Thursday, January 04, 2007
Pagkahaba-haba man ng prusisyon, sa simbahan rin ang tuloy.” I repeatedly murmured that Filipino proverb on my way to Plaza San Ignacio where the play my class was required to watch and to base a reflective essay on would be staged. It was my first time in Intramuros, and while the twilight was rapidly giving in to the dark carpet of night time, I was hoping I would find the venue in no sooner moment without having to feel like a lost kid inside the mall. A few friendly exchanges with the Walled City’s modern-day guardia civiles led my church-going personal procession to an open air where men, women and children in Philippine national costumes walked unhurriedly while a choir serenaded them. Afterwards, three videos about the Philippines, the composite of Filipino people and the history of Intramuros were projected on a decaying wall. A little while and what proved to be a reenactment of the Spanish arrival in the archipelago transported everyone, including the audience, inside the Plaza ruins for “A Walk Back in Time.”
I was thinking that with an interactive audience like that, the play would have us take part in such a historic, figurative walk. After all, the audience is comprised mostly by Filipinos, and students like me at that. It was not far from me that the experience would surely be a learning experience for all of us, so I kept in mind the basis for my meditation: cultural context in time. It helped that a young native boy acted as a story teller, who was quick to point out that he, along with other natives, was not a Filipino. The label referred to the second-class Spanish nationals born in the Islands, not unlike the well-heeled peninsulares born in mother Spain. Having known that, I thought of one of the titles given to Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal, who was alluded to as The First Filipino. He must have become the first one only when he was able to awaken the mass’ consciousness into fighting for colonial independence. It took The First Filipino three centuries to get the rightful title—that’s indeed a long procession.
One cultural part of the play peeled after another like layers of a delicate flower, and as a Chinese, I took special interest in the portrayed development of the Chinese culture in the country. Tracing their humble beginnings literally from the streets where they sold their siopaos, pancits and chiongsams, they are now the Sys, the Gokongweis, the Tans, the Lims and other corporate giants. It was rather ironic that in their former historical location, the Chinese were sent compulsorily to the peripheral Parian, only to soar to the height of power when they amassed vast money through hard work and prudence. With the influence, we Chinese have become Filipinos too because not a few of us have found ourselves in many aspects of Philippine life from politics to religion to the academe. Like a procession ultimately leading to the church, we Chinese have arrived too.
When the play showed the intermarriage of the natives and of the non-natives like the Chinese and the Spanish, it came to me that the mestizo culture answers why only the isolated Filipino minorities like the Aeta brothers can claim to being pure-blooded Filipinos. Our varying shades of brown and contaminated language betray us, for even then, one Pinoy may be darker or fairer in his brownness than another, and his Tagalog-based mother tongue has Spanish for ingredients. Three hundred years of colonization created an ever-mixed Filipino identity that has gotten this far, and the procession will still take a long way to go.
Later in the play, the social divide between the educated class of the ilustrados and the popular class of the Katipuneros was blurred when the culture of the Filipinohood was born during the first nationwide Philippine Revolution. Both the ilustrados and the Katipuneros became aware of the need to be liberated from colonial oppression and sought for independence from Spain through diplomatic and armed means. The time was ripe for the Filipino culture to grow on its own, brutally interrupted by the arrival of the colonizers. The Filipino identity wills to assert itself however wounded it is.
The way things are going now tell that the church sought after by the Filipino identity is still remote from sight, for the presence of colonization is invisible but felt like the wind. What is good is that the Filipino is still moving in order to gather, desperate as it seems, the identity that is lost in time. This walk back in time shows the length to which the Filipino has traveled thus far, hoping that however distant the Filipino procession gets, it will finally reach the church.