that I look like a smartphone snatcher.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Philippines has outrageous tax bracket!!! 1st $11,111.11 is taxed $2,777. Any in excess of $11,111.11 is slapped 35% !!!! WheeeeWWWWW !!! I guess Philippines has the highest tax rate in the world and nothing can show for it.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Pag-Ibig interest is at 12% for 5.0M pesos loan !!!!

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      There is not much written history about “bravery” of Filipino Veterans. Many thanks to U.P. Ateneo & la Salle historians and journalissts they have not educated me. Maybe there is a history black out if ever there were brave Filipino veterans. As what I hear and read from Philippine history textbook of Grade VI pupils, Americans did the heavy lifting in WorldWar II. Americans knew of Bataan Death March because there were more American deaths than Filipino veterans.

      Filipino veterans are asking for money as if they really have fought the Japanese. Well, Americans should pay the Filipino veterans after all because the veterans were used as pawn&bait by USAFFE.

    • edgar lores says:

      On veterans:

      1. My father-in-law who died last year was a veteran.
      1.1. He received his monthly benefits – religiously.
      1.2. He received a lump-sum within the last 2 or 4 years.
      1.3. He resided in Frisco (US not Manila) for some years, rooming with other veterans.
      1.4. Given the power of the dollar, he lived handsomely when he resided in Pasig.

      • Joe America says:

        That’s an interesting point. I do remember reading that Filipinos who moved to the U.S. indeed were considered “American” soldiers, so that may account for why he got his benefits. Those who remained in the Philippines perhaps were not considered “American” soldiers, and that is why the U.S. wanted out of the long term payment obligation.

        I’m glad your father in law lived handsomely when he returned to the Philippines.

  10. Ed Gamboa says:

    Thanks, Joe, for your intellectual honesty and genuine love and concern for your adopted country. It would be an honor to meet you someday. Keep writing and educating.

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